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From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Following is an excerpt from an editorial in today’s Arab News, written by Neil Berry and entitled Kilroy-Silk Affair: Has BBC Played Straight Into the Hands of Enemies? I’ve omitted one word from the last sentence and replaced it with an underlined blank space. Keeping in mind that this omitted word has nothing to do with anything else mentioned in the article, see if you can choose which of the following words was nonetheless included in the editorial:

A) Spaniards
B) Methodists
C) Dean supporters
D) Grateful Deadheads
E) Laker Girls
F) Britney Spears
G) Jews

To the great mass of British people, the issue of freedom of speech is emotive in the extreme. It is seen as the very essence of everything that Britain has stood for — though it is striking how often disputes over the issue turn, as in the present case, on the right of the Englishman to be as abusive as he likes about foreigners. Loud in his professions of patriotism, Kilroy-Silk himself is much given to recalling how his own father died in World War II in the cause of defending free expression. Those who leapt to Kilroy-Silk’s defense over the past two weeks, as great numbers of people did, argue that the BBC betrayed that hallowed principle and acted with indecent haste in suspending Kilroy! (sic) the moment it became plain that the presenter’s attack on Arabs had caused widespread outrage. There have also been furious claims--from ______ and others--that the BBC has exposed itself to the charge of double standards.

I suppose the random exclamation points! are merely further evidence of the high caliber editorial and journalistic skills we’ve come to love and appreciate from Arab News.

Two days ago I linked to a book review (of Hitler’s sequel to Mein Kampf) in The New Republic. I forgot to mention that the author of the review, Omer Bartov, also penned a nice review in August 2000 of Norman Finkelstein’s obtuse, seething screed “The Holocaust Industry.” It’s one of the better assessments I’ve read of Finkelstein and the sanctimonious, controversy-courting quasi-intellectual theatrics that he seems to specialize in. For example, in response to Bartov’s evisceration of his work (or Bartov’s “major review,” as Finkelstein conveniently describes it), Finkelstein haplessly and (predictably) obnoxiously attacks the source: “ The New York Times,” he writes in the forward to the paperback edition of his book, “serves as the main promotional vehicle of the Holocaust industry. It is primarily responsible for advancing the careers of Jerzy Kosinski, Daniel Goldhagen, and Elie Wiesel. For frequency of coverage, the Holocaust places a close second to the daily weather report.” Yawn. How boorish and gleefully courting of controversy can you get? If you’re interested, Daniel Goldhagen has also written about Finkelstein and the latter’s academic credibility (or lack thereof). Here’s an excerpt from Bartov’s piece, from which it’s rather obvious why Finkelstein responded to it so predictably.

There is something sad in this warping of intelligence, and in this perversion of moral indignation. There is also something indecent about it, something juvenile, self-righteous, arrogant and stupid. As was shown in Peter Novick's far more balanced (though not entirely satisfactory) book, ''The Holocaust in American Life,'' the changing perception of the Nazi genocide of the Jews has also opened the way for a variety of exploiters and small-time opportunists. Yet to make this into an international Jewish conspiracy verges on paranoia and would serve anti-Semites around the world much better than any lawyer's exorbitant fees for ''shaking down'' a German industrialist.

Finkelstein speaks of the ''Holocaust industry'' as ''cloaking itself in the sanctimonious mantle of 'needy Holocaust victims.' ''Yet he cloaks himself in that very same mantle, while at the same time showing little sympathy for the feelings of the survivors and enormous zeal in exposing the ''reckless and ruthless abandon'' of the ''Holocaust industry,'' which he calls ''the main fomenter of anti-Semitism in Europe.'' By its ''blackmailing of Swiss bankers and German industrialists,'' as well as of ''starving Polish peasants,'' the ''Holocaust industry'' seeks endlessly to augment that pile of gold, or ''Holocaust booty,'' on which Jewish and Zionist leaders are now allegedly sitting. ''The Holocaust,'' Finkelstein concludes, is possibly ''the greatest robbery in the history of mankind.''

What I find so striking about ''The Holocaust Industry'' is that it is almost an exact copy of the arguments it seeks to expose. It is filled with precisely the kind of shrill hyperbole that Finkelstein rightly deplores in much of the current media hype over the Holocaust; it is brimming with the same indifference to historical facts, inner contradictions, strident politics and dubious contextualizations; and it oozes with the same smug sense of moral and intellectual superiority.

This book is, in a word, an ideological fanatic's view of other people's opportunism, by a writer so reckless and ruthless in his attacks that he is prepared to defend his own enemies, the bastions of Western capitalism, and to warn that ''The Holocaust'' will stir up an anti-Semitism whose significance he otherwise discounts. Like any conspiracy theory, it contains several grains of truth; and like any such theory, it is both irrational and insidious. Finkelstein can now be said to have founded a Holocaust industry of his own.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s quite telling how folks like Finkelstein, who bewail the supposed exploitation of the Holocaust at the hands of Zionists and other nefarious parties, never seem to have any problem exploiting it for their own purposes.

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