Monday, June 04, 2007

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

--by Sara

Ron Paul's been explaining away a decade of anti-black/anti-semitic/patriot whackadoodle writings by simply saying, "A ghostwriter did it." This excuse has been popping up everywhere, courtesy of his addled minions who seem to accept it as a reasonable excuse that lets their man off the hook for statements no American politician should ever make in public (or private either, for that matter).

As someone who once made a good living ghost-writing national award-winning newsletters for three different entities, I want to explain a little bit about how that works -- and why this explanation is beyond bogus.

Back in the day (which corresponds closely to the heyday of The Ron Paul Survival Report), newsletter clients retained my services as a writer under a work-for-hire contract. That means that -- unlike other writing work, to which I retain all legal rights -- the client ordered me to produce work carefully-tailored to their own needs, bought that work outright, owned all rights to it, and put their own names on it. (That’s what makes it ghosted. My name might have appeared in a masthead, or nowhere.) My job was to take their ideas, make them sound pretty, and organize the whole into a coherent, readable newsletter. Legally and ethically, it was just as though they'd produced the piece themselves.

Paul's apologists may need to hear that again. Once they paid my fee, all legal rights to it belonged to them outright. It was their intellectual property -- noun, verb, and preposition. They had absolute freedom to add to it, cut it, or change it around any way they chose. (This is one reason I didn't mind keeping my name off the pieces.) Because they bought the right to put their name on my work and represent it as their own -- a right that Ron Paul evidently also exercised at The Ron Paul Survival Report -- they paid me a nice premium over and above what I'd have made writing the same pieces for a magazine.

If one of those clients stood up years later and insisted that no, they didn't say that -- "she put words in my mouth that I never knew about!" -- I'd be very very quick to point out that they bought it...and they own it. When they put their names over my words, they claimed full responsibility for them. Once their check cleared, it was theirs. They can't go around blaming me for any problems that might result, because they had full control and ownership from the get.

So Paul's facile assertion that somewhere, somehow, a nasty, scheming ghostwriter slipped all those hateful words in under his name is just ridiculous. To swallow this line, you'd have to be as daft as the White Queen, perfectly willing to believe half a dozen impossible things before breakfast:
1. That the ghostwriter who wrote The Ron Paul Survival Report was never really under Ron Paul's control

2. That somebody other than Ron Paul put their money on the line to pay the writer (these things don't come cheap -- I charged a minimum of $1K per page for my copy, and his was eight pages per issue).

3. And, by extension: that somebody other than Ron Paul owns the resulting intellectual property. (It'd be interesting to see what would happen if some other right wingnut started plagarizing those articles.)

4. That Ron Paul never read, commented on, or approved what was written for the newsletter that bore his name -- and was so critical to building his early political base

5. That The Ron Paul Survival Report was written, laid out, published, and shipped during the night by elves, with no input from Paul at all

6. That Ron Paul actually had nothing whatsoever to do with the Survival Report Apparently, his name ended up in the title as some kind of perverse coincidence. He was out of town that day. All those days.
As I said below: Either the man is a straight talker who means what he says, and says what he means -- in which case, he stands by all his words, and is willing to defend them as his own. He started the newsletter, he hired the writer, he approved the copy, he paid for the words to be printed and mailed under his name. Through those actions, he took full legal and moral ownership of those words. They are, then and now, his intellectual property.

Or else he's just another weasely politician, using "straight talk" to wow the crowds when it suits his purposes, but equally quick to tell lies to disassociate himself from decades of unsavory "straight talk" that now threatens to keep him off the national stage.

It's one or the other, Ron. You cannot have this one both ways -- at least, not without talking out of both sides of your mouth.

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