March 24, 2006

Going, Going...Gone?

I have a confession to make: I never heard the name "Ben Domenech" until the Washington Post launched the blog Red America several days ago.

Since his first substantial post hit Tuesday, he has generated an outburst of outrage that I haven't seen on the left since... well, since the last one. True to form, the left has engaged in what they call opposition research, what we call dumpster diving, and what Chuck Schumer's office called an isolated incident after the plea deal last week.

And they have scored hits.

They've uncovered what David Brock's Media Matters for America called, "new evidence of Domenech's racially charged rhetoric and homophobic bigotry,” in an effort to have Domenech fired for what they claim are his past views, including the following:

  • In a February 7 post on RedState, Domenech wrote that he believed people should be "pissed" that President Bush attended "the funeral of a Communist" -- referring to the funeral for Coretta Scott King. As you know, labeling the King family "communists" was a favorite tool of the racists who opposed them.
  • In another RedState post, Domenech compared "the Judiciary" unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.
  • In still another RedState comment, Domenech posted without comment an article stating that "[i]t just happens that killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime" and that "[w]hite racists have reason to be grateful for what is sometimes still called the civil rights leadership" because black leaders "are overwhelmingly in support" of abortion rights.
  • In yet another, Domenech wrote that conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, "needs a woman to give him some stability."

I'm sure that David Brock, being honest and not the kind of guy to write a hit piece, would certainly encourage us to look into his charges. Surely, nothing he charges would be hyperbolic, would it?

Let's look at Brock's first charge:

In a February 7 post on RedState, Domenech wrote that he believed people should be "pissed" that President Bush attended "the funeral of a Communist" -- referring to the funeral for Coretta Scott King.

Posting under the screen name "Augustine" on Red State Domenech did in fact call King a communist. As I asked earlier today, whether or not Domenech was right about King's political affiliation, when did communism become a race?

Brock's second charge is even more volatile.

In another RedState post, Domenech compared "the Judiciary" unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.

But what exactly did Domenech say? Brock doesn't directly link to the comment, or provide it in context, instead burying it in text of another Media Matters article.

The Red State post and its comments are here, and Domenech's comment is in response to a charge by James Dobson that men in white robes (the Ku Klux Klan) "did great wrong to civil rights to and to morality" and now we have men in black robes (judges) also doing great wrongs to civil rights and morality. [Note: the comment below is the wrong comment. This is Domenech's first comment in this thread, not the one Brock cherry-picked that was far less descriptive and inflammatory. My mistake ofr grabbing the wrong comment. See comments of this post for details.]

Domenech's comment:

Actually, Dobson's soft-pedaling it. The worst black-robed men and women are worse then the KKK, and not just because they have the authority of the state behind them. They don't even use the vile pretense of skin color - they dismiss the value of all unborn lives, not just the lives of ethnic minorities.

Domenech says that the worst judges, with the authority of the state behind them, are more dangerous than is a specific marginalized extremist group. Does anyone dare to argue the absolute truth of that statement?

Domenech then makes an allusion to the millions of children (of all races) aborted since Roe v. Wade was decided. No one can argue the fact that many more lives have been cut short by abortions than by lynchings.

Domenech is 100% factually correct.

Brock's willful misrepresentation of the meaning and context of Domenech's statements are even more offensive than the charges of racism Brock is peddling because the charges are so obviously contrived.


In still another RedState comment, Domenech posted without comment an article stating that "[i]t just happens that killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime" and that "[w]hite racists have reason to be grateful for what is sometimes still called the civil rights leadership" because black leaders "are overwhelmingly in support" of abortion rights.

The Dowdified quote Brock provides was Swiftian satire written by Richard John Neuhaus (full article here) about the book "Freakonomics," and the disgusting thought that a high level of minority abortions cuts the crime rate. Domenech himself states:

Neuhaus, one of the most outspoken, respected and influential pro-life intellectuals in America, finds this logic as morally disgusting as I do. He is putting this logic in its bluntest terms to show the full degree of its inhumanity. A few people have noticed this, but for those who are still having trouble, I highly recommend this.

