How Fake News Is Used To Undermine Leaders: A Case Study of Marc Gafni
As we have seen over the past year in our election cycle, the internet has become a tool for the circulation and perpetuation of gross falsehoods and distortions. Unfortunately, we live in a post-fact society where fake news generates more engagement than truth on social media and has an enormous impact on shaping people’s viewpoints and beliefs.
I believe that the internet has created a public culture of misinformation and lies that have undermined the fundamental principles of human dignity, fair process and integrity. Instead of being a tool that we use to connect and communicate ideas that serve to unite and awaken human, social and planetary potential, the internet is being used to manipulate and divide peoples and nations. Fake news has now become one of the easiest ways for a person, or an organized group of people to take down political, cultural and spiritual leaders.
In his TED Talk, Wael Ghonim points to 5 challenges facing today’s social media. First, we spread rumors that confirm our personal biases. Second, we create ‘echo chambers’ in which to communicate only with people who share the same beliefs as us. Third, online discussions can (and often do) quickly turn into angry mobs. Fourth, it’s nearly impossible to change our opinions once we’ve posted them since everything ‘lives’ on the internet indefinitely. And Fifth, our online experience is designed for shallow comments over deep conversations. In other words, the internet has become a forum which allows for the bypassing all of the mechanisms of justice and integrity upon which this great country is founded.
In this light, I think you will find the following case study an unnerving example that speaks directly into Ghonim’s points. You will discover how the internet is used to crowd-source a witch hunt in an effort to publicly shame and ultimately commit social murder of innocent people. And finally, you will realize the sobering truth: That this could happen to anyone, including you.
Fake News and The Marc Gafni Story
The case study I will use to make my general point is the story of Marc Gafni and his alleged sexual abuse as it has played out on the internet. While it’s not a story most may have heard about, it’s a compelling case that’s gained attention in the spiritual enlightenment and Jewish renewal worlds.
While researching this case over the past year, I have become intimately familiar with the subtle and deceptive online tactics that a select group of people have used to attempt nothing less than social murder using social media, blogging, op-ed articles and press releases. As an online and engagement marketing strategist, I quickly saw how they were using platforms such as Change.Org and YouTube to build a tribe of enraged victims and their rescuers. I saw how they used Facebook to incite sexual predator memes and attack Marc Gafni’s character amongst the spiritual community. I saw how they collectively used and cross-referenced their own blog posts and press releases filled with intentional deception and misleading or outright false information to make it look as if Marc Gafni really was a sexual predator.
I can see how someone who doesn’t have the same knowledge of online engagement marketing could be easily swayed to believe the grossly distorted stories they see and hear online. And that is partly why I have spent a considerable amount of time in writing this article.
The second, and to me the more important reason why I have chosen to write this article is because I am a woman and a mother of a teenage girl who has stood against sexual abuse my entire life. However, As Cathy Young noted in an excellent discussion in Slate, “The myth of the lying woman has been replaced by the myth of the woman -or group of women — who never lie.”
I find Marc Gafni’s case an example of the tragic regression we have made in justice, dignity and integrity in the digital age. Telling a false story, or making false sexual claims, and then using the internet to spread these claims in order to commit social murder is what I call the weaponizing of sex, which itself is a terrible form of sexual abuse causing immense trauma and suffering.
The Case Of Marc Gafni
In the internet age, it is not uncommon for a small group of people to effectively conduct a campaign to discredit a public figure by repeating false or distorted statements over and over until they are assumed to be true.
Nonetheless, by both the moral and legal laws of this country, to make false accusations in a public space is a profound violation of justice. Many writers were self evidently enrolled by the organizers of the smear campaign to write blog posts, op-ed articles, press releases and online letters attacking Marc Gafni over the past year. Though most of these people have never met or talked to Gafni, their articles literally appeared at the exact same time, out of nowhere. It’s seems that they had no qualms about doing their best- with no fact checking whatsoever- to destroy his reputation.
Who Are The Key Players?
There’s always a motive in a false sexual story, and often people encouraging the story behind the scenes. While I can’t definitively point the finger at any one or two people who are the key organizers of the smear campaign against Marc Gafni, I’ve done some of my own informal research to see what I could find.
