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Dismantling the Big LieThe Protocols of the Elders of Zion
By Steven Leonard Jacobs and Mark Weitzman
KTAV Publishing House, Inc.Copyright © 2003 Simon Wiesenthal Center
All right reserved.
The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion have often been discredited, and in the words of one contemporary writer "were written for the idiot," but a recent technological development has given the work new life and an unprecedented global reach. The growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web has mainstreamed hate and made all sorts of crackpot theories, canards, and unsubstantiated accusations available to millions of people around the world. And, out of all these theories, it is perhaps the message and imagery of the Protocols that have benefited the most.
By the spring of 2003 the Internet was available to an audience of approximately 620 million people. While originally most of these users were located in North America, the last few years have seen an explosion in international use that has further increased the global potential and importance of this medium for communication and education. Recent statistics show that of those 620 million users, only 40 percent were classified as using English as their main language, while Asian languages were now up to an online presence of 26 percent (http://glreach .com/globstats/indExodusphp).
Not surprisingly, as a result of this trend, various right-wing, Islamist and other extremists have embraced the digital world as a powerful way to spread their message across borders and to an ever-widening circle of readers. When we compare this new method of communication with older methods, such as letters, flyers, or handouts, we can see why extremists view e-culture as an unprecedented historic opportunity to penetrate the mainstream of society with their agenda.
The Internet offers another bonus for extremists. The online audience is often composed of teenagers and children. As is well known, the Internet appeals more to younger users than to the older generations. For many of these youth, the Internet has become their primary source of all information. What is available online, therefore, has an unprecedented influence in shaping their ideas and opinions and helping to shape the future of society.
The Internet has been hailed as a revolutionary environment where information can be posted by anybody for anybody. While enthusiasts of the new technology see this as a boon for the unfettered transmittal and exchange of information, we must acknowledge that there are problems that come along with this opportunity. For example the Internet has no librarian, editor, or fact-checker, and so information that is false or misleading can be presented in a visually attractive and convincing framework. In such an environment, the unsuspecting reader, especially the young reader, has no way of discerning the "big lie" from ultimate truth. The Protocols present, then, a classic pre-cyber conspiratorial plot, tailor-made for a revival in the digital age.
Another benefit for extremists who use the Internet is the ability to be anonymous. By not having to expose their true identities, they can promote their hateful agendas while evading both legal and social responsibility. Freed of any consequence of their online postings, the Internet also removes any inhibitions in promoting racism, antisemitism, violence, and even terrorism. While not all cases of hateful postings lead to action, these initiatives have inspired hate and violent crimes aimed at members of minorities or at disrupting society as a whole.
And, when antisemitism and conspiracy are linked together, it is often the Protocols that is the text used to justify and substantiate demonization and hatred of the Jew.
Not surprisingly, then, the Protocols appear online either in the complete version or as a source or proof for outrageous antisemitic charges. If we take the time to examine its online presence, we can learn much about the Protocols and their contemporary promoters.
Online booksellers are an important source for obtaining the Protocols. Online companies have made a policy of not making judgments about the material they sell. One of the more disturbing practices of this portion of the online economy is the use of book reviews written by readers to sell the titles. Reviewers with no credentials other than their own prejudices are presented to the online shopper as impartial voices urging purchase of the Protocols and other hate-filled books. This practice has gotten so out of hand that negative media attention and public protest have forced key online booksellers to revise the policy. Another e-commerce policy that helped project hate globally was the practice of selling the Protocols and other hate books by U.S.-based companies to customers in countries like France, Germany, and Canada. These transactions occurred despite the fact that these democracies had laws that forbade the importing and distribution of hate materials. Major U.S. online booksellers were confronted by European governments and activists and have begun to refuse to ship the Protocols where it is illegal.
The Protocols are not just sold online, they appear as a support or basis for many wild and malicious accusations and theories.
Perhaps most extreme are those who cite the Protocols as the blueprint for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. For example, they explain the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as part of an unfolding plan. "In the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon, certain parties ... are using the nation's heightened concern about security to advance a long standing agenda." This agenda is later made explicit when the site adds: "We are getting closer every day to the absolute dictatorship envisioned by the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" (www.americanholocaust50megs.com/National_PoliceForce. htm). Another site, this time posted by an Islamist extremist, defines 9/11 in this manner: "The benumbing sudden cataclysm of September 11 was engineered by Mossad with the help of Israelis in America. A study of the Zionist Protocols and its related literature shows what has been happening in the contemporary world" (Tariq Majeed, "The Design for Provoking A Global Clash," www.verity.nu/reality/clash.htm).
We find the Protocols serving as a source for those who choose to use hate as an explanation of political events either in the U.S. ("Clinton is patterning his actions after the precepts of the Satanic document, the Protocols," www.cuttingedge.org/news/ n1217b.cm) or internationally (Compuserb, quoting Protocol 7 at www.compuserb.com/proto7htmn). Those who use the Protocols for this purpose are often people who feel powerless, who feel that world events are spinning out of control. They create a figure whose activities explain why the world is not operating in the way they want. This figure is the Jew, who in the Protocols can be both communist and capitalist, both democrat and tyrant. Thus the Jew can be used to fit any stereotypical need, to explain any crisis or challenge to the reader's worldview.
