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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele — last modified Dec 08, 2023 10:11 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included Ivy League University Presidents and antisemitism, a second thread about antisemitism and elite universities, the best known songs of our generation, and what major to choose if planing to go to medical school.

Once again the Gaza war thread led as most active yesterday. That was followed by two threads that are directly related to the war. The first was titled, "Stefanik Ivy Presidentd" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. The title, which suffered from both a typo and a lack of clarity, referred to a Congressional hearing during which Republican Representative Elise Stefanik asked a panel of university presidents whether calls for genocide were prohibited on their campuses. To be clear, Stefanik was referring to calls for the genocide of Jews which is a somewhat ironic concern given that something very close to, if not actual, genocide is currently being perpetrated by Israel against the residents of Gaza. Moreover, unpacking what Stefanik means by "calls for genocide" is itself a challenge. The Congresswoman explicitly referred to calls for "intifada" which in Arabic means "to shake off" but generally refers to Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank during which Palestinian teenagers used stones to fight the Israeli military. In no way does "intifada" mean "genocide". Similarly, many in the pro-Israel crowd claim the slogan, "Free Palestine from the River to the Sea" as being a call for genocide. While I have criticized that slogan, it does not refer to genocide. The college presidents, knowing that Stefanik clearly considers calls for genocide to include expressions that are not normally thought to be calls for genocide, were put in a bit of a conundrum and, unfortunately, fumbled their responses. Had they been asked whether a call to "kill all the Jews" violated their speech codes, certainly they all would have answered in the affirmative. But, instead, they were asked whether Stefanik's unorthodox and inaccurate definition of calls for genocide is allowed. That is a more difficult question. Unfortunately, in today's politicalized world, few are interested in doing the intellectual work to understand why what sounded like a simple question was actually much more complex. As a result, the presidents have come under considerable pressure and targeted with severe criticism. At the basis of this controversy is an effort among many in the pro-Israel camp to not only control speech, but to control the very definition of words. They have understandably and commendably made antisemitism unacceptable. But, now there are efforts to go further. Being opposed to Israel is considered antisemitism. Opposing Zionism is defined as antisemitism. Supporting Palestinians is considered anti-Israel and, hence, antisemitic. Slogans such as calling for an "intifada" or "Free Palestine From the River to the Sea" are allowed to be defined, not by those who use them, but by those who oppose their use and labeled as antisemitic. In this manner, pressure is applied to prohibit anything that is against the interests of Israel from being said. It is an effort to suppress pro-Palestinian speech entirely and has little to do with actual antisemitism.

A very closely-related topic was the subject of the next most active thread. Posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum and titled, "Will there be fewer applicants to Harvard, Penn, MIT next year?", the original poster asks whether, as a result of the failure of the presidents of these universities to provide clear responses regarding antisemitism during the Congressional hearing discussed above, the number of applicants to these schools will drop. Most of those replying do not believe there will be a drop in applications. Generally, there seems to be an assumption that any drop would be due to Jewish students refusing to apply to the schools. A number of posters dispute that notion, arguing that Jewish students will still want to attend those schools, that similar anti-Israel or arguably antisemitic sentiments are common on other campuses as well, or that there are not equally good alternatives to these universities. Other posters contend that there will be a drop-off, not only among Jewish applicants, but non-Jews as well. These posters suggest that there are many suitable alternatives. This notion, in turn, is dismissed due to the belief among other posters that any drop-off would be alleviated by an increase by applicants from other groups, particularly Asians. In fact, several posters argue that there will likely be an increase in applications because some students may think that their chances of acceptance will be enhanced by others avoiding the schools. Similar thinking was demonstrated by posters who predicted that the number of applications will increase, but the quality of applicants will go down. Regardless of the quality of applicants, others argued, the abilities of the students accepted will remain high because many equally-qualified applicants are turned down for each one that is accepted. Much of the debate in this thread has less to do with the specifics of the presidents' response to Congressional questioning and more to do with posters' general attitudes towards the universities' administrations in general. There has been considerable controversy in some quarters about how elite universities are being run and this latest episode has simply become another issue in that ongoing debate.

The next most active thread was the one about Maury Elementary School that has been hanging around the top of the most active list for a while now. I've discussed that thread previously so will skip it now. Next was a thread titled, "Best Known Song of Your Generation" and posted in the "Entertainment and Pop Culture" forum. The original poster says that this thread was inspired by a New York Times article discussing the widespread popularity of the song by The Killers, "Mr. Brightside". That article has provoked at least one other DCUM thread in addition to this one. According to the article's author, just as "Don’t Stop Believin" may have been the song that boomers gave to the masses, "Mr. Brightside" is the contribution of millennials. While I have been familiar with "Mr. Brightside" since it was initially released and rather like the song, until the two DCUM threads about it I had no idea that it was so popular. It's not even my favorite Killers song. But, if the New York Times is to be believed, it's "a song that gets everybody at the bar shout-singing along". Note that I would not be among those singing because I can't remember the lyrics. At any rate, the original poster asks that others suggest their top song choice and generation. I should provide my usual caveat that I hate generational labels and, therefore, reject the notion that generations have favorites songs. So, as far as I'm concerned, this thread is based on a false premise. One of the first posters to respond didn't mention her generation (I applaud this oversight), but suggested Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Guns 'N Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine". I agree that both of the songs are very representative of an era of music, if not a particular generation. Not everyone agreed with the Times about the importance of either song the article mentioned. The popularity of "Don’t Stop Believin" was disputed and one poster suggested that Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" or Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Sun" would be better nominees. Posters mentioned a number of great songs that were highly reflective of my own tastes in music. For instance, Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" are so ingrained that I actually try to avoid them due to over-familiarity.

