Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A review of "Protocols of Zion"

I rented The Protocols of Zion because I like a good conspiracy theory, and I wanted to see what this one was about. I thought this would be an interesting exposition and debunking of a conspiracy theory. In that sense, it disappointed.

The movie doesn’t go into the history of the The Protocols, although the DVD extras do fill in the cracks there. This is not a documentary about that text per se; rather, it uses that text as a launching point to study the recent rise in anti-Semitism.

It’s a distressing film, even if you are already aware of the existence of such ignorant and hate-filled people as are interviewed here. Why do some people hold to such confused and unreasoning beliefs? It almost seems like a form of mental illness.

Given that the movie is so emotionally exhausting, is it worth watching? It is educational for anyone who is unaware of what is going on in the world. But if you are aware of these things, it may simply make you feel discouraged, helpless, and hopeless about human nature. In the DVD extras, in a Q&A session with the director, someone suggests that the movie lacks a suggestion about how to deal with these offensive ideologies. The questioner points to organizations like the Anti-Defamation League. Perhaps a better answer is to improve education, in the US and around the world, so that more emphasis is placed on critical thinking skills.

The DVD extras are worth going through. There’s a timeline for the “Protocols” which you can flip through, starting in 1903 and ending in 2005. This gives you some of the facts about the history of that text, which were missing in the documentary itself. There is also a good set of interviews, including one with Will Eisner, whose work I love.

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