Monday, July 18, 2016

Do Plagiarists Deserve A Second Chance?

The world can be forgiving and provide second chances to those who break the law, violate a code or hurt the ones they’re supposed to love.  But should the book publishing world – and readers – embrace a writer who violated the moral and professional trust of his profession, not once, but twice?

Jonah Lehrer admits to fabricating quotes, failing to cite secondary sources, and presenting factual errors in his earlier book How We Decide.  It was pulled from the shelves by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt several years ago.  An earlier book, Imagine:  How Creativity Works, was also pulled.  The author is a self-confessed plagiarist.

Does he deserve another chance to write, publish, and sell his books?  Simon & Schuster decided to publish A Book About Love, Lehrer’s latest tomb.  Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and leading indies show no qualms in selling his book, which he says was independently fact-checked, Publisher’s Weekly reviewed the book as well.

The issue here is that readers and the media can’t fully trust a writer’s work if his history has been so dishonest and sloppy.  How can we be asked to have faith in the materials and ideas he brings forth?  Did his poor ethics, lack of judgment or skill as a well-researched writer dramatically improve from his fraudulent works to now?

If a lawyer committed crimes at work would you hire him to defend you?  If a woman got divorced because she cheated on her last pair of husbands, would you marry her?  If a baseball player was caught doing steroids, would you want to sign that player to a huge long-term contract?

On the other hand, don’t we allow kids who cheated on texts back in school?  Don’t employers sometimes hire convicted felons?  Aren’t there women who take back their philandering husbands?  Don’t sports teams forgive players accused of domestic abuse, addiction, or other issues?

I love and respect writing books too much to condone any behavior that conflicts with the preservation of information accurately.  Books are society’s legacy and we can’t afford for anything but truth and accuracy to survive. I could never support a writer who cheated his or her way to publication.

But I also condemn censorship.  Everyone has a right to publish a book, no matter how offensive the book or person is. We, as a society must be vigilant to make sure we don’t support, blindly, a book or writer – ever.  The burden falls on us to make sure we champion only those who deserve it.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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