Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sometimes I Wonder Why I Bother...

I have a love/hate relationship with the Yeshiva World News coffeeroom.

I love them because they give an interesting insight into the frum community that doesn't really exist anywhere else.  I always love to find out what other people think about various subjects, especially from people who might disagree with me on various matters -- and the Coffeeroom provides that to me very well.

However, there are things about it that I hate and sometimes downright depress me.  I'm not going to start providing a laundry list of the things I don't like -- most of them aren't really relevant here.  However, one of the things that sometimes baffles and frustrates me to no end is the moderation policy.

The Coffeeroom's policy is that all messages must be approved by a moderator before appearing.  Personally, I think that's the wrong way to run a messageboard -- but so be it.  However, the items that they choose to suppress are sometimes mind-baffling.

Take the recent Thanksgiving thread.  After a back and forth, one poster brings up Rabbi Brodye's Broyde's thoughts on the matter and says:

Rabbi Michael Broyde authored a comprehensive analysis of the issue. He cites both sides of the debate, and essentially concludes that there is upon whom to rely in allowing a celebration of the holiday.

Another poster, instead of trying to show where Rabbi Brodye Broyde is wrong, goes for the ad hominem attack (note the change in honorific):

Professor Broyde surely makes some interesting academic observations on the matter. But for halachic conclusions, we rely on Rabbonim. 

My response to the second poster is that instead of going for the ad hominem attack, why not simply address Rabbi Brodye's Broyde's point?  In other words, if you think Rabbi Brodye Broyde is wrong, why not simply show us where he is wrong?

Apparently, suggesting that a poster is using an ad hominem attack is verbotten in the CR, since the moderator actually removed that portion of my sentence.  In a later post, I even gave the poster a link to Rabbi Brodye's Broyde's words on the matter and challenged him to show us where Rabbi Brodye Broyde is wrong.  That post went down the memory hole.

So, apparently, according to at least one of the moderators, attacking a Rabbi is okay, but asking him to actually back up his words with rational arguments is forbidden.  Issuing an ad hominem attack is okay, but pointing it out is forbidden.

Go figure.

The Wolf

37 comments:

Alexis said...

Sorry for the pedantry, but it's Rabbi Broyde, not Brodye.

Sean Ben Noach said...

Wolf,

I was watching this thread as soon as it was posted, I knew it was going to be a heated one...

I've started threads before that never saw the light of day, which is unfortunate because they were sincere questions, but I guess the mods figured they would turn ugly really quick. (One was why people on YWN are so negative toward Breslever Chassidim...)

Maybe you should start your own unmoderated forum. I'd be there! :)

BrooklynWolf said...

Alexis,

You are correct. Thanks for pointing that out. I have corrected by post.

The Wolf

Menachem Lipkin said...

You really don't have to "go figure". Most of these folks are being brainwashed to be mindless automatons.

I think that's why this animated video that's going around with the guy giving a Yeshivishe vort has gone viral. It really strikes a nerve on this issue.

Gil Student said...

I question whether they read the article because when you boil it down, all he did was quote respected poskim and explain their positions!

BrooklynWolf said...

Sean:

Alas, I don't have the time or energy to run a message board. As it is, this blog is badly neglected from time to time.

Menachem:

Yep -- it really did strike a nerve with me as well.

Gil:

While I can say for sure, I doubt it. The poster seems more intent on knocking Rabbi Broyde than actually addressing what he says. His approach seems to be that Rabbi Broyde (or anyone else with semicha) is treif, so anything he says doesn't matter. He could say that idol worship is bad and they wouldn't accept it from him.

The Wolf

Dave said...

Where can the animated video described above be viewed?

Thanks

Dave said...

Where can the animated video described above be viewed?

Thanks

BrooklynWolf said...

Dave,

Here ya go:

http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2010/11/another-conversation-ive-had-too-many.html

The Wolf

Master said...

I love how people misuse the term "ad hominem" to describe something they disagree with from another commenter.

1. What was "ad hominem" about that post? Nothing.

2. As an aside, (not necessarily regarding this discussion particularly), what is wrong with using making "ad hominem" point? Nothing, if it is relevant to the issue at hand.

BrooklynWolf said...

1. What was "ad hominem" about that post? Nothing.

On the contrary... it was the classic case of ad hominem.

His argument boiled down to "it's Professor Broyde and so it doesn't count."

what is wrong with using making "ad hominem" point? Nothing, if it is relevant to the issue at hand.

But it's not. Rabbi Broyde's points stand or fall regardless of who he is. And the same could be said about anything at all. The Pope could have a wonderful vort on a passuk -- but whether it's true or not really doesn't depend on whether he's the pope. If it's true, then it's true regardless of who says it -- and the same if it's false.

Please present a case where you think that an ad hominem attack is justfied or relevant to the point.

The Wolf

Master said...

If Hitler made some points why Jews are bad, an ad hominem response against Hitler rather than a point by point refutation would be more than justified and relevant.

BrooklynWolf said...

If Hitler made some points why Jews are bad,

Argumentum ad Hitlerum. Love it. :)

an ad hominem response against Hitler rather than a point by point refutation would be more than justified and relevant.

That's right.

Whether Jews are bad or not does not depend on whether the speaker is Hitler or anyone else. Whether or not Jews are bad depends on the evidence -- regardless of the person presenting said evidence.

The Wolf

S. said...

Rabbi Michael Broyde is one of the most respected Modern Orthdoox posekim (parse that sentence however you like), and a dayan. The idea that he is not even a rabbi is obviously ad hominem, and scarcely needs explaining.

