Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who is having the bigger overall effect of a choteh umachti, Hirhurim or Mis-Nagid? It seems obvious, now doesn't it? Clearly, the cantankerous "frum" atheist Mis-Nagid is the proverbial Yeravam ben Nevat of the blogosphere. You may be able to see the comparison of our favorite retired kofer, Mis-Nagid, to a cow worshipper, but Gil Student, the epitome of what modern, sophisticated, straight and true Orthodox Judaism stands for?! How could I possibly even think of such a thing?

Well it wasn't my idea. I really wish I could take credit for it but I do wish to bring the redemption closer and so I will give unto Caesar (here, an anonymous commentator on Hirhurim) that which is Caesar's. But allow me to provide something of a backdrop.

Now look, as Barack Obama would say, there is more then one way to skin a cat, my friends, as John McCain would say. If you wish to influence and persuade people, you can come runnin' at 'em, guns a blazin', as John McCain would, or you could whisper softly in their ear, as Barack Obama would. There is a time and place for everything and sometimes a hatchet is required while other times a scalpel would be better suited for the job. Yet there is another way to persuade someone, and this time it's unintentional. You can introduce someone to your opponents view and try to show how and where it's wrong. If your arguments are weak, or better yet, if they are socio-economically and psychologically unattractive to the person, then you've just defeated your purpose.

Mashal l'mah davar domeh? A plumber, let's call him Joe, makes over $250,000 dollars a year. He is looking to vote in the upcoming election. An Obama supporter comes up to Joe, thinking he makes $125,000 a year, like most plumbers, and says "Joe, under Obama your taxes will go down! McCain wants to give tax breaks to the wealthiest 1% and nothing for the middle class like yourself." But Joe, a Democrat by default, fits in to Obama's wealthy American tax bracket and has now been convinced to vote for McCain so he doesn't have to pay more taxes.

Gil Student is that Obama supporter and Joe is the average reader of Hirhurim. The documentary hypothesis, logical argumentation for belief in God, and other general, somewhat heretical, secular ideas are like tax policies. I think it's safe to assume that most Hirhurim readers, or at the very least, a significant group, are run of the mill Orthodox Jews with little to no subjection to secular perspectives on religious subjects, especially those free from YU or similar filtering. Gil writes about some subjects that are controversial in the world of Orthodox Judaism, thereby introducing them to these ideas but by doing so, I would like to suggest that he is convincing more people to vote for McCain, or rather, adopt non-Orthodox ways of thinking.

Here is the quote that inspired this post, edited [brackets mine] for brevity and clarity.

"I'm sure you'd rather not post on the DH [documentary hypothesis and other similar subjects] at all... Every post you do... on it probably introduces more people to it than it convinces against it. I mean, this post contains a link to a book on it, something that will spawn more than few sales...

Furthermore, I'll bet most readers don't find your counterarguments any more convincing than you do..."

In summary, I'm accusing Gil Student of being a choteh umachti b'shogeg. The more he tries to prove his point, the more he persuades his readers in the opposite direction. Mis-Nagid couldn't hope to subtly sow the seeds of skepticism so splendidly.

Overall, I would like to point out that it seems one can be most influential by gentling prodding people from the inside of the group, rather then shouting at them from the outside. Take for another example, the recent retiree XGH. Surely XGH was more effective at convincing people of heresy when he was "Godol HaDor" than when he switched to being XGH. By then, most of his readers knew that he had gone off the deep end. You can attract more flies with spoon of honey then a barrel of vinegar.


Update: XGH is back... again.