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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb 25, 2014 / 25 Adar I, 5774

Destroyers of the common culture

By Wesley Pruden




JewishWorldReview.com | Sometimes even a blind hog finds an acorn, and an unlikely press critic proves this humble proposition. Bill Maher, a famous purveyor of the politically correct who usually throws spit balls at conservatives, Christians and traditional values, thinks the Internet has destroyed the American culture. He would even bring back newspapers.

The water cooler is good now only for dispensing bottled water, he says, and not for the exchange of opinions, some intelligent and some not, because "as a culture, we don't have enough in common any more."

He doesn't say anything about his own contributions to the carnage of that culture. The targets of his vitriol usually range from A to B, and include nearly everyone who ever gathered around a water cooler with an opinion contrary to his own. He once even made a movie mocking the religious faith of the Founders and the builders of the exceptional nation.

Nevertheless, his point is a good one, and fair as far as he goes.

Mr. Maher rails at the decline of news literacy, of thoughtful consideration of "the news," and the Internet's mindless pursuit of sensation, most of it trivial, tedious and irrelevant to anyone with a life. "News" on the Internet is often not news at all, because there's no one to monitor information, to pick and choose what's important and what's not.

"Do you know what I saw on Yahoo's front page this morning?" Mr. Maher asks. "No, you don't, because mine isn't the same as yours. People get a news feed now that just spits back customized stories based on what we've clicked on in the past . . . Welcome to the brave new world of micro-targeting."

Indeed, newspapers define their reach and breadth by identifying their readers by neighborhood and even zip code, and they know every subscribing household by name. Television networks use less precise methods and they can offer only a proximate number of viewers, maybe correct and maybe not. Internet numbers are even less precise, reckoning reach by the number of times someone clicks open an article, or "hits" it. "Hits" are the currency of the Internet, and a lot of the currency is counterfeit. News sites are tempted to recycle rants, confident that the same people who hit a rant on Tuesday will hit it again on Wednesday.

Facebook (which sounds like the records a putty and plaster specialist might keep of his gruesome mortuary repairs) has a new gimmick, to track how users consume their "news." The app, called "Paper," gives you only the news you want and nothing to upset or displease. Facebook calls it "the best personalized newspaper in the world." It isn't a newspaper at all, of course, but "customized news" to make sure a passive reader won't ever run into anything to contradict what he thinks he already knows.


This repeals the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous reminder, when he was a Democratic pillar of the U.S. Senate, that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."

Mr. Maher displays a grainy photograph — in black and white! — of people sitting on a subway train in New York City, and they're all reading a newspaper. This was once commonplace. Some readers would be reading Hearst's Journal-American or the Daily Mirror, and some the old New York Post, which was indeed left-wing. But everyone absorbs a little heartburn to season his pleasure.

Fashions, like the times, change. The daily newspaper, once the king of the mountain and still the most reliable purveyor of the passing scene, has given way to something that does not always pretend to be the guardian of reality. Winston Churchill once excused wartime disinformation because sometimes "the truth must be protected by a bodyguard of lies." No doubt that's sometimes true — hard times will make a monkey eat red pepper — but it's not a reassuring slogan for a news site.

The editor of a prominent Internet news site once boasted to me that "the Internet, unlike a newspaper, is self-correcting because we can always correct an error at once, before any harm is done." He sounded silly, but sincere. "So, if someone writes that you were once caught naked with both a live boy and a dead girl, you won't mind as long as it's corrected." No, he said, that's different. It always is.

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© 2014 Wesley Pruden

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