Monday, June 29, 2020

Peter Knight and Barry Ryder on JFK Assassination

The Kennedy Assassination (Representing American Events) Paperback – 3 Sept. 2007
by Peter Knight  (Author), Tim Woods (Editor)

November 22nd 1963, Dealey Plaza As a seminal event in late twentieth-century American history, the Kennedy assassination has permeated the American and world consciousness in a wide variety of ways. It has long fascinated American writers, filmmakers and artists, and this book offers an authoritative critical introduction to the way the event has been constructed in a range of discourses. It looks at a variety of historical, political and cultural attempts to understand Kennedy's death. Representations include: journalism from the time; historical accounts and memoirs; official investigations, government reports and sociological inquiries; the huge number of conspiracy-minded interpretations; novels, plays and other works of literature; and the Zapruder footage, photography, avant-garde art, and Hollywood films. Considering the continuities and contradictions in how the event has been represented, the author focuses on how it has been seen through the lens of ideas about conspiracy, celebrity and violence. He also explores how the arguments about exactly what happened on 22 November 1963 have come to serve as a substitute way of debating the significance of Kennedy's legacy and the meaning of the 1960s more generally. Key Features: * presents information about the event itself, the cultural context of the period, and the consequences of the event * considers the ways in which the event has been represented in subsequent years in a variety of discourses * includes an annotated bibliography and 10 B&W illustrations.

This is an excellent book. It’s not another in-depth study of the minutia of the Kennedy assassination. Such a volume would be unnecessary, tediously repetitive and wholly redundant. Instead, Peter Knight offers a fascinating discussion on how and why there are so many different, competing versions of what ‘really happened’.

The author examines the many sources which have informed and misinformed the public for more than half a century. He discusses press reports, historical accounts, official investigations, books, film and much more. It’s an engrossing read, replete with astute observations, salient points, educated insights and intelligent commentary.

There are a few factual errors within the 164 pages and I’m sure that readers who are familiar with the subject matter will spot them. However, as this book doesn’t seek to re-examine the details of the Dallas murders, their presence doesn’t affect Knight’s main purpose.

The introduction concludes with the observation that, “The event has usually been represented as a watershed moment in American history, often with the implication that Kennedy’s death marked the loss of [US] innocence,. […] But this common assumption is based on a naively optimistic faith in America as an exceptional nation, a beacon of light to the world, that would otherwise have remained innocent and uncorrupted if it had not been for the evil intentions of either conspiracy or lone gunman.”

This is very important point and it’s well made. This widely held belief lies at the heart of the angst that underpins much of the conspiracy thinking.

In chapter two the author examines the role that contemporaneous journalism played in reporting the news of the assassination. He notes that many of the earliest misunderstandings had their beginnings with hurried and erroneous dispatches. He cites Dr Perry’s chaotic press conference in which he ventured his mistaken belief that Kennedy had been shot from the front. Within 48 hours, Perry had acknowledged his mistake and corrected it yet his initial opinion still persists as ‘a fact’ among the conspiracy theorists; it’s become an integral part of conspiracy nomenclature as a result of ad nauseam repetition over the years – and it’s wrong.

There are some other examples that Knight omits; for example, a Secret Service Agent was not killed during the shooting even though press, TV and radio reports all said that one was.

Chapter three deals with the recorded history of the assassination. Knight discusses the books of William Manchester and Jim Bishop. Both were highly influential in conveying the story. Both were able to ‘narrate’ the events in ways that the Warren Commission volumes and report never could.

Knight returns to the notion that Kennedy’s murder was perceived as a Paradise Lost. He writes,

“..(is November 1963 when it all began to go horribly wrong?), and the role of counterfactual speculations about the significance of the assassination for the story of the Vietnam War (had he lived, would Kennedy have withdrawn US troops?). […] hagiographic accounts […] in effect turned the assassination into a mythical drama, a stirring story of a fallen warrior hero whose outline is more reminiscent of Arthurian legends than contemporary politics. […] After the assassination, Kennedy admirers promoted him as a liberal hero whose untimely death meant that his potential for energising change was never fulfilled. […] This interpretation of Kennedy’s death redirects attention from his arguably quite limited actual achievements to the wishful fantasy of what might have been.”

Knight does a god job in challenging the deep-rooted myth of a nation and world cheated of a glorious destiny. In truth, there was no such cataclysm in the world – or, indeed, in the USA. Virtually nothing changed. The idea that Kennedy’s death was a turning-point in history is a fanciful, romantic notion.

Chapter 4 examines ‘The Official Version’. There are, of course, two ‘official versions’, The Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Neither one was perfect but both agreed on the key issues; Oswald fired three shots, one missed and two hit Kennedy. One struck him in the head and killed him and one passed through his body and struck Governor Connally. Both investigations also concluded that Oswald had attempted to murder Maj Gen Walker (Rtd.) in April, 1963.

Knight has praise and criticism for both investigations. For the most part (though not always) he is fair. He is right to note that the WC did duck the issue of Oswald’s political motivation. He writes, “This tendency to depoliticise Oswald is obviously significant in the light of the overall implicit task of the Commission in calming rumours about foreign conspiracy,..”

