Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ben D.'s Got To Go

Better and more attentive commentators than myself have clearly established by now that Ben Domenech is an idiot, a plagiarist, and a vicious ideologue. It goes without saying that the Post shouldn't have hired him, and I'm at a loss to explain why it ever did—even granting that Dan Froomkin leans left, no intellectually honest observer could compare the two in terms of partisan zeal. I suppose one could make the argument that Domenech's just like any other opinion writer, but here we have a guy who has repeatedly flouted journalistic standards of honesty, cogency, and just plain civil discourse. Besides, the Post already publishes Will and Krauthammer (both of whom are a hell of a lot sharper than Domenech will ever be); how many right-wingers do they need?

The only explanation I can think of is that the Washington Post is trying to appeal not just to conservatives but to red-staters; more specifically, the anti-intellectualist and fundamentalist strains intermixed therein. As a national news organization, the Post has an interest in reaching out to the entire country, including those among us who may hold views unsupported by facts or logic. But if the purpose of journalism is to educate rather than pander, no reputable newspaper should succumb to the temptation to countenance sloppy thinking and partisan demagoguery for a few more page views on its web site. There are certain standards of intellectual rigor to which any op-ed contributor should be held regardless of ideological tilt, and Domenech has a history of ignoring many of the most elementary of these. But even more importantly than that, mainstream newspapers should not be in the business of offering soapboxes to individuals who crudely insult and attack their political adversaries without justifiable cause or evidence.

I'm right there with Voltaire when it comes to defending to the death people's right to say what they want. I think BD is a colossal tool (and I can say that because I'm not on a big media company's payroll), but he does have the right to speak his mind, on his own web site that he props up with his own dollars. However, his voice has no place within any ostensibly objective news organization. If the WaPo truly honors the concept of journalism as a strict, standards-based form of democratic communication that transcends baser politically-flavored prattle, it should drop Domenech now.