Once again, Brock is guilty of misrepresenting Domenech.

Last and least of Brock's bulleted list of charges:

In yet another, Domenech wrote that conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, "needs a woman to give him some stability."

Sullivan, is Domenech's target in this post, and he does end with the line Brock cites. According to Technorati, there are no less than 239 posts about Andrew Sullivan freaking out. Sullivan needs something, but the answer is probably not estrogen-based.

In short, Brock presents four bullet-point charges that he states should be reasons for the Washington Post to fire Ben Domenech. Of those four points, Brock catches Domenech using excessive hyperbole once, and projecting a sexuality-based thought against an erratic writer in another instance.

In between these bookends, Brock intentionally misrepresents Domenech not once, but twice.

In living up to his own high standards of moral clarity, I'm sure we'll see David Brock's resignation letter tomorrow.

* * *

Brock's creativity aside, there seems to be a strong argument for Domenech to resign his Washington Post blog, not for the reasons listed above, but for his lack of creativity... and originality.

Apparently Domenech plagiarized the work of P.J. O'Rourke, and maybe others.

Dan Riehl adds:

Frankly, the attack by Media Matters was about as fair, or accurate as the New York Times - not very. However, if any, let alone all, of the charges of alleged plagiarism are deserved, Domenech is an embarrassment to all bloggers, not just conservatives.

Now, even the defense of him I made is in question if he can't produce a link to an original article containing the deficit quote re the above link.

Though apparently a co-founder, I would also encourage RedState to think very seriously about his role as a RedState blogger going forward. If Domenech plagiarized as freely and often as it would appear, there is no excuse for it.

I can forgive someone who runs across a concept and inadvertently "thinks" it at a later date. It can happen. Ripping content, however, word-for-word, line-by-line, post-by-post... if true, that is no mistake.

Hello, Ben. Goodbye.

Update: It Ain't Over, Fat Lady.
John Cole of Balloon Juice, hardly a "Bush loyalist," puts up a spirited defense of Domenech's character while gutting one of the almost incoherently rabid far left blogger Jane Hamsher:

Hell, half the things in that despicable Hamsher post were not even WRITTEN BY BEN. Even as I grow more and more disgusted and sick of the Republican party, I am still amazed at the gutter antics of the rabid left.

I don't agree with Ben Domenech on nearly any social issue, but I have read thousands of his private emails at Red State (we have an Editor's listserv of sorts), spoken with him (via AOL IM) dozens of times, and I have never seen or heard one shred of racism come from him. I think Ben Domeonech is wrong on a lot of things, but he is no racist, and I think the distortion of what Ben has written by Jane and others is outrageous and disgusting.

Nor is the Washington Post willing to show Demenech the door just yet:

Late yesterday, the liberal Web sites Daily Kos and Atrios posted examples of what appeared to be instances of plagiarism from Domenech's writing at the William & Mary student paper. Three sentences of a 1999 Domenech review of a Martin Scorsese film were identical to a review in Salon magazine, and several sentences in Domenech's piece on a James Bond movie closely resembled one in the Internet Movie Database. Domenech said he needed to research the examples but that he never used material without attribution and had complained about a college editor improperly adding language to some of his articles.

The ante has been upped.

Domenech is either going to be proven a serial plagiarist and a liar, or quite a few liberal blogs are going to have to explain to their readers how they were wrong on a very serious charge.

This seems far from over.

Update: What was the last thing I said?
Ben Domenech has resigned.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at March 24, 2006 12:44 AM | TrackBack

Ha ha ha ha ha - wingers. Typical.

Posted by: mkultra at March 24, 2006 03:09 AM

"Honest Conservative" oxymoron?

Posted by: Dustin at March 24, 2006 05:17 AM

Interesting. liberals are willing to pile-on Domenech (who, apparently has that and more coming). Conservative bloggers, including myself, Dan Riehl, Patterico, The Political Pit Bull, etc are calling for accountability for these charges as well.

But liberals won't say one word about David Brock's own offenses of willfully misrepresention, where he is caught selectively quoting ("Dowdifying") things Domenech did say to the point they no longer resemble the original comments.

