Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Frum Blogs – Do We Matter?

Do the Frum blogs have any effect on rabbinic leaders such as those on the Agudah Moetzes? The answer has now been given in a public forum at the Agudah convention. At a Thursday night session described in a blog that reported on it - the internet was attacked it seems with an anger heretofore unseen. As it pertains to Frum Blogs - here is the money quote:

The topic discussed was The Internet and confronting unprecedented challengesof modern technology. Its dangers that have affected our community young and old alike including the content on frum blogs that is harmful to our community. Someone told him that those in Washington are reading these blogs and they said you don't know what harm it is doing to us. It has changed the way we are being perceived.

It certainly has changed the way they are being perceived. The very last post I wrote prior to this one testifies to that. Not only do I perceive them as dropping the ball on many issues, so have many people who they cannot condemn. People like Rabbi Berl Wein. Yes indeed the barrier has been breached. These leaders can no longer make pronouncements and ignore the feedback. That’s because of the internet.

I would however beg to differ with them on one thing. The Frum blogs that have fostered this change in perceptions are not harmful at all. They are beneficial. The era of unchallenged pronouncements is over. Not addressing major problems will be noticed. Mistakes will be challenged; and changes will be made. For example (although they may deny it -and I don’t see how they can) their approach to sex abuse is one major era of change that is directly attributable to the Frum blogs.

The angry tone expressed at the convention is quite understandable. No one likes their authority challenged. Especially those that see themselves as expressing Daas Torah every time they make a public pronouncement. Their angry tone last Thursday is apparently a reflection of their belief that Daas Torah itself is being undermined.

I don’t think that is the case at all. When the Frum blogs are on their game they just tell it like it is and express honest opinions based on their personal perspectives – perspectives they have which are based on sources other than those who make the pronouncements being criticized.

I have been told by sources in Agudah that when they condemn Frum blogs, they do not mean blogs like mine. I am grateful for that. I try and write in respectful tones when disagreeing with them because those leaders are Talmidei Chachamim who work very hard for Klal Yisroel. My criticism is based on differences of opinion I have with them on certain issues. Not on any personal animosity. My criticisms are made with the same goal in mind as theirs – to advocate what I believe to be best for Klal Yisroel.

There are those who challenge me – asking how I would dare assert my relatively ignorant (compared to those rabbinic leaders) opinions opposing them. Fair point. Except that I usually base my criticism on the views of other rabbinic figures who I consider of equal or greater stature than them.

All of this said, I do agree that some online criticism by some Frum blogs is disrespectful and ought to be stopped. It is not right and it undermines the message. And I include some of those who comment anonymously on these blogs – including mine. They are often very derogatory and ought to stop too. I try and delete or edit the disrespect out and admit that I don’t always succeed. But I try.

I would also add as I always do that I agree with Agudah on one thing. The dangers of the internet with respect to porn and addiction are every bit as real as they say it is. My only disagreement with them is in what to do about it.

In my view Frum Blogs are the Socrates of our time. Rabbinic leaders would do well to listen to some of those criticisms instead of only condemning them. They can start with Friday's post. Thank you Rabbi Wein.