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November 10, 2009

In a face-off between Internet dogs and sock puppets, who wins?

Jim Donahue

Amusing piece in Sunday's Times on the strange case of one Raphael Haim Golb, a story that combines an irresistible mixture of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Internet dogs, and sock puppets.

Golb is an NYU-educated lawyer who also holds a doctorate from Harvard in comparative lit (his dissertation, "The Problems of Privacy and Trust in Modern Literature, and their Relation to the Idea of Freedom" sounds like a laff riot). He's also a Dead Sea Scrolls nutter who went just a wee bit over the edge in defaming some rivals. From the Times:

Mr. Golb is 49 years old and had 50 e-mail aliases. He used pseudonyms to post on blogs. Under the name of a professor he was trying to undermine, prosecutors charged, Mr. Golb wrote a quasi confession to plagiarism and circulated it among students and officials at New York University.

His purpose, the Manhattan district attorney's office said, was "to influence and affect debate on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in order to harass Dead Sea Scrolls scholars who disagree with his viewpoint."

When you have more Internet aliases than years spent on Earth, you've got a problem. I wonder if he's a Method Internet troll. Do all 50 aliases have backstories? Does he keep biographical details about all of them on 3-by-5 index cards? It sounds exhausting. (I keep my fake identities to a more manageable 25 or so. Much easier.)

Jim Dwyer's Times piece goes on--and here we go deeper into Radosh.net territory:

In the classic 1993 New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner, two dogs are perched in front of a computer screen. "On the Internet," one says to the other, "nobody knows you're a dog."

A quick search of the Times' Web site leads me to the conclusion that this is the first time that the oft-quoted New Yorker cartoon has been referenced in the Gray Lady's pages, which kind of surprises me.
In court papers filed last week, Mr. Golb's lawyers argued that prosecutors were trying to criminalize the commonplace. Both sides in the Dead Sea Scrolls debate, they said, use "sock puppets"--fake identities--on the Internet to make it seem as if scores of people are arguing a point.

"These bloggers marshaled their legion of sock puppets to engage in intellectual combat with the sock puppets allegedly created by Raphael Golb and others," the lawyers wrote.

OK, now we have Internet dogs and sock puppets! Truly, the only thing that would make this story perfect would be if Dwyer had gone for a trifecta with a reference to the Keyboard Cat.

The focus of Golb's sock puppetry was to defend the work of his father, Norman Golb, who has put forth some controversial theories on the scrolls. Back to Dwyer's Times story:

When he was arrested, Mr. Golb was asked by prosecutors if he wrote under the name "Charles Gadda," one of the most visible Internet advocates for his father. He would not answer directly.

"They would say that my father is doing it or asking me to do it," Mr. Golb said, according to court papers. "My father certainly never asked me to do anything of the kind."

But he allowed that "Charles Gadda" was doing pretty well. "Do you realize that the Charles Gadda articles have been read by thousands of people?" Mr. Golb continued. "I know that, because I look at them, it says on them."

On second thought, forget the Keyboard Cat. Defense by StatCounter is perfect as is.


Harvard? The med school is a treasure. The rest seems like a mad house, CIA feeder, mass murderer factory. NYU? Well, I guess television acting is better for it. American business is a sociopathic clusterfuck though, n'est-ce pas?

Regarding sock puppets -- come on. Si Newhouse's Advance Publications, under the guise of different editorial voices molds a unified public opinion in dozens of magazines and newspapers nationwide, including The New Yorker. Sumner Redstone's Viacom creates a hand-tailored matrix reality again using dozens of proxie entities, including Comedy Central's Daily Show.

Sure, highly-paid producers, writers and performers think they are acting independently, but do any drawing a paycheck from a Redstone or Newhouse company, or a Murdoch company, etc., really think they can criticize Israel beyond Jon Stewart's "gosh it's complicated" when refering to US funding of Israel's blowing the limbs off Palestinian babies in its ongoing apartheid/genocide?

Individuals sock puppeting on the internet is small potatoes by comparison. Kind of like Scientology compared to Zionism.

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