If the charges against him are true, Domenech deserves to lose hs job. Brock, as shown above, deserves no less. I think we'll learn rather quickly whether or not the liberal quest for "justice" is as one-sided as it seems.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 24, 2006 07:14 AM

I see Roger Ailes has put you in your place. Too bad you can't edit the comments on his site like you edit your own, or you could clean up that little mess. Keep straying from your little fenced-in yard and your sense of infallibility will suffer for it.

Posted by: ahab at March 24, 2006 07:44 AM

Ben who? Nobody knew him... Ben Domenech is going the way of Jack Abramoff (who, in an odd cosmic coincidence, is great pals with Ben's dad -- he was Jack's point guy in the White House). Brilliant. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Posted by: mike at March 24, 2006 08:34 AM

I'm surprised the New York Times didn't get first dibs on Ben--or should I be? Why do we never see Ben and Jayson Blair in the same room?

Posted by: Bob at March 24, 2006 08:47 AM

Actually, Ahab, If I didn't "edit" anything of yours, I simply deleted your comment in it's entirety for being both off-topic and if I recall properly, profane. I do this pretty consistently. You aren't singled out or special in any way.

Ailes cited a Klan site, proving that the KKK uses claims of communism as grist for their followers. That still does not establish that calling someone a communist is a racist comment. Is calling Cindy Sheehan a communist a racist comment when she makes utterances that sound Marxist to some?

It may not be accurate to call either woman a communist, but it isn't definitively racist, especially when the comment in question has not been presented in any context. You presume that Domenech is racist, because that gives you a nice strawman. I don't know him, and he very well may be, but it is not proven here, in any way, shape, or form.

If you want unmistakable racism, look to Steve Gilliard calling Michael Steele "Simple Sambo," or Ted Rall drawing Condoleeza Rice as a "House Nigga." Those comments are direct. Do you condemn Rall and Gilliard? Why not?

There is plenty of racism in the world, Ahab. Perhaps your ability to see it where it doesn't necessarily exist is simply a matter of reactionary projection.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 24, 2006 09:09 AM

The funny thing about the "King was a communist" meme is that Leftists often imply it themselves. I've read more than one article complaining that discussion of King jumps from "I have a dream" to Memphis, skipping the intervening years where (they claim) King espoused views that, if not quite communist, where certainly socialist. I can remember a Norman Solomon column like this and it seems to me that a HuffPo blogger made a similar post around MLK day this year.

I agree that the plagiarism charges seem to have validity (pending investigation into whether permission was granted). But let's remember that the Left did not go after Domenech because he was a plagiarist; that's just the current hammer. They went after him because he is conservative. If the Post fires him, they should promptly hire another conservative blogger.

Posted by: Brainster at March 24, 2006 10:29 AM

Conservatives will defend ANYTHING if it's on their side. I'm still waiting for someone on the right to wonder out loud whether or not billions of dollars in no-bid contracts being given to Halliburton might be slightly off-color. You are the people, remember, who crawled up the Clintons' asses because of a $30,000 bank loan.

Vaya con dios, Ben.


Posted by: Been done, chem? at March 24, 2006 10:50 AM

The question to ask is whether or not this whole Ben thing was a set-up job by the WaPo to smear conservative bloggers on behalf of an outraged MSM?

Posted by: Big Bag of Truth at March 24, 2006 12:18 PM
The question to ask is whether or not this whole Ben thing was a set-up job by the WaPo to smear conservative bloggers on behalf of an outraged MSM?

I highly doubt it. WPNI (the online Post) would not willingly bring down this amount of criticism on themeselves just to bring down a conservative blogger.

I just think they didn't have a process in place to vet a blogger, and to be honest, I'm not so sure that anyone has such a vetting process that I'm aware of.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 24, 2006 12:54 PM

The vetting is not rocket-science, for heavens' sake! Just do the same thing as for opinion columnists.

