Thursday, September 15, 2011

Janet Maslin's NY Times review of Joe McGinniss' book destroyed his credibility? Is pro-palin?

I was shocked, just shocked at some of the reaction to Janet Maslin's review of Joe McGinniss' soon-to-be-released book, “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.” Some claim that The New York Times has destroyed McGinniss' credibility; others that Maslin is pro-palin. Neither of those claims seem true to me; the review is simply Maslin's opinion of the book, and it's really a thought provoking review.

In the context of yesterday's story about Sarah Palin's relationship with Glen Rice, Maslin wrote, quoting the book, ' “A friend says, ‘Sarah and her sisters had a fetish for black guys for a while.’ ” Mr. McGinniss did in 2011 make a phone call to the former N.B.A. basketball player Glen Rice, who is black, and prompted him to acknowledge having fond memories of Sarah Heath. While Mr. Rice avoids specifics and uses the words “respectful” and “a sweetheart,” Mr. McGinniss eggs him on with the kind of flagrantly leading question he seems to have habitually asked. In Mr. Rice’s case: “So you never had the feeling she felt bad about having sex with a black guy?” ' I take that to mean that Rice confirmed the story for McGinniss. Of course, we'll have to read the book to be sure. Doesn't a good review make you want to read the book? What was McGinniss' conversation with Rice like? How did he manage to confirm what was gossip and in doing so make it news? How does a journalist get people to talk? How does a journalist confirm a story? Everyone interested in journalism may learn something by reading the book.

Maslin is critical of McGinniss' inclusion of much that she says is already known on the internet, writing, '"Although most of “The Rogue” is dated, petty and easily available to anyone with Internet access, Mr. McGinniss used his time in Alaska to chase caustic, unsubstantiated gossip about the Palins, often from unnamed sources like “one resident” and “a friend.”' However, if McGinniss has confirmed those stories, as he appears to have done with the Glen Rice story, a story I've never seen on the internet, then we shall have something much better than much of what has been available on the internet.

Maslin expressed her concern about gossip by writing, "A journalist as seasoned as Mr. McGinniss surely knows what these details will do to his credibility regarding the book’s more serious claims." If, however, the gossip was confirmed by McGinniss, it's left the realm of gossip and become news and, so, will give his credibility a boost. An unconfirmed story, if McGinniss states that he was unable to confirm it, won't diminish his credibility. The publisher undoubtedly fact-checked the book.

Maslin indicates that McGinniss wrote about "babygate" when she wrote:
With the same imprecise aim he cites conspiracy theories that Ms. Palin may not be the mother of her youngest son, Trig, and questions the circumstances under which he was born. Mr. McGinniss puts forth a provocative case for doubting Ms. Palin’s account of Trig’s birth, which involved a round trip between Alaska and Texas while she was supposedly in labor. But then he comes to an indefensibly reckless conclusion: “It is perhaps the most blistering assessment of her character possible that many Wasillans who’d known Sarah from high school onward told me that even if she had not faked the entire story of her pregnancy and Trig’s birth, it was something she was eminently capable of doing.”
I think that Maslin's "indefensibly reckless conclusion" is that "it was something she [Palin] was eminently capable of doing." That appears to be the conclusion of "many Wasillans." Does McGinniss agree? He wrote, "It is perhaps the most blistering assessment of her character ... ." The conclusion can be called indefensible and reckless, because almost everyone is capable of doing much worse than faking a pregnancy. For example, everyone (able-bodied) has the capacity to kill. An argument that someone murdered someone else because he or she was capable of it is nonsense, not to mention indefensible and reckless. What about something less than faking a pregnancy? Lying? Wouldn't it be foolish to accuse someone of lying because he or she is capable of lying? It wouldn't just be foolish, but indefensible and reckless.

Maslin also notes that McGinniss' book covers Troopergate, AGIA and dominionism. Is the book "too busy being nasty to be lucid?" We'll have to read the book to form our own opinions.

Janet Maslin is a book and film critic for The New York Times. A list of her reviews since 1977 and available online is here. Her review of McGinniss' book is "Sarah Palin Could See This Guy From Her House."

The New York Times has published 'The Rogue', an excerpt from McGinniss' book.

Update: Poynter has "Garry Trudeau calls Joe McGinniss’s book ‘meticulously reported’."

Update: I've just pre-ordered the book and paid $13.99 + $4.99, the $4.99 to have it delivered on the 20th! Oops! The confirming e-mail says, "Delivery estimate: Sept. 20, 2011." If it doesn't arrive on the 20th, what should I do? Get mad at Joe McGinniss?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am ecstatic that this book is coming out...there is ALWAYS some truth to rumor. Todd didn't refute anything from the book...he just tried to discredit McGinniss as a's always sexual with Sarah! P.S. Todd didn't write his response aired on the Today show. Wonder who did??