The Echo Chamber That Is The Internet

“I don’t know how Richard Nixon could have won. I don’t know anybody who voted for him.”

– Pauline Kael  (Writer for The New Yorker) quoted in the Boston Globe.

The Orthodox Jewish commentariat class on the internet is comprised of many different types of people. There is however one characteristic common to them all: as a rule they are young and they are misfits (yes, I have a mirror :)). Now before you blow your top, allow me to explain.

Most religious Jews have better things to do than comment or post on blogs, particularly people with established families and jobs. Their daily lives are dominated by their many obligations: to said families, religious obligations, careers, etc. Whatever time that remains for leisure activities can be put to much better use then posting on blogs.

Skeptical? See for yourself. Ask around your social circles and see how many of the over-forty crowd comment on blogs. I’ll bet 10%, if that. Then take a look at the ones who do, of any age,  and you will find them, almost to a man, to be people who are unhappy with their status in life. Are they bad people? Not at all. Are they all at-risk of going OTD? No. On the contrary, they tend to be among those blessed (or cursed) with sensitive souls and highly developed intellectual capacities. But something is not right.  At their core, something “gridget in boich” as the Yiddish saying goes.

Allow me to speculate as to why. For many, it’s source can be traced back to their background i.e. difficult family life, school experiences etc. which may have left a mark on their psyche. For others it is a sense that something is not right, something is out of whack, which can be understood as their soul looking for it’s purpose (G-d) or some other deeply rooted, existential source of pain. Be it as it may, you will rarely find a happy, well adjusted religious Jew taking to the internet to farkoif (sell) his two cents.

Where does that lead us? As we know, birds of a feather flock together. The logical endpoint for those on a quest to find inner peace is to meet up with others seeking the same. Which would not necessarily be a bad thing, except that what could’ve been a meeting of minds to encourage and to elevate, turned into a medium for bringing out the worst in us. Blogs are now the clique in the foyer of the shul, writ large. Instead of functioning to let off steam from the pressure cooker of Jewish life, blogs have turned into creatures of anger and destruction. Add in the powerful tool of anonymity and people feel free to express things they would never, ever, say in settings where their identities were known.

It is probably too late to stuff the genie back into the bottle. So where am I going with all this? There are many innocent taiereh Yidden (dear Jews) who, while not internet junkies,  surf the web and come across “heimeshe” blogs here and there. They come away with the feeling that the overwhelming majority of religious, even Haredi Jews are anti-Haredi and overwhelmingly to the left of the Haredi Jewish establishment. It is an earthshattering development to them. They feel as if they’ve been duped, that all their life they’ve been sold a path to follow and it now appears that when given a chance to speak their mind, their peers hate the life they’ve been forced to live.

NOTHING could be further from the truth. The dirty secret is that for every anti-Haredi or cynical pontificator online there are ten Haredim who are quite happy with the direction of their lives and those who lead them. For every biting attack there is a qualified retort, for every criticism a proper and legitimate response. Why aren’t they heard? BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT HERE! What does a Kohen have to look for in a Bais Hakvaros??

Our poor visitor is unaware that he has stumbled into the global  convention of misfits, chronic complainers and pessimists known as the blogosphere. He thinks he has before him a respectable forum of serious, accomplished people. Were he to see, up close and personal, whose words he is taking seriously, he would pick himself up and leave, holding his sides with gelechter (laughter). But he doesn’t know that, he doesn’t know the faces behind the usernames. Someone forgot to post a sign at the entrance of Blogland “Now leaving the real world and entering a new one, the world of make believe. Be here all you want to be (but can’t) in real life”.

In this world, people who have done nothing with their lives, not for themselves and not for others, feel competent to take on, as an equal,  those of towering accomplishments. In this world the director of a day camp feels his oats enough to challenge Rabbis who spend 6, 8, 10 (!) hours a day receiving people and their tzaros. In this world, a man whose accomplishments can be no more than his blog alone, understands the needs of the world better than heroes of the spirit. People who have been beaten and persecuted for their adherence to their faith take a back seat to his cleverness. In this world, a personal desire becomes correct policy for the nation as a whole. Only in this world, the world of actions without consequence, can people hide their desire to continue doing what they enjoy (i.e. living in the internet) behind a veneer of righteousness and pragmatism. A world whose inhabitants claim to be interested in the greater good, as being so motivated by the “injustice” they see that they must cry out. Do they actually DO SOMETHING to help people? No. But they want to change the world. From their basement. In their pajamas. It is a world from which no good comes out of (except for the Amazon affiliate fees the owners collect).

So the casual surfer, stumbling his way across the web,  thinks he has discovered the REAL truth, the dark secret of Klal Yisroel. Dear precious Yid, don’t be fooled. Things are as they always were. They vast majority of shlomei emunei yisroel firmly REJECT the things you read in the blogosphere. It is the permanently discontented few, the ones who are dismissed in shul as “here he goes again” and “that’s just Yankel being Yankel” who have found a new outlet for their misery and are trying to convince you that everyone agrees with them. They’ll use their supposed numbers to back up their arguments and point to fellow bloggers and commentators as proof that “everyone” agrees with them, except for fanatics and extremists. Do they have the data to back it up? No, never. But “everyone” knows they’re right and the truth is,  they’re not lying. Everyone THEY know agrees with them. Which is a far cry from the Klal as a whole. Quite ironic for a group who claim to despise group-think.

