Monday, April 21, 2008
Four Cheers for CAMERA
Fox News reports that Barack Obama has picked up a possibly unwelcome
During an interview on WABC radio Sunday, top Hamas political adviser
Ahmed Yousef said the terrorist group supports Obama's foreign policy
"We don't mind--actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the
election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great
principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position
to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance," Yousef
said in response to a question about the group's willingness to meet with
either of the Democratic presidential candidates.
The fact is, is Obama has also been endorsed by Ted Kennedy. And the
notion that somehow as a consequence of him being endorsed by somebody who
engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when Obama was 8 years old,
somehow reflects on him and his values, doesn't make much sense, Mary Jo.
2. The Ethical Hoax
By JAMES TARANTO
April 18, 2008
This is actually getting interesting. Yesterday we noted the weird story
of Aliza Shvarts, an undergraduate student at Yale whose "senior art
project" supposedly consists in part of her own blood, which she claims
she obtained by repeatedly inducing miscarriages after artificially
Suspecting that the Shvarts project was a hoax, we described it as a "sick
joke," which covered our bases in either case. Now a dispute has arisen
between the Yale administration, which claims it was a hoax, and Shvarts,
who denies it, although she now describes the putative project in somewhat
less sensational terms.
Let's go through this step by step. Yesterday, after the initial Yale
Daily News report prompted nationwide outrage (thanks to Matt Drudge),
Yale spokesman Helaine S. Klasky put out the following statement:
Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual
representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated
to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that
she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any
miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction
designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function
of a woman's body.
She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance
Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards
and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.
But today's Yale Daily News has Shvarts telling quite a different story:
While Shvarts stood by her project and claimed that administrators had
backed her before the planned exhibition attracted national condemnation,
the University dismissed it as nothing more than a piece of fiction. . . .
In an interview later Thursday afternoon, Shvarts defended her work and
called the University's statement "ultimately inaccurate." She reiterated
that she engaged in the nine-month process she publicized on Wednesday in
a press release that was first reported in the News: repeatedly using a
needleless syringe to insert semen into herself, then taking abortifacient
herbs at the end of her menstrual cycle to induce bleeding. Thursday
evening, in a tour of her art studio, she shared with the News video
footage she claimed depicted her attempts at self-induced miscarriages.
"No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did
or did not happen," Shvarts said, adding that she does not know whether
she was ever pregnant. "The nature of the piece is that it did not consist
Well, that certainly clears things up.
What we find most fascinating about all this is the Yale administration's
claim that if the project was on the level, it "would have violated basic
ethical standards." Roger Kimball asks the obvious question:
What, by the way, was the standard being violated? I wonder, for example,
whether the Yale spokesman would say that abortion itself violated a basic
ethical standard? Or maybe the violation requires first deliberately
impregnating oneself? (But why would that affect the "basic ethical
standard" involved?) Or maybe it was videotaping the performance that was
It seems to us that Yale is hiding behind the ambiguity of the word
ethical. There are two different kinds of ethical systems, and it isn't
clear which kind Yale is applying here: a moral doctrine (that is, a
theory about right and wrong, which applies to everyone) or a code of
professional conduct (which applies only to people within a profession or
even a particular institution).
There is significant overlap between the two types of ethical systems. The
injunction to physicians to "first, do no harm" is easy to understand as
both a moral injunction and a professional rule of conduct. But there are
cases in which the two types of ethics come into conflict. Suppose a
parishioner confesses to his priest that he is guilty of a murder for
which someone else has been falsely convicted. Most people would surely
think that in this case priestly ethics, which demand confessions remain
confidential, give way to a higher moral imperative.
When Yale says that Shvarts's project, "if real," violates "basic ethical
standards," what kind of ethical standards does it have in mind?
It seems unlikely that Yale is making a moral claim against the putative
Shvarts project. The abortion debate is driven by two irreconcilable moral
premises: on the antiabortion side, that it is wrong to take a human life
deliberately at any stage of development; on the pro-abortion side, that a
woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her body.
