and is it justified.
I've been reading the articles about the claim of plagiarism, and more importantly the comments, thousands of them in magazines from Atlantic to the New Yorker, and newspapers, especially the Washington Post. There seems to be a visceral anger towards the man that transcends what he is accused of doing.
I recently discovered his work when CNN started pitting his program, GPS, Global Public Square against the long time Sunday Interview programs. He was a breath of fresh air for me, and I told anyone who would listen about the quality of this program.
He starts each program with "my take." Which is a straight forward presentation of his position on an important issue of the day. No hyperbole, no conspiracies, just a presentation of the issues, and his conclusions., This is followed by one or two interviews or panels, that are actually conversations rather than sequential recitations of contrary positions.
This recent segment on the global economic downturn featured Ken Roggoff and Paul Krugman. Two of the brightest most knowledgeable economist of our era, having a dialog that clearly defined their differences not based on ideology, but their analysis of the dynamics at play. This would not be presented on any other program on television during this moment in time. Zakaria asked some probing questions, but only to elucidate, not to make headlines or to put either man on the spot.
Another illustration of his own views not being transformed into hortatory expostulation is his clearly stated position that Israel should deal with Iran's eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by containment such as India and Pakistan, North and South Korea and the antagonists of the cold war. After clearly presenting his case he brought on Ehud Barak the previous Prime Minister and current cabinet member who is the most avid articulator of why this is not viable for Israel.
Zakaria has responded to the current accusations in an email to Atlantic:
I think it is quite untrue that it is standard journalistic practice to name the interviewer when quoting from an interview. Look through the New Yorker, the New York Times, or any other prestigious publication and you will see that most quotes from interviews do NOT mention the name of the interviewer. This is a subject close to my heart since I interview people every Sunday. On Monday, we get clips of the papers, magazines, and blogs that quote from these interviews. Most do not mention my name. Many do not even mention CNN. They simply say, "In an interview, "Mr. X said. . . "I wish they did but they don't."A strong rebuttal, made even more so by the spurious additional accusation carelessly made by the Washington Post that was refuted, with documentation, by David Frum in this Daily Beast article.
Now to the subtitle of this essay, which is whether this reaction is justified. The case is best made by this article in Huffington Post, by iinvestigative reporter Eric Zuesse. It is not focused on the details of the current accusations, but the larger issue of what Zakaria represents, which is the system of international crony capitalism that is destroying what is left of the egalitarian ethos. He starts by explaining the errors as follows:
He was suspended because, as a born aristocrat, who is a long-time member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, and many other of the global aristocracy's primary organizations, he is so well-connected that his writing-commissions are more than any one person can possibly handle, and he consequently cannot possibly actually write all that is attributed to him. He certainly cannot research it all.He then goes on to castigate Zakaria as being among those who are aristocrats to the core, from ancestry to elite education:
Zakaria wouldn't want to burst the bubble atop which he is floating. To people in his situation, it's a bubble of money, and it's theirs. They don't want to share it any more than they absolutely have to. (They despise labor unions for that very reason.) And their employees are very dependent upon them, so no one will talk about it -- not the stars, not their workers.While he certainly makes some cogent points about the social class that Zakaria represents, his depiction of him as an individual does not fit what I've seen of his current programing such as featuring Paul Krugman who is the most eloquent antagonist of what is purportedly his life's goal. It could be that his erudition, even his self assuredness that is a byproduct of this elite upbringing could have liberated him. It is not unknown that this happen, as the classic example is Franklyn D. Roosevelt, reviled among the elite for being a traitor to his class.
The current accusations against Zakaria are a side show, but do shed light on the dark side of "intellectual star system" known well by those Ph.Ds who labor in the backwaters of academia for subsistence pay while assisting those who purportedly write the best selling tomes with the aid of "editorial assistants" who may get acknowledged...or not.
Yet, I don't think that Zakaria is the best example of this star star system. I bought his book, "The Post American World" which contains the reference that the Post article said was missing, and also illustrates how the note system used does enhance the readability of the book wile maintaining integrity and coherence. He describes the assistance that he had in writing, with special praise for Barrett Sheridan including, "working on this book for the longest period and during its most intense phase, and the final product owes a great deal to his hard work, sharp intelligence and good judgment."
It would be sad if Zakaria were to be drummed out of the public media for something this trivial. Yet, this should be an occasion to think about what he does that enhances the quality of public understanding, his approach to exploring the deeper issues of our world, while also being aware of the unstated values that he does promote.