Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, March 27, 2006
Going Postal

Now that the drama is over and Ben Domenech has been fired, the central question stands out more clearly than ever: why on earth did the Post ever hire him to start with?

Were they out for new readers? That seems wildly implausible. There's already a rival in town that has the far-right market sown up; the Post can hardly compete with the Washington Times in that area. And Ben's work was intended to appear only on the web, where there are scores of established sites competing for wingnut eyes that don't carry the burden (for this market) of the Post's history of quality journalism.

Were they pushed by existing readers? Again, this is unlikely. The Post's readership is likely far more liberal than the paper - after all, DC is one of the farthest left, and most heavily black, cities in the country. (For a paper with such a large black readership, hiring a 'columnist' who smeared Coretta King on the day of her funeral and refused to actually apologize, although he did make a statement that the Post chose to pretend was an apology, was a particularly calculated insult to its readers.)

Granted, the suburbs, which are, as usual, more white and more Republican, are also important markets for the Post. But even here, there's little evidence or likelihood that Post readers were clamoring for the crude GOP fundamentalism of Domenech. Those who seek such stuff can already find it in the Times, or skip the dead tress and just listen to talk radio.

Easily dismissable is the argument that Domenech actually deserved a broader audience on the merits of his writing. Of the pieces he has written for Red State this year, this is the only one which tries to do what a good column does: take a current story, examine it thoughtfully, and make it part of a larger narrative. Unfortunately, the piece is utterly worthless. The central claim made is that the Abramoff scandal is a result of the dominance of old fashioned "do as you're told" Republicans; the cure is more prominence for genuinely conservative "do what's right" Republicans. Not one piece of evidence for this thesis is advanced, and no wonder. Abramoff himself rose through the ranks of the very rightist movement that Domenech puts forth as the cure for his activities. Every member of Congress tied up in the current scandals is a movement rightist in good standing. Look at their lifetime ratings from the ACU: DeLay (96%), Ney (85), Goode (92), Duke Cunningham (95), Dolittle (95), Pombo (97), Ryun (99) Harris (90), Sam Johnson (99). Domenech's distinction is real, if unoriginal - he just wrong about which side of the line you find the crooks on.

Of course, Domenech is probablhy not as ignorant of the ethical standards of the wingnut world as he pretends to be. Indeed, when he got into trouble over plagiarism, he demonstrated personal expertise in the matter, declaring that the plagiarized passages in his work had been inserted by editors without his permission. His plagiarized writings had appeared in several different publications under a variety of diferent editors, but Ben wants us to believe that all of those editors had the habit of inserting plagiarized passages into his work without his knowledge.

The only plausible explanation left standing is that the Post was trying to respond to complaints of liberal bias. The obvious problem is that such complaints have long since ceased to be responses to any real, or even imagined, libeal sympathies, but just a crude attempt to bully the media. And when you give a bully everything he asks for, all you get is more bullying. The silliest game of all is to hire more rightists as an attempt to silence the criticism. It's about as smart as trying to persuade thugs to go straight by giving them new jobs hauling truckoads of cash between banks. These are people who whine about liberal bias as a modus operandi. When they get hired into the MSM, they just get a bigger megaphone to go on doing the exact same thing. What the Post got for it's trouble in Domenech's first column was exactly what any editor with two brain cells to rub together would have expected: an attack on the liberal elitism of the Washington Post.