The final thread at which I'll look today was posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. Titled, "If your kid wants to go to med school, what are they doing as an undergraduate major?", the original poster and her husband are having a disagreement about their son's major. He wants to go to medical school and the original poster's husband thinks he should major in chemistry or biomedical engineering while the original poster thinks he should major in history and take lots of science courses. Their son doesn't seem to care either way. Those responding report majors all across the board, but are heavily slanted towards various science-related programs. Several posters argue that the important factor should be choosing a school that has a strong medical school placement program because getting into a top medical school is so difficult. It is clear from the responses that lots of different majors have been successful paths to medical school. Nevertheless, some posters insist that biology or chemistry are the most appropriate pre-med majors. One poster argued, "if you’re not interested in biology or chemistry, medicine is not for you". But plenty of other posters disagree. Another factor that posters consider important is the workload of a major considering that difficult science classes will also be taken. The original poster's husband, as well as other posters, favor majors that could lead to good jobs if medical school didn't pan out. A side argument also broke out about which medical schools were best.

Give me a break says:
Dec 08, 2023 03:15 PM
Stefanik with the “when did you stop beating your wife” questions
Anonymous says:
Dec 09, 2023 01:58 PM
Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read a more anti-semitic sympathizing post than what I read above. Gross.
Jeff Steele says:
Dec 09, 2023 02:07 PM
LOL, perfect illustration of my point.
Anonymous says:
Dec 09, 2023 11:20 PM
If you think that normalizing hate speech against Jewish students on campus, or calling out your rationalization of calling for violent intifada “proves your point,” perhaps your points are utterly misguided and inherently sympathetic towards violent extremism.
Jeff Steele says:
Dec 10, 2023 11:52 AM
If you have to redefine words to have meanings that they never previously had in order to make your point, you are perhaps a bit misguided yourself. You are free to disagree with the right of Palestinians to resist occupation. But, you are not free to create an entirely different definition of the word with which they use for their resistance. Opposition to the Israeli occupation is not antisemitic, no matter how much you seem to wish that it were.
Anonymous says:
Dec 10, 2023 02:59 PM
Israel hasn’t occupied Gaza since 2005, and let’s not pretend this is a war about the West Bank. Israel is a sovereign state, created by and recognized by the UN and the world, and your referring it to as occupied Palestine tells me all I need to know.

The previous intifadas involved years of terrorist attacks in the form of suicide bombings and knife attacks on Israelis at the hands of Palestinian. I am only defining it how the Palestinians have manifested it themselves. You are being obtuse in an attempt to whitewash the terror and violence that an intifada calls for and means. I consider myself pro two state solution, but comments and attitudes like yours make honestly make me wonder why. Why should I have peaceful intentions when you are okay with inciting violence against Jewish students on college campuses, lamely calling it anti semitism? If annti-semitism nd anot-Zionism anre so distinctive from one another, why are you okay with Jewish students being targeted in the pro Palestinian movement? Why do you chalk the resistance to that as an effort to suppress the pro Palestinian voice? You are incredibly biased and seemingly un self aware, which is the frightening and sad part for someone with any platform.
Jeff Steele says:
Dec 10, 2023 03:44 PM
The "Intifada" broke out in the West Bank. As luck would have it, I was in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the first weeks of the first Intifada. So, I have first hand knowledge of what was occurring at that time. The Intifada was characterized by young men and boys throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who responded by following orders to "break the bones" of protesters. That response escalated to the use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters. Sure, there have been acts of terrorism throughout the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but those are not what distinguished the Intifada. It was a mass protest movement against the occupation.

Even if we accept your claim that the Intifada included acts of terrorism, surely you agree that those attacks were aimed at the occupying power of the West Bank, which is Israel. The acts were anti-Israeli, not anti-Jewish. So, why do you and Stefanik suggest that not only is supporting intifada antisemitic, but a call for genocide? It is neither.

I am not okay with Jewish students, or any other students, being harassed on campuses. But, calling for an intifada, is not a call for genocide. Suggesting that it is only mischaracterizes things. I will happily condemn a call for actual genocide. I will condemn any call for harassment of anyone, especially based on their religion or ethnicity. But, students have the right to call for resistance to occupation. I used to to that as a student protesting Apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was in jail at that time for violent resistance. Your effort to declare the current slogans antisemitic and supporting genocide is simply an effort to suppress the speech of pro-Palestinian students.