For me, the greater scandal here is not left vs. right or even plagiarism. It's *nepotism* and *cronyism*. Just on the right, there must be at least one thousand bloggers that on the strength of their writing and influence would have been picked ahead of Ben if not for his father's political connections in the Republican power establishment in Washington, DC. He represents red, heartland America like I represent the people of Vanuatu.

There's something seriously rotten in the Washington, DC elites. You just got a whiff of its stench.

Posted by: mike at March 24, 2006 03:47 PM

I think you are mistaken regarding Brock's second point. Brock's comment:

'In another RedState post, Domenech compared "the Judiciary" unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.'

You suggest that Brock is deliberately misstating one of Domenech's comments. But you've posted the wrong comment. Brock was referring to this:

'In the past 30 years, how many innocent lives has the KKK ended?
How about the Judiciary?
Unfortunate that you cannot count.'

I agree with Brock: in this comment Domenech is clearly comparing "the Judiciary" unfavorably to the KKK. Whether or not it is "100% factually correct" is not the point.

I partially agree with you re: the Coretta Scott King is a communist remark, although you seem to be deliberately missing the point. Of course communism is not a race. As Brock pointed out, in the 60's KKK/racists used to attack the Kings by calling them communists. (The same way a winger might call someone a 'terrorist' today.) Brock is implying here that Domenech is calling her a communist in that spirit.

There is no way to prove that Domenech meant it that way. So instead I'll just take it at face value: Domenech thinks people should be pissed that Bush attended the funeral of a widely-respected black civil rights leader. You don't have to be a racist to say that -- just an asshole.

What does Brock misrepresent in his third point? Domenech DID post that article without comment, and that is all Brock says. What Brock stated was "100% factually correct".

I do believe that it was originally written as satire, although it's hard to find anything amusing in it. But If Domenech didn't want to be associated with the ideas in the article, maybe he shouldn't have posted it (apparently approvingly).

Posted by: Colin at March 24, 2006 04:10 PM


You are correct, I did post the wrong comment. I apologize for that.

What I posted was Augustine's first post in the thread that more fully explained what he meant, not the brusque shorthand post that Brock cherry-picked and refused to provide context for. I grabbed the wrong quote.

When the context of the thread is explored, it appears that in the comment that Brock presents, Domenech was wondering out loud about the hard numbers of children killed by abortion (the Roe V. Wade "judiciary" reference) versus people lynched by racist groups such as the KKK.

The numbers aren't exact, but the diffrence is staggering:

1,297 whites and 3,446 blacks (4,743 total) were lynched between 1882-1968 according to the Tuskegee Institute. In the United States, well over a million babies a year are aborted.

We're talking a basic difference of 4,743 people lynched and something more than 40 million killed by Domenech's "judiciary."

As for Domenech being ans ass... anyone who falsely represented that much of other people's work as his own has certainly earned the title.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 24, 2006 05:38 PM

I know this is off topic but how can anyone take pride in calling himself a "Confederate" anything? The Confederacy was a vile, racist, and traitorous state. How can anyone find that label as worthy of use in 2006?

In the South, there is a movement run by Neo-Confederates, who try to revise history, transforming an evil domain into a sadly gone-by era that should be lamented for its simpler and genteel way of life where Negroes new their place. Ugh! The Confederacy was a grand guignol of terrors for African-Americans. Women were raped freely. Children were forcefully separated from their families.

I find it mindboggling that you would wrap yourself in the imagery of the Confederacy so pridefully. How do you not see the horror of the Confederacy's actions and the brutal legacy of domestic terrorism its sons, like the Klan, have inflicted on innocent Americans? What ethical standard do you use in your life? Would you wrap yourself in the iconic imagery of Nazi Germany? It has an interesting flag. It enslaved people. Separated families. Murdered families.

I live in the United States of America. I am an America. I do not see myself as a Yankee or hold loyalty to my state above my nation. There is only one American flag that matters, Old Glory. The Battle flag of the Confederacy reflects hatred. Not until the Civil Rights Era did the Battle Flag see its rise and use as a state flag.

