Dinah Won’t You Blow? (Update)

A third-party op-ed made it to the surface at the Times of Israel, written by a woman named Dinah Goldstein.*  Meet Dinah:


The op-ed was quite special, as the Advice Goddess, Amy Alkon, noted:

What Idiot Thinks We’re Safer And Better Off Having No Idea What Other People Think? 

Somebody said this at a recent dinner for FIRE that I went to. And they’re right. As I put the same idea, “Why would anyone think we’re safer if ugly views are shoved underground? They’re still there. We just can’t see or debate them.”

Amy includes a quote from the op-ed, though in fairness, pretty much any quote from the op-ed would have done the trick:

Freedom of speech is something that always has to be balanced against other peoples’ human rights. America needs to take a human rights-based approach to freedom of speech, balancing freedom of speech against human dignity, civility, and respect, and the US needs to outlaw all ideas which have no place in a modern democracy with basic human rights.

My personal favorite quote is:

Hate speech is not just speech, but is, in fact, a form of violence which can be even more harmful and damaging than physical attacks.

Although this one is a close second:

Freedom of speech should never be a license to insult, offend, disrespect, oppose human rights, undermine progress, or incite hatred. Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, climate change denial, vaccine denial, anti-feminism, cultural appropriation, xenophobia, ableism, anti-multiculturalism, transphobia, and all other forms of bigotry are not “thoughts” or “opinions.”

But in the comments to Amy’s post, Techdirt’s Tim Cushing lobs a bomb:

“Dinah Silverstein” doesn’t exist. A reverse image search links to Nancy Goldstein, someone who is actually an activist and columnist.

Uh oh.  And indeed, that appears to be correct.

Jessica and Nancy

“Beyond Catfighting” panelists at WAM 2007, Jessica Valenti of Feministing.com fame and Nancy Goldstein from National Advocates for Pregnant Women

The op-ed, as the quotes above reflect, was little more than a baseless screed, making bald assertion after bald assertion of the evils of free speech, with a bit of Gertruding thrown in because reasons.

Like any intelligent and sensible person, I have always been a dedicated champion of freedom of speech, especially when it’s speech that many people do not want to hear. To quote Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In fact, during my time in Australia working for the Human Rights Law Centre and Amnesty International Australia, I was repeatedly called a “free speech extremist” and a “free speech fundamentalist.” Freedom of speech is absolutely vital. It is the cornerstone of any democratic society, and it must be uheld [sic] to the maximum possible extent. But, like all rights, it comes with many responsibilities and it must be used constructively.

Whether or not this is a misattribution to Voltaire isn’t the point, you nerds. What is the point is that calls for criminalization of whatever speech this writer hates is bolstered by her self-professed bona fides as a “free speech fundamentalist,” so we know we can trust her because she believes free speech “must be upheld to the maximum possible extent.”

And what is that maximum?

Your rights end where the rights of others begin.

Except there is no Dinah Silverstein.  But, as a Google search shows, that hasn’t stopped others from talking about Dinah Silverstein and this op-ed.  Nor has it informed the readers of the Times of Israel that they’ve been duped.

Repetition and dissemination are valuable tools for spreading baseless assertions around.  When people see and hear an assertion enough, it begins to sink in, to become credible as if it must be real because they keep hearing people say it.  And not just any people, but people credible enough to get an op-ed in the Times of Israel.  So it must be true, or at least true enough to form the basis of a credible opinion.

It may not be accepted in its totality, but by establishing a foothold through repetition in credible sources, it attains credibility, which at minimum establishes it as a sufficiently credible position to form a basis for compromise.  And isn’t compromise a good thing?  Can’t we all just get along?

Except Dinah Silverstein is a lie.  Whether you want to call it a pseudonym or sock puppet, as Nancy Goldstein creates a secondary phony persona to promote her social justice agenda by giving it the appearance of greater support, or just to avoid the consequences of posting such a monumentally stupid op-ed, what it is not is true.

A fundamental truth is exposed by Peter Steiner’s comic from the New Yorker, circa 1993.


Which brings us back to Amy’s question, “What Idiot Thinks We’re Safer And Better Off Having No Idea What Other People Think?” The answer appears to be Nancy Goldstein. Except this mutt thinks the rest of us are the idiots, which is why she hides behind the name Dinah Silverstein when trying to spread her social justice agenda.  Because on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

* The original Times of Israel op-ed has mysteriously disappeared. shocking. But in anticipation of such an event, I made a copy.

