As those of you who read a lot of blogs undoubtedly know by now, there’s been a firestorm in every corner of the blogosphere this week over the hiring by washingtonpost.com of a prominent young conservative blogger, Ben Domenech, one of the founders of redstate.org (where his handle has been Augustine), to do a new blog called Red America. At first the furor was over (1) why the Post site (independent of the newspaper, BTW) felt the need to set up an abrasive conservative blog, without at least creating a progressive counterpart, (2) various aspects of Domenech’s background as the scion of a well-connected conservative family, and (3) several dumb and offensive things he’s said, such as calling Coretta Scott King “a communist” the day after her death. In this early phase of the controversy, it was a classic left-right battle. But almost effortlessly, several progressive bloggers came up with an ever-escalating series of examples of plagiarism by Domenech going back to college newspaper work, but continuing with pieces for professional organizations like National Review Online. Conservative bloggers quickly split between some who defended Domenech, and others who distanced themselves. And the fracas ended today with Domenech’s resignation from washingtonpost.com, and a statement by the site’s managing editor wishing him good riddance and apologizing for the fiasco. Considering how long it took for earlier plagiarism scandals at major newspapers to come to light and bite the perpetrators and enablers in the butt, the lightning speed of the whole affair was impressive. To the extent you care about exposing plagiarists, it’s a good argument for the value of a wide-open blogosphere that can often serve as the enforcer of journalistic ethics, not just as a rules-free zone. As for Domenech’s underlying sin, I generally dislike getting too self-righteous about other people’s destructive habits, especially after they are exposed, since the Good Lord has a strong tendency to punish first-stone-throwers. But I have to say, plagiarism–like, say, upper-class kleptomania–is one sin I really have a hard time accepting. It combines sloth, avarice, and pride–three of the Seven Deadly Sins, no less–and is especially incomprehensible for someone who, like Mr. Domenech, does not seem to have been under any kind of extreme deadline pressure. Plagiarism, of course, is a lot easier than it was back in the day. For Old Folks like me who learned the writing craft on a Selectric II typewriter, and had to go to an actual library to do research, plagiarism would have been entirely too much work. Why not just write the thing yourself? (The parallel sin Old Folks tend to commit is self-plagiarism, which is the literary equivalent of telling your friends, family and colleagues the same damn stories over and over again). The ease of cutting-and-pasting, and the vast candy-store of online stuff to steal, has to increase the temptation. But technology giveth, and technology taketh away, and as Ben Domenech has now discovered, it’s real easy to search your online writing, pick out a few passages, google the words, and see if anything identical or very similar pops up. If it does, and it was published earlier–kaboom!Whatever it means for Domenech, for washingtonpost.com, or for a large number of disappointed and embarassed conservatives, this fiasco will probably result in a sharp drop in new incidents of plagiarism, at least among those bloggers and/or journalists who invite scrutiny.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
After watching Donald Trump’s wildly applauded address to this year’s CPAC conference, I wrote an assessment at New York:
In his rapturously received 88-minute address to the 2021 CPAC conference on Sunday, former president Donald Trump didn’t give his listeners what so many of them wanted: a pledge to run for president again in 2024 (though he teased the crowd with his obvious availability). But he vented his outsized spleen fully, and left no doubt that the future of Trumpism will be its past, revived and vindicated.
Much of the speech was rehashed from the brag sessions of the 2020 campaign, treating his administration as one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Accordingly, Joe Biden’s extremely brief presidency was condemned as the worst in history already thanks to the 46th president’s reversal of the policies of the 45th (especially on immigration policy), which were one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Viewers were left with the distinct impression that a near-utopian future for the country would be as simple as the replacement of Biden with — well, if not Trump — then someone with exactly the same policies and sterling leadership qualities.In tune with the reactionary atmosphere of this and every other Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump suggested that resistance to the plans of the hated opposition was enough of an agenda. Twice he asserted that Democratic governance would put the country on a short road to full-fledged communism. But it was remarkable how little he bothered to outline any ideas for the future other than the restoration of the recent past.
The one exception was his bloody-shirt demands for “election integrity” legislation in every state, which included a universal revocation of no-excuse absentee balloting (and all in-person early voting, since he called for a “single election day”) and universal voter ID requirements. It’s an audacious proposal, considering that 13 states (including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin) carried by Biden already have voter ID requirements, and fully 34 (including 12 states carried by Trump) had no-excuse voting by mail before the COVID-19 pandemic and the marginal liberalization of deadlines and procedures that Trump blames for his defeat.
Apparently Trump’s “landslide” victory required tighter voting rules than the country has had for many years. It’s unlikely a return to the spirit of the days of poll taxes and literacy tests is going to pass muster with federal and state courts (Trump, of course, blasted the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court that included three of his nominees, for lacking the “courage” to overturn Biden’s victory). But Republican subscription to this terrible assault on voting rights is another way that GOP elected officials can bend the knee to Trump.
Other than voter suppression, the future of Trumpism as outlined by its founder seemed to revolve around vengeance against RINOs, the ancient conservative epithet that now seems to be defined strictly by a lack of loyalty to Donald Trump. To feral roars from the crowd, he named every single congressional Republican who voted for his impeachment or conviction, suggesting that all must go before the GOP would be able to match the communist-bent Democrats in viciousness and self-discipline.
It appears, then, that Trump has determined to ensure that Republicans go into 2022 and 2024 as a political force dedicated to the restoration of his legacy with or without his personal leadership. For the most part, the dominant ideological movement in the party and the hallowed conservative movement is his. Indeed, one of the more unmistakeable phenomena of CPAC 2021 is the extent to which Republican activists now treat the conservative and MAGA movements as identical. And if he chooses to keep control of both movements, who can challenge him? The obvious successor to Trumpism is ever more Trumpism, and the obvious successor to Trump is still Trump.