I could go on, but surely you must no the since of fea, revulsion, and outrage that celebration of the Confederacy inspires. Surely you must know the wrongness of your actions. Surely you must know that for the survival, security, and continued success of America we must be a united people of diverse backgrounds.

Of course, evil knows no bounds of decency. What kind of man are you?

Posted by: noah at March 24, 2006 11:46 PM

What kind of man am I? The kind that provides this link for smug, self-righteous folks such as yourself.

Have a nice day.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 25, 2006 12:38 AM

From your original post, Brock claimed this:
'In another RedState post, Domenech compared "the Judiciary" unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.'

I followed your link into the redstate thread. I think it's clear: Domenech compared "the Judiciary" to the KKK. Brock did not misrepresent what he said.

Now you seem to be arguing that it is reasonable, based on the number of pregnancies ended since roe v. wade and the number of black people lynched by the KKK, for someone to compare "the Judiciary" to the KKK.

OK, that's your opinion. But outside the rw echo chambers a lot of people find that sort of comparison at the very least offensive. (I'd also call it 'deliberately inflammatory' and 'stupid').

Most of the Post's subscribers and advertisers are not right wing nuts who think it makes perfect sense to compare US judges to the KKK. That's why Brock pointed it out to the clowns at the Post.

But based on my reading of the thread, Brock did not misrepresent what was said.

Posted by: Colin at March 25, 2006 04:50 PM

No, I am not smug. I simply don't think that in 2006 anyone should think it funny to use the iconic imagery of the Confederacy in any way. Moreover, it's nice that you don't think that racism is a good thing; but why do you think it appropriate to use the Battle Flag of the Confederacy? It's not smugness that brings revulsion to me when I see the Confederate flag anymore than seeing the Swastika-emblazoned flag of Nazi Germany.

Don't you get it? The fact that anyone can think that it is appropriate to use the Confederate flag with any pride is akin to using the Nazi flag. Frankly, I can't think any decent contemporary German conservative would wrap himself in the Nazi flag, which like the Confederate flag, represents evil unbound by decency, brutality and death unleashed on innoncents.

Have you ever had anyone threaten to burn your house down? I have. So, please don't tell me that I am reacting out of smugness. Get it?! This is personal for me.

You can make all the excuses you want, but you won't convince 99% of Americans whose ancestors survived Slavery or Jim Crow. Some Caucasian Americans just don't or refuse to understand how hateful that damned flag is. It's not a questions of anyone's pride in Southern history anymore than German pride in the history of the Third Reich.

Bob, if you want to ignore history and the feelings of the brown folks because you don't intend to harm anyone and think that people like me are overly sensitive, after all what's a little slavery, rape, and murder in the scheme of things....

Hell, you could be married to an African-American woman and a member of your chapter of the NAACP and I would still tell you that what you're doing is repugnant.

Why is it so hard to understand how that for many people the Confederate flag truly represents as much evil as the Nazi flag? Let me put this in perspective for you, besides the murder of Jews, gays, Gypsies, the disabled, dissidents and others, the Nazis targeted the so-called Rheinland Bastards--the biracial children of black French soldiers and their Caucasian German wives. The Nazis gathered the children off the street and forcibly sterilized some of them at first. Others were then kidnapped and sent to the death camps.

I'd like to think that some of what I'm saying would sink in to you, but I think that your pride would overcome reason. It is easier to do nothing than to do the right thing.

Posted by: noah at March 26, 2006 06:51 PM

Noah, this does happen to be a free country, and that includes the right to be offended. You can equate the Confederacy with the Nazis if you like, but it is shallow comparison made by shallow people.

I am as proud of Southerners including the 65,000 African Confederates, 13,000 of which engaged in battle. Thousands of African Confederates served under Stonewall Jackson. Men both black and white, free and slave, served with honor to defend their homes, communities, and states from Union forces.

Perhaps a little eduation is in order for you (from the same link above):

Black Confederate heritage is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. For instance, Terri Williams, a black journalist for the Suffolk "Virginia Pilot" newspaper, writes: "I've had to re-examine my feelings toward the [Confederate] flag started when I read a newspaper article about an elderly black man whose ancestor worked with the Confederate forces. The man spoke with pride about his family member's contribution to the cause, was photographed with the [Confederate] flag draped over his lap that's why I now have no definite stand on just what the flag symbolizes, because it no longer is their history, or my history, but our history."

