Girl from Ipanema/50e: La mariée était trop jeune (Girl from Ipanema was just too young)

7 mars, 2013
But each day when she walks to the sea, she looks straight ahead, not at me. The Girl from Ipanema
C’est la plus vieille histoire du monde. La jolie fille passe et les hommes surgissent de partout, tombent des arbres, sifflent et deviennent fous, et elle, elle passe tranquillement son chemin. C’est universel. Norman Gimbel
Il m’aimait et m’a causé beaucoup de confusion, mais finalement nous nous sommes retrouvés comme amis dans une relation pleine d’affection et de gratitude. (…) Ma vie a changé quand ils ont révélé que j’étais leur inspiration. Je ne les croyais pas, mais ça m’a fait quelque chose émotionnellement et il m’a fallu un certain temps pour en comprendre l’importance.  (…) J’étais très timide, je n’ai jamais répondu à ses compliments. J’allais au bar juste pour acheter des cigarettes pour mes parents ou je passais devant pour profiter de mes jours de repos au soleil. (…) J’avais été élevée dans une famille très stricte et traditionaliste. Mon père était militaire et ça ne lui plaisait pas que je sois devenue le point de mire de la presse mondiale et des hommes mûrs.  Helô Pinheiro
Même la fameuse "fille d’Ipanema",  immortalisée dans la chanson de bossa nova, écrite en 1962, illustre les différences culturelles qui prévalaient alors : il n’y a que dans les paroles en anglais qu’elle est « grande et bronzée et jeune et belle ».  Dans la version originale portugaise, l’accent est mis sur « le doux swing » de ses hanches et de ses fesses alors qu’elle se promène en un balancement décrit comme "plus qu’un poème, la plus belle chose que j’ai jamais vu". Le New York Times
Helô était à l’époque l’une des très rares filles de la plage d’Ipanema à porter un maillot de bain deux pièces. De nos jours, quand on pense aux plages de Rio, on pense aux "fils dentaires" ou aux "sparadraps", il est difficile d’imaginer qu’il fut un temps où un maillot de bain deux pièces modeste qui exposait à peine le nombril était considéré comme audacieux. Mais Rio était alors différent et c’était certainement pas la Côte d’Azur où le bikini était à la mode. Lorsque, malgré l’opposition de de Moraes,  les concours de la "Girl from Ipanema" ont continué, les filles qui y participaient savaient qu’elles étaient comparées à une jeune fille qui portait un maillot de bain deux pièces. Alors elles savaient qu’elles devaient faire preuve d’audace. La même audace dont avait fait preuve une première fois Helô, puis, comme les concours continuaient, plus d’audace encore que la gagnante de l’année précédente. Et plus les filles étaient audacieuses, plus les maillots rétrécissaient. Ainsi, l’évolution du bikini brésilien et du string remonte-t-elle directement à ce concours et donc à nouveau à la jeune Heloísa. (…) En 2001, Helô Pinheiro ouvrit sa boutique "Garota de Ipanema" à Sao Paolo, destinée principalement aux femmes et offrant une variété de maillots de bain. Un des produits qu’elle proposait était un tee-shirt imprimé avec la musique et les paroles de la chanson. Comme il s’agissait d’une copie de la partition originale, il comportait également les signatures de Vinicius de Moraes et de A. C. Jobim. Les héritiers portèrent plainte arguant du fait que les paroles et la musique appartenaient à la succession et que tout l’argent de la vente de ces tee-shirts appartenaient aux familles de Moraes et de Jobim. Heureusement pour nous, les romantiques, les tribunaux brésiliens prirent la bonne décision. En février 2004, la Cour statua en faveur de Helô Pinheiro indiquant .. "sans elle il n’y aurait pas eu de chanson". Sran Shepkowski

La mariée était tout simplement trop jeune.

Fille de général des quartiers huppés de Rio, épouse et mère modèle convertie par la crise en mannequin puis actrice de soap opera, femme d’affaires, organisatrice de concours de beauté et enfin animatrice d’émission santé pour les seniors, sans compter les photos pour Playboy et le procès (par les héritiers des musiciens) pour utilisation non autorisée de son surnom pour ses boutiques de maillots de bain …

Encore un anniversaire raté (redécouvert seulement aujourd’hui sur le site du WSJ) …

Celui de la fameuse "fille d’Ipanema" qui, à 17 ans à peine, faisait il y a 50 ans déjà tourner les têtes …

Poussant les inventeurs de la bossa nova Jobim et de Moraes (leurs 18 ans d’écart) à écrire la 2e chanson, après "Yesterday" des Beatles, la plus reprise de  l’histoire …

