Sunday, October 07, 2007

A small post re: Finkelstein

Just a little post about Norman Finkelstein, who is briefly alluded to at Respectful Insolence. I responded in the comments, and of course the conversation became hijacked, as it does when someone like Finkelstein is discussed. So I won't comment further over there beyond pointing people here.

So: If you surfed over here from there, I'm responding to this comment from SLC:
I agree with Dr. Orac that the issue of Finkelstein is greatly off topic. I would have been willing to cease and desist except that Mr. Hermagores' [sic] characterization of of the investigation of Prof. Dershowitz by Harvard is totally inaccurate and unreliable. As I understand it, ther [sic] was an official investigation of the charge led by the dean of the college with which Prof. Dershowitz is affiliated. The charge of plagiarism is a very serious one which could have resulted in the firing of Prof. Dershowitz had it held up. As requested by Dr. Orac, I will have nothing more to say on the matter. (Emphasis added)
I'll just point out:
  1. According to the Boston Globe, "[Law School Dean] Kagan asked former Harvard president Derek Bok to examine Finkelstein's plagiarism allegation. Bok determined no plagiarism had occurred, law school spokesman Michael Armini said yesterday." So Dershowitz's current boss asks his former boss to investigate him. How "official" is this investigation?
  2. Nothing about that investigation, including its scope or methods, has been made public. Only its conclusions have been released by a Harvard Law School spokesperson.
  3. Unlike official investgations of (for example) Laurence Tribe, this "investigation" was undertaken by a single individual rather than a committee, and everything about it has been kept private.
There's nothing transparent about any of this. There is, rather, the conspicuous dust that comes from circling wagons.

(N.B.: one blogger suggests that what has been called "citation plagiarism" is not really plagiarism at all. I'm not convinced, but it's worth mentioning.)