It is sad that some southern Democrats used that the Confederate Navy Jack (not the flag that I use, by the way, which is the Third Confederate National flag) as a symbol of oppression, after the war, and that some would still misappropriate that symbol for hate.

But I will not let them - or you- bully me into being ashamed of men who fought with honor because of what you think in your ignorance of history.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 26, 2006 08:15 PM

I am not at all a history buff, so this post is going to get me in trouble, but

My understanding is that, as hard for it is for us to believe in modern times, at the time the Civil War touched off slavery was just one of several issues, including fundamental disagreement over states rights versus the role of the federal government, economic policies heavily favoring industry (North) over agriculture (South), and deep-seated cultural conflict for which slavery was seen as something of a proxy. Many Southern whites did not have a direct stake in slavery, since it was only the privledged class, the large plantation-owning gentry, that benefitted from the free labor, and not the white working class that they might otherwise be forced to hire. In fact, many Union states held slaves, and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which only promised the freedom of Confederate slaves, was still somehting of a political gamble. Originally his statements and speeches about the war were about preserving the Union at all cost. I think there's even a quote by him saying he'd preserve the Union if it took freeing all, some, or none of the slaves.

The States were very independent of each other, suspicious and resentful of each other back from the earliest days of the Revolution, and so for the South it was very much like having a foreign country invade, and many proudly defended it on that basis. And there was good reason to defend your farm and home from Union armies whatever your politics were- ask Georgia if U.S. forces were always so soliticious as they are now of territory they conquered and occupied.

All of that is not to defend the Confederacy's policy of slavery, which goes without saying (I hope) is indefensible, but just to say that not everyone automatically equates Confederate history with slavery. As someone who lives in the South, I have seen cars with Confederate flag bumper stickers that say: Heritage, Not Hate. And I have spoken with many who sincerely believe that.

The question then becomes whose views determine the acceptability of an emotional symbol: those of the person who uses it or those of the person who perceives it? I think that this issue has become somewhat of a philosophical dividing point of the left and right, as with the Danish cartoon controversy and the politics of offensive language generally- that is, how P.C. must we be?

You would think that including a disclaimer, as CY does, of exactly what he means by the handle (a family joke, apparently) might settle the issue, but many times it does not, because it assumes that the intentions of the user rather than the reaction of others are what matter. Note noah's focus on the latter in his second post. Of course, here the criticism was originally directly leveled at the intentions of the user, CY, probably because his link isn't easy to find. But just as a more general observation that seems to be what the question boils down to. The blog Protein Wisdom has a lot of wordy posts about the politics of symbols I found interesting, including an unintentionally offensive ice cream symbol.

I would think that the best way to defuse symbols of their power to cause pain is to use them in un-hateful ways, as long as that is made appropriately clear. Some Southerners have been trying to reclaim and redefine Confederate symbols in a broader context: not whitewash history, as has been elsewhere suggested, but to be as the flag of any nation with both good and bad people and both noble and ignoble history, not standing for a particular part of it. To do otherwise is also to offend, to offend those Southerners who were brave and self-sacrificing- yes, there were many!- and their descendents.

That being said, I think that in cases like these there is a certainly responsibility to be prudent and clear with your meaning. Where so many will wonder if bigotry is intended, the link CY provided is necessary. In fact, he might save himself a bit of trouble if he moved it up top, but then again perhaps he relishes these confrontations. There are a lot of people with a very superficial impression of Civil War history, and just because slavery/bigotry is a very clear-cut Evil it doesn't mean that you can reduce the human complexity involved in the war that easily. It, was, literally, not black-and-white.

Now let me be clear about my own intentions to close up. Slavery- bad. Racial oppression- bad. My only intention is to point out that not everyone who uses Confederate symbols is trying to challenge those two no-brainers. I wouldn't hang out at this blog for a moment if I thought otherwise.

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