Why Ann Coulter's Plagiarism Matters (And Why No One Will Give a Damn):
For the last week, in several posts and articles, the Rude Pundit and Ron Brynaert of Raw Story have detailed the multiple plagiarized and unattributed passages from Ann Coulter in her "book" Godless. In fact, it's hard to tell what part of the book doesn't have plagiarism or unattributed (or wrongly attributed) passages. For some reason, the story doesn't rate discussion (as of this writing) in the mainstream media in the same way that the plagiarism of Ben Domenech (ersatz ex-Washington Post blogger) and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin rated coverage.
The Weekly Standard, back in 2002, took Goodwin to task for direct quote plagiarism and "insufficient attribution" in her book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. Here's one of the examples, taken from an earlier book by Hank Searls. Searls wrote: "He turned helplessly to his old classmate Campbell, then fought his way blindly through hysterical fans to the field to comfort his son." And here's Goodwin: "[He] turned helplessly to Tommy Campbell, then fought his way through the hysterical fans to provide solace to his son." Much more of Goodwin's plagiarism was word-for-word from other sources that she cited in her book, just not for the plagiarized material.
As Timothy Noah in Slate said, "This is not a gray area." Then Noah went on to cite the freshman composition policy on plagiarism from Harvard, where Goodwin got her PhD and taught. Goodwin's defense was that she had used "extensive footnotes." The problem, of course, and the reason for the feeding frenzy, was that she had not used enough.
No, Ann Coulter is not a scholar by any horribly screeching stretch of the word. Still, her annointment as a spokesperson for the conservative right on talk shows and in newspapers means there are some standards to which she ought to be held. Honesty ought to be high on that list. Her plagiarism, in any ethical sense of the word, is huge. Hell, compared to Coulter, Goodwin's double-dotted her eyes. Because Coulter's plagiarism is more like Domenech's: taking things from sources that are not ever cited. Much of what has been found in Godless has come from right wing websites or speakers, so the chances of someone suing Coulter is practically nil. And when we get to passages like the list of treatments done with adult stem cells that Coulter cribs almost entirely from an Illinois right-to-life website, well, you know, would it have killed her to have used some quotation marks around "Reversing severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) with genetically modified adult cells" when the Illinois site stated, "Reverse severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) (using genetically modified adult stem cells)." Maybe a footnote to give props to the source?
In the scheme of things, no, the story of Coulter's plagiarism is not more important than anything going on in Iraq, any election, any bill or debate in Congress, anything going on in the economy, volcanoes, hurricanes, and more. But, in terms of news, it's a fuck of a lot more important than anything that has to do with a weeping Britney, Brangelina, a $1.7 million car that's a lemon, and a naked guy trying to get his girlfriend to marry him, all of which are receiving extensive coverage. The Coulter story is about the basic acceptance of dishonesty in the conservative movement. Indeed, the right functions only because of liars and cheats and grifters who are aided and abetted by a media that refuses to call them on their lies.
The Rude Pundit doesn't buy the whole "ignore her and she'll go away" bullshit put out by so many on the Left. Coulter ain't going away. And ask yourself this question: If some right-wing blogger discovered that Michael Moore had plagiarized parts of one of his books, what kind of crazy explosion of conservative joy would ejaculate from the columns, computers, and Fox "News" correspondents? (By the way, the Rude Pundit isn't comparing Coulter and Moore - Moore doesn't beat up on 9/11 widows or mothers who lost their children in the war. It's a fine, but significant, distinction.)
At the end of the day, though, chances are this story's gonna fade away. The media has gotten so used to liars and con artists shaping the discourse that this is just more background noise. Hey, they didn't go after the Bush administration for lying about the war. Why bother with this blonde kooz? Truly, too, Coulter has created a wonderful trap: she hates the media, so if she's attacked for her hate, it just proves her hate is valid. Generally, those are the kind of people you shake your head at as you take away their sharp implements.
And if the right truly gave a happy monkeyfuck about things like "ethics" and "morals," then Dick Morris, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Bennett, and so, so many more would be whipped in the town square as they are being chased out of the gates. So don't expect the Weekly Standard to get all indignant about Coulter. They need her, the conservative movement, because her madness makes the rest of them look sane. It's like if you go to a nuthouse and see the strait-jacketed screaming guy who eats his own shit in the rubber room. Then the wandering, muttering schizos don't look so bad.
If there's one thing the Rude Pundit can say to anyone in the mainstream media who may have checked out this story, it's this: Coulter beat up on women whose husbands burned to death because those women wanted to find out why their husbands burned to death and they supported the guy who wasn't the President when their husbands burned to death. Don't you wanna take this bitch down?