I'm not quite sure I have all my thoughts yet lined up over the ultra-quick crash-and-burn of Ben Domenech's WaPo blog; charges of plagiarism has cause the plug to be pulled in under a week. That's a bitter pill, since Ben's been one of the good guys in the Blogosphere and a friend of this blog. Even after all this, I'll still be glad to call him an on-line friend who's still welcome here.
I've talked to him on the phone, but I've never met Ben in person. I've had more than one initiation to visit him; he heads up a fantasy football league of bloggers I'm in that's been going since 2002, and I've had to pass on being at Ben's place in person for the league draft the last two Augusts.
I've yet to fully digest the extent of the plagiarism charges; the lion share seems to have come from his freshman year in college. However, since he's had a meteoric rise to prominence, that was only seven years ago. The Web has allowed good writing to find an audience quicker than in years past and Ben has benefited from that Web-enabled upward mobility.
What the Web giveth, the Web taketh away; blessed be the name of the Web1. It allowed his enemies to, as the saying goes, "fact check his ass." The Google-enabled plagiarism checks wouldn't have been there a decade ago to do the fine-tooth-comb treatment on his college paper writings.
I'm reminded of the Janet Cooke scandal that hit the WaPo a few decades ago; they didn't find out that her Pulitzer-winning reportage was fiction (and that her resume was as well) until after she got the award. Here, Ben lasts less than a week.
There's a tendency to shoot the messenger on this one, as many on the right side of the Blogosphere have, discounting the charge since it's Kossacks dissing one of our own; many of their non-plagiarism comments were far from chipmunk-friendly. However, we still have to figure out how to deal with this information even if we don't like the source; it was within the WaPo's rights to ditch Ben for this.
There's a bit of a "chilling effect" here; even though Ben was in the wrong for what he did, the idea that his foes would be spending a lot of man-hours sifting through his college writings to check for plagiarism is bracing, making me think whether I forgot to cite something somewhere in my blog history. Over 6291 posts (the count as of now over four-plus years), I'm not sure someone could find a boo-boo, where I did a cut-and-paste and forgot to cite what I pulled; I can say with a straight face that I haven't intentionally done that, but I could see where I might have grabbed a paragraph and forgotten to indent it and provide a link.
However, I'm merely an unemployed former college professor, not a Washington Post columnist. I'm not worth a Kossack's time to give the white-glove treatment to my writings. They'd come up empty or close-to-empty in my case, anyways.
I'm praying that Ben learns from this lesson and lands on his feet. It might cost him his Regnary job; I'm not sure if they'll have the interest in cutting him some slack on this issue. He might be brought down a peg, but I'm praying that he finds a good job that can use his skills, even if it might not be in political writing.
Godspeed, Ben. Remember to site your sources from now on and draw close to God through it all.
1 Just to cover my kiester , I'm borrowing that from Job in the Bible.