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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Washing away a bad taste

Back at the start of the recent war in Lebanon I cranked out a hastily-written post called 'A difficult Lesson' about a bar fight I'd witnessed in the Philippines... and used that experience to illustrate my thoughts about what Israel should (but ultimately would probably not) be allowed to do in it's fight against Hezbollah.

Almost overnight the post 'grew legs' and was being linked around the conservative end of the blogosphere.  The piece was read on the air by several Radio talk show hosts (including Hugh Hewitt and Wide-Awake Radio's Terry Dillard) and I actually did a couple of on-air interviews. 

Within a few days the post had gone viral and had been copied into emails by a number of well-meaning people who distributed it to their entire mailing lists.

All of this attention was quite flattering, but I really didn't have a chance to enjoy it because within a few days of publishing the 'Difficult Lesson' post I started getting puzzling emails from people all over the world asking if I was the author of the post.  This seemed odd since it was published quite clearly under my name on treppenwitz. 

But the emails soon started to make sense when I realized that at least three separate people had removed my name before emailing the post to their distribution lists... and one had even added the attribution of a real Nebraska Newspaper and the byline of a fictitious retired Navy Captain named 'Dave Wilson'. 

One of the first emails of this sort that I received was from that Nebraska newspaper's editor telling me he had received hundreds of phone calls and emails asking about this non-existent Op Ed piece by 'Captain Wilson'.  He had never published such a piece and a quick google search directed him to my post on treppenwitz.

Long story short (I know, I know... one of these days I'll actually be able to use that expression honestly), by the time the emails started rolling in asking me about the essay (some actually accusing me of plagiarizing Captain Wilson!), a search using anti-plagiarism software turned up no less than 58 web sites that had published 'A Difficult Lesson' without attributing it to me!  Some had it attributed to Captain Wilson, some had it unattributed... and a few even made it appear that the site owner had written the essay!

Needless to say, I was seeing red by this time.

I've ranted in the past about the importance of providing accurate attribution for EVERYTHING we forward around the 'net, whether via our blogs or in emails to friends and colleagues... but little did I guess that I would become such a victim of people ignoring this basic responsibility.

Any pleasure/pride I might have taken in having written an essay that resonated with such a large group of people was swallowed up in my anger over having had my intellectual property stolen from me so casually.

When the war in Lebanon came to its unsatisfactory (yet predictable) conclusion, I had little taste or energy for a follow up.  Despite the fact that every single one of my predictions had come to pass... there were families here who were suffering far more than the loss of intellectual property.  It seemed petty to tell the story of my AWOL intellectual property rights... so I wrote a short 'I told you so' post and moved on.

Then a few weeks after the end of the war I got an email from a well-respected blogger I have followed for quite some time named Michael Totten.  It seems that he and Doubleday editor Adam Bellow (son of Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow) were working together on a publishing project about the war in Lebanon and wanted permission to include my essay. 

An excerpt from his email to me:

"We will publish a small book (64 pages or so) that will be sold on the Internet that tells the story of the recent war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah. We want to tell this story by republishing the best short essays written on Lebanese and Israeli blogs. One of the articles you wrote is, in our view, one of the best and we would like to include it in the collection."

And just like that, whatever bad taste that remained in my mouth from having had my work separated from my name was suddenly washed away.  Here was a well-respected writer not only complimenting my work... but actually asking permission to republish it!

I'm bringing this up today because I just got an email from Michael saying that the book has been published.  Besides being extremely flattered to have been included in such a collection of essays, I'm honestly interested to read what else was being written during the war... by both Israeli and Lebanese bloggers. 

You see, during the fighting up north, many of my J-blogger colleagues actively sought out out their counterparts on the 'other side', as well as dissenting voices closer to home. 

I simply couldn't bring myself to do this. 

In time of war I didn't have any interest in viewing anyone 'over there' as human.  They were the enemy.  Full stop.  I was afraid that seeing the human stories from the other vantage point would make it difficult or impossible to advocate prosecuting the war to it's logical (and IMHO necessary) conclusion.  However, I promised myself that at the end of the war... whatever the outcome... I would take the time to see what else was being said. 

Now is my chance.

If any of you would be interested in acquiring a copy of this publication, here is a handy link (the collection is called "Blog Digest #1: The Hezbollah War; Edited by Michael J. Totten").

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Here's Michael's post about it (including his introduction to the book).   I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.

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Posted by David Bogner on October 15, 2006 | Permalink

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Hey - I just saw this post on Captain Dave Wilson's blog!

Have you no shame?

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Oct 15, 2006 3:06:53 PM

That's awesome David. My brother the writer has been published! Cool. When will you be doing your book tour???!! Letterman? Leno?
Seriously, that's really great.

Posted by: val | Oct 15, 2006 4:04:21 PM

i got that email...and sent it off to my list too...it was good then/but better now...yahooooo trepp...what a nice finale!!!

