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Posted at 04:32 PM ET, 05/29/2012

‘Why do some people hate the Jews’ and other stupid questions


I want to have a serious discussion, so here is a picture of Natalie Portman. (Keith Hamshere - Lucasfilm Ltd. via REUTERS)
There are some questions it is generally wisest not to ask the Internet.

For a few strange hours on Tuesday, Business Insider wanted to know, “Why do some people hate the Jews?”

That’s — wow, that’s a pretty serious question, Business Insider! Do you know how to get a productive answer on that?

Evidently not.

Instead, Business Insider did the three things most calculated to produce the least productive discussion of all time. It asked, “Why do some people hate the Jews?” It replaced a picture of what the author called “jovial Orthodox Jews” with one of Natalie Portman — “who, I guess, is Jewish (I don't know)” the post’s author noted, with no apparent irony. And it opened the discussion with a reference to Hitler.

“[H]atred of Jews has obviously been an ongoing theme worldwide for centuries,” the post noted. “Hitler, for example, hated the Jews so much that he murdered 6 million of them. Why?”

They mention Hitler before the discussion even gets going?

One of the cardinal rules of modern living is to avoid bringing up Hitler if you want anyone to take you seriously.

Mention Hitler on the Internet, and everyone sighs. Ah, they say, you have exhausted your store of information and insight, and we are headed down into the deep bowels of discourse where monsters lurk, nobody has any facts, and EVERYONE SPEAKS IN BLOCK CAPITALS DRIPPING WITH HATE.

For good measure, the piece noted that “I'm also going to ban any anti-Semitic commenters.”

By late afternoon Tuesday, the piece had been updated almost beyond recognition. It was now titled “What Are the Sources of Anti-Semitism” and the comments were, unsurprisingly, closed.

The only possible excuse for this sort of post would be if its author had never visited the Internet before and thought that Internet commenters were mythical creatures famed for their temperance, deep research and carefully modulated speech.

But clearly the author of the piece — who is also the co-founder of Business Insider — knew better.

“Along with many other sites, this site is occasionally visited by people whose mission in life appears to be to express hatred of Jews,” he noted. “(We delete these comments as quickly as we can, but they're always startling in their venom, meanness, and stupidity.)”

So whom to ask for insight into this difficult question? Those very commenters, of course!

You want a serious conversation, ask a serious question.

Ask a stupid question . . . this happens.

I wish this were just careless, rather than obviously lazy.

It’s like the author wasn’t even trying to have a real discussion.

Fancy that.

By  |  04:32 PM ET, 05/29/2012

 
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