But McTaggart's review became less complimentary when she turned her attention to that portion of Goodwin's book dealing with more recent events. Goodwin's problem, McTaggart wrote, was that she hadn't interviewed enough of the principals:
However inspired a historian, she is a timid reporter who stays firmly put in the library. She has ventured out to interview fewer than 50 people (including her own husband [former JFK aide Richard Goodwin]), and only one daughter and the 90-year-old Rose Kennedy among the surviving immediate family.
As a consequence, McTaggart informed Listener readers, Goodwin's book ended up relying too heavily on previous Kennedy biographies:
Much of the second half of the book is little more than a well-annotated—and in some cases, very closely paraphrased—collection of other Kennedy biographers' research.
This last snippet is the only reference in McTaggart's Listener review to Goodwin's plagiarism. Although it conveyed some flavor of McTaggart's subsequent complaint, it gave Listener readers no clue how serious the problem was. Goodwin did not "closely paraphrase" McTaggart's book. She plagiarized it, a word McTaggart had no trouble using in her recent Times op-ed. (A side-by-side comparison of several passages from McTaggart's book and Goodwin's in Crader's Weekly Standard piece makes clear that this was plagiarism.) McTaggart's polite circumspection in her Listener review undermines her subsequent moralizing about being ripped off. In a March 24 interview with the Associated Press, McTaggart said, "If somebody takes a third of somebody's book, which is what happened to me, they are lifting out the heart and guts of somebody else's individual expression." Why didn't she tell the Listener's readers 15 years ago that she felt so strongly about this?
McTaggart claims that venting such mean-spirited thoughts would not have been "professional." But Chatterbox fails to see what's professional about downplaying to one's readers a literary theft prior to seeking secret monetary restitution. As Chatterbox has argued earlier, the actual tort in most cases of plagiarism is pretty negligible. The party that gets harmed the most (and toward whom existing law has no concern) is the reader. Therefore, the best way to resolve cases of plagiarism is to do precisely what McTaggart didn't: inform the reading public. And the best way to achieve that, Chatterbox continues to believe, is to require authors to waive their right to sue someone else for plagiarism (excepting, of course, blatant copying of multiple whole pages, which amounts to piracy).
The alternative, as McTaggart's case shows, is to create a financial incentive for an author to keep mum when he finds out he's been plagiarized. Chatterbox presumes that the Listener ended up paying McTaggart at best a couple hundred dollars for her review. But if you include the cash Goodwin subsequently laid out to McTaggart in their confidential settlement, that Listener review probably earned McTaggart several thousands more.
TODAY IN SLATE
More Than Scottish Pride
IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You
Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows
The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything
It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.
Happy Constitution Day!
Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.