In Search of Dean Kagan

July 20, 2006

In News

Dear Professor Kagan

Twice I contacted you interested to know what your organisation’s policy on web publishing is � mine has a policy that staff may put up anything they like, provided it is backed up by evidence. The administration may take down published material if there is no evidence for it, ie the sort of thing that outside of academia would be called a “lie”, such as the one published on Prof Dershowitz’s web page about Maryla Husyt Finkelstein. I have not had a reply from you, so I was really quite irritated to see on Norman Finkelstein’s web pages that you forwarded an email on the same subject as both of mine to Prof Dershowitz, and his response was that this was a form email written by Prof Finkelstein.

Is that what happened to the two previous emails that I sent you? Did you accept Prof Dershowitz’s assertion that Prof Finkelstein spends his time writing messages for his acolytes to send and so decided you have no need to reply? Surely you cannot believe anything so absurd. No-one needs to write a word for me, I can write my own messages, I am only sorry that my words can’t convey more than a tiny part of how really and truly appalled I am by your support for an unconscionable attack on a woman who suffered greatly when alive and cannot defend herself now that she is dead.

I don’t suppose I am the only person to think that perhaps the real genesis of this is the old lawyer’s saying: if the facts are against you argue the law, and if the law is against you argue the facts and if both are against you attack the opposing counsel. Prof Dershowitz can’t win against Prof Finkelstein on the facts or the law so he goes for his mother, reducing what should be a scholarly debate to the worst kind of personal attack. This is both an example of and a horrible warning about what happens when academic standards are left in the hands of lawyers. One final point, allowing this sort of thing, as you have, brings in other players. For example Prof Finkelstein received this in an email on 1 February 2006 from freetothink123[at] “I hope that this year will be the last year of your miserable life. Amen! Your kapo-mama can’t wait for you to join her”, or this from alebovsky[at] on 19 April 2006 “Regret #2 – your father should’ve withdrawn his penis when he was humping your whore kapo-mama.” This is your constituency now. I hope you like it.

Denise Miller