The Countertop Chronicles

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Ben Domenech

THere is quite a scandal growing over the allegations that the Washington Post's new blogger, Ben Domenech, plagerised a bad movie review.
Here are the passages (as presented by the American Thinker).

Ben Domenech in National Review Online:

“Translucent and glowing, they ooze up from the ground and float through solid walls, wriggling countless tentacles and snapping their jaws. They’re known as the Phantoms, alien thingies that, for three decades, have been sucking the life out of the earthlings of “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.” Swollen nightmares from a petri dish, they’re the kind of grotesque whatsits horror writer H.P. Lovecraft would have kept as pets in his basement.”

Steve Murray (Cox News):

“Translucent and glowing, they ooze up from the ground and float through solid walls, splaying their tentacles and snapping their jaws, dripping a discomfiting acidic ooze. They’re known as the Phantoms, otherworldly beings who, for three decades, have been literally sucking the life out of the earthlings of the human.”

Now, I don't know Ben. However, I do sort of know his father. Back in the early days of the Bush Administration I had some contact with him in his position as White House Liason to the Department of Interior and hrough Grover Norquist's Wednesday Morning Meetings and learned of the successes of his son Ben. I soon began following his career, and for the last 6 years have had the pleasure of watching him grow tremendously.

I only say that to get the potential conflicts and biases out of the way. LIke I said, I don't know him, and on the face as presented this evidence looks pretty damning. I agree with the other commentators too, Ben should have known better. Ben is a prodigy. Even at his young age, he has essentially been a professional journalist, writer, opinion shaper for the better part of a decade.

However, I am not so quick to judge, mostly because no one has addressed (that I've seen) the possibility that Steve Murray didn't steal this language from Ben. Or perhaps, that this language didn't come out of the press release packet shipped to reviewers of Final Fantasy.

What we do know is Ben's article is dated July 14-15, 2001. If you follow the link to Steve Murray's, there is no date and so its pretty tough to tell which was posted first. That, on its face, seems to be a mighty big question that still needs to be answered.

Ben, in his defense, is quoted by Howard Kurtz as saying

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.

One of my complaints is the speed in which the blogsphere moves. Often times, us pajama clad bloggers forget others might not be sitting at their computer 24/7 with all their notes from 5 years ago at their feet. I'm not defending Ben, or even giving him the benefit of the doubt. It just seems reckless to me that we demand his resignation without even allowing him the opportunity to go home and dig out his notes.

UPDATE Welcome Instapundit Readers

UPDATE 2 Abner Gromble posts in comments that a Nexis search shows the Murray article as appearing on July 10th. That doesn't look good for Ben. Its still possible though that they both could have lifted language from a press releases. Possible, but not likely.

UPDATE 3 Ben has resigned, though it is not clear if its a permanant resignation or just a temporary one until the matter is cleared. It will be interesting to see what his ultimate response to all of this is.

UPDATE 4 Ben has posted a response. Kudos to him for being the better man. I think his response addresses most of the concerns I've seen, even if in fact it doesn't address the example I posted here directly. It will be interesting to see this play out over the long haul. I believe he is right when he writes
The truth is, no conservative could write for the Post without being subject to the gauntlet of the liberal attack machine. There is no question in my mind that any RedState contributor writing for this blog would have found leftists delving through his high school yearbooks and grade school book reports in an effort to discredit and defame him. And if you too were a sloppy teenage writer, your errors or the errors of others would’ve been exploded.


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