A scholar impersonator who was posting fake messages regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls was convicted of fraud recently and the case is now at the New York Top Court.
The case has gone to a higher court for appeal. It involves an impersonator of a scholar. This man somehow straddles the boundaries of crime and parody/free speech. He took on the alias and avatar of a scholar on the Internet and posted fake messages from him in the context of cyberspace.
The whole discussion that got distorted by his parody and satire of sorts was regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls. These parchments were found originally in the 40s and 50s in Israel. They were small-sized written pieces of Hebrew scripture encased in leather.
It seems that the Jews of that era had hidden their sacred religious writings in an effort to allay any chances of their destruction by the invading Romans. But today even more fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found.
Yet the cross-exchange of opinion and viewpoints on the Internet about these scriptural remains is a vast ocean of information. Already the Dead Sea Scrolls are corroborating evidence regarding the religious history of the Jewish people.
The Internet is the same thing magnified a thousand times by the additional knowledge and wisdom of other voices contributing their bucketful to the tributary. But when someone jumps in and starts speaking for someone else and tries to discredit that person he is impersonating, the game takes on a sinister aura.
This is exactly what happened in case of Raphael Golb who committed an identity theft. He wrote emails by the name of Lawrence Schiffman. Now Lawrence is the Chairman of Judaism Studies in New York University.
The impersonator was trying to get back at the knowledgeable authority for some personal reasons. He wanted to avenge his father’s reputation.
While he defended himself as only using his right to free speech, the judge deemed it to be criminal and fraudulent activity that he had engaged in. Golb in a way used the fake ID online in order to gain entry in various conferences around the world.
He admits that this was his purpose since without the impersonation he would have never been allowed in those exclusive scholarly circles. But as they say, the law is the law whether it is in actual reality or in cyberspace.