Thursday, November 07, 2013

Rand Paul's real sins

Senator Rand Paul's 2013 book Government Bullies includes three pages, uncredited, from a Cato Institute publication. Due to this act of plagiarism, Rand Paul will no longer be writing opinion pieces for the Washington Times. Instead, he's moving to Breitbart, a "news" source which somehow contrives to be even lower on the credibility scale.

Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell made a good point about this scandal: Senator Paul did not actually commit plagiarism when he wrote this book, because he did not write the book. Paul is guilty of another (arguably worse) sin -- one for which we do not have a name -- and his fellow sinners do not all belong to the Republican party.

We're talking about a hoary (and whore-y) scam: Serving politicians rarely write their own books. Staffers do the actual work. However, the named author usually pockets the royalties.

The most notorious example of this gimmick may be Masters of Deceit, an anti-Communist volume published in 1958 and bearing the byline of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. This work sold extremely well; paperback copies may still be found in finer thrift stores around the nation.

From Curt Gentry's authoritative J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets:
According to William Sullivan, who oversaw the writing of Masters of Deceit -- by FBI agents, on public time, as many as eight agents working full-time on the book for nearly six months -- Hoover "put many thousands of dollars of that book...into his own pocket, and so did Tolson, and so did Lou Nichols.
Clyde Tolson was Hoover's paramour; Nichols was the number three guy at the FBI. A large percentage of that book's royalties went into something called the FBI Recreational Association, which was actually a personal slush fund for Hoover.

Now let's get back to Rand Paul.

Who is the real author of Paul's book? And has the plagiairst been punished for getting his boss into trouble?

Although we can't identify the guilty party with certainty, one very interesting name keeps popping up: Jack Hunter. He did some ghosting on a previous book "by" Rand Paul, The Tea Party Goes to Washington. Check out Hunter's background...
Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.

From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.

Prior to his radio career, while in his 20s, Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.”
In other words, Hunter advocates treason. What has become of this nation? How can we tolerate senators who hire such vile individuals?

This piece in the Charleston City Paper does not explicitly state that Hunter is the plagiarist, but the article does mention Hunter in less-than-glowing terms. It then goes on to state:
There are few folks who actually believe that Rand Paul plagiarized Wikipedia articles and the like. He's a man with a post-grad degree. Surely, he knows that he has to cite his sources. But that inexperienced staffer who didn't get a college degree and who follows Paul around like he's a twitterpated puppy just waiting for that moment when his man-god master rubs his wittle head — yeah, that guy just might rip several paragraphs out of a news article in a nationally published publication and try to pass it off as his own work, especially when the only real talent they have is drinking out of someone else's half-empty water dish.
In this interview, right-wing author Mike Church hints -- but does not state -- that Hunter may be the one who got Paul into trouble.

Added note: Curt Gentry, the Hoover biographer referenced above, may have had personal reasons to fixate on the issue of "real" authorship versus credited authorship.

The all-time bestselling "true crime" book is Helter Skelter, a chronicle of the Charles Manson murders. (We may discuss this work in greater detail in a future post.) If you ask the average person to name the author, you'll probably hear that it was written by Vincent Bugliosi. He was one of the prosecutors on the Manson case, and for many years, he was an inescapable television presence. But many believe that the real work on that book was done by none other than Curt Gentry. (I used to be acquainted with a fellow who got to know Gentry while that book was being researched, and I can assure you that Bugliosi was not the guy who scoured Big Sur in search of witnesses.) Gentry's name is indeed on the cover of Helter Skelter -- usually in smaller type. Unfortunately, most readers tend to speak of Bugliosi as the sole author.

Let's zoom out for the widest possible angle on this problem. You know who really deserves much of blame? The public. For some reason, Americans want books written by celebrities, not by professional writers.

Why would anyone want to read a book by a senator? Shouldn't politicians concentrate on the work we pay them to do? Shouldn't books remain the domain of people who write for a living?

Our culture gives little respect to mere writers. If the text of Government Bullies had appeared under the name of its actual author (or authors), few would have wanted to buy it.

Even when authors are well-paid -- as they are, for example, in television -- they are rarely allowed to establish personalities or to make decisions. Modern writers often function as anonymous members of a hive. When you laugh at a good line in an episode of How I Met Your Mother, do you ever care to find out the name of the person who made you smile?


Zolodoco said...

I never did until I listened to some of the Marc Maron podcast interviews with comedians who also write for television. I've also caught some bbc interviews with Britcom showrunners. Some of those guys write every episode on their own. No wonder their series runs are usually 6 episodes long.

Trojan Joe said...

Bugliosi also sub-contracted much of the field research and writing for his odious JFK book "Reclaiming History" to two poorly credited ghost writers, Fred Haines and Dale Myers. I've heard that Bugliosi rarely if ever visited Dallas during the 20 years he claimed to be writing the book.

Grung_e_Gene said...

Republicans are the crocth-sniffing lapdogs of the 1%. In Rand Paul's case it's a poodle*.

*- Poodles are mean btw.

Stephen Morgan said...

As to how I would react to a funny line in How I Met Your Mother, should that situation ever arise I'll inform you of the result.

But lots of writers are the big names. Moffat, Gervais, Nation, Coon, and so on.