Friday, May 30, 2008

The History News Network -- Day One

Professor Rick Shenkman is editor of The History News Network, a Web site touted as being managed by historians, for historians. I have not posted there regularly, but when I have I have always found it interesting and agreeable. On 27 May I discovered that one thread dealing with an essay on the Exodus and The Miracle of Jewish History had been eviserated. Originally containing 76 posts, there were only 17 left. The missing posts were largely mine, and the rest were posts that pretended to deal seriously with what I had argued. My argument was to question the moral justification of God slaughtering the children of Egypt to benefit the children of the Hebrews. I argued that we really do not want to "celebrate" such obscenities. Of course, that's only my POV. Anyhow, here is what followed my discovery of institutional censorship on The History News Network, the web page by historians, for historians.]


On May 28, 2008, at 2:44 PM, Bradley Smith wrote:

Dear Professor Shenkman: By an unexpected and fortuitous (maybe they are the same thing) coincidence I have discovered that Bradley Smith's contribution to the discussion of Rabbi Blech's article on The Miracle of Jewish History -- has been sent down the memory hole. Or maybe it hasn't. It looks like it has. Although I am referred to consistently throughout what remains of the thread, I myself am not there.

This surprises me, as I have never heard that HNN would do anything like that, and I also find it a little comic -- in an ironic way. I wrote you yesterday about this. I understand you have more important things to do with your life than to explain this Orwellian situation to someone like me -- or rather, to me. Nevertheless, the nature of the intellectual suppression that appears to be manifest here, the forthright institutional censorship, might be something you are not even aware of.

If there is someone "editing" HNN that you are not aware of, and would not approve of, you might find it worth about six minutes of your time to look at the Blech thread. I would expect that you would be able to discover for yourself what has been done under your editorship. Four and a half minutes might do it.

Unless I am wrong. I am known far and wide to be technologically challenged. I'll download the thread as it is now for reference after I hear from you. In any event, I look forward to you, or one of your many editorial assistants, to tell me that I am wrong about what I suspect here, or to tell me that I am right and to put the best face on it that is possible.
Thank you -- Bradley Smith

From: HNN Editor
To: Bradley Smith
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 4:53 PM

Mr. Smith: Your comments were deleted and your account suspended because we found your posts to be in violation of our civility rules.
Rick Shenkman

On May 28, 2008, at 5:38 PM, Bradley Smith wrote:

Were all my posts on all the threads I participated in deleted, or only those re the Rabbi Blech article?

From: HNN Editor
To: Bradley Smith
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 7:50 PM


On May 28, 2008, at 7:59 PM, Bradley Smith wrote:

OK. My account is suspended. What does that mean? Suspended usually suggests something temporary. Suspended until when? Or in this case does suspended mean actually "cancelled"?

From: HNN Editor
To: Bradley Smith
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 9:27 PM

It means cancelled. If you want to return to HNN's boards you'd have to agree to abide by the civility rules--that means no ad hominem attacks, nothing even close to the line. We'd hold you to higher standards than others in light of your past record.

On May 28, 2008, at 10:35 PM, Bradley Smith wrote:

I'm willing, but I have not been told where I went wrong. I have been posting for maybe three years, never a complaint, never a word of warning, never a word of advice. I have thought I work the way you are telling me to work, but clearly there is something I don't understand. I never attack the other fellow. I always try to forward a point of view in the simplest way I can.

My posts being deleted appear to have followed my questioning of the moral issues involved with the Exodus story as suggested by Rabbi Blech's article. But I don't know. I have not been told. I can only think that I should not allow myself to question God's behavior toward the mothers of ancient Egypt. I don't know. But before that, there was never the hint, not a hint, of an issue from any quarter.

Was that it? The Egyptian mothers?

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