Stephen Dinan: Founder Shift Network, an online platform that promotes and sells courses and events for spiritual seekers. There are email communications from key figures including Stephen Dinan, that indicate that this most recent smear campaign against Marc Gafni was carefully orchestrated and planned. Others who have been in touch with the Center For Integral Wisdom have shared conversations they had with Dinan that tie him directly to the orchestration of the smear campaign. Many teachers who work for Dinan at the Shift Network (and therefore have real financial dependency on him) were enlisted to sign a letter against working with Marc Gafni despite the fact that many of them have never met him, let alone know him.
Barbara Marx Hubbard, considered the preeminent voice for Evolutionary Women in the world today, recently released a compelling video and article giving crucial background information about who Stephen Dinan is and what might have motivated him to initiate the smear campaign against Marc Gafni. According to Hubbard, it seems that a dangerous combination of power, politics and wounded feelings triggered Dinan’s attack which he cleverly hid behind the veneer of victim advocacy.
When I contacted Hubbard about her video and article, she shared with me that she had urged Stephen Dinan several times to meet in a “facilitated meditation to check facts and create appropriate resolution with the framework of Sacred American principles of justice and integrity”.
Rabbi David Ingber: Former student of Marc Gafni, currently one of Stephen Dinan’s teachers for the Shift Network. An online petition was circulated by David Ingber in early 2016 to ‘Stop Marc Gafni From Abusing Again’ and signed by many spiritual leaders and rabbis.
The question you might have is: Why would a former student of Gafni’s (who by the way, he ordained as a Rabbi) do this?
In order to answer that question, you need to know the following:
In May 2005, Marc Gafni expelled Ingber from his study program for what he stated as, “very serious ethical violations”. Gafni related to me in an interview that on the surface, Ingber apparently became extremely resentful and developed a strong, almost pathological hatred for for him and sought to undermine him. Gafni proceeded to tell a story that seems to reveal even deeper motives. He said that at their very first meeting Ingber, moved between love and appreciation and dark anger.
“At the end of the first weekend that I met David, he expressed his appreciation and love for all that he had learned and experienced. But then he asked to speak to me again after the closing circle. I said, sure. We met and he lashed into me with a shocking viciousness. We had literally just met two days before. He said I was like his father. The malevolence in that meeting was palpable. But instead of causing me to move away from David, I moved towards him. I thought that through love and friendship and teaching, we could heal whatever that deep primal wound was. It was only years later that I realized that I simply did not fathom either how deep the wound was nor how well hidden it was”.
A year later, in May 2006, Ingber became a central figure in false complaints of sexual harassment made against Marc Gafni in Israel. The complaints were initiated by Mia Cohen, a close associate of Ingber’s. Gafni has responded to Ingber’s false claims, distortions and crucially omitted context in a set of videos that give one serious reason to believe that he was involved in catalyzing the complaints.
Adding another layer to the story, Ingber worked together with Gafni’s former wife Chaya Lester, who has explicitly acknowledged being involved in organizing the false complaints. There is extensive evidence to show that the complaints were false and that in fact, no complaints were ever filed against Gafni. Gafni has responded to Chaya Lesters false claims in an extensive article and a series of videos.
Several writers, including myself, and many professional evaluators have reviewed hundreds of email correspondences between Gafni and his accusers which show an entirely different story of the relationship than what is reported in their articles, posts and videos. These experts include an expert polygrapher, psychological evaluators, thought leaders, journalists, Integral scholars and legal evaluators. All of this material is available for the public.
What the public at large, or anyone searching for information about Marc Gafni online, has not realized is that David Ingber and Chaya Lester, both key figures in the recent smear campaign of 2016, were also the key figures in the false complaints and smear campaign against Gafni in 2006. They call themselves ‘rescuers’ of ‘victims’ yet hide the fact that they had powerful personal motives for attacking Gafni, which they have managed to disguise both publicly and privately. All of this remains hidden from the public eye.
