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Celluloid San Franciso Strykes Back

Thank you dear readers for all your overwhelming support and kindness. Don't we have it all in San Francisco? I know I do. I was in Boston and Fall River last week - more about Mister SF's road show in the next column - and I returned to find your messages about continued coverage of my successful lawsuit, Donat v Van Buskirk, in the Bay Area Reporter.

As many of you noted, the fact that my original writing is presented as the authors' own in Celluloid San Francisco is the undisputed truth of the matter, as even Jim Van Buskirk has admitted. Whether he and Chicago Review Press reconcile over who is to suffer financially for the plagiarism that was proven in court is of no concern to me. Mr. Van Buskirk's signed statement of accountability can be read here.

For me there is no "ongoing feud," as the B.A.R. terms it in the paper's defense of its contributors Van Buskirk and Will Shank in articles it inexplicably frames as a debate. I presented conclusive evidence in court and the judge determined that Van Buskirk did plagiarize. On August 7, 2006 I wrote that Van Buskirk's obligation to me had been met in the matter after he chose not to appeal Judge Ollie Marie-Victoire's ruling, paid me in full, and later agreed to disavow his earlier excuses including that • a computer glitch did it • the publisher did it • it was all a mistake • he should have been sued in a higher court • I should have sued Shank and the publisher as well • the ol' I-said-I-was-sorry • he wasn't making much money on the book, and others. If ever Mr. Van Buskirk could have made the defense that the writing in this book is his and Shank's only, clearly he would have done so either in court or in any one of Zak Szymanski's three articles on the case. Don't be misled; filing a Notice of Appeal on a small claims case is as simple as filling out a form [SC-140] and paying a fee less than $100!

For Susan Stryker to insert herself by going on the record with a new raft of justifications for plagiarism while actually asking the gay community to send money to Van Buskirk is simply unconscionable. Who do these people think they are and why doesn't the gay community demand better from the folks that others tell them are its leaders? Leaders write their own books, fight their battles without excuses, and endure their own losses. Or, as Huckleberry Finn author Mark Twain said in 'The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson,' "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."

Many of you were offended by the B.A.R.'s repeated reminders that Van Buskirk is a "respected and beloved" member of the community; "the implication being that you're not," observed Brian Shatell of New York. This was particularly galling to those of you who are familiar with my long history of activism, neighborhood- and good works-centric journalism, fundraising in San Francisco's many communities, and my careers as an openly gay comedian, adman, and one of the very first successful Internet columnists. I appreciated that. My readers understand that Donat v Van Buskirk was all about words, and about what good is your word?

As I told the judge, it's chilling that a writer can have coffee with his local librarian then find his writing in that librarian's book three years later. I allowed Van Buskirk access to my web site for research only because he represented himself as the Program Director of the Hormel Center and because he made specific unequivocal promises regarding usage. The SF Public Library and the Hormel name were "respected and beloved" enough for me - that is, until I found that my work had been lifted whole cloth. The B.A.R.'s spin that portrays me as an enemy of the community and Van Buskirk as the victim doesn't work thanks to intelligent readers.

One question the B.A.R. and friends have ignored thus far is whether City officials will take action against Mr. Van Buskirk for using City and Library resources to solicit a source for a personal for-profit publishing project that was later found to be plagiarized from that source, possibly exposing the City and the Library to damages and possibly in violation of City laws. While I have been and will continue to be candid about the matter, that decision will not be made by me. The City will have to set its own standards for the people it trusts in so-called leadership positions at our libraries, just as the gay community will have to choose its own leaders. From San Francisco - the chosen City of Harvey Milk and the birthplace of State Librarian Kevin Starr - I am only one, your Mister SF.

Update! 9/29/06: Van Buskirk's attorney and publisher jointly reject B.A.R. sympathy articles.

Update! 12/21/06: Celluloid San Francisco is listed as "out of print" and is withdrawn from further sale or distribution by its publisher.

Update! 08/16/07: Van Buskirk quits SFPL Hormel Center after second scandal in less than a year.


Mister SF: Why I sued a prominent SF Librarian for plagiarism and how I won
Susan Kirkland is a North Carolina-based author and designer who has written about Donat v Van Buskirk in letters to the Bay Area Reporter and MisterSF.com
Bay Area Reporter: June 15, 2006
Bay Area Reporter: September 14, 2006
Bay Area Reporter: September 21, 2006

WordnBass: Another plagiarist bites the dust, 01/07/07

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