The new editor of the British Society for the Turin Shroud newsletter speaks with forked tongue. He is no improvement on the previous editor who flew into a childish rage in his parting editorial and made a sad spectacle of himself. Unfortunately, neither the President of the BSTS or the new editor were willing to publish a response to this infantile rubbish.
Furthermore, in recent issues of the newsletter, the editor has made statements about me in his editorial which were false. When this was pointed out to him the first time round, he was unwilling to do anything about it, except to offer to publish a response from me SIX MONTHS later. The correspondence below will demonstrate that, far from being met with "silence" from me as he claimed, he received several strongly worded protests and requests for right of immediate reply, until I finally decided not to pursue the matter further. The BSTS newsletter had, so I thought, reached an all-time low.
But even worse was to come: I discovered that in the digital version of the editorial in the latest issue, published online at www.shroud.com, one sentence had been deleted from the original in the printed version. If this was the editor's way of acknowledging that the sentence was inaccurate and rather maligning of the individuals mentioned, it was entirely the wrong way to do it. A postscript retraction or correction would have been appropriate, but to attempt in this rather sly manner to tuck away the issue is cheating with the truth, and most unbecoming of someone who studies and interprets manuscripts.
The printed version said:
"Before the official press conference in September, where the new look Shroud could be seen, there were concerns about other debris and particles being removed along with the backing cloth, resulting in permanent damage to information available from the relic. The strongest protests came from Emanuela Marinelli in Rome and Bill Meacham in Hong Kong. Perhaps the wisest policy was to wait and see before publishing any opinion, favourable or not. I am including in this newsletter a report by Ian Wilson, who saw the Shroud for himself after the backing cloth had been removed."
In the online version, the sentence: "The strongest protests came from Emanuela Marinelli in Rome and Bill Meacham in Hong Kong" was missing.
[Lettter to the BSTS President of August 18, 2002]
Dear Dr. Clift,
Nice to speak with you. The whole sad story of the Shroud’s desecration follows below. But first is the “Letter to the Editor” that I sent to Mark Guscin. He apparently decided not to publish it, so I would request that the BSTS send it out to its mailing list as a special mailing, a “Letter to BSTS.” That way Mark is not involved. This seems only cricket, to counter-balance the ravings of Ian in his hit-and-run attack on AMSTAR.
There may be a general petition that will be drafted soon to address the radical “conservation” and to urge the Vatican to appoint an International Committee to oversee all testing and conservation of the relic.
[From my email to BSTS Editor of Feb. 8, 2002]
[...] My draft "letter to the Editor" is below. I went the other way -- it is very personal, and I think it does four things that needed doing:
1. Answers the more outrageous statements that Ian made
2. Gives a broader overview to the whole issue
3. Puts Ian's career as Editor in perspective
4. Puts a cap and a closure on the issue
AMSTAR was happy with this approach, as it did amount to a response, but without being a tit-for-tat. I was not exactly overjoyed with it, however, my strong belief being that when you are attacked in the vicious way that Ian did AMSTAR, you should defend yourself for the record and not just lie low and hope it will be forgotten. I can understand your situation and your distaste with this issue hanging in the air, but this is something you inherited that needs to be dealt with. If you want to suggest some changes I would be open to that. Another alternative (and my preferred option from the beginning) is for AMSTAR to write formally to the BSTS and ask (demand, actually) that a statement in response be distributed to the BSTS newsletter mailing list ASAP. This would be a way that did not involve you directly.
The draft letter:
Ian Wilson edited the BSTS newsletter for 20 years, and during all that time I was an avid reader, almost always finding myself in agreement with his editorial stances. And I have known him as a friend since 1986. It was very sad indeed therefore to read his vitriolic farewell editorial and the accompanying tabloid-style presentation of the articles by Mattingly and Marino/Benford. This personal hostility of Ian towards AMSTAR (American Shroud of Turin Association for Research) is best forgotten, since the whole affair is a classic "tempest in a teapot."
Rex Morgan in "Shroud News" no. 118 gives a good account of the Dallas AMSTAR conference, the planning of which so irritated Ian; another good account is Mark Guscin's, in the same issue of BSTS that contains the offending editorial. Neither of these writers found anything objectionable in the organization of the conference, and quite the contrary had positive comments. I also attended the Dallas meeting, and also found it to be very well done. I do not know the full story on what provoked Ian to the unwarranted level of rage exhibited in his editorial; probably it was little more than a personality clash.
The editorial has several points that merit a response. Ian refers several times to a "US-led Shroud oligarchy." There is no such thing. Every country has its own groups, factions, movers and shakers, etc., but the American Shroud proponents do not wield any particular power on the international scene, not to mention in Italy.
