This document has been scorned by many as merely an anti-semitic exercise. For Umberto Eco, writing "The Prague Cemetery", it was a resource - an insight into past tensions, into the willingness of people to look for scapegoats and blame others than themselves, past political tensions, with Government agents who sought to further what they perceived to be in the interests of their rulers - something that they pursued with incredible commitment and passion - regardless of how dirty the work was, and regardless of its consequences. The document is "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", hereafter referred to as "POTEZ" -
Yes, POTEZ is fiction - but so is Hamlet. To say that because it is a forgery, we should stop at that point and ignore it - seems to me unsatisfying. I see it as intriguing. Why was it put together? How was it put together? How does it press people's emotional buttons? Why does its shadow reach even this far, into the current time, so long after it was written? And why do people take it seriously, in spite of the many problems with what it puts forward, and the many problems with how history did in fact develop? It captures something interesting - as Eco's spotlight shows. While some might see it as inherently "dirty" and "beneath consideration" - it has nevertheless struck a chord over so many years - so there must have been some thought in its creation.
Yes, it has been the inspiration for much violence against Jews - that needs to be acknowledged. Still, while we might call it a forgery, while we might call it false - we can also see it as interesting. Being "false" does not mean it is no longer of interest.
Eco notes that Henri Rollin wrote
[The Protocols] can be regarded as the mostly widely circulated work in the world after the Bible. You know, I would have thought that Plato's The Republic, Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health, Engel's Communist Manifesto and Einstein's Theory of Relativity would have been up there too, but you never know ...
So, I write this. Rather than being a fuddy-duddy-straight-down-the-line skeptic, I'm more of an
round the twist eccentric amateur anthropologist and Fortean. I therefore expect that more people will read this, as compared to a purely dismissive piece coming out of the fuddy-duddy skeptics.
But who am I writing for? Well, partly conspiracy theory enthusiasts, Forteans, who have a fascination with odd things about the world, but don't necessarily believe those conspiracies. But other people might also be interested. Some people are concerned about the way the world works, and the place of global finances. In their struggle to come to grips with the world - and indeed - real injustices which do exist - they might find themselves either looking into POTEZ themselves, or have its content advocated by someone they know as a source of insights.
Well, I think that POTEZ provides no worthwhile insights into current day global finances. But you need to work through its ideas in detail to properly understand this. Some people in the Occupy movement have in fact railed against POTEZ as any source of truth - they feel it gums up the pursuit of real global financial problems. I'm hope I'm adding something to this.
Then you have people who are sympathetic to POTEZ, but willing to engage with opposing views. Perhaps I'll turn you around. We'll see.
Next, going down the continuum, you have people who embrace POTEZ and build an interpretational world around it. Rather than seeing what I write as a considered analysis, they will see it as some attempt - with me being either a direct or an indirect - part of the conspiracy - to undermine an appreciation of what they see to be the truth of POTEZ. I'm not going to be able to convince you of that. I can but say - I do not take the mainstream media for granted, and for most assertions, I try to "triangulate" a view of the world to make sense of it. I believe that the media distorts, that Chomsky's arguments about "Manufacturing Consent" have some validity. That's where I'm coming from. With all the contradictions, propaganda and vested interests swirling around the knowledge space, it can be a challenge to make sense of it, to know what to take seriously and what to devalue. I do make my own considered assessment of this.
Some time ago I saw screenings of very early animation. Insane stuff, like about a bird that ate bits of metal. But, also, an early French animation. Now, OK that's an evil wizard casting spells. But doesn't he look like those Jewish caricatures? Being ambiguous, it freaked me out more than anything obviously actually anti-semitic. But there you go. Maybe one day I'll see "Birth of a Nation". But I'll know what I'm seeing.
- 1. Origins
- 2. Which version?
- 3. Eco's "The Prague Cemetery"
- 3. Financial Concerns
- 5. A forgery - not written by the claimed "Elders"
- 6. Who is the supposed enemy, and what bad things are they planning?
- 7. Anti-Semitic, Racist and Sexist
- 8. Positive developments and values are criticised
- 9. Bad things endorsed by implication
- 10. Developments favourable to the Elders have not happened
- 11. History has not developed the "Elders" were planning.
