Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sockpuppets defending the Rebbe

As many of you are no doubt aware, there was a switch over from Haloscan comments to Echo comments, from JS-Kit. In certain ways, I prefer Haloscan, but Echo does have its benefits.

One such benefit is that posts from the same person, even under different names, are linked together under the "Details" of that person. People don't realize this. And this makes efforts from someone creating multiple personalities to agree with himself easier to spot.

I spotted the following in a comment thread on a post at the Seforim blog, discussing Friedman and Heilman's recent books about the Rebbe, and the interchange between those authors and Chaim Rapoport.

There was one commenter named Nachum, who was in favor of the authors of the book. And then, the following comments appeared:

I don’t think there is a need for a Rapoport response, anyone with a brain in their head would have read H+F response and had a laugh of disbelief. Rabbi Rapoport has torn them to pieces and make it clear what a unreliable book they have concocted. Anyone who is not convinced of this at this point, obviously has a particular agenda and never will see sense. So well done and lets leave it at that.    
H+F I am seriously taken back by the lack of scholarship you have shown, particularly in your latest response, where you ignore so many massive issues and you don’t seem to have understood the arguments RR was bring to you, like about the letter to RMMS from his father, originally you accused him of denying that there was a blessing for a son included in the letter, he  responds showing how he did and now how have you twisted it? And do you deal with any of the real issues with your presentation of the letter that RR raises? and have you acknowledged that you accused RR falsely?    
 This seems to be you trend throughout this latest response, like a kid in a school argument, trying to name call, side track issues, twist words, anything to come out sounding like your on top even if it just a smoke screen to cover your emptiness and hot air. However you forget that the readership of the seforim bolg are not a group of excited school kids cheering on a fight, rather men and women with intelligence who absorb what they read and can see complete vanity even when presented by decent con artists
2 days ago, 10:39:35
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Nachum, its great to see that you were man enough to finally look at the arguments and presentation without getting sidetracked by your own feelings. Kol hakavod, i applaud the courage
2 days ago, 10:43:16
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That is the not the Nachum who usually writes in this forum, obviously. It's pretty transparent, and bad enough, that one or two dedicated chabad supporters have been posting dozens of times under different names, to make it appear as though Rappaport has "won" the popular debate. But misappropriating an established regular's name is very low.
2 days ago, 10:57:17
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lol !!
I agree it is not the usuall nachum. it is so obvious. This one has some brains and a good sense of humor too.
2 days ago, 11:16:39
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DF why do you accuse bloggers of posing? could this just be another person called Nachum? afterall names on the blog are not copyright
2 days ago, 11:17:40
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Shaya R
Nachum, 1 or Nachum 2 or who ever you are, i agree 100% with what you write. I too was baffled by the tactics used in connection with the letter. no need for a response!
2 days ago, 11:27:11
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Confused.  F & H always said the Rebbe's father blessed him with a son
2 days ago, 15:11:34
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Lubavitcher guest
H & F said that he concluded with the blessing about the laws of YK not departing
Rapo said that the blessing that the lettr ended with was only about the son
and that is true   
So, was "nachum" trying to misappropriate the true Nachum's name, as was alleged by DF? I would say absolutely. Why do I think this? (BTW, I will use lowercase nachum for the impostor and Proper Case Nachum for the original.)

Well, looking at "View details" for this "nachum", we discover all his posts, by account or IP address. And so, we discover that "Guest", immediately below nachum, congratulating him (the regular Nachum) for seeing the light is no other than "nachum" himself!

That is, nachum posted this and then pretended to believe that this was the original, regular poster Nachum. He was thus trying to foster this misunderstanding.

DF, a different person, informed Guest that this was not the same as the regular commenter Nachum; noted that it was transparent that two or three dedicated Chabad posters have been posting under multiple names, that this was transparent, and bad; but that it was worse to pretend to be regular commenters.

Lol!, who agrees that it is not regular Nachum, though thinks that this nachum is in the right, also posted under several different pseudonyms.

