It is ironic that in order for me to get this message out I have chosen to use your service, an Internet site no less, but one that many feel is the last vestige of normalcy left in the kosher electronic media world. It is well known that insulting and demeaning comments are moderated and in most cases not accepted altogether on YWN. Yours is a site that proudly adheres to and defends Daas Torah and so with humility, I offer the following to your readers for their response and reaction.
Over the last several months, I and many others have become dismayed at the new generation of Internet Rabbis, bloggers and posters who proliferate their venom and bias on chareidi websites. After doing a deeper search on this matter,what I have discovered is that under our very eyes,a destructive plague has descended upon our Tzibbur. It is no secret that most websites feed off and are interested in creating new controversies as a way to bring viewers and traffic to their site. This in itself should raise a warning flag for all of us. An entire industry that is based on the Tzoros and misery of fellow Jews is quite sick, wouldn’t you agree?
For those who are not familiar with the e-commerce system, the power to command advertising dollars is judged and rated by the amount of ‘hits’ a site receives. The more damaging the stories,the more interest, the more traffic, the better for the site. Scary indictment on us, no?
One website known for its “anything goes” atmosphere, features inflammatory articles from a “Rabbi” that when read carefully have obviously been diabolically designed to stoke and maximize as much sensationalism and controversy as possible. In fact, as if to literally bait the public, the writer proudly boasts at the early onset of many of his pieces, that his articles are sure to attract heavy criticism. To make matters worse, when the site moderators see large traffic flocking to a particular posting, it becomes a “pinned” story, which means it stays front and center to maximize every last ounce of misery while the always mean- spirited comments grow by the hour. This works for as long as the public remains interested in the particular story. Eventually the madness ends and the writer and bloggers move on. Leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake, the unfortunate individual or organization that had the terrible misfortune to be caught in the waves of the public relations tsunami has been left in tatters never to fully recover.
Just last week a well written article on autopsies was posted by one such Internet Rabbi, extolling the virtues of Kovud Hamais and the high Jewish values of preventing autopsies. Simple enough right? Upon further investigation and research into the talented writer of this autopsy piece, I discovered that he is the same Rabbi that just attacked some of Klal Yisroel’s most important organizations for their work in assisting Jonathon Pollard. Certainly his was a radical opinion which now demanded a further deeper look into the author and his facts. So after carefully reviewing this article, I did my due diligence and engaged legal experts and knowledgeable Klal officials to verify or discredit Rabbi ……..’s unwarranted attack. After serious discussions with knowledgeable sources and after reading Rabbi pesach Lerner’s very powerful refutation yesterday, it is now clear and shocking, that this anti-Pollard slam bordered on outright misinformation and classic media falsehoods. From the NY Times and NY Post we have all come to expect such lowly behavior but from one of own and a Rebbe in a respected Far Rockaway institution no less? On our Jewish sites? The continued betrayal by this writer is simply incomprehensible. Nobody is quite sure what precipitated the article to begin with. Was it self- promotion? If that was not enough, the same Rabbi just weeks ago was highlighted and featured on a Jewish radio program for writing a deeply offensive piece calling into question the integrity, good judgment and expertise of Klal Yisroel’s best and brightest Askonim and organizations in the Martin Grossman saga. More disturbing was, nobody of stature was placed on the radio program to counter this Rabbi’s negative opinions. How honest could the debate have been? You know the rest. For sure the Grossman case was not simple and created intense debate and discussion, but such negativity? Whose agenda was served? The question begs,who is so hungry for publicity that he keeps taking on the good guys when thousands of really bad guys are out there?
I offer, that his very damaging article, one that was full of half truths and vague Halachic sources, would never have found nor did it actually find, a place in any respected mainstream Jewish media periodical. Thankfully, our most reputable publications are far more professional than to give ink to the musings and conjecture of a shock value writer. But because of the Wild- West platform called cyberspace this “Rabbi” has now become somebody- with followers no less. For the record, his facts on the Grossman case were equally questionable and sorely uninformed as well. Moreover, he publicly challenged contemporary Daas Torah with his own Daas Yochid. When called on to provide the public as to who gave him his Hadrochah, he meekly offered a rebuttal of “Daas Torah is not monolithic”. To those really involved in the case, it was blatantly obvious that he had no accurate knowledge or information on the efforts to save Martin. Nor did he care. His article reeked of opportunism and self- promotion. Rabbi ……… successfully found a way to use his charisma and talented pen to shine attention on himself, and give the sensationalists, anti -frum media and anti- organizational types enough fodder to run with. Sadly, it didn’t take much. His, was a classic hit and run job- after the fact. Honest debate? Was it good for the Jews? Hardly.
And as the Grossman case finally ran out of steam, another Internet Rabbi on another site recently called into question the legitimacy and ehrlichkeit of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Lander Z”l, legendary educator and founder of Touro College. Dr. Lander who was recently Nifter, was being accused post mortem no less, of not adhering to Daas Torah and opening up Touro College in NY in defiance of Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L and Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky ZT”L,whose objections were apparently documented in a letter written against such an undertaking- twenty years ago. That’s right, twenty years ago!
