I always feel sympathy for the victims of child abuse, and naming a child “Holden Karnofsky” certainly qualifies as at least extreme neglect. Still, while victimization can help put an offense in context, it’s not actually an excuse.
Karnofsky made some quick bucks in the hedge-fund biz and then started a non-profit called Givewell whose mission was to evaluate other non-profits. The press, which always falls for the idea that people in for-profit business are basically smarter than people in non-profit enterprise or government and that therefore whenever a businessperson condescends to visit the NFP or governmental slums he ought to be treated with extreme respect, gave Karnofsky’s project huge amounts of hype without ever inquiring into whether it was actually doing a competent job.
In the meantime, it turns out that Karnofsky was using sock-puppetry to boost his outfit and tear down its rivals, until a sharp-eyed MetaFilter participant noticed identical IP addresses from someone who asked a question and someone who answsered it. Rather embarrassing, you’d think: an enterprise devoted to causing transparency in others surely ought to be transparent itself. But, so far, not embarrassing enough to cause the organization to fold or to generate resignations.
Obviously, given the size of the NFP world there’s a desperate need for some sort of external, or at least externally-validated, scorekeeping. But the old question keeps arising: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Hat tip: My sister Kelly, the Nonprofiteer