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  • What We’ve Learned From Emory’s Investigation of Rabbi & Professor Michael Broyde

    by Steven I. Weiss

    The short summary of Emory University’s investigation of Michael Broyde would be that regarding everything Broyde has admitted to, the investigation acknowledges as fact, while regarding everything Broyde did not admit to, the investigation “did not find evidence to substantiate.”

    More specifically, the Emory investigation accepts as fact everything from the first investigation revealing Broyde’s connections to the identities Hershel Goldwasser, Kevin Gold, David Weissman, and David Gold, because Broyde “acknowledged” this to them.

    What the Emory investigation doesn’t accept as fact is the possibility that two other identities explored in two subsequent articles were created or controlled by Broyde. Those identities, David Keter and David Weissman were explored in articles published by TJC and The Times of Israel, respectively. While neither article claims that Broyde is Keter or Weissman, both reveal that the identities are fake, and that both identities had connections to Broyde.

    The Emory investigation’s conclusions here are specific:

    …the Committee did not find evidence to substantiate the allegations that Professor Broyde created the Keter pseudonym or communicated pseudonymously with reporters.

    It is unclear whether any such evidence does or could exist anywhere other than on the computers used to draft the Keter and Weissman e-mails (or on Google’s servers). What is clear is what methods of investigation were used by Emory here, and that they did not include contacting most of the individuals who had information about Keter and Weissman.

    The only group contacted by the Weissman character, as far as anyone knows, is the Times of Israel. Editor David Horovitz wrote TJC an e-mail last night stating that, “As far as I know, we were not contacted” by the Emory investigation. The Times of Israel story stated that 15 e-mails were sent to them by the Weissman character between August and November of 2012, and cited several of the e-mails in their story.

    There are three people who claim to have interacted with Keter. Broyde, and two editors, Tradition’s Shalom Carmy and TorahMusings‘ Gil Student. Carmy wrote TJC stating that he was not contacted by the Emory investigation; Carmy was the recipient of the original Keter correspondence, as well as an e-mail from the Keter character providing a phone number and mailing address meant to substantiate Keter’s legitimacy. As best as TJC can determine, the only two people who ever had access to the content of that e-mail from Keter are Carmy and this reporter; this reporter was not contacted by the Emory investigation.

    Student told TJC he was contacted by the Emory investigation; Student’s entire interactions with Keter (and with Broyde about Keter) are detailed in TJC’s Keter story.

    December 20, 2013 | Read more Newsdesk posts. 8 Comments »

    Comments

    8 Comments »

    1. Obviously Emory rapidly realized that they were confronting a horrible and outrageous smear campaign against Michael Broyde. I can only repeat what I stated when the campaign was first launched: this priggish assault on reason revealed nothing but neglect, complacency, lack of culture, and cowardice in our community and particularly in the Jewish press. All that was missing was the malicious arrest and prosecution of Rabbi Broyde for “criminal impersonation,” in retaliation for using the “name of another” to promote a theory and thereby obtain an intellectual “benefit.”

      Perhaps it will eventually be discovered that he used over 70 names, like Fernando Pessoa and Raphael Golb? Or at least dozens of names, like the evil Benjamin Franklin and one of history’s greatest immoralists, Voltaire? In fact, if they had discovered that he used anyone’s name satirically to his “advantage” or to “promote a theory,” he could have been sent to the Rikers Island penal colony for six months. I’m sure that would have made everybody happy. The Jewish press clearly turned against him with feigned concern and the most vicious, hypocritical expressions of schadenfreude, and would predictably have goaded the prosecutors on if it had come to that. For the potential “legal” consequences in New York, see the case documentation concerning Raphael Golb:

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      Now, to get an idea of how far the vicious scapegoating campaign against Rabbi Broyde went in distorting reality, some readers may want to take a look at a pertinent discussion in Atlantic Wire (link provided below), where we read, for example, that “if an account is not verified, assume it’s a fake,” as well as the opinion of Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, professor at the Oxford Internet Institute: “We’re in a … postmodern world where we can’t tell the truth from fakery.” The author of the Atlantic Wire article states: “some argue… these misrepresentations are a part of our own identities. The Internet is what Philosopher Slavoj Žižek called a ‘space of false disidentification.’” The article these quotes are taken from appears at:

      http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2012/02/learning-cormac-mccarthy-twitterhoax/48147/

