Much has happened since Rabbi Nesenoff emailed me his video interview of Helen Thomas containing her now-famous declaration that Jews should get the hell out of Palestine and go back to their homes in Germany and Poland. Upon first watching the interview, I saw it a big story and was determined to make it go viral. The objective was not to go after the 89-year-old newswoman per se, as a teaching opportunity, showing that anti-Semitism still permeated through normal American society. That teaching moment didn’t really happen; instead I was the one who did the learning, and the lesson was all about how the media really worked.
The White House Press corps seemed very reluctant to touch the story. On one hand it was understandable as Thomas was a respected colleague. Most of them had worked with her for a very long time. On the other hand it was big news, and if the Rabbi’s interview subject was a senior member of the Administration those same reporters would have been all over the story.
When they got around to covering the story, media got the “facts” of the incident wrong. I am not talking about Rosie O’Donnell’s idiotic statement dismissing the anti-Semitism displayed by Thomas’ call for Israeli Jews to return to the scene of the concentration camps, or her ignorant belief that no Jews lived in the Holy Land before 1948. The traditional media’s biggest factual mistake was reporting that the controversy surrounded Thomas making an anti-Israel comment.
CBS for example, led their story with:
“Journalist Helen Thomas announced Monday she is retiring, ending her 50-year career as a White House correspondent in the wake of controversial comments she made about Israel.”
“… Helen Thomas, who turns 90 on Aug. 4, announced her sudden retirement Monday following a firestorm of controversy over some ill-chosen remarks about Israel, which found their way onto YouTube.”
This incident had nothing to do with Anti-Israel comments. If saying bad things about Israel was a firing offense half of the Obama administration would be out of work. Helen Thomas got in trouble because her statement was anti-Semitic. To suggest anything different is both a distortion of the truth, and propaganda for the anti-Semites who believe that Jews control the media and American Foreign policy.
The Thomas affair reflected both the best and worst of new media. Had I tried to break the story in a traditional medium, Ms Thomas would still be sitting in her front row center seat. Only through the use of internet news outlets could a video like the Thomas interview go from a post on medium-sized blog to national broadcast media within eight hours. It was interesting to learn how, while they are apt to put the blogging community down, the mainstream media uses the internet media as a key source.
Unfortunately the Helen Thomas scandal also brought out the worst of the internet. Rabbi Nessenof has received over 25,000 nasty emails, but that is probably to be expected.
What wasn’t expected was the fact that liberal websites could not figure out a way to defend Ms Thomas’ actions, instead took the time to search the internet to find ways to attack the Rabbi personally as a way to de-legitimize Nesenoff’s video. The Huffington Post (which has its own history of Anti-Semitism) and Mediaite dug up a video of Nesenoff playing a “Hispanic-Priest-Weatherman,” doing a weather report along with a stereotyped “Rabbi.”
If the reporters had bothered to ask questions, they would have discovered the Video was a “Purim Shpeil”. Part of the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim is donning outlandish costumes and staging silly skits which are known as Purim Shpeils. These liberal sites’ great scandal about Rabbi Nesenoff was a silly play where he spoke with a Hispanic accent (and a few words of Yiddish). Ironically video makes much more fun of the Jewish character, which is portrayed as someone who is both negative and lazy, than the Hispanic one.
If those same internet reporters took the time to really investigate Rabbi Nesenoff they might have learned that he was founder of a Long Island Bias task force. The Rabbi was also an intervention consultant selected by the US Justice Department’s Civil rights office for largest discrimination consent decree in US history (against Denny Restaurants). He founded the Tolerance Rehabilitation for Youth in the Nassau County Family Courts (under NYS Supreme Court Judge Burton Joseph) for youth offenders convicted of bias and violent crimes. And he produced, wrote and directed an award winning film for the New York State Department of Youth, Moving Day. The film deals with with violence against Hispanics, Women and issues of the homeless. The entire list of his long service to teaching tolerance is too long to fit into this space.
All reporters make mistakes, a search of my site; The Lid would turn up more than I care to admit. But the Nesenoff stories published in these supposedly professional sites were not born out of a desire to find out the truth, they were created to destroy. There was a good thing arising from the Mediaite and Huffington stories, Rabbi Nesenoff received an honor that I would kill for. He was named as Keith Olbermann’s second worse person of the day. Since that prestigious award, I have continually reminded myself or the 11th Commandment; Thou shalt not covet thy friend’s recognition from a TV nut-Job.
Looking back on the past week it’s interesting to note both the Helen Thomas and the wacky weatherman videos can be tied to Purim.
Like many Jewish holidays, Purim’s theme is “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” The difference of this holiday’s story is there’s no overt, splitting of the sea-type miracle. We are taught to have faith that our victory came from God even though he was “hidden” during Purim. That’s one of the reasons we wear masks and costumes, to hide our faces the same way God did.
When Rabbi Nesenoff interviewed Helen Thomas at the White House, he got her to take off the mask and reveal her true face. The Rabbi was wearing a Purim mask in the weatherman video, unfortunately but many in the press (internet and traditional) didn’t bother to complete the necessary work as to get his mask off. After all, isn’t that the job of the press, to get through the masks so the true story can be revealed?