Gatekeeping Functions and Publishing Truths

When a forgery is uncovered or a plagiarized volume appears or a fake letter is adduced to support a mediocre manuscript, cries are sent forth that there is a need for tighter security by publishers. This is often coupled with a complaint that authors should scrutinize themselves more carefully. The burden of my remarks is quite the reverse: that the review process works surprisingly well and that authors have enough mechanisms of censorship at work to inhibit all but the most brazen few from "crossing the lines" of sound judgment and good taste alike. On rare occasions, serious transgressions may not be captured until after publication, but one of the chief functions of making a work public is exactly to separate sense from nonsense.

Maintaining standards of truth in scholarly communication is an important goal, but it is necessarily a shared obligation. In the main, the amount of intentional deception that goes undiscovered is small. For example, four relatively famous, popular books have received careful scholarly attention: Alex Haley's Roots, H.R. Haldeman's The Ends of Power, David Rorvik's In His Image: The Cloning of a Man, and Timothy J. Cooney's Telling Right From Wrong. Each has received different sorts of criticism regarding standards of truth. Apart from the introductory essay. Roofs was not billed as nonfiction but as a piece of imaginative reconstruction which provided a collective...

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