“Only after World War I did the Protocols gain their immense influence,” Walter Laqueur observes in his eloquent essay on the “many lives” of that wretched fabrication. Its initial spread “from Russia to Western Europe and then to America” occurred, he reminds us, in the crucial period after World War I: “a time when all kinds of allegations and revelations bobbed to the surface concerning the secret forces behind the various political, social, and economic upheavals of the war years and their aftermath.” Not all of these allegations fixated upon the Jews. But the Protocols distinguished themselves by becoming a global phenomenon, whose memes and obsessions, as Laqueur demonstrates, have endured into our own public discourse today.
How Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists Sustain Their Convictions
As the long life of the Protocols attests, anti-Semitic passions are not just sincere, they’re hard-wired beyond any possibility of disproof by reason.