Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Protocols of the Priory of Sion

The Da Vinci Code deserves to be, as it is, a record-breaking bestseller. A great read, with plot twists atop cliffhangers atop puzzles. But it also relies for its plot on a conspiratorial view of history. Such conspiracy theories are always wrong: nobody can keep a big secret for generations. And dangerous: the claims of the “Priory of Sion,” the secret society at the heart of the book, smack of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the forged history used over the last century to justify the persecution of Jews.

Only this time the target is Catholics.

Others have picked apart much of the history in the book. See, for example, Sandra Meisel's article "Dismantling the Da Vinci Code," in Crisis magazine (Sept. 1, 2003). But what of its philosophy? Reading along, it seemed to me that the book's philosophy is essentially Nazism.

Not that it advocates killing Catholics; but Nazism never publicly advocated killing Jews either.

A few points of similarity:

1. The conspiracy view of history. Here, an ancient Christian conspiracy to subvert pure European pagan culture to repress women. Compare the Nazi theory of an ancient Jewish conspiracy to subvert pure European pagan culture to repress Germans.

2. The book advocates a master family, genetically superior, who by right should rule the world. Compare Nazism's master race, genetically superior, who by right should rule the world. Or indeed Imperial Japan’s master family.

3. Bad guys are physically deficient; good guys are physically attractive. The physically deficient are bad, the physically attractive are good. Merit is genetic; genetics is merit.

4. The government of the Priory of Sion, the assembled good guys, is unfettered rule by a solitary genius. The grand master may do as he wills with the order and its assets. The membership supports this without question and without knowledge. Genius is an assumed qualification for the office: Da Vinci, Botticelli, Newton, Jean Cocteau are past masters. This is the same model as the Nazi Party: the "fuhrer principle." The Priory even has storm troopers: the Knights Templar.

5. For the Nazis, following Nietzsche, conventional "Jewish" morality was the morality of slaves, promoting subservience. For Da Vincism, rather less nobly, conventional Judeo-Christian morality inhibits good sex. It promotes the subservience of women. This is good reason to dispense with morality altogether.

6. For Nazism, morality is the creation of those in power. Governments are free to do as they wish, for whatever they wish is, ipso facto, moral. This is the assumption of The Da Vinci Code: he who holds power makes the rules. “Judeo-Christian” morality exists to bolster the power of the Church.

7. The Da Vinci Code's world is a no-holds-barred power struggle. Everyone competes with everyone. This is Hitler’s self-justification in Mein Kampf: everyone does it; life is struggle. We too must struggle; otherwise we are simply fools.

8. Everyone but for the hero and his group is corruptible. Money can make anyone do anything. Compare Mussolini’s critique of “plutocracy.” To this rule of money Fascism was the antidote.

9. Anyone with much money is sinister. They can and will manipulate matters. The Catholic Church is sinister because it has control over large sums of money. "Jewish bankers" were sinister for the same reason.

10. Robert Langdon, the Code's hero, expresses the postmodern view that knowing the actual truth is not important; indeed, perhaps not possible. We all choose the myth under which we wish to live. This seems to be endorsed by the Priory as well.

Compare Goebbels's theory of “The Big Lie,” that a propagandist can manufacture truth. “Fascism is relativism,” Mussolini said.

11. The Da Vinci Code prefers "paganism" to Christianity. Pagan times are a lost paradise. Christianity corrupts the originally pure Aryan thought and culture. Compare Nazism, which sought to revive pre-Christian traditions, reinstituting worship of Wotan and the sun. Or Japan’s kodo, which saw ethical Confucianism and Buddhism as foreign accretions to be expunged, reinstituting worship of Shinto gods and the sun.

12. In general, and without stating so, The Da Vinci Code assumes that the foreign and heterodox is bad, the local and pure good. Catholicism, essentially cosmopolitan (“catholic”), coming from Asia, is suspect. Compare the Nazi xenophobia towards Jews as a cosmopolitan, Asian element.

(The Da Vinci Code’s idea of “local” extends to anything Western European. But so did Nazism’s.)

13. The Da Vinci Code flirts with millennial notions of the “New Age,” "Age of Aquarius," or “end of days.” Compare Hitler’s millennial “thousand-year reich,” and interest in astrology.

Dan Brown, the author, would probably deny hotly, and sincerely, that he supports Nazism. So would his readers. Many of these ideas are merely common currency: in New Age, feminism, Marxism, postmodernism. The Da Vinci Code is a mirror of its times.

But Nazism, too, was popular in its day: Hitler was elected. No surprise if its ideas remain attractive. Here is a simple solution to the world’s problems, and it will cost you nothing—others are to blame, and others will pay the price. Indeed, if you are of the chosen, you are free to do as you want without guilt. If you are a genius--and who does not suspect this of themselves?--even divinity is possible.

That’s tremendously liberating. For the SS.

Pray The Da Vinci Code is not taken seriously by readers. But popular novels, like those of Karl May, also had their part in the rise of Nazism.

Pray for Dan Brown's baby.

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