Friday, March 09, 2007

The role of the media in the October Crisis

The October Crisis was an event that forever marked Quebec society and its relationship to the Canadian government, and contributed to the nationalist mobilisation of Quebec society. It was an event where the media played a crucial role, both because it would not, as far as the public was concerned, have been an event without its coverage, and because it made palpable goods out of abstract concepts like civil liberties, public safety and democracy. The temporary absence of those goods became a visible threat that could be watched by the average citizen, even if they were not personally affected. This essay will show, by examining newspaper clippings from the time of the crisis, how the media played a role in shaping the October Crisis before, during and after the events. To this end, a historical background, along with its controversies, will be given, followed by an analysis of media coverage of the root causes and solutions for the crisis, its stance towards the War Measures Act, its dramatisation of the events, and a brief comparison with the coverage of the crisis by the foreign press.

The main actor that was responsible for the October Crisis was the FLQ (Front de Libération du Québec), a terrorist group founded in the early 1960s which sought the secession of Quebec from the Canadian confederation. The FLQ conducted a series of illegal operations throughout the decade, such as bank hold ups and planting bombs in mailboxes (Levin and Sylvester, 71). The FLQ was mostly ignored and treated like an ordinary criminal group, until October 5, 1970, when they kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross. Threatening the execution of their hostage, they made demands that included a ransom of $500,000 in gold bars, the liberation of 23 FLQ prisoners, an aircraft to send them to Cuba or Algeria and the broadcast of their manifesto in print and electronic media. Only the last of those demands was granted, in response to which the FLQ decided to kidnap a second hostage, Vice Prime Minister and Labour Minister Pierre Laporte, instead of executing James Cross. Following failure of negotiations between the provincial Bourassa government and the FLQ, Bourassa requested army personnel to be dispatched in the province. On October 16, the Canadian federal government, led by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, proclaimed the War Measures Act, which suspended civil rights and allowed arbitrary detention. On October 17, the execution of Pierre Laporte was announced by the FLQ. Police searches and arrests without warrant went rampant as the authorities attempted to find James Cross, until seven weeks later they received a letter from him confirming that he was still alive. Eventually, the police found the building where Cross was detained, prompting the kidnappers to renew negotiations. The crisis ended when James Cross was released on December 3rd and the kidnappers were granted safe passage to Cuba (Levin and Sylvester, 1-8).

However, this version of the events is not without controversy. In his book “The assassination of Pierre Laporte”, Pierre Vallières, a member of the Parti Québécois famous for his dramatic departure from the FLQ and his repudiation of its violent methods, expressed doubts over the circumstances surrounding the death of Pierre Laporte, believing that it may have been an accident rather than an execution, and questioned the motives of the federal government in implementing the War Measures Act. He pointed out that Pierre Trudeau, in 1964, well before the founding of the PQ and only shortly after the activities of the FLQ started, had already identified the Quebec sovereignty movement as a threat to democracy and freedom, which Vallières believed to be “inseparable from 'Canadian Unity' in Trudeau's mind” (23).

Vallières was encouraged to write his book by Jacques Ferron, after having initially rejected his accusations formulated in his Historiettes published in the newspaper Le Canada Français. Ferron speculated that there was police infiltration of the FLQ, and that the October Crisis was manufactured or deliberately allowed to happen by the federal authorities to discredit the Quebec sovereignty movement and intimidate its supporters. The perspective of Ferron and Vallières was endorsed by historian Georges Langlois in his book “Octobre en question”, published in 1990 (Ó Gormaile, 12-17).

The documentary “La guerre secrète contre l'indépendance du Québec” also cited some of the facts exposed by Vallières, revealing that an effort to fight Quebec separatism predated the October Crisis. Richard Cléroux estimated that the secret war was launched in December 1969, during a meeting of ministers attended by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Those efforts were boosted by the gain of 23% of the votes of the Quebec electorate in the first election contested by the Parti Québécois in the spring of 1970. Shortly after the election, measures were taken to reinforce the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and the army to respond in the eventuality of the application of the War Measures Act. A special division in the RCMP called Section G was created specifically to deal with separatism, in particular the FLQ which was considered a threat the time (Deschênes and Gabriele).

Allegations of malicious intent have been consistently denied by Trudeau and the members of the federal government who participated in the crisis, who have maintained that they acted in the interest of public safety in response to what was perceived as a threat to democratic institutions (Leroux, 117). Vallières' suspicions that Laporte's death was accidental, as well as FLQ actions being the result of police infiltration, have been denied by FLQ members Paul Rose and Francis Simard, who contend that the FLQ bore responsibility for his death and acted on their own accord. However, Rose had previously claimed innocence to the death of Laporte (116).

Regardless, it remains undisputed today that there were RCMP attempts until 1975 to artificially extend the October Crisis in order to discredit the Quebec sovereignty movement. The documentary further revealed that RCMP Carole Devault had infiltrated the FLQ during the October Crisis, and after the crisis created fake FLQ cells. Manipulation included planting fake manifestos written by the head of the RCMP and bombs planted by a suspect who was injured by his own bomb, later caught at the hospital and revealed to be an RCMP agent. During the RCMP operations, the Parti Québécois attempted to dissociate itself from what were thought to be the terrorist actions of the FLQ, which also prompted Pierre Vallières to resign and join the PQ. Those events led to the MacDonald and Keable inquiries, which however, remained incomplete, as the RCMP refused to make public key classified documents (Deschênes and Gabriele).

Several social factors need to be understood in order to properly grasp the historical background of the crisis. Editor-in-chief of Point de Mire and ardent sovereignty proponent Pierre Bourgault identified several of them, namely the primacy of the English language in a province with a French-speaking majority, elections which he qualified as “truquées” (18), assimilation of immigrants to the anglophones instead of the French-speaking majority, and a slew of economic problems, such as pervasive foreign ownership of capital and control of the justice system by the rich. (18-19). Many of those grievances were found in the FLQ Manifesto, which lamented the mistreatment of workers, the repression of labour unions, and the control of society by the Anglo-Saxon elite (FLQ, 91-96).

The media was instrumental during and after the October Crisis in shaping public understanding of the events, and before it as a catalysing factor. The media reported statements made by contemporary politicians during the crisis which identified some of the economic root causes of the rise of the FLQ. Highlighting the economic disparity between Quebec and the rest of Canada, Senator Mrs. Thérèse Casgrain described Quebecers as “citoyens de seconde classe”, and “comprend le sentiment tragique qui règne dans le coeur du peuple québécois”. The senator noted the role of the media as a catalyst for the crisis, how it changed the attitudes and ideals of younger generations compared to older ones, and made them envious as they saw rich houses and clothes whilst living in lower life conditions. (“Mme Casgrain”). Earlier, Castonguay had given deeper insight into the social tensions resulting from the gap between the higher and lower classes, drawing a comparison with the United States, which he said had “poverty areas” which would be “unacceptable” in Canada (Castonguay). Such populations, he argued, being disempowered, in addition to be exposed to glorification of violence on television, would be more open to violence as a political solution. He further cites as root causes the sudden change from a socially conservative society to an open liberal society with advanced technology, as well as the vulnerability of Quebec culture towards North American culture and the lack of power of its community to make it evolve.

Quebec Federation of Labour leader Louis Laberge suggested social reforms as a remedy to the root causes of the initial support for terrorism, which would have included constitutional reforms, justice system reforms and social programs such as subsidised housing and minimum wage (Winter). On Decenber 15, 1970, The Gazette released the QFL's “Emergency Program”, whose demands, in addition to those in the previous article, included that “French becomes truly the normal and every day language of work at all levels of economic activity” (Laberge).