The Internet and Sexual McCarthyism
This kind of false attack has been appropriately labeled by Prof. Alan Dershowitz as ‘sexual McCarthyism’. In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy made a career out of accusing innocent people of communist sympathies. He essentially hijacked the understandable repulsion that Americans felt for the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and used his power as a public figure to smear innocent people and to demand that their friends denounce them.
In Marc Gafni’s case however, as in so many other contemporary stories, there is one major additional factor at play: the Internet.
While the Internet has given people across the world, who may never otherwise have had the ability to express themselves, an opportunity to liberate their voice, it has also been used to abuse innocent people. Anyone can decide to use McCarthyism tactics without having to confront the object of their attack or without any meaningful social consequences because as Wael Ghonim points out, we create echo-chambers where we only communicate with people who agree with our point of view.
That is exactly what this small cluster of people are doing. They are attempting to hijack the justified public outrage against sexual abuse, as part of a concerted campaign to smear a man using false or distorted accusations — and then pressuring his friends to denounce him under the threat of loss of their own reputation and even their livelihood.
As in classical McCarthyism, the hidden agendas, ulterior motives and true history between the accusers and the accused and between the accusers themselves is kept hidden from the public eye. So, for example, when a person perusing the internet comes across a video of a beautiful, articulate and intelligent woman telling a story of sexual abuse — they take it at face value, without question. I mean, come on… why would someone lie about being sexually abused? It’s so horrific, that we don’t even think of questioning it.
This deploying of false accusations as a political tool is a serious threat to public culture. Because the majority of Internet users either don’t take the time, or don’t care to fact-check, it’s easy for anyone to maliciously utilize this kind of cyber-bullying. It takes discernment to recognize what’s actually happening and to see it for what it is: a tragic regression we have made in justice, dignity and integrity in the digital age.
The Claims Against Marc Gafni, And What Really Happened
One central lie of the Marc Gafni smear campaign is that he is “sexually abusive”, a “pedophile”, and/or a “confessed child rapist”. These claims have been continually recycled on social media and in blog posts and published op-ed articles.
The ‘basis’ for these claims is on an account of a relationship between Gafni and a woman named Sarah Kabakov. The relationship took place in 1979–80 when Gafni was 19 years old and Sarah was fourteen. Since 2004, Kabakov has anonymously published articles accusing Gafni of sexual abuse, until her most recent article, published online in The Jewish Forward in January 2016 where she discloses her identity.
However, several critical factors need to be considered in order to have context and to understand what really happened.
She changes her story.
In her earlier tellings of the story, Kabakov describes an uncomfortably graphic story of abuse in which she physically struggled to keep Gafni off of her and in which there was ‘forcible touching’ and ‘digital vaginal penetration.’ Yet, these claims are completely left out of her most recent tellings of the story. She also changes her age — in one story she’s 14, and in another she’s 13. One Newspaper editor told Marc directly that Sara had claimed they had sexual relations. In other articles Sara said they did not. Now she seems to have acknowledged the limited nature of their contact but continues to tell a false story about the tenor and quality of their relationship.
This raises the question: Why would she change her story? Could it be that Kabakov had been ‘coached’ by a counselor or other professional who may have played a role in helping her tell her story?
If so… who might these person(s) be?
One of Sara Kabakov’s therapists or guides was Vicki Polin, a woman who had a close relationship with one of Marc Gafni’s primary attackers in the Jewish Orthodox world.
One key mentor for Kabakov in developing her story about Gafni was a woman named Vicki Polin who ran a site called the Awareness Center which collected stories about disgraced rabbis. In an unpublished, extended response to Sara, Gafni points out that, “In a 2004 Israeli article, an unnamed rabbi was quoted as saying that Kabakov came to Polin and that she and Rabbi X. — a man who has been on the primary attacker crusading against Gafni for decades and who was a former board president of The Awareness Center — ‘helped [her] through [her] silence.’” Polin herself has stated that she was Kabakov’s guide in a public post in 2006 and it is has been referred to as well in a credible newspaper story in 2004. Rabbi X worked closely with Polin for years, knowing her lack of credibility and horrific failure of integrity in reporting, and hid it from the public when he served as President of her board.
