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Joe Conason, the pseudo-journalist who once wrote a piece for Spy magazine accusing George H.W. Bush of cheating on wife, Barbara, without any requisite proof, emerged from anonymity recently.
Not much has been heard from Conason since the Clinton era, when he was one of the media’s most ardent defenders of Bill and Hillary – until last week.
Creators News Service, the syndicate that distributes both his column and mine, apparently accidentally sent out a column I wrote under his byline.
Predictably, Conason flipped out on Twitter about the incident. (I suppose I would have done the same thing if the situation had been reversed. But I expect more people might have noticed the error in that case.)
“Creators sent WingNutDaily column under my byline,” Conason Tweeted. “It doesn’t get weirder than that. That is one of the weirdest episodes I’ve seen in a while.”
It sure doesn’t.
About the incident, Truthdig apologized this way: “Tuesday we posted what seemed like a very strange column by Joe Conason. It turns out that’s because it wasn’t his column. ‘Rand Paul’s Plan to Save the Cities’ seemed to deviate from Conason’s progressive point of view, but we’ve been running him for years and we weren’t about to censor him for taking a libertarian turn in one piece. Today, Conason and his syndicate informed us that he did not write the column. We’re not sure what happened. The column was sent with Joe’s byline, so clearly there was a mistake. Our apologies to Joe, who took a beating, as Christopher Moraff put it on Twitter. Apologies also to our readers, for unintentionally misleading them and closing their comments, along with the column, lest we mislead any others. Update: We’ve learned that Joseph Farah was the author of the column in question. Apologies to him, as well.”
Again, it’s one thing to apologize, it’s another to leave posted the column I wrote under Conason’s byline! It’s probably his most well-read column of all time. (Weird, too, is that is dated 2012.)
The controversy got me to thinking, however.
Joe Conason and I have a lot in common. We’re about the same age. We grew up a few miles away from each other in the New York area. We both edited underground newspapers in high school. We were both lefties at birth. We share a first name.
But that’s where the similarities end.
I grew up – and started working for the “mainstream media” when it could still be referred to that way with a straight face.
Conason never grew up. Instead he continued working for what we euphemistically call “alternative papers” – meaning they were further to the left than the Big Media, the establishment corporate media. (Today it’s a distinction without a difference.)
Conason began and remains an activist working undercover as a journalist. He’s an ardent defender of all causes “progressive” in nature – the same knee-jerk hack who defended Bill Clinton’s real-life, well-documented womanizing and lied about Bush’s imaginary trysts.
He’s a caricature of what we’ve come to expect from the media today. He’s never done any real journalism – the kind that requires actual standards of decency and accuracy like the American press still understood as late as the 1970s and 1980s when I was working for major market dailies – and running them.
It’s a strange fate indeed to see one of my columns running under his byline – anywhere, anytime. It would certainly be his first sensible one.
In case you see it, Conason is not guilty of plagiarism, just the beneficiary of a mistake by our syndicate. Weird things happen in the age of the Internet.
Just want you to know that Conason has not seen the light yet. Perhaps he never will.