Rick Perlstein must really have hit a nerve in his latest book about the Republican transition from Tricky Dick to Saint Ronnie. Clearly I underestimated their fury when I wrote about how they were accusing Perlstein of plagiarism.
Even the book editor for Reason Magazine, hardly a left-wing concern, scoffs at that, writing, "Facts are not copyrightable, and one pair of similar sentences does not an infringement make. I don't see a dollar's worth of damages here, let alone 25 million."
Perlstein is a widely respected historian who has written a book about...history. It just so happens that history has been so deeply rewritten by the likes of Craigan Shirley and his partner Shirley Banister that a deep nerve gets touched when someone dares to tell the truth.
At any rate, Shirley has launched a full scale campaign against Perlstein. Media Matters:
All of this leads to the obvious conclusion that these dubious cries of plagiarism represent a coordinated right-wing attack designed to interfere with Perlstein's book roll-out. How do we know it's coordinated? Media reporters like Politico's Dylan Byers have confirmed it is: "As someone on the receiving end of the Rick Perlstein oppo, I can assure you its pretty aggressive."
Also, Shirley's business partner, Banister, sent out an email over the weekend, obtained by Media Matters, beseeching colleagues to join the "offensive" against Perlstein:
We are considering steps to take and would appreciate you help in our offensive as his book is publishing on Tuesday, August 5 and he has a number of interviews. Anything you can do to jump into the fight would be helpful. We can send suggested tweets or other information as you need.
If a biographer like Shirley was actually concerned about Perlstein's supposed scholarly shortcomings, why would he seek partisan help in a public relations "offensive"? And why would Shirley's team offer to type up prefabbed tweets for allies to send out, presumably bashing Perlstein?
Note that lots of Shirley's allies have already apparently been part of the "offensive," with items appearing inThe Weekly Standard, The New York Post, and The Daily Caller, all hyping Shirley's claim about Invisible Bridge plagiarism.
Shirley's accusations are startlingly false. But his campaign offers a glimpse into the well-oiled public relations machine they use to move non-stories into the mainstream. In this case, the New York Times jumped into the fray Tuesday when they chose to repeat the allegations and pretend that all those terrible reviews were spontaneous when they were not. Who knows why they did it, but assume Craig Shirley has friends across the spectrum of newspapers, online outlets and more.
Rick Perlstein is the target today, and tomorrow it will be someone else. This is how they fuel conservative fires. They see the invisible river and set about building an invisible bridge. Shirley's smear campaign proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Perlstein's book contains a little too much truth for conservatives to stomach.
I think we should have his back and buy the book en masse.