What’s to be Done? Passion vs. Reason; Talk vs. Action


    The following is an excerpt I copied from a recent posting on Mondoweiss.com, “Watching the Pianist in Gaza”:  http://mondoweiss.net/2010/12/watching-the-pianist-in-gaza.html/comment-page-1#comment-254390  It is part of an exchange of comments between me and several others, mainly “Avi”, regarding my belief that discourse on the highly emotional subject of the Israel-Palestine dispute needs to be dispassionate and rational.  You will see from Avi’s angry response that he feels I speak from an Ivory Tower too remote from the ghastly reality of what is happening in Gaza, the West Bank and in Israel itself; too remote to feel his anger and outrage.  His points are well taken. 

The real question is What’s to be Done?  How can we get out of the Ivory Towers of the blogosphere and onto the streets?  How can we act to raise the consciousness and outrage of the silent, sleeping, uninformed, misinformed midde 50 percent?  How can we join those five brave angry and annoying Jewish college kids who stood up to Benjamin Netanyahu, interrupted his speech and said “Not in our name”; “Your actions are delegitimizing Israel”; “We will not stand for this conduct”; “We will no longer permit you to oppress Palestinians in the name of Jews and American citizens”; “This will not stand.”

Here’s the exchange:

irishmoses December 3, 2010 at 2:25 am

I am new to Mondoweiss and am only now facing up to my addiction to it. It is a wonderful place for discussing the I-P issue with lots of committed, great voices who have seemingly unending links to valuable historical data. The one thing that troubles me is the disdain for contrary views. We need the contrary views to test our own arguments and to learn where are own facts may be wrong. If nothing else, we learn how to better counter the Hasbara narrative.

The key, in my view, is to keep your emotions in control. Ultimately, this all boils down to arguments about facts and law. As an attorney I’ve found that the best way to respond to bogus arguments is with better facts and better law. No ad hominems, no name calling, no sarcasm, no emotional responses. Just the facts and the links. Most of you get this, at least most of the time. Some (I won’t name names) whose postings I generally like the best, sometimes amaze me with their stupid, angry ad hominem responses to postings that should be ignored. My favorite is the three paragraph angry response to a posting which ends with “DON’T FEED THE TROLL”. You just fed the troll stupid!

When someone posts a contrary view, even an angry contrary view, respond politely with facts and links that refute that view. If the original posting seems trollish or unredeemably illogical, simply ignore it. There is no good reason to respond with an accusation like “liar”, “troll”, “Hasbara junkie”, “protected unworthy friend of Phil”, etc. Respond dispassionately, civilly and evenly. You will stand a much better chance of winning the argument and convincing your opponent if you can keep the dialogue civil.
Once you allow your emotions in, the dialogue stops and you are wasting space and doing a disservice to Mondoweiss.

As to Richard Witty, I don’t see him as a troll. I often find him hard to follow and understand, and he seems wedded to the Israel narrative. He also often throws out generalities that are impossible to respond to. So, unless he provides a fact or theory to dispute, ignore him. I don’t see any reason to ban him. Again, we need contrary voices to test and hone our own arguments.

That’s my two cents worth as a hooked newbie. Where do I find step one of twelve?

Gil Maguire
http://www.irishmoses.com

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47 Richard Witty December 3, 2010 at 3:45 am

You just did what you suggested not to do, which is to respond to a specific issue with a generality.

If you differ with my citation of facts, please be specific as to what you disagree with.

If you differ with my interpretation of facts, how I add them up, please be specific as to what you disagree with.

The nature of this site alternates between a rallying site (in which us “trolls” are a distraction) or a discussion site (in which the comments of us “trolls” is critical to engage).

Its analagous to “Jewish and democratic”.

An exclusive club and/or free speech.

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48 David Samel December 3, 2010 at 9:49 am

Gil, I appreciate that you took the time and effort to offer your opinion on comments, and appreciate even more that I agree with you. You may be new here, but I think you hit the nail on the head. You proved your comments to be well worth reading here and on Jerry Slater’s blog. I’m glad you’re here.

