Monday, December 28, 2009

Bloggers vs. Conformists

DovBear put up a post this morning fisking the article, “Doers Vs. Bloggers” by R’ Aryeh Zev Ginzberg that appeared in last week’s 5 Towns Jewish Times. I read the article and started writing a comment, but when it got over two pages long I realized it would have to be a post. I’ve tried not to duplicate what DovBear already has up. I recommend that you read the article before you read this post, as the post doesn’t really flow on its own.

R’ Ginzberg is upset that we don’t play nice, that we challenge preconceptions and require logical consistency and accountability. Boo hoo for him.

> What has happened to us? Where is the Yiddishe compassion for a Jew, and for his wife and children? What makes one Jew spend his time attacking another Jew and judging him in the most brutal terms, all while hiding behind a computer screen?

In other words, whether he is guilty or not is irrelevant. He is frum yid, and we should all follow our instinctive emotional urge towards clan solidarity. If you actually think about the issue it means there’s something wrong with you! Not only that, but if you discuss the issues using a computer, instead of, say, a telephone or around the dinner table with friends, its extra evil.

> To read some of the comments on a blog (that have been sent to me) from Torah-orientated Jews who speak with such bitterness, hatred, and dismissal of so many wonderful people, organizations, and even, chas v’shalom, of gedolei Yisrael

Chas v’shalom someone should speak in a dismissive manner of a gadol b’Yisroel! Where is your kovod rabbonim? The gedolim are holy beyond our understanding, and it is not for us to criticize them. What, you want them to be accountable? You want them to justify what you think are unwarranted and frivolous bans? How dare you, you evil menuval!

> I wonder what the rosh yeshiva would say if he read some of the thoughts expressed in these anonymous blogs … In truth, he probably wouldn’t say anything; he would just tear k’riyah.

This is an emotional appeal. That negative comments about gedolim on blogs would, in R’ Ginzberg’s opinion, cause this R’Y to tear k’riyah, or even that these comments might be loshon hora, does not mean that the commenters are wrong. (Wrong in the factually incorrect sense. Obviously he thinks they are wrong in the moral sense.)

> While I have long been disturbed by this assault upon our Torah values by the infiltration of the “bloggers” in our community and the great harm that it has brought us

Such as…? R’ Ginzberg doesn’t specify. I suppose he may be referring to the above mentioned disparaging of gedolim, but while he might consider this to be morally wrong, I don’t see how it causes actual harm.

> I could not conceal my disappointment in both the choice of venue that he had made to express his thoughts

Here R’ Ginzberg shows his real bias. The problem isn’t with the thoughts expressed, but rather with the venue.

> and the great loss that the greater community has as a result of qualified people with so much to contribute, in word and in deed, having left the “world of doers” and entered into the “world of bloggers.”

Apparently speaking at the Agudah Convention is “doing” and contributing to the greater community, while saying the exact same things on a blog is to merely “create a venue for others to vent their frustration and hatred towards the individual and/or the community at large.” In R’ Ginzberg’s opinion, then, all dissemination of opinion should be strictly one way, from the authority to the masses. He probably pines for the days when news was controlled by the big media outlets and the average person’s opinions were restricted to his immediate acquaintances.

Additionally, if R’ Ginzberg’s worry is that the opinions of “qualified people” won’t reach a wide enough audience if they are published on a blog instead of delivered in a speech at the Agudah convention, the solution is to encourage people to read blogs more, not to ban them. For every qualified person who might speak at the Convention, there are others who won’t be invited but can express their valuable opinions in the blogosphere. I suspect R’ Ginzberg’s real problem with blogs is not that those he agrees with won’t get wide enough exposure, but that those he disagrees with get any exposure at all.

> What we desperately need are more doers. One thing we definitely do not need is more bloggers in our community.

What we do not need are more self-righteous people certain that their way is the only acceptable way, concerned that someone may express an opinion not approved by the gedolim or disrespectful towards them. For those used to living in a world where the gedolim are sacred, where communal norms are sacrosanct, and where disagreeing with tradition is heresy, the possibility that norms may be challenged and the leaders disparaged is frightening. Boo hoo for him.


  1. You definitely should put some of this feedback on his column itself. Write it in a few comments if necessary.