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The enduring influence of The Protocols of ZionBook excerpt: In a new book about the origins of conspiracy theories, Jonathan Kay argues that the malign influences of The Protocols of Zion is still with us. In August, 1897, Theodor Herzl and two hundred fellow activists convened at a concert hall in Basel, Switzerland, to attend the First Zionist Congress. The capstone of their deliberations was The Basel Program, a landmark manifesto aimed at “establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine.” The delegates also officially adopted the Hatikvah, a song that, six decades later, would become the national anthem for the country we call Israel.But as legend has it, it was all an elaborate act — just a respectable set-piece to divert gentile journalists and spies from the real meeting taking place at a secret location nearby. There, Herzl delivered a clandestine 24-part lecture series for Jewish ears only. In these speeches, “protocols” as Herzl called them, there was little talk of carving a small country out of the Middle Eastern desert. What he proposed was nothing less than a plan for total world domination.
Europe’s gentiles — or goyim, as they were described in Yiddish — generally were a happy, earnest lot, Herzl told his audience. They worked their farms and small businesses assiduously, prayed to a benevolent Christian God, and prospered under the kindly, lawful aristocrats who rose up from among their ranks.But they were also gullible, lustful, greedy and unstable in their attitudes — human frailties that the calculating, ascetic Jew could exploit in order to rob them of their entitlements.— Part one of four from Among the Truthers by Jonathan Kay. Read the rest of the excerpt.

The enduring influence of The Protocols of Zion
Book excerpt: In a new book about the origins of conspiracy theories, Jonathan Kay argues that the malign influences of The Protocols of Zion is still with us.

In August, 1897, Theodor Herzl and two hundred fellow activists convened at a concert hall in Basel, Switzerland, to attend the First Zionist Congress. The capstone of their deliberations was The Basel Program, a landmark manifesto aimed at “establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine.” The delegates also officially adopted the Hatikvah, a song that, six decades later, would become the national anthem for the country we call Israel.

But as legend has it, it was all an elaborate act — just a respectable set-piece to divert gentile journalists and spies from the real meeting taking place at a secret location nearby. There, Herzl delivered a clandestine 24-part lecture series for Jewish ears only. In these speeches, “protocols” as Herzl called them, there was little talk of carving a small country out of the Middle Eastern desert. What he proposed was nothing less than a plan for total world domination.

Europe’s gentiles — or goyim, as they were described in Yiddish — generally were a happy, earnest lot, Herzl told his audience. They worked their farms and small businesses assiduously, prayed to a benevolent Christian God, and prospered under the kindly, lawful aristocrats who rose up from among their ranks.

But they were also gullible, lustful, greedy and unstable in their attitudes — human frailties that the calculating, ascetic Jew could exploit in order to rob them of their entitlements.

— Part one of four from Among the Truthers by Jonathan Kay. Read the rest of the excerpt.

How Shakespeare Changed EverythingIn his new book  Stephen Marche credits The Bard with inventing skull style:Hamlet doesn’t just think about death or obsess about his own mortality. He is not at all the morbid type, a proto-vampire, a goth avant le lettre. He looks at Yorick’s skull and sees two separate truths, neither of which he can escape. Death casts a pall over the feast of life and death nourishes life. Does the skull mean we should abstain from the pleasure of the flesh? Or rather should the lesson of the skull be eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow we shall die? Hamlet is melancholy and jokey at the same time because he feels both these contradictory truths simultaneously.The skulls in the food court at the mall have the same two-faced glamour. They adorn the everyday objects of urban and suburban America to give a pretense of depth, spreading a radiant materialism, a daring superficiality that recognizes death but nonetheless wants a new iPhone and Prada sunglasses and blue jeans in the latest style. Look around an Urban Outfitters: Shakespeare is current up to the second. He means now. Hamlet in the graveyard scene arrives at the decadent materialism of the mall, the flouting of the authenticity of death. Hamlet’s father haunts the ancient battlements of Elsinore. Hamlet haunts the food court. (Illustration by Steve Murray)

How Shakespeare Changed Everything
In his new book Stephen Marche credits The Bard with inventing skull style:

Hamlet doesn’t just think about death or obsess about his own mortality. He is not at all the morbid type, a proto-vampire, a goth avant le lettre. He looks at Yorick’s skull and sees two separate truths, neither of which he can escape. Death casts a pall over the feast of life and death nourishes life. Does the skull mean we should abstain from the pleasure of the flesh? Or rather should the lesson of the skull be eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow we shall die? Hamlet is melancholy and jokey at the same time because he feels both these contradictory truths simultaneously.

The skulls in the food court at the mall have the same two-faced glamour. They adorn the everyday objects of urban and suburban America to give a pretense of depth, spreading a radiant materialism, a daring superficiality that recognizes death but nonetheless wants a new iPhone and Prada sunglasses and blue jeans in the latest style. Look around an Urban Outfitters: Shakespeare is current up to the second. He means now. Hamlet in the graveyard scene arrives at the decadent materialism of the mall, the flouting of the authenticity of death. Hamlet’s father haunts the ancient battlements of Elsinore. Hamlet haunts the food court.

(Illustration by Steve Murray)

Confessions of a book hoarderThe first thing people usually say to me, upon entering my home for the first time, is that I own a lot of books. They are wrong, of course. I am rather ashamed at the size of my collection, considering I studied English literature in university and now pretty much write about books for a living. Between my girlfriend and I, there are probably between 1,000 and 1,250 books in our apartment, a number I consider rather paltry. Ideally, I’d like to double that number once we buy our first home — we currently rent — and I’m no longer faced with the prospect of hauling countless boxes of books between addresses.I’d last attempted to cull my collection about a year ago, when I carried about 50 books from my shelves to a spare room in the basement; I intended to get rid of them, but they, of course, went nowhere. This time, I hoped to rid myself of a quarter of my books. Nothing so ridiculous happened, of course, but the fact that I found about a half dozen copies of Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce — which I still have not read — and four copies of Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel French Milk — ditto — was proof enough that my addiction had crossed the line into a dark, uncharted area, where intervention may be necessary. I thought it was also fitting that I found both of my e-readers gathering dust under piles of books.• Are you a book hoarder? Proud of it? Send your stories to mmedley@nationalpost.com

Confessions of a book hoarder
The first thing people usually say to me, upon entering my home for the first time, is that I own a lot of books. They are wrong, of course. I am rather ashamed at the size of my collection, considering I studied English literature in university and now pretty much write about books for a living. Between my girlfriend and I, there are probably between 1,000 and 1,250 books in our apartment, a number I consider rather paltry. Ideally, I’d like to double that number once we buy our first home — we currently rent — and I’m no longer faced with the prospect of hauling countless boxes of books between addresses.

I’d last attempted to cull my collection about a year ago, when I carried about 50 books from my shelves to a spare room in the basement; I intended to get rid of them, but they, of course, went nowhere. This time, I hoped to rid myself of a quarter of my books. Nothing so ridiculous happened, of course, but the fact that I found about a half dozen copies of Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce — which I still have not read — and four copies of Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel French Milk — ditto — was proof enough that my addiction had crossed the line into a dark, uncharted area, where intervention may be necessary. I thought it was also fitting that I found both of my e-readers gathering dust under piles of books.

• Are you a book hoarder? Proud of it? Send your stories to mmedley@nationalpost.com