Who ombuds the ombudsman?

Josep Maria Casasús, the La Vanguardia ombudsman to whom I complained almost four months ago re Rafael Ramos, wrote back last Friday, telling me that the information provided in the electronic address – that’s the 80s term for URL – was insufficient to reach a conclusion of plagiarism. He also asked me to come and meet him, bringing unspecified documents. I’ve written back asking him:

  1. Why it has taken 15 weeks instead of one day to make this request.
  2. Exactly what evidence further to my original post is required to demonstrate plagiarism. The information and quotes presented in Ramos’ 2001/10/16 article could not have been the fruit of his labours unless he was in Peshawar. The Times and the Guardian articles contain all substantial information used by Ramos and were available to him seven to eight hours before he filed. I fail to see how it is possible to avoid the conclusion that Ramos plagiarised his article from the Times and the Guardian. I assume that La Vanguardia will provide Casasús with the resources required to find other examples.
  3. Whether he has come to any conclusions regarding the other charges, viz that Ramos published work that was illiterate and that displayed an elementary inability to distinguish between fact, opinion, and fiction.
  4. Whether he regards these two practices as being compatible with the profession of journalism.
  5. Whether he has informed La Vanguardia’s management of the problem, and when.
  6. When he expects to finish his investigation.
  7. Whether he will subsequently publish a timeline showing what he did when to reach his conclusions.

Josep Maria Casasús wrote in his comments on the Jayson Blair case that “Times are changing … Ethics are already a commercial ploy/lure” (Los tiempos están cambiando … La ética ya es un reclamo comercial). With his failure to resolve in months what the New York Times resolved in days, Mr Casasús is rapidly becoming a commercial liability for La Vanguardia and a reputational liability for another of his employers, the Pompeu Fabra University, where he is professor of journalism. Meanwhile, thanks go to the Ombudsgod for his thunderbolt in the direction of Casasús and to Iberian Notes for continuing to show an interest.

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  1. Yeah, unfortunately he has. John Chappell complained to him about Màrius Serra, who had copied some stuff off the internet, translated it into Spanish, and published it as his own. Casasús just published Serra’s reply, which ended by saying basically: it’s the fault of people like you, Mr Chappell, for annoying us so much by being American. Defensor del lector o del periodista? You decide.

  2. Because they snapped it up before the US Department of Commerce came to an agreement with the .edu domain managing body that .edu was to be reserved for US-regulated educational institutions. It’s slightly bizarre that one of the most anti-American universities in Spain should, in digital terms, be profiling itself as an American university, but they probably regard it as preferable to .es – they’re strongly Catalan nationalist as well.

  3. You’re damned right we’re interested and we are backing Trevor all the way. I assume that the many commentaries I have made about Mr. Ramos’s articles in my blog will be reviewed by Mr. Casasus, so that he may explain to us exactly how Mr. Ramos’s articles conform to any imaginable ethical code of journalism. I hope they do sue me–I’ll get Rodriguez Menendez to take the case. Now that’d be a circus. Because, remember, I charge Marius Serra with being a thief, a liar, and a plagiarist, I charge Rafael Ramos with plagiarism and violating the Catalan Journalists’ Code of Ethics, and I charge Rafael Poch, Andy Robinson, and Tomas Alcoverro with violating said Code.

    I also charge Baltasar Porcel, Remei Margarit, and Eulalia Sole with being such idiots that their articles are unworthy of being printed in a serious newspaper.

  4. Those are not the only examples! In other cases I found Mr. Xavier Batalla misquoting and mistranslating information he found on websites and Also Mr. Andy Robinson.! Whenever I addressed the issue, Mr. Batalla never answered, and Mr. Robinson did it only partially. Unfortunately everyday I’m becoming more and more skeptic about journalism and its relation with ethics. Moreover, when a code does not specify punishments for those who break it, how can we expect that it will really rule journalism?

  5. i’ve just chanced upon your chat. jordi. i don’t recall your complaint about mistranslation. could you jog my memory and i’ll try and complete my reply. i always try and quote my sources. yours andy robinson

  6. In January 9th, 2004 La Vanguardia published an article titled “mis mejores amigos son judios” in which Mr. Robinson mentioned a book recently edited by Alexander Cockburn [Politics of Antisemtism. ISBN 1902593774, 2003] Mr. Robinson did a correct quotation from the book

    “En realidad, esta lectura confusa por parte de los grupos de presión proisraelíes en EE.UU. no es nada casual, según sostiene el escritor Alexander Cockburn, editor del nuevo libro “La política de antisemitismo” (2003, Counterpunch): “Las acusaciones de antisemitismo siempre se multiplican conforme se intensifica la represión en los territories palestinos”, ironizó durante la presentación del nuevo libro el mes pasado en Nueva York.”

    The next paragraph contains two opinions from two Jews, one American -I assume- and one Canadian. Both of them are introduced by the sentence “Curiosamente, muchos judíos norteamericanos coinciden.” [Curiously, many north American Jews agree (with the previous opinion quoted from the book, I assume again)]

    The reader -as myself- is entitled, then, to assume that those are so-called independent opinions from people who after reading the book, or without reading it, agree with that interpretation.

    “Curiosamente, muchos judíos norteamericanos coinciden. “No sé si hay antisemitismo en Europa, pero no se debe confundir la oposición a Israel con el antisemitismo”,
    dijo Dafna Shalom, residenta judía de Manhattan, cuya familia se encuentra en Israel. Calificar la oposición a las políticas israelíes como antisemita “es un arma de doble filo”, señala Michael Neumann, filósofo judío de la Universidad de Trent en Canadá, porque “devalue el término antisemita del mismo modo que la inflación devalúa una moneda”.