Of course, when Jews are actually involved in political events, as in the Middle East, the Protocols become an even more potent tool. It has become a staple of online anti-Zionism, especially since the resurgence of Palestinian violence in the Holy Land in October/November 2000. One site (http://forislam.com/aqsa/ jews/zion/msp.htm) describes the Protocols as the source of "The Zionist Dream," depicted on a map that shows an exaggerated "Greater Israel." (The map also links Jews and Freemasons.) Another site (www.globaldomination.org.uk/proto2. html) combines various elements. A Muslim site based in Britain alleges that the Protocols are the source for a Jewish plan to achieve "global domination."
The use of the Protocols is not limited to political agendas. Another prominent area that relies on the Protocols online is religiously-inspired hatred. This hate often appears when believers in one religion need to denigrate other beliefs in order to justify their own faith. Thus the claim that the Protocols are proof-positive that Judaism is evil. A classic example of this is an extremist Christian site which proclaims that the Protocols are "Babylonian in origin" and were denounced by Jesus (www .roytaylorministries.com/am00058m). This site also has a political slant.
Another "Christian" site contrasts "Jesus' doctrine" to the Protocols, thus showing the "grave dangers that the Protocols present to the Christian world" (www.endtimesprophecy.net/ ~tttbs/EPN-1/Articlescnsp/prot.004.htmlanchor844786). Meanwhile, the International Christian Educational Service claims that the Protocols present "a program for the enslavement of the world and the destruction of Christian Religion" (www.holy war.org/protocol/protocol.html). For these sites, the Protocols, by creating the illusion of a threat where none exists, serve to alert the "true believer" who sees the world moving away from his or her faith. Rather than confront the challenges of a changing world, such true believers find it easier to blame all changes and all evil on a dangerous conspiracy, no matter how ridiculous or absurd the so-called conspiracy may seem to anyone else.
Another manifestation of the conspiratorial mindset rests in the belief that the news media, which both report the news and shape public opinion, are a part of the Jewish conspiracy. In this view, the conspiracy controls the flow of information, and thus manipulates and controls public opinion. Believers in the conspiracy often rely on the Protocols as a core document for this idea. One such believer uses music to express the idea, recording a song and posting the lyrics on his Web site. The song is called "The News Behind the News" and has as its chorus the lyrics:
It's the news behind the news and the methods you can use, It's the blueprint and the plan they all rely on And it's within the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.
The Protocols, ironically enough, have taken on a new identity on some Internet sites as an icon of free speech. On these sites (a quick search on a major search engine, Google, using the key words "Protocols of Elders of Zion" and "censorship" turned up 45 pages with a total of almost 450 hits), the fact that the Protocols have been discredited, and therefore dropped by reputable libraries and booksellers, is described as an example of censorship. Readers are urged to embrace the Protocols in the name of free speech. Some of these sites include disclaimers that they abhor and reject the content of the Protocols, but others find free speech a convenient excuse to not only endorse the Protocols, but to try to attract others to this "forbidden fruit." An example of the first category is a site that opposes censorship from a woman's perspective, and uses the Protocols as an example of "images that offend us" yet that still should be available to all (www .io..com/~wwwomen/aboutc). An example of the second category is the site that introduces links to the Protocols (and other racist and antisemitic sites) with the assertion that these links are presented "despite the best efforts ... to censor "objectionable" ideas" (www.stormfront.com).
While most of the Web sites mentioned above are in English, the Internet has become increasingly international in scope. As a result, for example, one site carries the Protocols online in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Hungarian, and Arabic (www.abbc3.com). Another site now brings them to us in Serbian. A South African site that billed itself as the "Protocols Research Institute" (now offline) presented itself as a scholarly and objective look at the Protocols. This Internet presentation actually portrayed the book as an objective historical truth, containing facts vital for today's world. To further support this position, the Web site unveiled a "New Protocols" designed to update the tired and outdated references in the original. These "New Protocols" were written by Dr. William Pierce, who, before his death in July 2002, was one of the world's leading neo-Nazis. Pierce also authored The Turner Diaries, a book that served as a blueprint for Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the worst case of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.
At the time of writing this book, a search on the Google search engine for "the Protocols of the Elders of Zion" turned up 11,100 hits. The complete text of the Protocols can be found on approximately 100 different sites. For a text that has so often been discredited, it is staggering to find such a resonance in the digital world. Barely 60 years since the end of World War II and the Nazi Holocaust, one of the major influences on Adolf Hitler is back in worldwide circulation.
And, via the Internet, it can be found on sites that use it to promote prejudice and hate. Even more important, these sites present the Protocols, not as discredited nonsense, but as a factual work providing real insights into how today's world really functions. Further, since the World Wide Web makes no allowances for an editorial or critical function, a Web site sponsor can present fiction as fact and fantasy as reality, replete with links to other, similarly-minded digital addresses. In such an environment, the truth and the Internet visitor can be overwhelmed by a sophisticated digital agenda of lies and prejudice.
It remains our collective responsibility to teach our children to approach any data on the Internet with a healthy dose of critical thinking. All the more with regard to fabrications like the Protocols must we prepare students and readers to be able to recognize the truth and to sort out history from fantasy.
When all this has been done, the Protocols will be exposed to new generations for what they really are: a tissue of outdated fantasy and lies, resurrected in the twenty-first-century virtual world of the Internet to inspire an antisemitism and hatred that is all too real and deadly.
The Protocols have already, unfortunately, had an enormous influence on the world. As one of the major influences on Adolf Hitler, they contributed greatly to making the twentieth century known as the century of genocide.
Excerpted from Dismantling the Big Lie by Steven Leonard Jacobs and Mark Weitzman Copyright ©2003 by Simon Wiesenthal Center. Excerpted by permission.
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