This publication house is, of course, not peculiarly famous with merriness in its new year greetings, but this one is exquisitely somber.
The New Year Eve of a NYTimes' reader
Many of the present-day characteristics of journalistic writings, especially in establishment newspapers are rooted in the reality that the profitability or, at times, survival of an instance of the news industry depends on the readership who pays or a readership's attention that can be sold to big corporations – or anyone with enough money, for that matter; which more often than not is a combination of both1;
However, the problem – which is even visible in my meager description – is in the confusion of "industry" with "journalism". The idea that news, and not just news, but socio-politically relevant information, analysis, etc. could be delivered to an audience as a "product" in a for-profit fashion is an absurdity in and of itself2.
But even if we conjure up journalism in its virtuous philosophical footing, the common-practice that there must be a clear distinction between "activism" and "journalism" wouldn't be a far-fetched characteristic of the profession. At the same time, journalism by its very definition is about an endless array of complex choices regarding what statements, which groups, which observations, which incidents, which details get into the final draft and how.
NYTimes reporting on Monsey Stabbings
“We are without answers,” said Rabbi David Niederman, the president and executive director of the United Jewish Organizations, a social services organization based in Brooklyn.
What a curious way to report on an act of violence coinciding with the New Year's religiously-themed celebrations!
While given the mental health complications of the suspect, the lines between an "act of violence" or "cry for help" are more blurred than usual.
But what is surprising is that Michael Gold and the more senior co-author of the piece, Benjamin Weiser, decide, of all world, to cover a leader who instead of fulfilling his leadership duty by serving in the role of a shaman in releasing the state of heightened alert and unleashed energy in the public as the biological response of our bodies/psyches to traumatic incidents, is psychologically incapacitated by the trauma.
The sentence about the role of the leader in such a situation is not a wisdom that has been bestowed to me due to living in the "exotic" landscapes of "the Orient", rather these insights are replications of Bessel van der Kolk's criticism of George W. Bush's handling of 9-11.
What a psychologist with a Dutch sounding family-name has to do with religion and terror, is, of course, neither a coincidence nor a conspiracy, rather due to the reality that his father was a holocaust survivor. So, in a sense, he has been studying his parents and their influence on him [or other children around him] growing up in an environment surrounded by Holocaust survivors.
Which brings up the simple conclusion: nobody who is familiar with contemporary history, is unfamiliar with situations like these, especially for individuals who associate themselves with Judaism.
So, the question is why would a rabbi, who is also the president and executive director of a Jewish themed social services organization is "without answers"! There is no excuse for being this helpless and in the leadership position; hence, glorifying such an individual's response to the incident, is not just poor journalism, it is criminal. It is exacerbating pain and distraught in a community already socially traumatized by the actual event.
Rabbi David Niederman is not the officially designated political leader, so, let's take a look at The New York Times' journalists reporting of the official authority figure:
In Rockland County, where the attack on Saturday took place, the county executive, Ed Day, announced on Monday that a private security firm would work with the police to provide armed guards to synagogues in Monsey.
“We cannot stand around and do nothing,” Mr. Day said. “We are taking proactive action in order to address the concerns, the fears that are out there.”
While hiring armed guards does meet the criteria of not "standing around and do nothing," in reality, a community hit by a traumatic incident deserves more than just "doing something, just anything!" This might be the boldest moment of relevance for the socio-political leadership of the community, and yet the leader figure miserably fails to deliver anything but a measure that exacerbates the public's states of trauma.
Whether Ed Day is part of a greater conspiracy to increase hate crimes in New York or not, the reality of the logic behind his decisions is pretty self-explanatory. The about page of his personal websites writes:
In 1979, and after eight years of private sector employment, he decided to forego his higher salary and join the New York City Police Department.
... Ed retired from the NYPD in 2000 ... He then joined Phipps Houses Services ... as their Director of Corporate Security ... In 2003 he became Chief of Detectives of the Baltimore Police Department
So, is it really not surprising that the response of this man to such a crisis is nothing other than "more armed guards," and that he misleadingly calls such action as "proactive action"!
The county executive is calling hiring armed guards after a man with mental health issues has wounded five citizens with a machete as "proactive action"! This is really ridiculous! This is the same level absurdity as when the "harsh retaliation" package that a regime from the Middle East "promised" also included the killing an entire aircraft's passengers3.
