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Whose speech is it, anyway?

The verbal fistfight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama entered Internet folklore last fortnight with hundreds of YouTube videos showing the two trading and defending charges. Sachin Kalbag elaborates.

world Updated: Mar 02, 2008 00:47 IST
Sachin Kalbag

It is called the Infinite Monkey theorem — the proposition that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a particular chosen text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. Or, to choose a more contemporary analogy, can a monkey churn out Senator Barack Obama’s speeches for an overheated US presidential campaign?

<b1>In a televised debate on CNN on February 21, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the two Democratic Party candidates left in the US presidential race, were at each other’s throats once again because the former First Lady accused the latter of copying one of his speeches from Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts and currently the Obama campaign’s national co-chair.

The verbal fistfight entered Internet folklore last fortnight with hundreds of YouTube videos showing the two trading and defending charges.

To wit, this is what happened. In October 2006, when Patrick was running for the governor’s post, he said in one of his speeches in response to a rival’s comment that he had nothing to offer but words: “Just words… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal - just words. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Just words. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Just words. I have a dream - just words.”

Last fortnight, Obama said something similar: “Don't tell me that words don’t matter. I have a dream — just words. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal — just words. We have nothing to fear but fear itself — just words. Just speeches."

Maybe what Clinton said has some truth. But Obama insists that as presidential candidates, they should stop tearing each other down and instead concentrate on “lifting the country up”. To which Clinton made a smart remark: “Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in. It’s change you can Xerox.”

Both statements are now so popular on YouTube that, in fact, “Change You Can Xerox” seriously threatens to enter popular culture. Which is fine, many Obama loyalists on YouTube say, as long as Senator Clinton does not enter the White House.