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49 Avi December 3, 2010 at 10:26 am

The key, in my view, is to keep your emotions in control. Ultimately, this all boils down to arguments about facts and law.

While I respect your point of view and generally agree with those sentiments, you need to keep in mind that this discussion here involves people that are personally linked to the conflict. In other words, it’s easy to sit in the sidelines and have a cold and detached academic discussion when you’re not personally involved – or to lecture others. Furthermore, it’s somewhat patronizing to talk about litigation processes as though you represent the parties involved. This is isn’t a courtroom where certain procedures apply. This is real life where the rule of law has very little effect as seen by Israel’s repeated violations. It may be a great exercise for your arguments, but I view every effort I make, whether in my personal or professional life, or on this website as an opportunity to bring about an end to this madness; so, if passions run high from time to time I think it’s only natural. What you describe sounds an awful lot like a book club.

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50 Avi December 3, 2010 at 10:41 am

You know, irishmoses, on second thought, I find you post infuriating and patronizing for a multitude of reasons, but mainly due to the reasons I’ve already mentioned above.

Perhaps what you and David Samel need is two weeks in a refugee camp somewhere in the occupied West Bank, something to spark and ignite your passions of outrage instead of the condescending claim that this is simply addictive.

Imagine if in 1938 someone wrote that he enjoyed having arguments with Germans, Nazi or not, because he found it addictive and a good opportunity to hone his litigation skills. It comes across as callous and insensitive. Thanks for the lecture.

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51 eljay December 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

>> As an attorney I’ve found that the best way to respond to bogus arguments is with better facts and better law. No ad hominems, no name calling, no sarcasm, no emotional responses. Just the facts and the links. … You just fed the troll stupid!

First post, and you’ve already employed sarcasm name calling. Well done.

>> If the original posting seems trollish or unredeemably illogical, simply ignore it. There is no good reason to respond with an accusation like “liar”, “troll”, “Hasbara junkie”, “protected unworthy friend of Phil”, etc. Respond dispassionately, civilly and evenly. You will stand a much better chance of winning the argument and convincing your opponent if you can keep the dialogue civil.

When the same few people continue to repeat the same lies and propaganda (or slight varations thereof), it quickly becomes abundantly clear that civil dialogue has not worked and that these people are more interested in pursuing their pro-Zionist agenda than they are in pursuing truth, accountability or justice.

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52 Chu December 3, 2010 at 11:58 am

Read Richard’s comments for three years
and you’ll quickly change your stripes.
The man is not fit for adaptation. My problem is
that he pretends he something he is not. A peaceful
guru, but he’s really a callous person. It’s a person’s
character that unfolds before you, and eventually
you’ll realize what your dealing with.

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53 Sumud December 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Welcome Gil.

My favorite is the three paragraph angry response to a posting which ends with “DON’T FEED THE TROLL”. You just fed the troll stupid!

^^^ This might seem odd but it’s a bit of a joke from a few months ago.

As for Richard Witty – I would encourage you to ignore everyone elses opinion (including mine), and instead engage w/ him as you see fit, and form your opinions in time…

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54 Avi December 3, 2010 at 10:31 am

Again, we need contrary voices to test and hone our own arguments. That’s my two cents worth as a hooked newbie. Where do I find step one of twelve?

Who are those “we” and who is “our”.

You may be “hooked”, but perhaps this is more than mere entertainment and thrill for most. Don’t you think so?

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55 David Samel December 3, 2010 at 11:26 am

Avi, I think you focus too much on Gil’s references to addiction and not enough on his very common sense advice on commenting. If you believe that the level of your personal outrage as you sit in front of your computer screen has any relation to bringing relief to the misery of Palestinians, you are mistaken. If you don’t agree with Gil’s advice, don’t take it. Given your prior history with me, I expect you to react with a hotheaded eruption, as you have several times in the past. Go ahead, knock yourself out.

