Frequently in life, we're called upon to apologize for things we don't feel the least bit sorry about, to people we have absolutely no respect for. It's hard to hit just the right note: you don't want your unconvincing expressions of contrition to be overshadowed by your thinly veiled attacks on your attackers, or vice versa. So how should one go about crafting a truly sincere non-apology? How can one say both "I'm sorry (but not really)" and also "fuck you"?

Look no further than Margaret Wente's recent column dealing with the fact that it really does seem--if you define plagiarism according to how things like dictionaries and professors define plagiarism--like she's been plagiarizing just a bit. (The entire background of the story is here, if you're not yet familiar with it.) It is a MASTERPIECE and suggests various lines of defense for the rightfully accused and wrongfully unrepentant:

1) The standard to which I am being held is ludicrously high and totally unreasonable...

I'm far from perfect.

This is just an awesome way to kick things off. It suggests both that Wente is modest and sensible and that her detractors are demanding she become perfect, rather than simply passably professional.

Most of all, I regret the trouble I’ve created for my Globe colleagues by giving any opening at all to my many critics. In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be any openings. In the real world, there are.

We have only two options: (1) a cloud-cuckoo fantasy land where people are infallible and capable of superhuman feats like using quotation marks in their notes and then reproducing those same quotation marks in their articles, or (2) a "real" world, where well-meaning journalists who try their best pretty much can't help but regularly take ideas and words from other people. Aren't her critics the outrageous ones for expecting journalists NOT to plagiarize?

2)...and the people who are holding me to this standard are irrational ideologues...

What I often am is a target for people who don’t like what I write.

Wente is a no-nonsense truth-teller unafraid to say unpopular, controversial things. The people who find her behaviour unacceptable are not sound, objective readers who object to plagiarism, but loony and rigidly doctrinaire left-wingers who will inevitably object to anything Wente says or does.

2b)...who lack credibility...

And now, some necessary background. The current firestorm started with a blogger named Carol Wainio, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a self-styled media watchdog.

self-styled = the opposite of Globe-styled; without relevant skills; most likely sadly deluded and self-important.

2c)...and are also totally crazy...

Her website, Media Culpa, is an obsessive list of accusations involving alleged plagiarism, factual errors, attribution lapses and much else. She has more than once accused me of stealing the work of other writers with whom I happen to share an opinion.

This poor blogger is demented; she has found so many questionable bits in Wente's body of work not because they are at all questionable, but because she has become pathologically fixated on Wente. She repeatedly accuses Wente of outlandish things and her blog posts are not crisply written, scrupulously reasoned articles, but pathetic and disturbing cries for help.

3)...and also society. Hasn't it changed? I think it's changed.

Journalistic practice around quotations and attribution has become far more cautious in the past few years, and mine has, too. If I were writing that column again today, I would quote and attribute more carefully.

She's so right. Journalists plagiarized like crazy before 2009, because those were different times. In those post-war years, when a new generation was discovering free love and free quotations, what writer didn't just unthinkingly take words from another person and casually reuse them? What reader pre-2009 reader got all nit-picky about who said or thought what, and when? People today are SO UPTIGHT.

3b) Really, it's society that should be apologizing.

But I’m also sorry we live in an age where attacks on people’s character and reputation seem to have become the norm.

An instant classic. Our culture has been cheapened, not by her plagiarism, but by those who have identified and condemned it. She is world-weary, sorrowful. She yearns for the days when informed readers refrained from raising valid concerns.

4) When I was a kid…if you were caught plagiarizing, you got a zero.

Sorry - how did that get there? And how did I manage to forget the quotation marks around it that would have indicated those weren't my words, but someone else's? I'll try that again:

When I was a kid, everybody knew the rules and the penalties for breaking them. When the teacher walked into class, you stood up. If you arrived late, you got a late slip. If you were late a few times, you got a detention. If you handed in an assignment late without a good excuse, you were marked down, and if you were caught plagiarizing, you got a zero.

- Margaret Wente ("High-school daze: In Ontario, failure is not an option."Globe and Mail, August 30, 2008)

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

Many years ago, I watched an episode of Oprah that featured conjoined twin girls—I believe they were joined at the head. I insisted on sharing various responses to and insights about it with a friend (both the responses and insights went something like "I mean, imagine what it would be like. IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE."). The friend with whom I was speaking, after agreeing that imagining what it would be like was indeed a rich and worthwhile undertaking, then said, "And, I mean, let's be honest: when they grow up, every man's fantasy."

