Teen Vogue advises its readers: To stay in the right, don't read

Toward the end of his life, Mark Twain grew increasingly pessimistic about human nature, obsessing about "the damned human race" and expressing in his anonymously published book What is Man?, a view that a man is just a machine, devoid of free will and having no independent ability to think, but merely absorbing ideas from those around him.  Consider one's religion (or "sect," as he put it): once acquired, there are no "studies, searchings, seekings after light[.] ... [W]hen you know the man's religious complexion, you know what sort of religious books he reads when he wants some more light, and what sort of books he avoids, lest by accident he get more light than he wants."

Clearly, Mark Twain overstated his case.  People do switch religions; people do develop new and personal theologies; people do read, think, debate, and change their views.  And yet, consider the case of one Emma Gometz, whose essay, "This Hanukkah, How Do I Talk to My Grandparents About Israel?" was published in Teen Vogue.  I do recommend it not for its thoughtfulness or substance (those it lacks), nor for its style (disjointed and sloppy, it fully matches the essay's paucity of thought) — but for its startling, literal confirmation of Mark Twain's dictum.

What do you do with a book your loving grandparents gave you while on a visit to your college campus?  Put it on the shelf to remind you of them?  Read it to see what advice they want to impart to you?

Not if you are Emma Gometz.  Sensing that by reading it, she would "get more light than she wants," Ms. Gometz "took the book from their hands, and thanked them for the gift.  The next morning, I dropped it off at a public book-donation center.  Since then, my grandparents have been putting more and more information in my hands, including a DVD and a few pamphlets on Hamas left on my bed when I visit, and bringing me downstairs at Pesach to show me a couple of books on Israel.  Every time, the most I can do is thank them for their concern, politely decline or brush it off."

Why?  Such books are not the "sort of religious books she reads when she wants some more light"; they do not belong in Ms. Gometz's "sect" — she is "a supporter of the fight against the further destruction of Palestinian lives and borders" and has been "deeply critical of Israeli military choices for some time."

So, in full accordance with Mark Twain's words, Ms. Gometz would not come anywhere near her grandparents' books about Israel (or Hamas): while they do shed light on the conflict that is so near and dear to her "sect" of "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)–supporting organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine," that light, alas!, is far too intense, endangering the "sect" itself.  Hence, damn and dump the books!  Drop them off at a public book-donation center!  Politely decline or brush them off!  But read them?  Perish the thought!

What will happen to Ms. Gometz if she learns history, both Jewish and Arab?  What if she discovers that Israel is perfectly legit, and that it is Palestinian intransigence and hate that cause the conflict, not Israel's aggressiveness?  How would she be able to stay within her "sect" of Israel-haters?

Facts and truth attained through "studies, searchings, seekings after light" are clearly not Ms. Gometz's — or Teen Vogue's — thing.  Their thing is indeed just "vogue."  Bashing Israel being fashionable in its circles, Teen Vogue bashes Israel.  True to its name, the magazine is hare-brained.  It discourages knowledge, it discourages learning, by making Ms. Gometz's deliberate, self-inflicted ignorance an exemplar of its virtue.  After all, "ignorance is bliss," and "bliss," of the thoughtless, ignorant sort that is dismissive of knowledge and learning, is what Teen Vogue is all about.

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