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The Official Site of Best-Selling Author DAVID R. STOKES

I’VE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD to season three of THE CROWN on Netflix for quite some time, but I did wonder if the change in the casting of major characters would work.

Karen and I watched the first episode of the new season last evening and all of my “concerns” about watching someone new in the lead role as the Queen vanished.

Olivia Colman brilliantly picks up where Claire Foy left off.

The new season begins in 1964––a fascinating time in Great Britain. Political change is in the air, a move to the left as Winston Churchill withers away.

And there is a hint of espionage involving politicians and even the royal household.

Being a student of that era, and having written about it in great detail in my books, I watched for historical inaccuracies and more than annoyed my wife with my running commentary.

The series is well done.

Speaking about my books, though it is certainly self-serving, I do very much believe THE CHURCHILL FUNERAL PLOT would be a great companion to this new season for THE CROWN.

If you haven’t yet read it––it might be worth checking out. I enjoyed researching and writing it a couple of years ago.

Here are the links:

Print Version

E-books:

Amazon Kindle Version
Nook (Barnes & Noble)
Apple Books

By DAVID R. STOKES

One Monday several years ago, my wife and I traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia. Some friends had graciously offered their condo to us for a few days of relaxation. We had been looking forward to the trip for several weeks—a nice getaway at the end of the summer. The weather was perfect and we toured local sights that day. At dinnertime, we found a nice local eatery—a “home cooking” kind of place. I ordered the fried chicken.

Anytime I get the chance, I order the fried chicken.

But by the time the food came, Karen and I were lost in quiet thought and just picked at the stuff on our plates. It was one of those strange moments when spouses seem to be inside each other’s minds because at the same instant, we both said we felt a strong pull to return to our home in Northern Virginia. There was nothing pressing. Everything back there was covered, but it’s as if we had been in picturesque Williamsburg for a month and were homesick for routine. So, we blew off the getaway, packed our bags, and headed up the road. We arrived home about ten o’clock that night and found ourselves feeling a little silly for having cut such a nice trip so short. There had to be a reason, we thought.

The next morning we understood all too well, as a beautiful September day turned generationally horrific.

It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

People over seventy-five years of age remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of a surprise attack on American forces in a faraway place called Pearl Harbor. Those a generation younger likely have the same recollection about November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But I imagine no memory quite compares with the images of that September day seared on our souls.

The pages of history are filled with horrific things. Back in the years 1940-1942, Great Britain experienced what we did in 2001 just about every day. Think about that—hundreds of enemy bombers raining death and destruction from the skies every day and eventually every night.

A year or so earlier, as the clouds of war gathered over Europe for the second time in a generation, the Ministry of Information in the United Kingdom developed some slogans for morale building—mantras that leaders felt would help people cope with what was believed to be coming—all-out war. We would call them “affirmations” today. The words were carefully designed for billboards, the walls of buildings, and other venues for public notice.

The first of these said, simply: “Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might.”

The next one was a little more to the point: “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory.”

The third poster in the series was actually never released. It was designed to be part of the public information plastered everywhere if the Germans actually invaded—a big concern at the time. The Nazis were fast advancing across Belgium and France and the threat to England seemed imminent and inevitable. But then, on May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill replaced the ever-wobbly Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister. This change at the top rendered the need for mere paper posters obsolete. They now had all the best slogans in the flesh.

The new premier’s face quickly became the most famous image of the era and his voice its soundtrack. Churchill’s passionate eloquence tapped into the dormant, but indomitable spirit of a battered population.

Legendary newsman, Edward R. Murrow, was famous for his broadcasts from the blitz and the trademark phrase, “This is London.” He reported from rooftops all over the city as bombs fell from the sky. And in many ways, his words helped prepare Americans for battles yet to come. After the war, Murrow remarked that Churchill had “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

On June 18, 1940, Churchill addressed the House of Commons, where he had lived out most of his, at times, erratic political career. He talked about how the Battle of Britain was about to begin:

Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their Finest Hour.’

On September 11, 2001, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani demonstrated energetic and effective leadership when he seized the moment and guided that most unmanageable of all municipalities through a very dark and difficult time. He was nothing short of an inspiration to the nation.

