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May 30, 2016 / 22 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘view’

The Paranoid View Of History Infects Oberlin

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

“Anti-Semitism,” wrote Stephen Eric Bronner, author of the engaging book A Rumor About The Jews, “is the stupid answer to a serious question: How does history operate behind our backs?”

For a wide range of ideological extremists, anti-Semitism is still the stupid answer for why what goes wrong with the world does go wrong. It is a philosophical worldview and interpretation of history that creates conspiracies as a way of explaining the unfolding of historical events; it is a pessimistic and frantic outlook, characterized in 1964 by historian Richard Hofstadter as “the paranoid style” of politics that shifts responsibility from the self to sinister, omnipotent others – typically and historically, the Jews.

Long the thought product of cranks and fringe groups, what Hofstadter described as the paranoid style of politics has lately entered the mainstream of what would be considered serious and respectable academic enterprise.

Witness, for instance, the Facebook posts of Joy Karega, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at Oberlin College, who wildly claimed that Jewish bankers control the world economy and have financed every war since Napoleon; that Israelis and Zionists were not only behind the 9/11 attacks in New York but also orchestrated the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris; and that Israeli fingerprints could be found in the downing over Ukraine of Malaysian Air Flight 17 and also in the rise of ISIS.

What troubles observers of this type of intellectual incoherence emanating from academia is that, unlike its intellectually flabby predecessors from right-wing hate groups or left-wing cranks, this political analysis comes complete with the academic respectability of Oberlin, a trend that Professor Hofstadter had himself originally found noteworthy.

“In fact,” he wrote, “the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.”

For Karega, the archetypal malevolent Jew is found in the person of Jacob Rothschild, whose photograph she posted in December 2014, along with text, allegedly from him, stating that “We own nearly every central bank in the world. We financed both sides of every war since Napoleon. We own your news, the media, your oil and your government” – oft-repeated tropes about Jewish domination of media and banking that suggest to Karega and like-minded conspiracists that Jewish wealth and influence enable Jews, and by extension Zionists and Israelis, to get away with various predations and political manipulations.

She raises the specter of the Jewish banker in a later Facebook post when she blames Israel, “the same people behind the massacre in Gaza,” of shooting down the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. “With this false flag,” Karega rants, “the Rothschild-led banksters [sic], exposed and hated and out of economic options to stave off the coming global deflationary depression, are implementing the World War III option.”

In a March 2015 Facebook post, Karega provided what she apparently thought was a helpful link to a crazed speech by Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, in which, to no one’s great surprise, the enlightened minister ascribed the blame for the 9/11 attacks not to the homicidal Muslim terrorists who clearly perpetrated them but to Israel and greedy Jews who realized financial and political gains from the felling of the Twin Towers.

“Farrakhan is truth-telling in this video,” Karega wrote in her post, and “we need more of us willing to venture into these areas.”

Farrakhan, it will be remembered, characterized Judaism as a “gutter religion,” deemed Hitler “a great man,” and, lest there be any doubt where his sympathizes lie regarding Israel, decided that the “plight” of American blacks puts them “in the same position” as the Palestinians. So his view that Israel’s fingerprints are all over the 9/11 attacks, and that Jews in fact benefited from the terrorism, is not in variance from his twisted beliefs – nor, apparently, those of Karega.

“Now you know I’m going to be lambasted and called anti-Semitic,” he said in a 2012 Chicago speech. “They’ll say Farrakhan was up to his old canards; he said Jews control Hollywood. Well, they said it themselves! Jews control the media. They said it themselves! Jews and some gentiles control the banking industry, international banks. They do! In Washington right next to the Holocaust Museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident?”

Once Professor Karega’s demented posts were made public, Oberlin’s president, already reeling from a spate of other anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish incidents on his campus, reacted fecklessly, giving the disingenuous response that the college “respects the right of its faculty, students, staff and alumni to express their personal views,” and that “the statements posted on social media by Dr. Joy Karega . . .are hers alone and do not represent the views of Oberlin College.”

That may well be true, and universities do not necessarily have to take responsibility for the outrageous views expressed publicly by its faculty; but neither do academic leaders have to refrain from denouncing the same views a faculty member is perfectly able to utter under the protection of academic free speech, just as they regularly do in those rare instances when slurs are made by faculty aimed at blacks, gays, Muslims, Hispanics, or other perceived victim groups for who such speech is deemed “hurtful,” “oppressive,” or “hateful.”

