Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Tale of Two E-Mail Lists

There are several community-based e-mail lists in Jerusalem. One, which I will call List A, is a large city-wide list with at least one thousand members. Another, which I will call List B, comprises several neighborhoods and contains only several hundred members. The stated purpose of these lists is to allow their members to advertise goods and services and share pertinent information. Until recently, I was a member of both.

Several days ago, a message appeared on List A calling upon people to pressure government officials to cancel the World Pride event, which is scheduled to take place in Jerusalem later this year. The message included some offensive and disparaging language. I was amazed to see such a post on List A, since its moderators make a conscious effort to keep it free of politics and controversial topics. So I wrote to them to protest. It turns out that I was not alone: quite a few list members had written to say that such a message has no place on a purely informational list that is open to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs, political preference or sexual orientation.

The moderators of List A responded admirably, promptly deleting the offending message from the archives and issuing an apology. They also offered to help people on both sides of the issue to start their own dedicated e-mail lists, for and against the event, in order to satisfy their desire for self-expression while keeping List A free of controversy.

List B, which is much smaller than List A, is also meant to be an informational, non-political list. So when a similar message appeared there recently, I wrote another letter of protest. (Afterward, two people wrote to me off-list to say “Right on!”) The following day, the same person who had sent the first message to List B sent another, stronger one calling upon people to send protest faxes to government officials. The second message suggested several talking points for use in these faxes, one of which read as follows: “The police would cancel the parade if they thought they could not protect it properly.”

If they thought they could not protect it properly. That phrase set off alarm bells in my mind. Just how does one convince the leaders of a democratic country’s police force—one that has decades of experience dealing with terrorists, to boot—that they cannot protect a civilian event properly?

Why, by violence, of course, either actual or threatened. How else?

I wondered whether the ones behind this message remembered that last year, a man stabbed three people at the Pride Parade downtown. That man is now serving a twelve-year prison term. Oh, and the joke’s on him: the man he stabbed was not even gay.

Feeling that threats of violence—and actual instances of bloodshed—are much worse forms of sacrilege than the most flamboyant parade, I wrote another, stronger letter of protest. As a result, I was kicked off the list without warning or explanation.

I felt a bit disappointed, but not surprised.

Thank goodness for List A, whose moderators are menshes. As for List B: good riddance.

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