When Mr. Giuliani reached the point of exhaustion in the early hours of Wednesday, September 12th, he went home and revisited a book he had been reading the previous few nights. It was the full-length biography of Winston Churchill, written by Roy Jenkins. The mayor of New York was reading about how the British Prime Minister had led his country through the Battle of Britain. There is no doubt that Giuliani drew inspiration from Churchill’s powerful example.

So, the third Ministry of Information slogan, having been rendered unnecessary by Churchill’s persona and vocabulary, never made it to billboards in 1940: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

A poster produced by the British government in World War II, with the text ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ on a background of the flag of British Guiana, circa 1939. (Photo by SSPL/National Archives/Getty Images)

As far we know, most of the copies of the original poster were destroyed at the end of the war and turned to pulp. But a few survived—hidden for six decades. In 2000, a bookseller from northeast England discovered a copy tucked away among some old books bought at an auction. Eventually, other copies were unearthed in archival collections at the Imperial War Museum and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London. And, as inexplicably happens every once in a while, the slogan eventually went viral. — DRS

ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE YEARS AGO THIS SUMMER, the world lurched and stumbled into the most destructive war it had ever seen. Eventually, sixty-five million men would be mobilized. Twenty million would die. Another twenty-one million would be wounded. In the conflict’s wake—and as world leaders planned, plotted, and partitioned—much of the planet became a hot zone as an Influenza epidemic wiped out another twenty-five million people.

Historians and scholars are still trying to figure out what happened that fateful summer a century ago. Was the casus belli of what was then called “The Great War” (or informally, “The War to End All Wars”) the inevitable result of a tangled web of alliances and treaties ebbing and flowing between the nations of Europe? Or was it because there had been a decades-long arms race, including the proliferation of a new class of warship, the Dreadnought? Were political leaders guilty of hubris? Did soldiers and sailors really believe the whole thing would be over in a matter of months?

One of the better books on the subject came out in 1962. It was written by Barbara Tuchman and titled, The Guns of August. It chronicles the miscalculations, underestimations, and shortsighted decisions made by European leaders in the aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914.

President John F. Kennedy, a voracious speed-reader, devoured the book when it came out. A few months later, when faced with his own unique crisis-laden situation, having to do with Soviet missiles being placed in Cuba, he read it again. He wanted to get a copy to the Captain of every ship on the “quarantine” line he had established to intercept Russian ships bound for Havana during those tense days.

But was what we now call World War I merely about military might meeting political folly? Or were the roots of the conflict in something more philosophical—even spiritual?

In 1983, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Soviet dissident, received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion at a ceremony in London. During his acceptance speech he may very well have explained not only the “revolution” that wrecked his homeland, but the underlying cause of the colossal conflict that wreaked havoc on the world beginning in 1914:

“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why this has happened.” [Emphasis added]

For decades, continental Europe had been creeping and convulsing away from its historic religious underpinnings. Across the English Channel, Great Britain was drifting as well, but the impact of pulpit giants during the latter part of the nineteenth century mitigated the spiritual decline, at least somewhat.

This was not the case in France or Germany. The French Revolution had left in its wake the kind of tyranny that would rear its ugly head again and again over the next two centuries.  The revolt that began in 1789 was in many ways the sinister ancestor to Communism and Fascism. And in Germany this “rationalism” gained a theological foothold in seminaries and churches.

The living God was being replaced with the worship of “reason.”

It wasn’t long before destructive philosophical systems began to congeal. Karl Marx crafted a political and economic vision for a world without God.  Charles Darwin published his ideas about human origins.  Then Friedrich Nietzsche and others of his ilk began to cherry-pick all the new ideas characterizing the zeitgeist of nineteenth-century Europe and take them to their logical conclusion: God was dead.

The inevitable fruit of this long slide downward was best articulated in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s last novel, “The Brothers Karamozov,” published a few months before his death in 1880. In one chapter, a character contemplates, “Without God and the future life? It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything?” This is often paraphrased in a quote attributed to the novelist: “If there is no God, everything is permissible.”

The rest, as they say, is history. — DRS

 

I recently watched an interview featuring best-selling author Thomas Mallon on C-Span Book TV. The prolific writer of several highly-regarded works of historical fiction, his latest book is, Landfall: A Novel. It’s the final work in a trilogy, one that chronicles the presidencies of Richard Nixon (Watergate: A Novel), Ronald Reagan, (Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years), and now the administration of George W. Bush.