One last thing, please tell me what language that supports the Palestinian's resistance to the occupation of the West Bank and the devastation of Gaza is allowable? What can those who oppose Israel's actions say without being called antisemitic?
Anonymous says:
Dec 10, 2023 10:03 PM
Glad to hear that in theory, you oppose harassment of Jewish students on college campuses (in practice, you seem indifferent about the line between free speech and inciting violence though.)

I’m sorry that to you, calls for intifada is as innocuous as throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. It’s also interesting to me that you view a few terror attacks within the intifada as collateral damage within a larger war, while you argue in your original post that Israel’s retaliation to dismantle Hamas - after a mass terror attack that Palestinians insinuated- is a “genocide.” Again, this just underscores how unbiased your opinion is, try hard as you may to paint it as a rational, balanced point of view.

What language is allowable about Gaza? I don’t know. How about peaceful rallies that don’t involve chan to annihilate a sovereign nation in its entirety. I am against Netanyahu and against the occupation of the West Bank, but I am also against the very rampant vitriol that exists within the pro Palestinian movement. How about calls for a two state solution within the pro Palestinian movement we see very little of that - instead, what we see is college kids harassing jewish (American) kids on campus for being visibly Jewish, or making Jewish populations feel threatened on college campuses and beyond, by ripping down posters ofkidnapped Israeli civilians, or violent rallies where protestors are calling for Israel’s annihilation and holding signs to get rid of the Jews- maybe someone should tell *them* to make a distinction between Israeli political policy and Jewish people.

Lastly, your your point about occupation in the West Bank is irrelevant to Gaza, which hasn’t been occupied in nearly 20 years. Why are we even talking about the West Bank within the context of what’s happening in Gaza? Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map. They are not protesting what’s happening in the West Bank under the PA. You are using the West Bank as a crutch to blame Israel for retaliating against Hamas in a war that hamas initiated.
Jeff Steele says:
Dec 10, 2023 10:23 PM
You are rambling all over the place but failed to understand a basic point. The Palestinian Intifadas took place in the West Bank. The first and second Intifadas -- again, which were in the West Bank -- represent what Palestinians mean when they use the word "intifada". They mean a mass protest movement to end the occupation. You and Stefanik claim that "intifada" refers to genocide and is therefore antisemitic. That is not true. We have a clear examples of what "intifada" means and it is not genocide, but a mass resistance movement aimed at ending the occupation.

Jewish students and Muslims students are being harassed at universities. I condemn the harassment in both cases. There have been displays of antisemitism which I also condemn. But, charges of antisemitism are also being used to infringe speech that is not antisemitic. People like you redefine words like "intifada" to mean something they have never meant. Then, you declare the words you have wrongly defined to be antisemitic.

Notice that you were not able to articulate a single thing that could be said in opposition to the Israeli government that is occupying the West Bank and devastating Gaza. Apparently, there is nothing in opposition to the government that you think is acceptable. Criticism of the Israeli government is simply not to be allowed and, if it occurs, is declared to be antisemitic.
Anonymous says:
Dec 09, 2023 11:16 PM
I'm truly impressed someone has guts to publicly verbalize differentiation between anti- jewish and anti-Israeli government sentiments.
Anonymous says:
Dec 10, 2023 10:44 PM
This is so sad.

You truly believe that the vision behind “from the river to the sea” includes safety for the current population of Israel? How about for Jews?

Literally everyone knows that the quiet part of “from the river to the sea” is “no Jews”. That’s why the slogan isn’t “from the river part of the way to the sea”. It’s a call for the annihilation of Israel, and if you think that Jews could live safely in NeoPalestine, you haven’t been paying attention to the past hundred years.

It pains me deeply to agree with Elise Stefanik about anything, but she made a decent point here. In the number of words that the presidents used to babble about context, they could have clearly said “Calling for violence against Jews is absolutely against our code of conduct.” They did not.
Jeff Steele says:
Dec 11, 2023 10:43 AM
"From the River to the Sea" is silent about what would happen to Jewish residents of that territory. This is why I have criticized the slogan. It's not true that "everyone knows" that it means "no Jews". That is simply your interpretation and it is one that is not shared by most of those who use the slogan. Generally, those using the slogan say that is is calling for a single state in which all residents have the same rights. Others argue that it reflects a desire for even less than that, for instance saying that it is an aspirational desire for Palestinians living in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank to be free regardless of the political arrangements. In that case, even a two-state solution would be supported.

Had Stefanik limited her question to asking about genocide and antisemitism, I agree that her questions could have been answered easily. However, she suggested that calling for an "intifada" was a call for genocide. It is not and that complicated the issue. I agree that the presidents should have been deft enough to have responded more appropriately, but it was not such a cut and dry issue as you suggest.
Dee Green says:
Dec 16, 2023 03:04 PM
The comments are very concerning! Are you all that brainwashed? How do you support the genocide of Palestinians at the hands of Israel, yet want to make it look like the victims are the Israelis!!!!! I hope all of you go through one night of what the Palestinians are going through right now, so you can finally understand how wrong you are!
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