Google and Self-Absorption

             I admit it.  I’m self-absorbed.  But if it weren't for Google and my own self-absorption, there are all sorts of things I'd have never learned. For instance, that there is a tiny village in Holland called Nettelhorst. I assume that's where my ancestors came from, especially since my family's last name originally shows up as either van Nettelhorst or von Nettelhorst. 

            Thanks to Google, I learned that there's an elementary school in Chicago named after what I assume is a relative of mine, Louis Nettelhorst. He ran the school board there back in the nineteenth century.

            Not all Google searches on my name retrieve positive stuff, however.  On the negative side, I once discovered a neo-Nazi group had quoted from a two-part magazine article I did in college as my senior project.  They copied the part of the article where I defined the beliefs of a particularly odd heresy known as British Israelism.  Neo-Nazis tend to believe in British Israelism and apparently liked the way I had worded the explanation of their concept.  British Israelism is the cracked notion that the English speaking people of the world are descended from the lost tribes of Israel.  Given that there weren’t really ten lost tribes in the first place, the belief has some significant problems. 

            The neo-Nazis did not quote from the bulk of the article where I eviscerated the notion on linguistic, historical and theological lines.  They only quoted my definition of their belief.   Since they had appended my name (and academic affiliation) to the quote, and thereby left the impression that somehow I was associated with it, I told them they could continue to use my quote only if they also included my criticism of the notion; otherwise they were likely to hear from a lawyer.  Within twenty-four hours my name and the quoted section of my article had vanished from their website.

            Anyone who has written and published material should make a regular habit of entering his or her name into Google and running a search for just such a reason: to make sure no groups you dislike are using your material in ways that would create a false impression about you.  Reputations are too easily ruined.  On top of that, you also want to make certain that no one is using your material for profit without your permission.  You deserve to get paid for what you write.

            This does not meant that you will get paid for everything you write.  For instance the articles I've done for academic publications are not the paying kind.  The reason for publication in academic circles is not for the money: it's because most colleges require their professors to publish regularly if they ever hope to receive tenure.  It also looks good on the resume and if you publish enough, or what you publish gets noticed, it can lead to other opportunities that might on some occasions result in getting paid.

            So, thanks to a Google searches, I've discovered that much of what I've written has been quoted frequently in places where it is good to be quoted.  Most biblical commentaries on the gospels of Matthew or Luke published since about 1990 have mentioned my theory for reconciling the apparently conflicting genealogies of Jesus  in Matthew and Luke that I proposed in an article that appeared in 1988 in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS).  Raymond Brown mentioned my theory and footnoted my article in his magnum opus, The Birth of the Messiah.

            A few years ago, when I was Googling and trying to discover which translations of my book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People, had appeared in print, I accidentally stumbled upon the fact that Josh McDowell, a well known Christian author, quotes two full paragraphs from the same article Raymond Brown only footnoted.  I discovered this in a scanned Spanish language edition of his book, New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Google is in the process of digitizing all of the books in the world).

            That discovery impelled me to visit the local Barnes and Noble, where I picked up a copy of the English language version of New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. The quotation appears in the English version, too, of course—on pages 297-298.  I'm also listed in the index and the bibliography.  Speaking of which, any time I pick up a book that might possibly address issues that I've written about, I'll peer at the bibliography to see if I'm mentioned.  I'm told that such peering at bibliographies is a common failing among scholars.  Apparently I’m not the only self-absorbed one.

            Josh McDowell's book was published back in 1999, but I didn't know I was quoted in it until 2008.  When someone quotes from you, they are only required to cite you; there is no expectation for them to actually tell you about it.  I wouldn't have known it even now, if I hadn't been looking for my name in non-English locations.  All my searches before had been limited to English language sources.  

            Due to that multi-lingual searching I discovered that the Swedish language edition of my book was reviewed favorably. Not that I can read Swedish, but Google can translate non-English websites into English remarkably well.