Sunday, February 05, 2006

New Urban Legend: Bush's Daf Yomi Shiur!

Update: Check out this post as well about whether Bush pledged allegiance to the Israeli flag.

This is a lesson to keep in mind as Purim approaching. There are idiots and anti-Semites out there, who do not know a joke when they see one, do not want to know a joke when they see one, or are too ignorant of our culture to know a joke when they see one. Therefore, when putting things "out there," we should realize that we have a global audience of fools.

I subscribe to several google alerts to keep abreast of new information in several fields - for example, when a new news article on "copepods" or "biblical archaeology" comes out or is indexed by Google, I know fairly quickly, because Google sends me a daily alert by email. One Google alert I have is for the word "Talmud," and as you might expect, many of the articles are written by anti-Semites, making all sorts of allegations against the Jews.

Here is a really silly one. Do you know that Bush attends a daily Daf Yomi shiur with his Rabbi, Ari Fleischer, learning from an Artscroll gemara?

Neither did I, until I saw the photo evidence on an anti-Semitic web site:

Now, where this photo appears, it always appears with this caption in yellow on top: "Daf Yomi: Everyone's doing the daf."

"Do the Daf" is a slogan to convince people to learn Daf Yomi. It is obviously silly to think that Bush is learning Daf Yomi, and this is clearly a spoof.

In fact, a google image search for the filename as it appears on the anti-semitic website yields the source of the image, and it is clearly labelled a Purim spoof.

From, we have the picture, next to the text:


President Bush waves to reporters on the way to his new Daf Yom Shiur with his former spokesman and recently ordained Rabbi, Ari Fleischer.

The photo itself looks like it has been photoshopped as a joke, with someone inserted an Artscroll into Bush's bent arm.

For those readers of parshablog who do not know this, Purim is a holiday in which Jews take it upon themselves to be silly, and make all sorts of jokes, and a spoof like this is not out of the ordinary. No Jewish reader thinks that Bush is actually holding and learning an Artscroll, and certainly not that he attends a Daf Yomi class. It is obviously ridiculous.

However, it made its way into the "news" -- a site listed by Google News, at least. Here is an opinion column by a "quilt designer and author of two books," in which she includes the picture (together with the humorous caption in yellow) and writes:
"If dependant on the mass media, the Religious Right will never hear about his profane outbursts or his Daf Yomi Shiur excursions with his former spokesman and recently ordained Rabbi, Ari Fleischer. Daf Yomi is the daily study of the Talmud (2711 pages). Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with the daily study of the Talmud or any other religious book if he is in fact doing this on a daily basis. But I find it highly unusual that this activity has not come to the attention of the media. If the media boldly revealed Clinton's private soap-opera sexual escapades then certainly we would actually be interested in Bush's more dignified religious activities. Bush received a great deal of support from the Orthodox Jewish community in the 2004 elections. So perhaps Bush merely wishes to be all things to all people — please the Christian constituency and the Orthodox Jewish community as well."
Ummm... Perhaps it has not come to the attention of the mass media, or if it has, they are not reporting it, because it is not true?! Just a bit of research reveals it is a spoof, but this image provides fodder for those who think Bush is too close with those Orthodox Jews.

A little more searching led me to Noachide News, which is most certainly an anti-Semitic website. They display the picture, and write:
"YET Bush carries his Talmud Bavli DAF..."
The same site links to another picture of an Artscroll at Menachem Butler's AJHistory blog.

I'm going to try to submit this one to Snopes.

Update: Other "news sites" that carry this "story":
Houston Indymedia

Update: Here at liberty forum, someone also posted the picture, and some people want to believe it is real even though they acknowledge that it was later clarified to be a Purim spoof. Insane!

As one commenter on the site notes:

Buy a clue. It appeared on a Jewish membership page, among Purim pictures, and it was OBVIOUS to the people expected to view it (namely Jews with some religiosity) to recognize it as a Purim joke. The reference to the non-religious Ari Fleischer as a rabbi sort of highlighted the joke.

I am sure that if anyone had contact Chabad about the background and bona fides of the photo, they would have been told it was a joke. Texe Marrs doesn't trust Jews ... but he'll take this dubious photo without the slightest inquiry....

Update: Also noted in that thread is that the photo has been reversed - as one can tell from the buttons on the shirt and jacket, as well as the parting of Bush's hair - yet the text on the cover of the Artscroll is not reversed, evidence that the Artscroll was inserted after the photo was taken. Furthermore, the Artscroll in the image is apparently identical in shading, etc., to the one in Artscroll's catalog photo.

Update: And now someone is citing the comment by Anonymous to this post as proof that the photo could be real, not knowing enough about Judaism that the comment by Anonymous is a spoof as well. Hah! Note also that in the site I link to here, they stripped off the top part of the picture which labels it a spoof.


Anonymous said...

If Bush is wearing his buttons on his left, it could be that he's become chassidish. Now, it's doubtful that he'd wear chaddishe garb on account of chukas ha...., more likely he's following the position of the ktzos haShulchan (sic) which is quoted in Teshuvos Rivivos Ephraim. According to TRE, the reason for wearing buttons on the left is to ensure that the right side of the shirt/jacket will be on top of the left side. It's only natural for Bush to have the Right come out on top....

joshwaxman said...

just to clarify to the uninitiated reading this, Anonymous's comment above is a *joke*.

Looking Forward said...

josh, you've completely missed the joke.

Chabad are extremely anti Daf yomi. According to the rebbe learing a full daf a day for someone not actively involved in learning full time is considered utterly worthless by him, since one does not fulfil mitzvos talmud torah with torah sheball peh unless one actualy understands the material, and in the rebbe's view the ammount of time most people have to spend on this material is grossly insufficent to the complexity of a daf of gemorah.

Which means that this joke is not about how close bush is to the jews, but that doing the daily daf is as traife as the president.

... Please understand.

joshwaxman said...

It certainly is plausible. And I have no inside knowledge of Chabad's attitude towards daf Yomi (until now). So I stand corrected. Regardless, we both recognize it as a joke, though all this serves to reinforce the idea that one outside of a community do not always get the inside jokes of that community. But it is a joke, not a real news story, as unfortunately some folks have taken it.

Unknown said...

rofl, that is hilarious hahahahha! nice. Thank you for the debunking. It is so obviously photoshopped.


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