Sunday, March 26, 2006

OT: The Lessons of L'Affaire Domenech

You may have heard about Ben Domenech, the 24 year-old wunderkind who spent all of two days last week as the Washington Post's designated conservative blogger; various liberal blogs soon found that he had not only called Coretta Scott King a "Communist" and a fellow Post employee a "weasel-faced Democrat shill," but that he had plagiarized many of the articles he'd written for college newspaper and National Review. He resigned, a victim of the perfect blog-swarm storm; here's a funny list of suggestions for his potential replacements.

I wouldn't normally weigh in on this particular story, but it ties in with something I've been thinking about and have written about concerning journalism, and I wanted to bring it up, so here goes:

This was the first widely-publicized example of something I've written about before, which is that the strongest accusations of media bias now come from the left. Editors at big media outlets have gotten used to attacks from the right, and they frequently bend over backwards to accommodate them. We saw an example of that this past week, when editors and hosts accommodated the conservative/Republican complaints that they're not showing the "good news from Iraq." This never made any sense, since their own journalists in Iraq know perfectly well that the situation in Iraq is worse than they're allowed to show on TV or in the newspaper; but once the "liberal media bias" complaint is out there, it has to be taken seriously. (Elton Beard has another example of editors internalizing and taking seriously the most crazy and ridiculous complaints, as long as they come from the right.) Yet the same editors and hosts really have no idea that they could be accused of conservative media bias, even though it is an article of faith among every prominent liberal blogger that the media is biased against liberal points of view.

The Post thought they needed to balance their online columnist Dan Froomkin, because they have gotten complaints that his column betrays a liberal bias. They decided to hire a blogger who was a partisan conservative Republican overflowing with hatred and contempt for "liberals." The initial source of the liberal bloggers' complaints -- what caused them to go looking for Domenech's earlier writings -- was that the Post had hired a partisan conservative/Republican blogger but had no blogger who was comparably partisan liberal/Democratic. Yet the Post really had no idea that such complaints were coming, because they didn't understand how many people out there think they have a conservative bias already. There will be more complaints like this, and media outlets need to understand that they need to look leftward to see where the toughest media criticism is going to be coming from.

P.S. - It's also funny and/or scary to contemplate the fact that he'd been a speechwriter for a U.S. Senator (coming up with an infamous line comparing gay marriage to marrying a box turtle) and an editor of angry but prominent conservative writers at Angry Right publishing house Regnery. He also co-founded the big conservative blog Redstate, and his dad worked in the White House. In other words, Domenech was considered a rising star in the Conservative Journalistic Movement, not unlike the Wall Street Journal's bloodthirsty bulletin-board troll James Taranto. Is this really what conservative journalism has become?

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