Remember When? @Goodacre on “The Talpiyot Tomb and the Bloggers” @eisenbrauns

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I have a review copy of this book and figured I’d give it a go, maybe one essay at a time.

There is a reason that a Canadian-b(i)ased journalist who is not a scholar or archeologist but who does have an agenda trashed this book. He did not understand the genesis of the book, and thus the exodus of information from it numbered too much for him. Also, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

As the title suggests, this book will examine how archaeology, the bible, politics, and the media work together, or against each other whatever the case may be. It contains the papers from the Duke Conference presented in 2009, a conference held shortly after the titanic flop of the Jesus tomb “discovery.”  Mark Goodacre’s essay deals expressly with that issue.

There are two facets to Goodcare’s essay. The first deals with the success of the blogging community’s reactions towards airing of a documentary on the “discovery” of the so-called Jesus tomb in 2007. Goodacre takes us on the path of initial reactions to the announcement as well as to the aftermath of the program. Opinions, tag lines, and promises were changed, according to Goodacre, when scholarly bloggers began to call into question the sensationalism surrounding the “discovery.”

As a blogger, what is most fascinating about this is Goodacre’s timeline of the events. He notes his post about Mariamne (a name the original Columbus has insisted still means something, even against Goodacre’s FDR approach), dated three days before the airing of the show. This was just the beginning of the reactionary wave in the biblioblogosphere at the time. Because of the massive three-day wave, Discovery began to step back from their initial overstatements. It did not stop there, but continued with claims becoming changed somewhat to exhibit a better presentation of the reality of the data, sans manipulation. He concludes this section by writing, “By providing informed comment in an up-to-the-minute way, the blogs can, on occasions like this, hold the media to account, exposing problematic claims and faulty logic…”

But, alas, this is not the end of the story. In the second half of the essay, Goodacre recounts the story of attempting to get the website changed; however, even with the onslaught of blogging, the Talmor Media-based website refused to heed the corrective calls and update their facts or other misstatements. He laments that this is an example to “remind bloggers of the potential for wasting time on sites driven by commercial concerns.”

After reading this essay, I decided to research the reason why Talmor (no doubt a name drawn from the Talpiyot Tomb). Richelle Gillett, who was the contact person for the launching of the website, only worked for DDB PR for what looks like the space of the entire fiasco. There is not, as far as I can tell, anything else about Talmor Media on the internet. The battle is not lost, then, if we consider that Talmor Media is likely a shell game played by the profiteers of the Jesus Tomb to appear professional in the expectation of scholars. The battle was not lost because there was never a battle to begin with. It was never a site that would be updated, only one that served a purpose, to make the “team” look professional.

Goodacre’s essay shows the power of the blogs to control the media’s manipulation of data as well as the way to de-sensationalize those who seek only a name. The dialogue in the book is ever present, unless you are convinced that the essayists had nothing better to do than to write directly about you. If this is the case, then more than likely, you will not be impressed. In Goodacre’s essay, the present dialogue is one that speaks to the need for bloggers to take seriously their position. If they are going to be academic bloggers, then they need to insure that their production is always tempered. Blogs like those by Goodacre and Davila are well respected for this very reason. They are hesitant about jumping on any bandwagon and more often than not, refrain from lashing out until facts are well established. There is also a conversation going on about the role manipulation of data plays in these “discoveries.” The examples Goodacre uses shows that yes, data can be manipulated, and yes, one can go on national television and promote such things in a quick manner, but you will be challenged. And if you are wrong, even if scholars must lose sleep, then a wave will build. I rather like the conversation thus far in this book, although I’ve only read one essay.


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