By Nicholas Urie
(Reminder: I’m commenting on this not a a member of the Friends family, but as someone who arranged the music for the concert, which was awesome. I am really proud of the band’s excellent hard work, Gilad’s wonderful playing, and the audience, who made the show feel electric. You can see the concert footage here: http://www.nicholasurie.com/news/?p=693)
I have to comment on Alan Dershowitz’s new epic from today’s Jerusalem Post, Friends Seminary plays bait, switch on anti-Semitism. In the article, Dershowitz continues his campaign of bullying and misinformation reaching new and even more spectacular heights. In my last two responses to the Friends-Dershowitz saga, “Alan Dershowitz, neo-McCarthyite,” and, Wall St. Journal Ignores Dershowitz’s History of Attacks in, “School Hits Sour Note.” I laid out some of the tactics employed by Mr. Dershowitz in his effort to smear Friends Seminary and its faculty, staff, students and parents.
Mr. Dershowitz has taken his McCarthyist shenanigans to a new level, with the manufacturing of “evidence” from whole cloth in an effort to add pressure to a situation that was clearly winding down. Until this point, his tactic had been simply to distort things so heavily that they were almost unrecognizable to anyone actually involved. By knocking the corners off of what was real, he was able to stir a tremendous amount controversy, knowing that people are often gullible to the brand of manipulation that mixes falsehoods with truth. As Mr. Dershowitz has discovered, these tactics will only take you so far. People start to see through manipulations of this kind, as Bo Lauder, the Principal of Friends Seminary has done, evidenced by his rescinding Mr. Dershowitz’s invitation to the school.
A grand untruth is what is needed now, to take this tar and feather show to the next level, and that is what Mr. Dershowitz has delivered. This new article is a masterstroke in his quest to shame Friends Seminary and strike fear in the minds of any institution that may openly disobey him in the future.
We should focus on one particularly egregious falsity; Mr. Dershowitz’s claim that, “The Friends Seminary in New York has a rabidly anti-Israel history teacher on its faculty, who propagandizes his students against Israel in the classroom.” This statement is patently false and meant only to embroil his readers. I recently sat down to lunch with the teacher in question, and I can attest that he is as measured and intellectually honest as one could hope for in a teacher of history. Our discussion over lunch was wide ranging and gave me no reason to suspect that Mr. Dershowitz’s claim is anything but a convenient fiction. (The history teacher is also Jewish, if that matters to anyone reading - though I think it is irrelevant in this discussion).
The inditement of the history teacher is a perfect example of the evolution of Mr. Dershowitz’s rhetoric. The idea to create a grand lie is nothing new, and a modern source of inspiration for this particular rhetorical device can be found in what can only be described as a comical place, Mein Kampf. The Hitlerian, “big lie.”
“…in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, volume 1, ch. 10
The psychological profile of someone who employs this Hitlerian tactic was perfectly described by the OSS during the Second World War, and can be applied to Mr. Dershowitz and his plan of attack on not just Friends, but all of his philosophical/political rivals. The OSS wrote of Hitler that,
“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.” -OSS report, p.51
Can we not all see how this device is being used against the Friends Seminary community? It is transparent to the point of absurdity, and I think it is time that supporters of Mr. Dershowitz take a moment to reflect on what is actually going on, and parse out what this campaign is actually trying to accomplish.
I for one have had enough of this, and I hope that everyone who reads Mr. Dershowitz’s garbage has too. I applaud Friends for finally making the decision to ignore Mr. Dershowitz, and hopefully the school continues to do so, taking a large step toward sanity and the teaching of responsible rhetoric to the students in their charge.