Friday, August 15, 2008

Unfit for Publication

The Obama campaign issued a 41 page rebuttal of the many deliberate lies in the book, Obama Nation, under the highly relevant title of "Unfit for Publication." That the book, authored by a known liar who penned a similiar smear of John Kerry in 2004, is full of the most reprehensible lies and false charges, targeting the most basic fears of the uninformed, is already a matter of record. Even before the point by point refutations of the Obama document, Media Matters had debunked specific charges. Joe Klein of Time Magazine was more general but more direct--he called the book "swill," "sleaze," and "poisonous crap." Politico mentions some of the authors other whoppers.

While I am certainly concerned by the possible political effects, I am especially troubled by this book as an author and book reviewer: because it is being published by a major publishing house, Simon & Schuster, and its Threshold Editions imprint. Threshold is run by Mary Matalin, political aide to conservative Republicans, including Bush and Cheney. That she has become an editor with her own imprint is suspicious but not really the issue. What she has decided to do with that imprint, and what Simon & Schuster is allowing her to do, is to me a very basic threat to whatever is left of the integrity of American book publishing.

It's not simply that this book has not been "fact-checked," as if that means that some errors slipped in unnoticed. It is completely based on lies, from start to finish. It is, as a perceptive post called "Books That Attack and Mislead" at First Read notes, just another form of a negative political ad. After all, its author told the New York Times, “The goal is to defeat Obama,” Mr. Corsi said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want Obama to be in office.” But no political advocacy organization is paying to print this political smear, which has no basis in fact. A legitimate major publisher, that obviously wishes its nonfiction books to be taken seriously, is paying people to write, edit and promote this book.

Moreover, they are doing so with total dishonesty. Matalin told the Times the book “was not designed to be, and does not set out to be, a political book,” calling it, rather, “a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that.” She is lying, and she knows she is lying. She has no integrity whatsoever, and therefore, neither does the publisher anymore.

Yet the publisher is dressing this book up with a cover that emphasizes the author's supposed credentials (Phd), and with pages of scholarly-looking footnotes--that reportedly cite mostly right wing and hate sources, and the author's own publications or posts. Everything about this book is deceptive.Even the book's widely reported status as a #1 Best Seller is a deception. By the NY Times own admission, this book has been bought in bulk--hundreds if not thousands of copies purchased by rabid right and GOPer organizations, in a deliberate, organized attempt to make it a "Best Seller." Those copies will be given away, and will shortly begin appearing on the shelves of Salvation Army stores. I suspect that Matalin and her bosses knew this from the moment they agreed to publish this book.

We've had plagarism scandals, and scandals about fiction being falsely claimed as non-fiction--but there apparently is no scandal, just profit, in this most morally corrupt attack on the integrity of book publishing.

As Mark Murphy observed at First Read: "This is perhaps the greatest loophole for underground attacks to go mainstream. Forget blogs, the bookworld may still be the best place to push false truths about someone."If readers cannot trust the integrity of books as a general rule, and the implied promise by major publishers that their books are what they purport to be, then publishing has become a sham, and books have lost their credibility. That affects me as an author and as a book reviewer. This book is clearly unfit for publication, and Simon & Schuster should be called to account for utter disdain for integrity and the accepted standards of legitimate publishing, however minimal they have become.

No comments: