Business Insider goes investigative on anti-Semitism


NOTE: The original photo in this post was of a couple of jovial Orthodox Jews, one of whom was wearing a traditional hat. Some readers found that needlessly provocative. One suggested I replace it with a picture of Natalie Portman, who, I guess, is Jewish (I don’t know). So I have.

NOTE 2: The original title of this post was “Why Do Some People Hate Jews?” That made a lot of people angry. Folks seem more comfortable with the current title, which, admittedly, is less direct. So I changed it.

Reading through those footnotary amendments, you might conclude that Henry Blodget, author of the post and the top dog at Business Insider, didn’t give a lot of thought to this question before posting on it. That he just pushed it through Business Insider’s content management system. Hey, you’d be wrong!

When asked whether he’d vetted the post, Blodget responded:

I asked a couple of folks here to read it, including our Managing Editor. They thought it would provoke a vigorous discussion, which it has.

Gotta love the transparency, if not the depth of editorial deliberations at chez Business Insider.

Blodget writes that the idea for the post came to him a while ago, after he’d written “How Goldman Sachs Blew The Facebook IPO.” Notes Blodget: “As occasionally happens when writing about that firm, some anti-Semites showed up in the comments. As I was deleting their comments, I wondered, as I have before, ‘Where on earth does this come from?’ I figured I would ask our readers.”

Notwithstanding the origins of anti-Semitism, the origins of Blodget’s post appear to lie squarely within Business Insider’s model. That is, to generate the most amount of traffic with the least amount of effort. Thus a repetitive post that includes lines like: “Why do some people hate Jews?”And: “What is the source of this animosity? Why does it perpetuate itself? Where did this prejudice come from?”

Two problems with all of this. First is that Business Insider is not my spot for even legitimate and deep discussions of racial and ethnic hatred.

What I like most about Business Insider was the post in which it scooped some video of Jim Courier asking Novak Djokovic a stupid question about his breathing patterns in a tennis match. The exchange made Courier look dumb, and the aggregators at Business Insider were right on top of it. That’s Business Insider.

This is not Business Insider:

And hatred of Jews has obviously been an ongoing theme worldwide for centuries.

Hitler, for example, hated the Jews so much that he murdered 6 million of them.

The other issue is that Blodget’s question appears to at least contemplate legitimate motivations for anti-Semitism, via its titular question alone. Blodget bats away that suggestion: “Of course I wasn’t suggesting that anti-Semitism has a legitimate basis. I was asking where it comes from. I find the best way to handle sensitive topics like this is to talk openly about them. That’s what a lot of people have been doing this afternoon — and I, at least, have learned a lot from them.”

Years ago we passed the point at which we should take pride in stimulating conversation on the Internet. If you’re willing to write something dumb or just act in poor taste, you too can have a career as an Web conversation launcher. Stick with the IPOs, Blodget.

And hey, why post a photo of Natalie Portman without knowing her religion? “As I explained in the post, a reader suggested that I use her photo. And it actually seemed to underscore the absurdity and unfairness of anti-Semitism that some people might feel negatively about her based on her presumed religion.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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