Times Magazine Jeffrey Rosen on Internet Gossip

The Times Magazine front page story next Sunday, "The Web Means the End of Forgetting" By JEFFREY ROSEN, cites the Talmud, as if a statement here or there in that large composite literature represents a core value accepted by all authorities.

We suppose it sounds nice to cite some ancient wisdom, but it sure does nothing for us to illuminate the issues he seeks to explore, namely how to remove personal information from the Internet.

We have no clue what were the "Talmudic villages" that Rosen talks about. We never heard the term before. Rosen invented the notion, filled in one or two ideas he gleaned from Talmudic sources as if they were practiced in his imaginary towns and went off on his merry way.

If that is indicative of the rest of his claims and information in this article, then it is a work of random imagination with no connection to any reality of past, present or future and no insight in what is a troubling trend in modern communications.
In addition to exposing less for the Web to forget, it might be helpful for us to explore new ways of living in a world that is slow to forgive. It’s sobering, now that we live in a world misleadingly called a “global village,” to think about privacy in actual, small villages long ago. In the villages described in the Babylonian Talmud, for example, any kind of gossip or tale-bearing about other people — oral or written, true or false, friendly or mean — was considered a terrible sin because small communities have long memories and every word spoken about other people was thought to ascend to the heavenly cloud. (The digital cloud has made this metaphor literal.) But the Talmudic villages were, in fact, far more humane and forgiving than our brutal global village, where much of the content on the Internet would meet the Talmudic definition of gossip: although the Talmudic sages believed that God reads our thoughts and records them in the book of life, they also believed that God erases the book for those who atone for their sins by asking forgiveness of those they have wronged. In the Talmud, people have an obligation not to remind others of their past misdeeds, on the assumption they may have atoned and grown spiritually from their mistakes. “If a man was a repentant [sinner],” the Talmud says, “one must not say to him, ‘Remember your former deeds.’ ”

Unlike God, however, the digital cloud rarely wipes our slates clean, and the keepers of the cloud today are sometimes less forgiving than their all-powerful divine predecessor....more...
PS Mr. Rosen, before you celebrate the enlightened values of your fictional Talmudic hamlets, try suppressing any bit of the gossip about the biblical figures of ancient Israel that spice up our sacred literature from Genesis to II Kings and beyond.

No comments: