February 10, 2002
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  I wonder.  Seems to me that theft really takes that honor. 
So, I suppose I should be flattered that Jail4Judges thought enough of my recent essay, "Abandon Ship," to misappropriate it, claim that somebody else wrote it and post it on its own web site under a new title: "New America - an Idea Whose Time has Come."  Actually, even that phrase is one that I originated - with my essay, "Strangers in a Strange Land."  I've been echoing it ever since.  And, New America just happens to be the title of a book I am working on, you see.
We learned most of life's truly important lessons as children.  Remember the sandbox?  That big kid didn't really want all those toys, he just didn't want other kids to have them.  And in high school - do you suppose the football captain dated the head cheerleader simply because he didn't want her wanting anybody else (or did they hang out together simply because of a consensus that they deserved each other?). 
Archie didn't really want a girl like Veronica, or he would have snapped up Betty, who was actually a much nicer person.  Find an old Archie comic, color Betty's hair with a magic marker and you get Veronica's twin.  And Lois Lane couldn't see that Clark Kent was really Superman, simply because of a pair of glasses?
America labors under a zero-sum societal outlook.  The belief is that there are limited resources.  If you get something, then somebody else doesn't.  Take something from John and give it to Sam:  one guy becomes richer by the same amount that another is made poorer.  The total somethings in society don't change, they just get rearranged.  Zero sum, overall.  Coming from scarcity, not plenty, as the neo-zens put it.
Time was, I didn't much care if somebody stole one of my Internet columns, though I never saw anybody do it so thoroughly and blatantly as Jail4Judges does.  In fact, I used to directly authorize the plagiarism of my work.  Nobody ever did it, of course - that was one of the reasons I invited it.  I was "coming from plenty," you see. 
Fact is, if I didn't have to do anything else, I could write essays like "Abandon Ship" and "Strangers in a Strange Land" all day long.  Some think that the breezy and offhand tone I adopt in this form of my writing is an affectation.  Truth is that it really is offhand, resulting naturally from my sitting down and tossing off these essays in about a half hour, certainly never more than an hour.  They are kind of a letter to old friends, which is the way I view many of the nearly 3,000 on my list.  We've been through a lot together.
Then, not long ago, somebody took one of my pieces and made a blatantly commercial use of it, in pursuit of a buck.  Guess I was jealous, since I have yet to figure out how to turn a dollar with these columns.  Suppose I've always imagined that,  if I just kept throwing my writing out on the Internet waters, then, like a starlet on an ice-cream parlor stool, I would get discovered and, next thing you know, I would be lunching with Dave Barry and Pat Buchanan.  That probably isn't in the cards, particularly given the topics about which I choose to write. 
So I added the postscript that now accompanies these essays, designed to thwart any commercial use of my writing without my knowledge and permission.  Now I'm coming from scarcity, even though I can always write another essay, and in short order. 
Maybe that's why Jail4Judges stole my work.  And changed the title.  And claimed somebody else wrote it.  And added this postscript:  "Yes, J.A.I.L. is the way to get the "New America" we so desperately need. We must abandon ship and climb into the Life Raft called J.A.I.L."  Abandon ship?  Where have I heard that before? 
I wrote and asked them to correct the record and tell their followers what they have done.  They have ignored me.  Following their own proscriptions, seems to me that a new movement might be in order:  Jail4Jail4Judges.
Maybe theirs isn't a true commercial use of my work, but it certainly is an attempt to twist it to the ideological ends of an organization to which I do not subscribe.  Given this glimpse into their methodology, don't expect me to climb aboard their bandwagon any time soon, either.
Big kid in the sandbox.  Hmmmm...where's that Archie comic?  Seems there was a Charles Atlas ad on the back about fighting back when you get sand kicked in your face.


"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002

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