Thursday, May 10, 2012

The New York Times and God

 [The Monsey Vizhnitz Rebbe and Michael Jackson - comrades in arms?]

The New York Times has been criticized by some people as having a liberal political agenda. I have the impression that the word "liberal" is being used in a pejorative sense and refers to atheism and socialism.

I had never really noticed this bias too much nor thought about it too much, until today when the Times wrote about something I happen to know quite a lot about - ultra-Orthodox Jews.

In an article entitled Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse the Times makes a few interesting points.

First of all it mentions that sexual abuse rates in the ultra-Orthodox world are roughly the same as those in the general population. The Times knows this because "scholars believe" it. We are not told who the scholars are nor why they believe this. In reality, the relatively low divorce rate in the ultra-Orthodox community, probably one tenth of what it is in the general population, along with the fact that single motherhood is unheard of, should imply that sexual abuse will be quite a bit more rare. Step-fathers and step-boyfriends are a frequent source of abuse.

Secondly, the Times explains that the very low number of convicted Orthodox sex offenders is not because there are very few Orthodox sex offenders (since, those anonymous scholars believe that isn't so) but rather it's because ultra-Orthodox Judaism teaches its followers to commit perjury and tamper with witnesses in order to help fellow Jews to avoid prison. In other words, ultra-Orthodox Judaism is a religion which preaches and practices felonies. In fact, no ultra-Orthodox Jew has been convicted of obstruction of justice in a sex abuse case, however the Times heard from several people that the practice is universal and it is generally encouraged by ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

So there you have it - rather than celebrate and admire the rarity of sexual molestation in the ultra-Orthodox community, as crime statistics and logic would indicate, the Times discovers just the opposite - plenty of abuse plus a religion which preaches serious crime, all based on almost no evidence.

You might however argue that this isn't a case of liberal bias - it's a case of anti-child abuse bias. Perhaps whenever the New York Times hears about any hint of pedophilia, they automatically rush to judgement and assume the worst.

However is that really the case? How would the Times handle an atheist or agnostic suspected pedophile?

Well, we need not wonder. Consider the case of Michael Jackson.

Mr. Jackson was accused of child abuse in 1993 and was tried for child abuse in 2005. In 1990 he paid someone $2 million in order to convince him not to press charges for child abuse. He also owned a mansion with a private amusement park where he often invited children to be his guests. Additionally, although Michael Jackson lived to the age of 50, only one adult has ever claimed to have had sex with him, Lisa Marie Presley in 1995. Now of course there isn't anything wrong with being a wealthy, world famous pop star who is celibate and who loves to have small children as guests. And he was never convicted of anything. But on the other hand, being a multi-millionaire, it surely would not have been difficult for Jackson to purchase the silence of many prosecution witnesses and to obtain the cooperation of many defense witnesses, making convicting him impossible. In fact, he apparently did exactly that in 1990.

Has the New York Times been hostile in it's coverage of Michael Jackson, emphasizing the near certainty that the pop icon was a child molester and guilty of obstruction of justice? Not to my knowledge. The Times obituary of Jackson was glowing.

So why the difference in attitude between alleged ultra-Orthodox Jewish child abuse and alleged Michael Jackson child abuse? My guess is because Michael Jackson did not openly speak about belief in God; he may well have been agnostic or even atheist. Therefore he's part of Team New York Times. On the other hand, ultra-orthodox Jews constantly speak about God, meaning that they are the enemy and they must be smeared.


Anonymous said...

There have been a few news items lately that have culminated in the article in the NY Times today. It starts with the Office of Joe Hynes, the Brooklyn DA, who has recently I believe arrested or indicted over eighty Jews in the orthodox community in Brooklyn, but won’t reveal their names. I’m not a lawyer, have not followed the particulars, but some say Joe is trying to curry favor with Orthodox Jews because of their voting power. I guess it is typical to release the names in these cases.

Anyway, the article today was written mainly because of the Hynes thing. The article is interesting to the lay public for one reason mainly: the idea that in a tightly knit community there is a dysfunction around this area of child abuse cases. It is inherently interesting because it concerns child abuse, child molesters, tight knit insular community politics and norms, clashes between secular law and halachic law.

