Here’s a news flash: The Jewish Week does not edit out images of women in its print edition or on its website. Not even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
We state this, of course, because of this week’s furor over Der Tzeitung, the Brooklyn-based chasidic newspaper that crudely removed the images of Clinton and another female staffer from the now-iconic photo of White House officials anxiously monitoring the successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s lair.
Der Tzeitung, reflecting an extreme interpretation of Orthodox Judaism, does not publish images of women, and apparently an overzealous editor failed to see the White House notice prohibiting tampering with the pictures it supplies.
All that was reported in this newspaper’s “Jewish Techs” blog by Rabbi Jason Miller, who wrote that “this act of censorship is actually a violation of the Jewish legal principle of g’neivat da’at (deceit).” But within hours, like a 21st-century version of the old children’s game, Telephone, where whispered messages get distorted as they pass from child to child, the photo-tampering story mutated and The Jewish Week found itself accused of that very act that it, through Miller, was reporting on.
“How dare you…” was the opening line of numerous angry calls, e-mails and comments we received, and never mind that we didn’t.
This is an almost textbook example of how misinformation, propelled by explosive anger and disseminated by activists with big e-mail lists and little use for accuracy, spreads along global electronic byways. And, like so much of what happens on the Internet, many of the comments and e-mails were tinged with outright bigotry.
Yes, we heard from Jews who were disturbed by how their religion was being misrepresented by a miniscule group with extreme views. But many of the comments had a satisfied, “well, there go those wacky Jews again” quality to them — as if this story about a group at the Jewish margins “proved” Orthodox Judaism, and maybe all of religious Judaism, is some kind of bizarre misogynistic sect.
Don’t get us wrong: we love the web. There’s a good chance you are reading this on The Jewish Week website. The Internet is a wonderful resource that has transformed the news business in many positive ways. But it is also a conduit for misinformation that, once out there, becomes part of the background noise of modern life, difficult to correct, impossible to erase. Speed and accuracy rarely go together in gathering information.
So one more time for the record: no, we did not PhotoShop Hillary Clinton’s face out of the White House picture. Really.