Friday, April 3, 2015

A Fake is a Fake

From time to time, without expecting much, I follow the fate of Bert Cardullo, once respected film and theater scholar, whose voluminous plagiarisms have been exposed to the eyes of an unsuspecting - and mostly uncaring - public since Senses of Cinema published my article "A Hard Act to Follow" in 2006. Despite further exposure of his pilfering by Richard Brody in The New Yorker in 2010, as well as other reports sent to this blog, many of Cardullo's suspect texts remain in print and for sale on Amazon, and he himself remains a faculty member at a university in Izmir, Turkey.

This is disappointing, to put it mildly. While I have encountered a few persistent and pseudonymous personal attacks on this blog and on my Twitter account, which a source better acquainted with Cardullo tells me are unmistakably his handiwork, I have heard nothing from him directly. What I've managed to learn of him indirectly isn't encouraging, either.

A Google search last week of the words "Bert Cardullo plagiarism" turned up two particular items, one from a website called "Retraction Watch" and another from The Penn, website of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The mission statement of "Retraction Watch" is "Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process." The article on Cardullo, "Film review by noted critic a rerun, retracted," discusses a book by Cardullo on French film scholar Andre Bazin that was shown to be substantially stolen from another work and was retracted by its publisher. The author of the piece mentions me and several posts on this blog, as well as the retraction statement at website of The Cambridge Quarterly.

But the article at The Penn reports on a recent debate that took place at the start of what they called "Banned Book Week," in which it was proposed that, since the writings of Bert Cardullo have been proven to be spurious at worst and suspect at best, his books, that are carried by the IUP library, should be removed from its shelves. An associate professor of English pointed out that anyone consulting Cardullo's books "for scholarly purposes" would not only put his own work in critical jeopardy but would "compound" the error that publishers made and further enrich Cardullo with their citations.

This is an entirely sound argument, but it was countered by another speaker who insisted that it was not the policy of the IUP library to ban books, in accordance with what she called the "library bill of rights," and that it was the publisher's fault in creating the problem in the first place by not examining the material submitted to them more closely.

I see. So, since they didn't create the problem, it's not for librarians to pull books from their shelves simply because they've been proven to be works of plagiarism. That's like an art gallery refusing to remove a Manet painting from its wall just because someone has proved it's a forgery. The gallery wasn't at fault for hanging the painting. It was the art dealer who passed the forgery on to them.

And there are plenty of intellectual property laws around to prevent the library from passing around someone else's work as Cardullo's. Does the publisher have to recall every copy of every book by Cardullo to correct their mistake? That would be an ideal solution but an utterly impractical one. 

If the library isn't prepared to pull the books, shouldn't it place a proviso inside them warning readers that their contents have been proven to be plagiarized, citing the texts from which Cardullo stole the material? The very lack of urgency demonstrated by professionals involved in the promulgation of these spurious texts shows how little anyone is prepared to take responsibility for them. The one person who could - Cardullo himself - will probably go to his grave denying he did anything wrong, as long as sales of his books and his tenure at a Turkish university remain seriously unchallenged.      

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The books have value as historical documents, though, e.g., for someone writing about plagiarism. Maybe a note in the catalog or something. (My feelings on this are probably colored by the fact I've been trying to track down a library's one apparently lost copy of a specific edition of a book *because* it has errors.)