Will Coulter face ridicule and loss of future contracts like Viswanathan? Or will she get the proverbial "slap on the wrist" like another high-profile case concurrent with the chick-lit book? Raytheon CEO William Swanson "cribbed from a late California engineering professor, W. J. King" (among others) when writing his ''Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Business." Without credit, of course. No real hardship for Swanson; his luck was media were far more interested in fiction and a teenager than business advice from an adult.
To his credit, Swanson issued a public apology, which included the but-I'm-not-a-writer disclaimer. His board's financial penalty was to freeze his $1.1 million salary and to "reduce the amount of restricted stock he was eligible for in the coming year by 20 percent." Mostly a hand-slap: his "total compensation amounted to more than $7 million" in 2005.
The Swanson story was covered mostly in Boston; Raytheon is a Massachusetts company. The Viswanathan story, on the other hand, was on CBS, NBC, CNN and NPR and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, The Houston Chronicle, The LA Times, The Boston Globe, The Toronto Star, the London Independent, The (London) Times, the Weekend Australian and AP. (Abbreviated list, Lexis-Nexis search.)
It's too early to say for sure, but search results at Google News suggest traditional media are treating Coulter more like Swanson than Viswanathan. [Since when do we hold teenagers to a higher ethical standard than adults?] The blogosphere ... well, that's another kettle of fish, a smelly one (no surprise there).
The blogger Rude Pundit reported in June that Coulter had not only lifted copy from newspaper without credit, she had presented 30 year-old-news as though it were current.
Here's Coulter from Chapter 1 of Godless: The massive Dickey-Lincoln Dam, a $227 million hydroelectric project proposed on upper St. John River in Maine, was halted by the discovery of the Furbish lousewort, a plant previously believed to be extinct.
Here's the Portland Press Herald, from the year 2000, in its list of the "Maine Stories of the Century": The massive Dickey-Lincoln Dam, a $227 million hydroelectric project proposed on upper St. John River, is halted by the discovery of the Furbish lousewort, a plant believed to be extinct.
Also in June, Raw Story reported that Coulter reproduced an "adult stem cell treatment list from" a anti-abortion website. Again, without attribution.
A tabloid, The New York Post, reported Sunday that Coulter's work had been "cribbed," according to John Barrie, CEO of iParadigms, a "national leader and expert on the problem of plagiarism in education."
Barrie, CEO of iParadigms, told The Post that one 25-word passage from the "Godless" chapter titled "The Holiest Sacrament: Abortion" appears to have been lifted nearly word for word from Planned Parenthood literature published at least 18 months before Coulter's 281-page book was released.
A separate, 24-word string from the chapter "The Creation Myth" appeared about a year earlier in the San Francisco Chronicle with just one word change - "stacked" was changed to "piled." ...
Her Aug. 3, 2005, column, "Read My Lips: No New Liberals," about U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, includes six passages, ranging from 10 to 48 words each, that appeared 15 years earlier in the same order in an L.A. Times article, headlined "Liberals Leery as New Clues Surface on Souter's Views."
No Penalities For Others
Frankly, I'm not going to hold my breath. My guess is that some researcher, somewhere, is going to be fired. [Yes, I'm implying that Coulter doesn't do all the work for her columns or her book.]
To those that are trying to link this to the NYT and Jason Blair -- give me a break! Blair made up stuff. Not the same thing, although both break trust with the reader.
There's a bigger issue here -- and it's not the one that Coulter asserts in her latest column:
Maybe the Postís constant harassment of me is an attempt to shake me down for protection money like they did with billionaire businessman Ron Burkle. I have sold a LOT of books ó more books, come to think of it, than any writers at the New York Post.
The issue is authenticity and truth -- and the lack of it permeates political discourse each-and-every day. I believe it is poisoning the public -- and that mainstreamed hate talk gives credit to fears that American politics is becoming "tribal."