Colgate is not enough

Last week a journalist had a very disgusting encounter with a group of Haredi men in Jerusalem. They were protesting the local council’s decision to open a municipal carpark on Saturdays, and she was there to report on their protest. She dressed conservatively, but then she accidentally walked up the wrong street.

I suddenly found myself in the thick of the protest – in the midst of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in their long coats and sable-fur hats. They might be supremely religious, but their behaviour – to me – was far from charitable or benevolent. As the protest became noisier and the crowd began yelling, I took my recorder and microphone out of my bag to record the sound. Suddenly the crowd turned on me, screaming in my face. Dozens of angry men began spitting on me. I found myself herded against a brick wall as they kept on spitting – on my face, my hair, my clothes, my arms. It was like rain, coming at me from all directions – hitting my recorder, my bag, my shoes, even my glasses. Big gobs of spit landed on me like heavy raindrops. I could even smell it as it fell on my face. Somewhere behind me – I didn’t see him – a man on a stairway either kicked me in the head or knocked something heavy against me.

Why? Because ‘using a tape-recorder is itself a desecration of the Shabbat even though I’m not Jewish and don’t observe the Sabbath.’ That’s why.

In other words, a minor, formal, mechanical, petty rule is so important that it justifies dozens of men spitting all over a woman because she breaks it. In other words, something of no inherent importance whatsoever justifies revolting intimidation and bullying and humiliation of a human being.

Right. Just so, the action of a Florida college student in removing a cracker from a church justified death threats and a campaign to get him expelled from his university.

But the Toothpaste Twins don’t see it that way. They see it the other way. They think it’s the trivial infraction that is enormously important while the intimidation and attempted life-spoiling is trivial. They must, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t keep publicly raving about PZ Myers and his destruction of a cracker without mentioning the bullying and death threats directed at the student.

[W]e will end by elaborating upon why, in the wake of the communion wafer desecration, we decided we had to speak out about Myers in a way that would really be heard…[W]e were appalled. We could not see what this act could possibly have to do with promoting science and reason. It contributed nothing to the public understanding or appreciation of science, and everything to a nasty, ugly culture war that hurts and divides us all.

There’s a lot more in that vein, and very emetic it is. It’s also very misleading, because it never mentions the college student, just as the Newsweek article doesn’t.

I tell you what. I would dearly love to see a crowd of some five hundred women or so – a crowd big enough to win – surround that mob of Haredi men and turn on a whole truckload of recording equipment. You bet I would. No violence, no spitting, no pushing up against a wall, no kicking – just a spot of payback combined with demonstration. Demonstration of what? The unimportance of rules of this kind, that’s what. If people want to make them important to themselves, fine, but when it comes to punishing other people for failing to observe them – that’s bad and wrong and intolerable.

Would the Toothpaste Twins be appalled if a bunch of women did that? Apparently, they would. Their thinking is fucked badly up.

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