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Gary Horton: Turducken opinions make me ill

Posted: January 5, 2010 2:59 p.m.
Updated: January 6, 2010 4:55 a.m.
This past Monday I stopped at the local supermarket to grab a thing or two. Passing the frozen meat section, I noticed a young grocer rearranging large boxes in the display case. "Turducken," squawked the label, and pictured in epicurean freakishness was a frankensteinian mishmash of turkey, duck and chicken shoved and stuffed into an unholy fowlish trinity.

"That's a bad death for a bird," I quipped to Carrie.

I asked the grocer what he thought of a bird in a bird in a bird. He replied, "At 70 bucks for the turducken, I'll just take a plain chicken."

Common sense from that young man. Like him, I prefer "what you see is what you get, and what's on the inside is the same as the outside." Stuff, stuffed into stuff, stuffed into stuff is messy, if not just messed up.

Further down the aisle we happened on the hot dog section. There are a lot of different hot dogs these days. Some "plump when you cook 'em." Some are kosher. Some are made from turkey, chicken or beef. All are likely of questionable nutritional efficacy.

But the ones that make me most afraid are the "all meat" hot dogs.

"All beef" - got it. "Turkey dogs" - I understand.

But "all meat?" What meat might that be? Horse, cow, chicken or snake? Crow's beaks? Eye of newt? Just what meaty-like substance resides in those spongy all-meat pink things encased in animal intestine linings, sold off as fun food for our barbecues?

While I won't likely buy that dog after learning the facts, please just tell me what's in 'em. Give it to me straight. What foreign country the "meat" came from. What animals are ground up in there. Tell me if it's got the snouts, hoofs and icky parts. But be it good, bad or ugly, I want empowered choices before I take a bite.

I want to know what's in there - be it for "all meat" hot dogs, turduckens or, by the way, for The Signal's opinion columns.

There's been fuss and fury about the integrity of The Signal's columns lately. Two writers dipped their pens in the dank, dark ink of plagiarism. They haven't been listing all their ingredients on their labels.

Yet some wonder why plagiarism and disclosure even matter.

Well, you don't have to get overly academic to understand the problems plagiarism presents. You can learn the basics from the meat section of the supermarket.

Plagiarism is like a turducken - when what you're buying looks like a turkey, but there's really a chicken or duck or something else hidden deep inside.

Sometimes plagiarism is a nasty all-meat hot dog - a mishmash of bits and scraps pulled off the floor of the Internet so there's no telling what the thing is made of or from whence it came.

With opinion columns, like food, "What's in there?" matters. Clean food sources matter for our health. Clean information sources matter for our minds.

"Who really wrote it?" is as important as "what's written" when you and I weigh the veracity of the words we read. We consider the source when judging the content.

But plagiarism disempowers us because the label lies, and the real ingredients are hidden from our consideration.

Two of The Signal's essayists representing the wider extremes of the political spectrum were exposed as less "writers" and more "copiers." That their "writing" accurately reflects views typical of their peers isn't questioned. Rather, at issue is honesty and integrity for the benefit of the readers.

I don't want to read from one, only to learn some professor's words were stuffed deep inside her mouth. Nor do I want to read from the other, learning she cooked her columns from scraps lifted off the Web.

Turducken essays make me queasy and "all-meat" columns make me sick.

If you're writing from Republican Party talking points, let us readers know who wrote the points and who put you up to it. (Listening, misters Smyth and McKeon?) If you're mouthing Keith Olbermann's latest rant, show it in quotes. If you're using facts from Wikipedia, then admit you're lazy and show the source.

We've got to know our writers' ingredients so we know the efficacy of stuff they'd have us swallow. That's why plagiarism matters.

We keep our minds healthy when we make empowered decisions before consuming content.

Personally, I'd spit out anything containing "Karl Rove" or "Rush Limbaugh" as rancid meat. But that's my choice. Karl Rove may taste like filet mignon to you. That's OK. Different tastes for different folks.

Just let us know "what's in there" before we go chomping down and sucking it in.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Full Speed to Port!" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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