Et, plus récemment, le NYT  à y voir la trace de l’acculturation américaine du Brésil (le "grande et bronzée et jeune et belle" de la version anglaise ayant prétendument déplacé l’accent de la version originale en portugais sur le "doux swing" de ses hanches et de ses fesses ?) …

Sauf que du haut de son 1 m 72 si l’on en croit les photos et même si elle se trouvait trop maigre,  la naïade de l’époque n’avait rien à envier à nos actuelles Gisele Bünchen …

Et que le refus de la belle qui contribua peut-être sans le vouloir au lancement de la mode de la minceur et des micro-bikinis brésiliens que l’on connait ressemblait plus à la compréhensible hésitation, face aux avances d’un homme plus de deux fois son âge (et de surcroit marié avec deux enfants!), d’une très jeune fille de 17 ans …

Girl From Ipanema’ 50 Years Old Today

Brazil Music News

August 2, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO – “Girl From Ipanema” hit the airwaves 50 years ago and the song’s muse, Helô Pinheiro, recalls how the song changed her life. Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes a wrote “Garota de Ipanema,” or “Girl from Ipanema,” in 1962 while drinking whiskey at the Veloso Bar in Ipanema.

‘Girl from Ipanema’ Released 50 Years Ago

Now 67, Pinheiro says that she had to rush her marriage to appease the jealousy of her boyfriend when he heard that she had been the muse for Jobim and de Moraes. The “Girl” of flesh and bone told EFE in a recent interview that her then-boyfriend and current husband wanted to confront the songwriters, although “in the end we all became friends.”

The muse confesses that her boyfriend had reason for jealousy because Tom asked her “several times” for her hand in marriage, despite the 18-year difference between them. “He loved me and caused me a lot of confusion, but eventually we ended up as friends in a relationship filled with affection and gratitude,” she said.

“My life changed when they revealed that I was their inspiration. I didn’t believe them, but it moved me emotionally and it took me some time to understand the significance,” said Helô, who had so dazzled the creators of Bossa Nova.

In 1962, Jobim and Vinicius spent hours as dedicated whiskey refugees in the Veloso Bar, on old Montenegro Street (now Rua Vinicius de Moraes) in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Each day, a sweet, shy 16-year-old girl, who would pass by the bar each day on her way to and from the beach, mesmerized the two songwriters.

Fifty years after that scene in Ipanema, Helô is an entrepreneur and broadcaster who presents a health program for seniors. Five decades on, the Girl from Ipanema still retains the spontaneity and elegance that fascinated the masters of Brazilian music for half a century.

“I was very shy, I never responded to his compliments. I only went into the bar to buy cigarettes for my parents or walked past to enjoy my days off sunning myself,” she said.

“Girl from Ipanema”, released on August 2nd, 1962, was the quintessential Carioca song. It was an instant success and gained true international fame when, three years later, some American artists released an English version.

At the time, many young women appeared and proclaimed themselves the “Girl from Ipanema,” explains Helô. But all that ended when Vinicius published a letter naming the real inspiration for his best known work.

“I was raised in a very strict and conservative family. My father was military and he did not like that I had become a focus of worldwide press and the target of older-men’s eyes,” she recalled.

The Bossa Nova is the soundtrack of her life and “Girl from Ipanema” is now her cellular ring-tone. Eventually, Helô became a soap-opera actress, beauty-pageant organizer and businesswoman.

At the height of her fame, she posed for the magazine “Playboy.” She posed for the magazine again ten years ago, next to her then 24-year-old daughter.

Helô said that the worst moment for her came in 2001, when the heirs of Jobim and Vinicius sued her for commercially exploiting the name “Girl from Ipanema,” which she uses in her clothing store.

The heirs and Helô resolved the conflict last year, but the episode, she says, caused her “an economic and psychological injury.”

Voir aussi:

The Elusive Girl From Ipanema

The endlessly covered Brazilian song turns 50 this year. What explains its quirky endurance?

Thomas Vinciguerra

The Wall Street Journal

July 2, 2012

Before 1962, if John Q. Nobody gave any thought to South America at all, it probably didn’t range much beyond banana republics, fugitive Nazis and Carmen Miranda. That changed 50 years ago this summer when a tall and tan and young and lovely goddess was born.

She was "The Girl From Ipanema."

Like a handful of other international crossover hits ("Day-O" from Jamaica, "Down Under" from Australia), "The Girl From Ipanema" pretty much put an entire country’s music and ethos on the map. In this case, the land was Brazil, the genre was bossa nova, and the atmosphere was uniquely exotic and elusive—a seductive tropical cocktail "just like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gently," as the lyrics go.