As a general observation of the WC report, he notes that, “..there are hundreds of pages of barely relevant testimony, an obsessive accumulation of documents that prove little or nothing..[…] There are case-making items such as the backyard photos, […] but there are also items that are tangential at best, and ludicrously incongruous at worse.”

All of that is true. The Warren Commission made the mistake of trying to over-prove its case. In so doing it provided critics with an abundance of material to conflate, misrepresent and lie about. It made a rod for its own back.

The HSCA, of course, concluded that Kennedy had been murdered as the result of a ‘probable’ conspiracy. It’s reason for concluding that was the ‘acoustic evidence’ which supposedly revealed a fourth shot – a shot that Oswald could not have fired. Four members of the Committee were not persuaded by the evidence and three of them were able to include their dissenting views in the Final report. Knight notes that, “As several members of the HSCA already suspected, the acoustic evidence was soon found to be flawed, thereby undermining the major claim that there was a second gunman and hence a probable conspiracy.” (p. 72)

This fascinating chapter moves to its close with, “.. the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK were not an unprecedented calamity in US history, but only the latest in a series of outbursts of political violence that had seen previous peaks in the 1820s, 1890s and 1930s.

On page 67 he quotes from the 1968, NCCPV report ‘..assassinations in the U. S. are usually not part of concerted efforts to redirect the course of politics through the removal of leaders; the main effects of assassinations have been not a change in political direction but a sense of personal shock and despair coupled with a willingness to believe in conspiracy theories,’

Knight’s fifth chapter examines ‘The Unofficial Version’ of the assassination. These are my ‘selected highlights’:

“There is a vast literature on the Kennedy assassination, with over two thousand books, countless newspaper and magazine articles, along with novels and films, not to mention the dozens of  journals and websites devoted to the topic. The overwhelming majority develop a conspiracy theory of one stripe or another.” (p. 75)

Indeed they do and they are all different. Conspiracy theories are like religions; they can’t all be right but they can all be wrong.

The author casts his eye over some of the earliest ‘critics’.
Thomas Buchanan is noted as being the first to have a book published about the assassination. This was on the shelves before the Warren Commission had even finished its investigation.
Joachim Joesten is mentioned and Knight accurately describes him as a “ time member of the Communist Party,..” (p. 77)

He points out that,“But with the opening up of the Soviet archives after the fall of the Berlin Wall, evidence has emerged that Buchanan and Joesten might ave been motivated not by an implicit and vague ideological European fixation with conspiracy theories of political succession, but by a quite explicit disinformation campaign directed by the KGB..” (p. 78)

Naturally, Mark Lane and his ‘method’ are both discussed. Knight concludes that, “Lane’s approach is thus somewhat disingenuous..” (p.79) That’s putting it very mildly indeed. Not mentioned in the book is the fact that Lane’s European lecture road-show was partly funded by a KGB intermediary.

Chapter 6 Literature

In this chapter Knight examines some of the most well-known literature that has been inspired by the assassination. He discusses the books of Mailer, De Lillo, Ellroy and Pynchon among others. I only skimmed this chapter as I don’t read novels or any fiction.

Chapter 7 Visual Culture and film

Much of this chapter is given over to discussing the Zapruder film; what it shows, what it doesn’t show and what it suggests. Knight gives a potted history of the film from the moment of its creation up until the present day. Also, of course, we read of how the film has been used and interpreted by just about everybody who has ever viewed it.

Other famous images are discussed; the back-yard photographs and other Dealey Plaza photographs are considered. Unfortunately, when discussing Ike Altgens, the author makes a rare mistake and I think that it should be noted. Knight writes, “There are few photos by professional photographers of the shooting in Dealey Plaza. The only one of note – and even that one was taken after the fatal head shot itself – is James ‘Ike’ Altgens black and white photo of Secret Service Agent Clint Hill stepping onto the back of the presidential limousine to help Jackie Kennedy as she scrambles toward the rear.”

In fact, Altgens took six other photos and one of them – usually referred to as Altgens ‘5’ - was taken whilst the gunfire was still occurring. It’s regarded by many as the most important still image of the assassination. It contains a wealth of detail and information but, regrettably, our author seems to have omitted it.

Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’ draws the author’s attention and criticism. He writes, “Although Stone might claim that the film is merely presenting multiple perspectives, in reality it makes a passionate case for a particular theory, namely that Kennedy was killed because he was going to bring an end to the Cold War in general and the Vietnam War in particular.”

Knight restates his point, “JFK continues to present Kennedy as a blemish-free president of tragic stature, more of a Cold War dove than the hawk he was in reality.”

Peter Knight’s brief ‘conclusion’ makes reference to the age-old “historical controversies” which grew-up following Pearl Harbour and the Lincoln assassination. He writes that these historical events, “..are surrounded by a thriving subculture of conspiracy theory and revisionist history, along with the usual historical tourism that such controversies generate, but neither can be said to have any real impact on present-day politics.”

For my own summation, I’d like to offer some of my favourite lines from this outstanding book. The first is a direct quote from ‘The Day Kennedy Was Shot’ by Jim Bishop.

“..the simple became complex; the obvious, obtuse...The more people read, the more certain they became that they had not heard the facts.”

This is absolutely true of the conspiracy-buff. Bishop’s observation was true in 1968 and it still is.

