MORE META-ISRAEL BLOGGING….David Adesnik theorizes today that the relative silence of liberal blogs regarding the Israel-Lebanon war is due to pressure from “a part of the online left which is so viciously anti-Israel that moderates have been intimidated into silence.” Matt Yglesias isn’t impressed:
If we heard more from liberal bloggers, we’d be hearing commentary that ranged from somewhat critical to very critical [of Israel]. So why don’t we hear more?
Two things, I think. For one thing, [blah blah blah]….
The other thing is that David’s right to see an intimidation factor at work. But annoying and even maddening as hard-core Israel-bashers may be, there’s nothing especially intimidating about a group of powerless and marginal email-senders and comment-writers. Israel’s hard-core supporters in the United States, by contrast, are extremely powerful and in the habit of mounting broad-brush smear campaigns against people they dislike.
I’ve been making a studious effort to post more frequently about the war ever since I penned this post a week ago, and so far nobody has mounted any kind of broad-brush smear campaign against me. This is probably because I’m not worth the trouble (and not generally anti-Israel either), but Matt’s experience nonetheless rings true to me, though in a lower-key way than he suggests.
For starters, my personal experience is that comment threads are way different than email. Comments tend to degenerate pretty quickly on both sides. The hard-core supporters of both Israel and the various Arab entities are well represented, as are, unfortunately, a smattering of anti-semites. Since no one pays much serious attention to blog comments, though, this doesn’t matter much.
(NB: I occasionally try to ban the obvious anti-semites, but it doesn’t take much more than a sixth-grade education to get around that. Sadly, it turns out that most of them graduated from elementary school, though you might reasonably expect otherwise based on the quality of their rants.)
Email, however, is a completely different story. In the past two weeks, I think I’ve gotten a grand total of one email suggesting that I should be less sympathetic toward Israel. This compares to dozens that take the opposite tack in one way or another. And there has been absolutely no vitriol in any of them. Every single one has made some kind of reasoned and reasonable point, linked to some recommended reading, or pointed out a plausible flaw in something I’ve written.
In other words, the possibility of smear campaigns aside, it’s nonetheless true that there are a lot of Israel supporters willing to take the time to write lots of email of precisely the kind most likely to appeal to a person like me. Conversely, there’s virtually no one on the other side who bothers. That’s a kind of power all by itself.