Archive for the ‘MEDIA’ Category

MANY PEOPLE SAY…

Where do you get news? I find print, broadcast and most online sources to be inaccurate and biased. Cover-ups abound. So I turn to common wisdom. That said, let me share some important stories you might not have seen.

Many people say President Obama is a Hindu. But wait! Isn’t he a Muslim? And wasn’t he born in Indonesia? That’s all a smokescreen spread by Mr. Obama himself. Actually, he was born in Mumbai and venerates all those gods with multiple arms because you need a lot of hands to toss around such traitorous untruths as, “I am a loyal American, and I root for the Chicago Bulls.”

Many people say Hillary and Bill Clinton were models for a character on the hit TV series “Breaking Bad.” If you saw the show, you know that a major New Mexico drug lord owned a string of fried-chicken restaurants. It all makes sense. Chicken is a bird. So is an eagle. Eagles fly high. The Clintons had $100 million dollars in gold flown in a Saudi plane to a safe house in the Swiss Alps should they ever need to flee the U.S. The transfer was coordinated by the State Department.

Many people say Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton founded ISIS. Fact is, ISIS is a phony Islamist movement bankrolled by Hindu India to keep the West off balance while India competes with China for dominance in Asia then the world. Just think about this: Why do we see so few clear photos of ISIS’ top leaders? Because most are Indian Hindus. Like Obama. And like Hillary, who was born Jewish—Hilda Rodhamsky, not Hillary Rodham—but fabricated her origins. Hillary became a Hindu after eating at an Indian restaurant in New York while enrolled, she says, in Yale Law School. (She attended law school at Brooklyn College. Check her emails.)

Many people say the world is 6,000 years old. That’s rounded off, since the coming Jewish New Year will be 5777, according to the dating established by the Rabbis of the Talmudic era almost 2,000 years ago. What about scientific evidence that the Big Bang brought the universe into existence as long as 14 billion years ago? And that the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old? Most Jews think traditional dating is metaphorical, but many Christian evangelicals know that science is not to be trusted. Witness the sin of inoculating children against diseases such as polio. How do we know science is bogus? Just check out truth-telling websites on your laptop, tablet or cell phone. Computer science? Just one more lie.

Many people say that Donald Trump will win 80 percent of the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College. No question, Mr. Trump is wildly popular with the American electorate. Mr. Trump says so. But the election is rigged, folks. Really. If Mr. Trump wins, well that’s only natural. If Mrs. Clinton wins, there’s probably a Hindu hand (see above) pulling the leavers. More than one hand, actually.

Now you know the truth, which puts a heavy responsibility on your shoulders. But not to worry. When you try to set people straight and they seem skeptical—if not downright hostile—declare your objectivity. Tell them, “I’m just saying what many people say. Me? I don’t know.”

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. Also, many people say my novel Flight of the Spumonis is a hoot. Break your piggy bank and buy it now at Amazon.

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SAN BERNARDINO

In a way, San Bernardino in Southern California’s Inland Empire has become America’s Paris and also its Jerusalem.

Why Paris? The City of Light symbolizes Western enlightenment and respect for human rights—values Islamists deplore. Why Jerusalem? The capital of Israel—even if the United States maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv—represents another symbol deplored by Islamists. It’s the power of Jews to direct their own future in the Middle East no longer subjugated, and periodically persecuted, under Muslim rule.

Why San Bernardino? While major cities across the nation guard against Islamist terrorism—New York and Boston have been there—“San Berdoo” in Southern California’s Inland Empire proved a target of opportunity. A Muslim couple—local residents—appear to have chosen to make a statement: No one is safe anywhere in America.

Much investigative work remains before conclusions can be drawn about whether the couple—he American-born, she Pakistani-born and raised in Saudi Arabia where they met—constituted a sleeper cell of ISIS or one of the Al Qaeda groups. But they seem to have become radicalized at some point, possibly years ago. And the military-style clothing, body armor, automatic weapons and remote-controlled bombs hint at long-term planning indicative of much more than a workplace confrontation.

