"THE CAPITAL GANG" is one of those cheesy Washington talk shows currently passing for insightful political discourse. You've seen the type--they all feature loud, obnoxious chattering about the same topics, and they all feature Pat Buchanan. But "The Capital Gang" offers the Outrages of the Week at the end of every show, and the Outrages of the Week are cool.
The panelists wax indignant for a few seconds each on some topic that rankled them during the past seven days. This week, I have my own outrages.
OUTRAGE NUMBER ONE:
The Dead Sea Scrolls are free. Sort of.
For four decades, a snobby clique of academics appointed indirectly by the state of Israel has controlled access to study of the ancient texts. But last week a posh California library announced, to much fanfare from the academic world, that it has photos of the documents available for the perusal of those not in the bevy of privileged editors.
It's too bad the texts won't be totally free, however.
Huntington Library in swanky San Marino has said it will only allow those with proper "scholarly credentials" (according to The New York Times) to see the photos. If you're interested, the library wants to know the purpose of your study project--along with letters of recommendation, ideally. Even then, you don't get to see the actual photograph negatives of the texts. You get microfilm.
Obviously the scrolls themselves, which are an Israeli national treasure, should be protected under lock and key, as most of them currently are in Jerusalem. But every-one should be able to see at least the photos of the documents precisely because they are so important.
Special hours for those writing books on the scrolls (a tiny number because of the long-standing monopoly) could be arranged, but requiring a complex application process is not much better than keeping them completely secret.
In fact, these restrictions are only the beginning. The real outrage is that the elite bunch of editors, including (until last year) two Harvard professors, oppose even limited access to the photos. "It's a way of taking away a scholar's work," former group member and current Harvard Professor of Christian Origins John Strugnell told The Crimson this week.
That's absurd. And it's dishonest to suggest that Huntington Library is somehow sanctioning plagiarism. The scrolls were not written by the editors, and they should not be allowed to play favorites with who gets access.
OUTRAGE NUMBER TWO:
James F. Hoge did some despicable things as publisher of the strike-ridden work for compromise. He stationed guards in the newsroom. It's said that he even brought in some guard dogs to keep Daily News employees away from the printing presses. Pretty fascist for a newspaper publisher.