On pages 99-101, Knight writes, “ can seem that JFK conspiracy theories tend not toward a comforting closure, but to an infinite regress of suspicion, a ‘vertigo of interpretations’. […] As much as assassination researchers speak of their determination to bring closure to the case, they also often seem to have a personal investment in keeping research going, of sustaining a research dialogue almost for the sake of discussion – not to mention a financial investment in prolonging the process of inquiry, with the proliferation of convention speaking and web merchandising funding the amateur research network.”

Peter Knight hits the nail on the head. The ‘Researchers’ are nothing more than a self-interest group of hobbyists. They pursue their nebulous quarry with the same pointless zeal as those who search for Noah’s Ark or the Holy Grail. They know that their goal doesn’t even exist but, it’s the chase they want, not the kill. They’ve got a hobby for life. These people will continue on an ever-cycling treadmill, getting nowhere whilst covering the same old, familiar ground repeatedly.

In the 56 years since the Dallas murders, the critics and ‘research community’ have accomplished absolutely nothing. Despite countless books, conventions and essays, they have not overturned one single conclusion of the official investigations. Indeed, the only conclusion that has ever been overturned was the ‘probable conspiracy’ that was postulated by the HSCA. The National Academy of Science empanelled eleven experts (collectively referred to as the Committee on Ballistic Acoustics) and it found that the HSCA’s acoustic evidence was wrong. There were no gunshots at all on the dictabelt tape. None.

This is a superb book.


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 3 March 2013
This short 166-page 2007 paperback publication is authored by Peter Knight, Senior Lecturer in American Studies at The University of Manchester UK, whose other published works include `Conspiracy Culture: from Kennedy to the X-Files' and `Conspiracy Nation'. The book presents an overview of the 1963 JFK assassination from historical, political, cultural and sociological perspectives.

Following a detailed introduction, a long chapter covers `the official version' in which the history of the Warren Commission Report, the Clark Panel and the work of the HSCA are summarised with admirable brevity but including a useful level of detail, highlighting their perceived shortcomings.

A companion-chapter follows: `the unofficial version' (should be `versions'). The author here presents the multiplicity of conspiracy narratives which have found traction in the public imagination since the 1960s. The works of Epstein, Lane, Weisberg, Penn Jones, Josiah Thompson and Sylvia Meagher are well summarised, and the evolution of the large number of mutually contradictory theories about motives for the assassination are covered:

"The list of theories and suspects began to seem endless: writers blamed the CIA, FBI, renegades from both, the Secret Service, Dallas police, Cuban exiles, the Mafia, Dallas oil millionaires, right-wing Texans, left-wing sympathisers, Corsican Mafia, President Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Jimmy Hoffa, the military-industrial complex, the international banking cartel, the three hobos picked up in Dealy Plaza right after the shooting, and just about every combination of these groups" (p92)

The Soviet KGB origin of `US government conspiracy' and particularly `the CIA were involved' was discovered in the Soviet archives following the fall of the Berlin Wall, a disinformation campaign seeded into European political journals in the 1960s to ferment distrust of their government in the American population. Few details about this are given as the book is meant to be only an overview, but source references are quoted (p78).

Knight's writing is not without humour:

"The spoof newspaper `The Onion' captured the sense of a frenzied overproduction of theories in their headline `Kennedy slain by CIA, Mafia, Castro, LBJ, Teamsters, Freemasons: President shot 129 times from 43 different angles'" (p93).

Two further chapters cover the legacy of literature based around the event, and `Visual Culture and Film' including a long and detailed history of Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder's amateur 19-second film ("the Rosetta Stone of the assassination"), and Oliver Stone's disingenuous but lucrative exercise in Hollywood myth-making `JFK'.

There is a short concluding chapter, and two pages of `suggested further reading' which covers the whole gamut of theories and perspectives.

Knight's stance is essentially neutral; he has no axe to grind, does not push the lone gunman theory or any one of the multiplicity of mutually contradictory conspiracy theories. He retains a refreshingly intelligent perspective focusing on the iconic & cultural importance of the event, retrospectively seen by many as `the time when everything changed, when America lost its innocence.' The book's brevity and (for its size) thoroughness, its literate readable style and the author's clearly encyclopaedic knowledge of all aspects of the `JFK industry' makes it easy to recommend to the casual reader unfamiliar with the mountain of facts and theories piled on the JFK assassination. For the dyed-in-the-wool conspiracy theorist ideologically committed to one theory or another, the good-humoured neutrality and succinct writing style of Knight's book might come as a breath of fresh air.

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 February 2008
Peter Knight's scholarly book is surprisingly comprehensive given that it's a relatively short work. It succeeds in being both a fine introduction to the case and in being an incisive and fascinating history of the assassination in both American and World history and indeed in popular culture. The book provides an interesting and very reasonable and balanced assessment of most of the key aspects of the case - a summary of the Warren Report and all other official investigations, the major conspiracy theories, the problems with eye witness reliability, the so called problems with the Single Bullet Theory, the fatal head shot and issues with the flawed autopsy and so on.