Polin not only had a close relationship Gafni’s primary attacker in the Jewish Orthodox world whom she called her “partner”, she has written and lied demonstrably about Gafni for many years. In one article, she simply made up a horrific false “fact”, claiming that there was a “rumor that Marc was attracted to prepubescent boys and girls.” The only apparent basis for the rumor was Polin’s imagination. In other words, she started the rumor herself.
When I asked Gafni about his relationship to Polin, he said that he had never met her or been interviewed by her, let alone had any sort of dialogue with her. Polins’ credibility can also be inferred from the fact that she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show claiming that she was part of a Satanic cult, in which she participated in murdering a baby. That Polin has been for a time, a guiding force for Kabakov, and other key figures in the smear campaign speaks volumes.
Marc Gafni wasn’t aware of Sara Kabakov’s false claims until 25 years after the relationship was over.
Gafni himself only became aware of Kabakov’s false claims of sexual abuse twenty five years after the relationship was over. When he finally did become aware of the false claims, he immediately sought a way to have a facilitated meeting to clarify the facts and create resolution.
In my interview with him, Gafni expressed regret for the relationship and took full responsibility for the youthful mistake and any suffering it may have caused Sara Kabakov. The fact that she was a minor, 14, and he was over eighteen years of age was not in their consciousness at the time- it was far less in the consciousness of culture as well- and according to Gafni, never even came up for discussion between them at the time.
What we’re talking about here is a normal, teenage ‘crush’ relationship. A young man meets a young woman when he is 19 — she is 14 at the time of the relationship. As we’ll see below, it seems highly likely that the characterization of the relationship by Sara Kabakov, beginning twenty five years after it took place, is a gross falsification of facts. We will also see that the relationship has been hijacked for their own use by political adversaries of Gafni.
Even though Gafni emphatically rejects Sara Kabakov’s characterization of the relationship, he explains that when he first heard of the mischaracterization of the relationship decades later, he immediately reached out via third parties and sought a meeting to clarify facts and seek resolution. He has made multiple similar attempts since that time. He remains today, fully committed to clarification and resolution and has expressed, in retrospect, sincere regret for his lack of awareness back in 79, 80, when he was just out of high school, of the full significance of their age gap — a cultural awareness, that was far less available almost four decades ago.
Why then, has Sara falsified her story and obsessively attacked Gafni, hiding behind the victim meme, causing enormous substantive damages, for so many years?
And who’s behind Sara’s attacks?
At least some of the answers will become clear below.
According to Gafni, he and Kabakov dated for several months and their physical relationship was limited to mutual teenage necking. He ended the relationship because he felt that it was in violation of the Jewish Orthodox code, which prohibits any premarital physical contact including handholding. He had experienced, and had been told by Kabakov that she too had experienced, their relationship as a deeply mutual and loving romance. He claims that Kabakov wrote him a long and detailed love letter after they broke up affirming in clear and compelling terms, her fully positive experience and the positive nature of their relationship at the time.
Gafni has taken a polygraph test which confirms the true nature and events of the relationship.
Incomplete facts and damaging, distorted narratives about this relationship that occurred 36 years ago have been posted and reposted on social media, blogs and op-ed articles by Sara Kabakov and others, including those previously discussed, involved in the smear campaign. To help refute these unsubstantiated allegations, Gafni took an extensive independent polygraph test which results confirmed he was truthful about the nature and events of this relationship.
Polygraph expert Dr. Gordon Barland, one of the leading experts in the world, concluded that the probability of deception was less than .01 percent and that Gafni had answered questions about the nature of his relationship with Kabakov truthfully. This polygraph test is available to the public here.
It is critical to note that while polygraph tests are not used in court, they are used as a key vehicle to establish truthfulness by security agencies and corporations all over the world. The expertise of the test administrator is a crucial factor in the reliability of polygraph. Dr. Barland, who tested Gafni, is the former director of Polygraph research for the U.S. Department of Defense and is considered to be one of the most credible test administrators in the world.
Articles and posts about Gafni continue to appear, misrepresenting the facts and perpetuating the predator narrative.