The article (to my secular eyes) focused largely on the issue of victims being treated badly by others (including their neighbors) for essentially trying to protect the community from predators. It’s a thorny issue – but for us on the outside – we are concerned mainly about how children fare in this system. When little Leiby was murdered last year – during the hours up to the arrest of the guy who did it – the whole city was riveted by it and very concerned about that little boy, may he rest in peace.


jewish philosopher said...

There is no doubt that witness tampering occurs everywhere. Did Michael Jackson do it? I really have no doubt. Do other abusers do it? Of course. I'm sure that at this minute some middle aged guy is telling his 12 year old step-daughter "Now you listen Peggy Sue, if you tell anybody about what we're doing I'm going to kill you and your Mama, you hear?"

My problem with the article is that the Times seems to be claiming that obstruction of justice occurs far more often in the ultra-Orthodox community than it does in the general population and in fact obstruction of justice, in at least many instances, is obligatory according to ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

I think that those are very serious charges defaming probably about 1.5 to 2 million people worldwide and the Times seems to be basing it on almost nothing.

Anonymous said...

The Jewish Law regarding informing on another Jew is what is at issue here.

For what it’s worth, many secular people find religious laws like that both out of date and dangerous (this isn’t Czarist Russia), and it surprises them when Jews (a crowd which touts its many contributions to Western culture and mores) are laboring under laws that seem counterproductive and unwise in the here and now.

I am secular but always remind people who ask me about this stuff that the Orthodox community, in the end, is not self-destructive and will accommodate change as is required to keep the community from collapsing. But like all tight-knit communities, the Orthodox community is conservative and traditional at its heart, and will likely only change when all other options prove futile.


jewish philosopher said...

I don't think that law applies in today's American democracy. I have a quadriplegic son and I have no doubt that the many orthodox therapists working with him would report me in heartbeat if they thought I was abusing him.

There are 728,435 registered sex offenders in the United States, or about 1 in 400 citizens.

There are 8 Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn in the sex offender registry.

I can find four more in Rockland County.

Let's assume that there are several more elsewhere in smaller orthodox communities, bring the total up to 15 registered offenders in a community of about 600,000

or in other words one in 4,000 American Orthodox Jews is a registered offender, or one tenth the prevelance in the general community. This coincides fairly well with a 5% Orthodox Jewish divorce rate

which is about one tenth that of the general population.

So either you have a community where offenders are ten times more likely to escape conviction than in the general society or you have a community where people are ten times less likely to offend. I think the evidence leans more to the second option.

It's also interesting that in the past the New York Times has portrayed the Orthodox community as being anti-homosexual

and in generally violently puritanical

Now, in yesterday's article, the ultra-orthodox are described as protecting homosexual pedophiles. There seems to be a contradiction here.

Dave said...

Whatever the article's attitude, or the claimed incidence of abuse, the phenomenon which is described (the cover up) is appalling and I don't see how you can defend it. Stop whining about other groups shortcomings.

Imagine coming before a judge for rape and your defense is "other people are worse!"

Whatever the incidence is, the communal behavior towards the victims is a travesty of justice and outrageous.

jewish philosopher said...

OK, so, according to the New York Times, America's national newspaper of record, we have here a community of a quarter of million people which on the one hand is ultra-puritanical and anti-gay, however on the other hand they are completely fine with adults in the community having sex with each others children. In fact, they have even set up a successful, virtually leakproof system for obstructing justice which would have been the envy of Richard Nixon.

As a result, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who has sex with a child has about one tenth the chance of being convicted in comparison to a gentile who has sex with a child.

I think that's an extraordinary claim. Now extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. As evidence the Times provides the belief of unnamed scholars and the stories told to journalists by a few individuals.

I think I see liberal bias here big time.

Of course, by the way, a story like this will circulate on the Internet for years, be read by millions of people and no doubt generate hatred, bias, harrassment and maybe even violence against Jews. However the Times which, for example, pretty much ignored the Holocaust

is not worrying about trifles like that.

Anonymous said...

If you don't think mesira applies today, I suggest you speak to any ultra-orthodox rabbi about your ignorance of fundamental chareidi views. Or just do a google search. Best of luck with that.

jewish philosopher said...

Well, news flash: I am an ultraorthodox rabbi and if some pervert, whoever it is, touches one of my kids he'll be in handcuffs so fast his head will spin off.

natschuster said...