But the book goes much further than providing a brief but very succinct history of the case, it also provides an excellent record of key works on the assassination together with some highly interesting observations regarding the event in news, fiction, film and even art. More over the author also finds the space to explain how and why the event has had such an impact on modern America and suggests that actually some degree of exaggeration has occurred in respect of the events true impact at the time. The book also examines the concept of the "conspiracy theory" in principle and asks if the Kennedy assassination has in fact changed the nature of conspiracy thinking giving some considerable thought to Oliver Stones film JFK and the unfortunate effect that that film has had - that a significant percentage of the American public believe Oliver Stones work to be an accurate rendition of the event, which it clearly is not.

It is actually quite rare to get a book on this subject that is essentially neutral, but still maintains a tantalizing glimpse into what author Vincent Bugliosi calls a "bottomless pit". When you consider that Philip Knight covers just about every angle on this case in some 180 pages, it is quite an achievement. If you are conspiracy buff I'd recommend this book as a dose of common sense. Peter Knight doesn't offer a personal conclusion in terms of was there or was there not a conspiracy, but its clear the author's intention was to provide a thorough assessment of the event and its place in history from 1963 to date in a resoundingly non sensationalist manner - frankly a breath of fresh air when you consider the utter none sense that has been written about the case.

Whilst the author is critical of the Warren Commission in respect of its failure to clarify and set to rest a good many of what would become perceived "unanswered questions", I rather suspect he believes Oswald acted alone, but that conclusion is not the aim of the book, its rather to educate the reader and bring some degree of common sense into a subject that has now been somehow lost into such a huge body of work that its almost impossible for any one, bar the dedicated student of the case, to make some degree of semblance as to what happened when Kennedy was shot and to understand the difference between the event itself and what it has become in popular culture - something far greater, far more reaching than it was. A resounding accomplishment - it joins some four hundred books on the subject in my collection and I would place it high high on the my list of recommended reading.

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 February 2013
Upon recommendation from another reviewer I purchased this book and I am very pleased I did, a very concise introduction into the JFK Assassination for someone who has only had an interest in this subject matter for a few months, the book does not lean to either conspiracy or lone assassin, therefore is very neutral in explaining what occured and how it has been portrayed in America over the years.

A good starting point for someone who is interested in the subject, only downside is that it is a little short (only 150 odd pages)

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 April 2008

The Kennedy Assassination has spawned its own conspiracy industry. Aptly described as a 'bottomless pit', it is equally a many-headed hydra, with each claim and counterclaim giving birth to dozens of others. And yet among the mountains of material there are few--if any--books that examine the event with the clarity of Peter Knight's book. Knight addresses both the official and unofficial versions, the significance of the assassination in US history, and its impact on American culture, in calm, rational prose that doesn't get bogged down in the excessive detail that threatens to capsize so much writing on the subject. This concise and extremely readable book contains probably all you need to know about the Kennedy Assassination. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Gerald Posner - Serial Plagiarist

Gerald Posner - Wikipedia

Gerald Posner, who lied to Harold Weisberg in order to get access to his archives, made his profession and career as a journalist writing Case Close about the assassination of President Kennedy. Here are a few of the articles concerning his plagiarism.

Miami New Times -
Gerald Posner plagiarized New Times, PBS, and many others


 "Several well-informed people in Miami Beach have advised me that there is a concerted effort underway to destroy my professional reputation, and in particular to discredit my book Miami Babylon," author Gerald Posner wrote ominously on his website March 22. "Undoubtedly, the book's unvarnished and investigative history has earned its share of enemies."

That's what the South Beach-based author had to say after Miami New Times published eight passages from Frank Owen's 2003 work Clubland that Posner had lifted in a recently published volume about the city's history.

It's also total bullshit. So far at least, the only one burning down Posner's career is the author himself.
Gerald Posner

To wit: In the past week, doctoral student Gregory Gelembiuk and New Times — using special software and perusing texts — have come up with 16 brand-new instances of stolen prose by the author in Miami Babylon (as well as three formerly undisclosed examples from other work). We shared the thievery with Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar and plagiarism expert at St. Petersburg's Poynter Institute.

"These look like obvious cases of plagiarism to me," Clark says. "The fact that Posner at times changes a word or two is not nearly enough to qualify as paraphrase."

New Times sent Posner an email detailing all of the new problems we found in Miami Babylon. He didn't respond to the email or to multiple phone messages.

Posner, on his blog, defends his earlier transgressions by arguing "there are degrees of plagiarism" and that his is less serious because he accidentally copied other people's work.

"Mine is not a case like Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass where there was either wholesale copying from others or in some instances fabrication," Posner wrote March 17. "Any sentences copied by me from published sources were never done with the hope or expectation I'd trick others and get away with it."

Posner, a San Francisco native and Berkeley grad, landed a job when he was just 23 years old with the blue-blood New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, according to his Simon & Schuster bio. By 1986, he had left to publish his first book, a biography of Nazi death doctor Josef Mengele.

Posner has been journalism royalty since 1993, when he made best-seller lists and was a Pulitzer finalist for his fifth book, Case Closed, which attempts to prove Oswald acted alone in killing JFK. Since Case Closed, Posner has added to his resumé six more nonfiction works on topics from 9-11 to Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

In 2004, records show, Posner and his wife Trisha bought a $385,000 condo in SoBe's South of Fifth neighborhood.

When Tina Brown started her Daily Beast website in 2008, she hired Posner as chief investigative reporter. His writing included local stories about Fontainebleau heir Ben Novack Jr.'s death and national pieces on Michael Jackson's last hours. His 454-page book about the sordid history of his new hometown, Miami Babylon, debuted to positive reviews last year.

