As regular readers know, I think ghostwriting should always be acknowledged. If you have a ghostwriter help you with your book and you don’t admit you had a ghostwriter help you you’re a liar. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished, which political party you belong to or which deity or god you worship.
Which brings me to Sarah Palin’s appearance on Oprah today, and the fact that — apparently — Oprah Winfrey decided not to ask Sarah Palin about her ghostwriter, or if anyone helped her write Going Rogue, which bears only Palin’s name as author. In fact, the only remotely relevant portion of the interview that I’ve been able to find is a clip posted on Winfrey’s website which did not air in the broadcast interview.
At the 1:44 mark in a clip titled Sarah Palin Explains Why She Wrote Her Book, the following exchange takes place after Palin explains that she has written and kept personal journals for much of her life:
Winfrey — “So when you started to write this book — cause I was wondering how you could remember in such detail, you know…specific events, but that — understood.
Palin — “Yeah, I have detailed prayers that I had prayed over the years, um…different episodes in my life, and — so, logistically speaking, practically speaking, it wasn’t a really difficult exercise to write the book.”
Again, I understand that this is how the publishing business works. If you’re a celebrity and you want a book written, you hire a ghostwriter to write you a book with the understanding that the ghostwriter will not take credit. It’s no different than when you hire a chef to create those easy-to-heat, old-family-recipe meals that impress all your society friends. It’s what busy, wealthy, important people do because there are only so many hours in the day.
The problem, as I’ve noted before, is that this whole conspiracy devalues authorship. And I don’t think authorship is something that should be treated like a hooker.*
No one will ever be able to explain to me how an apparently devout believer in Jesus can blithely take credit for doing something they didn’t do, but in the end that lie is between Palin and her god. As I’ve noted before, however, this kind of authorial charade is not simply tolerated by all branches of the mainstream media, it’s aided and abetted.
It’s not Palin who first talks about authorship in the clip, it’s Winfrey, who clearly means to support the fraud when she says, “…when you started to write this book…” And no, it’s not conceivable that Winfrey is oblivious to Palin’s ghostwriter, and it’s not plausible that the issue was not discussed in production meetings. At some point, somewhere along the line, the decision was made by Winfrey and her staff to give full credit for the book to Palin — and you can see that Plain immediately accepts this credit in the quote above. Winfrey does not ask for an explanation; Palin does not elaborate.
Why did Winfrey do this? I have no idea. It could be that she’s had so many books ghostwritten herself that she doesn’t recognize the difference anymore. It could be that pinning Palin down on the contributions of a ghostwriter would have lessened Palin’s stature, which could have, in turn, lessened Oprah’s ratings for the interview. Again, I really do not know why Winfrey decided to lie. But she did decide to lie, and what’s all the more amazing to me is that the people she intentionally lied to her were her own devoted viewers.
Is nothing sacred? Is authorial credibility so meaningless that Winfrey and Palin are willing to commit fraud in front of an audience of millions without any apparent regret?
* More on this in an upcoming post.
— Mark Barrett