Mallon’s writing has done much to reinvigorate and further define political/historical fiction. And as I have been revisiting the genre lately, his work has been a confirmation of sorts that I am on a credible path.

Larissa MacFarquhar, writing in the New Yorker a few years ago, called historical fiction, “a hyrid form, half-way between fiction and nonfiction. It is pioneer country, without fixed laws.” My observation is that sometimes historical fiction leans more to the latter, other times to the former. It depends, I suppose, on the writer’s taste—in writing and for research.

One of the projects I am currently developing is in the political and historical fiction genre, but I am trying my best to be accurate and precise. You might think this to be oxymoronic, but I find myself seeking the same level of exactitude when it comes to details that I have in all of my nonfiction writing. And just as my current book is a work in progress, so is its author.

Bob Schieffer (CBS News), who wrote the forward to my book, The Shooting Salvationist (revised and released last year as Menace in the Megachurch: Politics, Arson, Perjury, the KKK, and Murder), was drawn to the original manuscript because of my attention to detail about his home town—Fort Worth, Texas.

That was pretty cool.

But, does this ultimately matter? Does being a stickler for historical precision actually help move the story forward? Not always. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of it might actually get in the way. I can almost feel the biting cynicism of a customer review on Amazon: “Stokes spends too much time on trivia that means nothing to us, unless we grew up in that town. Who cares what restaurant had the best blueberry pie in town.” But we are what we are. I will always be a sucker for that next pesky factoid.

So why write historical fiction—why not just stick with history itself and write a nonfiction account of something? I mean, David McCullough’s books aren’t so bad, and some say they read like novels. I agree, and I am a big McCullough fan. In fact, when I read one of his books, it makes me want to sell my computer and buy a set of bongo drums, knowing I’ll never be able to write like him. But here’s the thing—what about great stories, real ones, from history, where there is not enough material in the records to fill in all the blanks?

This is, I think, the greatest service the writer of historical fiction can provide for readers. Sometimes the only “story” we have is hidden in fragments. The DNA of the narrative is there, but not easily seen. Enter the practitioner of the craft of historical fiction. The writer builds a superstructure on the foundation of those fragile fragments, but always with an eye on all relevant facts and materials extant.

This was certainly the case with two of my books. Both were based on true stories, but there was insufficient material available to write the stories completely from sources. So, I followed the facts where they led me, then I used my imagination—largely for dialogue.  When it came to Jack & Dick: When Kennedy Met Nixon, I started with a well-documented but long overlooked story from when both future presidents came to Congress in the first election after World War II, where they both served in the Navy. They actually debated for the first time in 1947, before a few hundred people in a small Pennsylvania steel town. Then they shared a Pullman berth for the overnight journey back to Washington. In their respective biographies this incident is mentioned, but all we are told is that they stayed up all night talking.

So I imagined how that intriguing conversation developed between two future rivals and presidents. Voila.

In Jake & Clara: Scandal, Politics, Hollywood, & Murder, I found a true story hiding in plain sight (one that I discovered while researching the Fort Worth book), but opted to “dramatize” it, rather than just write a chronological/academic account. I wanted to make it a living story, not just dead history.

Think of it this way—you know how you see movies and “docudramas” based on true stories? They clearly begin with a cluster of facts and then add color. Dramatized history. Well, I look at writing political & historical fiction as eliminating the “middleman.” In other words, I attempt to write the stories the way a screenwriter might. I opt to “show” instead of merely telling the story.

A while back, there was a wonderful film aired here in the States on PBS Masterpiece Theater called Churchill’s Secret. It was about a stroke the great man had toward the end of his second tenure as Prime Minister of Great Britain. It was a true story—but it was dramatized, not just in film, but in the book on which the movie was based. The Churchill Secret KBO, and is classified as fiction largely because of “invented” dialogue and the creation of one composite character. It was a great example of the power and potential of political/historical fiction.

You remember the great movie, The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth? I did pretty well. That, too, was a true story with fictional elements added in to enhance the story. This, to me, is the key. Any fictional parts inserted into a true story must serve to enhance the established facts, not merely to add drama or manipulate the emotions.

The late Irving Stone was a genius at this. Writing in the preface to The President’s Lady: A Novel About Rachel and Andrew Jackson, he said of the historical elements of the book that it was, “as authentic and documented as several years of intensive research, the generous assistance of the historians and librarians in the field, and literally thousands of books, magazines, pamphlets, newspapers, diaries, public records, correspondence and collections of unpublished memoirs and doctoral theses can make it.”

