Kaavya & Swanson
A Tale of Two Plagiarists but Different Treatments
The U.S. media has pilloried Indian-American and Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan (author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life) for plagiarism and hung her out to dry.
May 5, 2006
From the Harvard Crimson to the New York Times to Los Angeles Times, Kaavya has been hung, drawn and quartered for copying from multiple sources.
Kaavya was wrong to plagiarize and no one here is defending her actions.
Yet, the same gruelling treatment Kaavya is getting is not being meted out to Raytheon CEO William Swanson who shamelessly copied his "Unwritten Rules" from a decades-old work by Professor W.J.King.
Although both scandals erupted at about the same time - in late April 2006 - a simple test reveals different treatment of the two authors. On Friday May 4, 2006, when we ran 'Kaavya Viswanathan' on Google News we got 1,830 results but just 438 for 'William Swanson.'
Only after chemical engineer Carl Durrenberger's blogs unconvered Swanson's blatant plagiarism did the Raytheon CEO admit that "the similarity of the language between Professor King's 1944 book and some of the rules within the 'Unwritten Rules' is beyond dispute."
But even after Swanson was outed, this swine (our copy of the Webster's defines swine as a contemptible person) tried a wriggle - "This experience has taught me a valuable lesson - new Rule #34: 'Regarding the truisms of human behavior, there are no original rules.'
Kaavya is now 19 and at that age, a greenhorn where life is concerned. She's still at an impressionable age but Swanson has no such mitigating excuse - you see this shameless thief is all of 57.
But the media in general has heaped humiliation on Kaavya but gone easy on Swanson in comparison.
Is it because a 19-year-old Indian-American is easy bait compared to the head of a $22 billion multinational corporation? or is it because Kaavya is brown while Swanson is white? or is it because a 19-year-old getting a six-figure advance arouses more attention and envy than an old foggy earning millions.
Maybe, the answer is all of the above.
Kaavya's book was withdrawn by her publishers and her subsequent book deals cancelled. Strong punishment, indeed.
In contrast, what did Raytheon's spineless board do after discovering that the company's CEO was a thief who stole other's good lines? They gave him a slap on the wrist. The board froze Swanson's salary and cut the amount of restricted stock for which he is eligible by 20%. It's been estimated that the slap on the wrist will cost Swanson a piffling $1 million (piffling for a multinational CEO but not to you or me). Hardly a strong punishment.
Instead of booting Swanson out, on May 3, 2006 the Raytheon board expressed "deep concern" about his behavior yet praised his "extraordinary vision and performance." To make their stand clear the board members reaffirmed that they "continue to have full confidence in Mr.Swanson's leadership."
Swanson's bio on the Raytheon web site once boasted the following sentence: "He is the author of 'Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management." The revised version does not include that damning sentence.