‘The Girl From Ipanema,’ the classic Brazilian bossa sung by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Dionne Warwick, is the second most recorded song in pop music history. It turns 50 this summer, and here is a look back at its history.

At the time, bossa nova wasn’t exactly unknown in the U.S., as shown by the Grammy-winning success of "Desafinado" from the 1962 album "Jazz Samba" by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. But "The Girl From Ipanema" ("Garota de Ipanema" in the original Portuguese) was something else altogether. Not only was it one of the last great gasps of pre-Beatles easy listening, it was an entire culture in miniature.

"To the layperson, ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ sounds like ‘a nice song,’ " says the Brazilian-American guitarist and musical director Manny Moreira. "But to the trained ear it is perfection."

In the half-century since its genesis, "The Girl From Ipanema" has become inescapable. According to Performing Songwriter magazine, it is the second-most-recorded pop tune ever, surpassed only by "Yesterday." Sammy Davis Jr. sang it on "I Dream of Jeannie"; it is part of the repertoire of the Yale Whiffenpoofs.

And, yes, it has become archetypal Muzak. Get put on hold often enough, wander through enough retail stores or tacky cocktail lounges, and sooner or later its limpid strains will caress you. At the climax of the 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers," hundreds of gun-toting police officers, state troopers and other riotous authority figures scramble after John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as they calmly ride a Chicago City Hall elevator while being soothed by a piped-in instrumental version.

Clearly, this is art for the ages. But why?

One reason is the girl of the title. The embodiment of sultry pulchritude, she is also utterly unobtainable: "But each day when she walks to the sea/She looks straight ahead, not at me."

"It’s the oldest story in the world," says Norman Gimbel, who wrote the English lyrics. "The beautiful girl goes by, and men pop out of manholes and fall out of trees and are whistling and going nuts, and she just keeps going by. That’s universal."

So reasoned composer Antônio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinícius de Moraes five decades ago. Stalled on a number for a musical called "Blimp," they sought inspiration at the Veloso, a seaside cafe in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. There they remembered a local teenager, the 5-foot-8-inch, dark-haired, green-eyed Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, whom they often saw walking to the beach or entering the bar to buy cigarettes for her mother. And so they penned a paean to a vision.

Originally crooned by the popular Brazilian singer Pery Ribeiro (who died in February), "Garota de Ipanema" went over well enough in its home country. Then the U.S. music publisher Lou Levy asked Mr. Gimbel to devise an English cover. With Mr. Jobim on piano, Stan Getz on sax, João Gilberto on guitar and Portuguese vocals, and Mr. Gilberto’s wife, Astrud, handling English vocals, the U.S. version was cut for the album "Getz/Gilberto" in March 1963.

While Mr. Gilberto’s soft Portuguese sets the tone for the song, it is his wife’s English response that still captivates after all this time. By all rights, it shouldn’t. Although Astrud could speak the language, her delivery was decidedly unpolished. "Before the recording, I had never sung professionally," she says on her website—and you can hear it. Often she emphasizes the wrong sounds and seems to be enunciating phonetically. Her very first word, "tall," comes across as "doll." Contrary to Mr. Gimbel’s lyrics, she sings, "She looks straight ahead not at he." It was supposed to be "me."

"I was tearing my hair out when I learned that later," Mr. Gimbel says. "It upset me no end."

But when combined with her tentative delivery, Mr. Getz’s breathy sax and Mr. Jobim’s gentle piano, the errors make the result ever so slightly foreign—just out of reach, like the girl herself, and thus irresistible.

"The Girl From Ipanema" went on to win the Grammy for record of the year in 1965 and was guaranteed immortality that same year when Heloísa was revealed as its inspiration. Today, as Helo Pinheiro, still stunning at 66, she is a local celebrity, happy to give interviews and pose for photos. Unlike her ethereal counterpart, she is personable indeed.

And that, perhaps, is ultimate reason why the song endures: The remote, mythic beauty—the impossible dream—turned out to be as real as you or me.

—Mr. Vinciguerra is the editor of "Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs From the New Yorker."

Voir encore:

The Girl From Ipanema

Sran Shepkowski

2005

It’s a song of sensuality that entices men everywhere to dream. It evokes the fantasy of an exotic beach where warm waves kiss the shore, where breezes whisper through the palms, and where there is a woman, a dream woman, an ideal woman who embodies the elusive essence of everything that is desirable.

