Friday, March 24, 2006


Pretty Hate Machine

Editor & Publisher has the basic rundown on the Ben Domenech/"Red America" saga.

Ben responds
here, with this interesting passage:

The truth is, no conservative could write for the Post without being subject to the gauntlet of the liberal attack machine. There is no question in my mind that any RedState contributor writing for this blog would have found leftists delving through his high school yearbooks and grade school book reports in an effort to discredit and defame him. And if you too were a sloppy teenage writer, your errors or the errors of others would’ve been exploded.
I don't wish to harp on this because what's done is done.

However, it needs to be said: The above statement is just plain wrong. Given the circumstances, I can understand Ben feeling besieged. Some of the comments directed against him were just plain inappropriate (exactly how does Ben's father
being connected to Jack Abramoff have anything to do with the appropriateness -- or lack thereof -- of Ben's initial hiring by However, blaming the "liberal attack machine" for this sad tale is as ridiculous as, yes, a certain one-time First Lady blaming a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

When a celebrity tumbles (and especially when a soldier on one side or another of the ideological divide falls), it is rarely the "media" -- old, new or otherwise -- that is to blame (the dirty truth is that the media is the true uniting force -- everyone hates us): Dan Rather -- a large target for years --
finally gave his ideological foes a sword with which to slice him up. With ideological blinders on, he committed professional suicide.

Ben hasn't been around long-enough to get the number of enemies that Rather acquired of decades, but he was identified as a symptom of the Left's belief in a Right Wing Wurlitzer that intimidates the "MSM" into acceding to conservative demands (read Kos, Atrios or any number of other liberal sites). Thus, the liberals were inspired into action -- just as the right would be if one of Daily Kos' bigwigs was given a prime spot in an MSM outlet). But, considering that's "mother", The Washington Post not only runs, but syndicates George Will and Charles Krauthammer PLUS has centrists like Jim Hoagland on its editorial pages and regularly publishes Bill Kristol, it stretches credibility to say that "no conservative could write for the Post" without being targeted by the "liberal attack machine."

We live in a very politicized, emotional, passion-filled era and the media are front and center on the battleground. That is a fact. Rather had been a bete noire of The Right for decades. The Left has picked up the previously only-province of the Right, media criticism, as a way to understand why their side is not getting a fair hearing. There is a distinct belief -- on both sides -- that controlling the means of delivery of the debate is the key to winning the debate itself. Thus, there is a zero-sum game: The placement of a recognized conservative at the means that a liberal voice might be squeezed out. As if the Internet itself doesn't invite a near infinite multitude of voices. Indeed, has more blog-ish columns than the next half-dozen major papers. Ironically, the fact that this scrap happened is a credit to The Washington Post. Its Web-site is not only a place for information and opinion, it is part of the tensions and vociferous debate that characterizes today's politics. (As opposed to that Grey Lady behind the Select wall.) This is war, after all, and no holds are barred.

But forget about the "liberal attack machine." As with all such public falls from grace, the "other side" can't oust someone. The final push always comes from within. Which is what happened early Friday when Michelle Malkin and other conservatives felt that -- whatever the reason -- the evidence of plagiarism was too strong to ignore. The sentiment over at National Review Online was similar. The consenus: Ben had made a serious mistake and blaming it on either attacking liberals or the sloppiness of his youth just didn't quite cut it.

Ben will bounce back. He is an entrepreneur (with RedState) and has proven himself successful in a variety of jobs (though I imagine his employers at Regnery will want some guarantees that all plagiarism clouds surrounding one of their editors is solidly in the past). At 24, he has many years to grow and learn from this. In the meantime, it may be asking too much, but it would be nice if the Blogocracy of all political views started asking itself (themselves) exactly what is appropriate in going after ideological opponents -- or the institution which chooses to hire them. Is it just their views (accepting by the way, that exposing a writer's alleged plagiarism is totally within bounds)? Should family members be brought in as collateral damage? And should there be a sense of what the target is? Were liberals going after Ben Domenech -- or was the target, pressuring the site into not recognizing conservatives' request for "balance"?

If so, was Ben Domenech actually the collateral damage in this latest skirmish in the 21st Century Media Wars?
UPDATE: I seriously understated NRO's reaction to Domenech who served as both an intern and a movie reviewer at different times in the National Review world. Here's what just a cursory review of some of Ben Domenech's NRO work produced.

UPDATE II: Several hours after the "liberal attack machine" message (presumably influenced by the the NRO material being made public), Ben Domenech put up this message:
I want to apologize to National Review Online, my friends and colleagues here at RedState, and to any others that have been affected over the past few days. I also want to apologize to my previous editors and writers whose work I used inappropriately and without attribution. There is no excuse for this - nor is there an excuse for any obfuscation in my earlier statement.
I hope that nothing I've done as a teenager or in my professional life will reflect badly on the movement and principles I believe in.
I'm deeply grateful for the love and encouragment of all those around me. And although I may not deserve such support, it makes it that much more humbling at a time like this. I'm a young man, and I hope that in time that I can earn a measure of the respect that you have given me.
And Mike Krempasky speaks to the matter, "On Behalf of Red State:
A young man took something and called it his own. He owes apologies to those writers, his editors, and especially his friends who have rushed to his defense in the past 48 hours. It is an embarrassing offense -- and one rightly criticized.
All of the leadership of RedState has struggled mightily over the past few days, and have tried at every step to take the right course of action. Now that the story is complete, we can move on. If you, as many have done, dedicate thousands of man-hours to scrutinizing of his life's work, you'll find two things: First, you'll find several instances of this behavior, some attributable to youth, and some not. Second, you'll find an amazingly talented writer, a man of principle, and an earnest young activist seeking not to advance himself -- though advance he did -- but the things he believed in.
Certainly it may seem strange today to describe him as a "man of principle." But those who know Ben -- and all of us on the RS leadership team do -- know that he is passionate in his beliefs. They also know that he is human. It was ignoring this humanity that led to our earlier posts about the situation. It is fitting then, that he chose “Augustine” as his nom de plume here at RedState – for who could serve as a better reminder of the full potential of fallibility and sin – and yet existing within that peril - real hope of forgiveness.
And for his failing, his career is in ruins, and his public reputation is in tatters. It is a long road back for Ben Domenech. And he's going to pay a steep price to regain lost trust among colleagues, readers, and friends.
And you know what? He'll take the time to wander in the wilderness as he rightly should. He'll walk that road. The least the rest of us can do is be waiting for him at its end. So today, the world thinks ill of Ben Domenech. But perhaps it should step back a bit. His crime was not mortal, and his character is not irredeemable. Indeed, most of his friends believe this episode a _deviation_ from a core character that is fundamentally good. He is my friend. He is our friend and will remain so. He needs some time away from this – and he’ll get it in the form of a leave of absence.
I will only say that I hope Mike is correct that this is a "deviation" from Ben's character. Much of it depends on whether is evidence of this more recently. It is possible that this was a phase that a young man lacking self-confidence did while his own writing voice was developing. Conversely and, sadly, looking at the extent of the swiping that is evident in the National Review Online movie reviews, I must say that this strikes one of the level of pathological behavior seen in Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. These are people who will continue to do this until they get caught.

But, let this be the last word for now.

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