The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Loshon Ha'rah or Criticism?

G'neivas Ha'daas or Hyperbole?

The saga continues.

Yesterday, Velvel posted and responded to an email he and I received from "Moish JM Fan". Moish was very upset about our trashing a new shiny shoe J musician for (i) misleading people on his website about his robust CD sales for a CD that had not even been released (which, to his credit but largely in response to Velvel, he has changed), (ii) planting a so-called 'review' in a local J newspaper that heralded his debut CD as the greatest thing since sliced bread, and (iii) producing an incredibly goofy video. I responded to his email privately and he responded to my response yesterday.

I find his response fascinating and it brings up two issues that I think are at the heart of this 'machlokes'.

First my response to his email (which is on Velvel's post that is linked above).

Dear Moshe JM Fan

What I find disgusting is that Jewish Musicians lie on their web sites to create the false impression that they are the hottest musician since MBD when they haven't even sold one CD.

What I also find offensive is that the JM musicians who are supposed to be erliche Yidden put out ridiculous, untzniusdik videos and music that comes direct from the secular pop culture.

People may differ with my musical opinions (obviously they do; much more of this garbage is sold than the JM I consider good). But when they lie and put out silly PR to promote their CDs, I feel completely justified in exposing them.


Moshe JM Fan responded:

I am not saying that false advertising is right.
I am saying that this is the way all the industry has been for a while, and when some new guy from the other side of the world tries to start up - you shouldn't be knocking him over the head like that. He is only following the trends...
Even if the advertising is over the top - it still is disgusting to say things like "nebach" and that his video is so childish... i actually have seem many videos and this one was quite interesting and well done and i think shows that he has potential.. I did not find it ridiculous, untzniusdik or sounding like the secular pop culture (although you may be more well-versed to make the comparison..) I actually think the songs and singing are quite good. Maybe not MBD... but I think he compares with Wald, Shloime Simcha, Dedi and others.
Even if you think you are right, it is definitely wrong to say some of those things in public.. it just should not be the way of Jews...
I think you guys have decided to pounce on him because of a mistake he made - you should have corrected him, and advised him in a nice way that this kind of advertising doesn't appeal to you (Although it may appeal to some... )
Let me know what you think on the above points.

Anyone reading this blog knows how much I dislike shiny shoe music. What I am about to write, though, has nothing to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of the music. I will be addressing two fundamental issues that I think Moish touches on. He is an apologist for the two defenses that you hear repeatedly from shiny shoe musicians and especially their producers.

1. Everyone does it. All the hyperbole in advertising and websites is necessary to make a splash in the JM business these days. Good music and a nice voice will not differentiate you these days so you must take these extra measures.

2. One should never criticize these people publicly because it is Lashon ha'rah and very "UnJewish".

Let's take the first point. As I have said before, I am not qualified to make halachic judgments but I think that planting false reviews in Newspapers and lying on websites to promote CD sales may be "G'neivas Ha'da'as". Perhaps I am wrong and that it is simply permissible, harmless hyperbole. I defer to those more knowledgeable. Whatever the halachic status, I find the practice very dishonest and something that was never associated with authentic Jewish Music in its long history.

In terms of the second issue, criticism, again, as a halachic matter, I defer to those more knowledgeable. I find it interesting, though, that the same musicians who say you can't criticize their stuff because it is lashon ha'rah, have no problem planting false reviews in J newspapers raving about their CDs.

We can all agree to disagree about what is good J music and whether the Jmusic videos are ridiculous or not. But unless someone tells me that it is halachicly unacceptable to offer honest criticism about music or to expose dishonesty when I see it, I intend to continue so doing.


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