Friday, March 20, 2015

Bob the Doxer, Or, Braun's Underhanded Response to My Response

Yesterday I wrote a response to Bob Braun’s attack on New Jersey’s Assistant Commissioner Bari Erlichson. Braun did acknowledge errors – not to me (which I wouldn’t expect) but to his readers. Reasonable, right? Except that the way he responded was by rewriting his original post without any mention of edits, without any changes in headline or pictures. A regular reader thumbing through his site would have no way of ascertaining that Braun has substantially backed off  his original claims.

The irony here, of  course, is that Braun is accusing Ms. Erlichson of ethical breaches, but he’s the one with his pants, so to speak, on fire.

Typically journalists – even us bloggers out here in the wild west of commentary – carefully delineate corrections in order to clarify facts for readers and confirm their fidelity to the truth. Braun doesn’t. So as a public service here’s the changes he made yesterday.

1) He deleted Bari Erlichson’s home address.

2) In the original post Braun wrote that Ms. Erlichson “didn’t acknowledge her personal  ties to a company that profits from the business relationship to Pearson – and the state department.”

Braun changed that sentence to “She did not mention her personal ties to a company that profits from a business relationship to Pearson which, in turn, has a contract with the state education department.”

Minor change? Not really – the point of his original post is that Ms. Erlichson’s husband works for MongoDB (he’s a vice president, not an owner, as I incorrectly stated in my response) and that MongoDB, a database provider,  has a contract with Pearson, the vendors for PARCC. Braun is surreptitiously reversing his claim that MongoDB has a contract with Pearson, an error that led to his unethical attacks on Ms. Erlichson.

Because MongoDB, as I stated yesterday, has no contract with Pearson. The company offers an open source software platform used by thousands of customers.

(A reader of Braun’s original post, cross-linked now at Diane Ravitch’s blog, notes, “This is so pathetic. Do you have any idea how widely used MongoDB is? This is fear mongering at its finest.” Ravitch has no corrections up either.)

3) Braun’s original  post says this:
State education department spokesmen declined to answer inquiries about Erlichson’s connections to MongoDB.
He replaces that paragraph with this:
A state education department spokesman said Bari Erlichson had no connection with any of the work done by MongoDB. Michael Yaple, the spokesman, said her husband’s company was not listed among any of the Pearson subcontractors working in New Jersey. However, he did not answer how MongoDB and Pearson could develop a National Transcript Center without New Jersey. He said New Jersey was not part of the project.
Okay. Maybe the department spokesman got back to him late. Who knows? He doesn’t say, just replaces his original paragraph, one that implies that Ms. Erlichson has some unsavory connection to her husband’s company and Pearson with another very different  paragraph that contradicts his allegations.

But now Braun comes up with the dumb/naive assertion that a National Transcript Center could function without New Jersey because it uses the word “national” in its title. Using Braun’s reasoning, N.J. must be part of the National Security Agency. Or NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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You’d think that Braun’s panicky re-rewrite of his story might have humbled him. Not so much. He’s got another post up today on yesterday’s legislative hearing about PARCC’s social media monitoring and says this:
It was revealed here that Erlichson is married to Andrew Erlichson, vice president of the $1.8 billion company MongoDB that holds subcontracts with Pearson.
Department spokesman have dismissed the importance of the connection, saying MongoDB has no New Jersey contracts. But, clearly, what helps keep Pearson financially healthy helps MongoDB–and those who work for it and those who are married to those who work for it.
Nope. Wrong agains. Pearson doesn't have a “subcontract” with MongoDB. Someone ought to explain “open source” to him. Maybe he’ll take that out of the post later today. Right now he's sounding a bit desperate.

Side note: I learned a new word yesterday: doxxing (also spelled “doxing).  Here’s a definition from The Economist:
The term "dox" (also spelt "doxx", and short for "[dropping] documents") first came into vogue as a verb around a decade ago, referring to malicious hackers' habit of collecting personal and private information, including home addresses and national identity numbers. The data are often released publicly against a person’s wishes. It is a practice frowned upon by users of Reddit, a popular online forum, and many others. 
Braun is a doxxer.

And if he has any interest in protecting his credibility he’ll apologize to his readers for lack of forthrightness and to Ms. Erlichson for maliciousness of intent and errors of both fact and judgement.

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