Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The True Story of Man Discovers MuzzleWatch

The man described in the title of this post isn't me. It's Jon Haber, of Divest This!, who this past weekend shared his story on the Solominia blog.

An excerpt follows, but be sure to read the whole well-written piece here.

In my curiosity to discover how such a demonstrably false thesis (that discussion of Israel, the subject of perpetual high-volume attack on campus after campus, was somehow fearfully repressed) could be taken as gospel, I stumbled on a new Website/blog dedicated to perpetuating this accusation, a site called Muzzlewatch. And because my curiosity had gotten the better of me, I chose to do something I had not done in over a decade: participate in online debate on the site's comment section.

It's not that debate can't be fun (anyone else out there remember the Wild West days of Usenet?), but on highly trafficked sites with active forums, I've generally discovered that it takes about 25 comments before debate tends to "gravitate towards the meme" (i.e., degenerate to the lowest common denominator, normally a stale, un-listening slinging of accusations broken down along party lines). Still, the desire to get to the bottom of this conundrum overwhelmed me and in I jumped.

The first thing that needed to be pointed out (and still does) is that Muzzlewatch is a project of an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that (among other things) became very agitated when a different group of politically organized Boston citizens began criticizing the construction of a huge mosque in the region. To show their disapproval, JVP signed onto a lawsuit by the mosque as a friend of the court which attacked the Boston activists (as well as local media) for the scrutiny they were giving the mosque project. So my first question was why a group dedicated to using state power (i.e., the courts) to stifle public discourse about which JVP disagreed had chosen to project its own censorship agenda onto its critics.

It would be a while before the creators of Muzzlewatch got around to responding to my questions (and only then because I refused to stop asking them). In the meantime, I had several weeks to discover what Muzzlewatch had in mind when they claimed their point of view was routinely stifled or censored.

The thing was, in posting after posting (sometimes several a day), the creators of the Muzzlewatch site never managed to provide a single actual example of their opinion being shut down in the way they had tried to shut down debate about the Boston mosque.

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