Monday, December 31, 2007

Why is Avi Shafran so frightened of blogs?

The Yeshiva World - Frum Jewish News

Why is Avi Shafran so frightened of blogs? In his latest long-winded diatribe he compares them to crime-ridden neighborhoods, and suggests blog-authors are little better than the mentally-deranged street-corner prophets you see on soap-boxes in public parks. Ok, fine: so why the blatant panic? His most recent warning against blogs runs more than 500 words -- and this is hardly the first time R' Shafran has sounded the alarm. Strange, no? I can't recall ever seeing a amous writer publish a warning, let alone a series of warnings, against listening to schizophrenics. If bloggers really were the lunatics Avi says we are, why isn't he trusting the readers to recognize this on their own?

So is says here that Avi is lying. No about hating blogs, of course, but the anti-blog arguments he offers are curely bogus. Take loshon hara for example. Avi insists blogs are evil because they drip with character assassination, but if loshon hara was quite the bane Avi says,, I don't think he'd appear on a blog (Cross Currents) that makes almost a weekly habit of slandering left-leaning and irreligious Jews. Nor would I expect Avi to let himself become quite so unreasonable when the subject turns to Eric Yoffee and the reform movement if he was the sort of honest defender of pure speech he portrays himself to be.

I've never had the pleasure of interviewing the man so this is speculative, but I suppose Avi draws a distinction between his own speech and the work of bloggers. I expect he'll say his bad-mouthing of anyone to his left is done l'shem shamayim. A greater good is being served, he'll say.

Well, guess what?

We bloggers take the same position about our own work. When we point out that the Orthodox Judaism we treasure has allowed itself to become a decrepit sect that often ignores its own heritage, we too, are acting l'shem shamayim. When we point out that Avi's agudah has, at times, defended Rabbis at the expense of children, we too, are acting l'shem shamayim. Sure, we're ruder than Avi, and some of us dabble in kfirah, which is not to everyone's taste, but the bloggers who worry Avi aren't heretics and skeptics. When Avi inveighs it is almost always against the sort of blogger who says the Orthodox Jewish Emperor is naked. His enemies aren't the apostates, but the bloggers who recognize the Agudah sponsored obfuscations and fear-mongering as the work of someone who is worried that a system from which he has profited is beginning to crumble.

A proof perhaps can be found in the remedy Avi advocates. Someone with confidence in his position would call the bets, and let his cards speak. Instead, Avi is attempting to flip-over the table. He doesn't want to answer blogger claims and arguments. He wants us ignored. Would he do that if he had any faith in his position? More to the point, if we really were a rediculous as he says we are, would he continue to call attention to us with one anti-blog polemic after another?

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