Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Better Know A Blogger II

In today's edition of Better Know A Blogger, DOVBEAR discuses pot and politics with the very great Mobius of JewSchool. Included is a special announcment about the future of JewSchool. Please ask your own questions in the comments, and Moby (or one of his JewSchool henchmen) will be pleased to answer them.

Notes: If you'd like to participate in a future edition of Better Know a Blogger write to me at yourfavoriteblogger@gmail.com. To be considered, you must blog at least three times per week, and have been writing for at least 6 months. Any similarity to Steven Colbert's Better Know a District is purely coincidental. Plus, he steals from me all the time.

Next time: BOTH

Why a group blog? Do you find it hard to compose posts on a daily basis?
Well, first, keep in mind the fact that I have always had my own personal blog, long before there was ever a Jewschool. I set up my first blog during my senior year of high school in 1998, before there
was such a thing as a blog or blogging software. Jewschool is actually an offshoot of another (now defunct) blog I created for me and my friends called Jakeneck. Jakeneck was a group blog discussing art, culture, politics, and assorted high weirdness. In some ways it was a link dump, for my friends and I to share the most interesting content online, but it was also a venue for intense discussion and debate from
which I learned and grew a lot. Jakeneck was a proof of concept, a test model which I then applied to Judaism.

The purpose of a group blog is simple. The Internet was made for dialogue, not self-aggrandizement. Jewschool's value is that it's an open discourse between many people. It allows multiple and divergent
viewpoints to occupy the same space and exist in tandem, rather than opposition. Yes, it's true, a good weblog has many posts a day and it's a lot of work for one person to do alone. That was definitely a factor
in making a group blog. But the major factor was that I view the Internet as a democratic forum, and if I want to introduce more democracy to Judaism, that means involving a community in that conversation, rather than just pontificating into the wind about values I ought to be exercising.

[Self-serving aside: I frequently allow guest posts on DovBear - from both sides of the aisle - for very much the same reason]

I assume you agree that it is important for every part of the Jewishand the political spectrum to be included in the conversation, both because they certainly have valuable ideas to add, and also because they have ideas that need to be confronted. How do you include the far-right in these discussions?
Well I've thought about this a lot, to be honest, and my perspective has kind of changed. Jewschool has, in many ways, become a resource for the progressive Jewish camp -- and though it is diverse in its perspectives within that camp, we are exclusive in that respect. I think that there are more than enough right-wing blogs in the J-blogosphere representing nationalist and fundamentalist viewpoints. Jewschool is the alternative to the endless chorus of demagoguery. I used to think it was importantto include right-wing voices in the discussion but I've come to realize it's part of their strategy to stick their noses into whatever it is we're doing so that they can prevent us from making progress by keeping us navel gazing and infighting. You wouldn't believe how many new Jewschool contributors posted just once and then ran for the hills after one right-wing psycho attacked them. So, part of the new editorial mission of Jewschool (upon our forthcoming relaunch) will be to very quickly eject the right-wing psychos who contribute little or nothing tothe conversation and otherwise alienate quality contributors and readers who actually do have something worthwhile to say. I would much rather engage in cross-blog conversation with intelligent right-wing webloggers (and reap the traffic benefits) than provide a soundboard to people with abhorrent viewpoints who are only interested in injecting invective in to the conversation.

What's it take to rise in the JewSchool heirarchy?
What Jewschool hierarchy? I gave brief mention of this on Jewschool the other day, but I'll give you the full scoop: I cut about half the staff recently and turned over the site to the remaining (and some new)
contributors, almost all of whom are real-life friends and colleagues working in the Jewish community. I'm trying to take a backseat and give the crew more control over the site. They're dictating editorial
policy, design, technology -- everything. I'm just shepherding the slightest bit.

Jewschool has been democratized and turned into a full-on anarchist collective. It is no longer "the Mobius show."

Is TTC ever going to become a made man in the family?
Actually, TTC has been cut from the Jewschool roster. I appreciate and thank him for his contribution, but his leanings don't jive with the direction the site is headed in.

In other words, TTC sleeps with the fishes?
Now, now... The new site will have a feature highlighting posts from elsewhere in the Jewish blogosphere. I fully intend to give TTC focus when there are posts of relevance to Jewschool's readership.