The title of the editorial is curious: "On not talking with strangers." The whole thrust of the editorial was about the conference organizers’ failure to invite Stephen Mattingly, who is well known to the Shroud community, or rather their initial failure to do so. After Ian’s so-called "self-sacrificial lobbying" they did find a slot for Mattingly, and this action is termed "positively Macchiavellian." It is very hard to follow this argument except in the context of a raging personal vendetta.
Much is said in the editorial about openness and fair play, about giving the opposing point of view the opportunity to be heard, as if this should be the duty of anyone organizing a conference on the Shroud. But then, on Ian’s own turf, he did not give AMSTAR any chance to reply, opting instead for a heavy shot of monologue and venom, konwing that it would be weeks or months before a reply could be circulated.
As an example of fairness, he cites his equal treatment of Robert Bucklin and Edward Hall. I never had the opportunity of meeting Bucklin, but it is clear from his writing and speaking on the Shroud that he stood in awe of the image and devoted considerable time to its study. I did meet Hall in Turin in 1986, and the same cannot be said of him. He held the Shroud in contempt, was flippant about it, and told me that he was only interested in proving it to be a fake. My distinct impression at the time was that he was just along for the publicity. After the C14 dating, he declared the Shroud to be a rag that was "faked up and flogged off," and anyone who still believed it might be authentic was a "flat-earther." No, Ian, these two men do not deserve "equal sympathy."
All of these comments notwithstanding, Ian Wilson has made a huge contribution to the study of the Shroud and its promotion to the public. The swansong editorial was an unpleasant blip on an otherwise distinguished service as BSTS editor.
[Email to BSTS Editor of Dec. 14, 2002]
I have just seen the BSTS newsletter, and I couldn't believe my eyes. You said you were going to pursue a more dignified and neutral approach as contrasted with the nutcase editorial which preceeded you. But what do we find in your editorial but an attack on me and Emanuela, in the Ian Wilson style, namely open up with both barrels without any warning or giving the target any opportunity to respond.
I had to re-read to convince myself that this is what you were actually saying/implying/insinuating. What an utter load of crap to suggest that Emanuela and I spoke out without seeing the new look Shroud whereas Ian Wilson did not. And to state that we were "the strongest protests" is simply incorrect. Paul Maloney and Kim Dreisback were both quoted in the press; I was not, until after the press conference. ( I certainly would have, but they did not contact me. If someone put chrome fittings and linoleum tiles on the Parthenon I would not need to see it myself to raise a protest.)
And to state that "before the official press conference in September, where the new look Shroud could be seen, there were concerns about ... permanent damage to information available from the relic," you are implying that these concerns were unfounded. And you tell your readers that the wisest policy (Ian's) was to wait and see the relic, and then all was well. What an enormous load of codswallop! This is really offensive and unworthy of you.
And to imply that those who saw the "new look" Shroud have approved of it is deceptive. You mention Wilson and Rodriguez, but what about me, Emanuela, Pfeiffer, Fanti, Petrosillo, Zugibe, and many others. And worst of all, you publish Ian Wilson's pathetic opportunistic sycophantic rubbish, without ANY comment from those who saw the relic and were horrified at what was done. His disgusting toadying prose runs right along with your editorial, making feeble attempts to refute the "alarmist" claims of those who registered strong protests before the viewing. The old adage that "an editor separates the wheat from the chaff, and then publishes the chaff" was never more true.
And you of all people, someone who works with old manuscripts, ought to appreciate the fragile nature of ancient artifacts and their information. I fully expected you to be horrified by the damage done to the Shroud. Have you even read the accounts by Paul Maloney and myself on shroud.com? Why are these not even mentioned in the newsletter? Why wasn't Emanuela's website coverage of the "restoration" mentioned?
The only thing that can be done now is to offer me and Emanuela the opportunity to respond, by letter mailed out to the entire BSTS mailing list. Your refusal to publish my letter critical of Ian's insane ranting and raving towards AMSTAR was not fair; you allowed him to do a hit-and-run venomous attack without any response. Now you have doubled the insult. The good ole British sense of fairplay gives me the right of reply, and NOT some three months down the road in the next issue.
