It’s not about the internet, Rabbi Ginzberg

In an article reprinted in, Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg admirably goes to lengths to show how comments on articles on the internet can be so horribly insensitive. He is right. He then calls them “digital murder”. Rabbi Ginzberg is on the money when he notes that comments can be off and grossly insensitive. So what do I object to? After all, he’s urging people to be more sensitive and nice?

I don’t disagree with the notion of people displaying a more civil and generous tone when they address topics, but what has this to do with being “digital?”. I discern the spectre of  a new ogre. Yes, that big bad internet is responsible for all this digital loshon hora and digital rechilus and proverbial digital murder.

Hello? This has little to do with the internet. If people make these comments on blogs they make them at home, at school, in the yeshivah or in the alley way.  Is this the first time we have met people making snide remarks behind other people’s backs? It’s really about poor chinuch, fake chinuch, corrupt chinuch found in our “holy” schools and our “holy” homes. If we or our children are making insensitive remarks then it is deflective to focus on the vehicle that enables the promulgation of those remarks, as if  in some way the vehicle might be (partly) responsible. The vehicle changes from generation to generation. The problem is ubiquitous.

Pen and Paper. Yes, they can be used to write chidushei torah but they can also be used to promulgate insensitive remarks and yes, even pornography. Ban the pen, ban the paper?

Telephones. Yes, they can be used to carry nice messages and blessings and Torah and all things good. They can also carry the worst loshon horah that can destroy someone’s life. Ban the phone?

And now we have the Internet. Well, the internet can be used as a kiddush hashem. Will we ever read about an askan or gadol praising the incredible harbotzas hatorah that has occurred because of the internet? I doubt it. People will just concentrate on the negative side and seek to ban it. This “digital murder” is another attempt to put a nail in the internet coffin. It won’t work.

The web is here to stay. We should worry about our children making such comments, not the type of paper they use.

PS. Starting a chabura in mussar is  not the answer to this general problem. It’s about חינוך at an early stage and an example at home.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

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