- 12. Institutions operate to oppose such a concentration of power
- 13. Jewish anti-Israel Commentators
- 14. Financial Realities, other people with lots of wealth
- 15. Issues independently of general concern, regardless of any POTEZ agenda
On the Workers' Radio program we had a commentator, Michael, from the "International Bankers Forum", who claimed POTEZ said useful things about world finances. We were going to have a debate on POTEZ, but it came unstuck because there were so many versions of the document, and we could not agree on which version to use ... Then Chard ( my co-host ) lost interest, not so much because of what was being spoken about, but because the arguments were just too emotional and repetitive from week to week.
Still, you can, if you like, listen to the original exchange here
2. Which version?
In my case, I'll be referring to the version available on Wikimedia ( http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Protocols_of_the_Learned_Elders_of_Zion ) . This particular version, apart from being concerned about the global financial system, is anti-semitic, anti-democracy and universal suffrage, anti- Darwinism, anti-Atheism, anti-Pluralism / Liberalism, anti- Human Rights and anti Republicanism.
I've developed my own ideas in this analysis; I've also drawn on the Wikipedia article ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protocols_of_the_Elders_of_Zion ), and you can consult that for further detail.
While drawing on concerns about financial systems, POTEZ importantly also trashes Human Rights and individualism. Many people concerned about the financial system and perhaps interested in POTEZ would believe in the worth of the individual and human rights, seeing the pressures from financial manipulations impinging on individual freedom and initiative. However, POTEZ's overall position contradicts these reasonable concerns.
Of course, there are multiple versions of POTEZ out there. You could, no doubt, edit a lot of these discordant features out if you wanted to appeal to those whose interest was in individualism, and believed in a republic rather than hereditary monarchical rule. And indeed, this was a source of tension between myself and Michael from the IBF - which version to use?
"Standard" history posits that the POTEZ first appeared in The Great Within the Small by Serge Nilus, which was published in 1905. I assert that my combination of issues is applicable both to this original and that outlined in Wikipedia; that's an important enabling assumption. If you don't believe that, my writings will not have much significance for you. It's my point of departure. Still, you could track down the original Russian version, and do your own research ...
3. Eco's "The Prague Cemetery"
Eco shines a spotlight on POTEZ. I think he has worthwhile insights into human nature, and we can see this reflected in his in his comments, asserted by characters in the book :
Dumas had truly a clear understanding of the human mind. What does everyone desire, and desire more feverently the more wretched and unfortunate they are? To earn money easily, to have power (the enormous pleasure in commanding and humiliating your fellow man) and to avenge every wrong suffered (everyone in life has suffered at least one wrong, however small it might be) ... But why, everybody asks, am I not blessed by fortune ( or at least not as blessed as I would like to be)? Why have I not been favoured like others who are less deserving? As no one believes their misfortunes are attributable to any shortcoming of their own, that is why they must find a culprit. Dumas offers, to the frustration of everyone (individuals as well as countries), the explanation for their failure. It was someone else, on Thunder Mountain, who planned your ruin ... [ this ellipsis in original ]
In writing about a precursor to POTEZ, Eco's narrator talks about how it seemed to have been designed by committee, with something to appeal to everyone:
Conquest of the world, to frighten monarchies and governments; possession of its gold, to satisfy the socialists, anarchists and revolutionaries; destruction of healthy Christian principles, to worry pope, bishops and other clergy. And introduce a bit of that Bonapartist cynicism Joly had used so well, and the Jesuitical hypocrisy that both Joly and I had taken from Eugene Sue.
The narrative detailed by Eco illustrates how the ideas in POTEZ evolved through many different writings which were precursors to POTEZ. Initially, Joly's work was a defence of monarchical rule. Various people claimed the "freedom" of a Republic was not really "freedom" at all. Christians would rail against cults and the Masons. Eventually, the Russian aristocracy would take advantage of past defences of monarchy against democratic reform, along with scapegoating the Jews so that criticism was not leveled against the Monarchy.
