Wednesday, July 06, 2005

garbage in, garbage out

like many, i work for a multinational corporation, pearson. i'm not proud of working for a megacorp, but generally as far as corporations go, pearson isn't so bad. it's european (london-based), for one thing, which means that our benefits are pretty good. hell, i got july 5 off work for a holiday this year, and i don't know anyone else who did. plus, compared to other global actors, pearson is generally pretty well-behaved, or at least i don't hear much in the news about unethical behavior there (or at pearson subsidiaries, such as penguin-putnam, the financial times, etc).

but i must say i'm pretty disappointed with penguin for publishing ed klein's the truth about hillary, the new anti-clinton diatribe.

of course, penguin has every right to start up a right-wing imprint and print conservative books, just as doubleday had every right to print kitty kelley's all in the family (which i blogged about briefly but never bought or read). but where kelley had actual named sources for her most explosive allegations (actual sources within the bush family), klein does not. in fact, as joe conason points out, "In the ultimate form of junk recycling, his footnotes cite books that relied upon anonymous sources."

and while the corporate media was immediately and viscerally hostile to kitty kelley, it was much more likely to give klein the benefit of the doubt... at least, that is, until people started fact-checking it.

a quick browse through mediamatters shows just how thoroughly the book has been debunked (for example, see here, here, here, and especially here). this book is so full of errors that even bill o'reilly, rush limbaugh, peggy noonan, and joe scarborough have come out to criticize it. rush even tried to make the ridiculous claim that liberals are the ones behind klein's book, in an attempt to put out something so false that hillary would be "innoculated" against any future criticism.

mediamatters's david brock and many others have publicly called for penguin to admit to the factual errors in the book.

this morning i received the latest edition of @pearson, pearson's companywide email newsletter for its employees. in it, near the bottom, was this section:

The truth about The Truth About Hillary
Edward Klein's The Truth About Hillary, the new controversial book about the former US First Lady and current US Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, which Sentinel (Penguin Group (USA)'s conservative imprint) just published, has ranked as high as number two on the Amazon Top 100. The buzz surrounding The Truth About Hillary has generated often-intense commentary from across the public political spectrum with some media raising questions regarding the factual accuracy of Klein's book. Others have taken aim at Penguin Group (USA)'s and Sentinel's editorial standards. These issues were addressed in a Penguin Group (USA) corporate statement that is posted on the Penguin U.S. web site at: http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pdf/press/press79.pdf

so penguin has addressed these issues, huh? let's look at an excerpt from the corporate statement:

With regard to Penguin Group (USA)'s editorial standards,it is the long-established and legally recognized practice in book publishing that it is the author's responsibility to assure factual accuracy.

Mr.Klein's book received the same legal scrutiny that Penguin Group (USA)undertakes for other nonfiction books that it publishes, and during that process the author satisfied Sentinel that he could support statements in the book now under attack. What should also be understood is that factual accuracy does not mean unopinionated or unbiased. Mr.Klein's interpretation and characterization of what he reports is unabashedly his opinion. Neither he nor Sentinel pretend otherwise. He has the absolute right to express that opinion, and it now is for the reading public to decide whether he makes his case.

Having said that,it is also important to note that Penguin Group (USA) has never let public opinion or the media dictate what we will or will not publish.

the opening sentence of the statement is "The book publishing industry has always fought against censorship of any kind."... a little swipe that anyone who criticizes penguin or klein just wants to censor them. of course, i think penguin can publish as many hillary books as it wants to, so long as there is at least the illusion of a fact-checking process. kitty kelley was able to do very well on the talk shows, because although her book was probably not 100% accurate, she at least knew what she was talking about and it was clear she had done a lot of research.

so sentinel was "satisfied" that klein could support his claims: like the assertion that chelsea clinton was conceived when bill date-raped hillary? or the suggestion that hillary is a lesbian and that she had an affair with vince foster (a man?) or any of the dozens of claims that are so effortlessly debunked in the mediamatters articles i linked to above?

call me intellectually inconsistent if you want, because i didn't slam kitty kelley's bush biography in the way that i'm slamming this hillary bio. but while kelley's book did deal in rumors, there were also a lot of facts, and named sources. i'm not having much luck on google finding any lists of real inaccuracies in kelley's book, other than claims from one or two of her sources (one of whom, sharon bush, tried denying the story but her own publicist could not back her up). but i'm having no trouble finding page after page of flat-out lies, distortions, and inaccuracies contained in klein's book. and that makes me, a pearson employee, feel somewhat dirty.

1 comment:

syntax said...

my evil japanese-based multinational employer also gave us july 5 as a floating holiday, which is good.

they also shut the company down for the 6th, 7th, and 8th, forcing everyone to burn 24 hours of vacation time. which is bad.

(and hey, the plant i work at makes armor plating inserts for general dynamics' "striker" program, which kind of makes me feel more than a little unclean as well...)