However, there was selective reporting in the press of the root causes of the October Crisis, most markedly in the anglophone press. While The Gazette consistently emphasised poverty as a root cause for the FLQ crisis, it paid little attention to other issues mentioned in the FLQ manifesto. Conspicuously underreported by The Gazette articles was the disaffectation of the voters towards an election system viewed as unrepresentative and undemocratic. In the 1970 election, the Liberal Party won 70% of the seats, despite having been rejected by 55% of the voters, and the Parti Québécois, despite having had 24% of the votes, only had 6% of the seats (Bourgault, 17). This problem was only covered in a small paragraph, as part of The Gazette's publication of the QFL's Emergency Program (Laberge).

By contrast, an editorial by Paul Sauriol in Le Devoir entitled “Pour instaurer une vraie démocratie dans notre vie”, taking a large part of a page, was dedicated to CSN president Marcel Pepin, who outlined the problems with the voting system and proposed several radical changes, including an electoral ID card and a permanent list of registered voters.

In all fairness, The Gazette did give significant coverage of the language issue in Quebec, and
carried an editorial that extensively acknowledged the “linguistic injustices” and “the disadvantages suffered by unilingual people at work and in the marketplace”. However, there were few attempts to link the frustration resulting from the dominance of the English language with the rise of the FLQ, other than citing Bourassa's statement that “the main source of resentment is that French Quebecers feel they cannot work in their own language” (“Premier”).

The Gazette was notable for its support of the authorities and the security measures taken by the federal and provincial governments during the crisis. The Gazette carried a large number of articles that defended the repressive measures, such as “Society's right to protect itself” and “The facts speak for the government”, the latter stating that critics must be countered by “spell[ing] out the extent of the danger to Quebec society”. Another article from The Gazette entitled “Dangerous but necessary” defended the newly-passed Public Order Act, arguing that while it is a 'dangerous law', it was justifiable in 'dangerous times'.

The Gazette, however, was not alone in calling the public to support the authorities. A particularly egregious article was carried by La Presse, entitled “Appel aux Québécois”, saying that “no society is possible without some form of authority”, that “chaque citoyen doit être sans réticence avec le gouvernement, car le gouvernement, c'est nous tous”, and compared civil libertarians with sex-obsessed people, exhorting people not to listen to intellectuals “qui discutent du sexe de la liberté [sic] et qui excitent les enfants”.(Desbiens) The Montreal Star also carried an article called “High Price for Freedom”, which stated that “there is no moral or ethical difficulty at all in defending the federal action” (Wilson).

By contrast, Le Devoir was far more concerned with civil liberties, and suspicious of the use of the War Measures Act and other extraordinary measures by the government. The Public Order Act, referred to as “La Loi Turner”, was condemned in an article whose title translates as “A law that reveals not the strength but the weakness of power”. Its stance towards civil liberties sharply contrasted with that of The Gazette, as shown by its statement that “aucun gouvernement n'a le droit d'adopter une politique qui aille au-delè de ce que la situation du moment exige raisonablement” (Justinien). An editorial by Claude Ryan argued that not only intellectuals, but also ordinary people were questioning the measures used by the authorities during the crisis (Ryan, “Les milieux intellectuels sont-ils les seuls à se poser des questions?”). Le Devoir also carried an article from Canadian Press which reported that the opposition was demanding proof that there was a threat of insurrection (“La menace d'insurrection”).

Furthermore, its publication of a speech by late Canadian Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier under the title “Toute rébellion n'est pas un crime”, which referred to the Low Canada rebellions of 1837-38, suggests that Le Devoir had a certain degree of sympathy towards the FLQ (Laurier). Another article, from Canadian Press, cited history professor Donald Creighton, who considered the actions of the FLQ as “la conclusion logique” of the need discovered by their ancestors to “s'affranchir de la confédération canadienne” (“Le crime du FLQ”). However, this is contradicted by Claude Ryan's editorial “La fin d'un long cauchemar”, where he decried “l'inanité de la violence comme moyen d'action politique dans une société comme la nôtre”, and called the actions of the FLQ “tragiquement irresponsables” (Ryan). His statement that “the principle of the superiority of a negotiated solution over resorting outright to brute force” suggests that the stance taken by Le Devoir was not partisan to the FLQ, but rather pleaded for a peaceful solution, while condemning the excesses of the government in dealing with the crisis (Ryan, “La fin d'un long cauchemar”).

Occasionally, even the Gazette expressed mild disapproval of police abuse; however, the condemnations were made less because of loss of civil liberties as out of concern that they would result in reduced popular support for the authorities. Such an example could be seen in the article “Arrests under War Act alienates academic community”; on one hand it notes that the massive arrests on the campuses alienated the intellectuals; however later noted that those raids “hurt the government's popularity even more” (Cleroux).

Overall, despite the support by 88.3% of the Quebec population for the measures taken by the federal government, there was alarm over their impact on freedom of information (“86.6 p.c des Canadiens”). This was especially a concern for the media as shown by the article in La Presse “La liberté de l'information est en danger”, which was given a large headline (Robitaille). Point de Mire also made a point of mentioning that several of their journalists were arrested in their attempts to gather information (La Direction). However, Marc Chatelle, deputy editor-in-chief of Point de Mire, argued that the threat to freedom of information was often used as a pretext for the use of sensationalism to increase ratings. “Sous le couvert du juste droit, de la démocratie en danger, chacun y va de ses petites rancoeurs” (46), reported Chatelle, as radio stations CKVI and CJMS struggled to recover their audiences from CKAC and CKLM, who became “les porte-parole des ravisseurs” (46). An escalation took place between the radio stations to compete for ratings where every tactic was permissible, including allowing open commentary from the audience and outright making up news in extreme cases (Chatelle, 46-47).

As in the radio, sensationalism manifested itself, with few exceptions, in the printed press regardless of targeted readers. On October 18, The Journal de Montréal carried the headlines “Le cadavre de Pierre Laporte retrouvé” in large characters that spread across almost the entirety of the front page. On the front page of the October 16, 1970 issue of The Gazette, a large headline read “Free only five says Bourassa; but FLQ's lawyer screams no!”. The October 19, 1970 issue of the McGill Daily carried a headline that read “Parliament Hill tense after Laporte death”. The Sunday Express of October 18, 1970, carried the large, bolded words “Laporte Killed” in a headline that took the half top of the page, with a photo underneath of the car where his body was found. Even in Le Devoir, coverage of the October Crisis was not always exempt from sensationalistic details: on the front page of the October 20, 1970 issue, a large headline went in details describing the funeral of Pierre Laporte as “sans apparat”, beneath a smaller headline that specified “à la requête même de Mme Pierre Laporte”.

As paradoxical as it may seem, Lysiane Gagnon argued that despite the sensationalism, the abundance of information prevented panic from overcoming the Quebec population. While she conceded that it was not always easy to determine the factual basis of the reports, she pointed out that retractions were quickly forthcoming, and that the spread of rumour increased exponentially following the self-censorship of radio stations when the War Measures Act was enforced. (Chatelle, 47)

Gagnon's theory on the role of the media was corroborated by Chatelle's analysis of the importance of the radio during the October Crisis. As reported in Le Devoir, the French-speaking Québécois relied more on television and radio than their anglophone counterparts, who mainly gathered their news from newspapers. However, during the October Crisis, radio overtook both television and the printed press, as it required fewer and cheaper equipment, allowing journalists to report developments on the spot and quickly correct them, which was even less feasible for the print press. Marc Chatelle concluded that the media “creates the events” (47). “Il aurait suffi”, he stated, “que la radio, la télévision, et les journaux ignorent l'affaire et le FLQ ne serait pas une réalité aussi criante” (47).