Everything began unraveling this past February 5, when Slate's media columnist, Jack Shafer, nailed him for stealing seven sentences from the Miami Herald in a Daily Beast piece. Posner said he was "horrified," apologized, and promised it was "inadvertent."

That's when the doctoral student, Gelembiuk, became involved. He's an unlikely journalistic sleuth. A 48-year-old who studies zoology at the University of Wisconsin, he teaches biology and researches invasive species.

For years, Gelembiuk has been using a website called to catch students who plagiarize. In his experience, Gelembiuk says, plagiarists "never do it just once." After reading Shafer's column, he didn't buy Posner's apology. So he ran a half-dozen of the author's Daily Beast stories through the plagiarism site — as well as through software called Viper and Copyscape — and quickly came up with 11 more lifted sentences in three other Beast stories.

Shafer wrote another column, and on February 10, the Daily Beast accepted Posner's resignation. He again apologized, blaming the "warp speed of the Net" for his problems. He later explained he'd stolen only "the most mundane information." Shafer didn't buy it.

"You don't have to rob from Proust to qualify as a low-down plagiarist," Shafer wrote. "Even mundane information takes time and energy to collect and type up — sometimes more time and energy than it takes to toss off an original sonnet."

But even that excuse went out the window March 16, when New Times published Owen's discovery of eight stolen passages in Miami Babylon. Posner again admitted he stole them. But again he had a scapegoat: a new system of "trailing endnotes" that led him to undercredit Owen's work.

Now comes the new evidence turned up by New Times and Gelembiuk. For Miami Babylon, it seems Posner also borrowed from this publication, PBS, the Herald, Ocean Drive, and Men's Vogue. The pilfering seems to include both stand-alone sentences and longer passages.

Fourteen of the new problems were found by Gelembiuk, who purchased an ebook of Miami Babylon to run it through plagiarism software when Posner's second apology also rang hollow. In our own review, we found two passages that seem to be lifted from one New Times story.

Consider these two passages about developer Don Peebles from a 2003 New Times story and from Miami Babylon. Posner's passage is 27 words long; 22 of them come straight from the New Times story, including the unique phrase "relationship with Barry burned him."

"Beating Whitey," by Francisco Alvarado, Miami New Times, February 6, 2003

In August 1995, however, Don's relationship with Barry burned him. The city council, in a rare move against Barry, balked at a $48 million plan to lease two office buildings from Peebles.

Miami Babylon, page 290
In August 1995, Peebles' close relationship with Barry burned him. The D.C. city council rejected Barry's no-bid $48 million plan to lease two office buildings from Peebles.

Or how about this prose in Miami Babylon about Beach pioneer Carl Fisher's founding of the Indy 500, which looks to be lifted straight from a David McCullough-narrated PBS documentary? Posner, as usual, does a little doctoring. This time, he has five original words out of 40. Almost 90 percent was stolen!
Mr. Miami Beach, PBS American Experience, David McCullough

On Memorial Day 1911, the Brickyard was ready for a new kind of auto race — a one-day, 500-mile event with prizes amounting to $25,100. Eighty-seven thousand people paid a dollar apiece to watch the first Indianapolis 500. This time the track held.

Miami Babylon, pages 20 and 21

On Memorial Day 1911, the "brickyard" was ready for a new Fisher extravaganza — a one-day, 500-mile event, with $25,100 in prizes. Eighty-seven thousand people paid a dollar each to watch the first Indianapolis 500. This time the track surface held.

Here's a doozy from the Herald archives. Notice the first sentence is lifted in full, without a single word changed.

"New Adventure: Ian Schrager Wants to Try His Luck in North Beach, Miami, and Orlando," by Douglas Hanks III, Miami Herald, March 3, 2005

Condo-hotel sales let a hotel pass most of its debt and operating costs onto unit owners while raising millions of dollars in cash up front. Although Schrager faced financial challenges in recent years — including a year in bankruptcy protection for a San Francisco hotel and a scramble to refinance about $355 million in debt partly secured by the Delano — he says his portfolio performs well enough to raise plenty of cash from lenders.

Miami Babylon, page 370
Condo-hotel sales let a hotel pass most of its debt and operating costs onto unit owners while raising millions of dollars in cash up front... Although Schrager had had financial challenges in recent years — including his San Francisco hotel, the Clift, in bankruptcy protection and a frantic scramble to refinance $355 million in debt — he claimed his portfolio was strong enough to raise the necessary cash.
Time and again, Posner takes others' words and passes them off as his own in Miami Babylon. Click here to see all 16 new thefts in full.

Posner's problems weren't limited to outright theft, though, Gelembiuk found. In several instances, the author seems to add, subtract, or misattribute quotes. Consider this passage on page 212 of Miami Babylon about South Beach developer Tony Goldman:

"I always said this was a battle for territory," says Tony Goldman. "As the good people push out the undesirables, the whole area comes back to life."

Posner correctly attributes the quote to a 1987 Miami Herald story. Unfortunately, Tony Goldman — a major character in Babylon — didn't say it. Instead, a developer named Pieter Bakker did.

