For plagiarism, Midweek drops liberal Fareed Zakaria but keeps Tea Partier Jerry Coffee.
Image: damien donck, via [visionspring.org]

Time for Hawai‘i voters to demand the truth

Given what passes for journalism at Honolulu’s monopoly daily newspaper, the Star-Advertiser, it may seem beside the point to launch an occasional column about our media scene with a look at the S-A’s ad-fat, content-challenged stepbrother, Midweek.

“But nobody reads Midweek,” a friend protested.

“I do,” I said. A provincial paper, even a throwaway like Midweek, reveals much about its community and especially its owners. For instance, when Mufi Hannemann lost his gubernatorial race, his smiling mug immediately showed up with a two-page Midweek spread devoted to the travel industry. The powers that be (the banks, developers, construction unions, HART) were obviously intent on helping Mufi build a bridge to his next political office. Throwing Mufi a bone the size of a tyrannosaurus femur is just one of the more blatant ways the Star-Advertiser/Midweek gang tries to keep our citizenry baffled and docile. But 2012 is turning out to be the most revolutionary year in Hawaii politics since 1954’s Democratic revolution. A significant portion of voters have had enough of being played, and are finding their own voices and cohorts thanks to social media, community cohesion and, yes, contributing their ideas and reports to the Honolulu Weekly–which wouldn’t be here today had the S-A/Midweek game plan worked.

Bully pulpits

Before the merger of the two dailies, the Weekly was printed on two Kaneohe presses owned by the Star-Bulletin, which had been bought by David Black’s Oahu Publications in 2000. The same presses printed Midweek, which was also bought by Black in 2000.

One of the first actions of the merged paper and its CEO, Dennis Francis, was to close the Kaneohe presses and move all printing to the former Advertiser press in Kapolei. Oahu Publications said it would continue to print Honolulu Weekly, but HW would have to shrink in size to fit the Kapolei press, and print rates would climb. What better way to disrupt and nearly bankrupt the only dissenting voice–and the only other weekly newspaper– in town? They tried a similar trick on the UH Manoa student newspaper, refusing to continue to print Ka Leo three times a week. Both papers are now printed on Maui.)

All this goes to show how a throwaway paper, even a fishwrap like Midweek, matters. It also explains why I howled, first in laughter and then indignation, at the Sept. 5 issue. Jerry Coffee, Tea Partier and their most conservative columnist–quite a boast, given the presence of Michelle Malkin, Patrick Buchanan and Susan Page–had plagiarised his latest column from an email sent by my 90-year-old uncle in Southern California.

Uncle Bill’s list

My Uncle Bill is one of those late-arrival guys who has never not fallen for an Internet hoax or improbable meme (cats playing Chopin). It’s a harmless pasttime, mostly, and I’m glad I’m on his list, even if it is 99 percent full of liberal-hating birthers. I dunno, something to do with the idea of these red-meat pit bulls going all gooey over kittens and baby koalas makes me feel better about the other half of the American political equation.

A year ago, my uncle forwarded a chain email praising Mitt Romney’s finest hour, when Romney suspended operations at Bain Capital to send everyone out into the streets searching for an executive’s missing daughter. While I won’t deny Mitt his moment in the sun, I thought it strange that the tale ended with a ringing endorsement of Romney by [Snopes.com]. An independent fact-checking, myth-debunking site, Snopes is normally the bete noir of conservatives, due to its having exploded so many of their most cherished lies.

Laugh, Kookaburra

Being the kind of myth-exploding guy that I am, I went over to [Snopes.com], where I found my uncle’s letter exposed as a fraud. Flash-forward to me reading the same letter barely paraphrased in Midweek–Jerry Coffee was not only plagiarizing, but plagiarizing from a forgery (the fake [Snopes.com] report). Only a month earlier, Midweek editor Don Chapman had dropped syndicated pundit Fareed Zakaria over a single instance of plagiarism. I emailed Chapman and suggested at least four ways in which Coffee had defrauded his readership and Midweek. I also enclosed a link to [Snopes.com]’s takedown of the false chain letter.

Chapman wrote back:

“This is troubling, though I may disagree on Jerry’s intent to deceive–in fact, prior to publication I asked Jerry for a source for the story, and he said it was Snopes. The worst you can say for him here is that he is not very internet savvy and was duped. That said, I do want to follow up, and please help me here:

When I clicked on this link, I was unsure if it is the actual site or if it (sic) the fraud. Help, please…”

Lies and power in Hawaii

Aside from veteran journalist Chapman’s plea for help verifying the existence of [Snopes.com] (he really needs to get out more), what struck me was his acceptance of Coffee’s having lied to him about the story’s source. Apparently the editorial policy at Midweek, where contributors are concerned, is, “Lie to me.”

Which is actually a pretty good summary of how the power structure in Hawaii operates: Nobody is on the hook for anything as long as they are promised by somebody else that it all checks out. Rail, the Ho’opili ag land grab, Kyo-ya’s impending beach destruction, the Superferry, the Stevie Wonder concert fiasco, the litany of embezzlements involving both public and charter schools–everybody scratches everybody’s back.

That so much of this year’s voter turnout is motivated by anger over this status quo is one of the most encouraging developments in Hawaii in the past couple of decades. The public, it seems, has had enough of lying as a way of life among our interlocking elites. Time to vote the rascals out.