    However, in the commentaries about the book published in http://www.amazon.com we can read the following:

    “Starting with a brilliant and witty dissection by the Canada-based philosopher Michael Neumann, “What is Anti-Semitism?” several the essays in this book, by Lenni Brenner , Scott Handleman and Linda Belanger, address the issue of what constitutes genuine, rancid anti-Semitism ? Jew hatred ?as opposed to realistic, rational appraisals of political, military and social conduct.”

    No wonder that Mr. Newman agrees with the opinions contained in the aforementioned book. He is the author of one of its articles!

    According to Webster Dictionary the meaning of “misquote” is “To quote erroneously or incorrectly.” Sincerely, is then the introduction Mr. Robinson wrote, “Curiously, many north American Jews agree,” correct? Does not it mislead the reader? I think that it is a key piece of information to let the reader know that Mr. Newman’s opinion is part of the book, -actually the very first article! However, Mr. Robinson never presented us this information, rather he mis-quoted Mr. Newman’s opinion as if it were independent.

    In the next paragraph, Mr. Robinson continues quoting Mr. Newman’s opinions without mentioning its source.

    “Respecto a las agresiones en Europa contra judíos, Neumann relativiza: “Es lamentable que media docena de judíos hayan sido hospitalizados -ninguno ha muerto- en recientes ataques en Europa, pero si pretendes que esto sea considerado como uno de los problemas más graves del mundo, desconoces el mundo”, afirma. “Los ataques contra árabes, africanos y gitanos en Europa son mucho más frecuentes”, añade.”

    Mr. Newman’s complete article can be found http://www.counterpunch.org/neumann0604.html. On translation technique, I want to point out the transition from the third singular person, used by Mr. Newman in his article [It is very unpleasant that roughly half a dozen Jews have been hospitalized–none killed–due to recent attacks across Europe. But anyone who makes this into one of the world’s important problems simply hasn’t looked at the world.], to the second singular person in Mr. Robinson’s translation, what gives to it a more personal, tete-à-tete, casual flavor. Was it really a conversation?

    On the other hand, Mr. Newman’s article is a long and complex one in which he analyzes different views on anti-semitism. Certainlyת one can agree o disagree with it. However, one can raise a question about how representative is this quotation of Mr. Newman’s opinion. It introduces and element of relativism based on figures. Should not be any and all kinds of racism equally morally and ethically condemnable and considered wrong? According to Mr. Newman’s article, is the author (Mr. Newman) implying that we should prioritize our resources according to figures (how frequent a human group is attacked)? If Mr. Robinson translation was the only source of information, the reader could answer to the previous question in positive way. However, Mr. Newman answers it when he states in his article: “These attacks are a matter for the police, not a reason why we should police ourselves and others to counter some deadly spiritual disease.” In other words, Mr. Newman thinks that the targeted group should not play the role of victim and prosecutor Moreover, Mr. Newman finds that this would be justified in a very specific case: “That sort of reaction is appropriate only when racist attacks occur in societies indifferent or hostile to the minority attacked.”

    In other words, I consider that Mr. Robinson’s selection and translation has shift the focus and the intention of the author from a moral question on playing the role of victim and prosecutor to a mere relativism on how to prioritize our efforts based on figures. Is Mr. Robinson’s agenda to say that Jews are too noisy or exaggerated? Or that given the lack of deaths (?) we, Europeans, have more interesting things to do? Haven’t there been deaths in countries like Canada, Turkey or Morocco? It is up to the reader to answer these questions.

  7. jordi, your concession that “Mr. Robinson did (sic) a correct quotation from the book” is false since the quote from alex cockburn is actually from his talk at a church on washington square the week before.

    i quote shalom as an example of a jewish american who agrees with cockburn’s statment” taken from a conversation with her. i feel from my experience she reflects opinions widely held in the jewish community (and entirely underrepresnted in the adl campaigns) that antisemtism and oppostion to israeli polices are two different issues.

    . then i continue the argument with neumann’s statement which i agree should be sourced to the book, a paper copy of which i bought after seeing cockburn in new york. i don’t know if it’s the same essay as the one you quote from th web.

    as far as your criticism of my selection from neumann, i think i reflect his views accurately given the restrictions of space. i do hope so. maybe we should ask him. in any case, in our previous correspondence you seemed to waver between suggesting, on one hand, that i misrepresent neumann and, on the other, that neumann is not worthy of serious consideration because he confessess he is exclusively interested in justice for palestine not objective analysis (i hope i’m not misrepresenting what you said.. it was some time ago). i’d say you can’t have it both ways.

    you also suggested in our last corrspondence that i’d invented the adl’s tv ad campaign and that i’d invented the results of the adl’s own US survey of opinions on israel. i hope my reply back then cleared that up. if not call the adl and they will confirm the tv spot and the poll.

    as far as translation technique is concerned i think you make a good point though really neumann’s article is written in direct conversational style

    re: your rhetorical question: Is Mr. Robinson’s agenda to say that Jews are too noisy or exaggerated? ..
    and non jews, Europeans, have more interesting things to do?

    i think it’s quite clear that my article is not about jews and non jews but about different opinions within the jewish community about the meaning of antisemitism.

    for that reason i would never counterpose the terms jews and europeans as you do in your question. that’s why i chose to comment ironically that europeans might retort “But my best friends are jewish !”or even “But I’m jewish!” on seeing the adl’s warning about European antisemitism.

    anyway, jordi, thanks for reading my piece with such dedication. i really do try to source quotes and state “en declaraciones a la vanguardia” etc. when they are from comments made directly to me. sometimes it gets repetitive and is edited out. yours andy robinson

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