Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Exception

When are words as dangerous as actions?

When words are actions.

The book I have in mind is called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and it’s conspicuous by its absence on the Human Events list. While all of the books on their list were written by their listed authors, the Protocols were published in Russia in 1905 as a way to sway Tsar Nicholas II that there was a Jewish plot against him, and of world domination in general. It was bunk, of course. It was written by a forger named Mathieu Golovinski, cribbed from a political tract written by Maurice Joly in France in 1864. (His book, The Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, had nothing to do with Jews, but was instead a thinly veiled attack on Napoleon III.) Golovinski changed some phrasing around, and submitted it as a recovered document from a secret meeting of Jewish elders in 1897.

Since then, it’s been at the foundation of antisemitic thought. It was discredited in 1920 – proved conclusively to be a forgery – but that hasn’t stopped its publication and dissemination around the world.

I got this information from Will Eisner’s excellent (and sadly, final) graphic novel, The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He put the tale of this forgery into comic-book form in order to spread the word about this lie that’s at the heart of so many acts of violence even today. It’s working: Up until I heard about Eisner’s book, I’d never heard about the Protocols. Maybe you hadn’t either.

I believe in free speech, and question anyone who says this or that book is dangerous or “harmful.” But the Protocols isn’t a book at all. It’s a frame.


1 comment:

Andrew said...

Actually, I'm not surprised by its absence.

The list is clearly for consumption by Coulter fans. The list is so clearly contrived to trash great works of liberal thought. They do so by listing them amongst well-known books that provoke a strong negative response.

Protocols doesn't fit in that list because, as you point out, it doesn't have the broad name recognition. Drawing attention to it serves no purpose, because it is not a great work of liberal thought. Why waste one of the top ten slots when you can blame FDR for the national debt?

I particularly like the little paragraphs about the top ten. They need to make sure you understand why these books are bad, bad, bad.

So just remember kids, the Nazis loved Nietzsche. Say it with me....