Monday, August 18, 2008

Is the Yated – Ne’eman?

Some people have complained about my use of the secular media as a source for information in the Torah world, especially if that information is about the Torah world. The attitude seems to be that if the news is good - believe it. But if it’s bad then one is not allowed to believe it because the writers and publishers are not religious and therefore have no Ne’emanus - they are not trustworthy.

I have no qualms about using respectable secular sources. They are reporting Misiach B’Fi Tumo. That is an expression in the Gemarah describing the circumstances where we may trust even the testimony of idolaters.

Religious Jews are generally presumed to be honest and their testimony is trusted in all cases. But idolators are generally not presumed to be honest. They are not trusted to serve the truth but rather to serve their own agendas. However in cases where there is reason to believe them - such as an incidental remark without their being aware of the consequences - we may trust them. That is called Mesiach B’Fi Tumo.

Despite accusations of biased reporting in secular newspapers, they must be abide by a code of journalistic ethics, the central tenet of which is the truth. Without that they would fold in a New York minute. The minute a newspaper deliberately lies about anything and is caught - they lose all credibility and no one will trust them anymore. So, no matter what bias they may bring to the table - the fear of losing credibility keeps them honest. This is a form of Misiach B’Fi Tumo.

Of course that doesn’t mean there isn’t any bias. Of course there is. There is always bias. But bias does not translate to deliberate lies. And there is at least some attempt to not show any bias in their reportage. However when it comes to dry facts, they cannot lie. The last time a eliberate lie was tried it was by a popular reporter in the New York Times. That reporter was fired immediately and the Times paid dearly in credibility.

Nowhere is bias put to greater use than in the Charedi newspaper the Yated. This is evident from the recent article duplicated at the Yated’s thinly disguised website Dei’ah VeDibur. There was a small article there (see yesterday’s post) claiming that rabbinic sources have condemned the practice of going on vacations to hotels and bungalows where there are TVs and other pitfalls for Charedim.

I took it this condemnation to refer to the Catskill Mountains scene. I thought that the reason this condemnation came out now is because the week after the 9th if is a prime vacation period for many Charedim. But I was not the only one that thought so. Yeshiva World apparently thought the same thing as the photo accompanying the artilce there was clearly of an area in Catskill Mountains.

But as was pointed out by a couple of commentors here - this article had nothing it do with the Catskill Mountains. Here is one such comment:

It’s all very well and good to discuss the merits or demerits of the Catskills, but the Yated article is a translation of the Hebrew Yated in Bnei Brak and it addresses Yeshivishe families in Israel who go on vacation during the bein-hazmanim. If it was referring to the Catskills, which it definitely is not, why did they wait until mid-August? It’s talking about tzimerim in the Galil and Tiveria. No connection to the American bungalow colony scene in at all.

The translated English version was unclear and intended to mislead. There was no mention of the fact it was talking only to the Yeshivishe crowd in Israel about vacations during Bein HaZmanim - the more or less official vacation time of all Yeshivos. There was the use of the word bungalow. That strongly suggests the bungalow colonies that exist in the Catskill Mountains. The purpose? I suspect it is to make waves and stir controversy.

It is apparent from this and other articles that they are often written with an agenda to stir controversy and cause anguish to the masses.

The Yated can therefore not be trusted to report the facts clearly - not book bans and not concert bans. They are just the newspaper version of the posters put up by zealots in Meah Shearim or Ramat Bet Shemesh B.

What makes this particularly grievous is the fact that it is a religious paper that prides itself on following Daas Torah. This makes them worse than secular publishers because they use their status as religious journalists for their own self righteous purposes. Instead of raising the level of Kedusha in their community they cause a Chilul HaShem.

As far as I’m concerned the National Enquirer is probably a more reliable news source. Next time anyone reads the Yated – that is the rag they ought to be thinking of.


I have been made aware that the De’iah VeDibur website is reflective of the Israeli Yated Ne’eman an not the American Yated although they were at one time affiliated.

This fact is not made clear anywhere on its website. And it should be. The reader is entitled to know where this paper is coming from and who they are talking about when they write ambiguously - as they did in the above referenced article. But all it says is that De’iah VeDibur is a window into the Charedi world.

With that as its published mission statement - there is no reason to expect that stories reported therein are related only to the Israeli Charedi scene and not the Amercian Charedi scene.

I therefore still hold this paper responsible for misleading its readership. And unless it makes a correction and states clearly that articles therein are only about the Israeli Charedi scene, it will continue to mislead and misinform - disclaimers of responsibility about accuracy not withstanding.