Chatelle's analysis of the role of the media had proponents both in the camp of the supporters and the opponents of the application of the War Measures Act. Vallières himself had questions over manipulation of the media during the October crisis. In his book, he asked whether foreknowledge of FLQ plans to kidnap Pierre Laporte led to “the management of certain Montreal radio stations” being “tipped off” to prepare a media campaign to play up the events for the public (52). He also implied that the “sensationalism, overdramatisation, public agitation and eventually collective fear” (52) was of benefit for the authorities to escalate the October crisis, and cast suspicion over the telephone conversations between Gérard Pelletier, then head of the CBC, and the heads of public and private media like CTV and Canadian Press. (52)

At least Vallières' assertions that the media overplayed the crisis can be verified by looking at some editorials written during the time of the crisis. The article “Coincidence in Conspiracy” of the November 20 issue of The Gazette compared the FLQ to Algerian resistance group OAS, implying ties between the groups based on reports that FLQ members had gone to Algeria, and that some members of the FLQ were from Algeria. The article stated that the FLQ “is estimated to have about a hundred active terrorists, backed by supporting units that may have between 2,000 and 3,000 participants” (Blakely). Later reports, however, revised the numbers downwards to 35 members, including 20 active members. Of the 497 arrests made under the War Measures Act, only 62 were charged (Ó Gormaile, 16). An article from La Presse claimed that the FLQ were inspired by a terrorist group called the “tupamaros” in Uruguay; comparing the kidnappings of politicians and the execution of Pierre Laporte to methods used by South American guerillas. The article, however, reported that Palestinian groups denied rumours that members of the FLQ had been trained in fedayin camps (Beauregard).

The authority figures who dealt with the crisis had a different interpretation of the media sensationalism. From Pierre Trudeau's perspective, it was the FLQ that manipulated the media, using French-speaking media such as CKLM and Journal de Montréal as mouthpieces, a role even admitted by former FLQ member Robert Comeau. Facing accusations of exerting pressure over the media, former Quebec minister of Justice Jérôme Choquette responded that he simply wanted to warn the journalists not to play the game of the FLQ (Leroux, 101; 115-118). Even the state-owned media, was not spared criticism. Federal Members of Parliament accused Radio-Canada of being “une tribune des révolutionnaires, séparatistes et anarchistes” (“De nombreux députés”). Vallière pointed out, however, that the police “showed a remarkable tolerance towards the exploitation of the FLQ activities by the media”, which “ended abruptly on October 17, 1970”. On the authorities' claims that the purpose was to stop the spread of rumours, Vallières had noted that during the night of the same day, the CBC had regardless falsely reported the death of James Cross (53).

In the foreign press, the October Crisis received significant coverage in a wide range of countries. The October 19, 1970 issue of Time Magazine had an FLQ message printed over the front page, with a black and white picture of Pierre Laporte in the background, and gave six pages of coverage to the October Crisis. An article about negotiations for the release of James Cross was featured on the front page of the New York Times issue of the same day (Cowen). Point de Mire dedicated two pages of its November 1st 1970 issue to front page articles from foreign newspapers, including Nouvel Observateur, The Economist, L'Express, Time and Paris-Match (“Ce qu'en pensent les autres”).

As opposed to the sensationalism of the Quebec press, he French press was notable for its extensive, yet neutral coverage of the October Crisis. An editorial by Marcel Adam in La Presse reported that “[L]a crise politique qui sévit au Canada domine l'actualité , ces jours-ci, en France”. Adam wrote that Le Monde “a toujours rendu compte de l'évolution de la situation depuis l'enlèvement de Mr. Cross, mais sans jamais formuler de commentaires”. Nonetheless, the French media treated the October Crisis as a dramatic political crisis, describing it with terms such as “psychose” and “panique” (Adam).

The importance of the role of the media during the October Crisis cannot be stressed enough. Although the sensationalism might arguably have resulted in undeserved support to the political authorities, the alternative of absence of information would likely have resulted in chaos. The media played up the crisis, both to give a justification for repression of the sovereigntist movement, and by giving national importance to a small group that would otherwise have been regarded as a criminal group unworthy of attention. Coverage of the root causes and solutions to the crisis, as well as their attempts to persuade people to side with or against the security measures, were essential in determining the support of people for the government and their votes in the next election. At the same time, the crisis itself influenced the media, resulting in the traditional media being overtaken by the radio.

Today, the October Crisis is a relevant case study, as it parallels a more recent event, the 9/11 attacks. In both events, there has been controversy surrounding the security measures taken in the aftermath of the events, both supporting them and criticising them for undermining civil liberties There has also been suspicion, in many cases supported by evidence, of government infiltration, deliberate prevarication, direct involvement, or manipulation of public fears to further a governmental agenda. Despite the current media taboos surrounding opinions questioning the official 9/11 story, it is important that they receive serious examination like the ones that surrounded the October Crisis.

Works Cited

“86.6 p.c. Des Canadiens appuyent la proclamation des mesures de guerre.” La Presse 17 Nov 1970: B14.
Adam, Marcel. “L'accélération des événements au Québec domine l'actualité française.” La Presse 17 Oct 1970: XX.
Beauregard, Fernand. “Le FLQ se serait inspiré des exploits des Tupamaros en Uruguay”. La Presse 19 Oct 1970: A13.
Blakely, Arthur. “Urban guerilla methods of the FLQ mimic tactics of Algerian French right.” The Gazette 20 Oct 1970: XX.
Bourgault, Pierre. “Ni héros ni martyr.” Point de Mire Nov 1970: 14-19.
Canadian press “La menace d'insurrection: l'opposition réclame les preuves.” Le Devoir 22 Oct 1970: 2.
--. “De nombreux députés fédéraux blâment Radio-Canada d'être une tribune des révolutionnaires, séparatistes et anarchistes.” La Presse 19 Oct 1970: C14.
--. “Le crime du FLQ aura été de tirer la conclusion logique de l'enseignement reçu (Donald Creighton).” Le Devoir 4 Dec 1970: 4.
--. “Mme Casgrain: “Les Québécois sont des citoyens de seconde classe””. Le Devoir 4 Dec 1970.
Castonguay, Claude. “Quebec must get to the root of crisis says Castonguay.” The Gazette 20 Nov 1970: 9
Chatelle, Marc. “L'abondance d'information a empêché la panique.” Point de Mire Nov 1970: 46-47.
Cleroux, Richard. “Arrests under War Act alienates academic community.” The Gazette 14 Nov 1970: 8..
Cowan, Edward. “Quebec gets note from 2D hostage, renews its offer.” The New York Times 19 Oct 1970: C1.
“Dangerous but necessary.” The Gazette 8 Jan 1971: 6.
Desbiens, Jean-Paul. “Appel aux Québécois.” La Presse 19 Oct 1970: A4.
“Des funérailles sans apparat.” Le Devoir 20 Oct 1970: 1.
“Free only five, says Bourassa, but FLQ's lawyer screams no!” The Gazette 16 Oct 1970: 1.
Guerre secrète contre l'indépendance. Dirs. Deschênes, Sophie, and Gabriele, Vincent. Sovimage, 2000.
Justinien. “Une loi qui révèle non la force mais la faiblesse du pouvoir.” Le Devoir 28 Dec 1970: 4.
Laberge, Louis. “QFL demands solid revision of social and economic conscience.” The Gazette 15 Dec 1970: 7.
La Direction. “Avertissement.” Point de Mire Nov 1970: 12.
“Language policy step by step.” The Gazette 29 Dec 1970: 6.
“Laporte Killed” Sunday Express 18 Oct 1970: 1.
Laurier, Wilfrid. “Toute rébellion n'est pas un crime.” Le Devoir 20 Nov 1970: 2.
“Le cadavre de Pierre Laporte retrouvé.” Le Journal de Montréal 19 Oct 1970: 1.
Leroux, Manon. Les silences d'octobre: le discours des acteurs de la crise de 1970. Montréal: VLB
Éditeur, 2002.
Levin, Malcolm, and Sylvester, Christine. Crisis in Quebec. Toronto: The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1973.
--. Appendix. The FLQ Manifesto. By Front de Libération du Québec. Toronto: The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1973.
Ó Gormaile, Pádraig. “The events of October 1970 in Québec : Jacques Ferron's perspective”. 13 Nov. 2003. National University of Ireland, Galway. 8 Mar. 2007.
“Premier eyes investment in working language issue.” The Gazette 21 Dec 1970: 3.
Prince, Vincent. “Les professionels, la citoyenneté et le français.” Le Devoir 18 Dec 1970: 4.
Robitaille, Louis-Bernard. “La liberté de l'information est en danger.” La Presse 9 Nov 1970: B14.
Ryan, Claude. “Les intellectuels sont-ils les seuls à se poser des questions?” Le Devoir 28 Nov 1970: 4.
--. “La fin d'un long cauchemar.” Le Devoir 4 Dec 1970: 4.
Sauriol, Paul. “Pour instaurer une vraie démocratie dans notre vie politique.” Le Devoir 8 Dec 1970: 4.
“Society's right to protect itself.” The Gazette 12 Dec 1970: 6.
Sorell, Tom. “Parliament Hill tense after Laporte death.” McGill Daily 19 Oct 1970: 1.
“The facts speak for the government.” The Gazette 31 Oct 1970: 6.
Vallières, Pierre. The assassination of Pierre Laporte. Trans. Ralph Wells. Toronto: J. Lorimer, 1977.
Wilson, W. A.. “High price for freedom.” The Montreal Star 17 Oct 1970: 29.
Winter, Hal. “Labor suggests social reforms to end terrorism.” The Gazette 4 Dec 1970: 23.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hitler and Stalin: Their Mark on Western Civilisation

