Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fisking "Thou shalt not text"

Eytan Kobre, who first made his blogging name with an over-the-top complaint about the prevalence of underwear ads in the New York Times, is back on our radar thanks to his, presumably, self-appointed role as spokesman for the CitiField Internet rally. Here is what he published last Sunday in the New York Post, a paper that unlike the Times, is known for modest, straitlaced writing. My poor comments in green.

Thou shalt not text
Jews mass at Citi for exodus from cyber-slavery
Last Updated: 10:59 AM, May 20, 2012
Posted: 12:38 AM, May 20, 2012

The known dangers of the Internet include the pervasive accessibility of pornography online, which has reached epidemic proportions. But we don’t view this in strictly Jewish or religious terms. It is an assault on human dignity, eating away the fabric of society. It debases and objectifies women, at times leading to violence against women, and the break-up of marriages.

We can agree that pornography is bad but it was available before the Internet. Where was the asifa against corner drug stores? Did we rally in the Polo Grounds to denounce the newfangled cars our forefathers used to visit prostitutes? About porn's effect on rates of violence against women, however, we must disagree. Over the last 20 years, as it has become easier than ever to acquire porn, rape in America has declined by more than 70 percent while other sexual assaults have fallen by over 60 percent. If Kobre was correct about porn "leading to violence against women" we'd see an increase, wouldn't we? Instead, we've seen the dramatic opposite. As one wag put it "As raunch waxes rape wanes."

We can also talk about aggression, or the verbal violence the Internet has released. Look at the comments section of any newspaper or blog and you see how the anonymity and the lack of accountability allows people to savage each other with words. This pollutes the societal atmosphere, and ratchets up the aggression tearing at the social fabric of the country.

Who's surprised that a card-carrying Agudah-ist and contributor to Cross Currents thinks anonymous blog comments are the second worst thing about the Internet, after pornography? The Federalist papers were published anonymously, many great writers use pseudonyms, and many great actors use stage names. Did society fall apart? Just how fragile is Eytan Kobre that he finds an anonymous comment so threatening to his sense of self? Just how fragile does he think society is if it can't withstand a flame war. The Rishonim were obnoxious to each other, too, at times. No one thinks any of this brought society to its knees. To the contrary, by allowing people to speak freely, without fear of reprisal, anonymous blog comments can actually lead to better arguments, and facilitate important conversations about problems within the community, problems that non-anonymous people are often too frightened to discuss honestly. In this way, anonymous blog comments strengthen society. 

Of course the real reason that Kobre and other agents of the status quo object to anonymous comments is it forces them to actually consider the argument, while comments attached to real names can be dismissed with an ad hominem or defeated with a call to the writer's rabbi. Moreover, such dainty caterwauling about the polluting of the social atmosphere is undermined by some of Eytan's own writing, as well as some of the articles published on his blog, Cross Currents. All of it is attached to a real name, but much of it is no less obnoxious and no less savage than an anonymous blog comment. 

There’s a trail of casualties inside and outside the Jewish community — marriages that have crashed and burned, spouses who have walked away from their families because of people they met in chat rooms or social networking, through something as seemingly innocuous as texting. It’s the anonymity and lack of accountability, the 24/7 accessibility, that breaks down our natural human barrier of shame and fear of consequences.

A marriage that collapses because of a chat room is a marriage that was already on the rocks. The Internet isn't what makes spouses unhappy; it only allows people to act on their unhappiness. Protesting the Internet is like protesting the bus the unhappy husband takes to visit his mistress or like protesting the ax an angry wife uses to slaughter her husband. Did we have an asifa against Lorena Bobbit's knife? Anyway, has Eytan lost track of his argument? A moment ago he said "It’s the anonymity...   that breaks down our natural human barrier of shame and fear of consequences." but those who are using the Internet to meet each other are, by definition, not doing it anonymously. 

