The Yated’s Hatchet Job

It’s not so easy to come up with time to write, but when you tell the tworld you’re going to write, you’ve got to write.

The Yated this week (Friday April 19, 2013 edition) dealt with the Broyde-Goldwasser controversy in two pieces. The first was an article by Avrohom Birnbaum. He tried taking Rabbis Gil Student and Harry Maryles (primarily them; he jabbed the hatchet at at least one other, I believe) to task for…I guess for not decrying R. Broyde’s actions vociferously enough. In the opinion piece Birnbaum managed to err in his description of the award Jimmy Carter recently received at Cardozo; describe R. Student’s blog in a brief and wildly inaccurate way; implicitly blame blog owners for their commenters; blatantly mis-state the nature of a brief summary R. Student had written on a critique of R. Broyde; refer to R. Broyde’s apology as “half-hearted”; and issue what seems – to my mind – the harshest criticism of a non-celebrity I have ever seen in a modern newspaper in his description of R. Maryles.

One of the worst parts of Birnbaum’s article is the fact that he may have a point. Do people judge scandalous activity from people they like more charitably? I don’t know. Some certainly do. Some likely don’t. It’s very hard to remove all biases from the equation when issuing judgment. But by turning a reasonable question into something entirely different – something stunningly accusatory and incredibly offensive – Birnbaum prevented his question from being addressed. (I also think it fair to ask Birnbaum: Does he interpret dan lekaf zechus in the same manner when judging a bearded, kapote-wearing man and a clean-shaven fellow in jeans?)

*     *     *

Birnbaum used the word schadenfreude to describe the joy that Hirhurim commenters feel when discussing chareidi improprieties, but I think the word would be used at least as aptly in describing the feelings of those who wrote the Yated’s scathing indictments of Rabbis Broyde, Student and Maryles.

Nobody (that I’ve seen) is talking about it, but I found the aggregated article on R. Broyde to be appalling. I honestly don’t remember it all and I’m not going back to read it now, but the jabs they took at a man who is down were in extremely poor taste. The article quoted liberally from Steven I. Weiss’ original investigation, something you can be certain it would not have done if a chareidi rabbi committed some wrong.

Like I said, I don’t remember it all and I’m not going back to read it now. But if Birnbaum wants to find a media double standard, I think he should look in his own paper.

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