Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Evaluate Two Dead Sea Scrolls News Reports, Sep 27

Yuval Peleg; R. Golb described Monday
how in recent investigation at Qumran,
Peleg, with Y. Magen, felt they demonstrated
 R. Golb's father et al's theories to be more probable

Raphael Golb gave most of his testimony on Monday. I don't understand how they do it, but the reporters already had their articles up within an hour or less.

I have reactions to the few news articles which are now on the web. As of this posting, the New York Times and the New York Daily News did not have articles up yet.

The articles making the rounds are from AP reporter Colleen Long; and David K. Li of the New York Post. I thought the articles weren't bad, and each make some terrific points; but in listening to Raphael Golb's testimony Monday, there were certain things I understood differently from the reporters.

Dead Sea Scrolls Psalms

In addition to those two reporters' articles, there were a couple of other versions going around the web Monday, but those were short, less informative, and basically cobbled together from other sources
--in particular, from:

1)  AP reporter Jennifer Peltz who did such a nice job at the beginning of the trial, last week:


(short link: http://bit.ly/aXt6PQ )

Qumran, site responsible for most
of the controversy

2)  Here is a link to the Monday AP article by Colleen Long (just choosing an online paper at random):


(short link: http://bit.ly/c6wNFU )

the Caves near Qumran

3)  and the Monday article from the New York Post:


(short link: http://bit.ly/bhHO8j )

Book by Raphael Golb's father
orig published Scribner 1995

MY REACTIONS to the news articles covering the trial so far:

From Raphael Golb's testimony Monday, I understood certain things differently than did the reporters:

1) Reporters continue to claim that Raphael Golb was "promoting" his father's side (Dr. Norman Golb of University of Chicago) of the scholarly debate. Raphael said in court Monday explicitly that he was not "promoting" his father's side.

Very seldom did Raphael Golb go online and write about how his father's ideas were better than their ideas. He did not usually discuss the issues themselves, as to "who wrote the dead sea scrolls" (the title of his father's 1995 book).

Rikers Island State Penitentiary, NY
where Raphael Golb could be
sentenced to 4 years. . .

. . .for certain emails that he sent
perhaps hoping 
to "obtain a benefit"
or perhaps hoping to "annoy,"
by parodying a professor;

And email accounts he opened
-including many he never used;

And for a name he invented;

And for perhaps hoping
the professor might not get $650.
[But which the professor got.]

Raphael Golb stated in court Monday that he was not "promoting" his father, but rather "defending" his father from the opposing scholars- against being smeared, blackballed, and denied access to Scrolls and representation at conferences and museum exhibits.

The New York Post article actually does a lovely job, so far as I can tell, knowing little about the actual smear campaign of Raphael's father, of describing the history of Raphael's father's career and the scandalous behavior of his opponents.

Dr. Lawrence Schiffman
is accused of plagiarizing
Dr. Norman Golb

2)  The strangest thing is that the New York Post article Monday did not mention that Raphael Golb was accusing Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism. This clearly could not be a misunderstanding; but it is an oversight. My most charitable guess is that the reporter knew it was so obvious, that somehow he didn't think to mention it.

The only mention of plagiarism in the Post article is that the email posing as Schiffman "admitted to plagiarism." But in this article, the faked "confession" comes out of nowhere and has no context. Because an email "confessing" to plagiarism only makes sense if he had just been accused of it. Which the article forgets to mention.

map of Qumran caves

3)  When describing what Raphael Golb was trying to do to Dr. Schiffman, reporters talk about how Raphael was trying to "trash" him or "tarnish" his career, or even, in one article I saw, get Schiffman "fired."

Equally objectionable to me are the suggestions that Raphael Golb was "taking revenge" or "avenging" his father, as some reporters phrase it.

And in the case of the New York Post, these descriptions seem even more peculiar since the reporter forgot to mention that Schiffman was being accused of plagiarism. The descriptions come out of nowhere, with no context.

In all cases, these phrases are misrepresentations. Raphael Golb stated in court Monday that both his father and an Israeli scholar had accused Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism 15 years ago, but their allegations had been covered up and Dr. Schiffman was never called on to defend himself against the charges.

Raphael stated that all he wanted was to reopen these 15-year-old accusations, and call for Dr. Schiffman to respond.

This is not really the same as trying to "tarnish his career." Raphael even mentioned in court Monday that plagiarism runs a spectrum, and not every case of plagiarism results in losing one's job.
a Scrolls jar
4)  It was described in court how an email was sent using Dr. Schiffman's name. Raphael Golb explained that it was written as "parody," and he assumed that recipients of this email would know right away it was parody and not really from Dr. Schiffman.

Some of the reporters did not quite seem to understand what Raphael meant by this.

Let me tell you first what Raphael said in court Monday that he did mean by this.
The email from "Schiffman" was, in the words of Peltz from AP, "panicked and confessional." It was an emotional confession of plagiarism, asking the Dean and the rest of the NYU community to cover it up for him.

The email sounded, in Raphael's words, "outlandish." No professor would actually write such an email.
Raphael said in court that the email contained a link to his own blog which carefully, paragraph by paragraph, set forward the accusation of plagiarism very clearly.

Raphael said that he in no way wanted- or expected- anyone to really believe he was Dr. Schiffman. He simply wanted them to click on the link and read his article.

a Dead Sea Scroll

The New York Post thought the reason people would know it was parody was not because the email sounded "outlandish," but simply because Raphael spelled "professor" with a small p and used the name "Larry" instead of "Lawrence." The Post reporter even seemed to be implying that he didn't buy it as a defense. He neglected to pick up on the word "outlandish" at all.

Colleen Long of AP got it right, quoting Raphael Golb with more confidence: " 'I never intended anybody to believe that these emails were sent by Larry Schiffman,' he testified."

And also she heard Raphael use the word "outlandish" Monday. However, she appeared to misunderstand how Raphael explained it. She thought Raphael used the word to describe Schiffman himself, not the email Raphael sent out. She said Raphael wrote the email "as a parody to highlight [Schiffman's own] outlandish and wrong-headed actions."

I know this all sounds very twisty and turny; but in law, it's the little things that count.

-site of caves-
in relation to other sites such as
Jerusalem, Jericho & Masada

I stated earlier that I appreciate the time and attention the New York Post put into describing Dr. Norman Golb's career and the scandalous behavior of his opponents.

Just as I found that Long in her AP article had honed in on a great number of important things also. A couple of examples:

1)  Long makes Raphael Golb's motives very clear for all the emails and blogs he wrote. She quotes him, twice, that he was "exposing the pattern of unethical conduct in this field of study." Referring of course to how they withheld the Scrolls for many years, smeared and blackballed his father, as well as prevented him from being represented at conferences and museum exhibitions.

2) She gives a nice little quote of Raphael explaining how the blogs and emails were parody: "I used methods of satire, irony, parody and any other form of verbal rhetoric that became the type of language used by philosophers during the Enlightenment to expose the irrational arguments of their opponents."

I find it interesting to note that Raphael knows all about the Enlightenment, but does not seem to know about our current pop-culture examples of Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, or even the Onion.

I am an English teacher. All my information and interpretations come from what I witnessed at the trial and read online. I took notes at the trial as best I could, and have looked for as much online as I can; but I do not always understand the nuances in law, or scholarship. If you see errors, please drop me a line.

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