Bloggers know this even when they won’t admit it. They enjoy the adulation, the praise they get when they churn out another one-sided hit piece and the links and adoring comments start pouring in. The honest ones among them surely know that they are preaching to the choir, but kavod, even false kavod is a great seducer. So they continue, blogging and posting, posting and commenting, hoping to fill the hole in their hearts. Futility personified…

Don’t be fooled again.

 

 

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34 thoughts on “The Echo Chamber That Is The Internet

  1. “Whatever time that remains for leisure activities can be put to much better use then posting on blogs.”

    What about you? How do you justify spending so much time on posting this blog and replying to the comments? If the Hareidi lifestyle is correct, its beauty and truth does not need you to defend it.

    Furthermore, did you ask YOUR rav for permission before blogging?

    • Trust me, I’m not here for fun.

      “If the Hareidi lifestyle is correct, its beauty and truth does not need you to defend it.”

      That’s inane and you know it.

      Oh and thanks for your concern about my Yiddishkiet. It’s touching. Nothing about the post itself, I see.

      • You still haven’t given a reason why you are doing this. You have promised a post explaining in detail why, and I am still waiting to read it.

        As for this post, I think you are painting with too broad a brush. There are plenty of people out there who are doing good with the Internet (HebrewBooks.org, Chabad.org, Aish.com, e-daf.com, etc.). It is unfair to generalize that just because someone is blogging they must be a misfit or have some sort of a psychological disorder. Of course the same applies the other way – just because one or two hareidim do something bad, does not mean the entire apple cart is rotten.

  2. I found it ironic when you mentioned the phrase, “Here he goes again” because one of my first thoughts while reading this was, “Here he goes again with more ad hominem attacks.” First of all, is there any doubt as to which “camp director” you were referring to? I can’t say I completely disagreed with the content of this post, but your blog would be much more readable if you spent less time tossing around vicious (and often unfounded) insults about those who disagree with you. Second, and on a similar note, your readers are by definition involved in the blogging world. This particular post would have been more readable if you toned down the personal attacks against us, even though you so benevolently stopped short of accusing us and other bloggers and commenters of psychological disorders.

    • I have not hidden my opinion of DH.

      Here is my exact quote:
      “In this world the director of a day camp feels his oats enough to challenge Rabbis who spend 6, 8, 10 (!) hours a day receiving people and their tzaros. ”

      Is there anything vicious or inaccurate about that? It is exactly what he is doing. Did you mussar him when he shamed R’ Gottlieb by name for days on end? Talk about unfounded!

      Please do tell where I have tossed around unfounded insults and I will apologize. However, I will not hold back from characterizing accurately what people are saying. The days of being able to besmirch and attack without a response are over. It appears that the shoe on the other foot is getting quite uncomfortable.

      I am also sure you comment on other blogs when they insult individuals and an entire tzibbur. If you could link to an example, I would appreciate it.

      “. Second, and on a similar note, your readers are by definition involved in the blogging world. This particular post would have been more readable if you toned down the personal attacks against us, even though you so benevolently stopped short of accusing us and other bloggers and commenters of psychological disorders.”

      My words were not directed to bloggers, as a careful reading will show you. About bloggers, yes, but not to them.

      This post is an accurate description of the blogging world, unfortunately. I apologize if it offends you, but the blogging world LIVES on being offensive and tearing down what others have worked hard to build. If having their true nature exposed is hurtful, well they can always change. I’ll be the first one to report it.

      Amazing, truly amazing how dozens of anti-Haredi blogs and comments spew non-stop hatred, but when Haredim respond and point out the truth, suddenly civility is back in demand.

      Look, I don’t hate anybody, not DH, not MO, nobody. I’m perfectly fine to live and let live. All I ask is that others do the same. The damage the blogs wreak on a communal and personal level is unfathomable and truth be told, I was quite moderate and charitable in my post about them. Bigger Jews than me have called them much, much worse names than I have. And rightly so.

      • but the blogging world LIVES on being offensive and tearing down what others have worked hard to build.

        How many of my posts have you read? Am i on your side or the other side?

        • You and a few others are the exception that proves the rule.

          Although It appears to me that you could be a bit more full-throated in your defense of our tradition. I sense that you may be a bit cowed by the overwhelming odds stacked against you.

          But I may be wrong. Either way, by defending and explaining that which is good, you deserve tremendous credi. Der zchus zul dir baishtein.

          • Thank you and המברך יתברך FYI
            1.I am still guilty as charged in your original post I am a no-account failure in real life who is regularly ignored and marginalized by just about everyone. My Blog hardly improves the situation as it gets few visitors, fewer comments and I am too Kharedi for the oifgiklerter but too soft for the kanoim.

