Globe resorts to disreputable ‘Dershowitz defence’

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On March 29, The Coalition of Arab Canadian Professionals and Community Associations (CAPCA) served the Globe and Mail editorial board and publisher with a petition signed by itself and numerous individuals and associations. The undersigned demanded that the Globe:

  • issue a correction and an apology regarding its Feb. 15 editorial.
  • address charges of plagiarism and unethical conduct directed at the Globe‘s editorialist; and
  • develop relationships, both formal and informal, with Canadian groups that can help provide full Arab, and Palestinian, perspective regarding the Globe‘s Middle East content and be able to show that such relationships have been sought and established.

After much delay, Deputy Editor Sylvia Stead replied on behalf of the Globe; unfortunately the response did not address the substance of the complaint or respect the intent of the petitioners. The letter denied that Editorial Page Editor Marcus Gee did anything wrong and that there was no plagiarism.

Rather than admit Gee’s misconduct in the face of overwhelming evidence, the Globe has decided to brazen this scandal out in hopes it will go away; however, the “It wasn’t plagiarism because we say it wasn’t” response is so demeaning and contemptible that the Globe has virtually ensured that the scandal will stay alive for some time.

Let’s look at how Stead tries to deny Gee’s plagiarism:
“Plagiarism is taking the prose or unique ideas of someone else and suggesting it is your own prose or unique ideas. This is clearly not the case with the editorial.”

This is the part of the standard non sequitur of the dishonest arguer: deny the truth of the charge against you and then quickly change the subject. First, let’s review a few basic facts:

FACT: Gee wrote that he saw a video on a Hamas website.
FACT: Gee admitted he only saw clips from a video on the zionist website Palestinian Media Watch.
FACT: The video, which had been made more than a year earlier, did not come from an official Hamas website, and therefore does not have any connection to the newly elected Hamas government of Palestine.
FACT: Palestinian Media Watch exploited the video to demonize the Hamas government.
FACT: Gee exploited the video to demonize the Hamas government.
FACT: Gee never mentioned PMW in his editorial.

CONCLUSION: Gee took the prose and unique ideas from PMW and passed them off as his own.

THEREFORE: Gee is guilty of plagiarism.

QED

Amazingly, this simple syllogistic precision is lost on Stead and other Globe big shots. The non sequitur element is evident in the way Stead’s letter harps on the nature of the video, which is irrelevant to the issue of Gee’s theft:

“The main issue for us is that the video is real, is really on a Hamas website and that the translation was accurate…Since we have no evidence that the editorial was incorrect, we would not write a correction.”

The non-cognitive nature of this passage is breathtaking. Stead says she has no evidence of inaccuracy, yet the very point of Gee’s editorial was to use a dated, unofficial Hamas video to demonize the new, official Hamas government.

Since Gee’s entire editorial has been exposed as a baseless, hatemongering rant, I should think there was plenty of reason to run a retraction. A correction would not be possible, since nothing in the editorial was valid.

Essentially, Stead’s letter reflects the same disreputable “deny and stonewall” tactic that Professor Alan Dershowitz used when he faced a charge of plagiarism from Professor Norman Finkelstein.

In 2003, Finkelstein proved that Dershowitz’s book The Case For Israel was a fraud and that he ripped off whole passages from Joan Peters’s 1984 From Time Immemorial, itself a fraud that purported, among other things, to show that Palestine had little or no native Arab population.

Dershowitz’s citations used were identical to those of Peters, right down to the use of ellipses and his copying of errors. His footnotes reflected the same citations Peters gave, without mentioning Peters herself, thus giving the false impression that he actually read them.

When Finkelstein confronted Dershowitz with proof of plagiarism on Democracy Now! Dershowitz, like the Globe editors, refused to address the charge and tried to argue the validity of the plagiarized material. Here’s an excerpt:

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: In 1984 one Joan Peters published a book called From Time Immemorial, . The book was universally recognized by serious scholars to be a fraud. Without wanting to toot my own horn I’m widely recognized as the person who exposed the fraud. I know that book inside out. I read it at least four times, I went through all 1854 footnotes. I started to read your book, Mr. Dershowitz, I then came to chapter one footnotes 10, footnote 11, footnote 12, footnote 13, footnote 14, footnote 15, footnote 16, all of the quotes are from Joan Peters. They’re so from Joan Peters that you have a long quote here from Mark Twain on pages 23 to 24. I turned to Joan Peters page 159 to 60, identical quote from Twain with the ellipses in the…

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Is the Twain quote wrong?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: …with the ellipses…let me finish sir. They’re in the same places. The identical quote from Twain with the ellipses in the same places.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: It’s been quoted, as you know.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Mr. Dershowitz I …

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: What’s your point?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Let me finish…

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: I would ask you a question. Is it a direct quote? Is it an accurate quote of Twain? Did Twain say…

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Dershowitz the way we can have a civilized discussion here is that each person will get a chance to make their point and won’t be cut off.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: You have a nearly full page quote from one William Young a British consul from May 1839.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Is it an accurate quote?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I’m going to finish, sir. On page 18 of your book. I turn to Joan Peters page 184, the identical quote with the ellipses I’m holding it up for the camera perhaps they can see this is the length of the quote.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Is it an accurate quote?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: It’s in the identical place. Last point. I’m not going to go through chapter two where there are 29 plagiarisms from Joan Peters.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: To be very clear, it’s not plagiarism to quote Mark Twain correctly.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Except that you cite Mark Twain not Joan Peters. I’m a professor, sir. I know what plagiarism is. (my emphasis)

With his last statement, Finkelstein exposes the utter idiocy of Dershowitz’s denials, which by extension exposes the utter idiocy of the Globe‘s denials: Gee cited the Hamas website not PMW.

The rest of the Globe‘s response to the petition consisted of condescending, misleading prattle about its “fair and balanced” Middle East reporting, its willingness to understand both sides of an issue, and its desire for open dialogue.

I can’t image how such a dialogue could take place, given that the Globe is deaf, dumb and blind to its own dishonesty, and heaps lie upon desperate lie to cover up the misconduct of one of its editors.

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