In practice, most people's actual positions on abortion amount to a
compromise between these two absolutes. If Yale has an institutional view
on abortion, surely it is closer to the pro- than the antiabortion side.
And if Shvarts did what she claims to have done, she destroyed protohumans
(for want of a better neutral term) no later than the embryonic stage of
development--a stage at which, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, a
woman has an absolute "constitutional" right to terminate her pregnancy.
Is Yale claiming that Shvarts violated academic ethics? This is a real
head-scratcher. Academic ethics center on honesty; the most important
prohibitions are against such actions as falsification of data or
plagiarism (misrepresenting another's work as one's own). But Yale is
claiming that Shvarts's project violated "basic ethical standards" if she
was honest in describing it. If Shvarts perpetrated a hoax, then according
to Yale she was exercising "the right to express herself." The implication
is that if she was lying, she was behaving ethically.
Yale therefore is either taking a moral position in opposition to abortion
or standing academic ethics on their head. Which raises an intriguing
possibility: Could it be that Aliza Shvarts is an opponent of abortion who
has staged a hoax aimed at embarrassing those who support or countenance
Stars and Stripes Underfoot
Fox News reports on another collegiate "art" project:
A Maine college student has caused a firestorm after plastering the floor
of a campus building with American flags to see if anyone would trample
Susan Crane, a student at the University of Maine, Farmington, placed
hundreds of flags on the floor of the school's student center Tuesday for
an art class assignment. She set down the flags in a maze-like pattern to
document whether students and staff would step on them.
This is not an original idea; as the New York Times reported in 1989,
someone that year pulled a similar stunt at the School of the Art
Institute of Chicago.
Back in Maine, the Daily Bulldog, a student newspaper, reports that the
fire marshal "asked that all the flags be placed against one side of the
hallway, which effectively removed the maze and, with it, the decision to
walk around it or through the display. . . . Crane decided once the fire
marshal had left to pick up the flags."
But she got a vote of confidence from the university president:
A little less than an hour later across campus, Theo Kalikow, UMF's
president, opened the two-day campus-wide symposium noting the anger some
had felt with the flag display.
"Art in all its forms is important. The anger that was experienced today.
Students push the boundary of what learning is. First Amendment rights,
freedom of expression. We share in a state of expression," Kalikow said.
Which leads us to wonder: Would the university have been so supportive of
"freedom of expression" if a student had exercised it by plastering the
floor with pictures of, say, Martin Luther King or the Prophet Muhammad?
For that matter, would any student anywhere be boorish enough to do that?
3. Four Cheers for CAMERA (please lend them a hand!)
(report about CAMERA from the terrorist "Electronic Intifada" web site .
keep in mind who is writing the following):
Pro-Israel group's plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia
Report, The Electronic Intifada
21 April 2008
A pro-Israel pressure group is orchestrating a secret,
Long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular online
Encyclopedia Wikipedia to rewrite Palestinian history,
Pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia
Administrative structures to ensure these changes go
Either undetected or unchallenged.
A series of emails by members and associates of the
Pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle
East Reporting in America), provided to The Electronic
Intifada (EI), indicate the group is engaged in what one
Activist termed a "war" on Wikipedia.