Here, I want to go back to Israel, the Islamist mindset and Western perceptions. While Paris has been tense but thankfully quiet for the last few weeks, Jerusalem and all Israel continue to face what some term the “Knife Intifada.” Many dozens of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians—women as well as men—have attacked Jewish civilians, soldiers and police. Most have used knives. A few have used vehicles. Some attackers have killed Israelis. Many attackers have been killed as Israelis defended themselves.

The West was riveted by Paris. Now, the American media understandably devotes much time to San Bernardino. Yet while Frenchmen and Americans are up in arms, the story in Israel arouses little ire. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry appear to see these as “small” political attacks divorced from Islamism and anti-Semitism. Mr. Kerry initially suggested the “logic” of disillusioned Arabs in Israel and on the West Bank expressing frustration with the failure of talks to establish a Palestinian State.

When it comes to Israel, the media often skews the situation. On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle’s World section headlined: “Israeli troops kill 2 Palestinians after stabbing attempts.” Imagine running the headline, “California police kill 2 Muslims after shots fired in government building.”

That said let’s not lust after simple solutions. Fighting a totalitarian pathology like Islamism—Muslim but not to be confused with Islam—represents a complex undertaking. We’ll likely see more U.S. military muscle in Syria and Iraq during 2016. That’s just one piece of the puzzle.

Regrettably, we’re also likely to see more anti-Muslim paranoia. That’s both wrong and foolish. As Haider Ali Hussein Mullick, a Navy reserve officer and teacher at the Naval War College wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “If we don’t want to play into the hands of Islamic State propaganda that America is at war with Islam, we must stand up against Islamophobia.” As rhetoric heats up may cool heads prevail.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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TRUTH AND FICTION

They—whoever they may be—say that truth is stranger than fiction. As a novelist and a lover of satire, I’ll go along with that. Because based on what recently transpired in Afghanistan and what I’ve recently experienced with my novel Slick! truth indeed can make us wonder, “How did that happen?”

As to Afghanistan, we know that an American soldier allegedly (just using the legal jargon in self defense) massacred 16 civilians—women and children. You could write a novel about an incident like that. But in many ways, nothing you create would be any more moving, angering and mind blowing than this tale as it unravels regarding the alleged killer’s deeds, motivations and background, which appears to include multiple combat tours in the Middle East, a head injury and marriage problems.

At the same time, nothing I wrote in Slick! including the march during which Moq’tari protestors chant, “Hoops yes! Bagels no!” could be more bizarre than the radio report of the Taliban, allegedly representing God and a higher civilization, referring to American soldiers as animals and calling for their heads to be chopped off. You can make this stuff up, but you don’t have to. A satirist just observes the world and lets loose.

As for me—hey, it’s my blog and I can self-promote all I want—a writer from Kirkus Reviews interviewed me last Sunday for a profile scheduled to appear in the April 15 issue. The publication, which has reviewed books since 1933 and calls itself “The World’s Toughest Book Critics,” gave Slick! a great review and awarded it a Star as a book of “remarkable merit”—their description, not mine. I checked out their site. Not many books get a Star, including those brought out by major publishing companies.

What I find gratifying is that I published Slick! independently—a euphemism for “I couldn’t get an agent let alone find a publisher.” So there’s stuff here for a novel. Writer writes book. Writer believes in book. Writer’s editor, wife and a few friends believe in book. No one else does. Except a major industry publication.

And then I get a call to appear on a local show, Mosaic (CBS-5, San Francisco) to talk about my non-fiction book, God’s Others: Non-Israelites Encounters With God in the Hebrew Bible. But maybe I’ll save that for next week.