The Second World War was the theatre of genocide and corruption of republics into dictatorships, and has brought long-lasting ideological changes. Hitler and Stalin are two of the main actors who played in the tragedy. Their roles were determining in subverting the government of their respective countries and igniting WWII, and both were responsible for the massacre of several millions of people.

If one is asked which character has been the most influential in world history, the answer will most likely be Hitler. However, though Stalin's actions have been much less publicised than Hitler's, their impacts on history are in fact more or less equal. Although it can be argued that Hitler had a more owerful psychological impact on future generations, a global comparison of their biographies will show that despite their different political contexts, there are many similarities between their biggest achievements. The political, demographic and long-term impacts that are most commonly attributed to Hitler and have contributed to his mystique can equally be attributed to Stalin.

Stalin.had a harsh up-bringing and a strict religious background, and was beaten as a child. Similarly, Hitler's authoritarian temperament was manifest at a very early age. In his book 'Hitler's Youth', Franz Jetzinger reported that Dr. Eduard Huemer, one of his former teachers, described him at a '1923 trial as a 'gaunt, pale-faced youth' who 'demanded of his fellow pupils their unqualified subservience, fancying himself in the role of leader...'1

Both Hitler and Stalin were editors in newspapers: Hitler in the Vökischer Beobachter and Stalin in the Pravda. Both dictators have subverted the political system of their respective countries to impose their own autocratic model of leadership. Hitler had made clear his intentions to overthrow the Weimar Republic well before gaining power: in the Frankfurter Zeitung newspaper, he was quoted saying that his party would 'enter the legal organisations' and ~when [they] do possess constitutional rights, then [they would] form the State in the manner which [they] consider to be the right one,2. Though Hitler had taken over Germuny through 'legal' means, he was not elected by the people; rather, he was nominated chancellor by Paul von Hindenburg and took the title of 'Führer' after Hindenburg's death'. The Reichstag fire in 1933 sealed the fate of the Weimar Republic, when Hitler used, the event as an excuse to gain emergency powers and abolish the civil rights guaranteed by the constitution by passing the Enabling Act (Gleichschaltung).

Whereas Hitler had taken over Germany from the outside, Stalin, on the other hand, had subverted the communist system from the inside, by slowly defeating his opponents and inching his way up tothe new position of secretary-general after Lenin's death4. He was more interested in practical matters, which is why he preferred ruling In a dictatorial manner5.

Both dictators have brought considerable demographic changes to the world. Hitler's systematic elimination of minorities he considered undesirable, such as homosexuals, Gypsies, Slavs, handicapped people and especially Jews, have been thoroughly documented. The most egregious genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime was the extermination of six million European Jews in concentration Camps6.

A little known fact about WWII history is that Stalin was responsible for genocides comparable to Hitler's Holocaust in magnitude and horror. Indeed, in 1932, Stalin responded to the insurgence of the Ukrainian peasants against his forced collectivisation programme by deliberately starving them: he increased the quotas of food shipments out of Ukraine to the Soviet Union. Victcr Kravchehko, a USSR ambassador who had escaped to the US, described his horrible discovery that' [h]undreds of meri, women and children had died of undernourishment in these villages, though grain was hoarded almost outside their doors'. The result was the death of around seven million Ukrainians. 7

Both~characters had a dear ideological goal behind their genocide. Stalin's plan was to foster a monolithic communist mindset, whereas Hitler wanted to stop communism, which he associated with the Jewish race: 'Ifinternational financial Jewry inside and, outside ofEurope should succeed in thrusting the nations into a world war once again, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation ofthe earth and with it the victory of Jewry, it will be the annihilation of the Jewish race ~inEurope'8. The main difference between Hitler's' genocide and Stalin's purges is that Stalin ,was not primarily motivated by racial issues, apart fromhis Russian nationalism, whereas Hitler's intentions were to created a strong Aryan race.

When it comes to long-term impacts, the most obvious one is the cold war that resulted from Stalin's foreign policies. But he also drastically changed the image ofcommunism. Indeed, many countries that called themselves 'communist', such as North Korea, have, based their model of communism not on the traditional Marxist-Leninist model, but rather on the Stalinist model, thus creating an artificial association between communism and totalitarianism. In opposition to Marxist-Leninist ideology of egalitarianism, he openly advocated Russian nationalism with his toast to the Russian people rather than the Soviet people in 1945 9.

However, that is not to say that Hitlerdid not cause his share of long-term consequences, both direct.and indirect For'example, the Rolocaust has gained~worldwidesympathy for the Jews, thus building support for the Zionist movement. The controversial creation of Israel,which accelerated the slow but massive expropriation of the local population, has been at the heart of many disputes in the Middle East still unresolved as of this day. Moreover, the sheer horror of the paroxysm of racism and contempt for minorities reached by the nazi regime as a result of Hitler's mantras of hatred has sparked a global ideological revolution. :. Thus has open racism ever since been universally condemned, leading to the adoption by several countries of anti-hate speech laws.

Though there may be a few differences in the details, a global comparison such as the one made inthis,essay,will reveal little disparity in terms of quantitative impact on history. While it is
true that Hitler and the Nazi regime evoke stronger emotional images, the most reasonable explanation for Stalin being the lesser known of both figures is that his atrocities had bewen downplayed by the political left, in particular apologists of communism.