After an admittedly overwhelming response from dozens of readers, with many including myself demanding to see the actual letter the writer in question claimed was the basis for his article, the letter that the site finally did produce proved just how disingenuous the whole article was altogether. After carefully examining the twenty year old document it became obvious that the letter that was written and signed was actually in response to the vision of Touro College in Israel and not in New York as the Rabbi/ author had insinuated. Additionally, the website produced another letter to “assist” the author in his campaign to discredit Dr. Lander. Again upon careful scrutiny, the signatures of those NOT listed on the letter, were intentionally omitted by the writer, speaking volumes about his credibility and mission. To explain, the gedolim who didn’t sign or support the second Touro ban letter were two of the biggest Roshai Yeshivas of students in Brooklyn at that time- Rav Avrohom Pam Z”TL of Torah Vodaas and Yb”l Rav Ahron Schechter shlita of Chaim Berlin both of whom supported and provided Dr. Lander with the Rabbinical clearance he needed to proceed in NY. These very important facts were omitted/ skipped/ glossed over and would have surely shed better light on the Touro matter well before the new controversy was created. Yes to be fair, the Touro issue was not simple and many major gedolim were against its establishment but this issue had been thoroughly debated two decades ago. So why now? I suspect that after seeing how lucrative “controversy” was on the other sites, and to stir the golden internet pot, the author and his accomplice website set out to wage a campaign against a dead man and famed author Yonoson Rosenbloom- for viewers! As anticipated, thousands flocked to the story and well over 100 comments were posted. This was sensationalism and yellow journalism at its very worst and completely unnecessary and unhelpful. Was it good for the Jews? You decide.
Last week, we saw some new movement on this issue as one of the more popular Jewish sites announced that they are contemplating removing the comments section from their site. Surprise and outrage was the immediate reaction. Was it a publicity stunt? Trial balloon? I don’t know but personally, I feel that this development is long overdo and may actually bring the news back to the news business and remove the damaging side of it. It would be a welcome development to those of us who truly care about Klal Yisroel.
What is harder to comprehend is why the worst cases of Motzei Shem Rah, Loshon Horah and Rechilos are being given top billing and free reign on our computer screens? Why are these suspect writers applauded and rewarded with more ink and space? Why are blog posters still being allowed to remain anonymous? This is not some google or Al- Qaeda chat room, this is Klal Yisroel we are talking about and we all answer to a higher authority. Is it not clear that these sites are sowing the seeds of viscous Machlokes? The great Jewish leaders and visionaries of our glorious past lived their lives by the credo- is it good for the Jews? I ask you fellow readers, are these negative articles and vindictive Internet sites good for the Jews? How can we allow this cancer to live among us?
For the love of money and publicity, every scandal that has a Jewish sounding name finds permanent residence online for the entire world, Jew and gentile alike, to consume. Where are the safeguards? Who is in charge? Is this the world we want to live in? It matters none that a majority of this malicious reporting brings terrible shame and dishonor to our holy nation but worse yet, some of our own Internet sites proudly carry every disgraceful and sordid story as a badge of professional courage. Getting the scoop has become their most important mission and not waiting for the facts to clear a fellow Jew’s name. Truly shameful. What these websites, authors and bloggers fail to understand is that our dirtiest laundry is being publicly washed not only by our own but enjoyed by a gentile society that also cannot get enough of our mistakes and imperfections. It is a fact that law enforcement and government officials pay close attention to our electronic media and the message that our Internet leaders and “Rabbis” are sending out is that-we Jews eat our own, so feel free to come after us too. In the words of the Chofetz Chaim, “the sin is too great to bare.”
Do not compartmentalize my comments as the rantings of some extremist or lunatic, I am far from one. I understand that the Internet plays an integral role in our lives and placing any kind of ban on it will only increase its popularity. Additionally, articles meant to educate and inform the public are important and even vital to our community interests but columns written with the clear intent to undermine long held beliefs and principles in the guise of thoughtful debate are outright disgraceful and give us no Nachas.
It is clear to me and every intelligent and thoughtful Jew I’ve spoken with that posting or allowing anonymous comments that malign and destroy fellow Jews is against Halachah and is ruining us. The bigger question is, who is doing all of this writing and where do they get their Hechsherim and Hashkofos from? Memo to bloggers and their author enablers,” G-D sees the Internet too.”
Enough is enough. When are we going to stop supporting these sites? Do we or our parents or friends have to be personally and embarrassingly profiled by these disseminators of garbage before we react? Does your Rav or Rosh Yeshiva have to be humiliatingly called onto the public carpet and trashed for an unpopular position they have taken in the court of public opinion- before you realize there is no judge or jury in Crazyville, only prosecutors? What will it finally take to enrage us?
The point is, the lawlessness and Chtuzpah that these sites encourage and promote are ruining the very fabric of our Klal. Yes, we have serious problems but they must be dealt with in a responsible manner. Cyberland is not the forum no matter how much good may possibly be accomplished. The ends do not justify the means. The Internet is radioactive and an uncontrolled environment. It must be handled with care.
To those who may point to the Internet as the only way Klal Yisroel opened up its eyes to our deepest and darkest scandals, I will humbly concur with our greatest sages that allowing an “anything goes” climate brings our Tzibbur closer to ruin then to the Geulah. Don’t ask the Internet Rabbis, ask the real ones.
Surprise surprise its all about the money. If you read this and agree with the writer, let us stop supporting those companies that advertise on Loshon Horah sites. We may just see how fast we can effect some real change.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.
(Moshe Pinter – YWN)