Monday, September 12, 2005

Blogs and Loshon Hora

An interesting article - excerpted from the Jewish Ethicist - was printed in Mr Yankel Wajsbort's weekly Parsha sheet (email for a subscription). The complete article entitled Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts? appears here.

While blogs can be a hotbed of loshon hora with regards to comments made about individuals the author, Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, makes an interesting point:

However, we have to make a suitable exception in the case of public figures or aspects of a person's life which are intentionally opened to the public. When someone runs for public office, he surely expects, even wants, others to openly discuss his qualifications for office, whether positive or negative. Likewise, if someone makes a public speech or publishes something it is fair to assume that he is willing to have his ideas weighed in the "court of public opinion", with its self-appointed lawyers for defense and prosecution alike. Any serious scholar is grateful for the insights gleaned from critics.
I believe that organisations in the community must be open to scrutiny to a certain extent. As frum yidden much of our lives revolve around the Shul and school. While the majority of our community leaders are extremely dedicated and hard working they cannot be beyond criticism. What they do and the decisions they make effect all of us and we should certainly be entitled to comment on those decisions.

This leads many to criticise that this blog in particular encourages loshon hora - especially when institutions such as the Yeshivah Centre and the people running the institution are spoken about. (There have also been accusations that I have given support to one side of the Gush Katif debate over the other - these criticisms have come from both sides.)

From reading comments on this blog and other blogs on the internet it appears that many people cannot bear to have their pet project or institution or whatever spoken about in a negative way. These same people, more often than not, will disparage another person's opinion or another organisation in the most vicious and unfair manner. It is most frustrating that people are indignant that their opinion should be taken seriously by others and in the next sentence use rude and derogatory language about someone else's comments.

I think that in general it is a good thing that people are able to have their say here or in other blogs. Being a member of a close knit community sometimes makes it difficult to express an opinion that may not be popular with those in power. This blog in particular has given certain people a voice and allowed them to express their frustrations with the system. This, I believe, is a good thing.

What I am trying to communicate is that it is good to express your opinion and to let out your frustrations but do it in a way which does not denigrate others on a personal level.

Intelligent discussion of an issue is rewarding for the person who writes as well as to the readers.