Why are all the rabbis so evil? What do all Hareidim throw rocks at people? Why do all secular women wear mini skirts and drink all day? Why are all Tel Avivians anti religious bigots? Why are all settlers terrorists? Why do all arabs want to kill Jews? What do all these statements have in common? They are all very flaming and very untrue when used to describe any whole population of people.
As a thinking human being who is multifaceted, I am sick and tired of reading headlines and articles that are very clearly written to gain audiences by slandering large swathes of people. When I learned to write journalistic pieces as an English major in college, it was slammed into us over and over again that journalism is not about writing opinion essays, it is about writing the facts in the most balanced way possible. Unfortunately, on the whole that does not seem to exist anymore in the media. For instance, it is much easier to say “this rabbi is completely evil and what he said is horrible and therefore that backs up all I have ever said about rabbis” instead of actually analyzing a statement within the context of his belief system and life and trying to comprehend what was meant and where it was coming from and what the actual implications are.
On an intellectual level, even though I agree with many religious and right wing views, it bothers me to no end to read completely biased pieces that were for instance very clearly written to make use of a left winger or anti religious statement or act as a basis to bash a whole community and be able to say “hey see we are right about this!” Why does it bother me even when I agree with the conclusion on some level? Because beliefs should never be based on such propaganda pretending to be news. Value systems that are valid should be based as much as possible on actual facts. Most importantly, the hatred between communities, political parties and various populations in general that exists today all over the world is in large part directly due to people not wanting to have actual conversations but rather to just bash “the other.” I can completely disagree with someone and still respect their beliefs and at the very least have the decency to hear them out and understand that they must have developed that value system for very good reasons.
I am specifically not getting into the details of articles I recently read on Times of Israel in which I saw this majorly at play, because honestly this is not specific to Times of Israel, this is a problem with most journalism today. Animosity sells. However, we as readers and writers need to learn to be discerning and understand when we are reading or writing what is truly fact or mostly opinion parading as objective truth. I find that sometimes the best thing to do is to read articles or blogs or listen to people who hold many different views on the same issue and find the common threads that run throughout even completely opposing opinion pieces and speech to try to piece together a tiny bit of the truth.
Just as we need two eyes to see a complete picture, truth in this world can only be viewed when approached from both sides of a story. Behind each side of a story is a lifetime of experiences, thoughts, and facets of personality that we cannot possibly understand unless we literally lived in another person’s shoes for every minute of their lives. Can you think of a situation where you feel like nobody can understand what you went through and even if they empathize they don’t really get it? Each of us would say yes, that is because even identical twins raised in exactly the same home do not experience things in the same way because they are still 2 different people and a 1 minute interaction outside the home can change their world view completely.
Words are the most powerful tool in the world and can literally make or break worlds and make peace or war. Just look at what Goebbles was able to accomplish in WW2. Critical thinking about what we read in the media and on social media and before writing a journalistic piece or even speaking to a friend would go a long way towards peace in the Jewish world and beyond.