Or consider this quote on page 96 from tough guy John Roberts, taken from a 2005 New Times preview of the movie Cocaine Cowboys. Roberts is talking about Pittsburgh Steelers players snorting coke at his house during Super Bowl week in 1979. Here's Posner's passage:

They partied and they really partied hard. I mean, you have no idea what these guys would go through. I'm saying, "You guys are going to go out tomorrow and play football?"

The problem: the New Times version didn't include the word tomorrow. So was it another "inadvertent" mistake? Or was Posner trying to make the quote juicier by changing it to imply the Steelers were snorting up the night before playing?


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Again, on our website, we've collected six other instances of apparently altered or misattributed quotes that Gelembiuk rounded up.

Taken as a whole, the new evidence presented here is the most damning yet that Posner isn't a victim of "warp speed" Internet, "trailing endnotes," or a conspiracy.

He's just a serial plagiarist, plain and simple. 

Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

More Posner Plagiarism
Veteran reporter Gerald Posner is a repeat offender.

FEB 08, 20105:30 PM

Gerald Posner

Last week, a reader tipped me to an instance of potential plagiarism by Gerald Posner in the Daily Beast, for which Posner is chief investigative reporter. After I called the plagiarism to the attention of Daily Beast Executive Editor Edward Felsenthal, the site deleted five pilfered sentences and added an editor’s note to explain the deletions and to apologize.

In an interview with me, Posner admitted he had plagiarized the Miami Herald in his piece —although he had no explanation for how he had lifted the copy. Posner’s editor, Edward Felsenthal, also acknowledged without flinching that Posner had plagiarized but added that he believed the act to be inadvertent and that Posner would continue to write for the Daily Beast. (I’ve saved a copy of the unexpurgated article.)

But this isn’t the only example of Posner pinching copy without attribution. Slate reader Gregory Gelembuik and I have uncovered additional examples of plagiarism by Posner in the Daily Beast from the Texas Lawyer, a Miami Herald blog, a Miami Herald editorial, a Miami Herald article, and a health care journalism blog.
Posner copied from a July 20, 2009, Texas Lawyer  article in his Feb. 4, 2010, Daily Beast piece titled “Can This Man Save Jacko’s Doctor?” 

Here are the plagiarized passages, with the relevant sections marked in bold:

On Dateline NBC and in other TV interviews over the next few days, Chernoff got out four main messages:Murray was cooperating with the police; he did not prescribe Oxycontin or Demerol to Jackson; he had only briefly been Jackson’s doctor; and many other physicians had treated and prescribed medication for Jackson.

The Daily Beast, Feb. 4, 2010Chernoff taped the show in Los Angeles on Sunday June 28. During the broadcast, Chernoff says he was able to deliver his main messages about his client:Murray was cooperating with police; he did not prescribe Demerol or Oxycontin to Jackson; he had only treated Jackson for a short period of time; and other doctors had treated and prescribed medication for Jackson.
— Texas Lawyer, July 20, 2009

Then Chernoff flew to Las Vegas and gave Murray, who had returned to his home there, a secure cell phone to prevent electronic eavesdropping.

The Daily Beast, Feb. 4, 2010On June 30, Chernoff flew to Las Vegas to bring Murray a secure cell phone to prevent electronic eavesdropping as well as to collect certain documents.

— Texas Lawyer, July 20, 2009

In his Nov. 21, 2009, Daily Beast article, “Murder or Miscarriage?,” Posner plagiarized an Oct. 27, 2009, Miami Herald blog post. Again, the relevant section is marked in bold:

Turned out that 37-year-old Woodward was being held at the Wilshire Division jail, in lieu of $2 million bail on suspicion of murder for the death of an unborn child—believed to be his. At the time, the police said the arrest happened after an investigation revealed “suspicious circumstances of a miscarriage” reported to them only a few days earlier. The fetus was estimated to be in its 13th week.

The Daily Beast, Nov. 21, 2009Josh Woodward, owner of South Beach’s 8 Oz. Burger Bar, was arrested Sunday in Los Angeles and is being held on at the Wilshire Division jail in lieu of a $2 million bail on suspicion of murder for the death of an unborn child believed to be his. Police say the arrest happened after an investigation on Monday revealed “suspicious circumstances of a miscarriage” that was reported on October 19. The fetus was estimated to be in its 13th week.

Miami Herald blog, Oct. 27, 2009
Posner plagiarized the Miami Herald again in his July 29, 2009, Daily Beast piece, “Pill Mill Capital Cracks Down“:

Until now, pain clinics have avoided rigorous state inspections because of a legal loophole that exempts facilities that don’t accept medical insurance. Most clinics only take cash. As a result, pill-mill owners and employees don’t have to undergo the background checks required at other medical clinics. More than a dozen doctors and clinic owners in South Florida with disciplinary records or criminal convictions are operating freely. An owner of an Oakland Park pill mill is sitting in jail awaiting trial on charges of trafficking Oxycodone. … 

The Daily Beast, July 29, 2009Until now, many pain clinics have escaped rigorous state inspections because of a quirk in the law that exempts facilities that don’t take insurance—and many clinics accept cash only. This loophole also allows clinic employees and owners to avoid the background checks required at other health clinics. The Miami Heraldhas identified more than a dozen doctors and clinic owners in South Florida with disciplinary records or criminal convictions. One man continues to own an Oakland Park pain clinic while in jail awaiting trial on charges of trafficking oxycodone.

