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Op-eds

When the Public Protector punts blatant anti-Semite’s book

  • Jeff
Few if any groups in history have been the targets of as many conspiracy theories as the Jewish people. With the spread of literacy and the rise in education levels, one might have expected this phenomenon to have declined, particularly in democratic countries committed to the values of liberalism, non-racism and equality.
by JEFF KATZ | Jun 29, 2017

Unfortunately, this has not happened - in fact, the trend would sadly appear to be the direct opposite. The primary reason for this is the electronic communications revolution which, for all its enormous benefits, also provides an ideal vehicle for racist conspiracy theorists to propagate their noxious theories.

The Internet will always have its dark corners. However, as long as responsible policy and opinionmakers are able to recognise the kind of material that emanates from these sources for what they are, there is a limit to the harm that they cause.

The danger, however, is significantly enhanced when proponents of hate, instead of being confined to the lunatic fringes where they belong, start to acquire a degree of credibility in mainstream society. 

The most dangerous conspiracy theorists are those who package their theories in ostensibly plausible academic-speak, thereby creating the impression of ideas based on rigorous, objective research.

Unfortunately, public figures sometimes fall for this either knowingly or unknowingly. Such was the case with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane who, according to media reports, has enthusiastically endorsed as a “must read” a book by a notorious anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, Nazi apologist and Holocaust denier, Stephen Goodson.

Entitled A History of Central Banking (and the Enslavement of Mankind), the book repeats the libel that Jews are guilty of foisting the evils of usury and corrupt international finance on humanity.

Goodson further presumes to justify anti-Jewish persecution, by attributing it to the alleged criminal behaviour of Jews themselves; he blames Jews for instigating wars and other disasters and describes the Holocaust as a Jewish-spawned lie, aimed at extorting reparations from Germany.

While endorsing the rantings of a Goodson does not necessarily make one an anti-Semite, (since often the anti-Semitism is to some extent disguised in a plethora of other facts and figures) it certainly has the effect of lending credibility to such poisonous theories.

It is therefore particularly incumbent on elected leaders, public representatives, intellectuals and opinionmakers, to be wary of extending such credibility, whether deliberately or inadvertently.

This is something the Board will emphasise at its upcoming meeting with the Public Protector next month, where we will urge her to refrain from endorsing, or appearing to endorse, the above book and to unequivocally distance herself from the views expressed by its author.

Conspiratorial thinking is often born and flourishes in environments of dishonesty; when people suspect they are being lied to and cheated, they are more inclined to give credence to alleged plots against them.

This again underlines the crucial importance of ethical, above-board behaviour on the part of all South Africans today. Only through this will it be possible to rebuild a culture of trust between all sectors of our society, thereby ensuring that conspiracy theories and their like die very quick deaths. 

•         Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00-13:00

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