guilty verdict for online troll

Guilty Verdict and Off to Jail for Sockpuppet; Downton Abbey Gay Trope

In an interesting case involving the Dead Sea Scrolls and a sockpuppet story of epic proportions, a NY attorney was found guilty on multiple counts that range from identity theft to aggravated harassment. I swear this happened, and I have links to prove it.

This is what his attorney had to say:

“Today what happened was the district attorney of New York County and the trial court made hurting somebody’s feelings a criminal act. In New York, hurting people’s feelings or being annoying is not a crime. We call that Monday.”

For those who are not familiar with NY, it’s a tough city but it’s really not like that at all. Of course that’s a typical response from an attorney who just lost a case. We expect this from attorneys, and that’s why there are so many sleazy lawyer jokes going around all the time. Unfortunately, this attorney is underestimating a bigger problem in the world these days, and we’re going to be seeing more cases like this crop up in the courts in the future.

The entire case revolves around Raphael Haim Golb, a brilliant man with a Ph.D. from Harvard and a law degree from NYU. His father is a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, and basically the son started a huge shitstorm online to target his father’s academic competition.

Between 2006 and 2009, he created more than 80 online aliases to advance his father’s views about the Dead Sea Scrolls against what he saw as a concerted effort to exclude them. Along the way, according to a jury and a panel of appellate court judges, he crossed from engaging in academic debate to committing a crime.


This NYT article gets into more about the Dead Sea Scrolls, but I’m only focusing on the guilty verdict and the sockpuppets here.

According to the article, Golb started multiple blogs, all with different fake names and identities. These fake names started to interact with each other, becoming online sockpuppets. He also used pen names to publish more articles. While doing all this, he praised his father’s name and portrayed him as an honest scholar.

He acted as an online troll, stirring up controversy. “Was it appropriate for a scientific institution to allow a group of Christian academics to impose their agenda on an exhibit of ancient documents taking place under its auspices?” he asked of an exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum, in an Oct. 6, 2007, article. That article, he said, drew 16,000 views.

Golb then went on to brag about how much attention his father’s work was getting through all this online drama, and claimed it could only help with the overall quest. This isn’t unusual. This brand of online behavior does, indeed, create attention and usually garnishes tons of hits because everyone loves a side show. There is one mediocre author out there who is ONLY known for stirring up controversy wherever she goes. But then Golb also targeted a grad student, Robert Cargill, and things got ugly.

Mr. Cargill fought back. A typical e-mail message or blog post has an Internet protocol address that identifies the computer used to create it. Using simple software that identified the I.P. addresses, he traced the e-mails and blog posts of 82 aliases to the same few computers. Beneath one of Mr. Golb’s pseudonymous comments, he posted a message, using the pseudonym Raphael Joel, a combination of Mr. Golb’s first name and his brother’s. The message was: We know who you are.

So, there was a lot of online espionage going on all the way around. The NYT article gets into all kinds of interesting things about the case and the motives behind why Golb did what he did, and from an academic POV I do suggest reading it in full. But I find the case interesting from a different POV, because I’ve seen so much of this sort of thing online for many years. If I had to offer any commentary, it would be that I feel very sorry for Golb …in a way. I don’t think he knew what he was doing, and like so many others I think he underestimated the Internet.

After working for years on the Internet, I’ve come to learn that the only way to view anything online is to keep in mind that it’s exactly what real life is like. In other words, just because you can hide your identity and create all kinds of fake identities doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do…or the legal thing to do. For a long time no one in the mainstream paid much attention to this sort of thing. No one paid much attention to anything online. But that’s going to change in the years to come. We’re all going to have to abide by certain laws just like we do in real life.

Cases like this, with Golb and the Dead Sea Scrolls, are going to set standards for future cases that come up, and I shudder to think about how many people would wind up the big house for doing exactly what Golb did…not thinking they did anything wrong in the first place. 

Downton Abbey Gay Trope:

I’m a huge fan of the TV series, Downton Abbey, and not just because there is a gay character and a gay storyline. I’ve always been a fan of the Edwardian Era and Post Edwardian Period that led up to the 1920’s. But it’s the gay storyline with Thomas Barrow keeps me wondering what’s going to happen next week after week. And my interest in this time period is one of the main reasons why I wrote the story, “Unmentionable: The Men Who Loved on the Titanic.” The main theme of that story revolves around the fear gay people experienced in those days, and how one gay man actually had to dress up as a woman in order to travel on the Titanic with his lover. It’s all fiction, but I’ll never stop wondering if something like that actually did happen and we’ll never know about it.

This article says:

 Being gay in 1920 can’t have been fun – especially if you were stuck in the Yorkshire countryside, hundreds of miles away from the nearest gay bar (according to Wikipedia, London’s first gay pub, The Cave Of The Golden Calf, opened in 1912).

It was a time when being gay was illegal and you could go to jail. It was a time when gay people never even hinted at being gay. In fact, no one talked about anything gay and the topic was considered vulgar and disgusting. And now, in hindsight, we can look back on that time and see how absolutely ridiculous all this was, and feel for how many millions of gay people suffered abuse and psychological damage we’ll never know.

And yet, there’s still controversy surrounding gay people in the very same way one hundred years later.

Greek state television has been criticised for cutting out a gay kiss from British drama Downton Abbey.


The scene involved a kiss between a visiting duke and Downton’s footman Thomas Barrow.

That scene happened it the first season. I actually just saw it for the first time last night because I came late to Downton Abbey and didn’t start watching until the second season. So now I’m catching up with season one, and the kiss that’s mentioned above was literally nothing obscene, overly erotic, or highly sexual. It was one man kissing another, and yet they still felt the need to censor it.

I’m pointing that out because I’m still seeing this kind of treatment going on right now, all over the place. I see blogs that contain gay information and gay material that have adult only warning pages and I can’t always figure out why they have them. I could understand it if there were nude photos, graphic stories, or something inappropriate for minors. But in many cases these blogs don’t have anything but gay content in a general sense. There’s nothing sexual or pornographic about them, and the warning sign infers there’s something wrong about any gay content at all.

There is always kissing on Downton Abbey between straight couples. But don’t dare let the gay guys kiss, because that’s still considered crude, vulgar and disgusting. And in some parts of the world to this day, illegal.