There was a rather awkward silence, and then I said to him, "I think you mean identical twins. Just regular identical twins. Not conjoined twins - those ones aren't the stereotypical male fantasy ones."

He would certainly have agreed that he didn't have his finger on the pulse of mainstream culture (he once explained quite seriously to classmates that his presentation on Blake might be somewhat convoluted because he had, after all, written it while listening to both Rachmaninoff and Beethoven [I'm pretty sure it was those two—I'm not really an authority, and it's all too possible I wrote my own presentation while listening to radio stations playing a combination of Sisqo and Shaggy]) at the same time.

But how had I learned that identical twins were something the average man was supposed to want to have the sex with? Had I ever actually heard a man discuss wanting to have the sex with identical twins? No. I realized then that everything I knew about the Male Libido I learned from Dan Fielding.

Dan Fielding was a character played by John Larroquette on the sitcom Night Court. He was a prosecutor and also a devoted, unashamed pervy perv. From Dan Fielding, I learned that it was not unheard of for men to want to sleep with twins; I learned that stewardesses were the prostitutes of the skies, and that Swedish ones were especially awesome; I learned  that successful prosecutors might well also visit with the prostitutes of the ground, known simply as prostitutes.

Dan Fielding was greedy, lecherous, thoughtless, craven, dishonest, and kind of vulnerably pathetic. In the opposite corner of Night Court manhood was Judge Harold T. Stone, a wistful, selfless child-man who would not think twice about leaving a plane full of Norwegian swimsuit models for the chance to eat an ice-cream cone with Mel Torme.

So it's because of Night Court that I developed a sense of there being two very clear types of men: those who get a woman alone in order to force unwanted sexual attentions upon her, and those who get a woman alone in order to force unwanted and unsuccessful magic tricks upon her.

I don't know why I didn't pay more attention to Mac. He was a pretty good husband to Quon Le. 

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.
Next week, I plan to write about the television character who formed my idea of Male Lustfulness.
The television character I will be discussing was not played by Brent Spiner, but this photo is a clue.
This is a very exciting day for me. And also a startling one. It's exciting because I had not realized I had branched out into porn, and startling because I had not realized I had branched out into porn.

Despite the fact that this website is obviously titillating, salacious, and (if you look at it from just the right angle) full of boobies, I had not intended it to be a straightforwardly blue endeavour.

But blue it is, says the DANGEROUS SUPER-PORN PORNY PORN WEBSITE warning that has begun popping up on the computers of the people I know who work for the provincial government (and who only visit explicit pornographic sites while on their breaks, or by accident while not on their breaks when trying to search for explicit pornographic sites).

What's truly amazing is that I have managed to become pornographic in the way least calculated to make me more successful. The porn-iness of my website does not reveal itself on the larger internet, so that people searching, say, for "naked Kristen Stewart" (I absolutely put that in just so this website might pop up when people google "naked Kristen Stewart") or "co-ed lesbians" will not be led to my carefully considered meditations on fully-clothed people not having sex with one another. But at the same time, meditative and fully-clothed people not having sex at the Ontario government will now not be able to read me from work, and I will lose out on all those people  frustrated because they can't use Facebook or youtube.

My only hope is that I will be able to tap into an entirely new demographic: civil servants, who, searching for considered, no-sex meditations about things, stumble across the warning message, are intrigued by the notion of porn, remember the website, come home to check out that porn they almost saw, and then find themselves delighted to not find porn.

I also wonder why, despite the fact that my site has been active and gone largely unnoticed for a very long time, they have chosen this moment to block it. I can only imagine they read the last few posts while clutching an imaginary set of dirty-making quotation marks.

From last week's post about the Bloodhound Gang (with added quotation marks):

They are for some reason allowed to moonlight as "private investigators" and regularly able to "foil" villains and their villainous plots by way of things like "pinhole cameras."

The post about the Phantom of the Muppet Show:

Also, it used to make me cry because no one would ever believe that Snuffleupagus existed, even though he'd just "been" RIGHT THERE.

The one about Vader living in my closet:

And before Jedi came out and Vader was revealed to have a boiled-fish, soft-unripened-cheese, triangular, vulnerable under-helmet head, I was more scared of him than of just about anything else, which was unfortunate, because he lived in my "closet."

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.