While we may even excuse the lies and miserable handling of the aftermath of this incident by the county executive on the reality that being citizens of the largest orthodox population of any religion, whether Judaism or Islam rewards in the same leadership style and even if we forgive Michael Gold on his lack of experience and young age, what about the more senior journalist Benjamin Weiser? Nobody in The New York Times' editorial staff and co. spotted any of these bullshits?
Even if the authorities lie or rely on absurd labels for their actions or lack of actions, the job of a journalist is not to become an arm to their non-existing propaganda capacities, rather to expose them.
Neither Ed Day nor Rabbi David Niederman are presidential hopefuls that voicing criticism against their handling of this incident would land The New York Times in crossfires from the future White House.
Even in a piece as journalistically poor as this one, the probable underlying dynamics that resulted in such a horrific incident are not as invisible:
But prosecutors said in the federal complaint that investigators had found handwritten journals at Mr. Thomas’s home in which he expressed anti-Semitic views.
On one page, he questioned why people “mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide,” the complaint said.
In another piece of writing, Mr. Thomas, who is from Greenwood Lake, N.Y., used a phrase that investigators said appeared to reference the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, a fringe religious movement.
Putting the bullshit of calling Donald J. Trump a "polarizing figure" aside, one of the main tricks of conmen who seek political authority is to polarize.
An example in the context of hate crime is the study by Karsten Muller (Princeton University) and Carlo Schwarz (University of Warwick) on Donald Trump's Twitter usage and anti-Muslim sentiment:
We show that the increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in the US since the start of Trump's presidential campaign has been concentrated in counties with high Twitter usage. ... We also show that Trump's tweets about Islam-related topics are highly correlated with anti-Muslim hate crimes after the start of his presidential campaign, but not before.
Trump is also not an unfamiliar face when it comes to negative prejudice against individuals with darker skin colors; it's not just that he ran a full-page ad in four of New York City's newspapers calling to adopt the death penalty for a few darker skin-colored teenagers, wrongly convicted of gang-raping a female jogger, while the real criminal roamed free in the street of New York City, two decades later he still hasn't mustered up enough introspection to offer an apology! Of course, the ad wasn't there because he is a concerned legal scholar or that he is an indie expert on the benefits of the death penalty, the ad was there "to polarize" on the basis of bigotry and the long history of racism in the U.S.
It is also worth to mention that one of those newspapers was The New York Times itself.
This is a man who is driving the justification for his political leadership upon increasing racial, ethnic and religious tensions, prejudices or flat-out bigotry; While the US' Muslim minority has the ISIS and the rest of dictatorship across the Middle East to cling to and fill a pathological urge for belonging, it wouldn't be surprising that a man with a darker skin color [and no ties to Islam] finds himself no better alternative for practicing the life-style of bigotry advertised by Trump & co. other than joining a fringe religious movement whose main targets are even a small and historically more persecuted minority in the US: Jews.
Mr. Sussman said Mr. Thomas suffered from psychosis and major depressive disorder, and had been prescribed several drugs.
It wouldn't be surprising that to a young man with a long array of mental health complications, after Trump's election, it appears that the rule of belonging in his society is bigotry. Orthodox Jews are, of course, merely the most convenient targets and associating oneself with the ideologies of the "Black Hebrew Israelite movement" is rather the sauce and not the main components of the dish.
Of course, one can summon many excuses from the New York Time's lack of scrutiny and almost absent quality of journalism in its reporting of the incident; Certainly, others who are compassionate about addressing the root causes of problems and seeing the big picture would offer a different reading and reaction to the event.
The failed counter-balance offer by an indie media watch-dog
Though it is such a common practice that "living in a bubble" has made it into popular culture music videos, if you're someone like me with no real like-minded friends in your immediate environment, and temporarily filling the hole with an NYTimes subscription, it is all but necessary to also subscribe to an anti-corporate media watchdog based in New York.
And one thinks with oneself: "thank God, I'm not totally mad in my mind," by which you mean, you aren't the only one who thinks that way about NYTimes reporting, "finally, someone sees the things in a similar light." only to be more and more disappointed the further one reads Fair's newsletter containing the transcript of their interview with Audrey Sasson, executive director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.
