Jared Diamond on Mitt Romney Citing His Book: 'I Have to Doubt Whether He Read It.'

Like most of us, Mitt Romney saw anthropologist Jared Diamond's Pulitzer prize-winning book Guns, Germs and Steel in a bookstore, and heard some NPR segment about it, and decided to just pretend that he read it. Unlike most of us, Romney is running for president, so when he says this like this:

"Guns, Germs and Steel... basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth."

Jared Diamond actually hears about it, and pens entire op-eds for The New York Times where he says things like this:

"That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it [...] I said nothing about iron ore [...] Mr. Romney also mischaracterized my book in his memoir, 'No Apology: Believe in America.' [...] That's not the worst part. Even scholars who emphasize social rather than geographic explanations [...] would find Mr. Romney's statement that 'culture makes all the difference' dangerously out of date. [...] Mitt Romney may become our next president. Will he continue to espouse one-factor explanations for multicausal problems, and fail to understand history and the modern world? If so, he will preside over a declining nation squandering its advantages of location and history."

This is actually the second an author has had to publicly tell Romney that the candidate read his book wrong: in June, Noam Scheiber had to take to the pages of The New Republic to explain that Romney had "misrepresent[ed] my text in a couple of ways."

Romney now has two options: stop citing actual books, or start distributing Wimsatt and Beardsley's "The Intentional Fallacy" before his speeches: "the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art."