A 13 March action alert signed by Gilead Ini, a "Senior
Research Analyst" at CAMERA, calls for "volunteers who can
Work as 'editors' to ensure" that Israel-related articles
On Wikipedia are "free of bias and error, and include
Necessary facts and context." However, subsequent
Communications indicate that the group not only wanted to
Keep the effort secret from the media, the public, and
Wikipedia administrators, but that the material they
Intended to introduce included discredited claims that
Could smear Palestinians and Muslims and conceal Israel's
With over two million articles in English on every topic
Imaginable, Wikipedia has become a primary reference
Source for Internet users around the world and a model for
Collaboratively produced projects. Openness and good faith
Are among Wikipedia's core principles. Any person in the
World can write or edit articles, but Wikipedia has strict
Guidelines and procedures for accountability intended to
Ensure quality control and prevent vandalism, plagiarism
Or distortion. It is because of these safeguards that
Articles on key elements of the Palestine-Israel conflict
Have generally remained well-referenced, useful and
Objective. The CAMERA plan detailed in the e-mails
Obtained by EI appears intended to circumvent these
In the past, CAMERA has gained notoriety for its tactic of
Accusing virtually anyone who does not toe a right-wing
Pro-Israel line of bias. The group has even accused
Editors and reporters of the Israeli daily Haaretz of
Being "extreme" and participating in "radical anti-Israel
Activity." Jeffrey Dvorkin, the former ombudsman of
National Public Radio (NPR), frequently criticized by
CAMERA for an alleged pro-Palestinian bias, wrote on the
Web publication Salon in February 2008 that "as a
Consequence of its campaign against NPR, CAMERA acted as
The enabler for some seriously disturbed people," citing
Persistent telephone threats he received in the wake of
Need for stealth and secrecy
Throughout the documents EI obtained, CAMERA operatives
Stress the need for stealth and secrecy. In his initial
Action alert, Ini requests that recipients "not forward it
To members of the news media." In a 17 March follow-up
Email sent to volunteers, Ini explains that he wants to
Make the orchestrated effort appear to be the work of
Unaffiliated individuals. Thus he advises that "There is
No need to advertise the fact that we have these group
Anticipating possible objections to CAMERA's scheme, Ini
Conjectures that "Anti-Israel editors will seize on
Anything to try to discredit people who attempt to
Challenge their problematic assertions, and will be all
Too happy to pretend, and announce, that a 'Zionist' cabal
(the same one that controls the banks and Hollywood?) is
Trying to hijack Wikipedia."
But stealth and misrepresentation are presented as the
Keys to success. Ini suggests that after volunteers sign
Up as editors for Wikipedia they should "avoid editing
Israel-related articles for a short period of time." This
Strategy is intended to "avoid the appearance of being
One-topic editors," thus attracting unwanted attention.
Ini counsels that volunteers "might also want to avoid,
For obvious reasons, picking a user name that marks you as
Pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name." To
Further conceal the identity of CAMERA-organized editors,
Ini warns, "don't forget to always log in before making
[edits]. If you make changes while not logged in,
Wikipedia will record your computer's IP address" -- a
Number that allows identification of the location of a
Computer connected to the Internet.
A veteran Wikipedia editor, known as "Zeq," who according
To the emails is colluding with CAMERA, also provided
Advice to CAMERA volunteers on how they could disguise
Their agenda. In a 20 March email often in misspelled
English, Zeq writes, "You don't want to be precived [sic]
As a 'CAMERA' defender' on wikipedia [sic] that is for
Sure." One strategy to avoid that is to "edit articles at
Random, make friends not enemies -- we will need them
Later on. This is a marathon not a sprint."
Zeq also identifies, in a 25 March email, another
Wikipedia editor, "Jayjg," whom he views as an effective
and independent pro-Israel advocate. Zeq instructs CAMERA
operatives to work with and learn from Jayjg, but not to
reveal the existence of their group even to him fearing
"it would place him in a bind" since "[h]e is very loyal
to the wikipedia [sic] system" and might object to
CAMERA's underhanded tactics.
The emphasis on secrecy is apparently not only to aid the
undetected editing of articles, but also to facilitate
CAMERA's takeover of key administrator positions in
For Zeq a key goal is to have CAMERA operatives elected as
administrators -- senior editors who can override the
decisions of others when controversies arise. When
disputes arise about hotly contested topics, such as
Israel and Palestine, often only an "uninvolved
administrator" -- one who is considered neutral because he
or she has not edited or written articles on the topic --
Hence, Zeq advises in a 21 March email that "One or more
of you who want to take this route should stay away from
any Israel realted [sic] articles for one month until they
[sic] interact in a positive way with 100 wikipedia [sic]
editors who would be used later to vote you as an
Once these CAMERA operatives have successfully infiltrated
as "neutral" editors, they could then exercise their
privileges to assert their own political agenda.