Sadly, anything goes when it comes to publishing content on the Internet. Ethics in journalism is thrown out the window. Fact-checking, hearing both sides of the story and seeking the truth through open dialogue aren’t in the rule-book. Sensationalism has replaced true journalism and because of that:
- Gafni is represented, implicitly or explicitly as Kabakov’s rabbi or spiritual guru. This is not accurate, as Gafni was just out of highschool and was neither rabbi, or even rabbinical student. Yet these untruths are republished again and again.
- One recent article said, “Gafni has confessed to having sex with Sara.” This is a perfect example of using sensationalism to support the sexual predator narrative. Not only has Gafni never ‘confessed’ (a carefully chosen word by the blogger herself)to having sex with Sara, he never had sex with her or anything even vaguely approaching sex. What is true, is that Gafni and Kabakov engaged in teenage necking, a far cry from the fabricated story that the article tries to convince the reader of.
- Sara was 14, in high in school, at the time the relationship started. Her birthday has been confirmed as Nov. 30. Their dating began, according to Gafni began between Hanukkah and Christmas. They were in relationship for only a few short months.
- Most articles reporting on this story fail to mention that Gafni had just turned 19, and was a recent high school graduate, when he met Kabakov. They have also understated her age on most occasions, reporting her as 13 years old when in fact she was 14, another distortion that further perpetuates a predator narrative. Instead of pointing out that Gafni was 19 when he met Kabakov, (a fact that she herself has confirmed) his age is often omitted from the various media narratives, thus tacitly encouraging people to infer falsely that he was a man in his 30s or 40s when their relationship took place.
- One blogger, Nancy Levine, who has evidently assumed that Marc Gafni is guilty — based upon one person’s unverified storytelling, has written dozens of posts attacking John Mackey, Co-CEO of Whole Foods for his friendship with Gafni.
- In the past several months, bloggers and other writers — have published misleading articles which consequently fuel the ‘sexual predator’ meme that has been directed against Gafni.
- Devastating false claims have been made about Marc Gafni, including the claim that he is a ‘pedophile’, ‘child rapist’, ‘predator,’ and ‘serial abuser’. These claims have been made maliciously, and are currently being used in casual descriptions of him by some of the key activists in the smear campaign. This kind of intentional distortion might well be the definition of what the law calls actual malice.
- The Jewish Forward published Saras account of the story in early 2016 as truth, without any fact checking or investigation. This is not surprising however, as the Forward has been actively involved in the recent smear campaign. Gafni’s response to Sara’s distorted narrative of these events was also recently published in the Forward . However, in an effort to discredit his response, the Forward added analysis of Gafni’s claims from ‘a number of experts in sexual abuse’. When Sara’s response to Marc’s rebuttal was met with a plethora of comments which -for the first time in 15 years- challenged Sara’s false narrative, the Forward took down the comment section.
What is also shocking is that so-called spiritual and religious leaders who hold positions of authority and influence over large communities, and who one would assume have ability to discern truth from fabricated story — have blindly signed an online petition against Gafni. The petition contains the same lies and distortions as every other online post and article, yet not one of the petitions signers checked facts, sought additional information or even took the time to contact Gafni directly before taking a stand against him.
Marc is regularly misquoted in the smear campaign articles as saying “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.”
In fact, it’s hard not to find an article online that doesn’t reference this quote, reproduced by Mark Oppenheimer in a New York Times op-ed article that was used to catalyze the smear campaign. I asked Marc directly about this quote via email and here was his response:
“When I spoke to Oppenheimer we spoke about this old story for only a couple of minutes. He did not seem interested in it and never interviewed me about it. We only spoke about this quote in passing for a couple of moments. I told him that the quote was horrific and distorted and I completely disavowed it. Oppenheimer ignored me and used the quote in two separate articles even though he knew I had repudiated it in no uncertain terms.
