In a famous book “The Bonfire of the Vanities” written by Tom Wolfe in the 80s society at large is taken to task for its hypocrisy, its excess, lack of morality and emphasis on class rather than effort. The author places blame squarely on religious leaders, politicians, the wealthy and upper-middle class. What seems to be excluded in large measure is the media and the part it plays in the plot of vilifying a businessman who feared for his life and attempts to escape a dangerous neighborhood with thugs and in the attempt kills a possible predator in the process.
This sets in motion a series of events which ultimately ruins this man and his relationships not to mention the drain on his wealth and home. One thing is for sure. None of it occurred out of a sense for justice. It all originated from self-interest and ambitions to get ahead. To be accepted by elite of society and to judge others rather then be judged!
While, to the authors’ credit, almost every part of society is skewered and nothing is too rarefied to aggrieve, one thing is mostly ignored. Although it is the cog that sets it all in motion it is given much wider latitude and forbearance. I don’t feel the denunciation of it as it is toward the other moving cogs. While greed is the bane of the protagonists including the lead character who is being charged with murder. Hypocrisy rules the day, whether you’re the mayor, the prosecutor or defense attorney and no one seems to care about justice, truth and the American way.
Although it is the media which gives the story its impetus and foundation. It is hardly taken to task. Although, it is the media that gives it the nuance and publicity hoping to fan the flames and build the bonfires it is not painted as an equal villain to the others.
Yet, to my mind as we read and see everything in that book decades ago, meant to be an evaluation and dissection of the avarice and vanity of society, it overlooks its most important ingredient and what gives it its combustibility, the MEDIA! Media ingratiates itself to the high-class and elite, its benefactors, and in turn the benefactors demand and expect their objectives to be met. To that end, media and its lackeys, the anchors, journalists, talking heads and pundits will report, obsess and talk about stories, made up or otherwise, they wish to be amplified and painted in hues that meet and support these goals.
Essentially, media, being the “fourth estate” is no different than the first, second and third. None of them are objective and all of them are self-fulfilling entities looking to serve their self-interests. It’s not about the common man, the people or justice. Let’s not be fooled.
The author perhaps can be forgiven as he himself was a member of that estate and roamed its grounds with familiarity and aplomb. Respected by his peers and acclaimed for his writing. I however have not come close to these stately grounds nor approached its moats. Looking at it therefore from a completely neutral vantage point I can positively implicate them equally and perhaps more so.
And so does it play out today. In eerie similarity to that work of fiction you have a frenzied media taking a man and publicly flogging him by producing a caricature of anti-Semitism where none exists and no direct or even indirect evidence is produced. All of it is based on one piece of testimony from a divorced wife, in a court proceeding based on hearsay in a one time conversation between her and her spouse culled from years and years of conversation and interaction.
Yet it is still being reported by the media even though there are dozens of character witnesses from, co-workers, employees and acquaintances many of who are Jewish, orthodox and non-orthodox, all testifying and reporting the reverse! Whether at work or in social situations there is not even a hint or shade of bigotry, racism or white-supremacy. Especially, taking into account the disparate peoples he has hired and worked with over the years, such as Jews, Asians, Hispanics, blacks, gays and Muslims.
Yet, on a whisper and insinuation a bogeyman has been created and even Jews have become embroiled and inserted themselves into the fray.
I write about this in today’s “WORD” not because of its current political relevance or to take a political side. I’m not here, in this environment or in my position as a rabbi to advance such matters. But I am horrified to see how far-gone we are as a society, especially as Jews, and the depths to which we’ve sunk. No longer is there fairness and objectivity. No more do we talk and debate and keep our battles on the field of ideas. No longer can we be friends and still disagree about our political views and politicians. We’ve become warriors and anarchists on the streets and we’ve tainted and painted people as villains and devils.
Even more atrocious is how some Jews and Jewish organizations have inserted themselves into this awful name-calling and willy-nilly accusing someone of anti-Semitism and racism. We Jews, who have always been the whipping posts for others and who should tread carefully before we do the same to another have taken to using this all too easy cop-out of furthering certain agendas by simply name-calling in the worst way.
If it could be any worse, it is. The very fact that you have Jews who have this tendency and self-desire for promotion to stick out like sore thumbs to be noticed even if it means accusing someone who will be involved in government and foreign policy then so be it. How it affects their fellow Jews is of no relevance whatsoever. Their is no thought to consequence and the deleterious impact on their brethren and their Jewish homeland.
What has happened to the Jewish principles going back centuries to pledge our support to our government unless it is clearly seeking to destroy us and Israel? Why are we doing everything to destroy our positive relationship to it?
Where were these organizations and their leaders when the last administration actively and directly caused harm to Israel? To be sure some raised a whimper but ultimately even they went along for the ride. To viciously and so vociferously attack a man who will be part of an incoming administration without ever having yet done a thing leads me to believe that it’s not about fairness or actually protecting our people. It can be one thing only: The active political and hypocritical opposition against a newly elected president and his administration all in the guise of altruism and magnanimity where none really exists.
Most importantly, it places all Jews in danger!
If there’s to be any rapprochement and mending of fences there must be an end to personal name-calling and incendiary accusations. We must learn to talk to each other not past each other. Jews must also learn to shut-up and keep out of fights or invent scarecrows where none exist and engender hate because of their political biases.
Lo and behold, as usual and as we know, our weekly Torah Parsha has something to say which lends itself to this very important issue: Vayeirah [21:5-7] Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born…Sarah said [to herself]; ‘G-d has made me happy, whoever hears about this will be happy for me’. She said, “How awesome is G-d…that Sarah would nurse children…”
Rashi comments: Sarah nursed the children of other women who came to celebrate the birth of Isaac because a rumor was spreading that Isaac was an orphan who they adopted. To quell such reports G-d miraculously gave Sarah the ability in her advanced age not only enough milk to nurse Isaac but any other child brought to her.
Not always are we treated to manifest miracles or visions that will put rumors and slander to rest. In most instances the rumors keep percolating and before you know it hearsay is fact. I think it was Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, who coined the phrase or something similar “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.” In essence his principle of successful propaganda and what led to the Final Solution becoming acceptable to Germanic society is to lie big enough and play on the emotion of a populace long enough to give the story the legs and credibility it needs. Today’s media is doing no less.
Folks I do not come here with a political screed and a political opinion. This matter to me is supra-political and supra-partisan. This is about my people. Jews must be proud. Jews must also be honest and willing to be quiet when necessary. Willing to put aside political leanings, left or right, and defend vocally, if necessary, those who can further our survival and success as a nation and culture. I fear for us and I beg anyone who cares to cease this destructive behavior. There is overwhelming evidence that this individual, who will have the next presidents’ right ear, is a great admirer of the Jewish people and Israel. Let’s not be foolish and blind. Let’s not let the media and politics get in the way of our existence and perpetuity. This TRUMPS all else.