Posted by: marallyn | Oct 15, 2006 5:08:47 PM

Congratulations - I am really glad that your post is included. I think it should be required reading for every Israeli Prime Minister also...

Posted by: westbankmama | Oct 15, 2006 5:34:23 PM

Congratulations with the publicity (negative one excluded, of course). It was a strong post, I think. Still re the ability to not viewing anyone 'over there' as human during the war: I have a difficulty going that way. This is after doing some stuff in the military.

Posted by: SnoopyTheGoon | Oct 15, 2006 7:13:22 PM

So glad to hear about the happy ending! Congratulations! : )

Posted by: Irina | Oct 15, 2006 7:13:28 PM

That is SO exciting!
Well earned too.

All the greats have been stolen from in their day, I guess you are no exception!

Posted by: shifra | Oct 16, 2006 3:55:53 AM

Congrats! That is really terrific that one of your posts is included.

Posted by: Essie | Oct 16, 2006 6:19:05 AM

Congratulations! That's well earned. There's nothing like the mouthwash of recognition to wash away the bitter aftertaste of plagiarism. Or something like that. There's also nothing like the after dinner mint of brevity to put an end to the seven course meal of horrible metaphors.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Oct 16, 2006 8:15:08 AM

I couldn't find a list of contents online, and the only extract on the website is sharply anti-Israel. Is the book as a whole more balanced?

Posted by: Simon | Oct 16, 2006 8:32:11 AM

Dave... None whatsoever. :-)

Val... that ticking sound you are hearing is my 15 minutes. Almost up...

Marallyn... I appreciate the sentiment, but in the future it would be much more helpful to simply forward a link to the site (not just mine, but any site to which you'd like to draw someone's attention). There are two reasons for this:

1. Many sites (including mine) earn money from advertisers based on the number of impressions/page views. If people can read a post in their email inbox without having to visit the site it takes $ away from the author.
2. When people forward things via email it becomes almost inevitable that things will be added and/or deleted (such as the author's name) as it is passed from person to person.

Westbankmama... Thanks, but I would rather they read some basic texts on International Relations and Political Science first. :-)

Snoopy the Goon... I have more than a couple of years in the military under my belt as well (not that this makes me an expert). War is not something you do part way. The object is to defeat the enemy and therefore it is not helpful to try to look to closely at the horrors you are inflicting on the other side while the battles are still going on. I imagine that if the general public in England and the US had access to personal stories from Tokyo and Dresden during WWII there would have been widespread outcry to find another way to wage the war. That would (IMHO) have been a colossal mistake.

Irina... Thanks. Much appreciated.

Shifra... 'The greats'??? Let's not get carried away [blush].

Essie... Thanks. although I feel like a total braggart blowing my own horn like this. :-)

Doctor Bean... Priceless! Thanks for the smile.

Simon... Balanced is a relative term. It is a collection of blog essays from both Israeli and Lebanese bloggers. I imagine the entire political spectrum will be covered and that it will be difficult reading for almost everyone. If you are looking for something that supports your views... it is inevitable that such a collection will not do that.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Oct 16, 2006 9:04:44 AM

Oy, even balanced is a relative term nowadays?

If the answer to my question was "I haven't seen the list of contents either so I don't know", why not say that instead of having a little dig at what you imagine me to be thinking? Why do you think I keep coming back here if I'm only interested in reading things that support my own views? ;-)

I admit that my own response was rather knee-jerk, but that's a consequence of reading the US and European media during the war, and if the collection aims to cover the entire political spectrum from both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, I would like to have seen more than one point of view in the extract on the website.

Posted by: Simon | Oct 16, 2006 10:55:54 AM

Simon... I made no assumptions about what you were thinking. i simply made the observation that anyone looking for a collection of essays that would support their viewpoint would be disappointed as the intention of the collection is to present a wide range of contrasting views. The fact that my essay (an unabashed right wing rant) was included gives me hope that it will not be a one-sided effort. However, with that said, I predict it will not be easy reading for anyone. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, there are bound to be more than a few essays that make you uncomfortable or even piss you off.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Oct 16, 2006 11:02:00 AM

Congratulations!

Posted by: seawitch | Oct 16, 2006 1:07:17 PM

Simon,

As the author of one pamphlet and the editor of another, I can assure you we're not interested in bashing Israel.

The publisher is Adam Bellow, son of Nobel Prize winning author Saul Bellow. He also happens to be a Jewish-American neoconservative Republican.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten | Oct 17, 2006 3:48:42 AM

Shalom David,
Well done on having your work published. You continuously display substantial talent (and must invest a lot of time) so it's great to see this recognised. This achievement should inspire you to carry on the good work you do in keeping us all informed.

Cheers mate.

Posted by: Aussie Joel | Oct 19, 2006 12:11:58 PM

Fantastic! I second the call for a book tour!

Posted by: mcaryeh | Nov 5, 2006 7:02:51 AM

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