Back to Slick! If all this was the plot in a popular novel, agents and editors would soon be calling. I’d be swamped with offers. They’d also want to publish my follow-up novel set in Central America. And they’d be salivating over the other novel I just completed, an entirely different book about death, cancer, Down syndrome, stand-up comedy and dogs. The usual stuff. And let’s not even talk about Hollywood! On the other hand, a more literary novel about my writing career might offer a different plot. Acclaimed work. No agent or publisher in sight. A man writes into his sunset years waiting discovered in vain. Move over, Vincent van Gogh.

Okay, I’m dramatizing. But truth writes itself every day in so many ways that often resemble fiction. And every human life really is a novel that crafts itself. I plan to keep turning the pages to see how it all comes out.

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Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.

DOUBLE STANDARDS

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff offered an interesting parenthetical remark on August 4: “(Whenever I write about Israel, I get accused of double standards because I don’t spill as much ink denouncing worse abuses by, say, Syria. I plead guilty. I demand more of Israel partly because my tax dollars supply arms and aid to Israel. I hold democratic allies like Israel to a higher standard — just as I do the U.S.)”

It’s nice that Mr. Kristoff recognizes Israel as the democratic ally it is. As it happens, Israel as a Jewish state should and does hold to—if not always meet—the highest standards. But expecting more of Israel does create a double standard. This is particularly troublesome in the face of Syria’s repression of its own people, a response so blatant and violent that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah demanded “an end to the death machine and bloodshed.” And let’s face it. The Saudis run a pretty tight ship when it comes to human rights and dissent.

Israelis and Jews in general are only human. Witness the Book of Deuteronomy, which we’re now studying. In verses 28:15–68, Moses offers the Tokechah (reproof)—a list of curses in ascending severity that will befall the Israelites if they fail to heed God’s commandments. God has set the very highest standards of human behavior. But the Israelites remain only flesh and blood in spite of being created b’tzelem Elohim—in the image of God. Otherwise, the Tokechah would have been irrelevant.

If Mr. Kristoff feels the need to point out modern Israel’s failings, fine. Israelis and Jews worldwide do, too. Israel has always been filled with political debate and expression. Last Saturday, 250,000 Israelis protested wage disparities and costly housing. No batons. No bullets. How’s that for meeting a higher standard than in Cairo, Hama or Tehran?

Nonetheless, injustice follows when the world fails to hold other nations to Israel’s standards. Hypocrites dismiss those nations’ violence and hatred then present Israelis as wrongdoers for fighting back when violence and hatred are directed at them. Such warped thinking makes targets of Jews everywhere.

In the contexts of both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Arab Spring, the concept of higher standards also establishes Arabs—particularly Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah—and Iranians as childlike and undeveloped. They act badly because they simply don’t know better. Thus they can’t be expected to meet accepted standards of decency. No matter how terribly they speak and act, they don’t disappoint and so fail to draw condemnation. It is Israel that, when attacked, must defend itself against accusations of “disproportional response.” Given the demands that democracy makes on any nation and the hopes that democracy may some day flourish in the Middle East, how condescending is that?

So please, Mr. Kristoff, don’t put Israel and Jews on a pedestal. We do enough of that ourselves. Double standards serve only to turn world opinion against us for no good reason while providing Syria’s Bashar Assad and other Middle East tyrants a pass to act outrageously. As a columnist for the Times, shouldn’t your writing meet a higher standard?

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TRON AND TORAH

The Mishnah (Oral Torah), edited around 220 CE by Rabbi Judah HaNasi (Judah the Prince), offers wisdom from Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah: Im ein kemach, ein Torah / Im ein Torah, ein kemach (Avot 3:17). Without bread (literally flour) there is no Torah and without Torah, there is no bread.

Hungry people trying to survive lack the energy and time to study. But without studying the Law or in the broadest terms without cultivating a sense of the moral, ethical and spiritual, we compromise our ability to survive physically. Many of the decisions we make—like rushing to war—harm both others and ourselves.

But do we really need Torah—or its equivalent in the culture of your choice—to produce food and life’s necessities? Hollywood has delivered the answer yet again, although I find its latest statement highly paradoxical.

