CONSPIRACY! CONSPIRACY! YOU ARE ALL TOOLS!

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Reading Matters’ Kim Bofo serves up this preposterous post, about as absurd a stew as John Freeman’s tsk-tsking of bloggers back in June. Bofo’s apparent beef brisket is that litblogs should report whether or not a book under discussion has been received for free from a publisher. First off, Bofo assumes that, in every case where a litblogger receives an ARC or a finished copy, there is an automatic quid pro quo between publisher and litblogger. This is a preposterous contextomy, seeing as how any sane person is aware that it is impossible for any journalist, whether print or online, who receives fifteen to twenty books a week to review each and every one of them. The litblogger is under no duty to review anything, just as the publicist is under no duty to send free books.

Bofo further inveighs against “the industry’s deliberate manipulation of bloggers to promote books that might otherwise not receive the same level of attention from the mainstream media, and the apparent willingness of many book bloggers to be used in such a manner.”

I haven’t seen a conspiracy this nutty since Oliver Stone. This assumes that all litbloggers are incapable of free will and that they are all incapable of separating the wheat from the chaff. This assumes that they will lavish praise on anything they write about, like the dreaded Harriet Klausners or Nick Hornbys of the universe. It is a position that recalls the smug generalizations within Ortega y Gassett’s elitist tract, The Revolt of the Masses, where only a few select soldiers (which would presumably include that stalwart steed Bofo) are capable of ethics and the moronic masses cannot distinguish between shameful shilling and proper criticism. Well, I happen to think more highly of litbloggers and those who read litblogs than Ms. Bofo.

I didn’t receive the Simon & Schuster email that Bofo did, perhaps because the folks at Simon & Schuster know very well that I would have been adamantly against it. (And who pray tell were the blogs who, according to Bofo, “seemed to be banging on about this book?” In presenting her case, Bofo fails to cite a single example of a litblog transforming overnight into a marketing tool for Simon & Schuster. Further, is it not possible that some of the blogs who raved about Setterfield did so of their own independent accord? Perhaps they did not receive the email. Or must we impute, by Sofo’s paralogia, that all litbloggers are mere tools?)

Bofo, like Freeman, is a journalist as well as a blogger. (Or at least she is a “trained journalist.” A Google search doesn’t reveal a single print byline.) Journalistic ethics are a essential thing for anyone, blogger or book reviewer, to practice. And I should note, with strenuous emphasis, that it is egregious for anyone to accept money (or the promise of such) from a publisher to review a book. But in Bofo and Freeman’s cases, their collective anal retentiveness crosses over into the absurd, no different from the nutjobs who hole up in bunkers waiting for the apocalypse.

[UPDATE: More thoughts on the subject from Matthew Tiffany, Ron Hogan and Michael Orthofer. There's also some fireworks in the MetaxuCafe thread. And Darby Dixon reveals the sordid truth.]

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