Update:  Turk raised the possibility that this op-ed was a parody, a spoof to see if whoever wrote it could get the Times of Israel to bite, and that the spoofer stole Nancy Goldstein’s pic.  This is certainly a possibility that hadn’t occurred to me when I wrote the post.

As Nancy Goldstein has not, as yet, denied any connection to Dinah Silverstein and the op-ed, and no one else has taken credit a spoof, the question remains up in the air. But it may be that this has nothing more to do with Nancy Goldstein than a stolen picture and the Times of Israel being happy to post it alongside the name Dinah Silverstein. Just sayin’.

38 thoughts on “Dinah Won’t You Blow? (Update)

    1. Turk

      And now the original post is gone. I’m wondering if somewhere, someplace, a game is afoot.

      1. SHG Post author

        I had a sneaking suspicion that once the sham was exposed, the post would go down the memory hole. So I made a copy of it.

      2. Not Jim Ardis

        A group did put forth a contest to see who could get the most ridiculous article published…

        1. SHG Post author

          That’s the problem. It’s just not particularly ridiculous, at least to those who support that view.

          1. David

            There is a semi-serious law that covers this; Poe’s law.
            It goes something like “Without an explicit sign, parody of extreme views will be mistaken for the real thing”

            1. SHG Post author

              If this was a parody, and done as well as it would appear, there should have been some indicator, an errant line in there, that would allow us to realize it. Otherwise, it’s no more bizarre and ridiculous than what one would have expected her to write. And if so, then it failed as good parody, as it gave us no way to tell it was parody.

            2. SHG Post author

              He who smelt it dealt it. If you’re gonna raise it, it’s your job to check. Looking forward to your reporting back. Tally ho, Turk!

            3. Turk

              Ain’t gonna happen. But I did shoot the paper an email asking them why they took it down.

              I would bet you a beer, however, that no one named Goldstein or Silverstein wrote this thing.

              (yeah, I know you ain’t dumb enough to take that bet.)

            4. SHG Post author

              I wouldn’t bet either way. You shouldn’t either. Unless you just want to buy me a beer because you love me.

          2. JohnC

            I once had a conversation with someone about the pervasiveness of handedness-bias language (sinister; gauche) and prejudice lefties face in a right-handed world (e.g., the threading of screws favors righties). It wasn’t until she got excited bout an awareness campaign did it dawn on me that she was serious.
            Apparently, something can both be satire and pass the ideological Turing test.

            1. lawrence kaplan

              SHG: In the article, which you fortunately preserved, there is a reference to the Bulgarian journalist l Martin Karbowski being convicted by a Bulgarian Human Rights Tribunal for Sexist language, an event that supposedly was covered widely. I have googled this and found no references to this . Karbowski seems to be a prominent and much respected Bulgarian journalist. Phony cite? Libel?

            2. Oakes Spalding

              The Karbowski thing seems to have happened. Look to a tweet by Marina Kisyova on January 9: [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.] where she references this article on Bulgarian: [Ed. Note: this too, which I would say in Bulgarian like the article, if I knew Bulgarian.] Interestingly, Tanya Cohen re-tweeted this on her feed, also on January 9: [Ed. Note: Ditto].

  1. Hal

    I believe the word “in” is missing in “with a bit of Gertruding thrown because reasons”.

  2. Patrick Maupin

    > even more harmful and damaging than physical attacks.

    The thing is, this is kinda, sorta true, in some cases, which is what gives it legs. IMO the right way to approach this is to reframe it correctly, rather than to simply dispute it, e.g. “Your response to what you consider to be hateful speech may actually be more harmful than your response to getting punched in the nose. In which case, you should probably see a psychologist or other professional.”

    1. SHG Post author

      My response to this comment is, “was there enough of a reason to express this thought to use up Greenfield’s bandwidth?”

      1. Patrick Maupin

        Obviously, only Greenfield can decide that. In any case, I’ve seen the scoffing refutation to that very statement here (at least in the comments) on at least a few posts. There are obviously people that this particular bad speech resonates with, and for those people, simply saying “she’s wrong” may not be a persuasive argument.

  3. Oakes Spalding

    I’m with you on your “Update”. I can’t believe she meant it seriously. It’s so over the top. And if she did mean it seriously, why use a pseudonym that she must have known would have been discovered? On the other hand, I can see someone not liking her views and trying to quasi-parody and embarrass her.