This long-circulated, horrendous distorted quote was taken from a 2004 article in The Jewish Week about this old [Sara]story. At the time the that it was originally printed, I called the writer to object to the quote, which grossly distorted the intention of my statements on this topic. First, because the words he imputed to me in the way he reported them implied that I had had actual sex with Sara, which was not the case, as I told Rosenblatt (the writer of the 2004 article) in an earlier interview. To my shock, he told me that Sara, in her interview for the article, told him that we indeed did have sex — a claim that she had now changed — justifying, I presume, his construction of the “quote.” Even worse, however, is the vulgar implication of the quote. My intention was to characterize Sara as I knew her, which was as a beautiful being who was mature beyond her age. My words were meant in a way that was fully honoring; they were not used as a defense of our age difference. Nor were they to suggest that in retrospect I did not recognize the mistake in our teen age necking and fully regret it.
The “I never forced her” part of the quote was a response to any suggestion that aspects of our physical contact were not mutual or were in any way forced. I now understand that his line of questioning likely came from Sara’s false narrative. This quote has been used again and again despite the fact that it is grossly distorted, out of context, and a complete violation of how I feel about it and despite the fact that I have repudiated it dozens of times.”
Update: Sensationalism Instead of Journalism — The In-House Blogger For The Smear Campaign
Blogger and pseudo journalist, Nancy Levine, who claims on her LinkedIn profile to be an advocate for changing the culture of sexual violence, has spent most of 2016 exclusively posting articles about one of Gafni’s associates and demanding that he denounce Gafni or else, be denounced himself.
This is a classic example of what psychology calls the ‘victim triangle’, where perpetrators disguise themselves as the rescuer or victim. In this case, Levine rationalizes her obsession with writing articles about Gafni as ‘protecting other innocent victims from him, when in fact, she’s a key figure in disseminating false ‘facts’ about him across multiple online platforms.
Upon closer investigation, we notice that Levine appeared out of nowhere, coincidentally, at precisely the same time the Gafni smear campaign began. She has never met Gafni. She has never reviewed any of the extensive information that refutes virtually all of her claims. She never called Gafni or anyone on his staff for an interview.
She lives in the SF Bay Area, close to Stephen Dinan, the primary organizer of the smear. It doesn’t take much intelligence to put two and two together and conjecture that she was enrolled, directly or indirectly by Dinan himself or one of his posse to act as their in-house pseudo -journalist for the smear campaign.
Levines particular job, it seems, is to attack and shame John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, for his friendship with Gafni. The tactic she uses is to publically blackmail Mackey or anyone associated with Gafni into denouncing him by suggesting that he was a pedophile or child molestor.
Since most people don’t check facts when they read an article or blog post, it’s easy for Levine and her enrollers to make wild accusations of “sexual abuse” and “rape culture” to accomplish their goals. Her tactics would make even a Cold War Soviet propagandist blush.
Because of her apparent agenda to publically shame and socially murder Marc Gafni based on completely distorted presentation which amounts to fake news, she throws journalistic ethics out the door. She make no attempt to check facts or sincerely contact Gafni or anyone on this team for genuine clarification before publishing her fake news articles. She assumes that the worst rumors of the smear campaign are true and proceeds to sensationalize them.
In a post, on December 6th, 2016 she brews up a perfect batch of McCarthyism (her specialty) — by layering false ‘facts’, and then using those ‘facts’ to bully Gafni’s associate.
Since I’ve already written extensively about the claims against Gafni and what really happened, I will simply show here how Levine used her ‘facts’ to lead the reader to believe that a 30 or 40 or 50 year old Marc Gafni confessed to having sex with a 14 year old girl and then vulgarly justified it by saying, “She was 14 going on 35 and I never forced her.”
False Fact One: Marc Gafni, a spiritual leader is “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a 14 year-old girl. (Note: Gafni’s age isn’t given)
False Fact Two: Gafni confesses to having sex with a 14 year old girl.
False Fact Three: Gafni justifies having sex with a 14 year old girl by saying “she was 14 going on 35 and I never forced her.”
False Fact Four: Experts are cited as saying “Marc confessed to having sex with the girl”. (The sense is that there are now informed experts validating the first three false facts. The experts however, have no information, rather they are designated ‘experts’ by the blogger who has apparently fed them them false facts.)
False Fact Five: The abuse of young children by catholic priests as told in the movie Spotlight, the Jerry Sandusky child abuse story, campus rape and the Bill Cosby story are all used interchangeably with the Gafni story.