Then Stone dropped the other shoe: “The interpretations of character are of course my own; this is not only the novelist’s prerogative, but his obligation. Much of the dialogue had to be recreated, but every effort has been made to create it on the basis of individual character, personality, temperament, education, idiosyncrasy, as well as recorded conversations and dialogue, memoirs, diaries, letters and published accounts by relatives, friends, associates, even of detractors and enemies.”

To my mind, the late and lamented Mr. Stone struck the right balance and set a standard for all who dare to recreate the past. It’s one that I hope to observe with exacting care as I tackle my next five or six writing projects. Historical fiction based on real political events—from the recent or distant past—has a bright future.

At least, I hope so. — DRS

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man on so many levels. But he was first a pastor/preacher, erudite and eloquent, persuasive and passionate. He could also be controversial in the pulpit.

ap_mlk_memphis_mountain_kb_130403_wmainHad he lived, he would have recently celebrated his 90th birthday.  I wonder what he would think about our national journey since the day his powerful voice was so violently silenced?

A year to the day before his death in Memphis, Dr. King preached Riverside Church in Manhattan. The church, built against the backdrop of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the 1920s, was founded by Harry Emerson Fosdick and John D. Rockefeller Jr., a liberal preacher with a generous benefactor. Mr. Rockefeller initially donated more than $10.5 million, and his contribution grew to more than $32 million by 1959. It was a case of petro-dollars funding Protestant liberalism.

As Dr. King spoke to a crowd of nearly 4,000 on April 4, 1967, he said that as a religious leader he wanted to “move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high ground of a firm dissent.”

His subject was not Civil Rights – it was the Vietnam War.

Though careful to talk about America as his “beloved nation,” and not hesitant to address the crowd as “my fellow Americans,” he said that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” was “my own government.”

At that time, polls indicated that nearly 75% of Americans supported the war.

Dr. King faced his own media firestorm in the immediate aftermath of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech. The Washington Post described it as “unsupported fantasy,” and the New York Times called it “Dr. King’s Error.” U.S. News and World Report went even further, suggesting that King was “lining up with Hanoi,” and President Johnson angrily speculated that King had “thrown in with the Commies.”

Even legendary baseball player/hero Jackie Robinson came out against the speech and the NAACP adopted a resolution warning that King’s effort to connect the anti-war movement with civil rights was a “serious tactical mistake.”

Later that year, the annual Gallup Poll of the “Ten Most Popular Americans,” would not include the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—for the first time in more than a decade.

One long and very difficult year after his Riverside remarks, Dr. King was in Memphis. The night before his death, he was scheduled to speak at Mason Temple. There were storm and tornado warnings, and he was weary from travel, so he asked Rev. Ralph Abernathy to go in his place. When Abernathy got to the church, he saw thousands who had braved violent weather to hear King, so he called back to the Lorraine Motel and encouraged his friend to come over. King did go over, and he gave what was to be his last sermon.

During his 20-minute extemporaneous address that evening, he asked: “Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher?” He then added a word of encouragement to the great number of preachers in the crowd: “I want to commend the preachers…and I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren’t concerned about anything but themselves. And I’m always happy to see a relevant ministry.” As he warmed to the crowd and his message he said: “We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words.”

He called for the development of what he referred to as “a kind of dangerous unselfishness” and segued to a rhetorical comfort zone, the biblical story of the Good Samaritan. He used the famous story as the basis for his admonition: “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with greater determination…we have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

Then he waxed personal, describing a previous assassination attempt by “a demented black woman” ten years before and how the blade came so close to his aorta that one sneeze would have ended his life. This was a familiar King story, one that he told many times with the refrain “If I had sneezed…” being repeated again and again for effect. At this point, other preachers on the platform that night became unsettled because this story was usually one placed earlier in a speech. The concern was that Dr. King might “miss his landing” and not end on a high note.

There is an old formula in the African-American tradition of preaching: “Start low, go slow. Rise higher, catch fire. Retire.” The concern was that King was not quite catching fire. Then, however, came those final moments as he talked about being to the mountain top and seeing the “promised land,” and the now famous and passionate ending: “So, I’m happy tonight! I’m not worried about anything! I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

As a preacher, King was Sunday-centric, always with an eye on the next sermon. So the next afternoon, Thursday, April 4, 1968, he placed a call from room 306 of the Lorraine Motel back to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and gave his secretary the title for his upcoming Palm Sunday sermon: Why America May Go to Hell.”