Are you prepared to admit here, for the first time, that Holy Terror was a hoax?
Holy Terror is my hareidi/Kachnik sister. That is no hoax.

Your most famous post, imho, is about the time you were arrested for smoking on shabbos. You understood this as Gods way of telling you that shabbos is important. Why didn't it occur to you that perhaps God was actually telling you to stop it with the pot?
I actually wasn't smoking. I just had pot on me and got shook down by some flat-out pigs who randomly stopped me as I was walking down the street, minding my own business. They actually violated my rights, and if I had any protektzia I would've reamed them new [rear-ends].

In any event, the Torah says that if you violate Shabbos you should be put to death. Marijuana? Nary a mention -- and certainly no death sentence for smoking.

Give me your knee jerk response to the following:

Gay marriage

As an anarchist, no fan of "marriage" in general, but favor civil unions whereas queers ought to be entitled to the same rights and exemptions as straights.

Immigration
Borders are imaginary lines.

The Pledge of Allegiance
Nationalism is the only thing that kills as many people as diseases.

Swift Boat Vets for Truth
May the tears of Orwell water the seeds of revolution.

How are you voting in two weeks time?
I'm a bit torn. As an anarchist, to participate in an election is to acknowledge and validate the machinations of the state. However, as a realist, somebody's gotta get these [mamzarim] out of office before they get us all killed and rape our corpses for fun and profit. I don't want to vote Democratic because I don't think they're much different from the Republicans. They're all corporate-teat-swilling free-trader neo-liberal right-of-center phone-tapping civil-rights-suppressing [bad people] And since you couldn't pay me to vote Green (for a number of reasons I won't detail here), if anything, I'll vote Libertarian, because it's the closest to what I actually believe in.

DovBear great blog? Or greatest blogger ever?
I honestly think your blog is one of the most important things happening in the Jewish community today and I commend you for your service.

What are you doing in Germany?
Three of my best friends just moved here to get away from the dismal state of affairs in Israel. I'd never been and figured it was a good time to come check it out.

Two days ago I davened mincha at Buchenwald. Yesterday, I was at an anti-fascist squat located inside the factory where the crematoriums were manufactured, learning about Zionism's tendency to split the German Left. Today, I'm in Cologne, and just returned from a night club.

You've been blogging since the begining of time it seems. Tell me the most important change in the blogosphere that you've observed
The bar for entry is no practically non-existent. You have grandparents who can barely turn on their computers blogging. The free press is free again.

Why do you suppose Frumkeit is so often hostile to progressive politics. Are they inherently opposed to each other?
I happen to think frumkeit and progressive politics are inherently linked. Moshe Rabbeinu's first action in the Torah is to crack a slavemaster over the back of the head and bury him in the sand.

But there are a few things going on here:

I know a lot of wealthy Orthodox Jews who vote Republican because they're in a high-enough tax bracket that a tax cut actually means something to them. There are also a lot of Orthodox Jews who vote Republican because they want to tax credits to send their kids to yeshiva. Then you have queer and women's rights -- two issues the Orthodox community is still backwards on (though slowly, painfully improving). And then, finally, there's Israel, to which I'll say, Zionism will, G-d willing, one day be something we look back on, like the belief that Shabbatai Tzvi was Moshiach, and say, "Holy crap! Can
you believe they bought that [foul smelling bodily waste product]?"

The problem is the belief that if you want any single one of the above that you have to buy the whole package. So, if I want to send my kid to a charter school because the public education system is shite, I have to hate fags and ragheads. Because if I believe in charter schools, I'm suddenly the enemy of the "Leftist" Democrats. And now that I clearly hate poor black children, because I think my children deserve a decent education in their lifetime, I may as will go all out and hate everything the Left loves because G-d forbid there should be nuance and a diverse array of political opinions.

Which is to say, none of this has anything to do with G-d or Torah.

Anyone who truly loves and serves G-d is progressive on some issues, and conservative on others. They support the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the sick, the weak, and love and care for them. They fight injustice. But they also protect their families, their traditions, and their sacred institutions. The uphold the word of G-d, even when you aren't sure you agree with G-d, but are willing to trust Him.

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