Ignorance is bliss


It all started with this post from infamous Business Insider head honcho, Henry Blodget. You can see in the URL that the original headline was “Why do people hate Jews?” In fact, this is now the #1 Google result for that question, a fact that makes me immesurably sad. I can only hope that people search instead for anti-semitism instead which returns significantly better results.

Why did Blodget do it? Linkbait? Genuine curiousity? It’s hard to believe that the latter could be true of a grown man living in New York City. I could perhaps understand the question if it came from a resident of some backwards small town, but not a cosmopolian New Yorker.

In case you missed this insanity when it first happened by the way, Daily Dot has a good Storify here and, incidentally, a screen grab of the original post’s headline and lead image which you can see was not originally Natalie Portman.

Today, these tweets started coming out of the suddenly popular Sweden Twitter account:

There were others, but the point is made. Apparently a lot of people are confused about why Jews are hated by some. I say this with absolutely sincerity. While I don’t think Henry Blodget and Sonja have much in common, it is notable that they share this exact same lack of understanding, little to no knowledge of history, religion and sheer ignorance of their, well, ignorance.

I wish I could say this is a limited phenomenon, but I don’t believe it is. I’m reminded of an incident in a computer lab at UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) in the basement of the Behavioral Sciences Building.

A fellow student sitting next to me was having some problems with her computer. I helped her. She was grateful and we struck up a conversation. I don’t remember how the topic came up, but she asked me what religion I practiced. I said I was Jewish. She looked confused. I thought that was just a culture, not a religion, she said. Taken aback, I asked her what religion she adhered to. She was a born-again Christian as it turned out and she was in the process of studying the Bible. I didn’t get into it with her, but you may have heard us Jews are in there too 😉

Flash forward 3 years or so and I’m working at the corporate headqurters of True Value, the hardware store cooperative. I’m the Coordinator (read: glorified secretary) of the Appliances & Electronics department. The girl who’s the Coordinator of the Hardware department goes on an excursion with myself and another coworker to Devon Ave, the area of Rogers Park in Chicago that’s home to Indians, Pakistanis, Russians and Jews, many of them Orthodox. She looks quizzically out the window at the Hassidim and wonderd why people around here wear those dark coats and hats. Are they Amish or something? she asks.

I have more stories like these, some even more incredible, but you get the picture.

I tell these stories not to gleefully point out that idiots are all around us, that ignorance is everywhere. I tell them to illustrate the point that what ignorance actually is is incredibly easy. It doesn’t take much to be ignorant. It doesn’t take any effort at all. On the other hand, it takes effort to be intellectually curious, well-read, etc.

This to me is the worst part about Blodget’s post, Sonja’s questions and anyone else who has wondered aloud about this topic. The worst part isn’t that they’re ignorant, but that they don’t care that they’re ignorant. They think it’s acceptable and everyone who seriously answers them endorses it.

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