This heritage means that, strangely, the Elders are supposed to use atheists in their pursuit of power. As will be illustrated later, if any party has helped the Jews along, it has been Christians. But why Atheists? Perhaps because POTEZ precursors were aimed at Christian readers, and it did not make sense for Christians to be the puppets of the Elders. Eco:
In order to impress Catholics, the rabbis' speeches had to contain lots of references to plans to corrupt public morals. Further, in addition to perhaps wanting to appeal to Russian believers, either the Russian nobility may have seen the Church as either not an enemy, or someone to be kept onside.
This covers a lot of the textual and emotional history of POTEZ. For the remainder of this article, I'll be focusing on how the different ideas within POTEZ interact, and whether world history has in fact shown any relationship to that mapped out in POTEZ.
Given the GFC and various financial concerns, some cite POTEZ as an authority to help understand financial matters. But many financial activists ( myself included ) see POTEZ as telling us absolutely nothing about what actually matters in financial matters - it only clouds the picture - and endorses a whole lot of other retrograde and negative things along the way.
The GFC? The 99% complain about the 1%? In Australia, we dodged a bullet. But, in the US, I can see a fundamental injustice - people commit violent crime and are locked up. People's financial crimes can be clearly seen to have more impact - and yet those responsible have much lesser penalties applied. Elizabeth Warren captures a lot of the concern here
POTEZ has segments copied from many other sources - for example Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu and Biarritz - showing that it was just made up.
The themes of these books echo. "Dialogue" was written by an attorney - Maurice Joly who was conservative, monarchist and legitimistic - in protest against the regime of Napoleon III; he endorsed the French royal line and its place in society, and detested the idea of popular sovereignty.
"Dialogue" does not consider race or religion, but we see apologetics for Monarchical rule in POTEZ - something which was later used to support the Russian monarchy.
Biarritz was written by Sir John Retcliffe. He copied from the "Dialogue" and added the idea of a meeting of a rabbinical cabal which meets to establish world domination. Racist/religious themes were added and we see the evolution of ideas. This combination was further adapted for POTEZ.
Further influences cames from a pamphlet published in 1797 by the French Jesuit Abbe Barruel, who blamed the French Revolution of 1789 on a conspiracy of Freemasons.
There's a clear thread running from this other material.
If POTEZ is a "to do" list for conspiratorial forces of evil, then what it sees as "good" is by implication "bad". However, many things identified as being "good" for the elders, and by implication "bad" in fact represent values and propositions I (along with others) would support. For example, Liberalism, Pluralism, Darwinism and the advance of Atheism. However, this sort of stand is partly a carry over from Joly's inclinations together with a desires to support the Russian monarchy.
Further, what POTEZ identifies as obstructions are therefore "good for us", because the "Elders" don't want them. But, many of these things are in fact harmful.
Obviously, depending on your values, you may well object to Liberalism, Pluralism, Darwinism and the advance of Atheism. But, most people nowadays concerned about "The Global Financial System" would at the same time cherish the sort of intellectual individualism that POTEZ rails against - you'll probably find yourself offside on many things POTEZ advocates.
POTEZ talks about a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and many times mentions the "goyim", non-Jews. It also speaks of the one true religion, and increasing atheism in order to make way for the preferred Judaic religion. One wonders how the Holocaust came about if the Zionists have such influence over the world.
Jews have seen a great deal of victimisation over the past few centuries. This is only given a cursory reference with POTEZ; you would expect any objective planners to give a nod to how things have not gone well for them during the past few centuries.
Quite apart from whether we are talking about Jews, POTEZ captures racist sentiments, and at other times is sexist - as when it talks about women of poor morals. Rather than seeing the racism in the POTEZ as objectionable, many POTEZ advocates ignore these darker elements of the narrative, ignoring and/or pretending they don't exist.. Of course, some POTEZ advocates may well be racist and sexist themselves, and see no contradiction - if that's where they're coming from.
POTEZ criticises democracy and the universal vote; rather than the masses exerting their will, they will fall victim to manipulations via the media, orchestrated by the Elders.
While our media has problems, you can see the world of democracy and universal vote; you can also see improvements to democracy over time. In the UK, the democratic franchise slowly evolved from only landholders being able to vote to something more universal.