While we may sound in agreement in our criticism of the reaction offered by the public officials:
And we also believe that some of the reactions that we’ve been seeing from our elected officials, responding to what they’re hearing from some leaders in the Jewish community or from some other folks, is that, you know, they’re going to deploy the National Guard, or they’re going to, like you said, flood the streets with police. We believe it’s ultimately counterproductive, and it will cement divisions in our communities. It will only serve to continue to criminalize poverty and the experiences and lives of people of color, not to mention that it would also reinforce some ideas that people have about the alliance between the Jewish community and the state.
And though it does sound logical to conclude that fixing the root of the problems is indeed the solution we both agree on:
So what JFREJ is doing what we’ve always done, which is that we believe that you have to get to the root of the problem, we have to address austerity, and we have to address the white nationalism coming from the White House, so many of the forces that are creating the conditions for antisemitism to have risen to the surface.
If you just dig in a little deeper into how they're suggesting to go about "get to the root of the problem" we couldn't be more in disagreement:
But we are also in coalition with grassroots groups across the city that are made up of other targeted communities. We’ve been working with them for decades, we’re going to continue to work with them. And in this political moment, we’re working with them in a very particular way, through a formation that we’re calling “NYC Against Hate.” We’re looking to think about: What are preventive approaches to hate violence? How can we do cross trainings? JFREJ offers antisemitism trainings to all of our partners across the city, and also receive all of the trainings that they all offer, whether it’s concerning LGBTQ communities, Muslim communities, immigrant communities. Like, how can we all be building our shared analysis around all of these various oppressions?
While this approach sounds different than hiring armed guards, in essence, the former is patrolling spheres of physical interaction and the latter is patrolling the spheres of verbal interactions. The logic is the same, and so is the absurdity of it being utilized after the fact.
While the causes of this horrific incident can't be streamlined into a single topic, hence neither its remedies in a singular courses of action, there is mental health, there is a con-man driving on bigotry as president, there etc. and etc. and etc. but there are some root problems in each of these themes which could and should be addressed.
For example, "antisemitism" as portrayed by the perpetrator in wondering why people "mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide" has little to do with racial-discrimination and more to do with the reality that Israel's government has highjacked Judaism. Judaism as a religion is a matter of belief and not a matter of citizenship, ethnicity or whatnot. If one were to address the root, the avenue related to Judaism would have been advocacy for religious freedoms, religious exchange, and ultimately returning religion back to its rightful place as a matter of belief and not a matter of political citizenship in a modern nation-state, whether Judaism, Islam, Christianity or even Buddhism [which has been used as one of the pretexts for genocide of Rohingya people as denied by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate turned military supporter after being allowed to be president of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi] and Hinduism [as used for the pretext of Hitlerisque citizenship certificate issuance policy introduced by Narendra Modi's "Hitler's Youth" lookalike party, Hindu nationalist organization RSS, in India].
A movement such as "Black Hebrew Israelite" and a wonderment rooted on equating atrocities of Israel's government with Jews who maybe have no direct say in the political discourse of a foreign country would fall flat if Judaism as a religion was about a belief and was neither highjacked by an ethnicity nor a nation-state.
This is not to say that the perpetrator would have not committed some other atrocities as a side-effect of his mental health complications culminating while not receiving adequate support from the society, but that again is another aspect of addressing the roots of this horrific incident.
This is not to say that police force or anti-discrimination workshops are useless, but these are not about addressing the root of anything, neither they are of any aid to transforming the public's psyche from a state of trauma towards healing.
Both these challenges are totally ignored by most journalists whether in the establishment news agencies or their opposite end, fringe non-profit media watchdog publications.
Jesus' life-work as we fell in love with
Given the rise of individuals who have spent their lifetime promoting bigotry in covert forms across the globe, and the on the surface support and affinity between one another, perhaps this Christmas, more than any other theme, should serve as a reminder about the right place for religion: belief, and following from that, good deeds.
And unlike the advertisement by mouthpieces full of shit but with honorary labels across the national and cultural boundaries, prophets of Abrahamic religions one defended the others' teachings and not the other way around. Christianity doesn't mark the end of Judaism, just as Islam is not there in disagreement with either Judaism or Christianity.
