Yisrael Rosenberg

Communication Failure

“What We’ve Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate.”

[From the film “Cool Hand Luke”, 1967: Picked up later by ‘Guns and Roses’]

From the very beginning, the Times of Israel has been a veritable hotspot for passionate ideas of all kinds. The passion is visible in the web paper’s news articles; it comes pouring through in the blog postings of well more than 100 registered bloggists; and it is felt with a vengeance in the copious comments of loyal readers of every stripe.

Is it any wonder that things get overheated?

Two items stand out here:

  • The lack of basic common courtesy that seems to accompany blogs, comments and yes, sometimes, even articles;
  • The widespread inability of many of the participants in this journalistic free-for-all to even have the most rudimentary understanding of the position of someone whose ideas come from a different political or social source.

One can at least applaud characteristic of the hearty on-line jousting that goes on every day at the ToI. Rudeness and insensitivity to the other guy’s perspective knows no prejudice. It doesn’t matter whether you are left or right, liberal or conservative, religious or progressively-spiritual, Israeli or Diaspora: each group has its share of true professionals who can be both incredibly indifferent and / or outright rude to those individuals who hold and express views different from – yours, and mine.

I thought of bringing loads of examples. But everyone who comes to the ToI site, with a little thought on the matter, understands the point I’m making.

But look what happens when otherwise intelligent writers like Tom Wilson, in his posting Some Stark Intolerance by ‘progressive’ Jews and Emanuel Shahaf in Comment Conundrum complain about  the blanket intransigence of [choose the term appropriate for the proper writer] either the religious right or the secularist left. They are on the money, like all of us when we are discussing the side that we happen to believe in. But when they – and we – discuss the ‘other’ guy – the ability to empathize and understand what makes the opposing side actually tick usually goes out the window.

So back to the two points.

  1. Everyone involved in this wonderful ToI enterprise can afford to take a step back and make sure that he or she is treating the people whom they are criticizing with the basic respect and courtesy that they would like to see dished out to themselves. That’s pretty simple, although sometimes very hard to implement.
  2. What’s more pernicious is the absolute denseness that we often approach someone from ‘another side’.

Times of Israel is all about communication. Communication isn’t just the ability to smith words so that make your point as clear as possible. Communication is about listening, and doing your damned best to understand the other person and his or her seemingly inexplicable views. Only then can you write your own ideas without sounding like a broken, plastic LP record (the kind of thing some of us used to slap down on our manual or automatic turntables).

What I’m saying here is: if it’s just UNICATION, we ain’t going nowhere. We need to put the COM back into COMMUNICATION in order to make this ToI thing work productively for all.

And I don’t want to hear a word about Californication, please. At least not for this posting.

Ummm, can someone hand me a ladder so I can climb down from my soapbox?

About the Author
Yisrael Rosenberg is a former New Englander who made aliyah 30 years ago. He lives with his wife and four children in Jerusalem.