Leonard Pierce, a writer at the AV Club, invented a book review out of whole cloth — not only has the book not yet been published, it’s not even finished yet — and he’s got people defending him at both the AV Club’s site and his own blog, calling what he did a “mistake” and lamenting the fact that he will no longer be contributing to the AV Club’s coverage of whatever shit those commenters really really liked. Or complaining that the AV Club overreacted in firing this writer because it’s not like he lied about WMDs, just about some stupid book.
Look: A mistake is when you accidentally pick up a carton of 2 percent milk instead of the whole milk you really wanted. A mistake is turning left back there when you should have turned right. It’s not a “mistake” when you deliberately go out of your way to invent commentary about material you could not possibly have had access to. There’s nothing accidental about doing such a thing: it requires strategy and planning and fabrication. It is, of necessity, all about intent. You didn’t mistakenly mislead readers, as could happen if you phrased your commentary poorly and failed to appreciate another way your words could be interpreted. You intended to deceive.
So of course it matters very much when it’s “only” some stupid book a writer lies about. Even if you’ve really enjoyed a writer’s work in the past, how can you trust him again? How can you trust that he hadn’t lied to you before?
Some of the commenters at the AV Club and Pierce’s site get it. But they’re not in the majority. That so many people simple fail to understand what honest writers do and why dishonest ones should not have an audience — even when it comes to a writer they like! — is very disheartening. I would have expected that those who like to read criticism of any sort would have understood the value of intellectual ingrity. But if even they don’t, what hope is there?