The Girl from Ipanema was awarded the 1964 Grammy as Best Song of the Year, it ranks 21st on BMI’s list of most performed songs of all time, and is one of the most recorded songs in history, having been vocalized by Astrid Gilberto, Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Madonna, Cher, and many others. While its credentials are impressive, the real fascination is the story behind the song and the girl who inspired it.

The year 1962 was a banner year for Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim. The Brazilian songwriter’s tune, Desafinado, had just been recorded by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd and the attention of the Jazz world shifted to the 35 year old Jobim, who, at the end of the year, was invited to perform his music at Carnegie Hall with Byrd, Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and Joao Gilberto. This was the latest achievement in a career that took shape in 1958 when Jobim collaborated with guitarist/vocalist Joao Gilberto, vocalist Elizete Cardoso and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes to produce a set of recordings, one of which was Chega de Saudade, which proved to be the beginning of the "Bossa Nova" ("New Trend") movement.

1962 was also the year that Jobim saw the girl.

Ipanema is a trendy, rather artsy neighborhood in south Rio de Janeiro. To the west is the upscale area of Leblon and to the east is Aproador and Copacabana. A block off Ipanema Beach, on the northwest corner of Rua Montenegro and Rua Prudente de Moraes was Tom Jobim’s favorite hang-out, the Bar Veloso. A veranda-style, open-air cafe, this was the place to drink beer, smoke cigarettes, read the paper, chat with friends, and watch the pretty girls.

Almost every day a certain girl passed by the Veloso. Often in her school uniform, sometimes in her two-piece bathing suit she was, of course, tall, and tan, and young and lovely with long brown hair and green eyes and a rather sensual way of swaying her hips. She did not go unnoticed by Jobim and friends who often greeted her with whistles and cat-calls. The girl, however, never responded to the men. Never did she stop to talk; indeed never did she even make eye contact with bar’s patrons. Each day when she walked to the sea, she looked straight ahead, not at anyone else. And Jobim was in love.

Basically a shy man, Jobim was afraid to approach the girl. At the time he was married with two children and knew he had to be at least twice her age, but that did not prevent a budding infatuation. Eventually he convinced his old lyricist buddy Vinicius de Moraes to come by the Veloso to see this girl. After several days of waiting the girl finally walked past. Jobim remarked “"Nao a coisa mais linda?" (Isn’t she the prettiest thing?), to which de Moraes replied, "E a coisa cheia de gracia." (She’s full of grace.). This sparked the creativity in de Moraes who wrote those two lines on a napkin. The lines provided the basis for the opening two lines of the original, Portuguese version of A Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema).

Jobim and de Moraes were, at the time, collaborating on the music and lyrics for a play entitled “Blimp” so it took some time to complete the song. Originally titled Menina que Passa (Girl Who Passes), Jobim first performed the song in Rio on August 12, 1962. It was a shoo-in to be part of a Jazz album being put together by Verve Records with Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto featuring some of Jobim’s music. In March, 1963, Tom and Joao flew up to New York to record the album. They also took along Joao’s wife Astrid because she was the only one who spoke any English.

At the recording studio it was decided that Menina que Passa needed a more Rio sounding title so it was changed to A Garota de Ipanema. Also, producer Creed Taylor felt the song should have English lyrics. Fortunately, the group had met lyricist Norman Gimbel from BMI several months before when they played Carnegie Hall and it was Gimbel who wrote the English lyrics. The next task was to find someone to sing those English lyrics. There is some dispute as to how it was decided, but Joao’s wife, Astrid, was selected to sing because, although she never sang professionally, she had a soft sexy voice, she could hold a tune, and at least she could pronounce the English words.

When the album was released in 1964 under the title “Getz/Gilberto” by Verve Records the first cut on the album was “The Girl from Ipanema”. It featured Joao Gilberto strumming his guitar and singing the original Portuguese lyrics followed by Astrid Gilberto with the English lyrics. Track 9 was the 45 rpm release of the Astrid Gilberto English version and track 10 was the flip-side of the 45; another of Jobim’s music entitled “Corcovada”.

Back home in Rio, the song was an instant success. Brazil was the midst of an economic recovery and, having won the last two World Cups, the country was riding high. The international success of “The Girl from Ipanema” was another example of the miracle that was Brazil. That miracle was to end two years later when economic mismanagement, corruption, and a military dictatorship took over, but in the meantime Brazil was young and hopeful.

As can be imagined, the big question in Ipanema was the identity of the inspiration for the song. Jobim and de Moraes remained mysterious on the subject. Some people believed there was no real girl, only the creation of a poet’s imagination. Others thought they knew better; many women flattered themselves, claiming to be THE GIRL. A cottage industry even grew. All you had to do was take some pictures of a pretty girl and sell them to dumb tourists claiming the girl in the picture was THE GIRL.