1 Alan Bullock,Hitler: 'A Study in Tyranny, (New York: Harper & RoW, 1967),27
2 Ibid, 61.
3 Encyclopaedia Britannica, 94
4 Ibid 205
5 Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Bibliography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949), 228.
6 The History Place ed., The History Place [website], available from; Internet; accessed November 26, 2004.
7 Ibid,
8 Eberhard Jaekel, Hitler's World View: A Blueprint For Power (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), 61.
9 Yuri Zarakhovich. "Is Stalin coming back in style?," Time Europe, January 18,2002 [newspaper online]; available from; Internet; accessed 26 November 2004.


Bullock, Alan. Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin: A Political Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1949
History Place, The, ed. The History Place [website]. available from; Internet. Accessed November 26, 2004.
Jackel, Eberhard. Hitler's World View: A Blueprint For Power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969.
Zarakhovich, Yuri. "Is Stalin coming back in style?', Time Europe, January 18,2002 [newspaper online]. Available from; Internet. Accessed 26 November 2004.

Henry Ford & John D. Rockefeller

The Industrial Revolution gave birth to many influential entrepreneurs. Two of the most well known industrialists today are Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, whose impacts on the world were especially substantial in the beginning of the 20th century, and reached their highest points of significance in the pre- and interwar period. The aforementioned characters are most noted for the economic legacies of their business empires and the technological advances that were entailed and resulted therefrom. However, the political implications of their activities are often ignored by the media and by popular views of modern history, in spite of the fact that they had changed the course of history in perhaps the most important way.

Consequently, Henry Ford’s name is usually the most retained amongst the two as a result of his promotion of technological improvements in the automobile industry; however, one who will take the long term economic and political impacts will find out that Rockefeller’s actions had more far-reaching repercussions. This essay will compare the roles play by Henry Ford and Rockefeller in their promotion of technology, the economic consequences of their business empires and the political outputs of their endeavours to protect their financial interests.

Henry Ford was born shortly before the Second Industrial Revolution, an era of rapid industrial and technological development and laissez-faire capitalism. At the time when Ford started selling the Ford T in 1908, innovations such as neon signs and the first airplanes were being made available. Those times of technological development proved to be an ideal period for Henry Ford to build up the automobile industry. 1

John D. Rockefeller, born in 1839, founded Standard Oil around the beginning of the Second Industrial Revolution, after a series of successful business ventures. The prevalent imperialism of the time played a substantial role in facilitating the expansion of Rockefeller’s empire across entire continents all over the world. Being a Baptist Christian, he frequently donated to the Church, and saw himself as a philanthropist in charge of a benevolent trade. However, most of his contemporaries viewed him as a ruthless monopolist who earned his fortune by putting small businessmen out of business.2

Both men were involved in fields that entailed the use of contemporary technology in the purveyance of goods and resources. With respect to technological innovation, Rockefeller’s contributions were minor in comparison to Ford’s improvements of mass production techniques. In fact, Rockefeller had little concern for innovation, being a follower of Carnegie’s “pioneering don’t pay” philosophy. He was better known for his micromanagement and his miserly tendencies, as shown when he questioned the amount of solder being used to seal kerosene tins.3 Henry Ford, on the other hand, brought significant changes to the automobile production process: though he did not invent the automobile, contrarily to popular misconception, he was one of the first industrialists to mass produce cars on assembly lines, leading to the dropping of prices of automobiles and their increased availability to the general population.

Both Ford and Rockefeller built empires that have had a lasting effect in the business world. However, while Ford’s technological contributions to the American economy have made his company a household brand, and his high salaries contributed to building the American middle class4, his clout was no match to Rockefeller’s control, along with J. P. Morgan, of the entire US pre-WWI economy. Even though Standard Oil was broken up in 1911, its descendents, namely Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, Chevron (now ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco), still control a large sector of the oil market in North America.

It is not a secret that Henry Ford was a Nazi sympathiser. In fact, the regime was so grateful for his financial contributions to the NSDAP that the Germans bestowed him the Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle, the highest honour for non-German citizens, on his 75th birthday, and with Hitler’s personal greetings. The Nazis had good reasons to reward Ford for his services, as he had aided them financially with as early projects as the Munich Beer Hall uprising in 1922. 5

Ford’s writings were also a source of inspiration for the Nazis. In his own publication ‘The Dearborn Independent’, Ford wrote a series of editorials that alleged global Jewish financial control. Quoting from the fraudulent Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (which was itself largely plagiarized on an earlier work of satire), the articles were put together into a pamphlet called ‘The International Jew’, which was then translated to German with Henry Ford’s sponsorship and extensively quoted in Hitler’s Mein Kampf.6

However, if Henry Ford was an avowed anti-Semite, Rockefeller, in addition to having funded the Nazis, endorsed some of their most harrowing practices. For example, Rockefeller funded, both personally and through his Rockefeller foundation, eugenics research conducted by the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. Though the institute did not conduct experiments of its own, “[t]he talented men Rockefeller and Carnegie financed, the great institutions they helped found, and the science they helped create took on a scientific momentum of its own”.7 Therefore, Ford may have inspired Hitler’s anti-Semitism, but it is Rockefeller’s funds, as well as those of other industrialists, that gave Nazi racism its sinister dimensions.

After Hitler took over Nazi Germany, the offshoots of Standard Oil (which were still largely controlled by Rockefeller before Rockefeller's demise) were building up the Nazi war machine by providing them with synthetic rubber and various synthetic fuels, two crucial elements that sustained the Wehrmacht's battle against the Allies even after Rockefeller's death.

Rockefeller's influence, however less concerted and less motivated by political concerns than that of Henry Ford, extended to other historical events than WWII. The Rockefeller / J. P. Morgan complex, amongst other Wallstreet firms, through their numerous firms, subsidiaries and banks under their control, helped sponsor the Bolshevik revolution, and funded subsequent five-year plans of the Soviet Union in the 30s.8

Clearly, the name of Henry Ford bears more connotations as a result of its exposure as a brand name and its attachment to a tangible household product. In comparison, Rockefeller is only known for having become one of the richest people of his time through dubious monopolistic practices. In addition, as opposed to Rockefeller having built his empire by controlling and exploiting an essential natural resource and manoeuvering his connections, Henry Ford may be granted the merit of having earned his fortune by making contributions to society, such as lowering the costs of purchasing cars for the middle class and expanding that same middle class by paying high salaries to his workers. All factors considered, it remains all the same that even though Henry Ford’s support of Nazi Germany as well as his anti-Semitic pamphlet that inspired Hitler’s Mein Kampf, were significant, Rockefeller’s role in events such as the Russian Revolution, as well as his own synthetic oil contributions to the Nazi regime, have had even more far-reaching long term political effects. And although Ford is currently a major force in the automobile industry, the descendents of Rockefeller’s broken monopoly wield far more control of the economic and political scene, because every industry, including the one formerly controlled by Ford, depend on the resource controlled by the oil oligopoly that resulted from the breakup of Standard Oil.


Horowitz, David. The Rockefellers: an American dynast. New York: New American Library, 1977.

Josephson, Matthew. The Robber Barons. New York: Harcourt, Bruce & Co., 1943.

Sutton, C. Anthony. Wallstreet and the Bolshevik Revolution [book online]. New York: Arlington House, 1981. Accessed 16 November). Available from; Internet.

Sutton, C. Anthony. Wallstreet and the Rise of Hitler [book online]. New York: Arlington House, 1976. Accessed 16 November. Available from's%20First%20Foreign%20Backer,;Internet.

Lacey, Robert. Ford the men and the machine. Boston Toronto: Little, Brown, 1986.

Macardle, Meredith. The Timechart History of Canada. London: Worth Press Ltd, 2003.

