Kavanaugh allegations and Hasidic censorship

Last Friday, I stopped into a deli and bought a copy of the Hasidic Yiddish paper. The September 21st Der Yid was the hefty Sukkos edition, so thick it felt like holding five newspapers stacked together. I got the paper for the Kavanaugh story on the latest allegations of sexual assault against him. I wanted to see how the Hasidic paper dealt with the taboo topic of sexual assault.

Usually, the Hasidic papers wouldn’t even cover stories about assault, skipping over headlines about Cosby or Weinstein without even bothering with censorship. It’s easy to skip over stories related to entertainment personalities in whom the community has no interest. But the Yiddish newspapers cover politics comprehensively, and stories in politics with sexual “topics” cannot be entirely ignored.

I remember clearly as a Hasidic middle schooler, learning about the Lewinsky saga and about the Bill Clinton impeachment. In fact, it was covered in our Current Events class. I believe censored copies of a news column were handed out to us, and we deliberated over if Clinton or Nixon were impeached and what the word meant. I don’t remember ever knowing why Clinton was impeached, and more astoundingly, I don’t remember ever wondering why either.

So now I wanted to see how this news is made from the other side. Here’s the first part of the Kavanaugh story on page 44.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination to the Supreme Court ‘in Danger’ After New Accusations Against Him

​Trump is willing to accept small delay in the senate confirmation. Trump’s spokesperson: “the president is not yet looking at any new names to replace Kavanaugh for nomination to the Supreme Court.”
Washington – the nomination of President Trump’s Supreme Court selection, Brett Kavanaugh, found itself early this week up in the air due to new claims and the accusations that came out against the nominee.​
In a last minute flaken (?), a leading Republican senator of the Judiciary committee came out Sunday with a request to stop the confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
This comes after new information came to light and new ethical accusations against the person whom President Trump nominated to the highest court.The democrats immediately called to halt the Kavanaugh vote.

But then several Republican senators also added to the their call, that the senate shouldn’t rush with the vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation to Supreme Court. The most important among the Republicans who support holding off the vote over Kavanaugh is Jeff Flake from Arizona, who has a seat on the Senate Judiciary committee.

Flake said that he needs to hear more about the most recent allegations against Kavanaugh, and a few other Republicans as usual Bob Corker of Tennessee also said they agree. Flake is one of the eleven Republican participants on the narrowly divided committee. Without his support the committee cannot send Kavanaugh’s name to the entire senate with a positive recommendations, although it can be sent without a recommendation.
Flake said Sunday that if the Committee should try to send [Kavanaugh’s name] without an attempt to hear what Kavanaugh’s most recent accusers have to say, he will not be comfortable to vote not, and he is not alone in that.
Dan Corker answered “yes” on the question if the committee should be postponed, saying that it would be the best option for everyone, including the nominee…

[…here I am not translated the opinions of Grassley, Graham and Feinstein…]

Grassley reprimanded the democrats and especially California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein for coming up with their current accusations in the last minute, saying that if it was true what is said against Kavanaugh the it could have been brought up a lot earlier. He argues that the minority side withheld the anonymous claims the entire six weeks, but the minority [Feinstein] said that they withheld it to investigate if it had enough validity and only after they decided that it did, did they come out with it.

[…here I am not translating the opinions of Trump and the White House…]

Analysts call this a smart political maneuver on the part of Trump, to give so much as to postpone the vote a little, so it doesn’t sound like they don’t want to give the accuser a chance to allow for the accusation to be heard. By given some more time, the president has the best chances to try to put the nomination – after giving the person (?) a chance to speak – on the rails.


What’s really fascinating about this to me is that there is no mention of who the accuser is or even her gender, and no attempt to explain what the accusations are about. Aside from a fleeting reference to ‘etish’ (ethical – what does that mean to anyone anyway?) allegations, the writers dive into the opinions of this Senator or that one and avoid the allegations itself entirely.

I often think about the effects this type of censorship has on its readers. The reader of a newspaper that usually provides interesting drama (to postpone or not postpone???) without enough context to help readers understand the various real issues at hand (is the accusation credible and should it play a role in a Supreme Court nomination) leads people to submit their critical judgement when reading. If you read an article about the Higgs Boson, and you know nothing about particle physics, and the article describes the need for a new accelerator, than you will go along with wherever the article takes you because you don’t feel sufficiently knowledgeable to ask questions.

That’s how I was able to read everything on the Lewinsky saga without ever stopping to ask what the impeachment is about. I would guess that during the Trump presidency with all its scandals, and with the #metoo movement bleeding into Hasidic coverage turf, many Hasidic folks (especially pre-marriage/without other access) regularly read the paper without expecting to know enough of the news to question it.

No Comments

Post A Comment