…and it’s not what you might first expect. Or not only that. In a lively interview the Atlantic’s Jennie Rosenberg Gritz spoke with Eytan Kobre, an organizer of last weekend’s event at Citi Field in New York. Though some outsiders framed that public showing as a technophobic “rally against the Internet,” it was really more of a discussion on the pros and cons of integrating digital media into a devout, communitarian way of life. As Kobre concedes, television and the Internet present real complications for a people literally “of the book”:
You’ve also argued that the Internet is damaging people’s ability to study and pray.
Yes, and these are all things Nick Carr wrote about in his Atlantic cover story, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” He talks about how the Internet affects cognition — short-term memory and long-term memory, the ability to sit and read a book in depth, and so on.
In fact, I was looking at another piece at TheAtlantic.com, a blog post by Ross Douthat. He was addressing a comment by another writer who said that Google had been immeasurably beneficial to his research. It enabled him to have obscure volumes at his fingertips. Douthat responded, “The web is very good for certain forms of writing — the highly political and the highly personal chief among them — and very bad for others. … The Google effect makes it harder to write War and Peace, and harder to read it.”
I was struck by that, because that kind of in-depth reading constitutes a large part of what we do. When you look at Talmud study, the study of Jewish ethics and philosophy, there’s a lot of complex stuff going on there. The ability to study those works can be undermined by Google and the Internet.
[At the rally,] you’re dressing the same way your 18th century ancestors did, which implies that you’re rejecting the modern world.
There may be elements of truth to that. But the irony is that hipsters all dress a certain way, and the whole point is to dress entirely different from everyone else. Orthodox Jews actually have the courage to dress the same way as 500,000 of their brethren. They’re the ones who challenge people by asking, “Are you deep enough to look beyond my garb and relate to me as a thinking individual?”
Read the full interview over at the Atlantic site.