The World Congress of Jewish Studies, currently held in Jerusalem, had a session cosponsored by the rightwing think-tank, the Jewish Center for Public Affairs. Richard Landes, professor of medieval studies at Boston University, and rightwing blogger at the Augean Stables, was to talk on the "Blogosphere as a New Terrain in the Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israeli battle". Of course, I got very excited. Like any blogger, I was hoping for my few seconds of fame, ok, maybe a mention, or if not me, then at least my buddies, ok, if not my buddies, then at least somebody I had heard of.
So I actually went to the session, sat through a talk by Manfred Gerstenberg, and got my little tape recorder ready.
What a disappointment. Instead of a talk on the blogosphere, Prof. Landes trotted out the same talk on Mohammad ad-Durrah's death and its cynical manipulation by those pesky Pals and their anti-Semitic (Jewish and gentiles) buddies that he has been peddling on college campuses for the last few years.
My first reaction was that this is a disgrace to the field of Jewish Studies. Why is this session being held here? There is no new research, there is nothing that you couldn't get off the web.
But then Landes ends with the thesis that the blogosphere today is like the print medium in the sixteenth century. Bloggers pose a challenge to the established print media, and this makes him optimistic that truth will out via the bloggers. Just as the bloggers pushed the "truth" with ad-Durrah, so too they can win the war against the anti-Israeli media.
Ah, the delusions of the academic-in-his-pajamas-blogging- at-2-am! How well I know the syndrome! Sure, bloggers can make a difference. But it cuts both ways, Prof. Landes. There is a progressive blogosphere out there, and an Arab blogosphere out there, and all bunch of bloggers who are speaking their own truth to power.
The name of the game is not the blogosphere, but the connections that the bloggers can forge with mainstream media. Already you have mainstream journalists who blog and vice-versa. Presumably, those folks will be on all sides.
But far be it from to dampen the optimism of a rightwing blogger. Usually, those guys are full of doom and gloom.