cc: Dr. Michael Clift (by fax)
[Email to BSTS Editor of Dec. 16, 2002]
I may have objections to your editorial practices and biases, but you sure do a good spin doctoring. However, these facts remain:
1. Your editorial was biased, and you mentioned Emanuela and me in a most unfavourable manner (call it a mild attack), implying that we made strong criticisms unwisely without waiting and seeing the relic after restoration, whereas you specifically mention Ian Wilson "who saw the Shroud FOR HIMSELF ...", and Rodriguez who "was ALSO PRESENT at the press conference and agrees with Ian's views." You give the strong impression that all the hubhub was much ado about nothing, that there was no real damage to scientific information in the relic. And then, the only account you chose to publish on this topic states that this is the case: it was all "alarmist" and the Shroud is in very good hands. This is slanting, biased coverage, and to a reader who knew nothing about the whole affair the editorial would definitely give a lopsided and incorrect view of things. Especially when followed by the propaganda-type article by Ian Wilson. BTW, his article is not chaff because I disagree with it; it is chaff because it is rubbish.
2. Your statement that Emanuela and I made "the strongest protests" before the official press conference is not true for me. Emanuela did so and she also worked hard to inform the outside world what was going on, for which we owe her a great debt. But I made no public statement and I would like to know exactly what you are referring to. What statement did I make that was "less dignified than Paul's?" The only thing that I can recall sending to you and a large number of other people was a list of ten questions that needed to be answered. I also drafted a letter sent to all Villa Gualino participants that was about methodology ONLY. So what exactly are you referring to? On this point you have erred, my friend. Even with Ian Wilson I was having a frank but friendly (barely) exchange of views, and he assured me in the last email before we left for Turin that "I am on your side on this... no need for daggers at dawn." (Obviously he jumped sides soon after.) And even at the Rome press conference after seeing the Shroud, there were no personal attacks made by any of us, and no one's motivation was questioned. That sort of innuendo came a week later from Ghiberti, then picked up by Ian Wilson, claiming that those who were critical of the "restoration" were bitter about not having been consulted or involved. Those are the facts. Your editorial comment about me was wrong. A retraction or right of reply is called for, and not so long afterwards that it has been forgotten. I see that the next issue is SIX months later.
Of course you have every right to your opinion and since it was an editorial it is to be expected that it would be your opinion. But it should be clearly labelled as such, and the news should not be cleverly slanted to reflect your own bias. This is what separates The Times from The Daily Worker. That is why the BSTS owes Emanuela and me the right of reply, and if it cannot afford the cost of a one-page letter to members to put this right, it is in a really sorry state -- one that it has been in since it published, under its banner, the ranting raving attack on AMSTAR in Ian Wilson's last editorial, and refused to publish any reply.
BTW, I don't know if you were referring to Ian Wilson's editorial or my response to it when you say "it was ugly." I tried to write a strong and fair reply without personal attack or nastiness. It was based on some admiration that I still felt for Ian in spite of what appeared to be some temporary loopiness, sparked by his dispute with Isabel.
I am surprised that you can be blase about outrages inflicted by incompetence on the Shroud or on ancient manuscripts, but that is your right. I know of hundreds of archaeological sites, artifacts and monuments that have been damaged through incompetence or pot-hunting or neglect, but the sense of outrage does not diminish when another case occurs that should have been prevented.
[Draft Email to BSTS Editor of January 2003 -- not sent, as he was clearly being a schmuck, and Dr Clift was going to do nothing]
You are right -- I don't accept your refusal to make a correction or to offer me the right to do so. It is basically a cop-out to say "If I did it for you and Emanuela, I'd have to do it for everybody." If you go and malign everybody in an editorial, then yes, you would have to do it for everybody.
It is generally accepted in publishing that when you, the editor, make a mistake that has an impact on the reputation of another person, you either publish a retraction or clarification, or give the aggrieved party the right to respond. You maligned me by stating that I and Emanuela made "the strongest protests" before seeing the Shroud -- an allegation which was untrue and which you now accept as untrue. It was made worse by your wrongly contrasting my and Emanuela's actions with the "wiser" (actually boot-licking) course adopted by Ian Wilson. You also notably omitted to mention Emanuela's laborious translation of the Italian press reports so that the rest of the world would know what was going on, a fact which you also admitted.
There is thus a very strong case for publishing a statement from me and Emanuela. Whereas she has declined this option, I insist on it, otherwise I can only conclude that the BSTS is a wholly biased body that does not play fair. All I would say in a statement to members would be a clarification of the sequence of events, and some general comments to counter Ian's glowing Pravda-style account of the "restoration." There would be nothing personal or ad hominem or harsh.
How much exactly would it cost to mail a single page letter out to BSTS members by surface post, eliminating those who have email addresses? I find it hard to believe that the BSTS cannot afford the postage for this. And regardless of the postage costs, it is something that ought to be done. Simple as that.