Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fareed Zakaria's wilful blindness

Fareed Zakaria has joined the select band of eminently successful people whose feet of clay are ultimately exposed. Why does such a talented writer (a graduate from Harvard and Yale!) resort to plagiarism? Is this tendency an as yet unexplored aspect of what is popularly called as "Winner's curse"? Does the so-called "Progress trap" contribute to this ugly phenomenon? Is it possible that "Icarus paradox" inevitably takes its toll?

It is strange that persons and organisations which have gained glory in their respective fields do not desist from taking extreme risks that will eventually undo them. Rajat Gupta, Standard Chartered Bank and Fareed Zakaria are the names readily coming to our mind .

Rajat Gupta had everything to lose when he got close to Raj Rajaratnam. StanChart was probably aware that it was risking its reputation built over decades when it apparently misused the " U-turn" transactions at its NewYork branch. Fareed Zakaria could not have been blind to the possible consequences of plagiarism and to the certainty of being found out especially when he was copying a widely-read Yale professor.

These examples are most likely to figure in the next edition of Margaret Heffernan's best seller titled "Wilful Blindness".

Updated on 20th August: Time magazine suspended Fareed Zakaria briefly and reinstated him with unexplained haste. Given his "stature" in the world of opinions, it is possible that the magazine was afraid of losing him in case suspension lasted longer. Is he a person too big to employ?

Further update on 2nd Sept.: It is surprising that magazines like Time and Economist have chosen not to mention this unsavoury episode in their issues. It appears that unattributed copying was done by a ghost-writer for Fareed Zakaria. We cannot expect FZ to admit that he employs ghost-writers.

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