In 1439, Gutenberg, a German goldsmith and printer, invented the process of mass-producing movable type, the use of oil-based ink and the use of a wooden printing press. It was an epochal invention and Gutenberg’s printing technology is considered to have been a key factor in the European Renaissance.
The Internet, a network of networks that consists of millions of private and public, academic, business and other networks, serves billions of users worldwide. It carries a vast array of information resources and services. While most individuals and organizations use the Internet to disseminate factual material, others do the opposite. They use the Internet to spread falsehood, create division and sow hatred.
Two separate e-mails sent to me recently illustrate the role the Internet plays in the effort to shape public perception.
The first e-mail, “General Eisenhower Warned Us,” stated that when Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, saw the victims of the death camps, he ordered that detailed photographs be taken and the German people from the surrounding villages should be ushered through the camps, and even made to burry the dead.
He was quoted: “Get it all on record now, get the films, get the witnesses, because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”
The e-mail noted that there is a debate going on in Great Britain whether to remove the subject of the Holocaust from its school curriculum because it “offend” some of the Muslim population who claim it never occurred.
According to the e-mail, during the Second World War 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priest had been murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten to death, experimented on and humiliated.
“Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.”
The e-mail ends with the question: “How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center is proclaimed, ‘Never Happened,’ because it may offend some Muslims in the U. S.?”
Shortly after the first e-mail, a second arrived, “The Business of Lobbying in American Politics.” It was written by Karin Friedemann. She is identified as the director of the Division on Muslim Civil Right and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.
Friedemann, in her “call for action,” first takes aim at AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby. She accuses it of lobbying Congress “to bomb this or that country.” She states that the “Israel lobby has made sure the Zionist perspective permeates American discourse from grammar school through the highest levels of government. No child is too young for brainwashing.”
In her opinion, Holocaust propaganda serves to shield the most privileged group in America from just criticism. “How about a turn-around in rhetoric?” she writes. “Instead of trying to make Americans care about Arabs — too hard — we need to increase their awareness that the Jewish Lobby is undermining American democracy and costing taxpayers money.”
She advocates using tactics, such as addressing this issue at town meetings, parent-teacher conferences, causing a stir at school assemblies or sending mass mailings to all high school students. “We are at war because we allowed our country and our minds to be taken over by Zionists and other opportunists.”
She urges “pro-peace advocates” to identify the Zionist individuals who are pursuing their agenda and are personally responsible for pushing Americans to die for Israeli interest. “You probably know where they live. If Americans started talking to their neighbors, we could probably stop this insanity.”
All this reminded me of the Nazi propaganda that subsequently led to the Holocaust.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.