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August 09, 2014 2:48 PM Night in America

By D.R. Tucker

Here’s a good way to measure someone’s IQ: ask them if they think Rick Perlstein is really a plagiarist.

The idiot right is waging a no-holds-barred campaign to smear Perlstein, the author of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, as a thief. It’s a transparent attempt to destroy a man who dares to question the myth of Reagan—but I’m sure some gullible Americans will buy into it.

As David Dayen of Salon notes:

According to a Reagan biographer who currently serves as the publicist for Ann Coulter, Perlstein is a serial plagiarist. Only this accuser has defined plagiarism down to “quoting with full attribution” and “using the same historical facts.” The resulting controversy has enmeshed Perlstein in a political war he had no idea he was fighting. “I feel like a character in one of my books,” he told Salon.
Perlstein saved his publishers about 100 pages of printing for his large tome by putting his source notes online. This allows readers to actually view the sources directly through Google Books and elsewhere, rather than having to hike out to a library to find them. And the voluminous use of contemporary accounts contributes to Perlstein’s signature style, putting the reader into the heart of historical events in the way ordinary Americans would have experienced them.
On 125 separate occasions, Perlstein cites a 2005 book by Craig Shirley called “Reagan’s Revolution: the Untold Story of the Campaign that Started It All.” Perlstein even writes in his acknowledgments that “Craig Shirley’s book on Reagan’s 1976 campaign saved me 3.76 months” of research and labor. So he makes clear that he relied on Shirley’s account, and used the facts contained therein, with attribution, to shape his narrative.

Of course, the targets of this ridiculous right-wing messaging weren’t planning to read Perlstein’s book; one can’t help wondering if the folks who buy into the idea that Perlstein is a journalistic criminal have read any books in the last decade, save for certain passages in the Old Testament.

Perlstein doesn’t have a thing to worry about. The wingnut mind leaps from distraction to distraction, quickly moving from birth certificates to Benghazi to Bundy. Soon, there will be another shiny object that catches their attention, and the rest of us can move beyond this ugly moment when Perlstein was cast before swine.

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