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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

If Jews run the world, why am I broke?

In the NY Times, Edward Rothstein reviews an exhibit about The Protocols of The Elders of Zion at the Washington, D.C. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He criticizes the exhibit for not dealing more thoroughly with the history of the document's fraud, but he never mentions the amazing comics writer Will Eisner's final book, The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which tells the lengthy story of its origin and spread.

Rothstein, wishing the full text were on display, makes a good point about the book's surprisingly esoteric content:

That truth, though, is not really about Jews. Reading the text itself (which can be found at, one is shocked not at its anti-Semitism, but at its knotty, pseudophilosophic assertions; "The Protocols" really is ersatz Machiavelli. It is astounding that something so difficult has been so appealing.
The Wikipedia entry on The Protocols, as usual, is excellent, and gets into details of the history of the fraud, examples of plagiarized passages, and country-by-country updates as to the current status of the book's publishing and official endorsement.

The page--they do sell The Protocols--was apparently the subject of an email forward claiming that the website gave the book a favorable staff review. In response, Amazon put up a special notice:

As some readers may be aware, a hoax e-mail has been circulating widely that falsely claims has favorably reviewed this book... obviously does not endorse The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. This book is one of the most infamous, and tragically influential, examples of racist propaganda ever written.
Does sell this book? Of course we do, along with millions of other titles... believes it is censorship not to sell certain books because we believe their message repugnant, and we would be rightly criticized if we did so.
It is very hurtful to everyone at to be accused of racism.
Unfortunately, no statistically improbable phrases are available on the page.

A few months ago in Tbilisi, I met a French citizen--he is the cook for the French embassy in Georgia--at a party. We spoke for a long time and joked around, and I liked him. Then I pulled over a friend and co-worker, a Jew like me, and joked that we were a two-man Jewish conspiracy. The expression on my French acquaintance's face changed. "That is actually a very serious problem", he said. "The Jews control many governments."

I said that was nonsense (or something equally negative in my broken French). "No," he insisted, "it's a documented fact. Have you read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?" (He followed this by asserting that Nostradamus was absolutely correct in his predictions, so at least he's an equal opportunity jackass.)

Later, I ran into him while crossing the border from Georgia into Armenia. I'm so unused to anti-Semitism that I had to remind myself repeatedly that I hate this guy.

By the way, here is on claims that Nostradamus predicted the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks:

Five and forty steps the sky will burn
Fire approaching the large new city
Instantly a great thin flame will leap
When someone will want to test the Normans.

This one is a marvel of an all-purpose prophecy. If you want to ensure your "prediction" will be correct, just make some vague allusions to fire, because then you're covered for a whole host of circumstances... and your prophecy can be applied to every one of them.

"Five and forty steps"? That's a good one — it covers the reckoning of angles, degrees of latitude and longitude, temperature, time elapsed on a clock, and a bundle of other measurements. You're bound to find a fit here in any disaster.

"The large new city" — ooh, it sure takes a lot of insight to "predict" that a fire, war, explosion, crash, or natural disaster will hit a large city sometime in the next several hundred years. I mean, what're the odds of that?

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