Friday, July 10, 2015

Annals of derp: Dylan Byers

Senator Ted Cruz, McCarthy's Baby. Drawing by Taylor Jones, May 2013.
Dylan Byers at Politico reported yesterday evening:
The New York Times informed HarperCollins this week that it will not include Ted Cruz's new biography on its forthcoming bestsellers list, despite the fact that the book has sold more copies in its first week than all but two of the Times' bestselling titles, the On Media blog has learned.....

"We have uniform standards that we apply to our best seller list, which includes an analysis of book sales that goes beyond simply the number of books sold," Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy explained when asked about the omission. "This book didn't meet that standard this week."

Asked to specify those standards, Murphy replied: "Our goal is that the list reflect authentic best sellers, so we look at and analyze not just numbers, but patterns of sales for every book."

Both HarperCollins and the Cruz campaign declined to comment on the matter.

Since late June, when the book was published, Cruz has toured the country holding signings, many of them at book stores that report to the Times' list. He has also made several media appearances, including on NBC's "Today" show, and published an excerpt from the book in POLITICO Magazine.
What? What? Rage and despair from the noise machine! Filthy liberal Times determined to suppress right-thinking literature! (Actually the books that made the list included masterpieces by Ann Coulter, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio, so maybe the reason could be a little more complicated than that.) The man went to known book signings and appeared on real TV, how can they say he's not a best-seller? Even the liberal Politico ran an excerpt!

Drawing by Ann Telnaes, September 2013.

Byers adds an update four hours later, without comment, or any sign of awareness that it changes the entire meaning of his story, making it no longer about the Times but about the candidate:
Murphy emailed late Thursday night to further clarify the reasoning behind the Times decision.

"In the case of this book, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases," she wrote.
Well, duh. Those 11,854 copies of A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America weren't bought by people who wanted to read the book; they were bought by the Cruz campaign to get the book on the best-seller lists, the way the New York Post stations temp workers on every midtown Manhattan street corner to give out free copies during ratings week—or maybe funneling dark money from donors to the campaign or the Senator himself ("I'm not making contributions, I'm just buying a few hundred books; I'm an avid reader!"). That's why the Times didn't want to put it on the bestseller list; there are apparently people who really want to read the fulminations of Coulter and Paul, but nobody wants to read what Cruz writes.

I could have told Byers that if he'd called me, because it's obvious. And it's been going on for a long time. Dylan's predecessor at Politico used to know all about it. A 2011 piece by Elizabeth Minkel for the New Yorker provides a whole list of classic cases, including:
In 1989, “Reflections of a Public Man” led to [Rep. Jim] Wright’s resignation from Congress following an investigation by the House Ethics Committee—the first resignation of a Speaker of the House. Wright had been using the book as a way to bypass caps on speaking fees: an organization would invite him to speak, and instead of paying him for a speech, they would agree to buy copies of the book in bulk, for which he received an outsized fifty-five per cent of the royalties. Newt Gingrich, then a congressman, led the charge to bring Wright down. Ironically, Gingrich found himself at the center of a book scandal a decade later: amid cries of ethics violations, he was forced to pass on a $4.5 million advance from one of Rupert Murdoch’s publishing imprints.
Almost as if the Republicans were watching Wright and telling themselves, "Hey, there's real money in this thing!"

Also, what makes Byers refer to it as a "biography"? (It's a "memoir", or fragmentary autobiography punctuated with conservative soundbites, like the flecks of fat in a slice of mortadella.) And help, help, the Promise of America is on fire!

Ted Cruz, the Sheriff of Texas, by Donkey Hotey.

Bonus book excerpt:
No member of the court is more reviled on the left than Clarence Thomas. At the same time, no member of the court is more beloved by the court’s janitors, guards and support staff members, with whom he connects on a real, personal level.

I admire Justice Thomas. He rose from abject poverty—having grown up penniless in Pinpoint, Georgia—to the pinnacle of the law. A brilliant, scholarly jurist, he has been unfairly maligned by liberal academics and journalists, enduring condescending insults that never would have been directed at a liberal or at a white conservative. (Justice Scalia, every bit as conservative, has never been depicted on a magazine cover as an Uncle Tom, licking another justice’s boots.)
Is he suggesting there's something different about Thomas that DC janitors connect with? What is it, Teddy? What are you trying to tell us? Come to think of it, what a scandal that Scalia has never been portrayed as an Uncle Tom! How did that happen? In fact, how come Thomas has never been caricatured as a Klansman? I call media racism!

Via Radio Bartcop.
And how come Cruz doesn't get caricatured as an adult human?

Update: Barbara at Mahablog offers a somewhat different take (she leaves poor Dylan alone), and adds some great additional material. Meta-Update: In an update, she adds that apparently the method they used of inflating sales figures is pretty advanced, involving hiring people all over the country to buy copies as individuals.

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