Black, Edwin. “Eugenics and the Nazis – the California Connection.” San Francisco Chronicle, 9 November 2003 [newspaper online]. Available from; Internet.

Iacocca, Lee. “Henry Ford.” Time.”,7 December 1998 [newspaper online]. Available from; Internet. Accessed 20 November 2005.

What is American neoconservatism?

As of year 2000, a powerful, tightly knit movement of authoritarian hypernationalists has taken over various positions of leadership within the Bush administration, as well as the media and universities in the United States, and has promoted American military expansion and the curtailment of civil rights. In reason of the strong corporate power in the hands of the neoconservatives, its authoritarian tendencies and its hypernationalism, the question of the rebirth of fascism in the US is being raised. In this essay, the neoconservative movement will compared to three elements of fascism, namely hypernationalism, authoritarianism and corporatism. The structural-functional approach will be used to evaluate the authoritarian tendencies of neoconservatism, and how they relate with their motives.

The structural-functional approach, used to compare states and political systems, describes how different parts of a political system interact with each other in terms of roles, input and output (Jackson and Jackson, p.32).

The term 'neoconservative' used in this essay should not be confused with the term “neo-conservative”used in this political science course, which refers to a rebirth of social conservatism with neoliberal economic policies. In the US, the term "neoconservative" often abbreviated "neocon", is used to identify an ideology perceived as extremist by its opponents, and it has in fact little in common with conservatism. For this reason, the term "paleoconservative"is used by old school isolationist conservatives such as Pat Buchanan to differentiate themselves from the proponents of interventionist foreign policy.

The prefix 'neo', in this context, refers not to the rebirth of a movement, but rather to the conversion of its proponents, most of whom are former liberals. Political philosopher and professor Leo Strauss, thought to have inspired the neoconservative movement, has taught to many eminent figures of the movement such as Irving Kristol, identified as the father of neoconservatism. Trotsky is also thought to have influenced neoconservative ideology. However, neoconservative apologist Joshua Muravchik, who takes exception to those claims, scoffs at the idea of a "neoconservative cabal", and denies that either Strauss or Trotsky have had any significant impact on the ideas of the movement, claiming that opponents of neoconservatism are less interested in Strauss' and Trotsky's common ideas than in their Jewish origins (Muravchik, 2003).

Perhaps the most controversial of think-tanks associated with the neoconservative movement is the Project for the New American Century (1997), which 'aim[s] to make the case and rally support for American global leadership'. Authored by members of the project in September 2000, the document “Rebuilding America's Defenses”(PNAC, 2000) outlines a comprehensive programme of military expansion and aggressive foreign policy, including an agenda for the invasion of Iraq, with the rationale that "while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein”(ibid p.14).

Especially frightening is the involvement of members of the Bush administration, which could not be made more clear than by their signatures on the Statement of Principles of the PNAC, notably those of prominent figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. But even more contentious than that glaring conflict of interest is the convenient timing of the World Trade Center attacks during their tenure, especially in the light of the aforementioned document's suggestion of the necessity of 'some catastrophic and catalysing event, like a new Pearl Harbor' (ibid, p.63).

The allusion to the event of the Second World War is ironically appropriate, as the analogy to the Reichstag Fire that resulted in Hitler's gain of unbridled powers is not lost on many readers who stumble on the passage. Indeed, numerous parallels can be drawn between the PNAC's programme and the rhetoric of imperial supremacy that was prevalent in Nazi doctrine. Aside obvious differences such as racial issues, the openly stated ambitions of the Neocon cabal are reminescent of the frank agenda of military expansion promoted by Hitler in his Mein Kampf, and later in his speeches. For example, Richard Perle presents a rhetoric of 'total war' which has much in common with the fascist tenet of 'total war'.

As a measure of how considerable an impact neoconservative ideology has had considerable on the policies of the Bush administration, it is interesting to note that that Bush’s political platform was originally based on limited foreign intervention. In the light of that influence, it is worth examining the tendency towards authoritarianism that has taken off during the tenure of the Bush administration, especially since the 9/11 attacks.

Authoritarian regimes, as defined in the course manual, typically discourage free discourse and political activity, and concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a select few, who make policies mostly for their own interests. However, institutions are not necessarily overtly violent or oppressive, nor are they always totally controlled by the elite. Some regimes may have elements commonly found in democratic systems, such as elections and parliaments but they are merely be tools to deceive the world community and even the population; such regimes are labeled fa¸ade democracies. Tactics used to manipulate elections in authoritarian regimes include irregular registration procedures, attempts to violate vote secrecy, intimidation of voters and rigging the vote counting process. Authoritarian regimes also tend to limit and manipulate free discourse (Jackson and Jackson 2003, pp.92-93)

The United States, in reason of its solid reputation for its civil society and its democratic culture, is not a country that would commonly be considered a fa¸ade democracy, even less an authoritarian regime. However, close examination of the evolution of American politics under the tenure of the Bush administration will reveal an alarming decline of civil rights and democratic institutions.

The American electoral system is usually assumed to be mostly democratic. However, facts currently tell a different story: they actually fail in most major criteria of free and competitive elections. 30% of American votes are counted by electronic machines known for their lack of reliability, sold by Diebold and ES&S (Seife, 2004) The American electoral system violates the principle of ballot secrecy: while the ballots cast during the election are in theory secret, this is in practice defeated during the registrations, as Americans are expected to identify4 their affiliation to their political party to vote in the primaries on the same form as for their registration for the general election. This practice has led to many Democrat voters being unable to vote, as their registration forms were discarded after they were submitted to private firms hired by the Republican party (Drinkard and Kiely, 2004).

As the concentration of the media and its ownership by corporate power becomes more evident, independent reporting is being suppressed and overshadowed. However, during the tenure of the Bush administration, journalism has been even more seriously undermined. Even though the sexual antics of former president Bill Clinton caused a huge scandal, attracted wide media coverage and nearly caused him to be impeached, the US mainstream media has reacted comparatively little to the disproved WMD claims that led to the war in Iraq. This illustrates how the feedback loop of the US media is broken, as the output of the media does not answer to the demand for truth of the American public, but instead misleads them to satisfy the demands of a small elite.

Freedom of the press is also under attack: several journalists have been arrested for refusing to provide their sources. At least three journalists, namely Hunter S Thompson, Gary Webb and James Hatfield, author of 'Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President'have lost their lives under suspicious circumstances since the 2000 election, all their deaths having been reported by the police as 'suicides'. Blogs, which are rising as a new and thriving source of political commentary, are being ridiculed and dismissed as a fad; independent analysts are being routinely dismissed as 'conspiracy theorists'. Criticism of Bush's administration and their policies are often cast as 'unpatriotic', 'anti-American'or even 'anti-Semitic'.

While there is little ideological similarity between the concentration of corporate power in the hands of members of the executive branch of the US government and Mussolini's socialist-inspired corporative economic system, both models give similar outputs. Like the Neoliberals, the Neoconservatives embrace neoclassical capitalistic theories, especially when it is favourable to corporations. Bush's numerous tax cuts aimed mainly at the rich people are but one example of pandering to a small elite. One of the most prominent representatives of neoconservative corporatism is the American Enterprise Institute, which has for members many well-known neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Fascism and the brand of corporatism practiced by the neoconservatives are similar in that corporate power is used to control nominally private institutions, such as the media. As such, the feedback loop of the economic system is broken, as the outputs (tax cuts) are primarily targeted towards the rich class, rather than towards the public.

