The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Stop, Thief!

Posted on | June 7, 2013 | 11 Comments

Good Lord, what have we come to, when a guy who gets caught making up quotes by Bob Dylan then scores a book deal based on a proposal chock full of plagiarism? Having written previously about Jonah Lehrer, I was shocked at the very thought that anyone would give this lying bastard a book deal under any circumstance.

But . . . Simon & Schuster?

This isn’t some obscure second-rate publisher. This is arguably the most prestigious publishing house in the entire world. And, as Daniel Engber explains, Lehrer peddles a familiar sort of “pop science”:

Each chapter begins with an anecdote of love, often taken from the life of a cultural icon—Montaigne, Berlioz, Tolstoy, etc.—and then progresses in an onslaught of social-science data, cherry-picked to make a simple point that’s been dressed up to look like counter-intuition. That is to say, it’s Lehrer doing exactly what he’s done before. He loves to start with straw-man science, using published research to establish some flagrant bit of nonsense—”marriage is a waste of time,” let’s say—so he can batter and abuse it with other, better published research. (“And yet,” he explains, “a number of subsequent studies have revealed a surprising upside to marriage.”)

Ick. This discount-rack erzatz Gladwellism — a shabby imitation of the best-selling work of Malcolm Gladwell — is a clever way of either (a) getting people to think what you want them to think, or (b) flattering them by telling them what they already think is scientifically valid.

It isn’t science, it’s “scientism” — the mystic belief that everything can be proven by scientific research, and that anything that isn’t proven by scientific research is therefore invalid. That Lehrer apparently resorts to fraud to accomplish this is merely the evidence that his larger philosophy is fundamentally fraudulent, and it seems Simon & Schuster would rather publish popular fraud than actual science.



11 Responses to “Stop, Thief!”

  1. Bob Belvedere
    June 7th, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

    Jeez Stacy! I thought you would have learned by now that Science is merely one of many tools to be used to convince people that Leftism is The Light And The Way. And, since it is a tool, and in order for it to be useful, it must be manipulated when needed. Science is merely a means to an end – in this case the Immanentizing Of The Eschaton.

  2. keyboard jockey
    June 7th, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

    “A BAR” Did I miss something have they lowered the drinking age in this country from 21 to 18 years old? Does this former cop’s family just sit around looking at which laws they haven’t broken yet? Do they have a check list?

    Honestly these people are giving white trash a bad name.

  3. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    June 7th, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

    Science? You mean that stuff I leave all around my corral is science?

  4. Charles G. Hill
    June 7th, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

    Is this where I mention that Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS?

  5. TR
    June 7th, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

    BTW, How many book proposals have you pitched in the last year? 12 = one per month? 50 (one per week?) OH yeah, 752 blog posts on why you were left off of blog con, that must take a lot of time…

  6. rmnixondeceased
    June 8th, 2013 @ 12:50 am

    And the nuns are on board with Immanentizing Of The Eschaton …

  7. Adjoran
    June 8th, 2013 @ 1:03 am

    Amazing this serial plagiarist slipped through their “layers and layers of editors and fact-checkers,” isn’t it?

  8. Adjoran
    June 8th, 2013 @ 1:05 am

    Stacy McCain is of the quaint and old-fashioned notion that one should only pitch proposals for one’s own work, not the work one has stolen from others.

    But I fully appreciate how a leftist wouldn’t understand that.

  9. robertstacymccain
    June 8th, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    Exactly what the hell is this comment about, TR? Since 2008, I think I’ve done one full-on book proposal, which got kicked around at the publisher, who revamped it and then re-submitted it, and it got dropped mainly because I ceased to give a damn about a proposal that was mainly what the publisher thought would sell, rather than what I’d actually proposed writing to begin with.

    The book business, which has always been an ugly and vicious thing, has become even uglier and more vicious in the past decade, as publishers seem to have adopted a “home run” mentality wherein if they don’t see the potential for a Top 10 bestseller, they’re not really interested. What they want, really, is a pre-sold product — a “name” author with access to a media platform, especially in terms of a regular TV show. This is why you have the ludicrous charade of Bill O’Reilly pretending to “write” history books, a deliberate fraud that no intelligent or honest person believes.

    But who can blame the publishers for this state of affairs? The lamentable fact is that we are living in a post-literate culture, and no one under 40 can even be bothered to read books anymore. Therefore, books have become a sort of souvenir — “Look, I have this book with the famous person’s name on the cover!” — rather than a means of conveying knowledge. I speak, of course, of the non-fiction market here, but the novel is dying a slow death, too. Basically, any genuinely talented person who might in a previous age have written a novel is nowadays in Hollywood writing screenplays.

    We have become a visual culture, and the age of the written word is slowly disappearing in the rearview mirror. The future of journalism is cute kitty videos, and the future of books is celebrity diets and sex advice.

  10. TR
    June 8th, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

    RSM, Well sorry to be so harsh. I have seen the same “home-run” only mentality in my own line of work and it makes it hard to survive, let alone succeed in writing. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. -TR

  11. She Blinded Me With Pseudo-Science : The Other McCain
    June 8th, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

    […] common sense. The media appetite for “counter-intuitive” research findings (as practiced by the fraudulent Jonah Lerner, for example) and the generally liberal leanings of academic researchers (we are not surprised to […]