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56 Avi December 3, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Given your prior history with me, I expect you to react with a hotheaded eruption, as you have several times in the past. Go ahead, knock yourself out.

Oh David.

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57 MHughes976 December 3, 2010 at 11:19 am

I’ve found it very heartening, something of a privilege, to encounter the non-Zionist Jewish world through Mondoweiss.  The ME conflict is a violent conflict but it is also, as Phil has perceived, very much a war of ideas. The Palestinians suffer death, abuse and degradation. The West suffers from its indifference to Palestinian suffering and from its uncritical, even rather eager, acceptance of some the worst arguments in world history, which is all rather corrupting. I think that in this war of ideas there’s room both for keeping resolutely calm and for showing anger. Some of us are better at one than at the other style. If we only had the calm style you could say we were showing our own form of indifference, if we only had the angry style you could say that we lay ourselves open to all those accusations, which will keep coming as long as we stay the course, of anti-Semitism or of self-hatred.

To my mind the main tactic of the trolls and of Zionist propaganda in many contexts is to try to change the subject, to several topics but above all to the ever-alleged anti-Semitism of anyone critical of Israel. In this context I think that ‘not feeding them’ – ie getting back to the subject in hand – is often quite good advice and not self-defeating.

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58 Avi December 3, 2010 at 12:32 pm

MHughes976,

Wise words. But, can we agree on the fact that if trolls continue to post erroneous information that goes unchallenged because participants are tired of answering the same old false claims, then it gives outside observers the perception that those false claims are true and valid?

What makes matters worse is that if those claims go unchallenged, by their very existence on this website, amid all the revelations, truth and unpleasant facts of the occupation, then those false claims will be seen as true. Why? Because the best place to hide a lie and pass it off as truth is between two truths. That’s how good disinformation works.

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59 irishmoses December 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Avi,

Your points are well taken. Here am I, a non-Jew, a non-Palestinian who has never even been to Israel/Palestine offering advice about dispassion to those who have seen and experienced the violence and agony of living there. My connection to the conflict (see my blogsite) is indirect at best. Nonetheless, I do feel passionate about it and have felt so for several decades. Only now, because of the advent of the blogosphere, is there a way for me to express that passion.

I don’t begrudge you your passions, your anger, your impatience. I share some of that with you (e.g. our recent exchange about the over- intellectualization of the meaning of Zionism). I just think shouting ad hominems doesn’t advance the argument or the cause and in fact plays into the hands of the other side. I think the intellectual part of this battle takes place in the middle 50 percent. There is an irrational 25 percent on either side that are immune from reasoned argument. I avoid those groups as engaging them is a waste of time and energy.

Finally, I too am growing impatient with polite debate. The civil rights struggle was successful in my country because of action not words. It took anti-segregation confrontation by blacks and whites (about half of whom were Jewish!) on buses, at lunch counters, in polling drives, etc. to raise the consciousness of the public to the point that politicians felt safe to act. The five college kids who interrupted Netanyahu’s New Orleans speech to the Jewish Federation group was a courageous example of what needs to be done.

I recently wrote a piece “A Long Line of Annoying Jewish College Kids” that compares the demonstration of these five kids to the civil rights actions of their parents in the 1960s Freedom Summers and Freedom Marches in the South, and urges their parents to get reinvolved on this critical issue. Unfortunately, it was published only on my blog at irishmoses.com. The article link is: https://savingisrael.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/a-long-line-of-annoying-jewish-college-kids/.

My point is that we need action not words; we need something akin to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, a Palestinian Rights Movement. We need a way of opening the door to the sleeping middle 50 percent that remains uninformed or misinformed about the I-P issue. We need, to confront them, awake them, then, through reasoned discourse, get them to share our outrage at what is happening in our name, in the name of all Jews, and in the name of all US citizens who finance and enable the ghastly project of hardline Zionism.

So, where do we start?

Gil Maguire
irishmoses.com

This entry was posted in East Jerusalem, Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, lobby, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, West Bank and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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