The theory of Evolution has been a great source of insights into the human condition and how we interact - being useful in agriculture, amongst other things. I see it as positive. Yet POTEZ sees it as negative.
There's human rights. POTEZ advocates see this as bad thing because the authors of POTEZ see it as part of their plan. However, I see human rights as positive; it includes the push towards same-sex unions. The religious right in the US, which drive obnoxious US policies, are against this.
The Fatwah against Salman Rushdie is similarly something which ought to be condemned by all, partly on human rights grounds. However, it is known that Islamic Republics which would support such Fatwahs also have endorsed the truth of the POTEZ.
Many European nations which are strongly atheistic are peaceful and prosperous, which would be contrary to what the POTEZ suggests would occur.
POTEZ supports land value taxation; by implication then, a bad thing. I see land value taxation as a positive thing, and note that it a fringe interest - if the POTEZ had any strength, there would be more support for it.
The UN does have good intent; its problems are unrelated POTEZ's criticisms. Needless to say, POTEZ was written well before the UN was established, but POTEZ advocates confuse the UN with the POTEZ's claimed goal of a single world government.
Point is, if you're concerned about the global financial system, it is very likely you'd be positive about Darwinism, Atheism, Pluralism / Liberalism and Human Rights. Human Rights probably underlines your ideas about the sovereignty of the individual. Yet, if you look into POTEZ, this is what you'll find it undermining.
POTEZ claims business looks after workers, a strange claim which flies in the face of history. When there is a relative labour shortage of skilled workers, that may be the case, but the early history of the industrial revolution in the UK speaks otherwise.
It also endorses the relationship between a sovereign and their subjects, something I would challenge. Many people in today's world are republicans, and I don't think we are in the pay of the "Elders".
Death duties are favoured by the supposed Elders, but they have been wound back in Australia. Magazines are implied to be a negative development, but over the last few decades they have become increasingly significant. The internet represents a new factor, but there is no mention of this possibility in POTEZ.
It is strange the POTEZ conspiracy has been able to manipulate global financial markets, but has been unable to prevent the rise of magazines or the internet.
If the "Elders" really existed, their track record so far suggests they're an ineffective force which is no threat at all. You'd be better off just getting on with your life, because if they really do exist - they're irrelevant.
Some claim that POTEZ predicted current developments in the financial system. However, its claims are so vague as to be meaningless. Many commentators thesedays admit that it is China that pumps credit into the world monetary system. But the influence of China is in the world financial system is not predicted in POTEZ.
POTEZ's "Elders" seek control of the world rather than territorial claims. POTEZ does not consider the founding of Israel. It does not mention any notion of a "homeland" or a "territory". It does not mention any particular aspirations in the middle east. It does not draw any reference to "Zion" being a synonym for "Jerusalem" and territorial aspirations, which seems a strangely naive use of the word, as though someone was throwing around the term "Zion" as emotional trigger without really understanding its connotations. If really did outline such long term plans, the formation of Israel would have been promoted as a goal.
"Zionism" as coming from the Hebrew Bible traditionally focuses on linking the land or Kingdom of Israel, the Jewish people and their God. The "Kingdom of God" is a quite different notion - there is a lot of emphasis on community and cooperation, and there is also a vision of peace on earth with Israel getting along with everyone else. Of course, not everyone interprets it this way ... :)
Further, Israel formed through the efforts of Christian Zionists (in particular Christian Nonconformists) in the UK, who were behind the Balfour Declaration, while the POTEZ has the goal of replacing Christianity with atheism as Christianity is against the "Elders" goals.
Even if some of US foreign policy in influenced by the "Elders", we see much of US foreign policy is driven by fundamentalist Christians. The POTEZ has a goal of reducing the influence of Christianity and replacing it with atheism. If we see POTEZ as being behind a lot of the tension in the middle east, this is at odds with the increasing influence of fundamentalist Christianity in the US - its plan it to use Atheists, not Christians to promote POTEZ's agenda.
In contrast, it is clear to see the promotion the Jewish lobby have for Israel. This is completely at odds with what you'd expect from reading POTEZ, which is silent on the formation of Israel.