While the Straussian origins of neoconservatism may be disputed by its proponents, the authoritarian and hypernationalist tendencies of the movement are nonetheless evident. The strong influence of the neoconservatives on the policies of the Bush administration, as well as the unpopularity of their motivations, suggests that they had much to do with the rise of authoritarianism, without which it would have been difficult to control public opinion about issues such as the war in Iraq. In light of the widespread manipulations of the electoral process, the control of the media and the catering to the hypernationalist and corporatist interests of a fringe of the Republican Party, the label of the United States as a democratic system may no longer be sustainable.


Drinkard, J. and Kiely, K. (2004, October 15). Election protests already started. USA Today, p. 01a.

Seife, C. (2004, November 29). Gambling With Our Votes?. Science, 798-799. Retrieved April 19, 2005, from Ebsco Research Databases (Academic Search Premier):

Project for the New American Century (1997, June 3). Statement of Principles. Retrieved April 16, 2005. from

Project for the New American Century (2000, September). Rebuilding America’s Defenses. Retrieved April 16, 2005, from

Jackson, R. J. and Jackson, D. (2003). An Introduction To Political Science. 4th ed. Toronto, ON: Prentice Hall.

Muravchik, J. (2003). The neoconservative cabal. Commentary, 116(2), 26-34.

Did Zionism really benefit the Jews or the Palestinians?

In the article 'Jews, Arabs clash in Jerusalem' published in the April 1st issue of the National Post, Gavin Rabinowitz discusses a conflict involving evicted Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers that erupted in a Palestinian neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. According to the settlers, the seizure of the Arab owner's house was part of a Jewish initiative to repopulate the region with its former Yemeni Jewish inhabitants who 'had been established in the area 122 years ago'.

The dispute over land in Israel has been going on since the birth of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century, which had been controversial even amongst Jews ever since. The first Jewish settlers were denounced even by Zionist intellectuals such as Ahad Ha�am, who wrote in his essay 'Truth from Palestine' that they 'treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly, beat them shamelessly for no sufficient reason, and even take pride in doing so' (Kirschenbaum 51). The Zionists have fought for years to obtain a land for the Jewish people, at the expense of the Palestinians who still fight today to reclaim what they view as rightfully theirs, or at least return to the 1967 borders. The Jews have put much labour in building their country, so much that many Israel apologists accuse the Palestinians of hating Jews while riding on their innovation for free. But who truly benefits in the long term? Has anyone really benefited at all?

Many Israel advocates admire the Jewish settlers for their industry, praising them for transforming deserts and swamps into fertile farmlands and pastures and building prosperous cities in an empty land with few resources. From that view of history often follows contempt for the Palestinians who lament over the loss of their territory, dismissing them as ungrateful to the Jewish visionaries who brought civilisation, jobs and democracy to a backwards people. Aside from obvious incongruities that are beyond the scope of this essay, that argument might have been plausible if the Palestinians were actually allowed to embrace the progress. Most of the lands that have been transformed are owned by Jews, and despite the industrialisation of Israel and the technological advances, most Palestinians who have not been dispossessed of their lands still live on subsistence agriculture because they are unable to afford modern equipment. The people living in the West bank are not even free on their own land: the nicer parts are Jewish settlements that are strictly forbidden to Palestinians and heavily guarded by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers, and even some roads in the West Bank are restricted to Jews.

Palestinians living in Israel cannot say much of the jobs the Jews have supposedly brought them. In the Ha'aretz article 'Air conditioning for Jews only', Einat Fishbain contrasts the quality of service received by the Jews and the Palestinians in the Employment Bureau offices in Upper Nazareth: for the Jews, 'a large room with air conditioning, three clerks, bathrooms, a water cooler and rows of chairs with a stunning view of the Jezreel Valley'; for the Arabs, 'a small room, a single clerk, no bathroom, no water, a small air-conditioner that can barely be felt and dozens trying to fit in a room that can barely hold 20 people'. The fact that the discrimination is strongly reflected in the bureau�s distribution of employment is also documented by the article, but from the above account it goes without saying.

As far as infrastructure goes, it means little to the Palestinians if they cannot make use of it. At best, some of them might be able to admire from their windows the architecture of the walls that are soon to separate their houses from their farmlands.

As the above paragraphs make evident, the Palestinians have gained little, if anything at all, from the colonisation of their homeland by the Jews. However, to determine whether the victors have truly benefited from their spoils, one needs to examine the aspirations of the Jewish people, as well as the original motives behind the Zionist movement.

Contrarily to popular opinion, Zionism was not condoned by the Torah. It was actually started by dissidents Jews who saw their exile from the Holy Land as 'not a punishment for sin but a tragedy of history which Jews can repair if they will it strongly enough', and refused what they viewed as 'Jewish passivity' (Schafler 113). For reason, the initiative has been fiercely condemned by Orthodox Jews, who believe that the Jews 'are prohibited by the Torah with a very grave prohibition to establish a Jewish independent sovereignty in the Holy Land or anywhere throughout the world' (JAZ). The cruel irony is that the Jews have been tricked into stealing a land from another people to accomplish a prophecy of the Torah, but in doing so actually transgressed it.

Theodor Herzl, who is recognised as the father of Zionism, had little regards for the Jewish religion. His real goal was to emancipate the Jews, whom he saw as 'beggars' and 'passive recipients of charitable funds' to the various societies in which the different Jewish groups lived, and to him, Zionism 'was the only hope for Jewish survival'. (Schafler 113-115) However, in light of the prodigious annual funding of Israel by the United States and various other countries, the Jewish state has done little to improve matters: according to Stephen Zunes, Israel has received from the United States alone more than $91 billion USD since 1949, costing the U.S. taxpayers more than $23,000 per person. Essentially, the creation of a Jewish state has had the opposite effect to what Herzl intended: since taxpayers from various countries now have to expend astronomic amounts of money for its support, the Jews have become a greater burden for foreign government than ever before.

Israel was supposed to provide a safe haven for the Jews, who have been scattered throughout the world and persecuted for years since their exile from the Holy Land. The Jews have gained worldwide sympathy after the Holocaust, and their need for new homes following the ravages caused by Nazi Germany has reinforced their desire of having their own land. The attention brought to the Zionist movement as a result has enabled them to fulfill their dream. However, if Israel has sheltered the Jews against racism, it also exposed them to rightful anger from the local population who understandably did not appreciate being deported from their lands. Indeed, Jewish colonialism has done little to improve the safety of the Jews: caused the anger of the local population, who did not appreciate being evicted from their homes.

One only needs to follow the news to see that little was gained from the safety point of view: 56 years later, the Israelis are living in constant fear of being bombed by desperate Palestinians, and have suffered �the experience of vulnerability in the run-up to the 1967 war, the disastrous early days of the 1974 war, and the experience of being threatened with ballistic missiles carrying poison gas during the 1991 Gulf war' (Cesarani 16). Clearly, the founding of Israel has not made the Jews any safer, whether in Israel or elsewhere. The Zionists have irresponsibly driven their compatriots into taking over an occupied territory with hostile neighbours, disgracing and thus endangering worldwide Jewish community.

Zionism has failed its promises. The Jewish state was built at the expense of the Arabs living in Palestine, but has not significantly benefited either party: both the Jews and the Palestinians today are actually worse off in terms of security and national identity than before its creation. Not only have many Palestinians lost their homes, but they are also being oppressed by the Jewish occupation, and many of the acclaimed Jewish social improvements are forbidden to them. The Jews are even more threatened than a century ago as a result of Zionism and more dependent on foreign countries than before having their own land. But the pinnacle of the irony is that the Jewish state, which is in itself a contradiction, was built upon non-Jewish values, by people who are not Jewish and used methods that went against Jewish values, and whose descendents govern in a decidedly un-Jewish manner to protect the identity of a state which is not Jewish.

