In political news as in philosophy and in haute couture and social media etc., the issues that are put into play at centre stage are guided by a category than which there would seem to be no higher, namely the category of the interesting. How something comes to qualify as interesting is as mysterious as how pretty fractal patterns burgeon out of nothing in particular. The eye-catching symmetry and harmonious order of the pattern would vouch for the substantialness of their origins. Again, as in high seamstressing. And in aesthetic domains in general, of course, this genetic force of différance, of the innocent child at play, is more than welcome.
The question is whether any attempt to actually deal with a political issue can be entrusted to child’s play. This is the old Platonic question. It may be, after all, that the most boring issue is the key issue to unlocking a given political problem. The hermeneutic matrix and language for dealing with the problem, moreover, may be a very old one. It may be altogether impossible to make “news” out of it.
When a Hassidic discourse, for example, sets something down as an inyan, an “issue,” this implies a directive for where to place one’s innocence. The directive addresses the seasoned self, the self well-acquainted with sin but also well-aware of the origins of sin in innocence. When the Rebbe identifies something as inyana shel torat haḥasidut, “the issue of Hassidic teaching,” the hosid trusts his Rebbe that this issue, no matter how bygone, obsolete, recondite or passé it may be, and perhaps even precisely because it is so, holds the secret to a veritable political grip on the slippery fish that are peddled about here and there as “news.”
The concept of “modernity” is such a news-type concept. When does “Modern Philosophy” begin, for example? In the moment when the preceding philosophy of the Schoolmen appears as an interminable discussion about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. What is old, what is no longer “news,” appears as a picayune squabbling and hair-splitting of irrelevant issues, issues that no longer refer to anything real. Yet isn’t this how all genuine training must seem to the novice? “Wax on, wax off.” One becomes a Karate master by shining many cars. Likewise the “irrelevant” infinitesimal details of Lurianic metaphysics. The truth is not necessarily the object of thought if the object itself must belong to the category of the interesting. An object produced within a boring discipline of thought may, even while irrelevant per se, correspond adequatio ad rem to a truth that has yet to be realized as an object.
The News.— As informative as gossip. Gossip on a global scale. —But gossip does provide information, does it not? To be sure. Gossip can provide an exhaustive and perfectly true (“excellence in reportage”) account of how Mrs. X did such and such to Mrs. Y, yet without in any way whatsoever touching the motives behind the accurately reported actions of Mrs. X, to say nothing of the external causes for these motives which were furnished or triggered by Mrs. Y. Likewise news remains as blithely “informative”—that is to say, as myopic and shallow—in comparison with historical analysis as gossip is in comparison with psychoanalysis.
The unrelenting itch to hear the news, moreover, is fundamentally the same as the gossip-itch. The satisfaction that news and gossip alike provide is the feeling that one is on top of things, that one is not being duped by current events in the universe. And hence the auto-hypnotic suggestion that one is doing something about the situation. As if such obsessions—gossip, news—were in some way actually empowering!
“The Arabs.”— A good example of news nomenclature. The term may true and meaningful enough, and relatively stable since the Abbasid Caliphate. But what does this relatively new name tell us about the oldest motives of the sons of Ishmael?
The fact that the sons of Ishmael are preoccupied with the Jewish Question in a way that seems thoroughly antiquated to an Idumean (“American,” “European,” “Western,” etc.) sensibility runs interference and causes dissonance in the mind of a Jew who remains mostly illiterate about Auschwitz beyond having read Wiesel’s Night and visited Yad Vashem, and watched Schindler’s List. Historical illiteracy has a powerful effect upon political conditions, no less powerful than an extremely low air-pressure zone has on the weather conditions. The relative vacuum in historical literacy sucks the need to hear the news—How’s the weather lookin’ today?—and to fret and obsess about the news into its low air-pressure zone.
A concomitant phenomenon is visible in France and other European countries. The panic over the hordes of Ishmael’s sons streaming into France is expressed in delightful ignorance of the fact that this phenomenon is a direct product of the French colonialism of the Ishmaelite world during the last centuries. The inability, or refusal, of the French to recognize the internal impact of colonialism within the French soul, and the inheritance of this impact, makes the infiltration seem like a pure contagion attacking the organism from without. What do you expect if you walk out into the cold without a scarf or hat?
In reality, of course, there is no hope of coming to terms with the Jewish Question in its renaissance as a contemporary Ishmaelite preoccupation without confronting the fact that the Ishmaelites have simply never heard of Alfred Dreyfus while Herzl was simply incapable of forgetting Dreyfus even in the endless beige dunes of Palestine.
The media is said to have a double-standard. Jews are held up to a higher moral standard than the Palestinians (פלשתים). The simplest way to deal with this, and perhaps a necessary expedient in the short run, is to complain and to hope and to pray that by means of complaint the media will come to adjust its approach.
But there is an alternative course that may be taken. It’s not as convenient as the first one, admittedly, nor perhaps as expedient in the short run. And the political perils of such an approach must be carefully considered before anything is implemented. The approach: to persuade the media to explicitly own the double-standard. What if the media were to be challenged to state outright, without mincing words:
“Yes, the Jews are held up to a higher moral standard than the Palestinians. They are a kingdom of priests. So says their Torah. And priests are universally held up to a higher moral standard. This is what humanity expects of the Jews. We challenge them to achieve their God-given higher moral standard. We entreat them to do so, for the sake of humanity as well as their own sake. We understand that their priestly ministrations, when properly carried out, would improve the spiritual state of humanity, just as the proper efforts of a global association of physicians would improve the physical state of humanity. And therefore we propose to help them, in whatever way is in our power to do so, to function well in their holy office.”
And who among us—yes, us Jews—is prepared for such a statement from the media?