Don't hear it from me. Here is a Rabbi's presentation:
So, we hope you use the merriness of Christmas to remind yourself that Jesus didn't ever even attempt to promote his own way of life as the right way, rather he was standing up for universal ideals arranged by the Lord's design. Nationality, religious affiliation, skin color, and etc and etc and etc are none universal ideals rather a side-effect of human civilization. Mistaking these two for one another makes you not only a biggot, but a fucking asshole for that matter, whether you label yourself "ultra-orthodox", "patriot" or what the fuck not!
The personal endnotes
Given that the background of the news-story we used as the highlight of this text had a significant element of mental health ignored in it, let me talk from my own experience:
I was treated like shit during the incidents that caused me trauma, then like shit by people who should have noticed the signs of such abuse in a child but didn't give a fuck, and then I was treated like shit by people who expected me to perform like young adults and given that as much as I tried I would always disappoint them they would come up with all sorts of accusations and labels for me; then I was treated like shit when I was seeking psychological help because I thought something is wrong with me, not knowing what; then I was treated like shit as I was isolating myself from the society to work on my own healing; then I was treated like shit when I had gone through the worst PTSD episode of my life in 2019, nobody was there to congratulate me, rather everyone was there to remind me they have no trust in me given that I had failed in contacting them, replying to their inquiries, etc.
Not that there weren't people and institutions who tolerated me for a while in a certain regard, which I'm extremely grateful and may the Lord bless them in adequate terms in this world and thereafter, but at the same time, you have to understand tolerance is not the same thing as psycho-emotionally contributing to someone's healing.
So, though I do believe, it is a horrific incident, at the same time, I can't necessarily blame the perpetrator for what he has done given his mental health issues. We are societies that don't have any room for people to work on healing from mental health complications, even if it is done by taking absolute isolation from the society, so you're almost not bothering anyone with your neediness anymore. Should we as a society blame him for "becoming radicalized" and prescribe training practices if we are an indie organization or security guards if we are an elected official, or should we look at ourselves and ask: have we ever been there for someone in the times of sadness?
Instagram is filled with photos of couples "having fun," but what makes you a couple is not just going through shit together, but to psycho-emotionally positively contribute to one another's life during that period in a way nobody else could. Don't mistake my grandiose jargon for an indication that you need to do something brutal, sometimes simply being there and holding someone's hand five minutes per day does the trick, done properly;
Happy New Year!
You didn't show up all these years, and there is no need to yours in my case in that manner anymore, but if you do wish to contribute, this PTSD episode meant I began a psycho-emotional rebirth at the age I was the first time raped: toddlerhood; I'm an adult with all his professional dreams in ruin, so there is a lot you could do that would benefit yourself too:
- be there for your spouse or romantic partner and if they asked where does the change come from, give a link to this writing, how about that?
Come on, you all had a better new year than mine, so it's not my job to give you suggestions on how to fulfill the urge of helping someone in need!
As the custom goes, new year texts should contain a reference to plans for the future too: so, as this past year I had to totally seclude myself from all interactions and it is only recently that I have been trying to go back to society, starting from the least intense forms of interactions, namely online comments & likes; Generally, if I could find the adequate external support and internal resourcefulness, I think, the only path forward for me is to look at visions, projects and initiatives at Galactic Visions, now Gifted Vitualizer and see which ones can be salvaged and how which one to evolve and which to totally discontinue once and for all. In that regard, your support is, of course, more welcomed. For my psychological recovery, as said, it is all but too late, whether fortunately or unfortunately!
And I'm not talking Noam Chomsky's more sinister perspective that The New York Times & co. having their reason de etre in "manufacturing consent" could be packaged for free to their readers! ↩︎
I do not wish to talk about obvious cases of economic default created by this philosophical fallacy in mistaking journalism as an industry, leading to cases like Bloomberg & Reuters, in which news about a particular industry can and indeed does move this or that share price, hence those who have access to the said information, and who has a better understanding of how far away the news and analysis from reality is, have a bigger window of opportunity for making profitable trades; ↩︎
One can't help not to notice the similarity that once you're the leader of a society that is "ultra-orthodox" [regardless of whichever fake representation of an ideology, religion, etc.], perhaps the dearest curse of the Lord to you and your follower is to be blind to the absurdity of your leadership! ↩︎
Published: Sun, Jan 26, 2020 12:00 AM