OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.
How do we know that they’re spurious? The people making the charges — almost all of whom have, surprise, movement conservative connections — aren’t pointing to any actual passages that, you know, were lifted from some other book. Instead, they’re claiming that Perlstein paraphrased what other people said. Um, what? Unless there’s a very close match, telling more or less the same story someone else has told before is perfectly ordinary — in fact, it would be distressing if history books didn’t correspond on some things.
Paraphrase with attribution is not plagiarism, and facts cannot be copyrighted. These are not complicated questions.
There are reasonable questions to be asked about the online-only endnotes of The Invisible Bridge, something that I’m guessing is going to be more common. My take is that the online source notes with links are, in themselves, an invaluable resource. Recognizing that resources are scarce, publishing serious works of history is generally a low-margin enterprise at best, etc., I would prefer all things being equal that they be supplements to traditional endnotes rather that replacements. As I’ve been working my way through the book there have been multiple times where I’ve wanted to look up a reference but haven’t been around a laptop. This is a question, however, that has nothing to do with scholarly integrity; online references are still references. And the specific campaign against Perlstein is plainly a political hit job.
…Weigel is must-reading on this.