False Fact Six: Disturbing images of crying girls, no older than five or six years old are used to caption the blog post, implying that Gafni is having sex with little girls. Occasional deployment of the word “pedophile” supports the false narrative that is being built against Gafni. Fact Six: Disturbing images of crying girls, no older than five or six years old are used to caption the blog post, implying that Gafni is having sex with little girls. Occasional deployment of the word “pedophile” supports the false narrative that is being built against Gafni.
Levine uses these precisely layered ‘facts’, manipulative images and careful use of sexual predator terms to publicly bully Gafni’s associate, into denouncing him. The consequence of not meeting the demands? A public shaming and call to boycott his organization.
This is the “smear or be smeared” tactic of McCarthyism and particularly its modern incarnation, Sexual McCarthyism. As we’ve already seen above however, none of the layered lies are true. Let me recapitulate the facts here:
- Gafni never had sex with a 13 or 14 year old girl or any other under-aged person.
- Gafni never confessed to having sex with a 13 or 14 year old girl.
- At the time of the story in question, Gafni met the girl (Sara Kabakov) when he was 19 and she was 14. They are now both adults in their 50’s.
- The sum total of their contact was mutual teenage necking, which was experienced by both as positive at the time.
- Gafni was neither a spiritual teacher or rabbi or rabbinical student at the time, all of which have falsely been claimed by either Kabakov or her advocates.
- Kabakov has contradicted herself in different versions of the story over the years.
- Gafni’s version of the events (both of the nature of the contact, and the positive quality of the relationship — including a love letter written to Gafni by Kabakov after the relationship was over) has been validated by extensive polygraph. The polygraph expert, one of the leaders in the world in the field, concluded that there was .001% chance that Gafni was not telling the truth.
- There is ample evidence that Kabakov has been closely associated, for many decades with Gafni’s most virulent opponents and with highly disreputable therapists who are known to encourage false memories.
- Gafni has expressed sincere regret for this relationship and recognized it as a mistake.
At one point, Levine had 16 articles posted on her LinkedIn profile and all but one pitted Gafni at the center of her “ostensibly” valiant march against sexual abuse. She has recently taken some of those articles down but continues hiding her obvious association with the smear campaign (again she appeared out of nowhere at the exact same time that the smear campaign began) behind the veneer of victim advocacy. She continues duping countless good people into supporting her by not presenting any of the crucial facts that I and other writers have pointed towards, in this and other articles.
Negative Meme Propagation vs. Journalism
Having all of the information cited above, you can understand the full level of abuse in the following:
These paragraphs appeared recently in an article in college newspaper, the Badger Herald, out of Madison Wisconsin by freshman Kort Driessen and captures exactly, how negative memes propagate and further devolve and degrade on the internet.
“John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods and director of Conscious Capitalism, has recently proven exactly why this is true. Mackey released a statement last June pledging his loyalty to his friend Marc Gafni, an ex-rabbi accused of child molestation and using his position to extort children. Gafni said of one of his young accusers, “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.”
The only way to read this is that a mature adult Gafni perhaps 30, 40, or 50 years old, is a child molestor who used his Rabbinical position to extort children. That this is a fabricated narrative doesn’t seem to disturb the writer a college freshman, who has done no research and who violates the basic code of ethics for journalistic standards. He simply made up the claim of extorting children and suggests that Kabakov is one of his young accusers.
We’re left with a fake news story of several 14 year old women credibly accusing a Rabbi of extorting them as children. The only problem with this narrative is that it’s completely untrue. This is a perfect example of how negatives memes are easily propagated on the Internet without a semblance of fact checking or verification.
Hold onto your pants because this is just the beginning. The insidious nature of the negligence and falsification in internet meme propagation is even more horrifying.
Here’s the next line of Kort Driessens article:
“In response, more than 130 activists, students, and professors have recently signed an open letter to Whole Foods and Conscious Capitalism, imploring them and Mackey to open a dialogue concerning sexual violence and rape. As of yet, there has been no response”.