            2. Whether it is a good or bad thing I don’t know i have been doing pitched battle in comments and guest posts with DovBear and his cubs for many years now. Besides my own blog you can check DovBears sidebar IIRC you will see 56 posts from the Bray of Fundie 90% of which are to dispute things DB or his commenters said. I am old and weary. Now that you have arrived on the scene maybe I should pack it in.

            • Why is it always the good guys that have too much humility? 😉

              I doubt you are a no account failure in real life. I didn’t even accuse bloggers of being failures, some I’m sure are quite successful. I said that they were misfits, meaning that there is something deep inside them that feels out of kilter, which they then harness as resentment toward those they feel are the cause of it.

              • Since you don’t have humility, we can take it that you’re not one of the good guys.

  3. I find myself agreeing with some of the things you say, however I think it’s important to acknowledge that the fact that these bloggers have such an opinion means that we must actually pay attention to them somewhat, and address their opinion. Although a lot of their opinion may be coming from an emotionally charged place inside them, we must learn to tolerate their opinion, and be able to address it with respect. And although the chareidi way of life is 50,000 times more pure, yashrusdik and bederech hatorah than any other way of life, we must also acknowledge that there are going to be problems within it, which should not just be shrugged aside and ignored, but rather dealt with to the best of our abilities.

    • Agreed, I do not underestimate their influence at all. Quite the opposite, I’m here to try and counter it.

      As for problems in the Haredi world, OF COURSE we have them and many of them. My proble with bloggers is their fixation on the negativity exclusively and that Haredim are their only targets.

      I think that Haredim are treated in the Jewish media as Jews and Israelis are treated in the general media. An accurate analogy, IM”O compare and see for yourself.

  4. Do you really think so little of the average Innocent Teyere Happy Well Adjusted Blogreader that you don’t believe he/she will see these nebbech’s for who they really are? C’mon, in actual life the average Innocent Teyere Happy Well Adjusted Bnei Toirah wouldn’t hang out or even pay any attention to these kinds of nebbechiles (unless they were doing chesed of course) and certainly wouldn’t think their opinions counted for anything. Why do you think they will not pick up on the nebbichil bloggers problems and issues as quickly as you have and just ignore them? And besides all the Teyere Happy Well Adjusted Bnei Toirah have already heard countless times from many gedoilei Toirah that these bloggers are reshaim and worse loi aleinu…

    • Love your snark, it’s real cute.

      People are influenced by what they read. Many DO recognize the faces behind the vitriol, my post was for those who may not.

  5. thanks for taking the time to do this, you are doing valuable work, keep it up.

  6. This was interesting and contained more than a nekuda of truth. Looking at myself, I read blogs to learn, especially academic Jewish blogs, and write on a few, most notably Rabbi Maryles. I use it a vehicle to work out ideas, to try to speak against both anti charedi and anti-Orthodox views of which there are many, and from the other side to speak up for the ideas of justice, liberalism and the apreciation of all Jews of all stripes. I am serious, harly consider myself a failure in life and believe I’ve had a small influence. Considering the noise in the system I wouldn’t call it a huge success , but I feel it is ok. I never thought of myself as being important, so I have no problem with remaing so.

  7. On one hand you have a valid point. For every one person who complains there are ten people who didn’t but no one keeps track of them, so you get the impression everyone complains.
    On the other hand things are as they always have been. There is a huge undercurrent of dissatisfaction within the Torah observant world. Look at history. Every time Jewish communities that were hitherto sealed in were opened to the world – the Emancipation, the haskalah – the numbers of Jews who defected were astronomical. But in the past they disappeared, converted or otherwise left everything behind. As the saying goes, once upon a time people walked out the door and slammed it behind them. Now they stand in the doorway screaming back the way they came.
    But to pretend that everything’s kosher? Nah.

      • Yes, but here’s the problem: today’s leaders are insisting that there is no real problem in the frum community, that everything that’s wrong is either exagerated or the fault of something from “the outside”. We have spokesmen who lie and misrepresent, attack the victims, revise history and do anything possible to maintain the image of Judaism as a perfect religion that has always been Chareidi until those darned Reformers and Zionists came along.
        If that’s the way it’s always been then by impliation, any great name in Jewish history can be tarred with the same middos. How do I know the Chofetz Chayim, ztk”l was really saintly and not that his reputation is merely a sanitized version? How do I know anyone about the Arizal’s piety if frum Jews have been revising and lying about history all along? And the ultimate implication, well that’s pretty scary and something we would all like to avoid.
        Today’s trends in leadership in your community are not building confidence.

        • The fact that the rabbonim called the Asifa is proof positive that they are acknowledging the problems in our camp.

          Oh and BTW, Judaism is a perfect religion, it’s Jews who are not perfect, nor are they expected to be (except by those who have hated us throughout the ages).

          You also make quite a leap over there. Even if the rabbis are covering up today, which they’re not, how does that impact rabbis of previous generations? Gzeura shavah rabbi-rabbi?

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  9. you did a great job showing Rabbi Eidensohn that he misread the entire Zweibel thing. good going

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