The hateful hoax that just won’t die

  • By Robert Horton / Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, April 20, 2006 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

One of the bizarre aftereffects of Sept. 11, 2001, was a revival of rancid interest in a century-old hoax called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” This book purports to be a Jewish plan for world domination, although it was actually concocted by czarist Russians trying to stir up anti-Semitism.

Lost opportunity: Documentary on a celebrated book purporting to describe a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, long debunked but still believed by many. Filmmaker Marc Levin finds many tentacles of anti-Semitism alive and well, but his personal approach fails to make a knockout punch.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for language, subject matter

Now showing: Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle; 206-267-5380

One of the urban legends that took root after Sept. 11 was the rumor that Jewish workers in the World Trade Center were spared in the attack. They weren’t, but the loony idea took hold strongly enough to bring “Protocols” back into the public eye (or at least the rumor mill) as possible evidence of Jewish conspiracy.

The rumor attracted the attention of filmmaker Marc Levin, whose documentary, “Protocols of Zion,” tries to figure out why the “Protocols” won’t die. Levin’s film is a scattered take on the subject; it’s more of a first-person, Michael Moore-style essay than a thorough examination of the hoax and its effects.

Levin does provide some history. Although the book had been thoroughly debunked by 1921, it was swallowed whole by generations thereafter. Henry Ford was a big fan in the 1920s, and Adolf Hitler referred to it in “Mein Kampf.” It continues to sell well in the Middle East.

Levin includes clips from a miniseries based on the book, broadcast on Egyptian TV. It looks laughably bad, although the thought that some people took it as fact makes the laugh stick in one’s throat.

It goes to show how much people love a conspiracy theory, especially when it gives them something to blame their problems on. Levin finds street kids and taxi drivers who absolutely believe in a Jewish world plan.

He also ranges far afield to dig up active anti-Semites. Some of this is “Daily Show”-style material, as when he visits a skinhead leader with a robust mail-order business in Nazi paraphernalia (he also sells the “Protocols”). It’s like eBay for idiots.

A digression on Hollywood and the Jews feels like a dead end, especially a self-serving sequence in which Levin tries to get people like Larry David and Rob Reiner to join him in discussion.

This film doesn’t need to be the last word on the subject, but a lot of it feels like a missed opportunity. Levin’s approach is personal, which is his right, but the movie never becomes the knockout punch it should be.

Talk to us

More in Life

Local musician Alex Johnston, whose newest album "Daylight Fooldream" pairs with short film he made with help from his partner Mikaela Henderson, sits with his morning coffee on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Narrative Coffee in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Folktronica musician shoots 37-minute visual album on iPhone in Everett

Alex Johnston, 31, describes his music as ”if Coldplay and Bon Iver had a love child.”

Flowering knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis firetail in the morning light.
Save for one infamous variety, fleece flowers are easy to fall in love with

This long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennial comes in many desirable varieties. But watch out: One is an invasive knotweed.

A view of King Street Station in Seattle, Washington from an Amtrak Cascades train to Portland, Oregon from Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ride the rails on Amtrak Cascades from Everett to Portland

Make new friends and let Amtrak do the driving on this 5-hour trip past sea, city and forest.

From left, Elora Coble, Carol Richmond, David Hayes, Karli Reinbold, Giovanna Cossalter Walters, Landon Whitbread in a scene from Edmonds Driftwood Players' production of "Murder on the Orient Express." (Dale Sutton / Magic Photography)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Edmonds Driftwood Players opens its 65th season with Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Some collectibles are found in nature; some imitate them. If it weren’t for the attached figure, this Royal Dux porcelain vase might pass for a real conch shell.
This shell-shaped vase would make a fine souvenir of summer fun

It may not be a real shell, but this art nouveau piece could still evoke fond memories of days at the beach.

Arlington Garden Club celebrating its 90th anniversary

The club has monthly programs for north Snohomish County gardeners and awards scholarships to area students.

Spouses Franchesca and Don Simpson talk about their baby girl’s “chubby cheeks” and “button nose” as Kelly Fox RDMS RVT performs a live-view 3D ultrasound on the expecting mother Saturday, August 26, 2023, at Wonder Baby Ultrasound Studio in Everett, Washington. The Simpsons are expecting their first child in October. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Glamour shots in utero? Everett studio offers HD ultrasound keepsakes

For curious parents, these glimpses are exciting, but not medically endorsed.

An Oxford White grille with red “BRONCO” lettering signifies the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition model. (Ford)
2023 Ford Bronco Sport has two new Heritage Edition models

Design and paint treatments pay homage to the original Bronco introduced in 1966.

Everett comedian Taylor Clark performs stand-up in 2023 at The Triple Door in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mike Bryk)
Comedian Taylor Clark to film first special Friday in Everett

The skateboarding funny-man will record an hour of his stand-up at the Historic Everett Theater.

Most Read