What Drives Steven Krivit?

The Two Faces of New Energy Times

New Energy Times (NET), under the charge of editor Steven Krivit, is a web site devoted to "original reporting on research in leading-edge energy technologies". It involves a curious mixture. One part involves good reporting of research into the areas indicated above, while the other, darker, side consists of articles apparently designed to discredit particular individuals or particular organisations. Such articles exhibit an unusual level of vindictiveness, well characterisable perhaps as 'a loving catalogue of the faults of the individual or organisation concerned'.  Articles of this kind in principle have a role, in cases of genuine roguery (the late Robert Maxwell comes to mind as an example of someone who might deserve such treatment). However, Krivit's articles, on close examination, turn out to involve a mere 'exercise in blackening' supported by little substance and no little degree of misrepresentation and error.

Since I was once chosen as target for such treatment (to which reference should be made to understand the details in the following), I am in a position to demonstrate Krivit's modus operandi in detail. After this I will attempt an analysis of the underlying psychology.

Email Privacy

Part of Krivit's modus operandi consists of leading the reader to assume something to be the case without actually saying it, the actuality being rather different from what the reader has been led to assume. Look for example at §2 of the newsletter concerned, headed Opinion: On the Assumption of E-Mail Privacy. This quotes a letter by one Horace Heffner, the essence of which is an attack on the questionable practice of using a request for privacy to 'prevent the recipient from publicly discussing things which he or she is otherwise free to discuss publicly'. The quoted letter was preceded by a comment that I had made a request for privacy to Krivit, naturally leading the reader to assume that I had myself been engaging in such a practice.

What was in the letter where I had requested privacy? A colleague had written a letter to me which contained what I felt would be good advice for Krivit, so I passed on to him that part of the letter. And why did I request privacy? Actually, I had no problem with this advice being disseminated and I don't believe its originator would have either. I was in fact mainly interested, in the light of past correspondence on privacy issues, in seeing how Krivit would respond if I did ask him not to pass on the contents of the letter. I, and the original author, were rewarded with a remarkably abusive letter which I will not reproduce here. Krivit also tried to get us to send him the remaining, confidential part of the letter, on a different subject, which request was naturally refused by both of us.

Steve K's 'Experience With a Nobel Prize Winner'

This is the title of Krivit's main attack on me, linked to §2 of the newsletter.

Privacy and ethical issues relating to publicising emails surface immediately here, with Krivit broadcasting to the world the fact that I had asked him for advice regarding d2fusion share purchases. Normally it would be taken for granted that such enquiries should be treated as private. I will let that pass however, since Krivit may well claim that this information was relevant to establishing the context of misdemeanours that he was describing. The problem is that in this case Krivit got the facts wrong and there were in fact no misdemeanours. Let us look at what actually happened.

Invitation to give a Lecture in Cambridge

As Krivit describes it, I had 'invited [Russ] George to Cambridge University to give a lecture'*, which he finds curious since George 'didn't have much in the way of current research in his name', a remarkably disingenious comment to make, since Krivit also 'doesn't have much in the way of current research in his name', but has nevertheless given lectures on cold fusion himself. The fact is that if someone has a good knowledge of a subject and is going to be visiting your university you naturally take advantage of the opportunity and ask if he would like to educate people by giving a talk.

Krivit's ignorance of how things happen in university life shows itself up rather visibly here. Further, I did not invite George to Cambridge specially so he could give a lecture as Krivit's text appears to suggest; rather, as indicated, his visit to Cambridge was set up first, and my lecture invitation followed that. Here is a typical example of Krivit writing something convenient to making his case, rather than ascertaining the actual facts.

Was the lecture used to promote Russ George's company, as the article might lead one to assume? I don't think so; George did refer to his company, but only in ways that would be considered quite normal by people familiar with scientific lectures. As far as I know, nobody rushed out to buy shares in his company following the talk, but it did raise awareness of facts about cold fusion among those who attended, as had been my intention in setting the lecture up.

*[paragraph added July 16] Here we see Krivit being typically devious.  In his July 16 letter he asserts 'Josephson states ... that he did not invite George to give a lecture' [the word 'both' has been omitted for clarity here]. I did not state this, as persusal of the above will make clear. We again see Krivit writing something convenient to making his case, rather than the actual facts.

Krivit misrepresents d2fusion's energy prospects

Krivit says in this article that he had talked to George and that 'nothing George said gave me any confidence that his company had anything more than 1/4 Watt of heat energy'. This represents a serious inability on Krivit's part to understand what d2fusion was about. Their basic approach consists of looking at all possibilities for fusion energy to see which might form a suitable basis for practical energy sources, developing those that seem most suitable. Certainly some people (e.g. Stringham) had claimed considerably higher energies than 1/4 watt, and d2fusion could have tried these, but not published on this since there was nothing new (or possibly they had significantly developed the process, and for obvious reasons wanted to keep the details secret).

A further point that Krivit seems not to have taken on board, but which George understood very well, is that if say you can achieve say 50 watts in some way, and want to market a 1kW heat source, you can simply install 20 of your 50 watt devices, and then, by simple arithmetic, you end up with a 1kW heat source.