Works Cited

Rabinowitz, Gavin. 'Jews, Arabs clash in Jerusalem.' National Post 1 April 2004: A10.

Schafler, Samuel. 'Modern Zionism � An Historic Perspective.' The Jerusalem Post International Edition 111-119.

Kirschenbaum, Gayle. 'Zionism and its discontents'. Tikkun 6 (2003): 51.

Jews Against Zionists. Zionists do not represent Jews. 15 April 2004

Zunes, Stephen. U.S. Aid to Israel: Interpreting the �Strategic Relationship. 17 April 2004

Fishbain, Einat. 'Air conditioning for Jews only.' Ha�aretz on the Web 26 September 1999. 15 April 2004.

Cesarani, David. 'Coming in Terms with the Past: Israel.' History Today 2 (2004): 161

Turkish nationalism and the denial of the Armenian Holocaust

Following the arrests of David rving and Ernst Zündel, the laws prohibiting the denial of the Holocaust in many European countires have resurfaced in the media. There is also an ongoing debate over wherher such laws are an infringement on rights to freedom of speech or a reasonable way to curb incitement to racial hatred. A controversy of a similar nature surrounds Turkey, where the opposite scenario takes place: the government denies that a genocide took place in the Ottoman Empire during WWI, or that the death of 1.5 million Armenians during the 1915-17 period constituted a genocide, and any Turkish citizen who contradicts the official stance of the government risks prosecution under a law that restricts criticism of the Turkish state.

The nationalist motivations behind Holocaust denial have been well established. However, is this also true for Turkey? To answer this question, this essay will explore the history of the end of the Ottoman Empire to find the root causes of the Armenian genocide, examine the reasons for the Turkish attempts to suppress and falsify historical information, and determine the validity of some of the claims it makes to support its sustained denials.

Historically, the Ottoman Empire was a multinational and multireligious empire. where the relatively obedient Christian Armenian minority was tolerated, albeit as second-class citizens under the authority of the Muslim rulers. The Armenians had their own independent kingdom until they were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century. The tolerance eroded, however, as the empire weakened and became increasingly corrupt; its weakness made it unable to counter the nationalist movements within its Balkan provinces, and its road towards bankruptcy in the late 19th century led to its exploitation by European powers. Fearing the collapse of a strategic buffer state, the West pressured the Ottoman government to initiate political reforms, which would grant amongst other things a liberal constitution. However, those reforms, which were all but superficial, failed to resolve the problems of the Armenians, who increasingly rebelled against the repressive regime. The preludes of the Armenian genocide started to take place with the massacre of Sassun in 1894. Subsequent European interventions only increased the gratuitous massacres of the Armenians by the Ottoman authorities, because of their will to resist foreign influence and maintain their control over the Armenians. However, the actual genocide would later be carried out by the Committee of Union and Progress, which became known as the Young Turks.1

At first a liberal and inclusive group aiming to overthrow the Ottoman regime, it quickly evolved into an ultranationalist group after having taken power, discarding its ideology of egalitarian multiculturalism in favour of Turkish homogeneity. The Great War provided the pretext for the ethnic cleansing. Starting in 1915, Armenian leaders and professionals were deported to Anatolia and summarily executed; afterwards Armenians from all walks of life were rounded up from all parts of the nation and relocated to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia, under the justification that they were rebelling and aiding the enemy. 2

From the nationalist roots of the foundation of Turkey and the nationalistic rationale behind the ethnic cleansing, a link can be made with the ongoing attempts to deny the Armenian genocide. Like the denial of the Jewish holocaust, the denial of the Armenian genocide is claimed by scholars to motivated by ideological purposes, in this case nationalism. This is evidenced by the wording of Article 301, which states that "Public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years." 3 The fact that a law meant to protect Turkish national pride is also used to suppress denial of the Armenian genocide illustrates the nationalist ideology that belies the censorship.

Turkish historian Tanek Akçam gave a deeper analysis of Turkish nationalism: he pointed out that it started late compared to the Western world. Its coincidence with Social Darwinism was blamed by the historian for the violence of its manifestation. But the reason, according to Akçam, why the modern Turkish government continues to deny the Armenian genocide, despite having been committed before the foundation of the republic, is that it is described as a 'new bith' and a 'zero point', a break from a painful legacy. This would be a result of the glorious past of the Ottoman Empire, followed by a humiliating decline of exploitation by foreign powers, and leaving behind a Turkish sentiment of victimhood. The Turks having once been the dominant Muslim ethnic group in the Ottoman Empire, it was unacceptable for them to be made equal to the Armenians, whose religion made them inferior in status according to Islam, thus explaining their genocide. Hence, the idea that a genocide was committed, even by a now-defunct regime, is unacceptable to Turkish national pride: the fact that the founding of the Turkish republic depended on the genocide violates their national myth.4

For nine decades, the Turkish government has employed all sorts of tactics to conceal the commonly accepted reality of the Armenian genocide. The Turkish state has been reported to lobby foreign governments and organisations, withhold important documents, and suspected to purge and tamper with evidence. They repeatedly used Article 301 to prosecute intellectuals who publically affirm the Armenian genocide, and punish more severely those who do so outside of Turkey. 5

But the most insidious tactic of the Turkish government has been to encourage scholars to reframe the issue as a 'debate' and show 'both sides' of the story by funding nominally independent research institutes.6 In fact, most scholars who have not been bribed agree that there is little to be debated about the genocide. They refute assertions that the massacres were in response to Armenian insurrections by quoting the Austrian Military Plenipotentiary, an ally to Turkey, who referred to the uprisings as 'an act of desperation'. German ambassador Paul Count von Wolff-Mettermich declared in a report that there was 'neither a concerted general uprising' nor 'fully valid proof' that one was being organized. 7 It is therefore unlikely that their refusal to accept the mainstream version of the events of 1915-17 arises from genuine academic skepticism. This is important to point out, because those attempts at creating a false debate distracts the unfamiliar student from the root causes of the genocide.

In conclusion, from the history of the foundation of Turkey and the root causes of the genocide to the wording of the censorship legislation, it is clear that the denial of the Armenian genocide is motivated primarily by nationalism, and that the semblance of debate is an academic façade meant to give a false sense of legitimacy to the prevalent Turkish orthodoxy. On a side note, while it is true that the denial of both the Armenian and the Jewish genocides are grounded on historical distortions, it is also true that the legislation that deals with both events are based on censorship and enforcement of a state-approved version of events that can be used for nefarious purposes, as demonstrated by the case of Turkey.


1. Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide, 249-263.

2. ibid, 249-263.

3. Amnesty International. "Turkey: Article 301: How the law on “denigrating Turkishness” is an insult to free expression", 1.

4. "The genocide of the Armenians and the silence of the Turks."

5. Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen and Robert Jay Lifton, "Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 9, no. 1 (1995): 1-2.

6. Ibid, 2

7. Dadrian, Vahakn N., “The signal facts surrounding the Armenian genocide and the Turkish denial syndrome”. Journal of Genocide Research, 5, no.2 (2003), 276


Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn. The History and Sociology of Genocide. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Akçam, Taner. "The genocide of the Armenians and the silence of the Turks." (accessed April 6, 2006).

Amnesty International. "Turkey: Article 301: How the law on "denigrating Turkishness" is an insult to free expression". March 2006.

Smith, Roger W., Markusen, Erik. and Lifton, Robert J. "Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide". Holocaust and Genocide Studies 9, no.1 (1995):1-22.

Dadrian, Vahakn N. The signal facts surrounding the Armenian genocide and the Turkish denial syndrome. Journal of Genocide Research 5, no.2 (2003), 269-279.