Reading this, you would think that Gafni recently dismissed a claim of child molestation and in response 130 people signed a petition against John Mackey for supporting Gafni even though it’s the furthest thing from the truth. This petition against Mackey was organized as part of the smear campaign. Not a single signer of the petition made an attempt to contact Marc Gafni, and most of them do not even know him. They are basing their support for the petition on the assumption that the smear campaign is telling the truth.
Deconstructing The Motives and Method of The Marc Gafni Petitions
This most recent petition is based on an earlier petition and letter organized against Gafni by the key perpetrators of the smear campaign. David Ingber organized the petition and Stephen Dinan organized the signing of a letter by 25 respected spiritual teachers and 100 rabbis. Dinan and Ingber along with Donna Zerner, Chaya Lester and one or two others remained in constant touch with each other while orchestrating the smear campaign.
The signers of the petition organized by David Ingber in Jan. of 2016 were intentionally mislead to believe that it was based on legitimate facts, when in reality, lie is layered upon lie. They assumed, without any genuine research of both sides or elementary fact checking, that the false complaints in Israel were true. None of them did anything as elemental as writing Gafni or his organization asking for accurate facts or information. Had they done due diligence in fact checking, there is little chance they would have signed this most recent petition
It’s apparent that none of the petition signers are aware of David Ingber’s role, directly or indirectly, in catalyzing the false complaints and generating a demonized Gafni meme for the last 12 years. However that doesn’t let them off the hook either legally or morally. Rather, they lent their good name to an internet abuse campaign without any knowledge of the facts or motives driving the campaign. As public figures, these signers have a core responsibility — which they failed terribly at in this case — of enacting a non-abusive public culture, and should be held accountable for contributing to the unnecessary pain and damages caused on many levels to Gafni.
Internet Hate, Distortion and Abuse: A Tale Of Caution For Leaders
The apparent disinterest in fact checking and disregard of the professional standards of truth seeking have created an atmosphere that is frighteningly characteristic of internet lynch mob behavior that Ghonim describes in his TED talk .
The primary method of deception being used is one that cognitive behavioral therapy calls false pattern recognition. In Gafni’s case this has meant that facts are cherry picked, any mistake is pathologized even when the facts suggest the opposite and information and relationships are distorted or even falsified and then strung together to suggest a pattern of abuse.
Those making the claims have all been in relatively close connection, reinforcing each other’s stories for many years now. At some point, already a couple of decades ago, the demonized Gafni meme was put into place and the facts were then arranged to support that meme via the internet. Once someone has drunk the kool aid, no amount of evidence will sway their position, much like those in the birther movement who insisted that Obama was a muslim.
So I now bring us back to my opening statement in this post: We live in a post-fact society where fake news generates more engagement than the truth on social media and has an enormous impact on shaping people’s viewpoints and beliefs.
Anyone can publish anything online, anytime they want — a video, a blog post, a photo, a tweet…
As an online marketer, I’ve seen how advantageous this is, especially for solo-preneurs and small start-ups. The playing field has been leveled for those who know how to create and publish content to build their brand, and their tribe. I’ve seen some of the most amazing uses of social media to build community and create authentic connections.
And unfortunately, anyone can publish anything online, anytime they want — a video, a blog post, a photo, a tweet… in order to manipulate and distort the truth or to tell a false story, without being held accountable for their content.
Marc Gafni’s story is just one of thousand of stories of people who are bullied, smeared and publicly shamed on the internet every day. He has, with great grace and dignity, borne the pain of having his good name and character falsely attacked for almost three decades.
Against the advice of many of who work with him, he has refused over the years to engage the false complaints other than through the responses on his website. His credo has been much like that expressed by Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high”.
However, we now live in a post truth, fake news world and everyone, especially leaders, must be equipped with the knowledge and understanding of how negative memes spread like wildfire so that they are prepared to respond if and when they find themselves the target of a ‘trial by internet’.
The truth is, it’s no longer an option to “go high when they go low”. We must be discerning and diligent in how we use the internet to find information and to tell our stories. The only way to overcome fake news is to use the internet wisely… and begin to restore integrity, truth and justice in the same way that it has been used to propagate lies, distortions and false narratives.