Today's question: Why are some authorial sins considered forgivable and some not?
We are talking, once again, about Peter Schweizer, the writer of Clinton Cash
and the new darling of the NYT. George Stephanopolis
had the man on his show and asked some effective questions.
But look at Schweizer's record. This is the same guy who wrote a homophobic book attacking the Disney corporation's alleged promotion of the gay lifestyle
"Disney's gay culture" also extends to the films and TV shows the company produces, according to the couple. "Animated features now include 'gay characters,'" for instance. (Schweizer doesn't specify which characters he's referring to here; in another section of the book, however, he quotes the voice actors for The Lion King's Timon and Pumba who described the duo as "the first homosexual Disney characters.")
The Schweizers also attack Disney for being "aggressive about pushing the gay theme" on Ellen, the '90s sitcom in which Ellen DeGeneres' character came out as a lesbian, and which aired on the Disney-owned ABC Network. They note that Disney produced a number of made-for-TV films, which "championed some controversial gay themes." The merits of the shows were unimpressive to the Schweizers: "Why Disney is producing this programming is anybody's guess. The made-for-TV films on gay subjects have performed poorly."
In a previous post, I mentioned that Schweizer also wrote a book titled Makers and Takers: Why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic and envious, whine less … and even hug their children more than liberals.
I leave it to the reader to count the number of questionable assertions in the title alone.
("Less materialistic"? Really? The same people who are most likely to judge you by how much you earn? And they "whine less"? Jeez, has Schweizer ever listened to conservative radio or read the comments at Breitbart? It's nothing but
He also wrote a book called Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy--and How They Will Do It Again If No One Stops Them
, which actually tries to blame the 2008 meltdown on liberalism
, not on unregulated banks selling and reselling phony-baloney financial instruments backed by crap and marked AAA by corrupt ratings agencies.
How can a guy like this be accorded such great respect -- and not just by those toiling within the alternative universe of the conservative media, but by the mainstreamers?
Here's a thought experiment.
Let's say you wrote a book about -- oh hell, I dunno. Sasquatch. Or the Loch Ness monster. Or a reported sighting of Sasquatch riding atop the Loch Ness Monster. Something like that
. Would you ever be taken seriously again?
Let us stipulate that, after your book about monsters, you went on to write a more level-headed work about (say) Jeb Bush -- a work filled with important, never-published-before information. Let us further stipulate that you did your research perfectly. Lots of footnotes. Impeccable sources. You have your ducks in a row as straight as Peter Schweizer would like the Disney company to be.
How would people react to your new book?
I'll tell you how. No matter how elegant your writing, no matter how carefully constructed your argument, no matter how solid your sources -- everyone would judge your new book by your old one. For the rest of your life, you would be Mr. Monster. You would have no credibility.
You certainly would not have your words appear in the New York Times.
So why are some authorial sins considered forgivable while others are not? If Peter Schweizer may be forgiven for his lifetime of hackery on behalf of the one percenters, could I be forgiven if I wrote about something goofy but innocuous -- like, fer instance, the alleged denizen of a certain body of water in Scotland? (Not that I have any interest in doing so, but for the sake or argument, let's presume that I felt more open-minded on the topic of heteroclite plesiosauria.)
Now let's look at the issue another way:
In 1992, before the presidential election, a respected journalist named Pete Brewton wrote a book about "Poppy" Bush and the Savings and Loan scandal: The Mafia, CIA and George Bush.
The book is excellent. The footnotes are plentiful (in fact, they're seemingly endless
), and they all go to excellent sources. Brewton did the necessary legwork and talked to a lot of important witnesses.
No, he had not previously committed any authorial sins similar to those discussed above. Brewton was not Mr. Monster. In fact, as this interview
indicates, he was a very, very serious writer.
In 1992, George H.W. Bush was running for reelection. You would think that a book with that
title, a book written to a high standard, might have attracted some attention in an election year.
The book went unmentioned in the New York Times and in nearly all other mainstream publications. Hardly anyone reviewed the thing. Hell, it was barely even distributed.
By what metric is Schweizer's book considered worthy of discussion while Brewton's book was not?