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Monday, January 19, 2015

Hoaxing

As many of you know, I have a lingering interest in works of political "hoaxlore." The infamous Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion still reigns supreme as the classic example of the genre. A while back, I angered a few readers by equating...

(Please note that I said "equating," not "comparing." Look up the word "compare" in the dictionary: You can compare anything with anything else, and drawing a comparison does not imply equality or even similarity. A pet peeve of mine, this is.)

Where was I? Oh yes.

A short while back, I angered a few readers by equating the Protocols hoax with the From Time Immemorial hoax. The latter refers to a 1984 book attributed to the recently deceased Joan Peters (actual name: Joan Caro). That work received massive -- and I do mean massive -- publicity upon release.

Basically, FTI argues that the "holy land" (if we may use that term) was mostly empty when the Jews started to show up around the start of the previous century. This book says that the people we now call Palestinians are actually rootless Johnny-come-latelies who wandered in only after those marvelously super-industrious Jews created jobs. These Arabs did not have title to any property (and any paperwork which says otherwise must presumably be forged). Thus, it's perfectly all right to kick out all of the Palestinians, since they never had any ancestral right to that land. In fact, there are no "Palestinians."

(Whenever you see an Israeli apologist place the word Palestinian in quotation marks, you are encountering the lingering ghost of Joan Peters/Caro.)

This claim is pure hogwash, of course. Classic hoaxlore. This article publishes British census reports which prove that Joan Peters/Caro was lying her ass off. Moreover, she must have known that the whole thing was a fake.

(Or rather: Whoever wrote the book bearing her name must have known.)

In the mid-1980s, the argument made by FTI was laughed out of court throughout European intellectual circles. Even Israeli historians could not take that book seriously.

Of course, a few propagandists still try to mount strained rationalizations of FTI. These hopeless exercises remind me of the strained rationalizations some have mounted in favor of Ernst Zundel and other creepy Holocuast deniers. You know the drill: "Yes, the author made some mistakes, but let's not dismiss the entire work; if we take a more nuanced view, we will discover that..."

There is some question as to whether Caro/Peters actually wrote FTI. At the bottom of this post, I will embed a video interview with the woman, who clearly seems incapable of writing any book. (No other volume bears her name.)

The Posner parallel. Am I the first to note the obvious parallels between the work of Joan Peters/Caro and Gerry Posner, the author of Case Closed, the 1993 book which "proved" that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole killer of John Kennedy?

In both cases, there was an orchestrated campaign of media hosannas. In both cases, more thoughtful responses were published overseas. And in both cases, there were serious allegations from the start that the author did not write the work in question.

For example, Posner claimed to have interviewed people to whom he never actually spoke. He described doing a literally unbelievable amount of work within a very short time. Moreover, his prose style is plywood-flat and devoid of individualism. Committee work -- or so it would seem.

As for From Time Immemorial: Noam Chomsky is on the record as stating that he suspects that FTI was actually written by an intelligence agency.

A writer featured on this humble blog (not me!) played a key role in exposing Posner as a serial plagiarist in his later offerings. Nevertheless, Posner seems to have survived that scandal quite well.

Even before Case Closed came out, there were people who distrusted his book about Mengele, if only because the story told in that book sharply varies from the story Posner told a very short while before, in testimony before Congress. His later works make clear that he has maintained longstanding contacts with members of the covert world. Gerry also became the champion of the outrageously corrupt Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother to the almost-as-outrageous President of Afghanistan. Everyone knows that the CIA supports those two.

Let's get real. Gerry was published by major publications even after exposure of the fact that he claimed to have interviewed people to whom he never spoke. That fact alone tells you all you need to know about Gerry Posner. It also tells you all you need to know about the people who run the Daily Beast, where much of Posner's work appeared. Would they have published Stephen Glass or Janet Cooke? Of course not. But Spooky Gerry? That's diffo!

There's another interesting way in which Gerry resembles Joan Peters/Caro.

Gerry always claimed that he went into the writing of Case Closed with a completely open mind on the question of Oswald's guilt. Anyone who knows the history of his publisher, Robert Loomis, will smirk at that idea.

Similarly, Peters/Caro claimed that when she entered into the FTI project, her original intent was to write a pro-Palestinian book. That claim is equally smirk-worthy:
Actually, Peters professes that she set out to blame neighboring Arab states for failing to cooperate with the Zionist project by absorbing the refugees and removing any reason for them to return to their beloved homes and communities. Peters pretended to be enlightened when her research revealed that the Palestinians’ misfortune was all their fault to begin with. So she approached this project with the pre-conceived notion that Arab countries, and not Israel, were responsible for the plight of the Palestinian refugees, and changed her position to find that Arab countries and the Palestinians themselves were at fault, with Israel even more blameless than she thought. Quelle surprise!
Case Closed. From Time Immemorial. Let's just say that these two book projects emit a very similar smell.

Mark Twain. If you hit the link above, you'll also see some important information about Mark Twain. Yes, even he has been dragged into this morass of hoaxlore.

Peters/Caro and Alan Dershowitz have fixated on certain passages in Twain's Innocents Abroad which, they claim, proves that the "holy land" was empty in the 19th century.

If you read the book, Twain's real purpose is clear: He wanted to clear up the false images that dance in the minds of many readers when they read the Bible.

Many readers of those ancient scriptures visualize something akin to a C.B. DeMille movie, or perhaps John Martin's famous painting of Joshua causing the sun to stand still. (I recently saw this one again in the National Gallery in DC. Love it!)

Massive cities. Million-man armies. Spectacle galore.

