Friday, July 12, 2013

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 KILOBYTES


Before my daughter posts anything on Facebook, my wife repeats her favorite maxim about never writing anything you wouldn’t want to see published on the front page of the New York Times. She never warned me, however, that anything I’d written would eventually appear on an anti-Semitic website without my knowing it.



While putting together an online résumé, I needed to find the links of some newspaper pieces I’d written. During a Google search, I was shocked to find my name on an unfamiliar site with the foreboding name of Jew Watch. Knowing full well the rabbit warren of craziness that the internet can be, I nevertheless couldn’t resist clicking the link to find out how I wound up at a place whose tolerance level puts the "mini" in "miniscule."



It took only a second – just long enough to notice the hammer and sickle in place of the “c” in the Jew Watch banner – to confirm my all too-obvious hunch. This discovery, however, lead to further questions. The page I was directed to was devoted to a lengthy biography of Al Jolson -- real name, we’re warned, Asa Yoelson, just so we don’t forget who we’re dealing with. What was a biography of a Jewish entertainer doing on an anti-Semitic site, and what did it have to do with me?



It was only when I scrolled down the page I realized the biography excerpted a couple of sentences from a 2008 magazine piece I’d written on celebrity endorsements in politics. Jolson, I had mentioned, appeared to be the first 20th-century show business figure to actively campaign for a presidential candidate – in this case, Warren Harding. While factually accurate, the entire article was clearly written tongue-in-cheek, something you wouldn’t have realized from the way it was selectively quoted here. I doubt anyone was really “enthralled” by a song called “Harding, You’re the Man for Us” – outside of the candidate’s mistress, that is.



More disturbing, of course, was my name appearing anywhere near a site that claimed to be a “Scholarly Library of Facts about Domestic & Worldwide Zionist Criminality” – the capitalization of adjectives and nouns being the province of scholars, apparently. In addition to its predictable theories regarding 9/11, Hollywood, “banksters,” etc., there was a photo section called “Jewish Faces.” Debra Winger receives something of a pass here, with a caption under her photo informing us that she “looks like a mix, but we have no source.” Let’s be grateful they’re not passing along uncorroborated information!



Still, the comprehensive work put in by someone who asks “Where have all the Aryans gone?” was almost impressive. The cognitive dissonance necessary to write objective biographies of people you loathe – presumably in the spirit of “Know Your Enemy” -- while remaining true to your beliefs must be pretty agonizing.



Well, maybe not so much. It soon became clear that most of the biographies were copied word for word from Wikipedia, footnotes and all, without attribution. The rest were simply linked to their source –- again, Wikipedia. What’s the world coming to when you can’t trust a paranoid anti-Semite for original reporting?



Returning to Google, I discovered Wikipedia’s Jolson article, including my name in the footnotes, had been republished on several other sites unknown to me, including Radio Swiss Jazz, The Super Click, Darwin Central and something called My Greasy. Remind me to update my Linked In account.



It's a strange thing to find your name on sites you’ve never heard of. Stranger still when it's attached to one controlled by a fellow who, in another lifetime, would have been happy to use my relatives for target practice at Auschwitz. If there’s any consolation to be had, it’s that he has, last I checked, only 92 Facebook friends from a possible worldwide audience of 1.1 billion users. Justin Beiber, he isn’t.



As for the chance of my being quoted in some more outré sites in the future… well, as Al Jolson might have told me, “You ain't seen nothin' yet.” I just hope people Googling my name – if there are any – don’t come to some spurious conclusions by the company I appear to keep online. Like they say, you can’t choose your family or your cyberlinks.



Oh, and if Jew Watch’s creator is reading this – my father was Jewish but my mother was Catholic. Technically, this should be put me in the clear. I’d hate to see my photo on your “Jewish Faces” page unnecessarily. 

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