Navigate to News section

The Ding-Dong Derby

The Shallowest, Least Thoughtful Commentators of the Week

Liel Leibovitz
July 25, 2014

Tablet is a Jewish publication. This means that we have an obligation to cover Israel seriously and constantly. Often, most of us wish that weren’t the case; it would be nice, especially on weeks like these, to take a quick break and tune out for a bit. But we can’t, so the next best thing we can do is make sure that Israel coverage, ours and everyone else’s, meets the basic requirements of professional journalism. By this we don’t mean forging some sort of consensus: read our site, and you’ll see worldviews on both the left and the right. As long as a piece is eloquent and based on a reasonable interpretation of the facts, we’d love to publish it.

But since the recent round of fighting in Gaza began, we’re seeing more and more cases of a maddening phenomenon we’ve always noticed and always hated: the rise of the ding-dong. The ding-dong isn’t someone who is being provocative or incendiary or even overtly political; it’s a certain brand of journalist, pundit, academic, or intellectual who takes the liberty of making profoundly outrageous statements about the conflict, with no regard for reality and with no fear of consequence. This upsets us first and foremost not as Jews but as journalists: anyone covering health care, say, or immigration, or the Asian commodities market, would never have allowed themselves to opine independently of historical context, irrespective of facts, and without any attempt to learn the turf, cultivate sources, or gain concrete experience. All these things aren’t just tolerated when it comes to Israel; they’re encouraged and deeply rewarded, being regarded as marks of intelligence and keen moral values.

Enough. All reporters make mistakes sometimes, and we all occasionally churn out stuff of which we’re not exactly proud. But the Ding-Dongs go way past that. They have allowed their basic sense of morality, their basic capacity to observe and analyze reality, to atrophy. They should therefore not be taken seriously, now or at any later date, about Israel or any other topic. We cannot afford their complacency, laziness, and sheer mindlessness. We give you, then, the Ding-Dong Derby, a weekly round-up of the worst of the worst.

The first week’s class of graduates shows real distinction. Joining The New York TimesRobert Mackey–master purveyor of cherry-picked facts, hand-selected quotes, and half-truths who snidely blogs without any real reporting–are Allison Benedikt, for her inexcusably poor grasp of logic and causation and for suggesting that a young American-born Israeli soldier killed in Gaza was so lacking in moral agency that a brief trip years back was enough to sway him, like a Manchurian bit of hypnotic propaganda, to go and die for a country he had no other reason to love; and Hamilton Nolan, who, ignoring roughly five thousand years of history and geopolitics—not to mention a basic understanding of diplomacy, philosophy, and international relations—argued in Gawker that Israelis ought to leave their homeland and decamp to Germany.

Let’s give these ding-dongs the derision they deserve, and hope for a smaller, subtler batch of inductees in next week’s installment.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.