When is Plagiarism Okay? When a Liberal Plagiarizes a Conservative

Attacking Reagan matters more than ethics.

Not a photoshop... sadly Not a photoshop... sadly

That's really the only conclusion to be drawn from the full court press defense of Rick Perlstein's blatant plagiarism of Craig Shirley.

Rick Perlstein isn't the first historian caught plagiarizing other people's work. The difference is that his agenda, writing a revisionist history of the conservative movement, is vital to the left's agenda and so his defenders have been manning the ramparts.

Craig Shirley, a prominent biographer of Ronald Reagan, has accused historian Rick Perlstein of plagiarism in his new book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. Shirley has cited 45 instances in which he says Perlstein uses information and passages from his 2004 book, Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All, without proper attribution.

Ashby cited two types of plagiarism.  Perlstein “lifts without attribution entire passages,” in some cases “altering words or re-ordering sentences, but in others not even bothering to do so,” the lawyer wrote.  And Perlstein uses “facts and ideas Mr. Shirley first discovered and developed … as if they were widely known or as if he himself had discovered and developed them.”

There's no real ambiguity here.

Reagan’s Revolution (2005)
Page 297: “Even its ‘red light’ district was festooned with red, white, and blue bunting, as dancing elephants were placed in the windows of several smut peddlers.”

The Invisible Bridge (2014)
Page 771: “The city’s anemic red-light district was festooned with red, white and blue bunting; several of the smut peddlers featured dancers in elephant costume in their windows.”

Perlstein acknowledges his extensive debt to Shirley's book, but buries his footnotes online, and even footnotes don't excuse extensive borrowing on a large scale. If you're going to act like you're writing a book, then write it. If you're quoting, quote it.

Simon and Schuster, which just lost a fortune on Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices, is claiming that Perlstein didn't run afoul of copyright law.

Legally they may be right, though debatable, but ethically and from a scholastic standpoint, rewriting someone else's work and passing it off as your own, especially on such a scale, is wrong.

Fraudmeister Paul Krugman defended Perlstein's plagiarism in his own inimitably shrill style.

OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.

How do we know that they’re spurious? The people making the charges — almost all of whom have, surprise, movement conservative connections — aren’t pointing to any actual passages that, you know, were lifted from some other book. Instead, they’re claiming that Perlstein paraphrased what other people said.

Two paras in and Krugman is already wrong and a liar. What else is new.

Krugman really concedes his real issue off the bat when he mentions "movement conservative connections." It's okay to plagiarize conservatives.

Then he whines about accusations of plagiarism directed at him... and lies about those too. Unsurprisingly those accusations sound familiar.

In an open letter to Paul Krugman, UCLA economics professor Roger Farmer alleges that Krugman stole his ideas and repackaged them in his New York Times columns.

"Perhaps you have read some of my recent work: Perhaps not. I infer that you may be aware of it since your columns often select themes that closely mirror my writings, usually a day or two after they are circulated. Perhaps that is due to the coincidence fairy," writes Farmer.

Farmer says his accusations are not personal and that he likes Krugman's works and shares many of his Keynesian economic views. However, Krugman's failure to cite the professor's work was a "step too far," writes Farmer.

No wonder Krugman sympathizes with Perlstein.

The liberal team defense of Perlstein is that the plagiarism charges are part of an attempt to stop Perlstein's revisionist history of Reagan. That spin makes Perlstein's book seem compelling while dismissing Perlstein's plagiarism as another vast right wing conspiracy.

That's certainly the approach that Slate slimeball Dave Weigel has taken in dismissing the whole thing as a Republican dirty tricks campaign. It's his default spin on every other story... which is itself a dirty tricks campaign.

While Perlstein's attack on Reagan would certainly infuriate some conservatives, no one seriously believes that Perlstein or his book are important. All Perlstein is doing is telling liberals what they want to hear about Reagan. And Craig Shirley is doing this largely without the support of conservatives.

The New York Times piece on the controversy is somewhat fairer and it finds more serious sources who have a problem with what Perlstein is doing.

The subject of Perlstein’s relation to his sources is a dire and overriding concern throughout The Invisible Bridge, and here, as everywhere else, he doesn’t exactly help things out: he states at the outset that his book will not contain end notes.

...Perlstein’s personal delusions notwithstanding, the only possible aim of an arrangement like this is to discourage the confirming of citations.

Steve Donoghue tries and punches some holes in the integrity of Perlstein's work, aside from the plagiarism.

Unfortunately most liberals seem likely to follow Krugman's lead and defend Perlstein's hackery because he is a member of the team.