There is a video at Rafi’s Life in Israel blog of an anti-internet event that occurred in Israel a short while ago. The Charedi newspaper Yated Ne'eman apparently reported that 300 people attended this event. However - as can plainly be seen in a 45 second video - that was hardly the case.
Of course the ‘defenders of the faith’ who always rush to defend the indefensible will say that one cannot really tell how many people actually attended the event from a 45 second video. Perhaps this was the beginning as people were beginning to trickle in - or just a small section that the videographer chose because of an unblocked angle - that the hall was actually much fuller but out of camera range.
Well that’s possible. But I really doubt it.
The truth is that number of people who attended this or that meeting about the evils of the internet is by now unimportant. If you think about it, this is about the fact that 'Gedolim' are becoming completely irrelevant. And events like this are accelerating the process. Less and less people are paying any attention to them. They are being increasingly ignored. People are beginning to realize how ridiculous their 'answers' to the internet problems are. The louder they scream the more they are ignored
So many Charedim use the internet (and not only for business but for pleasure - like participating in blogs or e-mail lists) that the constant haranguing about it being Assur is becoming one big joke.
Everyone knows the dangers by now. The 'Gedolim' don't need to keep repeating it - and telling everyone how Assur it therefore is. And yet they keep doing it. They keep offering solutions that no one listens to - trying harder each time with stricter bans each time. Even using coercion - like the rule in Lakewood schools that if a parent has the internet - the child doesn't get in. Most people in Lakewood probably have the internet and use it for more than just business (for which they may or may not have gotten a 'heter'.) That is so obvious that one would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to realize it.
This is yet another indication to me that we have no effective Gedolim today.
In Israel those who may actually be Gedolim are elderly and thereby sheltered and misled by people with agendas. It is my firm belief that these agendized underlings are calling the shots. And they use those elderly Gedolim as cover – claiming that the Gedolim are calling the shots when it is really they who manipulate everthing.
In America we have ‘Gedolim’ that are chosen by an organizational committee - many of whom are chosen – or rejected - for political reasons. They are Poskim, Roshei Yeshiva, Mashgichim and Chasidic Rebbes. I’m sure that most are fine and caring people - many of them even Talmidei Chachamim. But they are not Gedolim. At least not in the sense of the previous generation of Gedolim.
As I recently wrote - Jonathan Rosenblum wrote a column explaining why Gedolim do not deal with the many challenges he has written about that face the Torah world today. His response was that they do not want to be called fake Gedolim. (Apparently they feel that their constituents will disagree with them to the extent that they will be ridiculed. And that in future situations they will therefore not be listened to.)
Any individual who says something like that proves to me that he absolutely NOT a Gadol. A real Gadol wouldn't care about his status as a Gadol. He would in fact be an Anav - humble about it shying away from the title. He would certainly ‘tell it like it is’. A real Gadol does not need the title. A real Gadol does not need to be elected by a committee on Agudah. Nor would he ever even strive to be a member of any kind of Moetzes. He is a Gadol with or without them.
Can anyone imagine any of the previous generation saying that they will not deal with a challenge because of the fear of being called a fake Gadol? R' Yaakov? R' Pam? R’ Moshe? The Rav? Rav Ahron? …and many, many others?
Lest anyone say that every generation by default must have its Gedolim - Yiftach B'Doro K'Shmuel B'Doro. That’s true. Yiftach was the leader in his generation just as Shmuel was the leader in his own generation. That just means that by default someone is going to end up being a leader. But that does not make him great.
Yiftach was the leader of his generation even though the Gemarah tells us some extremely unflattering things about him. Yet - I guess there wasn't anyone better during his lifetime. I think that people are beginning to be aware that we are in a generation of Yiftachs and not a Shmuels.
In my view these leaders who go around crying 'the sky is falling' about the internet while the vast majority uses it and thereby sees otherwise are indeed fake Gedolim. The louder they scream the more fake they become. No amount of haranguing at any meeting attended by any number of people will change that. It's just plain fact.
Were the numbers small at that meeting? Does it matter?