"Guest" then asks DF why he accuses bloggers of posing. All in innocence. But this is the same "nachum" and "Guest" as before. And indeed, he was posing, and trying to convince others that he was true Nachum, by first posting as nachum and then congratulating nachum for changing his mind.

Then, Shaya R says he doesn't know whether this is real Nachum or a different nachum, but he agrees. But Shaya R = nachum = Guest.

Earlier, this same commenter, going by the name "Menny", was arguing with Nachum. And repeatedly, under other names, referred people to read Menny's remarks.

I understand why he would do this. After all, he thinks he is right, and that the ones he is arguing with are in the wrong. Even so, it is not arguing fairly. It produces a false sense of consensus with his own opinion. This is dishonesty.

It is great that the Halo commenting system lets us spot this, so long as those who abuse it are not aware. (The first time it is pointed out, they will likely take awkward steps to avoid the revelation of their dishonesty.)

But it is something to keep in mind on other blogs, where all you need to put in is a pseudonym. You might be arguing with the same person, despite five people arguing with you.


Baruch Pelta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Baruch Pelta said...

When somebody says "we multiple individuals run a blog" and it's only one person or "I think John Doe [who is really said individual] is right," how is that not genevas daas?

Anonymous said...

meir says
when it comes to defending your 'rebbe' no holds are barred.

E. Fink said...

You shouldn't be giving away all our tricks... :)

joshwaxman said...

"how is that not genevas daas?"
not sure. it probably is.

"You shouldn't be giving away all our tricks"

Outraged said...

Wow...! There is one guy who wrote 96 comments under 20 different names. This is outrageous!

E-Man said...

I think these people are just losers and need to make themselves feel better. Who would do this unless they have zero confidence in themselves and their own opinions.

Outraged said...

What you didn't realize Josh, is that Heilman & Friedman also wrote 41 sock puppet comments!

Needless to say that this is completely unprofessional and should deservedly land them in a heap of trouble.

Click on the "guest" of the second comment who wrote: "I think the Blog was the one who decided to limit posting on this", and you'll see that it's the same account which originally wrote the comment "Since this blog has not been either able or willing to post our final response to Chaim Rapoport's latest posting..." signed "Samuel Heilman & Menachem Friedman"!!!

The plot thickens!

Tommy said...

Well, looking at "View details" for this "nachum", we discover all his posts, by account *or IP address.
*emphasis mine

I know I'm getting technical here, and I haven't confirmed the correctness of it, but I don't think one can easily, through the Echo commenting system see all comments from the same IP.

First, the idea of profiles is so that people can sign in from different IPs( like home, work, Internet cafes) and post comments as the same person.

Second, to show usage by IP address can be confusing, because many IP addresses are used by more than one person ( at home, work, school, cafes)

Third, the only system I know of who publicly tracks submissions through IP address is Wikipedia, and they do so only for edits submitted anonymously, and, even if a profile is used from that IP, those edits don't get added to the profile's edits.

Also, I can think of two ways to avoid being found out as easily as you found Menny out, though I don't have the where or why to test them out. This case is more a testament to Menny's lack of ability( or lack of will) to conceal his true identity, that to the ease of finding him out through the Echo commenting system.

As an aside, you could have used a more direct link to the part of the comment section you refer to:

joshwaxman said...

i'm not certain about IP address, but I've posted under "josh waxman" and "josh waxman" before establishing an account, and it managed to track it. it could be it was just using cookies on the particular computer, rather than the IP address for someone who has not set up an account.

"is that Heilman & Friedman also wrote 41 sock puppet comments"
it is not really the same level, though. Guest just means an anonymous comment, and that means that they are participating in the conversation without exposing themselves as the authors of the book. that second comment was a bit misleading i suppose. but it is not like they are making up multiple personalities to create an impression of consensus, just participating anonymously in the conversation. if they want to preserve that anonymity while participating in the conversation, then they would be forced to refer to themselves in third person.