—Miami Herald, June 19, 2009 (retrieved from Nexis; the St. Petersburg Timesalsoposted the Herald story)
The new law, passed nearly unanimously in the legislature, requires doctors and pharmacists to record patient prescriptions for most drugs in a state-controlled database.

The Daily Beast, July 29, 2009The new law, passed nearly unanimously in the Legislature, will require doctors and pharmacists to record patient prescriptions for most drugs in a state-controlled database.

—Miami Herald, June 19, 2009 (retrieved from Nexis; the St. Petersburg Timesalsoposted the Herald story)
Posner also swiped from a Herald editorial and a health care journalism blog (which credits a Herald editorial) for his July 12, 2009, Daily Beast piece, “Jackson and the ‘Pill Mills’ “:
Now the state has become the unofficial national headquarters for a thriving black market in addictive prescription drugs, especially oxycodone, one of the drugs found in the sweep of Jackson’s house after his arrest.

Daily Beast, July 12, 2009The report describes how Broward has recently become the unofficial national headquarters for a thriving black market in dangerous prescription drugs, especially oxycodone.

—Miami Herald editorial, April 8, 2009 (retrieved from Nexis; reprinted by the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce)

Plagiarism at the Daily Beast
Veteran journalist Gerald Posner concedes that he lifted from the Miami Herald.
FEB 05, 20103:18 PM

Gerald Posner
Veteran journalist Gerald Posner acknowledged today that he copied five sentences from a Miami Herald article this week for a piece he wrote for the Daily Beast. The Daily Beast appended an editor’s note to the beginning of Posner’s piece today, explaining that the copying was “inadvertent” and that the Daily Beast has deleted the copied passages.

Here are the relevant sentences from the Feb. 2 Miami Herald story by Julie Brown, which was about a local murder and estate battle:

The Novacks, who wed in 1991, had a tumultuous marriage. In 2002, Narcy Novack and two others tied Novack Jr. to a chair, threatened to kill him and removed money from his safe, according to the police report.”If I can’t have you, no one else will,” she told him, according to a divorce petition he filed and later dropped.At the time, Narcy Novack told police the incident was part of a sex game.She also showed them pornographic pictures of women with artificial limbs, claiming her husband had a fetish for them.

Here are the sentences that have been redacted from Posner’s Feb. 2 Daily Beastpiece:
There is little doubt the Novacks had a volatile relationship. In 2002, 11 years into their marriage, Narcy and two others tied Ben Jr. to a chair, threatened to kill him and took money from his safe, according to the police report filed at the time.”If I can’t have you, no one else will,” she told him, according to a divorce petition Ben Jr. filed and then dropped.Narcy told police investigators at the time that the entire episode was part of a sex game. And she also showed them porno snapshots of women with artificial limbs having sex, claiming her husband had a fetish for them.

(Here’s a cached version of the original Posner article.)
When asked whether what Posner did was plagiarism, Daily BeastExecutive Editor Edward Felsenthal didn’t dodge. Reading aloud from the definition of plagiarism on—”the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work”—he agreed that that’s what Posner did. “Yeah, you’d have to say it’s plagiarism,” he said. “I do believe it was inadvertent.”

Posner, theDaily Beast’s chief investigative reporter, didn’t make any excuses, either. And he made no effort to escape the P-word, which writers caught stealing copy usually do.

Stating that he was “horrified” at what he did, Posner agreed that it constitutes plagiarism. But he couldn’t figure out how he did it.

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He said he had no memory of having seen the Herald story, describing himself as “absolutely sure” he did not see it before sending his own story to Beast editors. But that memory must be wrong, he said, because the similarities between the two pieces are too great, and the Herald’s storywas posted before he e-mailed his to his editors at 2:03 a.m. on Feb. 2.

“I must have had the Miami Herald there and copied.” He regards the subtle differences between his copy and the Herald’s as evidence of him “doing the rewrite” of what he thought was his copy.

Posner is no stranger to the story he plagiarized, having covered elements of it for his 2009 book Miami Babylon: Crime Wealth and Power—A Dispatch From the Beach. He has continued to gather material on it for the book’s upcoming paperback edition. Citing primary documents in his possession and his own original reporting, he said that he didn’t have to plagiarize the Herald to write his Beaststory.

But, again, he’s not making excuses. He also refused to soft-pedal in any way what he did because it was inadvertent, as many plagiarists do. “The act is the act,” he said.

Posner said he’s always been tough on plagiarists and has long believed that people who get caught taking other people’s copy should say this: “I am humbled by it, and it will not happen again.”

“There is no excuse,” he said, repeatedly expressing his regret. “I take full responsibility.”

According to Felsenthal, Posner will continue to write for the Beast.

“I’m convinced this was an unintentional aberration in an extraordinary career breaking news and doing top quality journalism with high ethical standards,” Felsenthal said.