    Kathy Shaidle (who was one of the first to write a piece on the original post) commented on my blog that she feels it was meant seriously. Perhaps my parody meter is broken.

    I think this is an interesting story, but aside from my blog and yours it doesn’t seem to be getting picked up. [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules]. I have been in brief contact with Tim Cushing but I don’t know where he came up with the original scoop. Maybe he ran the image through as reverse search.

  4. Oakes Spalding

    The names are obviously similar but that makes me think even more that it was someone trying to get her goat. Also, as far as I can tell, Nancy Goldstein is not Canadian and has not worked for Amnesty International or Human Rights First, so why would she make that stuff up? Also, if you are writing under a pseudonym why would you use your own picture?

    Sorry about the link thing, by the way. I should have looked.

    1. SHG Post author

      As I said, could be. Also, maybe not. Without a clear indication, denial or admission, it’s not likely to be something to be reasoned out.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        Maybe Nancy Goldstein wrote it, and just didn’t realize exactly how powerful image search is these days.

        Or maybe it’s an art form that is related to, but different than, parody:

        Take someone who writes what you believe to be dangerous, wrongheaded, and seductively articulate stuff, paraphrase their writing so that it becomes more clear exactly what they are saying, and make it look like maybe they wrote it, or maybe they didn’t.

        If you do it really well, then they cannot agree with the result without being called out in certain quarters, and cannot disagree with the result without being called out in other quarters.

  5. Fubar

    Some speech shouldn’t be free. It should cost
    Enough money, to pay for what’s lost —
    Readers’ time and attention,
    And that’s not to mention
    The beer to get thoroughly sauced.

    1. Patrick Maupin

      Or wine if you please,
      ’cause it goes well with cheese.
      Unlike beer with its nuts,
      causing ginormous guts.
      (Not to mention celiac disease.)

      1. JohnC

        Namby-Pamby’s doubly mild,
        once a man, and twice a child.
        Now he pumps his little fists,
        reading shits, then shitting writs
        to put them all on trial.

        (Apologies to Henry Carey.)

  6. j a higginbotham

    Via cargosquid, a lot of this is copied/based on Here Is Why It’s Time To Get Tough On Hate Speech In America by Tanya Cohen from Jan 5, 2015. [Neither of the favorite quotes is there verbatim.]

    1. SHG Post author

      I suspect it would similarly be “copied/based” on every other anti=hate speech screed, whether sincere or satire, as they’re all pretty much the same.

  7. Oakes

    Perhaps everyone’s getting tired of this by now, but as a semi-new person to blogging controversies I find it fascinating. So “Dinah Silverstein” lifted from “Tanya Cohen”. But if you look into it–the best place to start is “That Crazy Story About Making ‘Hate Speech’ A Crime? Yeah, That’s Satire” on Techdirt–it’s almost certain that “Tanya Cohen” is also not real. She posted two and only two blog posts two months ago–both of them just as over the top as the one by “Dinah Silverstein”. Yeah, she wrote a brief clip for Daily Kos, but it was also at about that time. She has a twitter feed but it starts, you guessed it, at exactly that time and consists of nothing but three relatively content-free tweets and numerous retweets over the space of two months. Nowhere is there a photograph or an identifiable biography and there is no google trail going back any farther. So, it would be too much much of a coincidence to believe one fake person lifted stuff from another fake person. It’s obvious that “Dinah Silverstein” and “Tanya Cohen” are the same person. The only questions (for those not asleep by now) are: who is that person and what is their motivation? 1. He or she is a pro-free speech satirist (Techdirt’s opinion), 2. He or she is a silly person with silly opinions (perhaps a teenager or whatever), who is dumb enough to have dumb opinions but smart enough to get blog post placement in semi-well read niches but who for some reason wants to remain anonymous and steal other people’s photographs, or 3. a troll (perhaps completely apolitical) who simply wants to stir up trouble, mess with people or just see what they can get away with. Frankly, I think one of the lessons here is that there are bloggers, such as Kathy Shaidle, the fellow at PJ Media and, well, me, who (while otherwise being good and virtuous people 🙂 ) have too much blogging time on their hands, such that they sometimes get caught railing against fake straw men (or fake straw women as the case may be). A sobering lesson for us all, whatever side we are on.

    1. SHG Post author

      Two points: First, consider paragraph breaks. Trust me on this. Second, we’ve been over this before.

      Non-point: Sometimes, good people get nailed by parody. Take it in stride. It is humbling, which is something we could all use more of.

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