      And, those unfamiliar with the prosecution of Raphael Golb referred to above may wish to take a look at some of Golb’s censored writings, and determine for themselves whether they merited the censorship, persecution and violence with which they were requited. Several of them appear under the name “Charles Gadda” at these addresses:

      http://charlesgadda.wordpress.com/dead-sea-scrolls-exhibit-misleads-public-july-2-2007/

      http://charlesgadda.wordpress.com/did-christian-agenda-lead-to-biased-dead-sea-scrolls-exhibit-in-san-diego-october-6-2007/

      And again, I can only repeat how astonishing it is that these outrageous smear campaigns have been happening in America, where the Internet has become a reality, with all its mayhem of pseudonymous discourse and “trolling” of every type imaginable. Those who present themselves as being so filled with righteous anger about this nonsense might wish to remove their priggish glasses and engage in a serious dialogue about the pros and cons of anonymity. They might begin, for example, by thinking about the points raised in these articles:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/14/rj-ellroy-post-secret-online-review

      http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/jamesrhodes/100066855/in-defence-of-trolls-the-fearless-internet-sages-who-bring-us-the-truth-at-the-expense-of-personal-hygiene/

      And anyone who want examples of this kind of delightful pseudonymous conduct in Jewish history may want to start with cases like this:

      http://seforim.blogspot.com/2009/08/gemeinde-gemeinheit.html#_ftnref2

      and I’m happy to wager that if we study the hundreds of pseudonyms in the work by Shaul Chajes entitled Otzar Beduyey HaShem (Index of Pen-Names in Hebrew Literature) (Vienna, 1933) we will find all sorts of other examples. Many of them will obviously be of a different quality or degree than the pseudonymous activity engaged in by Michael Broyde and Raphael Golb, because such is the variety of experience. But that they belong to the same phenomenon and have played a significant role in intellectual history can hardly be denied.

      At one point during the campaign of smears, Rabbi Levi Brackman felt obliged to comment that if Broyde “employed unorthodox literary strategies as a means to disseminate ideas that would otherwise not be accepted by [his] audience, [he is] standing on strong ground in doing so. Whilst I do not like it, if such a crime truly warranted [his] firing from [his] positions of prominence, there are bookshelves full of classical works we should be throwing out with [him].” See:

      http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4376055,00.html

      Finally, even Jewish law permits this sort of conduct, as a someone pointed out in the comments under Rabbi Brackman’s statement, referring to Orech Chaim siman 156 si’if katan 2 [Eruvin daf 51, Pesachim daf 112]and a comment of Rashi on Pesachim 112a. I’d be happy to quote the passages at length, but I think anyone who is really concerned can simply look up the material for themselves.

      So I conclude: the campaign was despicable. Michael Broyde deserves, at the very least, an apology, instead of the arrogance and repugnant priggish grandstanding we’ve been seeing from people who simply appear to enjoy getting their kicks from embarrassing him.

      Comment by Quixote — December 23, 2013 @ 2:48 am

    2. My detailed comment on this affair was not posted, apparently because it was considered too long. Here is a brief summary:

      All those who participated in this smear campaign should be ashamed of what they did to a perfectly decent person.

      Compare a similar “case,” documented at:

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      That “case” too is a disgrace for our community: a well-connected Jewish academic having his Jewish critic prosecuted in a criminal court for use of pseudonyms and satire to call attention to important ideas that had been blocked from discussion. A decent person faces a life-threatening sentence on account of this nonsense, and we remain silent. That is shameful.

      Comment by Quixote — December 24, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

    3. Since my original comment didn’t appear, I will attempt to reconstitute it in several shorter sections, starting with this:

      What actually happened here is that Emory “investigators” rapidly realized that they were confronting a horrible and outrageous smear campaign against Michael Broyde. I can only repeat what I stated when the campaign was first launched: this priggish assault on reason revealed nothing but the neglect, lack of culture, and cowardice of Rabbi Broyde’s “accusers.” All that was missing was the malicious arrest and prosecution of Michael Broyde for “criminal impersonation,” in retaliation for using the “name of another” to promote a theory and thereby obtain an intellectual “benefit.”

