Friday, March 24, 2006

Those blogger ethics

I suppose we ought to give Michelle Malkin credit for her seeming forthrightness in condemning Ben Domenech's plagiarism. But it's all explained through the Bizarro World prism of right-wing martyrdom:
I cheered for Ben, the editor of my last book at Regnery, when he announced his new position. I criticized unhinged bloggers on the Left who leveled vicious ad hominem attacks against him. It's clear, as the good folks at Red State (which Ben co-founded) note, that his detractors were on a search-and-destroy mission from the get-go.

But now the determined moonbat hordes have exposed multiple instances of what clearly appear to me to be blatant lifting of entire, unique passages by Ben from other writers. It is one thing to paraphrase basic facts from a wire story. But to filch the original thoughts and distinctly crafted phrases of a writer without crediting him/her--and doing so repeatedly--is unacceptable in our business. Some of the cases occurred while Ben was in college; he is blaming an editor for these transgressions. But at least one other incident involved a piece he wrote for NRO after he graduated. The side-by-side comparisons of these extensive passages is damning.

Yes, that's right: Domenech was Malkin's editor on Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, which was to serious political discourse what In Defense of Internment was to serious history: a right-wing comic book without the pictures.

Moreover, it was comically afactual, combining astonishingly thin evidence with assertions that were hilariously disconnected from reality, including the following:
"[T]he truth is that it's conservatives themselves who blow the whistle on their bad boys and go after the real extremism on their side of the aisle."[p. 9]

And while conservatives zealously police their own ranks to exclude extremists and conspiracy theories, extremism and conspiracy theories have become the driving force of the Democrat Party. [p. 169]

Book editors, in my experience, can have a real impact on how a book is shaped. The best editors are tough editors who challenge your assumptions and assertions. But Malkin seems not to wonder if, perhaps, the judgment exercised by her ethically challenged editor at Regnery might have affected the quality of her book.

On the other hand, anyone who's read Unhinged (or just flipped through it, which because it's so thin is substantially the same thing) can tell you that this is a text that fully bears its editor's mark -- especially visible now that we know more about him.

But I'm even more put off by Malkin's hypocrisy in dismissing Domenech, because it's not as if she doesn't have some ethical skeletons in her closet.

Particularly, regular readers will recall that Malkin's own ethics came into question late last year when she apparently admitted that her husband, Jesse, has posted material on her blog under her byline. As I explained at the time:
As Matt Stoller says, what, exactly, is a "handful"? Are we talking just one or two? Or a dozen or more? A hundred? Why else mention the number you've actually posted?

Because the issue, in the end, is a serious one regarding Malkin's professional ethics: Did she post material under her name that was written by someone else without informing her readers?

It appears that the answer, from Malkin's own admission, is yes.

If so, why? What conceivable reason could she have for not giving Jesse Malkin his own byline on those posts he wrote?

Of course, Malkin never deigned to answer. But then, she's been studiously pretending that I don't exist for some time now.

Malkin's ethical breach isn't exactly on the same level as Domenech's -- but it does underscore her longstanding lack of professionalism. Fortunately, the Washington Post hasn't invited her to join their staff, either.


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