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05/11/2020 09:06:29 PM


Jordan Hiller

The Agenda of Agita


It was six weeks since Tzviki sneezed, Berel coughed, Lipa shivered and shook with fever, and Pinkus died. The Chelm Disease Council wisely told everyone to stay home until further notice. The problem was that the CDC had to listen to their own advice and with everyone home, no one knew when to come back out. Essential businesses were allowed to stay open so Slivovitz and Gefilte Fish continued to be available, but other than that, only the dreaded Mazhirim walked the streets. Their job was to warn anyone who stepped outside of their house to get back in. 

On day forty-three, Bauman stuck the brim of his cap through the doorway. "Nu!" yelled Mendy the Mazhir. Bauman ducked back inside, his heart racing. It was clearly too early to risk it. Two weeks later, Bauman cautiously stepped outside. “Nu!” barked Michel the Mazhir. Bauman dove for cover, back into the safety of his home. The very next day he snuck a peak through the window curtain where he saw, among others, his neighbor, Hirsch, strolling outside without a care in the world. He then observed Mendy run over to Hirsch crying, "Nu! - Nu! - Nu!" but Hirsch paid no mind. 

Later that day, when Bauman saw Hirsch returning home, he called out to him from a crack in the wall. "Hirsch! Hirsch!" Bauman whispered in his loudest voice. “How is it that you don’t worry about the Mazhirim?” 

Now, Hirsch was a confident and successful man and always spoke with authority. "The Mazhirim? Hirsch scoffed. “They don't know their left from their right. They merely yell at us to cause doubts."

"Doubts?" asked Bauman.

"Yes, doubts," answerer Hirsch. "They haven't a clue when is the right time to let us all out. The best they can do is cause doubts by yelling at everyone they see."

"I understand those doubts well," Bauman thought aloud. "I have them myself. All the time."

"That is how they like it," Hirsch asserted.

"So, why do you go out, Hirsch?" Bauman asked, wondering if the same lenient reasoning might apply to him.

"Me?" Hirsch said, smiling. "I never listen to Safek Nus."


This story is told not to wade into partisan waters. I am not a great fan of any politician other than Senator Todd Kaminsky, and that is only because he came to the YINWIES and was photographed alongside me while I wasn't wearing pants. 

Like many of you, I have been incessantly scrolling through the gut-churning, repetitive news cycle. There has been nothing in the history of civilization like the experience of paying close attention to the media over the past two months. Not just in the act of consuming the news, but – because it is 2020 – by delving into the trench of opinions that follow. Yes, the news now comes with pages and pages of 'Comments.' And those comments have 'Replies.' Some by real people and some by "bots." It's quite the mind-numbing exercise in self-destructive behavior.

After giving equal time to outlets all over the dial, my first conclusion is that while the label "Fake News" is a dangerous term to bandy about, calling much of the news 'agenda driven' is well-earned and accurate. The second thing I noticed is that the agenda being promoted is more than obvious. There is really no effort being made to mask it. And once having identified the given agenda (whatever it may be - and it varies of course), I am left only to guess the underlying basis for it. That is where I always get stuck. What could possibly make a news source – trusted by the public to provide information in an unbiased and accurate way – deliver its message with such a blatant agenda? 

I presume, depending on the agenda at hand, there are a multitude of disturbing answers, ranging from political affiliations to financial interests, but – because we are here to spend our time constructively, I want to focus on one specific and preeminent agenda. One which, in our day, vastly overwhelms the others I have observed. That is – as our title suggests and as our story depicts – the agenda of scaring the kishke out of us.  

Let us begin our analysis by looking directly into the mirror. As Torah Jews, we cannot dismiss the possibility that the agenda of causing anxiety and fear is meant for our own good. The crafters of our Halacha did not hide the fact that their motivation was often to keep us in line and securely on the straight and narrow. 

That we were sometimes made to think something was wrong and subject to punishment, even though it was inherently permitted. Their underlying reason being that such conditioning would prevent us from doing or coming to do the actual wrong thing. In their eyes, the dangerous thing. In other words, scaring us beyond what is appropriate is sometimes justified as being for our own good.

The Agenda of Agita: Part II

Fri, July 12 2024 6 Tammuz 5784