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Barons of the Beltway: Inside the Princely World of Our Washington Elite--and How to Overthrow Them Hardcover – June 21, 2016
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About the Author
Michelle Fields is a political reporter who has held positions at Fox News, Breitbart, PJ Media, and the Daily Caller. In addition to her reporting work, Michelle has appeared on C-SPAN, CNBC, Sky News, and various programs on the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Newtork.
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I purchased this book knowing what I was getting into. I hadn’t heard of Fields before she falsely accused Donald Trump’s former Campaign Chair Corey Lewandowski of assault. Following that story closely, and researching her (likely) false claim of assault against the NYPD, convinced me that Fields would do anything to advance her career. If she’ll fake being a victim for personal gain, there is nothing stopping her from stealing ideas and paraphrasing, all without citation, the writers who actually do the tough work of writing and researching. That's plagiarism, plain and simple.
The evidence supports that serious allegation. These aren’t the occasional similar sentences or ideas. The plagiarism is obvious: entire articles are reworded over the course of many pages without citation in an effort to conceal the true authorship.
For example, pages 188 – 193 of Barons of the Beltway are paraphrased from a New York Times article on Jeb Bush’s cronyism. The NYT was published on February 15, 2015 by authors Steve Eder and Michael Barbaro. Fields did this without citation and without acknowledgement to the authors.
Once aware of the almost verbatim copying of these sources without citation, guessing at the plagiarism as you read Barons of the Beltway isn’t difficult. This book has a middle-school reading level and it’s easy to separate the more substantive parts (that various outlets have contributed unknowingly) and the sections where she’s giving superficial commentary. Though the purpose of this review is to address Fields’s plagiarism, I offer a couple examples of her dreadful analysis:
Page 191: “It’s hard to imagine any state politician having the guts to ask the vice president of the United States to nominate someone as a U.S. attorney.” Please try to reconcile the above sentence with the fact that the previous 190 pages were about political corruption and cronyism.
Page 191: “Keep in mind – this isn’t just any position – this is U.S. attorney. This is a position that influences decisions dealing with crime and fairness in America.” Fields has the nerve to want you to pay for such insight.
But enough with the fun – and back to my point. The plagiarism continues when Fields addresses Nancy Pelosi and Obamacare Waivers. This time, on page 88, she lifts a cute little phrase about the prices of various Pelosi neighborhood restaurants from Daily Caller writer Matthew Boyle’s May 17, 2011 article.
It continues on page 115, where Fields lifts from an article from Brent Scher we get to the section on “equal pay.”
Or, see page 117 and Fields’ plagiarism of an April 8, 2014 Washington Free Beacon article about pay discrepancies in Dick Durbin’s office.
And finally, we get to Fields discussing Jeb Bush’s China connections. Pages 204 – 205 of Barons of the Beltway are really an article from Joshua Green and Miles Weiss of Bloomberg. Their piece about Jeb’s financial deals with offshore private equity funds deserves citation not just because it’s an author’s duty to her readers and her peers, but because it’s such an outstanding article that deserves respect. And when it comes to discussing Jeb’s funds, it’s clear that Fields has no sources. So she takes them from someone else and plays them off as her own. Note that Fields cities “sources,” whereas Joshua Green and Miles Weiss cite a “source.” That’s not just plagiarism – that’s making things up.
Let me just make a few points in closing. Michelle Fields must have known that she would eventually get caught. And just like any perpetrator she likely has a ready-made excuse. Expect the accusations to be initially dismissed. Then she’ll say this is no big deal because she simply failed to provide citations.
But don’t let her fool you. This is a big deal. It continues a pattern of behavior that Michelle Fields has displayed since she stepped into the public arena. Lies about being assaulted by the NYPD. Lies about Corey Lewandowski. She steals from her peers. And she lies to her readers and breaks the vow she inherently makes to them as an author.
Photos of Fields' plagiarism of Bloomberg and the New York Times are provided.
I don't think Ms. Field's "Note to the Reader" intro- which told her side of the "battered-by-Trump's-campaign-manager" story was beneficial to the book, primarily because it revealed a propensity to hype and exaggeration. This in turn triggers within the reader a need to beware; an instinctual suspicion that the book would not attempt objectivity.
But I plunged on and found Ms. Field's writing style is casual, simplistic, and often angry (though not without reason). I enjoyed her use of historical comparisons and felt she was on target with her insight into modern society's loss of appreciation for genuine humility. Ms. Field offered numerous examples of the almost obscene perks of power enjoyed by today's career politicians, the hypocrisy of lawmakers who exempt themselves from the laws, and the narcissism and favoritism that is rampant in Washington.
The author put forward a number of recommendations for reducing corruption in our political system; among them, voting for term limits for our elected politicians, demanding an end to insider trading, and requiring members of Congress to keep their day jobs.
I didn't hate this book, as did so many other reviewers. I could only do small doses at a time though, because the tone is scathing and abrasively angry- not that the recipients of Ms. Field's criticism aren't deserving of it. Democrats are the main targets of Ms. Field's denouncement, but Republicans- the Bush family in particular- do not get away unscathed. The author successfully demonstrates that today's politicians – particularly those who've made long-term careers in Congress- live in a world far removed from the rest of us.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.