The title notwithstanding, Marc Levin's far-flung survey of contemporary anti-Semitism is only nominally about the infamous book that has inspired paranoid, conspiracy-minded Jew haters worldwide since it first surfaced in Russia in 1897. Commissioned by the czarist secret police in an effort to defame prominent Russian Jews, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was a quick-and-dirty plagiarization of Maurice Joly's diatribe The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu. The Protocols did what amounts to a search-and-replace on Dialogues, substituting "Jews" for the "anti-Napoleon III forces." Though exposed as a hoax in 1921 by the London Times, the Protocols nevertheless struck a nerve with Henry Ford who reprinted it in his own newspaper, The Dearborn Independent and echoes throughout the speeches of Adolph Hitler and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Levin's interest in this scabrous bit of propaganda was piqued shortly after 9/11, when a young Egyptian cabdriver began recounting the oft-heard rumor that no Jews died in the World Trade Center because they'd all been warned beforehand, and then alluded to the global Jewish conspiracy described in The Protocols. Dismayed that this discounted book had once again regained currency, Levin set about searching for answers to its perennial popularity. A bright and intrepid interviewer, Levin interviews everyone from a cabalistic scholar, who refuses to talk about it out of a paranoid fear of reprisal, to right-wing extremists like white supremacist Shaun Walker, who sells the Protocols via mail order, to "Jew Watch" founder Frank Weltner, who warns about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy on his AM radio show. Using the itemized protocols themselves, which purport to document everything from Jewish control of the media to the Zionist plot to rule the world, Levin probes issues as diverse as Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, the murder of journalist Danny Pearl and the experiences of Levin's own father. The result is both deeply personal and maddeningly unfocused. In questioning this book's enduring popularity, Levin is actually posing a much larger question about Jewish persecution, which dates back centuries before 1897 and needs a more analytical treatment to be truly enlightening.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: NR
- Review: The title notwithstanding, Marc Levin's far-flung survey of contemporary anti-Semitism is only nominally about the infamous book that has inspired paranoid, conspiracy-minded Jew haters worldwide since it first surfaced in Russia in 1897. Commissioned by t… (more)