      Perhaps it will eventually be discovered that Broyde used over 70 names, like Fernando Pessoa and Raphael Golb? Or at least dozens of names, like the evil Benjamin Franklin and one of history’s greatest immoralists, Voltaire? In fact, if they had discovered that he used anyone’s name satirically to his “advantage” or to “promote a theory,” he could have been sent to the Rikers Island penal colony for six months. I’m sure that would have made everybody happy. The “press” turned against him with the most vicious, hypocritical expressions of schadenfreude, and would predictably have goaded the prosecutors on if it had come to that. For the potential “legal” consequences in New York, see the Raphael Golb “case” documentation linked in my first comment above.

      Comment by Quixote — December 25, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    4. Now, to get an idea of how far the vicious scapegoating campaign against Rabbi Broyde went in distorting reality, some readers may want to take a look at a pertinent discussion in Atlantic Wire (link provided below), where we read, for example, that “if an account is not verified, assume it’s a fake,” as well as the opinion of Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, professor at the Oxford Internet Institute: “We’re in a … postmodern world where we can’t tell the truth from fakery.” The author of the Atlantic Wire article states: “some argue… these misrepresentations are a part of our own identities. The Internet is what Philosopher Slavoj Žižek called a ‘space of false disidentification.’” The article these quotes are taken from appears at:

      http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2012/02/learning-cormac-mccarthy-twitterhoax/48147/

      Comment by Quixote — December 25, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    5. And, those unfamiliar with the prosecution of Raphael Golb referred to above may wish to take a look at some of Golb’s censored writings, and determine for themselves whether they merited the censorship, persecution and violence with which they were requited. Several of them appear under the name “Charles Gadda” at these addresses:

      http://charlesgadda.wordpress.com/dead-sea-scrolls-exhibit-misleads-public-july-2-2007/

      http://charlesgadda.wordpress.com/did-christian-agenda-lead-to-biased-dead-sea-scrolls-exhibit-in-san-diego-october-6-2007/

      Comment by Quixote — December 25, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

    6. And again, I can only repeat how astonishing it is that these outrageous smear campaigns and prosecutions have been happening in America, where the Internet has become a reality, with all its mayhem of pseudonymous discourse and “trolling” of every type imaginable. Those who present themselves as being so filled with righteous anger about this nonsense might wish to remove their priggish glasses and engage in a serious dialogue about the pros and cons of anonymity. They might begin, for example, by thinking about the points raised in these articles:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/14/rj-ellroy-post-secret-online-review

      http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/jamesrhodes/100066855/in-defence-of-trolls-the-fearless-internet-sages-who-bring-us-the-truth-at-the-expense-of-personal-hygiene/

      Comment by Quixote — December 25, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

    7. Furthermore, anyone who wants examples of this kind of pseudonymous conduct in Jewish history may want to start with cases like this:

      http://seforim.blogspot.com/2009/08/gemeinde-gemeinheit.html#_ftnref2

      and I’m happy to wager that if we study the hundreds of pseudonyms in the work by Shaul Chajes entitled Otzar Beduyey HaShem (Index of Pen-Names in Hebrew Literature) (Vienna, 1933) we will find all sorts of other examples. Many of them will obviously be of a different quality or degree than the pseudonymous activity engaged in by Michael Broyde and Raphael Golb, because such is the variety of experience. But that they belong to the same phenomenon and have played a significant role in intellectual history can hardly be denied.

      Comment by Quixote — December 25, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

    8. At one point during the campaign of smears, Rabbi Levi Brackman felt obliged to protest, commenting that if Broyde “employed unorthodox literary strategies as a means to disseminate ideas that would otherwise not be accepted by [his] audience, [he is] standing on strong ground in doing so. Whilst I do not like it, if such a crime truly warranted [his] firing from [his] positions of prominence, there are bookshelves full of classical works we should be throwing out with [him].” See:

      http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4376055,00.html

      Finally, even Jewish law permits this sort of conduct, as a someone pointed out in the comments under Rabbi Brackman’s statement, referring to Orech Chaim siman 156 si’if katan 2 [Eruvin daf 51, Pesachim daf 112]and a comment of Rashi on Pesachim 112a. I’d be happy to quote the passages at length, but I think anyone who is really concerned can simply look up the material for themselves.

      To conclude: the campaign was despicable. Michael Broyde deserves, at the very least, an apology, instead of the arrogance and repugnant priggish grandstanding we’ve been seeing from people who simply appear to enjoy getting their kicks from embarrassing him.

      Comment by Quixote — December 25, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

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