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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. We engaged in crude character assassination that greatly overshadowed the actual value of the blogosphere to find and correct real transgressions and deficiencies, as demonstrated by the discovery of Domenech's plagiarism.
Hopefully we can learn from this lesson that our debates should focus on the issues and not on the personalities involved so that when we get our next opportunity, we can avoid this kind of embarrassing debacle. Unfortunately, we may have to wait a very long time before that opportunity comes around.
ADDENDUM: I do want to add that Ben did the right thing in his last apology. I don't know if he will ever gain any of his lost credibility, but this is the right path for him if that's what he wants.
UPDATE: The new writers at Wonkette apparently stopped reading this post at the word "unhinged", because I never said that the investigation of Domenech's writings was unreasonable. In fact, I say it was a good example of why the blogosphere works that got overshadowed by all of the vitriol and ad hominem attacks launched at both Domenech and the Post over his selection. I'm happy that CQ is on their reading list, but I'd be happier if they took the time to actually read what I wrote. Here's a sample of what "unhinged" means in this context.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Domenech - Getting Bent from Riehl World View
Or, perhaps getting Domeneched, though I'm unconvinced what recently transpired as regards Ben Domenech will ever rise to the level of a noun like Borked. Time will tell. Captain Ed seems closest to my own feelings about what transpired. Though [Read More]
Tracked on March 25, 2006 1:02 PM
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