He never had the chance to preach that one. A few hours later his voice was silenced in a brief and deadly explosion of violence.

Dr. King is remembered more than 50 years later for his words and deeds. He is honored–-appropriately so—as a hero. It is, though, an interesting question: “What would Dr. King say today—and how would he be received?”

[For books by David R. Stokes, visit: www.davidrstokes.com]

While fires were still smoldering at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvanian pasture, malicious people conjured up an evil myth.  In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many in the Arab world believed that the vicious attack on America was not the work of Islamists, but rather was an Israeli-driven Mossad operation.   This legend soon developed muscular legs and is now widely regarded by millions of Muslims as the truth.

And why not?  For decades school children in Muslim nations (not to mention their parents at home) have been baptized in anti-Semitic narratives.  The opinions in their world about Jews in general, and Israel in particular, are concrete – thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

The most persistent and pernicious ideas that have been accepted by millions as factual truth flowed from the poisonous pen of a guy named Mathieu Golovinski.

The spurious publication called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an Islamist must-read.  The work tells a story that fits the pattern of long-standing prejudices.  The words reinforce the visceral hatred Islamists have toward Jews.

 

Islamist anti-Semitism is not a new thing.  It didn’t begin with the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, or the Six-Day War in 1967.  It was around long before there was a Hitler – in fact, it grew up alongside Islam from the beginning.  It’s an enmity that can be traced back to Muhammad and what he said, wrote, and did.  And to those looking for ammunition to use against people they have been historically conditioned to hate, the often denounced and repeatedly refuted forgery is just what the evil doctor ordered.

In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, it is true that non-Muslims and non-Nazis have at times bought into the notions set forth by the Protocols – some even in the name of Christianity.  This is sad.  But it is also statistically rare these days.  Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan types apparently still peddle the book, but these people are the proverbial skunks at our national picnic.  And eighty years ago, there were a few prominent Americans (automobile magnate Henry Ford notable among them) who endorsed the writings.  But that was a passing, though very regrettable, thing.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purports to be written evidence of a vast and secret Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world.  It’s presented as a factual and detailed description of a late-nineteenth century meeting to plot international Hebrew hegemony through manipulation and treachery.  These ideas are at the root of the mother of all conspiracy theories for those who live in the bizarre world of alternative historical reality.

In fact, the publication is a forgery – probably the most sinister and infamous fake in literary history.

The year is 1898, and Nicholas II rules a Russia that’s beginning to experience the revolutionary stirrings of modernism.   The Tsar is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and tends to be easily led by strong people around him.   He tries to take incremental steps toward leading the nation away from its feudal past, but some in his court are alarmed.   Thus, evil men began to seek a way to short-circuit these liberalizing influences.

If only they could convince the Tsar that the voices of change he’s listening to are motivated by something other than the best interests of Russia – but how?  It was in this environment that the greatest of all anti-Semitic lies was born.  A threatening conspiracy would be manufactured – one that would bring Nicholas to his senses – and the Jews to their knees.

Mathieu Golovinski was living in Parisian exile at the time.  Though he was Russian, having been born in the Simbirsk region in 1865, he was forced to flee after repeated clashes with Russian authorities, usually having to do with his tendency to fabricate documents and evidence in legal matters.  He was a master of spin, innuendo, and dirty tricks.  He was also very skilled in the arts of forgery and plagiarism.

And he worked for the Okhrana – the Tsar’s secret police.

He was approached by agents’ provocateur from the Tsar’s inner circle about creating a convincing anti-Jewish legend.  They needed a narrative, one that would be seen as proof of a sinister plot behind the winds of change beginning to blow in Russia.  Golovinski was commissioned to fabricate the evidence.

He came across an old book, written in 1864 by an anti-monarchist activist named Maurice Joly.  It was entitled, Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquie and was written as a thinly disguised attack on Napoleon III’s rule in France.  The book was suppressed by the French government and the writer was imprisoned.  He committed suicide in 1878.

A plan was hatched to borrow from this obscure book, changing some of its cosmetics and phrasing.  It would be recast, using Joly’s fictional dialogue for a model, as the actual deliberations of a secret cabal of Jews bent on taking over the world.   When the fake was finished, it was spirited back to St. Petersburg, and all that would be needed was a way to get it before the ruler of the realm.

