The problem wth instant histories: an absence of historical perspective

…the problem with instant histories: an absence of historical perspective. If the recent economic uptick is sustained, the unemployment rate keeps falling, and Obama wins a second term in November, the vicissitudes of his first term may eventually appear in a more flattering light. In early 1984, Reagan was widely viewed as a divisive and controversial figure. Twelve years later, it was Bill Clinton. It is amazing what a prosperous second term can do for a President’s reputation.

John Cassidy, “Replay,” The New Yorker (26 March 2012), 105.

, , , ,

The Hafetz Hayyim oddly does not have challenged ideas

R. Yisrael Meir Ha-Cohen’s Sefer Chafetz Chayim is the only major work that touches on these issues, though it does not, to my knowledge, discuss newspapers explicitly. There has not been much debate concerning the arguments made by R. Yisrael Meir Ha-Cohen in his classic work, which surprises me. That is not to denigrate, Heaven forbid, the scholarship of the Chafetz Chayim; but, in Halakhah, all the great works are debated and challenged. Challenging the arguments made in a halakhic work is often a sure sign of its enduring relevance.

Michael Pershan, “Halakhic Values of Journalism,” Responsibility Inscribed, vol. 1 (2012), 34.

Demographers tend to be a feisty crowd

The national Jewish surveys done in 1990 and 2000 were the subject of much controversy because of questions like these. Additionally, in the 2000 survey, data was said to have been lost, misunderstood and miscounted.

Demographers, it turns out, also tend to be a feisty crowd, and after both national surveys they publically ripped into their peers’ methodologies and analysis.

But Phillips said that what outsiders perceive as catfights are pretty standard for the academic world, where merciless peer reviews are common. He points out, too, that all the demographers who criticize each other continue to work together and share data sets.

Julie Gruenbaum Fax, “Who Knows Who L.A.’s Jews Are?,” The Jewish Journal (27 July-2 August 2012), 37.