Saturday, March 25, 2006

The "Ben Domenech" Maelstrom reaches a Head?

Check out this Technorati Search!

This is just the bloggers with authority! Whoa!

So where have I been with it? I'm not the swarming type. I probably would have starved had I been born a lion. I didn't feel the need to charge in guns blazing when the fog of blog blocked out the facts.

Now that more of the facts are in, I find myself sadly agreeing with Captain Ed:
The entire tempest surrounding the hiring and termination of Ben Domenech as the Washington Post's designated conservative blogger shows that the blogosphere has a lot of growing up to do. Between the hysteria, the personal attacks, the revelation of wrongdoing and the triumphalism that followed, bloggers did tremendous damage to themselves.

We had anticipated a lively debate in the Washington Post once Ben started blogging -- but instead we got a slew of ad hominem attacks from bloggers determined to sabotage the Post's experiment. All one has to do is spend a couple of hours surfing through the various Red America links at Memeorandum to understand just how unhinged the attacks were, especially in the beginning. Charges of racism and bigotry flew mighty quickly and with no substantiation, but the accusations themselves took on their own life as a meme. It interfered with the real revelations of plagiarism discovered by some of the same bloggers who had been throwing dishes at Domenech and the Post from the moment Jim Brady announced the effort.

Domenech has now apologized in a better fashion than his first attacks on the blogosphere (via Protein Wisdom, who has interesting commentary of his own). Instead of owning up to the transgressions that his enemies had discovered, he attacked them back and tried to excuse the inexcusable. The fact that some of his defenders followed that path drains our own credibility as full partners to the professional writers that comprise the media. No one who makes a living by writing will ever consider plagiarism a youthful indiscretion, and to the extent that bloggers use that as an excuse for events that are not even five years in the past, it demeans our efforts as both writers and critics of the media. Why should they take us seriously when we don't respect their copyright?

If anyone wanted to make an argument that the blogosphere is too immature to be considered partners in information dissemination with traditional media outlets, we've provided it in spades this week. We finally had an opportunity to garner a high-profile setting for bloggers at the nation's premiere newspaper, and what did we do? We tore each other to shreds because we didn't like the ideological perspective of the first person chosen for the experiment.
and Daniel Riehl:
Forgetting left and right fighting for a moment, I see what I think is some very unfortunate commentary coming from several blogs on the right. I ignored all the spurious racist, homophobia, or whatever silly criticism of Domenech and I think too many on the right are allowing it to distract them from the core issue. That nonsense is and was just that - nonsense.

As an example, it was mentioned in passing in the the New York Times article and I suspect most serious future press mentions of the Domenech affair will discount it. That is the tremendously immature and unsightly portion of the blogosphere which makes it look like nothing more than a food fight. It shouldn't be taken seriously. To enjoin it so seriously is to credit it. It doesn't deserve that.

But neither does Ben Domenech deserve our responses to, and critiques of him being couched with that nonsense, almost as some defense. Far too many commenter's and even some bloggers seem too quick to speak too much of what a talented and good man is Ben Domenech.

Not only did this individual betray the widely accepted and serious principles of journalism, but he betrayed his friends and defenders by continuing to lie. Witness his PJ O'Rourke permissions and confusing notes responses long after his disgraceful practice of serial plagiarizing had been discovered. That was flat out lying - and worst of all, he was lying to his friends. He was and, for now at least, is a liar. Pure and simple. And talented at that, for sure.

The man caused a serious website, NRO, to have to go back through archives and sort out the rubbish, picking through the trash of his past work. And in the end, who can finally say how much of it was his, or how talented he was? Not me. I'd have to have a database of everything ever written in my head to do that.

I'm not suggesting his friends shouldn't be his friends. But their hand wringing editorializing still laced with invective toward the left displays a lack of humility in the face of the outrageous behavior of this young man. He was a fraud, at least to the extent that even his genuine published work should be dismissed and buried. If genuine, as I assume much is, it only serves as a disgraceful reminder of why he didn't need to take the unethical shortcuts he did.
The blogosphere has the potential to be the necessary corrective of the Fourth Estate. If we blow it by becoming a horde of screeching, partisan voices with no sense of any journalism/opinion writing ethics, we'll forsake a grave service to our society. Reasonable mouth-foamers on the Right and the Left, along with their Foolable enablers, would equate politics with basic existence. Their foam-drippers among the blogosphere certainly carried the day in this case.

Is a blogger right simply because his tribe says so? Regardless of the libellous and reckless attacks by the unhinged, Mr. Domenech committed the gravest sin anyone in media--and writing--can do. He plagiarized. He's now admitted it.

While I welcome his apology, I'm not about to quickly place my trust in him again. He'll need to earn that back. His friends won't help him by extolling his "principled" nature as though that somehow white-washes his admitted malfeasance.

We writers live and die by the ideas that put down. A Plagiarist steals those precious gems we all depend on for recognition, and in the professional's case, compensation.

If the bloggers that share his political views fail to unapologetically condemn his crime, what makes them different from the apologists of the Lenin left?

Meanwhile, the sheer tone of rank barbarism that has engulfed this issue leaves the blogosphere as a whole looking like a gang riot. Excellent work, mouth-foamers! You've really convinced Main Street that they can trust you to watchdog MSM! Onward!

Either we live by our principles or we roll in the same hay of hypocrisy of those we criticize. What's it going to be?