Enter the other religious zealot in and around the court of the Tsar.

When most think of religious influences around Nicholas II, attention is usually given to Grigori Rasputin, the mad monk who haunted that scene beginning about 1905.  But often overlooked, and certainly more ominous as far as long-term impact on the world is concerned, is the influence of his cultic contemporary, Sergei Alexandrovich Nilus.  He was a writer on religious matters and a self-styled spiritual mystic.

 

And he is also the man who first published Golovinski’s sinister forgery.

Initially placing the Protocols as a chapter in one of his books, Dr. Nilus saw to it that the potentate was fully briefed and convinced about the purported Jewish threat.  And like Rasputin, he also had the ear of ruler’s wife – so the Tsar, never a man to have his own firm opinions, fell prey to the lie.  And in the days following his nation’s defeat at the hands of the Japanese at a loss of several hundred thousand men, not to mention overwhelming financial expense, circumstances were ripe for the rotten fruit of a compelling scapegoat story.

On January 9, 1905, the Tsar’s troops opened fire on protesters who peacefully marched near the palace in St. Petersburg.  This would become known as Bloody Sunday.  The Tsar and his inner circle saw in the Protocols the real reason for the unrest – it was a big Jewish plot to overthrow the monarchy.

So it began – the gargantuan conspiratorial lie that has reared its hideous head time and time again over the past one hundred years.  Jewish plotters were blamed for The Great War (1914-1918).  Then in its aftermath, when Germany was struggling to recover from defeat, the big lie was discovered by the greatest demagogue of the day, Adolf Hitler.   By the time the future German dictator was sent to prison in 1923, he was well versed in the Protocols and drew significantly from the forgery as he wrote his own hate-filled and delusional tome, Mein Kampf.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion became, to men already filled with anti-Semitic ideas, proof positive of a sinister Jewish agenda.  To those who believed the lie, the writings were sufficient evidence for the indictment, condemnation, and eventual execution of these conspiratorial people.  The Protocols in many ways fueled the Holocaust.

Yet all along, reasonable people – scholars, journalists, and statesmen – have gone to great lengths to expose the fraudulent nature of the Protocols.  Beginning with a lengthy analysis in the Times of London in 1921, to a celebrated trial in Switzerland in 1935, to a report by the United States Senate in 1964, good people have said again and again: “the book’s a fake.”   Good people still do.

It’s the bad people who are the problem.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the biggest publishing hoax of the past one hundred years, is not going away.   This is largely because Islamists are using it, with great effectiveness, to fan contemporary flames of hatred.  In fact, it’s arguable that there are more copies of this lie-laden text extant, than ever before.  The forgery is used by politicians and clerics in the Muslim world to justify their distorted and destructive world-view.

Gamal Abdel Nassar, the late president of Egypt, recommended the book to his countrymen.  His Saudi contemporary, King Faisal, had the forgery put in hotels in his nation, like Gideon Bibles (he once gave a copy to Henry Kissinger).  The Ayatollah Khomeini, who took over in Iran in 1979, made the Protocols a national bestseller.  An entire generation of Islamic thinkers and scholars now aggressively promotes the forgery as literal fact.

Hamas owes Article 32 of its charter to these long-ago-discredited writings when it says things like: “Zionist scheming has no end…Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of Zion.” And it’s, of course, a perennial favorite with Holocaust deniers such as that wacky Iranian, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Islamist anti-Semitism is at the root of the so-called War on Terror.  The bad guys use the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as their proof-text.  It would make sense that if we really want to eradicate the symptom we must deal frankly with the cause.  Islamism isn’t an aberration.  It’s an ideology based on prejudices rooted in the distant past and lies that won’t seem to go away.

Shortly before his death in early 2005, the legendary pioneer of twentieth-century graphic art, Will Eisner, a man who spent much of his life debunking the infamous forgery, called the Protocols a “terrifying vampire-like fraud.”

Indeed. – DRS

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hoffman7m112secondimageIt was the dawn of the television age—the beginning of an entertainment, information, and communication seismic shift. In living rooms around the country, the large radio, complete with it’s prominently displayed dials, would be exiled to elsewhere in the house and the furniture would begin to arrange itself around the new media kid in town…[read full post]

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