Addendum, Feb. 6: A sixth sentence lifted from the Herald article by Posner has been called to my attention:
“Because her husband left her his estate, she is now free to sell his assets, including their home, his boat and his massive collection of Batman memorabilia.” —Miami Herald“Because her husband left her his estate, Narcy is now free to sell his assets, including their home, his yacht, and his massive collection of Batman memorabilia.” —The Daily Beast

Addendum, Feb. 6: The seventh sentence lifted by Posner from the Herald:

“Neither Abad nor her mother attended Monday’s hearing in Fort Lauderdale.” —Miami Herald“Neither Abad nor her mother attended Monday’s hearing in Fort Lauderdale.”  —The Daily Beast
Follow That Story! See “More Posner Plagiarism” and “The Posner Plagiarism Perplex.”

The Posner Plagiarism Perplex
What to make of Gerald Posner’s blog statement.
FEB 11, 20105:52 PM

Yesterday, Feb. 10, the Daily Beast dismissed its chief investigative reporter, Gerald Posner, for lifting the work of other journalists.

Posner’s discharge came promptly after two Slate reports by me—Feb. 5 and Feb. 8—detailed his plagiarism in five Daily Beast articles. (I originally learned of Posner’s pilfering from a reader tip.) According to Daily Beast Executive Editor Edward Felsenthal, an in-house review of Posner’s work has turned up “additional examples of copied and unattributed material.”

Not to press my foot on the windpipe of a disgraced journalist, but Posner’s explanations invite further discussion of his transgression.

As I reported in my Feb. 5 piece, Posner said he could not recall how passages from a Miami Herald story had found their way into his article—but he did not dispute the charge that he had plagiarized. In a Feb. 10 blog statement, Posner tells more about how he “inadvertently” plagiarized other publications. The Web and the electronic research files he amassed made him do it. He writes:

The core of my problem was in shifting from that of a book writer—with two years or more on a project—to what I describe as the “warp speed of the net.” For the Beast articles, I created master electronic files, which contained all the information I developed about a topic—that included interviews, scanned documents, published articles, and public information. I often had master files that were 15,000 words, that needed to be cut into a story of 1,000 to 1500 words.In the compressed deadlines of the Beast, it now seems certain that those master file[s] were a recipe for disaster for me. It allowed already published sources to get through to a number of my final and in the quick turnaround I then obviously lost sight of the fact that it belonged to a published source instead of being something I wrote.

As one who has been working at the warp speed of the Net since 1996, who routinely gathers Nexis dumps, clipped Web pages, scanned documents, handwritten notebooks, recorded interviews, DVRed news shows, hard-cover books bristling with Post-It notes, and nests of newspaper clippings fit for the incubation of Layson albatross eggs, I don’t buy it. In recent years, I’ve written upward of 120 pieces annually, and my harder-working Slate colleagues—John Dickerson, Christopher Beam, Emily Bazelon, Timothy Noah, William Saletan, Dahlia Lithwick, Farhad Manjoo, et al.—have posted similar or higher numbers while writing on deadline. None of them has plagiarized. Nor have I.

Posner makes another claim in his statement that cannot go unchallenged. He writes:
Clearly, if I were a serial plagiarizer, I would have scanned my own drafts with such [plagiarism detection] software before submitting to the Beast.

But examples of plagiarized stories found by me and Slatereaders establish that Posner is a serial plagiarist! Of that there is no dispute! That he didn’t scan his drafts with software before submitting them to the Daily Beast doesn’t prove he isn’t a serial plagiarist.

Via e-mail, Slate reader Michael Clark ridicules Posner’s “assertion that if he were a serial plagiarizer (ehem, he is) then he’d have done it more effectively/cleverly. Another one of those strictly unnecessary claims that you hear all the time from plagiarists. It’s one of the most laughable, in fact, since plagiarists are not clever or they’d be doing their own work.”

Next in his blog, Posner tenders what I call the “banality of plagiarism” defense, which the New Republic’s Ruth Shalit unfurled in 1995 when she was caught plagiarizing. (She, too, blamed her plagiarism on sloppy work methods.) Of the copy she lifted, Shalit told the Washington Post’s Frank Ahrens, “They were very banal sentences.” Banal, but good enough to steal.

Posner strikes a similar pose in his statement:
[T]he material copied—facts, figures, the most mundane information, not great prose from another writer—is yet further evidence that my focus was on breaking news, but not enough focus unfortunately on the background information in the articles.

Again, you don’t have to rob from Proust to qualify as a low-down plagiarist. Even mundane information takes time and energy to collect and type up—sometimes more time and energy than it takes to toss off an original sonnet.

In an essay published by Media Ethics (fall 2006), Edward Wasserman attacks the wrong of plagiarism at its roots. Most everybody concedes that plagiarism harms plagiarized writers by denying them due credit for original work. But Wasserman delineates the harm done to readers. By concealing the true source of information, plagiarists deny “the public insight into how key facts come to light”and undermines the efforts of other journalists and readers to assess the truth value of the (embezzled) journalistic accounts. In Wasserman’s view, plagiarism violates the very “truth-seeking and truth-telling” mission of journalism.

From the dissembling fog that is his blog statement, Posner reaches out to apologize to his readers, acknowledge that he “shortcut” his “own rigorous standards,” and admit that he violated “the basic rules of journalism.” Of the writers he stole from Posner says nothing. How many such writers are there? The count is still live. Yesterday, Slate reader Gregory Gelembiuk, who helped me build the Posner plagiarism dossier, 

sent me this previously unnoted example from the Daily Beast in which Posner lifts from the Associated Press.