I know that one major Orthodox ORganization has reputation for being very quick to call social services in the event of suspected abuse and neglect. I know some very wonderful parents who had to deal with the office of Child Welfare asa result.

And I know of some case where Orthodox defendants did not get a fair trial. Or if the victim was Orthodox and the defendant wasn't then the jury went easier on the defendant. So there may very well be lots of anti-semitism in the court system today. Some people might be afraid that a defendant won't get a fair trial in the secular courts.

Dave said...

" Some people might be afraid that a defendant won't get a fair trial in the secular courts."

That may be, but its a concern that the victim or his family (or a community) should not have to be worried about. The first order of business is protecting and treating victims and preventing new ones. Thats what a criminal justice system is about. These people aren't living in 18th century Russia any more. They are American citizens. If they demand the rights of citizens they have the repsonsibilities as well.

The basic problem is not that the Heredim are evil. But there is so much shame and stigma associated with anything to do with sex, the community prefers to sweep it under the rug rather than deal with it. I don't think that they would have the same reticence to involve the authorities if there were a murderer or thief in their midst. There is a taboo regarding anything sexual. This is a well known phenomenon, not only among Heredim.

Fortunately. many other orthodox communities, including some heredi ones, are beginning to come to terms with the problem.

"however on the other hand they are completely fine with adults in the community having sex with each others children. "

Neither I nor the NYT article accuses them of being "completely fine". Thats a ridiculous distortion of the argument. As I said, because of the stigma, they prefer to deal with it quietly and within the community. This is, however, completely inappropriate in a western country in 21st century, for a crime such as this. It doesn't matter if the incidence is one thousandth of the general population.

BTW I do agree with you that it will be used by antisemites. There is even an unflattering photo (on the side bar) of an ultra-orthodox Jew that reminds me of a Nazi caricature of a "kike".

The problem with that community's "galus" mentality is that, in their attempt to cover things up because of what the "goyim" might think, they have created an even more despicable picture of the community.

Anonymous said...

You're an ultra orthodox rabbi like I'm an imam.

Whatever, we all know your silly smicha. It's not worth the paper it's written on, and for a rabbi, any rabbi, you are so completely clueless about what goes on in the frum velt. Just google mesira and child abuse.

jewish philosopher said...

"Neither I nor the NYT article accuses them of being "completely fine". "

Au contraire.

"A few blocks away, Pearl Engelman, a 64-year-old great-grandmother, said her community had failed her too. In 2008, her son, Joel, told rabbinical authorities that he had been repeatedly groped as a child by a school official at the United Talmudical Academy in Williamsburg. The school briefly removed the official but denied the accusation. And when Joel turned 23, too old to file charges under the state’s statute of limitations, they returned the man to teaching."

Nowhere in the article is there any reference to any sort of vigilante justice being meted out by the rabbis. The ultra-Orthodox community, other than perhaps a few parents of victims, seems to be completely accepting of people within the community going around and having sex with other people's kids. And this is a community elsewhere condemned by this same newspaper as being violently puritanical and anti-gay. I guess bigotry doesn't follow any logic.

"Just google mesira and child abuse."

Here's the first result I get.

Ironmistress said...

Michael Jackson was a Jehovah's Wittness turned Muslim. Not an Atheist.

Given to the Islamic record of child molesting, I am not surprised to least bit.

Ironmistress said...

The concept of "mesira" is close enough to "omerta" to see the parallels.

The same applies to ALL tight-knit collective communities, religions and cults. Rocking the boat is seen as a far more serious crime than outright abuse. It is the same as in dysfunctional families.

The elephant is in the room and won't go away by ignoring it.

jewish philosopher said...

"Michael Jackson was a Jehovah's Wittness turned Muslim."

Not exactly.'s_religion

He was certainly not an outspoken monotheist, which would have offended the editors of the Times.

"Rocking the boat is seen as a far more serious crime than outright abuse."

Based on the evidence before it, the Times could have just as easily, and far more accuractely I believe, have published an article entitled "Ultra-Orthodox Community Largely Immune from Child Sexual Abuse". It could have gone on to explain that the intact families and strong religious values of ultra-Orthodox have made it possible for the community to be 1000% safer than the general society. Instead it chose to publish atheistic propaganda.

natschuster said...

I understad that R'Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Z'TL said that a child molester is like a murderer and we must report him to the secular authorities if necessary to remove him from the community.