In addition, Zeq suggests making deliberately provocative
edits to Palestine-related articles. He hopes that editors
he assumes are Palestinian will delete these changes, and
then CAMERA operatives could report them to administrators
so they could be sanctioned and have their editing
Passing propaganda as fact
Gilead Ini's 17 March email provides specific advice on
how to pass off pro-Israel propaganda or opinion as fact
meeting Wikipedia's strict guidelines:
"So, for example, imagine that you get rid of or modify a
problematic sentence in an article alleging that
'Palestinian [sic] become suicide bombers to respond to
Israel's oppressive policies.' You should, in parallel
leave a comment on that article's discussion page (either
after or before making the change). Avoid defending the
edit by arguing that 'Israel's policies aren't
'oppression,' they are defensive. And anyway Palestinians
obviously become suicide bombers for other reasons for
example hate education!' Instead, describe how this
sentence violates Wikipedia's policies and guidelines. One
of the core principles is that assertions should adhere to
a Neutral Point of View, usually abbreviated NPOV. (The
opposite of NPOV is POV, or Point of View, which is
basically another way of saying subjective statement, or
opinion.) So it would be best to note on the discussion
page that 'This sentence violates Wikipedia's NPOV policy,
since the description of Israel's policies as 'oppressive'
is an opinion. In addition, it is often noted by Middle
East experts that one of the reasons Palestinians decide
to become suicide bombers is hate education and
glorification of martyrdom in Palestinian society ...'"
In fact, there have been numerous studies debunking claims
about Palestinian "hate education," or "glorification of
martyrdom" causing suicide bombings (such as Dying to Win
by University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape)
though this claim remains a favorite canard of pro-Israel
activists seeking to distract attention from the effects
of Israel's occupation and other well-documented and
systematic human rights abuses in fueling violence.
Zeq specifically names articles targeted for this kind of
treatment including those on the 1948 Palestinian Exodus,
Causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, Hamas, Hizballah,
Arab citizens of Israel, anti-Zionism, al-Nakba, the
Palestinian people, and the Palestinian right of return.
Interestingly the CAMERA editors also target the article
on the early Islamic period concept of Dhimmi, a protected
status for non-Muslims which historically allowed Jews to
thrive in Muslim-ruled lands while other Jews were being
persecuted in Christian Europe. Pro-Israel activists have
often tried to portray the concept of Dhimmi as akin to
the Nuremberg laws in order to denigrate Muslim culture
and justify ahistorical Zionist claims that Jews could
never live safely in majority Muslim countries.
Also among the emails is a discussion about how to alter
the article on the massacre of Palestinian civilians in
the village of Deir Yassin by Zionist militiamen on 9
April 1948. Unable to debunk the facts of the massacre
outright, the CAMERA activists hunt for quotes from
"reputable historians" who can cast doubt on it. Their
strategy is not dissimilar from those who attempt to
present evolution, or global climate change as
"controversial" regardless of the weight of the scientific
evidence, simply because the facts do not accord with
their belief system.
Zeq has already made extensive edits to the Wikipedia
article on Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist
murdered by an Israeli soldier in the occupied Gaza Strip
on 16 March 2003. As a result of these and other edits Zeq
has himself been a controversial figure among Wikipedia
editors, suggesting his own stealth tactics may not be
"We will go to war"
Zeq, however, counsels CAMERA operatives to be patient and
lie low until they build up their strength. "We will go to
war after we have build our army, equiped it trained
[sic]," he wrote on 9 April. "So please if you want to win
this war help us build ou[r] army. let's not just rush in
and achieve nothing, or abit more than nothing [sic]."
DOWNLOAD CAMERA'S EMAILS:
(Afterword by SP: the truth is that for years a team of anti-Semites has
systematically sabotaged any entry on Wikipedia, not least of which is the
one on me, to give it an anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, pro-Arab slant. The
team includes several communists and Wikipedia owners have done nothing to
stop them. As examples, look at the Wikipedia entries on Ilan Pappe,
Norman Finkelstein, "Israeli Apartheid," Deir Yassin Massacre, etc.
Please help sabotage the sabotageurs operating as a Hamas SWAT team of
"editors" at Wikipedia!)