Master said...

Do his law students at Emory call him Rabbi? Or do the students engage in the ad hominem and only call him Professor?

Or is it that only some (i.e. those you disagree with) must call him rabbi?

Itche Srulik said...

Master: His law students at Emory calling him professor is not a personal (ad hominem) attack. People questioning his halachic legitimacy is. Similarly calling a phd scientist Mr/s. in casual correspondence is not a personal attack (though somewhat rude) but doing so in a letter to a journal in their discipline is.

Wolf: A lot of it is simply culture. THe frum world is -- to a very large extent -- just another form of "kosher style" where certain cultural trappings are more important than the actual religion. Thus, any rabbi who doesn't fit can be trashed as readily as a Catholic priest. As for the censorship, it's quite possible the mod didn't know any latin and thought you were using dirty words.

Sorry for rambling.

Master said...

Itche: People questioning his halachic legitimacy is.

Questioning the legitimacy of his halachic opinions is not an ad hominem attack.

BrooklynWolf said...

Questioning the legitimacy of his halachic opinions is not an ad hominem attack.

It is if the basis of your question is based on who he is rather than the quality of his argument -- which is exactly what the poster in question did.

The Wolf

Zvika said...

My 2 cents:

Clearly no one read the analysis. Actually, it's more like they were too lazy to read it because it's kind of long and those who started reading stopped as soon as they saw R' Moshe's conclusion, which supports what they've been taught their entire lives. G-d forbid they actually learn something.

We have to keep in mind that these people reject anyone who doesn't have Smicha from a recognized Yeshivishe institution like Telshe, Ner Yisrael and Torah VoDaas. In their minds, YU doesn't count for squat (and I can only imagine what they think of Bar Ilan University, where I am now.) So obviously, it doesn't matter if Rabbi Broyde has a whole host of qualifications and whatnot, it doesn't matter because he's not Yeshivish.

Zvika

Itche Srulik said...

Master: Questioning the right of a known posek to issue a halachic ruling based on nothing whatsoever is.

Shira and Joey said...

Wolf, take my advice and see the Coffee Room as satire. I rarely take anyone serious anymore - with the exception of a few posters (You, GAW etc).

SJS

Master said...

SJS:

Most coffee room readers probably have the same feelings about your posts there, and MO Blogs -- which is why you won't find such posters on those blogs, as Wolf alluded to in his post here explaining why he posts in the CR.

S. said...

>>Do his law students at Emory call him Rabbi? Or do the students engage in the ad hominem and only call him Professor?

>Or is it that only some (i.e. those you disagree with) must call him rabbi?

The sefa explains the resha. It wasn't only calling him professor, it was also contrasting him with "rabbonim."

Sorry, it wasn't good lomdus at all. It was pilpula shel hevel.

Explicitly denying that a respected posek and dayan is even a rabbi is not ad hominem? Let me tell you, he sure as hell better be a rabbi - he is mesader gittin. I don't think being marbeh mamzerim (which is what would happen if anyone took that commenter seriously) is such a great thing.

Dave said...

I thought all you needed was a Sofer, not a Rabbi, to facilitate a Get.

S. said...

>I thought all you needed was a Sofer, not a Rabbi, to facilitate a Get.

You need someone knowledgeable in the halachos - basically the only people who are knowledgeable in this field are rabbis, although I admit the possibility of a handful of autodidacts.

Anonymous said...

It depends on whose side you're on. Try attacking rav Olshin on the coffee room and see if that get's through!

Ari said...

Master:

"Do his law students at Emory call him Rabbi? Or do the students engage in the ad hominem and only call him Professor?"

In the context of the classroom, engaging in academic dialogue, "professor" is perfectly appropriate. In the context of divrei Torah, it is not.

Rather than suggesting that you are of questionable character (this would be an ad hominem attack, I believe), let's just say that your argument is specious.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

When religious leaders become corrupted, it is ALWAYS in their best interest to protect their followers from engaging into any logical and rational discourse.

It had always been like that, so no surprises here.

Dovid said...

Wolf:

What is the difference between the YWN Coffee Room and Hashkafa.com?

I happened to notice you stopped posting regularly on H.com. Also noticed you made one post on FrumTeens years ago, but that seems to be your only post there.

Dovid said...

Wow, you've been posting on online forums for a long time! Your post on FrumTeens is over 8 years old:

http://www.frumteens.com/topic.php?topic_id=2028&forum_id=25&topic_title=To+what+extent+is+belief+in+ALL+midrashim+mandator&forum_title=&M=0

Dovid said...

Wolf:

Do you still follow threads on your blog, after more than a few days that you posted it?

BrooklynWolf said...

Dovid,

I do continue to follow them, but I don't always have a chance to check them every day. Between work, school and family, my life can be quite hectic sometimes. :)

I still post occasionally at h.com. I was never really a "regular" there. Instead I just check in once in a while.

The Wolf

Dovid said...

Okay Wolf, thanks for that. BTW, what differences do you see between H.com and the CR?

Dovid said...

I ask since you wrote "I love them because they give an interesting insight into the frum community that doesn't really exist anywhere else."

Dovid said...

Wolf:

Can you explain how you the two being different?

BrooklynWolf said...

The two are very different in terms of the population, range of hashkafos and general attitudes about the outside world.

If you're that curious, I would advise you to register for both and spend a few days in each one.

The Wolf

Homeowner said...

Wolf,

I'd like to add to this thread. Please let me know if it's closed or you can accept a new comment. (Then again, perhaps you'd like to open a new thread.)