Saturday, March 25, 2006

THE TRUE BELIEVER. After just a week, Ben Domenesch has lost his WashPost blog for prior incidents of plagiarism. Go here, and to surrounding posts, for schadenfreude; elsewhere you’ll find more, but not better. From Domenesch himself we have that familiar blogospheric trope, the long, belligerent nolo contendere followed by a brief apology. The grapes of many of Domenesch’s co-religionists are very sour indeed.

As previously observed here, anyone can do Domenesch’s job as poorly as he did, and when the new guy steps in I’m sure there will be the usual chest-beating all around.

I do find it interesting that the sword Domenesch gave his enemies was plagiarism. I can understand – barely, and not to say approvingly – why an undergraduate might plagiarise on a term paper under deadline pressure, on the assumption that the student sees the paper as a mere nuisance to be gotten through, not as a representation of himself. I guess I’m not enough of a careerist (look at me, I’m wearing a cardboard belt) to understand why a professional pundit – an idea man, as it were -- would so egregiously lift whole passages and claim them as his own.

I am tempted to attribute Domenesch’s offense to a lack of interest in the work of writing. It may be that he saw his star rising fast and ceased to care whence came the fuel he shovelled into the restless engine of his ambition*. Pollyanna that I am, though, I think he may have stolen for a higher purpose. He may have really believed that his success was part of the success of his movement. He might not have cut corners to exalt himself, but to save America from the depradations of its enemies – who were, by logical extension, his enemies too, at whom he railed this week as the flames consumed him, "I take enormous solace in the fact that you spent this week bashing me, instead of America." This is not the language of a Grub Street hack, but of a true believer.

* I don’t normally cite my hommages, but in this instance I probably should note that this turn of phrase references William Herndon’s famous assessment of Lincoln.

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