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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

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 March 23, 2009 / 27 Adar 5769

Dwindling the demands of thinking

By Jonathan Gurwitz


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In his novel “Fahrenheit 451” — selected by the San Antonio Public Library for its 2009 “Big Read” community reading initiative — Ray Bradbury describes a society in which reading is outlawed and firemen burn books. Not because they are profane or blasphemous. Not because they pose a threat to national security. Fahrenheit 451 — the temperature at which paper combusts — isn’t a metaphor for totalitarian censorship.

No, books are burned because they are complicated. They present creative ideas — and challenge conventional wisdom. They provide answers — but also provoke questions. They are burned to simplify life by emancipating people from the demands of thinking.

Captain Beatty, the fire chief, explains the incinerating impulse: “What traitors books can be! You think they’re backing you up, and then they turn on you. Others can use them, too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives.”

As newspapers around the country face an economic conflagration of closings, bankruptcies and layoffs, you can hear the voice of Captain Beatty cheering on the flames. You hear it from conservative readers who believe that because journalists tend to be politically liberal, the news pages are irredeemably biased.

You hear it from liberal readers who promote the notion that because a small minority of major newspapers endorsed John McCain — who won 46 percent of the popular vote — it’s evidence of a corporate media completely out of touch with the American people.

And you hear it from the geniuses of the new media who deride their “dead-tree” colleagues, even as they digitally piggyback on the original research, reporting and analysis of print journalists.

How much easier it is to get uncomplicated information, to rely solely on radio or television personalities and bloggers who sift out the complexity and confusion and deliver to you only the news that confirms your worldview and only those opinions that validate your own — and in bytes small enough not to exceed your attention span.

There is a seductive appeal to this kind of intellectual harmony, an appeal explored by journalist Bill Bishop and sociologist Robert Cushing in “The Big Sort.” The subtitle of their book is “Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart.” The demise of newspapers is one consequence of that sorting.

The newspaper industry isn’t without blame for the media bonfire. For a decade, they’ve conditioned readers to expect to receive their product’s institutional knowledge, editorial checks and balances and comprehensive coverage at no cost, as long as it’s on the Internet. Now, more and more readers are asking why they should bother to pay for the privilege of paper. Let it burn.

There is much that radio and television personalities and Internet journalists do well, especially on matters of national and international significance. There is much that newspapers can do better. But the farther down the news chain you go and the farther away from Washington, the more important the role of print journalists in providing news and views, even when they are complicated and provocative.

As newspapers downsize and close, communities are losing the commentary of columnists who share the plight of the homeless, the dreams of immigrants and the criticism of police officers fearful of retribution; of political cartoonists who pack the power of a thousand words in a single image; of reporters who convey the often competing narratives of politicians and citizens, interest groups and taxpayers, business owners and workers, Republicans and Democrats, Americans and foreigners.

Society may be far less confusing, life less vexing without their welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives. But something more is lost.

In the intellectually barren world of “Fahrenheit 451,” Chief Beatty says the beauty of fire is that it “destroys responsibility and consequences.” That is precisely as some people in positions of authority would like it in this world.

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JWR contributor Jonathan Gurwitz, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, is a co-founder and twice served as Director General of the Future Leaders of the Alliance program at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. In 1986 he was placed on the Foreign Service Register of the U.S. State Department.

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© 2009, Jonathan Gurwitz

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