Once More: Blog Gatekeeping Dilemmas

22 May

 

 

Whenever Palestinian grievances become prominent, as they have recently due to the U.S. embassy move and defiant opening in Jerusalem, which coincided in time and outrage with the massacre at the Gaza border, Zionist nerves grow frayed, insults fly, and nasty moves are made to shift the conversation as far away from both the grievances and Israeli brutality as possible. In the humble setting of my blog apologists for Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity invite us to read their comments that blame Hamas for the shooting of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators. Since Hamas, as everyone knows, is ‘a terrorist organization’ and that alone is supposed to end discussion. Of course, such tactics of closure take no notice of the fact that Hamas was encouraged by Washington to participate in the 2006 elections by Washington, and then was punished for winning internationally supervised elections.

 

After that Hamas quietly tried to urge Washington to take steps to avoid violence in and surrounding Gaza by diplomatic initiatives that would promote co-existence. Hamas put forward in subsequent years a number of long-term ceasefire proposals that Israel left unanswered. If Hamas ignored comparable Israeli initiatives it would be severely denigrated by governments and the media. When violence involving Gaza has erupted, it has usually been Israel that has not only initiated major attacks, but has done so in a one-sided manner inflicting massive death and devastation on the Palestinian civilian population by taking full advantage of their military dominance. For Israel it has obviously been useful to keep Hamas in a terrorist box, which has kept a bright green light shining in the IDF direction.

 

The second argument made by Israeli apologists is to contend that every country has a right to defend itself, and when Israel repeatedly shoots, kills, and maims large numbers of unarmed demonstrators with live ammunition it is within its rights–acting in lawful self-defense. Such an abstract argument is only possible by either ignoring the true nature of the conflict or pretending that Israel, with its vast experience in controlling hostile demonstrations, has no alternative better way to address these unruly Palestinians who have been locked in captivity for decades and denied the most elemental human rights. Such a line of argument should be shameful, yet isn’t treated as such by mainstream media. Imagine the public outcry if East German border guards has used IDF sniper tactics at the Berlin Wall to repel enraged West German demonstrators (with far less justification for desperate anger than the Palestinians), it could have meant war, and certainly would have produced widespread denunciations of Communist barbarism.

 

With reluctance I have blocked such comments, as unhelpfully detached from reality. My actions have elicited especially the anger of Fred Skolnik, Mike71, and some others who have left the website. Fred and Mike have been more persistent, hiding their contempt for me long enough from time to time so as to regain temporary access to the blog, pleading free speech and with comedic absurdity, claiming that I block or filter their comments because I fear that the truth that they have to tell will expose the lies I tell or to avoid their arguments that are so convincing to the objective mind as to make mincemeat of mine.

 

There are some well funded major websites that serve loyally as strident voices for the Zionist right, such as Gatestone Institute, a regular outlet for Alan Dershowitz, and the Middle East Forum, featuring the views of Daniel Pipes. These websites would no more dream of publishing my comments than would Nikki Haley invite me over for dinner. I should point out, in a burst of liberal self-righteousness, that I have also mostly excluded comments that do express extreme anti-Zionist, anti-Israel views that appear to me to cross the line of political criticism and enter with their language the domain of ‘killing fields.’ Exactly where that line should be drawn is not easy for me, although it is obvious for my critics who claim I am easy on those that hate Israel while harsh on its defenders. I can only respond by saying “not true.”

 

It is never congenial for me to play this filtering role. I would make a terrible censor. I waver from time to time, which lead to inconsistent decisions, and sometimes disappoint friends as much as other times I anger my worst adversaries. My liberal, Habermasian inclinations are toward discourse and dialogue, and I am aware that restrictions, even if taken responsibly are a slippery slope. I confess also that I resent spending time reaching decisions about whether comments that stray close to the line of what I would call ‘inhumane apologetics’ (as in defending Israel’s shoot to kill or maim policies at the Gaza border) or involve defamatory attacks on my character, competence, motivations. Except in the most extreme cases it strikes me as a Hobson’s Choice: respond and futile engage or ignore and leave behind a trail of suspicion.  This same dilemma applies to invective directed at comment writers that express views similar to mine.

 

I know I have written along these lines in the past, dueling with my frustration, with some anger, and the debilitating feeling of being trapped in a fruitless exercise, and yet when the volume of blocked comments pile up from time to time, silence does not seem a good option. I am tempted at such intervals to stop comments altogether, thereby sidestepping the issue. I have so far resisted this temptation because despite some acute discomfort, on balance, I find most of the comments supportive and of great interest, containing independent insights, and offering constructive criticisms that I do my best to take into account in the future.

 

 

 

There is no conversation possible, especially as those who disagree are branded as showing their alleged hatred for Israel. As the principal target of such defamatory comments, I am particularly sensitive to the issue.

11 Responses to “Once More: Blog Gatekeeping Dilemmas”

  1. jessicamcgarty May 22, 2018 at 11:01 am #

    All I can say is keep doing what you’re doing! I find your blog interesting and informative. I also sympathise with your dilemma and have seen the sort of comments you refer to (not on this blog but on Twitter) and I find them rather frustrating and shocking, on both sides of the extreme.

  2. Carlos May 22, 2018 at 5:37 pm #

    I fully understand your frustration Richard and that you are ‘in the firing line’ . You speak for those of us around the world who hope that Habermasean dialogue, will one day bring about justice for those who have been oppressed for so long. Keep on keeping on friend.

    • Richard Falk May 23, 2018 at 12:27 am #

      Thanks, Carlos, the struggle continues as Che taught!!

  3. Paul Wapner May 22, 2018 at 8:22 pm #

    As I see it, you strike the right balance. There is no formula, just discernment. The sad thing is that discernment takes time and I feel for you having to take precious time to play gatekeeper.

    I know that I would be less fair. (I also know that I couldn’t write a sustained blog with a fraction of your thoughtfulness.)

    • Richard Falk May 23, 2018 at 12:25 am #

      Thanks for this welcome bit of ‘Wapner Wisdom.’ I doubt only that you would be less fair!!

  4. Beau Oolayforos May 23, 2018 at 9:18 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    You have the patience of a saint. As for the haters who get their wisdom from racist statements by ex-Milwaukee schoolteachers and reality-TV slimeballs, let us suggest to them the joy & relaxation of flying a kite or jumping in some lake.

    • Richard Falk May 24, 2018 at 1:05 am #

      Thanks for this reassuring message. I share this sense of the futility of
      such conversations yet cannot entirely shake myself free from the sense that
      the views of all, however abhorrent and suspect, deserve a hearing. As one US Supreme Justice, probably Brandeis, expressed this sentiment in roughly these words: “..the best disinfectant is fresh air.”

      • Beau Oolayforos May 24, 2018 at 6:26 pm #

        Or Voltaire’s (apocryphal) comment about “I disagree with what you say, but…” We have to avoid the echo chamber, so we value more than ever your painstaking editorial, and inclusion, efforts.

  5. Kata Fisher May 27, 2018 at 9:01 pm #

    https://www.salon.com/2000/02/09/sevenvices/ A note: The vices and the vile among hostile! Ah, just gash!

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