On Christmas Day, my family and I had dim sum for lunch and saw the movie, Tron: Legacy that evening. Tron: Legacy leads me to offer a principle related to that of R. Elazar on which the movie both touches and abandons: Without Torah there is no meaningful technology.

I like Tron: Legacy’s premise that “users”—human beings—are more important than “programs,” the technology itself. Conflict develops on the Grid (within the computer environment) when programs oppress users who find their way in. The programs—technology—have sought to create perfection but fallen short. They’re angry and violent. Humans understand that perfection is impossible. The Mishnah cites Rabbi Tarphon: “You are not required to complete the work  [repairing the world], but you are not free to abandon it” (Avot 2:16). The tension can be overwhelming.

Of course, Tron: Legacy is not the first film to examine the impact of technology on humanity. But Tron: Legacy’s Imax/3D version seemed to undermine anything human about the film. The computer-generated images represent a complex, sophisticated technological achievement. Yet they only distract from a weak, cliché-riddled script. A great many reviewers agree.

While technology can augment a good film, it makes a poor substitute for human vision beautifully and meaningfully expressed. Technology for its own sake exploits audiences while pretending to enlighten them. It brings to mind the old saying about software development: Garbage in, garbage out.

Not that Tron: Legacy won’t be profitable. But Hollywood’s love of blockbusters dependent on technology denies many filmmakers the opportunity to tell stories on a smaller scale that touch both mind and heart. The King’s Speech, relying on a great script and wonderful acting, represents such a film.

Technology is a means not an end. We can use it to bake and distribute more bread or create empty illusions that leave us hungry. Technology—in Hollywood or in our homes—will better serve us with a little more attention to Torah.

STUMBLING BLOCKS AND THE MEDIA

All the world’s a stage, Jaques comments in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Shakespeare, however, could not anticipate how literally that statement would be taken centuries later following the establishment of the United Nations. World leaders love to strut upon that particular stage—none more than Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Given yet another 15 minutes of fame at the UN General Assembly on September 23, Ahmadinejad offered that most of the world believes that the United Sates staged the horrific attacks of September 11. Slaughtered its own people to reverse a declining economy and save the Zionist—“Israel” remains a proscribed word—regime.

Over thirty delegations, led by the United States, walked out. Their protest did not halt Ahmadinejad’s speech. It wasn’t meant to.

Whether deliberately hateful remarks should be allowed in such a world forum raises continuing questions regarding free speech, a value the Iranian regime does not uphold. Restrictions on speech that falls short of inciting violence—drawing that particular line presents no easy task—lead down a very slippery slope. If the United Nations believes in free speech—and it does so at least in corporate theory—then vicious speakers like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be offered the podium year after year. Yet I wonder if the UN and the cause of peace it espouses might not be better served if it required world leaders to forego geopolitics and focus on issues addressing the world’s basic problems of poverty, hunger, disease, education and human rights.

The Torah offers wisdom to consider. It commands us not to “place a stumbling block before the blind” (Lev. 19:14). The Rabbis interpret “stumbling block” not as a physical item but as temptation placed before the morally blind. Leave your wallet on a restaurant table while you go to the restroom, and someone might take it—although the thief might never have considered removing it from your pocket or purse let alone threatened the use of force. Therefore we are not to aid and abet the morally weak.

Ahmadinejad and his like know that the world is their stage because the media does aid and abet. It welcomes their venom even when it is spewed for no other reason than to gain media attention. Hate speech may be bad news for those who cleave to Leviticus’ commandment to, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). But it’s good news for ratings and readership.

In truth, the media places stumbling blocks before the blind with alarming frequency. (See my previous post, “Burning Books for Fun and Profit.”) Its willingness to report hate speech invites such speech. Thus the media doesn’t just respond to the news, it helps initiate it.

What to do? I don’t propose any easy answers. To a great degree, life isn’t about answers. It’s about questions. And I’m just asking.