An erratum

I will take the opportunity here to correct an error of mine in the CMNS group, where, as Krivit notes, I wrote "the key issue involved certain pressures being put on D2Fusion to allow videoing of commercially sensitive work, refusal of which was followed by a highly critical article in New Energy Times". Evidently my memory was wrong and Krivit did not get to asking to video the work (which I believe he had done previous with another business about which he intended to write an article). Instead I should simply have written "the key issue involved certain pressures being put on d2fusion, the refusal of George to accommodate Krivit's wishes being followed by a highly critical article in New Energy Times". 

Was the NET article on d2fusion a cause of d2fusion's demise?

Krivit's article about me quotes Storms as denying that an earlier NET article was the cause of d2fusion's demise. I do not see on what grounds such a statement can categorically be made; how do we know that if the article concerned (based in part on misunderstandings as noted above) had not been published then some backer, who could have been discouraged in investing in d2fusion on account of the misleading article, might not have appeared on the scene to save the company?

The Arata video

Let me begin with this quote:

A few weeks ago, another incident with Josephson surfaced.

I had obtained an exclusive copy of a video of a live demonstration of a LENR experiment performed in Japan on May 22. For reasons which are unclear to me, Josephson lobbied me to release the video immediately. My plan, as I told him, was to release it as part of a news package published in the July 10 issue of New Energy Times.

Josephson made multiple coercive attempts to get me to accede to his demand. I was never clear about the reason for his urgency, why the release, 28 days later, in our next scheduled publication, was such a problem for him.

First of all, the 28 days quoted is an oddity: from May 22 to July 10 is, by my count, 49 days not 28. And the real issue, I suggest, is not my alleged urgency, but Krivit's lack of urgency: there was much interest from people in seeing the video, and several weeks is a long time by today's rapid-publication standards. Had he said he would need to take say 14 days to do what was necessary to accompany the video there would be little cause for objection, but Krivit refused to speed the process up. Jed Rothwell, who was at the demonstration, gave a detailed report on June 6th. but regrettably did not have the benefit of seeing the video before writing it since a copy was not provided to him.

The other point is that Krivit did not disclose the fact that he had obtained an 'exclusive'**, so it was not in fact unreasonable for me to try other avenues for getting it — had I known of the agreement I would not have tried to get my own copy to post on the internet myself, though I would still have criticised the exclusivity. It appears in fact that there were even attempts to disguise the fact of the existence of the agreement; while originally there were suggestions that the Japanese were going to post the video themselves, it was announced later that there were problems doing uploading to the university server. I therefore suggested uploading to Google Video instead. Instead of quoting the agreement a different excuse was then made for not doing this.

** [added July 16th.] In deference to Krivit's "nit-picking", I have changed 'exclusive rights' to 'exclusive' in the above paragraph.

My 'bad-mouthing'

In his article, the comments made re my request to get a copy of the video, as follows:

Josephson used one tactic after another to get me to release the video sooner and, when they didn't work, to try to get a copy of it himself.

Among his attempts were the following:
will seem amazing to those with access to the actual discussion in the closed group.  I said for example:

I am disturbed at your [the Japanese] indication that the preparing of the video is being left to a non-scientist.  Even more disturbing is the way this non-scientist appears to be presuming to handle everything himself, not discussing relevant issues with myself or any other scientist, in order apparently to gain kudos for himself and for New Energy Times.

The reason for being disturbed about the preparation of the video plus any accompanying exposition being left to a non-scientist is quite simple: technical knowledge is needed to ensure accuracy, and Krivit does not even have a science degree. He could have agreed to have his report vetted in confidence by an expert but refused this. This is not a matter of derogatory language, simply an assertion of how things are.

My 'bad-mouthing' and 'harassing' of the Japanese contacts was merely a matter of trying a range of suggestions as to what might be done (in ignorance of the existence of an exclusivity agreement, as already noted) to get the video online faster than Krivit's very slow timescale.  And, as regards 'gaining kudos', here is an email from Krivit that I quoted in this connection:

"I am aware that you have been collaborating with Jon Cartwright of Physics World. ... As I made clear to you in my last message, I am most certainly interested in a scoop, that is my job, there is no surprise about this. Because of your relationship with a competing journalist, it is inadvisable for me to discuss this matter further with you or to assist with your continued efforts to gain unpublished and unreleased information."

That might be fine except this was not a case of getting unpublished and unreleased information: this was an experiment which had been shown publicly, and any issue for discussion would simply be a question of gaining clarification regarding unclear details. Should an experimenter be sworn not to answer questions regarding his public demonstration, questions that might well have been asked at the time, simply so that a reporter could have a 'scoop' some weeks later? The idea is absurd!

Deconstructing Krivit

Indeed, the whole article is absurd. None of the points in Krivit's attack stands up to proper analysis; the facts that are correct are presented or used in a misleading way, or are of no great significance. How could such an article have been written? A common feature is this: whenever someone blocks what Krivit wants to do, or objects to his behaviour, his response is to attack, often in public, rather than reacting in a responsible way and with respect. We can imagine that in such a situation aggressiveness takes over, normal, measured behaviour being overtaken.

In recent years, such destructive, anti-social kind of behaviour, coming from adults in the regular community, has drawn considerable interest from psychologists. This is outside my area of expertise, but it would be interesting to know what those who are expert in this area would make of matters such as those discussed above.

[And a final point: this issue of NET also contained an attack on the ISCMNS organisation falsely alleging copyright violation. This content has since been removed from the site.]

Brian Josephson
July 14th., 2008 (links to NET updated Mar. 8th. 2012).