Two articles came to my attention today, both dealing with the Jewish blogosphere. One, which appeared in Haaretz, was written by a cranky imbecile and is so laughably self-congratulatory and hypocritical that I am amazed it was ever published. Stuff like this makes Haaretz look like, well… the Jerusalem Post in the bad old days. Err… badder old days – but with a different ideological orientation of course.
Allow me to provide an example. If I were to say “The city of Baltimore has a lot of murders” I am merely describing reality. Does it mean I support murder in Baltimore? Last summer, I was interviewed by the Forward and was quoted as follows: “Thereâ€™s a lot of testosterone on the Internet, a lot of swagger…” The imbecile in question has in the past used that quote to attribute a preference for swagger and testosterone on my part. Yup. Moron, right?
That quote from the Forward was also used in an article by Rabbi Avi Shafran, the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, which appeared in The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California. Gotta send a hat tip to my friend Tomer who blogged this on OyBay like… 2 weeks ago.
Tomer was respectfully critical of Rabbi Shafran’s article. In short, the Rabbi likened many Jewish bloggers to “disturbed individuals” who “spread madness, hatred, lies and … evil.” He did concede that
There are, of course, responsible bloggers in the Jewish realm as in others, writers who seek to share community news or ideas and observations with readers, and to post readersâ€™ comments. Some explore concepts in Jewish thought and law, others focus on Jewish history and society… But responsible blogs in the Jewish realm as in the general are decidedly in the minority. And even many responsible blogs allow comments from people with very different values.
So most Jewish blogs are irresponsible and even those that are responsible negate that by *gasp* allowing comments from people with different values. He then goes on to warn people against “patronizing the untamed areas of Blogistan. While larger society may hallow the idea of free speech, Judaism considers words to carry immense responsibility. Used properly, they can teach, inspire and elevate. But used wrongly, or recklessly, they can be virtual weapons of mass destruction.”
Well, I’m down with respect for the power of words. In this weeks Parsha, Yitro, God spoke to the people of Israel in order to give them the Ten Commandments. The people were overwhelmed by the voice of God, and after hearing either the first 2 commandments or all ten (depending on who you hold by), begged Moses to intercede on their behalf and relay God’s word to them. God was cool with that and agreed to their request. So we see that the wishes of the man on the street (so to speak) have some value. I mean why do we hold by the more Liberal Beit Hillel and not by the sterner but more learned Beit Shamay? Because Beit Shamay is just a tad too stern for the common folk. Judaism is not exactly synonymous with Democracy but there is a notion that the voice of the people has some value. So maybe that’s the value of the Jewish blogosphere – it allows people to articulate their concerns and issues.
I think most intelligent people know to avoid the imbeciles and the muckrakers. But organizations like Agudath Israel would do well to heed some of the concerns expressed on the Internet. So now instead of delving into a realm that he perhaps doesn’t completely understand, Rabbi Shafran might want do something productive about the issue of Agunot, or talk about how Agudath Israel is going to make Orthodox synagogues more welcoming, or encourage Orthodox Jews to recycle and use less fossil fuels. Or something. I swear there are far more important issues for the Jewish world to deal with than stupid blogs.