It is strange the status of Jews in society, given that they are able to perform such manipulations on society. Certainly, US foreign policy is subject to influence from Israel and the Israel lobby within the US, but that seems more the result of pragmatic politics, because there are tensions around that fact - if the control were sufficiently good, there would be no dissent at all. We wouldn't be discussing it.
POTEZ suggests that the price of necessities will increase. Over the last few decades the price of necessities has declined overall. The price of land has continued to increase, but this is not the scenario sketched out in POTEZ. Globally, economic fortunes have wildly fluctuated. The boom following WWII was an age of prosperity for everyone - contrary to the supposed POTEZ goal of a continuously declining prosperity and economic chaos.
Chaos and disquiet resulted from the cold war, the cold war did in fact thaw and the globe moved towards a less precarious position. In contrast the POTEZ desires that things continue to get worse - you would have thought they would have kept the cold war going.
The internet has also developed, and it has allowed freer promotion of the supposedly "secret" POTEZ. If the elders had any influence on the world, they would have stopped the development of the internet, because of how it provides this exposure. The internet has its origins in the US military, whose current foreign policy has some support for Israel. It is strange that an entity that supports Israel would have also had a hand in communication which allows further promotion of POTEZ.
Many financial firms are publicly listed and more subject to the vagaries of stock market than any coordinated force. There is a great diversity in the banks. At times they cooperate, and at times they compete.
I know of Jewish owned banks which are considered less competitive by the broader banking community and shareholders because rather than having the most competent people in the most responsible positions, the positions have an ethnic components. This contrasts to the story in "The Jews in Business" by Stephen Aris, where smart Jews collected in the firms they knew would be friendly to them; in the modern more competitive and open world, Jews find employment throughout all firms and firms which hire Jews in preference are now at a disadvantage.
That's a separate issue to executives and board members being overcompensated for what they do - definitely an issue. In some firms, less competent people may be in responsible positions. In others, competent people may be in those positions, but overpaid.
Yes, it is possible that the global financial institutions operate against our interests - but they don't need central coordination to do this. They will act to protect their interests vs. other sections of the economy - but the competitiveness between them prevents their coordinated cooperation.
Noam Chomsky is strident in his criticism of Israeli foreign and domestic policy. If anyone is, he would be a "Jew who is not a Zionist". However, he has never drawn from POTEZ to inform his analysis. Similarly, I have no awareness of any local Jewish commentators who are critical of Israel ever drawing on POTEZ to support their analysis.
Bill Gates in favour of Globalisation, but also does a lot of philanthropy; he is out of the banks, but very wealthy. Why is his wealth relatively benign as compared to the Rothchilds ? The Rothchild's wealth would be spread between many descendants. It's quite a claim they could still be a coordinated family; this does not mesh.
POTEZ talks about problematic aspects of the legal system. The legal system is a problem. I have issues with it. I believe that elements of the legal system represent the interests of the privileged. But I do not believe that those privileged people have anything to do with the supposed elders in the POTEZ.
POTEZ talks about the world becoming more materialistic. I share this concern, but note the world is full of diversity. At the same time as some forms of non-materialistic interaction are in decline, the internet is operating as a glue for some face-to-face interaction. I do not feel that any trends toward the world becoming more materialistic are orchestrated by any coherent group, and in any case it is very difficult to discern an overall trend.
Speculation is identified as a threat. I am concerned about speculation, and there are analyses which identify speculation as a damaging source of instability. Nevertheless, I do not believe the growth in speculation to be the result of a POTEZ conspiracy.
The use of credit is also a concern. However, it is a two edged sword. Credit has meant that more Australians were able to see the Australian Dream. Yes, "wasteful" credit is a problem, and I do see credit providers as providing credit in a predatory fashion. But I do not see the connection to a Zionist conspiracy.
Concern for these things is timeless. It seems to me that the original author of the Dialogue was trying to take advantage of these concerns, and that is why these things were incorporated into the POTEZ. The original author may well have been relating to real and valid concerns; or he may have just been harnessing a perceived but less important concern for his or her own goals.