Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Gil Student's notes on blogging, how it has changed, and what it tells us about Jewish writers

Over at Modern-Orthoprax-&-Heterodox-The-Weekly-Magazine-for-Baalei-Sechel-formerly-known-as-XGH-formerly-known-as-GH-but-always-remembered-by-old-timers-as-The-Godol-Hador a 10 day old post discusses the decline and fall of Gil Student's Hirhurim.

Surprisingly, Gil Student b'kvodo'u'vatzmo commented on the post, and agrees with the analysis. Also, he provides a link to a 17 month old Hirhurim post, that I had not seen, a post in which something odd and unseemly is reported:
Blog posts are opinion pieces. In the old days, before blogs became more mainstream, you could express your opinions freely. If I thought a rabbi wrote an article demonstrating ignorance and dishonesty with sources, I showed that it was the case (albeit with nicer words). I can’t do that anymore. The old blog crowd had thick skins. The new blog crowd includes people who are highly sensitive and will complain. 
Instead of criticizing ill-conceived articles, I usually just ignore them because otherwise I will get an angry e-mail from the author or one of his students. Then I will get an e-mail from one of his colleagues asking me to reconsider his arguments with a more open mind. Who has time for those discussions? Even if I am wrong, people are allowed to be incorrect every once in a while. 
While I could ignore the e-mails, sometimes they come from people who are too important to ignore — people I respect highly for one reason or another. And some people even call me at home or at work, trying to make me squirm until I change my post. Who wants that?
Few things:
  1. Ok, this is why I'm anonymous.  Whatever credibility it costs me to stay anonymous, is worth the freedom such anonymity provides.

  2. Such a sad commentary on 21st century Orthodox Judaism. Our men of letters are bullies, who enlist their students and colleagues into helping with intimidation campaigns? Trying to make me squirm until I change my post?? I can understand if someone were to object to a nasty, poison-pen post, but that's not Gil's style. In the old days, when he criticized you, he did it gently and professionally, in the manner of a well-written magazine article.

    The proper answer to such criticism is a gentle and professional letter of response, in which the points of disagreement are articulated, argued and defended.  Such exchanges occur all the time in the letter columns of the best magazine articles. Its how intelligent people spread and acquire new ideas and information. Calling your critic on the phone, or otherwise throwing your weight around is out of bounds.  Only people who think being right is more important than getting at the truth would behave in such a way. You only try to intimidate a critic if kovod matter more to you then emes. I suppose I'm naive, but I am disturbed in ways I can't quite describe to learn that men Gil finds "too important to ignore" behave this way.

  3. No offense, but I think Gil is abdicating his responsibility as a blogger, when he says he doesn't have time to defend his own arguments. Like me, I presume Gil blogs because he wants to spread ideas, ideas that he thinks are true. But if Gil refuses to defend them and backs away from discussing them vigorously, how does he expect these idea to catch on? I've always been willing to defend any post, and to discuss it until either me or my correspondent have exhausted our arguments. I do this because I want to teach, and also because I want to learn. 

  • Search for more information about the way I blog at 4torah.com

  • Buy one of the books that changed the way I think.

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