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Taking On Glenn Beck — With Poetry

Taking On Glenn Beck — With Poetry

It’s no secret that some Jewish leaders are anxious about a national mood of choleric rage and what it means for populations that have been the targets of past populist surges, starting with the Jews.

But while few have spoken out in public, one group has struck back with biting humor.

It’s the Jewish Funds for Justice that’s behind the just-announced Web site, aimed at a talk radio host and Fox News talk show host who seems to be handsomely profiting from the recent craziness.

Beck incensed many Christian activists recently when he suggested that a focus on “social justice” in religion is something like Nazism and communism. Naturally, that also offended many Jews whose religion includes heavy doses of social justice activism.

Enter Mik Moore, the JFSJ chief strategy officer and one of two activists responsible for the 2008 “Great Schlep” campaign, which used biting humor and the viral potential of the Internet to shore up support for Barack Obama in Florida.

This time, Moore is combining poetry and the power of Twitter to channel outrage about Beck and the mood of over-the-top resentment he seems to tap in his daily broadcasts.

The Haiku Glenn Beck site asks readers to submit pithy verses describing what they think about Beck’s views on social justice. This comes from someone identified as “Rabbi Mark”:

A large part of free

Speech is allowing a man

To talk like an ass.

Even celebrities have gotten into the act. Political satirist Christopher Buckley wrote this one:

Hurling expensive

coffee at the expensive

TV screen now, Ahhh.

Like the Great Schlep, the Haiku Glenn Beck site went viral within hours of its launch last week, Moore told the Jewish Week.

“More than 500 were submitted the first day alone,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to curate this thing.”

While most of the poems come from liberal Christians, Beck’s primary target, there are plenty of haikus with Jewish themes. An anonymous posting reads:

Read your bible Glenn:

Isaiah fifty-eight six

Or is yours censored?

The short poems are catchy and easy to write, but the format serves another purpose, Moore said: they fit into the 140-character restriction of Twitter, which JFSJ is using to multiply the impact of the campaign.

The timing of Beck’s remarks made many Jewish participants in the online poetry slam even angrier, Moore said.

“Passover is the holiday that, for many Jews, demonstrates most clearly the links between social justice and our faith,” he said. “So his comments were doubly offensive.”

The JFSJ haiku campaign is also a response to the relative silence of a Jewish communal world that too often seems intimidated into inaction by the angry voices loose in the land and the rise of a Tea Party movement that Moore said is increasingly dominated by traditional far-right extremist groups.

“There are legitimate concerns in the Tea Party movement, including the feeling that the economy is not working for many and that people in Washington are not listening,” Moore said. “We understand that. But the solutions being offered by the Glenn Becks are not real solutions; they’re not helping anybody.”

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