The university campus is not the public square, where any idea – no matter how deranged, improbable, inaccurate, libelous, historically unfounded, or damaging – can be spoken and heard, unchallenged, without government interference. While universities should, and do, protect the notion of unbridled expression and the ability to express any opinion as part of “scholarly inquiry,” it has never been the function of academic free speech to protect or promote irresponsible, inaccurate, or deranged speech that is clearly outside the parameters of responsible scholarship, research, and factuality.

Richard L. Cravatts

‘You Murder the Children’: Rav Soloveitchik on Abortion

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

When one thinks of Modern Orthodoxy, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l soon comes to mind for his leadership thereof. In our time, however, Modern Orthodoxy has become a vague term with problematic tendencies. As Rabbi Steven Pruzansky–who has numerous shiurim on Yeshiva University’s Torah website–recently wrote, “Too often, one finds in the Modern Orthodox world grievances of one sort or another against this or that aspect of Torah, as if Jews get to sit in judgment of God and His Torah.”

No issue might better crystallize the dissonance between Rav Soloveitchik’s Modern Orthodoxy and today’s than abortion. Let us consider the great man’s views.

During a shiur on Parashat Bo in 1975, Rav Soloveitchik stated that “to me it is something vulgar, this clamor of the liberals that abortion be permitted,” adding:

“I consider the society of today as insane…I read from the press that in Eretz Yisrael they permit abortions now! Sapir [probably Pinchas Sapir] comes to the US and asks that 60,000 boys and girls should leave the US and settle in Eretz Yisrael. When a child is born, it’s also immigration to Eretz Yisrael, and yet you murder the children.”

Rav Soloveitchik then predicted:

“And if you kill the fetus, a time will come when even infants will be killed…The mother will get frightened after the baby will be born…and the doctor will say her life depends upon the murder of the baby. And you have a word, mental hygiene, whatever you want you can subsume under mental hygiene…And there is now a tendency for rabbis in the US to march along with society, otherwise they’ll be looked upon as reactionaries.”

Similar remarks appear in Reflections of the Rav:

“If the dominant principle governing the logos [“thinking capacity”] is that abortion is morally permissible because only a mother has a right to decide whether she wishes to be a mother, then infants may similarly have their lives terminated after birth. What if the child interferes with the promising brilliant career of the mother?”

These words might be jarring for those who view Rav Soloveitchik as the mild-mannered author of philosophically oriented books like The Lonely Man of Faith. Equally if not more jarring might be Rav Soloveitchik’s statements on sexual morality, which I discussed a few months ago.

Specific to abortion, one might counter that Rav Soloveitchik permitted an unborn child with Tay-Sachs disease to be aborted through the sixth month, but this proves just the opposite, namely: 1) What does this narrow, tragic case indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s general view of abortion? 2) What does it indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s view of abortion after the sixth month even in the case of Tay-Sachs? And vis-à-vis those who claim a woman’s absolute right to “terminate a pregnancy” at any point, I doubt such an attempt to (mis)represent Rav Soloveitchik as a “moderate” on abortion would be received agreeably. In this regard, one of Rav Soloveitchik’s sons-in-law, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, shlita, has observed in the context of abortion:

“Even if we were to accept that indeed it is the woman’s own body, we totally reject the conception that she then can do with it as she pleases. This is a completely anti-halakhic perception [emphasis added]. It rests on a secular assumption that, as it were, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself’ (Yechezkel 29:3), as if we are the source of our own existence and therefore the masters of our own being. This is assuredly not the case.”

Rav Lichtenstein summarizes the worldview of that anti-halakhic perception as follows:

“The essence of modern secular culture is the notion of human sovereignty; individual man is master over himself, and collective man is master over his collective… From a religious point of view, of course, eilu va-eilu divrei avoda zara—both approaches are idolatrous. Here one establishes individual man as an idol, and the one idolizes, in humanistic terms, humanity as a whole. The basis of any religious perception of human existence is the sense that man is not a master: neither a master over the world around him, nor a master over himself.”

Yes, Rav Soloveitchik earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin (as likewise Rav Lichtenstein earned a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard). Yes, Rav Soloveitchik enjoyed classical music (especially Bach). And first and foremost, Rav Soloveitchik was a Torah Jew for whom Halachah was not some intellectual game or cultural style, rather an all-encompassing conviction with profound social implications. Thus his denunciations of abortion, which derived from the same worldview as these remarks in 1953:

Menachem Ben-Mordechai

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-banner-raised-high/you-murder-the-children-rav-soloveitchik-on-abortion/2013/09/23/

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