I received an anti-Semitic email the other day.
The email was commenting on my July 1 editor’s letter about
whether Google was guilty of nepotism (I thought it was) by
investing in its co-founder Sergey Brin’s wife’s
The email (which was signed) said that I shouldn’t be
talking about nepotism because “Jews are one of the most
guilty groups who favor their children and families by bringing
them into their business empires, often at the expense of
better educated and prepared Gentiles.”
There was more, and worse, but it doesn’t bear
I was surprised, I guess, by the nakedness of the prejudice
(would it have been sent to me if my name weren’t
Rosenbaum? Not likely) and the fact that the e-mailer felt
secure enough to sign the letter. A little digging revealed
that the writer is an IT consultant who operates his own
business. At my request, he confirmed that it was indeed he who
wrote the letter and added (not surprisingly) that he did not
want his comments printed.
Now I’m torn about whether to expose him.
On the one hand, receiving ugly letters is part of the price
one pays when one writes about public issues. I’ve gotten
them before; I’m sure I’ll get them again.
On the other hand, remaining silent in the face of blatant
prejudice, shrugging it off as a lunatic’s ravings,
letting it go because I don’t want to engage with this
brand of vileness (and believe me, I don’t), rising above
it because I don’t want to sully myself—well, these
strategies have backfired in the past with disastrous
I assume that this man does business with Jewish people.
Don’t the people he does business with have a right to
know what he thinks about them? And isn’t it possible,
even likely, that if he holds these views about Jews, he may be
equally prejudiced against other groups, other minorities?
African-Americans or Asians or Latinos or Catholics?
Outing this bigot, however, could have a substantial impact
on his life and business and who knows what the fall-out might
be? Say he has a family? Should they be humiliated and punished
because their husband/son/father is an anti-Semite? Should his
e-mail to me cost him his livelihood, his place in the
Part of me says yes. Part of me says bigots should not feel
safe in engaging in hate speech. Part of me says the hell with
him. He brought it upon himself; let the chips fall where they
And part of me says, David, you can’t foresee all the
consequences. Tread carefully. Take the path likely to do the
least damage. Be prudent. Let it go. Put it in the trash where
And then there’s the question of whether engaging in
this sort of public debate on cio.com is germane to our
site’s mission. We invite you, our readers, to comment on
what we write, but your responses are not always confined to
the points at issue. Sometimes, as in this case, these comments
can take the form of ugly, ad hominem attacks, often anonymous,
not just against us, but against other readers. The seeming
veil of anonymity the web provides disinhibits certain people,
encouraging them to reveal the worst aspects of their nature
and emboldening cowards.
Should we delete these attacks, practice editorial hygiene,
thereby distorting the character of the debate? Or should we
allow these comments on our site, reflecting reality but at the
same time allowing the loonies and jerks a forum to inflict
their ignorance and bile on our readers?
These questions will have to be answered by us, the writers
and editors, but they affect you, the reader. As for the
bigoted e-mailer and what to do about him, I’m still