Sunday, March 03, 2019

The Conspiracy Theorists Among Us

Street scene in Williamsburg (COL
Once again we have the specter of Jews suffering. In this case, Orthodox Jews. Not all Orthodox Jews. But Jews living in the most isolated of communities. The issue at hand is the incidence of measles. From Time Magazine
A measles outbreak is spreading within New York City’s Orthodox Jewish community, with 21 cases coming from a single yeshiva in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, according to city health officials.
The question is why a school in Willimsburg whose parent body consists of - what many people consider the strictest Jews among us - suffering so much from this malady? It can’t be because of their religious fervor. Nor is it their dedication to serving God. I believe that one of the primary contributing factors is their very isolationism.

In their desire to avoid the pitfalls of the secular world, they have increasingly been separating themselves from that world. They have gone to great lengths in doing that. Most notably by forming entire villages in remote areas. They are discouraged from leaving those environs - doing so only when absolutely required. Like for reasons of making a living; a required hospitalization; or travel. 

This is is accompanied by a constant harangue against the non Jew (or even the secular Jew whom they see in a similar light as a negative influence on them )  as completely immoral whose values are anathema to Judaism. Not to be trusted and even hated in their heart of hearts. 

Among other reasons, their mode of dress is designed to discourage any association with the non Jew or even the secular Jews. True, they do acknowledge there there may be some exceptions to that rule. But they clearly see the vast majority of non or secular Jews as influences to be avoided. I can’t even count the number of times I have heard rabbis in this kind of community say that non the non Jewish world is the antithesis of Judaism and morality.

Please understand that I do not include all or even most Charedim in this category. It is primarily (but not exclusively) the type of Chasidus that has long been associated with Williamsburg. 

When almost all non Jews are looked at in this light, it is not that hard to form conspiracy theories about them.  Of course you don’t have to be a Williamsburg Chasid to be a conspiracy theorist. There are plenty conspiracy theorists out there. But there is little doubt in my mind that their isolationism and constant harangue against non Jews contributes mightily to the idea that vaccinations are a plot by non Jews who have in any case have no morals. And care only about the huge profits to be made at the expense of public health. 

This is what anti vaxxers believe. you would think that our people would be smarter than that. But far too many of our people that belong to this segment are eager to believe the worst. Which I believe can be traced to the above mentioned negative indoctrination.

Now it’s true that there have been areas of the country with few if any Orthodox Jews of any kind - that have been plagued by a measles outbreak. But the fact that Willliamsburg is part of that statistic tells me that they too are conspiracy theorists. They disregard the warnings of public health officials - who as non Jews have no scruples. 

Added to that is the legitimate fact that vaccines are not problem free. And that combined with the junk science they buy into makes them falsely believe that the harm caused by vaccines far outweighs any benefit, when the exact opposite is true according to the vast majority of health professionals. 

Most Charedi rabbis among us believe the medical professionals and have urged these antivaxxers to reconsider. But I guess they must believe that even  great rabbis have been misled - duped by big Pharma into dangerous behavior for purposes of making billions of dollars.
I believe that if these people were more integrated into general society, and not indoctrinated to see the outside world and everyone in it as completely evil, they wouldn't be so many of them that are such conspiracy theorists.

This is yet another reason of many why isolating an entire community of Jews from the rest of the world is a bad idea. I understand the desire to avoid negative influences. But how far should any community go with that... and at what price?