Studies show what the Internet is doing to other areas of human life, to privacy,

The Internet is damaging privacy? That's great news for Google and Facebook. Apparently, its the inanimate, no agency, Internet causing the privacy problems, and not corporations, manged by people who create and impose bad policies and intrusive practices. I look forward to Zuks using "The Internet made me do it" the next time his critics come after him with pitchforks. 

and the damage these sites have done to our ability to have real relationships with people. We replace relationships with superficial connection, and we’ve replaced conversation with tweeting and twittering our way through cyberspace.

Dude. Nothing stays the same. A wiser person reconciles himself to this. No doubt an earlier version of Eytan Kobre fretted about steamships or printing presses or telephones. Certainly, there were many who bemoaned the loss of letters and the rise of informal phone chats. And you know what? All of those earlier Eytans were correct. New types of technology do change us. They do change the way we think and behave. Our Eytan is also right: Twitter and FaceBook (not to mention Google) are changing the way our brains work. There's no doubt about it, but so what:  Dude. Nothing stays the same. There's no correct, first cause, condition for our neural circuitry. There's only what obtains at the moment. Every generations changes in its own way. The "webbed" brain denounced at the asifa by R. Wachman is not a corrupted version of the true brain. Its simply the latest variation of the human brain, the latest in a series of variations that go back to the beginning of time

We have the evidence, we hear what professors are telling us,

LOL. Sorry. I can't help but laughing out loud whenever an Aguda spokesman asks us to consider what science and the "professors" are telling us. Let's make a deal Eytan. You listen to Biology professor Jerry Coyne, and I'll listen to the professor who says the Internet is changing our brains. Oh wait. I already am listening (see previous paragraph) I just think the change wrought by technology is  (a) self evident (b) inevitable (c) impossible to stop and (d) not necessarily a change for the worse

what the Internet is doing to the brains of students. There’s no research anymore — just Google it — no retention of information. Now academia is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Agreed. This has happened. And before the invention of the printing press human beings were capable of astounding feats of memory. No longer. And before the supermarket we were capable of growing and hunting our own food. No longer.  Just how far should we try to roll back time?

No one lives in the moment anymore. No longer are people able to be alone with themselves and comfortable without being connected to other people.

Is he talking about the telephone? He might be. Anyway, we had extroverts before we had Twitter, and arguably tools like Twitter make it easier for introverts to interact with other people. 

Gadgets are supposed to free us, but ironically, they have enslaved us and left us with much less time for ourselves, our families and the things that are important in life.

We've been saying this since the 50s at least. Everyone knows that inventions like the vaccume cleaner and the washing machine made life harder for housewives, not easier. 

It’s a subtle but very nefarious assault on us as a people. On the one hand, we want to be connected, but it’s creating alienation. People don’t want to get involved on a one-to-one basis anymore.

And after the ball-point pen was invented it became easier to skip the town meeting and send a letter, instead. 

All community members will be urged to adopt as a minimal base line of protection the installation of a filter on every computer at home and the workplace. It is fully recognized that this is far, far from the conclusive answer to the problems the Internet poses — it is merely a first step evidencing our seriousness and resolve to find the best solutions and implement them.

Liar, liar pants on fire. What actually happened a few hours after this article was published was quite different. When Rav Shmuel Wosner addressed the crowd, he did not say "Use Filters" He said "Any kid from an Internet home is hereby banned from our schools" Perhaps Eytan, having spent too much time on Facebook, has lost the ability to recognize the difference between these two statements. And just as a brief aside, it does not speak very well for our community that we're just discovering filters in 2012. We're at least four years behind the rest of the human race. 

This is just a first step — the beginning of a journey toward protecting ourselves. It will be followed by technology expos around the country, reaching out to other faiths — and society as a whole.

Reaching out to other faiths? REACHING OUT TO OTHER FAITHS? We're going to bring the gospel of the filter to the Mormons? We're going to lock arms with the Christians against Google? So happy 2000 years of petty disagreeing about the nature of Jesus can be put aside now that we've identified FaceBook as a common enemy. And they say the modern Jews are relativists. 

Search for more information about Eytan's obsession with the A sections ads at4torah.com

1 comment:

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To believe with certainty,we must begin with doubting.

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