Friday, October 21, 2005

Ethics-Challenged Benjamin is at it Again

Ethics-challenged Eric Benjamin is back at his off-kilter crusade to say snide things about Lafayette's telecom utility using strained metaphors drawn from popular culture.* He remains unconstrained by any real editor and hence his stylistic meanderings and factual mistakes go uncorrected.

The latest in this string of attacks is found in this week's "Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson" attempt at an editorial which tries to use the film "The Graduate" to set up a parallel between the protagonist of that film and Joey Durel.

The stylistic problem is that for such cute tactics to work you have to have something that is parallel. This involves 1) that the pop culture tale you analogize to should have some resemblance to the real world you are satirizing and 2) that the satirical claims you make have some relationship to the pop culture tale you are using.

Benjamin doesn't bother with either. And in the process of ignoring the basic principles of the genre he manages to turn the recent Katrina/Rita tragedies into a silliness more toxic than any ever found in New Orleans flood waters:
You can imamgine (sic) the graduate telling the crowd, "When BellSouth and Cox brought Hurricane Katrina in to stop the advance of fiber-laying activities, we thought that was impressive. When they followed it with Hurricane Rita, we realized we were dealing with some formidable powers. We've managed to pull off a bit of sleight of hand of our own, you might note, as there are now more than 40,000 new consumers in the Lafayette area, all new fodder for our cable, Internet and telephone services, all of them with no allegiance to either of our competitors and fresh prospects for us."
Now that's typical of Benjamin: put every distasteful thing you can think of into the mouths of people who actually did something to help folks in order to feed your inexplicable animus. It doesn't have to have anything to do with "joke" he is pretending to and it doesn't even have to be internally consistent. Editors worry about such things, General Managers apparently don't.

Ok, so he's stylistically challenged and intellectually ineffectual. And factual accuracy isn't his longsuit.** We knew that. But I have to say that I'm equally offended by Benjamin's apparent inability to think clearly about basic issues. For instance, in a sidebar he endorses the astonishing claim by BellSouth and Cox that the extremely limited merely potential "cross-subsidization" of LUS' telecom division by other services as provided for in state law and regulation is unfair to the Corporations because they, poor, pitiful megacorps that they are "have no such additional revenue stream to tap."

Aw cher, can't you make better sense than that? How 'bout Cingular? No "cross-subsidy" revenue from that? How 'bout BellSouth's Latin American wireless divisions? How 'bout the cross-subsidization of BellSouth and Cox's battle with the tiny local, public utility by every customer in states across the Southeast? NO law even tries to limit them from turning their huge, protected, monopoly profits in other places and other businesses against LUS. Fairness to the corporations?!! Get Real. The cross-subsidization issue is a fake legalism introduced by BellSouth and Cox to try and prevent the creation of a utility that is the express will of the people of Lafayette. The PSC voted to sustain LUS' position because it was in the law. That law the PSC upheld is a law that BellSouth and Cox imposed on LUS and BellSouth and Cox agreed to the final compromise. Benjamin knows all this. He just doesn't choose to share it with his reading public.

One would think, and frankly hope, that the man whose job it is to run the business side of things (most business managers don't write columns) would have a better handle on what constitutes a relative business advantage.

I have to think Benjamin does understand that BellSouth and Cox's "cross-subsidization" advantage is hugely greater than any that any local firm, public, private, or purple could ever manage. But he doesn't feel obligated to speak fairly from his position of priviledge. And that, finally, is what is most offensive to journalistic ethics.

Now, as before,*** one has to ask: Who exercises editorial oversight of Benjamin?

Mr. Powers? Your name appears above his on the masthead.

* Remember Lester U. Smiley?
** Facts, well, the Advocate had them anyway.
*** See the post: The real issue is...

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