Why do organizations like the Anti-Defamation League issue statements on pop-culture issues like Lena Dunham’s column for the New Yorker “Dog or Jewish boyfriend? A quiz” nearly two weeks ago? Do establishment organizations risk sounding out of touch or old-fashioned when offended by contemporary humor?

“Well, before you label it old-fashioned or not, why don’t you spend a little bit of the time on the social network to see the reaction to her column by young people who are not old-fashioned, who use social media?” Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, recently asked Jewish News. “So that’s number one. Number two, I will tell you we don’t jump on these issues. I will credit you for us responding. The column appeared on Monday, OK, on Monday in the New Yorker, and there was a lot of traffic going on. You didn’t see anyone from the Anti-Defamation League jump on it, but what happened by Friday is people like you [journalists] started asking us, ‘Have you read it? Did you see it? Do you have an opinion? Do you have a point of view?’ And so, out of respect for your profession, we did read it, we did take a look at it, and we issued a statement.”

He said that one of the consequences of the Internet is that it “has taken away, if you will, your ability and my ability to hold back, because you sometimes wind up writing a story because you cannot not write about it, because it’s out there in megaphones, on blogs, et cetera, and we too find ourselves in a situation where, if it’s out there and people reach out, that you almost have a responsibility to say what it is.”

Essentially, he’s saying that old notions of decorum and triviality go out the window in today’s news cycle and those who don’t respond are living in an old world.

“We can talk about Iran, but I think there was more coverage (last week) on Lena Dunham than maybe on what’s happening or not happening with Iran in certain places.”

Need to know is an occasional column that looks behind the headlines. Contact the writer at sal_caputo@jewishaz.com.

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