Media Manipulation and Blogs

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In an article on Jewish World Review this morning, Caroline Glick discusses the latest possible media hoax — Israel’s “attack” on a Reuters camera crew. You can read the details there, but in brief, Reuters claimed that Israel had fired upon one of its vehicles. This was in the middle of a battle zone, at night, when all of the “clear markings” that it was a press vehicle likely could not be seen. But even more, critics insist that the evidence of a missile hit just isn’t there. A Powerline reader writes:

I spent twenty years in both military and civilian bomb disposal. The damage to the ambulance pictured in the article was NOT caused by any missile. Any missile that the Israelis have would completely destroy a vehicle like that ambulance. That hole in the roof looks like a couple of well placed hits with an axe.

Ms. Glick uses this story to drive home the importance of blogs as the method via which we keep the media honest.

It is not a coincidence that I saw the pictures of the Reuters’ vehicle on Powerline and not in the media coverage of the purported attack. Both the global media and the international NGO community abjectly refuse to investigate themselves. As democratic governments and their militaries have proven incapable of dealing with the phenomenon (in part because they seek to curry favor with the media and the international NGO community), the blogosphere has taken upon itself the role of media watchdog.

Bloggers have become a critical component of the free world’s defense in the current war. During the Hizbullah campaign in Lebanon, bloggers scrutinized coverage of the war in a way that has never been done before. Their work has exposed the dirty secret of the Middle East that the media has hidden for so many years: The global media and the international NGO community, which profess to be neutral observers, are in fact colluding with terrorist organizations.

The blogosphere, and particularly Little Green Footballs, Powerline, Zombietime, Michelle Malkin, and EU Referendum, have relentlessly exposed the systematic staging of news events, fabrication of attacks against relief workers, and doctoring of photographic images by Hizbullah with the active assistance of international organizations and the global media.

How does the media react? By blaming the messenger, of course!

Rather than demand that the ICRC account for the clear breach of its binding commitment to neutrality, and rather than attack the Lebanese Red Cross for its active collaboration with Hizbullah, the international media has attacked the bloggers. They are brushed off as “Israel supporters,” and “right-wing extremists.” The aim of these brush-offs is to convince “right thinking” citizens that they oughtn’t have anything to do with these champions of truth and human decency.

We’re seeing a bit of that ourselves. Rabbi Avi Shafran’s recent contribution, in which he contrasted the Reuters fauxtography with examples of spin in the Jewish media, is a case in point. Professor Tzvee Zahavy insists as follows:

Here is the Shafran worldview. Hezbollah=Synagogue in NYC. Both are his enemies. Both are manipulating the media. Both are evil…

He insinuates that the Jewish Week is like Hezbollah. He suggests that those true enemies of the Jewish people who launch rockets to kill us — they are the same as the Jewish Week.

As you can see by following the link, I’m not making this up. These are direct quotes.

Now first of all, the comparison was not drawn between Hezbollah and KOE, but between a photographer working for Reuters and a writer working for the Jewish Week. Media=Media. Funny how it works when the parallel drawn is described accurately.

But even were we to grant that media distortion done by the Hezbollah was compared with that done by a synagogue, it is my impression that drawing analogies — identifying similarities between otherwise dissimilar objects — is a requirement of the SAT. You can’t get far in the academic world without correctly answering questions like “sock is to foot as cap is to (a) nose, (b) head, (c) hat or (d) Hezbollah.” The professor’s statement is tantamount to accusing ETS of claiming that head=foot.

Prof. Zahavy attempts to brush off the mainstream Orthodox rabbinate as a bunch of “right-wingers” interested in playing “wounded bully” (how Cross-Currents was wounded, he doesn’t explain).

Where is the bullying in this instance? The NY Times asked Rabbi Bleich about the new woman leader of KOE and he blasted her as a schismatic. It is a given. This woman will be relentlessly attacked by the right wing Orthodox.

The NY Times itself, however, said that Rabbi Bleich was talking not about the individual at all, but “those who are pushing for female rabbis in the Orthodox movement.” And… Rabbi J. David Bleich, a right winger? Please.

What you learn from the article is that mainstream Orthodox scholars — across the spectrum — reject the notion of a woman leader for an Orthodox congregation. This obviously indicates that as much as the synagogue might claim to be Orthodox based upon who davens there, it will not find a home in any group of Orthodox congregations. Instead of reaching the obvious conclusion, Zahavy asserts that the Rabbis are “blasting” and “bullying” rather than reasoning — and that she’ll somehow find herself at home among such an ignorant and irascible bunch.

In this, Zahavy is not alone. Several other blogs also attempted to argue that Rabbi Shafran and I were being “dismissive” rather than addressing a sociological reality.

We’re in good company — it’s what happens when a blog tries to keep the media honest.

