Not all documents that change the world are good — some are despicable, and leave hatred and bigotry in their wake. Such is the case with the latest entry in Joe Janes’ ongoing Documents that Changed the World podcast series, the 1900-era anti-Semitic manifesto “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
In the podcasts, Janes, professor in the UW Information School, explores the origin and often-evolving meaning of historical documents both famous and less known. UW Today presents these periodically, and all of the podcasts are available on iTunes.
“Its form is quite clever, really,” Janes wrote of the Protocols. “It purports to be transcripts of 24 lectures, or protocols, delivered in secret meetings of the Elders of Zion, a Jewish cabal bent on global domination.”
Industrialist Henry Ford was a fan of the work, Janes noted, sponsoring a massive printing and running a serialized version in his Dearborn newspaper.
Documents that Changed the World
A podcast series by Joe Janes
UW Information School
- An introduction
- “President Obama’s Birth Certificate”
- “The Nineteenth Amendment”
- John Snow’s Cholera Map, 1854
- “Quotations of Chairman Mao, 1965″
- Internet Protocol, 1981
- The AIDS Memorial Quilt
- The 18 1/2-minute gap, 1972
- Gutenberg Indulgence, 1454
- “Robert’s Rules of Order”
- The fraudulent “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”
“What it really is, is a fraud, and a plagiarized fraud at that, meant to deceive. It was exposed as a forgery in 1921 by the Times of London and ruled a forgery by a Swiss Court in 1935, which of course had no effect whatsoever on its acceptance as legitimate.”
And how did it “change the world”?
“I think the ‘change’ here — apart from possibly facilitating some of what happened during the Nazi period (perniciously undermining people’s humanity by making it easier for them to look the other way) — was also to give a focal point, a touchstone, for modern anti-Semitism,” Janes wrote in an email.