April 30, 2006

Kaavyagate Update

My defense of accused plagiarist Kaavya Viswanathan is definitely in the minority, but I have to say that I'm not impressed with the quality of most of what I've been reading in the press or on the blogs. There's a great deal of vituperation but very little light shed on the situation. People seem to enjoy joining the lynch mob. Many if not most people writing on this topic allege that substantial parts of Opal Mehta are word-for-word copies, which is false. They evidently haven't taken the trouble to look at the problematic passages. The argument that the similar passages must be due to intentional plagiarism continues to be made exclusively by the technique of bald assertion. No one has yet taken up my challenge of providing a plausible scenario for the alleged plagiarism. This piece by Jack Shafer purports to explain "Why Plagiarists Do It", but the reasons he gives don't provide a rational explanation of the instant facts. Some of the more interesting news is appearing at the Harvard Independent.

Some people are making a lot of the fact that Kaavya's publisher, Little Brown, has withdrawn the book. I wouldn't assign that much evidential value. Publishers are scared of lawsuits, even if they aren't likely to lose. Defending a suit for copyright infringment can be very expensive. They may just be avoiding the cost of litigation.

A lot of people, especially on the blogs, seem to give away ulterior motives for their sniping: they don't like chicklit; they think that the book isn't very original; they think that she is a spoiled rich girl; they resent the disproportionate academic and business success of Indians and are eager to take one down.

Posted by Bill Poser at April 30, 2006 02:23 AM