Benny Smith has replied to Andrew Ackerman’s article that suggested that Benny Smith was really Michael Bellesiles. (My earlier comment is here.) Smith has a good argument against one of the pieces of evidence pointing to him being Bellesiles—he has turned up a website that has the new cover art for the new edition of Arming America. The fact that this wasn’t available from the drafter or Amazon had pointed to Benny Smith being close to Bellesiles.
Now, there is something odd about Smith’s responses to the questions about how he learned about the cover art. Despite repeated questioning, he didn’t post the URL until Ackerman’s article appeared—it seems like he was playing games with us.
Of course, none of this proves that Smith isn’t Bellesiles. Based on all the other things that he has posted I still believe that it is likely that he is Bellesiles but the case is not as strong now.
Update: I wondered whether the image had been available when Benny Smith posted his message, so I asked Benn Ray of Atomic Books how long the cover art had been on the web site and he replied:
The cover image displayed on my site is from the catalog of a distributor of Soft Skull Press’ books. It has been up on our site for several months.
The creation date listed for the image listed here is 12 Jul 2003, so I think we can conclude that the art was there when Smith posted.
Update 2: Ralph Luker comments:
Second, nothing Benny says proves that he is not Michael Bellesiles’s “sock-puppet.” He’ll have to provide more hard evidence to make the case for that. Third, Benny is a poor reader. From the Emory Wheel’s headline through Andrew Ackerman’s penultimate paragraph, the article poses the question of whether Benny is Michael Bellesiles’s “sock-puppet” or his double. It makes no absolute claim that Benny is Michael. It’s still an open question. No retraction or apology is necessary. Finally, it’s an open question, too, whether it is the more embarrassing to be someone’s “sock-puppet” or to be so lacking in critical distance as to be mistaken for one.
Update 3: Jimmy Wales has looked at the IP numbers of some of Benny Smith’s emails. These suggest that it is unlikely that Smith is really Bellesiles. It appears that Smith was posting from Michigan when Bellesiles was still at Emory.
Update 4: Benny Smith has posted another comment where he admits that he deliberately withheld the information about where he found the cover art in the hope the the Emory Wheel would be embarrassed. This makes his demand for an apology (scroll to bottom and read Benny Smith’s comment) rather disingenuous.