I was an online denizen, reasonably frequent commenter, and occasional diarist at Red State for about 6 months after the 2004 elections (my diary
). Ben Domenech (aka Augustine) was a fair-handed editor of the site, and agree or not with his posts, he always did his homework.
Last year, the atmosphere at Red State became decidedly less friendly to good-faith dissent, and along with many other commenters, I left the site--and started my own blog.
Meanwhile, this year Augustine was rewarded for his excellent online writing with a job as the Wa Po conservative blogger. His supporters at Red State stalwartly defended him when he was attacked from all sides. Yesterday, Domenech was conclusively shown to have plagiarized throughout his writing career. Michael Dougherty
summarizes the story nicely. He concludes:
No one can fault the reflexive defense mounted by RedState for their co-founder, especially when Domenech's original critics gave no indication of being fair or decent. They succumbed to a pressure unique to the blogosphere -- to publish faster than the speed of thought. They acted on instinct for everyone to see. But as the facts came out, RedState's editors were surprisingly unfazed. Mike Krempasky had the last word, announcing Domenech's leave of absence and prophesying his walk down the road of redemption. The harshest words were not for the colleague that had only a few hours ago refused to own up to his intellectual theft, and used RedState to lash out at his critics and spin the story in his favor, but for that man's critics. "Loathesome (sic), vile, and disgusting -- their contempt for civil behavior surpassed only by the emptiness of their own souls."
Meanwhile, now that the truth is clear, those defenders are as quick to forgive him as Domenech was to lie in his own defense this week. They are as quick to excuse him as they are to condemn Jayson Blair or Jill Carroll.
Here's the question for centrists like myself: are the reflexive defenders left at Red State the conservatives that can be productive in dialogue with liberals and moderates, or are those conservatives somewhere else? If not, where are they?