Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Rest of the Story

In April, I did two posts on the case of Professor Orlando Figes, a professor of history at Birkbeck College, London.

One of Professor Figes' colleagues--Dr. Rachel Polonsky--accused him of writing savage and anonymous reviews of her work and the work of others on Amazon using the name Historian. She first suspected Figes when she noticed Historian's profile included the username "Orlando-Birkbeck." She also noted that Historian praised Figes' work while trashing other historians.

Dr. Polonsky went public with her charges and then went so far as to hire law firm Carter Ruck to establish the identity of Historian.

Professor Figes initially denied being the anonymous poster known as Historian. His attorney threatened to sue anyone defaming his client.

On April 16, the UK's The Guardian quoted a statement by Figes' attorney, Price:
"My client's wife wrote the reviews ... My client has only just found out about this, this evening. Both he and his wife are taking steps to make the position clear."
On April 23, The Guardian printed another story in which Figes took responsibility for being Historian:
[Figes] described a state of panic when he first saw the e-mail ... which made him instruct his lawyer "without thinking this through rationally.

"This escalated the situation," he said, "and brought more pressure on myself by prompting a legal response. My wife loyally tried to save me and protect our family at a moment of intense stress when she was worried about my health. I owe her an unreserved apology."
Last Friday (July 16) The Guardian had a follow-up to the Figes affair:
One of Britain's leading historians, Orlando Figes, is to pay damages and costs to two rivals who launched a libel case after a row erupted over fake reviews posted on the Amazon website ... praising his own work and rubbishing that of his rivals ... As part of the agreed settlement Figes, who has been on sick leave since the scandal broke, has circulated an apology and retraction.
Read the latest story from The Guardian here.

Read my earlier posts here and here.

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