The shock of recognition

How familiar this statement by Rachel Polonsky sounds

I am very glad to report that the legal dispute that Robert Service and I have had with Orlando Figes and Stephanie Palmer has now been settled.

This dispute began in mid-April when Orlando Figes denied responsibility for the ten Amazon reviews signed ‘Historian’ in a circular email to colleagues…

Our objectives in pressing this case were…to gain a contractual undertaking from Professor Figes not to use fraud, subterfuge or unlawful means to attack or damage us or our works in the future; and to require Professor Figes to circulate a formal apology and retraction to all the recipients of his email of 15 April.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? The denial of responsibility – the “no not me I never”? The use of fraud and subterfuge and unlawful means to attack and damage people and their works? It sounds awfully familiar to me.

So does Robert Service’s version:

I am pleased that this squalid saga is over. I never wanted to go to law, but the behaviour of Prof. Figes over three months made it impossible to let matters rest. He lied through his teeth for a week and threatened to sue me for libel if I didn’t say black was white. His wife, herself a lawyer, took up his cause and lied that she was the culprit and not he. At the end of the second week he was forced by the incontrovertible evidence to admit that he had written the anonymous reviews posted on the Amazon website. There followed weeks of grinding, needless altercation as he tried to tamp down the wording of his apology and retraction…

Check; check; check.

Universities in the UK are under all manner of pressures and criticisms at the moment, and it is terrible that Figes has made it easier for the critics to pounce. He has brought shame on that fine institution Birkbeck College. In my view it is inappropriate that a lecturer teaching about the lies in public life in Stalin’s USSR should himself be so menacing and dishonest. I would also question whether such an academic should soon or ever again be trusted to supply confidential, impartial references or reports for research grant-giving bodies.

And what about his students? Who would want a menacing dishonest teacher?

At the moment I obviously feel sore about the hundreds of hours of wasted time since mid-April, not to mention the unpleasantness…In some of his statements according to the press he has come close to depicting himself as the victim.

Check; check; check.

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