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7 Responses

  1. Yaakov Menken says:

    Avigdor, he may be on the right wing of YU, but this affiliation gives him respect throughout the Modern Orthodox world. If this were approved by the MO community, he would probably refrain from sharing his personal feelings with the NY Times. So the fact that Rabbi Bleich was quoted, rather than Avi Shafran or a R”Y or posek from the charedi world, demonstrates that this is quite unlikely to merely reflect the attitude of “right-wingers” but that of most of the YU community as well.

    ABC, au contraire. If you care to email them, you can inquire whether they plan to contradict that which every news story covering her appointment has said without exception, and if they could speculate as to how this error — which turned what was otherwise a trivial local story into national news — came to pass. To us, it is irrelevant, since our topic has been and remains the media spin, regardless of what they may say themselves. In addition to being termed an Orthodox congregation by the NYJW, NYTimes, and Religion News Service (picked up by the Washington Post and who knows where else), we also have:

    • Beliefnet.com: Woman to Lead Orthodox Synagogue in NYC
    • 1010Wins.com: Woman to Lead Upper West Side Synagogue — “an Orthodox Jewish synagogue on the Upper West Side.”

    … Not to mention Tzvee Zahavy.

    Tzvee, I put no words in your mouth — although you most certainly did so to Avi Shafran. People who “blast” rather than reason are both irascible and, in most cases, ignorant (since they have nothing constructive to argue). Not to mention “bullying”. In any other context, you yourself would draw the same parallel.

    Why have you not asked why the Orthodox do not welcome mixed prayer services or patrilineal descent?

    I don’t think those who oppose calling her “a new Orthodox leader” have anything for which to atone. No one is “hurling insults” or “denigrating fellow Jews” — unless, of course, you mean calling other people “bullies” or “sick.”

  2. tzvee says:

    Thank you for your reply to my posting. I still have the same questions.

    Do you welcome a new Orthodox leader into an established synagogue on the UWS or do you condemn her as one of those seeking to create a schism? Will you offer her your congratulations, your help and your chizuk?

    Will you make your collague, “somehow find herself at home” with you or will you act like, “an ignorant and irascible bunch?” BTW — and this is important — I never used such terminology to describe you or Rav Shafran or made such an insinuation. That is where you overstep your bounds, and put words into my mouth.

    I do recall saying at the close of my blog entry, “It is Elul and time for introspection. Perhaps it is time for Shafran and other Orthodox public spokesmen to stand up and repent of their bullying.

    “The Torah teaches ways of peace, not ways of hurling insults, denigrating fellow Jews and then claiming to be the victim and asking for pity.”

    As you know, a person first has to admit that he has sinned before he can repent. And based on your current posting, that seems unlikely in this instance.

  3. abcdefg says:

    Again KOE does not define itself as Orthodox. Their webpage has email addresses. Go and email someone on it and ask if the shul considers itself part of any denomination.

    That being said, many Orthodox Jews have prayed there over the years – something many would not have done were it to be a Conservative shul – and it is similar to a standard service (I am no KOE expert so I can’t give you particulars).

    Yaakov, lets not get hung up about labels here. The shul does not affiliate with any larger organization, so far as I know.

    Sociologically, you are right that it will have little affect in yeshivish areas, at least directly. But the same trends behind KOE will influence the more modern Orthodox. The question is halachic: is it allowed.

    That you focus on sociological issues (rather than halachic ones) and treat them as norms to be adhered to rather then issues subject to public policy, and therefore subject to discussion, is surprising and ultimately futile.

  4. a k says:

    Rabbi Benjamin Blech

  5. Avigdor M'Bawlmawr says:

    Yaakov,
    I believe you’re confusing two Rabbi Bleichs. Rabbi J. David Bleich, a prominent and widely respected posek, is certainly on the right wing of YU. Rabbi Benjamin Bleich, is shul Rav, I believe retired,and has taught at YU. While he is certainly to the left to the aforementioned R. Bleich, I have no idea what are his views on gender issues.

  6. Yaakov Menken says:

    ABC, “KOE does not define itself as Orthodox”? Then why did the Religion News Service distribute nationally a story reading “Orthodox Jewish Synagogue Chooses Woman as Its Leader”? Here’s a longer quote, from the NY Times:

    Although justifications rooted in Jewish law and tradition have kept women from Orthodox pulpits up to this point, the congregation’s previous leader, Rabbi David Weiss Halivni, who retired last year, told synagogue members that a woman could occupy the position they were looking to fill, provided they established certain boundaries.

    If the congregation is not Orthodox, what was so newsworthy as to get coverage in the NYJW, much less secular media nationwide?

    On the contrary, Conservative congregations claiming fealty to Halachah appoint women as leaders all the time — and that’s not news.

    We didn’t make the story, we’re just commenting upon it.

  7. abcdefg says:

    KOE. KOE. KOE. Its always about KOE.

    Sigh.

    The simple fact is that KOE does not define itself as Orthodox. That being said it does define itself as halachic, accepts Torah min HaShmayim, accepts the binding nature of halacha and Sinai.

    This blog has chosen to ignore the halachic aspects of KOE and instead focuses of the “sociological reality”. When did that become the criteria of who and what is frum?