Friday, April 17, 2009

The Comment That Didn't Get Through

On this website, my policy for posting comments includes two main criteria. One is that they should contribute constructively to the discussion. This doesn't mean that they have to agree with me on the point in the post, but it does mean that they have to be coming from the same basic framework of rationalist Judaism which is the objective of this website. The second main criterion is that the comment be written appropriately. Comments are rejected if they consist of tossed-out words with no respectable or coherent formulation (e.g. the comment which in its entirety said "Oh yeah? One word: mabul"). Just as a magazine/newspaper would toss out such letters to the editor and not print them, so too on this website. And sometimes, I reply to comments privately rather than post the comments (so it helps if you have an ID with email). I know that there are blogs which run comments freely, and that's fine and great, but I am trying to run a different kind of website here (I don't even like to call it a blog).

Cross-Currents takes a similar approach to printing comments. However, I do not see how their criteria justify their rejection of the following comment that I posted on Rabbi Avi Shafran's retraction of his Madoff-Sully article. Since I have my own website, I can post my comment here:

I don't understand this apology. If Madoff and Sully were "unsuitable examples" for the "eternal Jewish truths" that Rabbi Shafran sought to impart, what are those truths? Is it still the case that the consequences of an act of theft are irrelevant to how wrong it is, and that someone performing a heroic action as part of their job is not to be praised as a hero? What are the suitable examples? Can someone explain this to me?


  1. "If Madoff and Sully were "unsuitable examples" for the "eternal Jewish truths..."

    Perhaps R' Shafran wasn't trying to say that Madoff and Sully per se were unsuitable examples, but he realized late that he didn't take into account the emotional reaction - yet reasonable reaction - most typical people would have to hearing his twist on Madoff's and Sully's acts. I wonder if in twenty years, he might wish to post the same article, after the strong emotions we now have to those acts wear off.

  2. Rav Shafran's point, which was lost in all the shouting was:
    Bernie Madoff could have taken off with his final 100 million dollars and lived out the rest of his life in the Grand Cayman Islands. Instead he confessed to his crimes. Despite all he's done wrong, there's at least one good thing he did.
    Sullenberg, on the other hand, was just doing his job so why all the kudos?

    What Rav Shafran doesn't understand is that saying "I'm sorry" when you're burned someone's house down doesn't really count for much when you had the option never to light in on fire in the first place.
    What he also did not understand is that training for a crisis and performing calmly when that crisis occurs is not something many people can do well.

    And as someone who's running about 25% on the Cross Currents submissions, I've come to the conclusion that the current blog controllers are interested in mostly sympathetic comments (remember there were several agreeing with Rav Shafran's article!) with the occasional dissident one thrown in to make it look like there's balance.


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