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Jewish World Review
Oct 20, 2011
/ 22 Tishrei, 5772
The Internet: Doing The Heavy Uplifting
If you have access to the Internet, or live within shouting distance of someone who does, then this past week you probably watched the wildly popular YouTube video of Sarah Churman, a 29-year-old deaf woman who, after receiving cochlear implants, was able to hear for the first time.
The video takes place in a doctor's office and shows Ms. Churman's reaction at the precise moment a lab technician turns on the implant device. I've viewed this video at least a half-dozen times, and I can unequivocally state that it is the most inspiring 90-second video you will ever see that consists almost entirely of a woman crying (Presumably, she is crying because of the emotion of the moment, and not because the technician decided that Sarah's first audible sound should be a recording of, say, Fran Drescher's voice).
Unquestionably, one of the great benefits of the Internet in general, and YouTube in particular, is the way viral videos like this one get distributed nearly instantaneously to millions of people. Today, any time you're feeling a little down, you're never more than a few mouse clicks away from an inspirational story that will make you feel good to be alive, whether it's seeing high school student Jason McElwain, who has autism, raining down three-pointers during his one and only basketball game appearance, watching the emotional reunion in Africa between those two young men from England and their former pet lion cub, Christian, or re-experiencing that sublime moment when Susan Boyle opened her mouth and proved to Simon Cowell and the world that something beautiful can come from inside a source that -- let's be honest -- isn't necessarily all the much to look at on the outside.
For the vast majority of human history, of course, sharing uplifting stories was much more difficult, and could typically only be accomplished through word of mouth. Not to mention that during, say, the Middle Ages, truly inspiring stories were in pretty short supply:
First Serf: Hey, did you hear the amazing news about Jakob the tailor in the next town over?
Second Serf: Jakob the tailor? I thought he had the plague.
First Serf: He did, and he was supposed to die a long, drawn-out, miserable, painful death.
Second Serf: So what happened? Was he miraculously healed?
First Serf: No, he was gored by an ox instead!
Second Serf: What a relief!
But of course, just as the Internet giveth inspiration through videos depicting the triumph of the human spirit, so also does the Internet taketh away that very same inspiration as soon as you scroll down and read some of the obnoxious, hostile and frequently grammatically-challenged comments left by certain viewers.
In the Sarah Churman video, the negative comments mostly involve accusations that the scene was staged, that Churman is not really deaf, that there is no such thing as "hearing," etc. One frequently cited piece of evidence supporting the hoax claim is that Sarah speaks pretty clearly which, according to many commenters, is impossible for someone who is actually deaf. This evaluation is usually backed up with an explanation like, "My cousin went to summer camp with a guy who said his neighbor's uncle was completely deaf, and he couldn't talk that well, so this must be a fake."
Naturally, other commenters pushed back against this nearly airtight argument, vainly attempting to explain that Ms. Churman might have partial hearing loss and still count as "hearing impaired" and that interventions and therapies today help even those with no hearing to speak more clearly than ever before. To which the original commenter thoughtfully replied that his critics are %#&@$-ers and should shut the &$#% up.
JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
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© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner