I grew up with a love of Sherlock Holmes. Millions of us have. When I was teaching a class on logic and debate to high school students, I used a book of quotes and incidents from Sherlock’s cases to study critical thinking and teach informal syllogisms. So, when I saw a review of a modern version of the detective, not written by Arthur Conan Doyle, and read about the plot, I was intrigued.
The author of the book is Nicholas Meyer, a contemporary scriptwriter as well as novelist. It’s called The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols. The plot is built around actual events from the past that are still haunting the present. And with disinformation, antisemitism, and anti-Muslim attacks haunting us now, this is a critical time to speak of this history.
The Protocols mentioned in the title are actual rants, lies, propaganda that were first published in the nineteenth century and, unfortunately, have been reproduced even today. They are called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The document was created to deceive people into believing Jewish leaders had come together to plot the takeover of the world. In the novel by Meyer, Sherlock is asked to find out if the plot is real and, if not, expose the lie so the truth could be revealed.
In truth (as well as in the novel), the Protocols were plagiarized from a work of satire called The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, by a writer named Maurice Joly in 1864. It included no mention of any Jew. According to Wikipedia, Joly’s piece was an attack on Napoleon III, elected President of France who later made himself absolute ruler.
Joly has Montesquieu speak in support of democracy and argue that the “liberal” spirit in people was indomitable. Machiavelli argues it wouldn’t take him even 20 years to “… transform utterly the most indomitable European character and render it as docile under tyranny as the debased people of Asia.”
In the end of the satire, absolutism wins, and Montesquieu is consigned to remain in hell.
The piece would have been consigned to oblivion, except probably for Pyotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky, head of the Russian Okhrana or secret police of the Tsar Nicholas II. He commissioned a re-write, to replace the attacks on Napoleon with attacks on the Tsar. And to turn the meeting between two dead philosophers in hell to a meeting in Switzerland by Jews.
In the original, Machiavelli argues “Men must not scruple to use all the vile and odious deceits at their command to combat and overthrow a corrupt emperor…” Just change a few words and we get the tenth protocol, “Jews must not hesitate to employ every noxious and terrible deception at their command to fight and overturn a wicked Tsar…”
And there were in fact meetings by Jews in Switzerland in the nineteenth century, but they were not secret. They were Congresses called to create a Jewish state. Unlike the plot of the plagiarized and fictional Protocols, the meetings had nothing to do with overthrowing the Tsar or any other state….
**To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.