A Brief Defense of Rick Perlstein

I haven't chimed in on the "plagiarism" charges against Rick Perlstein's new book, The Invisible Bridge because my copy hasn't arrived yet. Hurry up, UPS. The reason I put the P word in quotes is that the charges by conservative historian/activist Craig Shirley are absurd: he's thanked in the book and cited in the footnotes. But horrors: they're on the interweb instead of making a very long hardback even thicker. Digby wrote a fine post about the virtues of this so I won't go into it here.

The charge that bugs me the most about this book and Nixonland is that Perlstein is an "aggregator" like Satan's Botoxed Handmaiden. To begin with, he has done some original research but what Perlstein really does is write INTERPRETIVE HISTORY, which is a venerable and honorable method. His books remind me of the work of Garry Wills, especially The Kennedy Imprisonment, Nixon Agonistes, and Reagan's America. Like Wills, Perlstein looks at the accepted or disputed facts, synthesizes and interprets them. That's not aggregating, it's awesome. I know that was lame but what can I say? I spent way too much time on Twitter last night battling the forces of malakatude.

Finally, there's an excerpt of The Invisble Bridge at TPM. It's well worth a look and a read.

That is all.

2 thoughts on “A Brief Defense of Rick Perlstein

  1. My .000002 cents worth is that the proper reaction to Shirley’s asinine charge is derisive laughter. Shirley might not quite reach Mo Brooks level malakatude, but he’s not that far off.
    If he’s got a case, let him take it to court…but my guess is he’d get laughed out of there, too.
    It’s all just more SOP from the noise machine/puke funnel.

  2. Most importantly, Perlstein won’t be pulling too many punches with Reagan, and the roar came up virtually the moment the book hit the stores, because St. Ronnie. To the right wing, anything less than abject, fawning superlatives is an attack on their chosen god.
    But, as for Shirley’s charges, if you cite accurately and source properly, it ain’t plagiarism. Yes, Perlstein does a lot of cultural scene-setting, providing a lot of background of the times as recorded by the press, but all in service of explaining the political whys and wherefores that are important to an understanding of how, in the case of Reagan, a gullible dullard became President.

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