Book Review: The Plot
By Will Eisner
I first learned about the falsified inflammatory “historical” document The Protocols of the Elders of Zion this past year during the course of reading through The Orientalist by Tom Reiss (read my review here of Reiss’ historical/biographical/adventure travelogue). I believe it was merely mentioned in passing while discussing how Hitler fanned the flames of anti-semitism in Germany, with some additional details contained within a footnote. I certainly was no expert on this controversial propaganda tool, but at the very least it was now on my radar. While browsing through the Hutchinson Public Library earlier this fall, I came across this book and immediately snatched it up. I was interested to learn a little more about The Protocols, which have had a profound influence on the history of this past century that has largely gone unnoticed by the average person. I was aware of Will Eisner by reputation only (comic book legend, creator of The Spirit, and the inventor of the “graphic novel”) and was eager to sample his work.
In a nutshell, The Protocols was a document forged during the 1800’s by Russian agents that depicted a manifesto put forth by Jewish leaders stating their intent to essentially rule the world and secretly overthrow or control the world’s governments and economies. Why a secret plan would be publicly published escaped the logic of the masses during the time period, but the end result was an excuse for the Russian pogroms (bloody persecutions of the Jews). Since that time, The Protocols have been proven time and time again to be a forgery, a fake. Yet in spite of this fact, it has been repeatedly hoisted as truth and used as an instigation for attacks on Jews, most famously by the Nazis. Eisner here seeks to again attempt to put its “authenticity” to rest through the medium he knows best: by depicting the history of The Protocols through the use of sequential art in comic book story-telling.
Eisner’s art is detailed and engrossing, leading the reader along this intricately researched historical narrative. Although it can get a bit wordy at times, Eisner’s artistic panache keeps the story popping along and demonstrates a perfect blend of cartoonish exaggeration and realistic portrayal. I will admit that, for a book about the evils of manipulating statements to suit one’s own agenda, oftentimes the corrupt motivations of the perpetrators behind the creation and abuse of The Protocols comes across as Machiavellian speechifying, as Eisner imagines what these historical villains were thinking and saying. But overall it was an eye-opening read. The history books would do well to devote more time to teaching about the far-reaching impact of The Protocols.
The tragedy of it all (and what Eisner failed to realize or address) is that mankind, as a whole and as individuals, is evil by nature. The problem goes beyond bringing to light the falsehood of a hateful document forged 150 years ago; people will believe what is convenient and expedient for them to get what they want (money, power, influence, etc.), even (and especially) at the cost of other people. So long as man continues on enslaved to his sin nature, this will always be the case. Thankfully, Jesus Christ came to save us from our own wickedness and offer us the one true escape from the hopeless cycle of hate and destruction that The Protocols was intended to (and has quite successfully) perpetuated. Eisner does a great job of illuminating the lie but ultimately fails to then point to the Truth, the Answer to the Problem. Still, as in all literature, there is much for the Christian to learn here about the nature of sin. A fascinating read for anyone fascinated (and appalled) about the history of this world, as Eisner himself would agree that those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.