You'll see similar sights if you examine 19th century Biblical illustrations; the work of Gustave Dore provides a good starting point. Artists usually depicted Biblical events in an epic, hyperbolic fashion.

Twain visited the area, and found a less impressive reality. The land was much tinier than Dore or Martin would have you believe. Those armies could not possibly have been so massive. The cities of ancient times could not have been very grand. The great battles were probably just tribal squabbles between barbarian warriors. They numbered not in the thousands but in the hundreds -- perhaps even the dozens.

(Hyperbolized history is pretty common across the board. If you've seen Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, you may be surprised to learn that, in real life, only about 300 people participated in the famed "battle on the ice." The Roman forum depicted in Anthony Mann's The Fall of the Roman Empire is about twice the size of the original.) 

Twain's purpose, in short, was to erase the bombastic imagery from our collective imagination and to replace it with something more realistic. He had no idea that his efforts would one day be mis-used by apologists for ethnic cleansing.

Twain always championed the victims of imperialism, and he would have been appalled and infuriated by this ludicrous re-purposing of his work. If you want to know what he really had to say about those who seek the ethnic cleansing of "the holy land," read this passage from Tom Sawyer Abroad:
[Tom:] “A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim.”

[Huck:] “Which Holy Land?”

“Why, the Holy Land—there ain’t but one.”

“What do we want of it?”

“Why, can’t you understand? It’s in the hands of the paynim, and it’s our duty to take it away from them.”

“How did we come to let them git hold of it?”

“We didn’t come to let them git hold of it. They always had it.”

“Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don’t it?”

“Why of course it does. Who said it didn’t?”
(Thanks, once again, to David Samel.) Let's have no further argument about where Twain would have stood on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Case closed!

One final note on Gerry Posner. My memory is hardly perfect. Nevertheless, I have a fairly distinct recollection of seeing a broadcast interview of Gerry Posner, shown on a prime-time news program about the time Case Closed came out. A friend of mine (who may no longer be with us) recorded the segment and showed me the tape. As I recall, Posner said these words: "If anything, the Warren Commission underestimated Jack Ruby's ties to organized crime."

Of course, the book makes a very different claim about Ruby.

If my memory is correct, that interview would offer evidence that Posner had not closely read the book bearing his name.

Unfortunately, as noted above, my memory may be mistaken. Two decades have passed, and I cannot, in all fairness, make any sort of definite claim. However, I can fairly use this forum to ask if there any other folks out there who saw that same interview.

Is it it too much to hope that someone out there might have that interview preserved on an old VHS tape? I would love to see it uploaded to YouTube.

Speaking of interviews with shady characters, herrrrrrre's Joanie...!

Comments:
I remember a long time ago l met a Palestinian woman. She told me about the story of her family. Her grandfather was businessman. He was honey producer. When they came in the middle of the night and kicked him and his family out of the house with only the cloth they were in. They took everything. His family ended up in Jordan. The same happened to doctors and others. And people still wonder why Palestinian just forget and forgive
 
I am familiar with probably everything Mark Twain ever wrote that’s in the public domain, including a lot of material that wasn’t written by Twain but claimed to be, by lying, dirt-bag, cross-eyed scoundrels, most of whom only had one shirt.

Twain was often dismayed by the number of bootleg copies of his books that were published through copyright infringements, and he did a lot of work to champion strong copyright legislation.

There were often two different copies of the same work in print, with the same title, but sometimes minor changes could be found if a reader paid close attention in a detailed study.

Albert Bigelow Paine spent several years preparing Twain’s biography while Mark Twain was still alive. I, personally, believe Paine doctored some of Twain’s history and material to give more life to the wonderful legends created by Twain and relished by his adoring public.

However, I do believe Paine was telling the truth when he said that he found a lot of contradictions when he would ask Mark Twain which statements he had made were true and which were false, and of course Twain said that he had told so many lies over his lifetime that he could no longer remember.

Mark Twain, with a very serious and somber look, was often heard to say the following line after delivering one of his magnificent stand-up comedy lectures:

“ And that’s the gospel truth – for the most part! “

Speaking of gospels, Twain stated that at an early age, he felt inclined to become a Presbyterian Preacher, and I’m certainly glad he went the author-lecturer-riverboat pilot route, rather than anything pissbyterian.

I have provided a link for the convenience of your readers who might find a few of his quotes entertaining.

www.twainquotes.com/Presbyterian.html

As far as the case against Dershowitz is concerned, I’m not going to say anything except to quote Twain:

www.twainquotes.com/Lies.html

"It is true I have a passion for lying to rich people, but I do not lie to men who get their bread by thankless hard work."
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 28 October 1889

; j
 
j, I read Paine's book about Joan of Arc a long time ago, and all I recall about it is that it was rather good. (Odd, isn't it, how he seems to have "caught" Johannaphilia from Twain.) So I don't want to say anything bad about him.

But the relevant question is...

Speaking as a Twain scholar, do you agree with my assessment of his reasons for writing what he wrote about the holy land in "Innocents Abroad"?

I THINK I have that part right, although to be honest I have not had that book in my hands since I was 15 or so.
 
IMO, Paine ripped off a lot of Twain's original research completed when Twain was in France.

I am inclined to believe most of your assessment, in as much Twain became more outspoken as he grew older, and gave a new, more realistic viewpoint of what he observed during his travels, which resulted in his book, Innocents Abroad.

Twain even became more critical of the US's position in foreign affairs, but I forgave him for anything he said offensive, because of his great kindness towards Pres. Grant, when Grant was dieing. ;)
 
The Mark Twain they didn't teach us about in school.

http://www.marxists.de/culture/twain/noteach.htm
 
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