Ishim veShitos doesn't think much of this. indeed, they could have been more forthcoming. but commenting anonymously, and consistently as anonymous, does not seem to me to be anywhere as bad as creating a false sense of consensus by creating multiple pseudonyms to agree with each other, and to impersonate regulars.

Outraged said...

Not a false consensus?

"Looks to me like the other book [by Mintz] says the Rebbe talked about Entebbe a lot"

"I was there and there are no curtains or mechitzas on the path next to the women's section, opposite the entrance to the ohel"

"Did MMs ever show up at that shul? Anyway, I think they said he did not show up at the shuls in the pletzel"

"Looks to me like he is talking about his dreams for a job in his field. Not about fantasies"

"I think you missed their point Jew from Florida. They did not say the book was aimed for people who read the Rebbe's writings. They said they thought their book would cause more people to read them, reliable or not."

Lying to a fellow professor: "Prof Kaplan. I read the book and I see on p. 128 they write that Levi Yitzchak added that "G-d may remember you with a son, with a 'seed both healthy and vital'" I think they understood it was key. They didn't get this from Rapoport"

bizarre: "Friedman was not the only author. Maybe Heilman persuaded him he was wrong."

"I looked in the book. Pretty clear that CR got it wrong. It was the sheva brachot"

"Even his father knew MMS wanted to take of his sirtuk. I think the book talks about this."

"I think Friedman and Heilman are clear. Schneerson was never seen at that synagogue. Was it even Orthodox?"

etc. etc.

joshwaxman said...

consensus with the book, sure. but consensus with various other active commenters in the thread, no. only one person, Guest. whichever one of these this was should really have chosen a pseudonym, though.

re. "bizarre", unless of course this original Guest was some student associated with Heilman, posting that initial post on his behalf. or if different chapters were written up by different of them, such that he was unsure what was in the book...

Outraged said...

Firstly, the 96 comment guy actually wrote anti-Rapoport comments too, which suggests that he's possibly merely deranged.

Secondly, an argument could be made that H&F fit the bill of a sock puppet (as defined by wikipedia) more accurately, for they were actually discussing themselves while pretending to be a third party. Certainly one sees here "the pretense that the puppet is a third party who is not affiliated with the puppeteer or acting under their control for their benefit". [And btw, one doesn't necessarily, automatically, assume that all pro-H&F comments by "guest" are being authored by the same person; moreover, the notorious examples mentioned in wikipedia did not involve authors using multiple pseudonyms]. Whereas the 96 comment guy probably isn't anyone of particular note, and resembles more closely a troll.

But isn't this already splitting hairs?

re "bizarre", I think the פשט in this is that (prob.) Heilman made that assertion because he knew it to be true. But he couldn't state that as fact, because that would expose "guest" as a sock puppet. So instead he opted for a "maybe" which in hindsight sounds bizarre.

All in all, I think this exposes H&F's unprofessional approach and calls their entire methodology into question, in my view.

joshwaxman said...

sorry, but i would disagree.

i don't find the conduct of H&F, or rather, whichever one of them it was, at all egregious. they engaged intelligently in discussion of the points of the books and the points raised by commenters. that is, they participated normally in the conversation, taking the side they believed in of course, but this was normal discourse. they (or he) wanted to do this anonymously, and so posted as Anonymous (or guest), changing minor details in phrasing things so as to not reveal his identity. i don't see anything *really* wrong with that -- nothing "unprofessional", and nothing that would "call their entire methodology into question."

what nachum/menny/guest/shaya r did, on the other hand, was extremely egregious. it was deliberate impersonation to create fake conversations. would you agree that this was more egregious?

meanwhile, a few of those commenting on the seforim blog are posting under Guest or pseudonyms with absolutely ZERO history. this strikes me as almost as suspicious, in context. they didn't join the conversation until now? or rather, were they the sockpuppets of before, who now have learned to clear their cookies before creating new personalities?

(This doesn't mean, BTW, that I endorse or dismiss the claims in H&F's book. I don't know enough about this to say anything meaningful.)

kol tuv,


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