Heloísa Eneida de Menezes Paes Pinto was a born and raised Rio de Janeiro girl – a true carioca. The daughter of an army general from whom her mother divorced when Helô was 4, she grew up on the Rua Montenegro, some blocks up from the Bar Veloso. At age 17 she was shy and quite self-conscious: she had crooked teeth, she felt she was too skinny, she suffered from frequent asthma attacks, and she had an allergy that reddened her face. And on her way to and from school and on her treks to the beach, she had to walk by the Bar Veloso.

Although the song had been around since 1962, it wasn’t until 1964 that Helô learned the truth. Friends introduced her to Tom Jobim, who still hadn’t worked up the courage to talk with her. But with the ice finally broken, he set out to win her heart. On their second date, he stated his love for her and asked her to marry him. But she turned him down. Two things got in the way. Helô knew Tom was married and that he was “experienced”, whereas she was inexperienced and would not make him a good wife. The other was that she had been dating a handsome young lad named Fernando Pinheiro from a prosperous family in Leblon since she was 15. Undaunted by her refusal, Tom told her that she was the inspiration for the song. This confirmed the rumors she had heard from others and, of course, thrilled her beyond imagination, but she still turned him down.

The world would not learn the truth until 1965. Tired of all the gossip and particularly concerned that a contest was going to be held to select “the girl from Ipanema” Vinicius de Moraes held a press conference. In a detoxification clinic in Rio where he was undergoing treatment (you’ve got to love poets), and with Helô at his side, de Moraes told the world. And he offered her one more testament:

"She is a golden girl, a mixture of flowers and mermaids, full of light and full of grace, but whose character is also sad with the feeling that youth passes and that beauty isn’t ours to keep. She is the gift of life with its beautiful and melancholic constant ebb and flow."

Immediately she became a sensation. Offers of movie stardom, modeling contracts, and trips around the world came. Unfortunately for her, however, this was the sixties, this was macho Brazil, and she was a good girl.

In her 1996 autobiography, “Por Causa do Amor”, she writes: “The middle class philosophy was to discourage and even repress any attempts to do anything other than bringing up children and being the perfect housewife”. Fernando, to whom she was recently engaged, and her army general father refused to allow her, at age 21, to leave home. Being a loving fiancée and an obedient daughter she had no choice. She had to turn down all offers.

It may be difficult today to believe that someone would turn down certain fame and fortune to be a housewife, but times were different. In 1960 less than 12% of all jobs in Brazil were held by women and only 20% of all college students were women. The machismo rule was in effect. Remember, this is the country where, until 1991, it was legal for a man to kill his wife if he thought she was cheating on him.

So Helô married Fernando Pinheiro in 1966 and settled in to live the life of the perfect housewife. Twelve years later, however, things changed.

1978 was the pivotal year for Helô Pinheiro and her family because of two misfortunes. The first was that because the military government relaxed its trade laws causing increased foreign imports, her husband’s iron and steel business failed, the family lost its money, and Fernando was without a job. The second was the birth of her fourth child, Fernando Jr. who suffered from numerous medical problems.

Realizing her financial obligations, she turned to the only asset she had. “I never wanted to use it that way”, she said. “It was a romantic thing, a gift of love. I never wanted to commercialize it. Out of respect I didn’t want to exploit it”. But she had no choice. The girl from Ipanema was back.

The modeling assignments and TV appearances soon came. She became a radio talk-show host and a gossip columnist. Soon she opened her own modeling agency, began organizing beauty pageants, and attached her endorsement to over 100 different products.

Her name, her charm, and her hard work eventually gained her success. “You move mountains”, she said, “…when it comes to providing for your children”.

She has relaxed a bit now that her children are grown. Helô and Fernando live in Sao Paolo with their son Fernando Jr who suffers from serious learning difficulties. Her daughter Kiki is a former model turned business-woman, daughter Georgiani is a psychologist, and daughter Ticiane is a very successful super-model. Helô’s main occupation these days centers on her Garota de Ipanema boutiques in Sao Paolo and Rio where she sells a variety a women’s beachwear. And at the age of “you do the math” Helô is still a looker. She and Ticiane appeared in a photo shoot in the March 2003 issue of the Brazilian Playboy magazine.

In the sixties, Helô was the icon of Brazilian femininity. Today she is an example of it. Whereas in 1960 when less than 12% of the workforce was female, today it is over 40%, and 2/5s of those women earn more than their spouses. Of course, the typical Brazilian woman earns only 66% that of her male counterpart (in the US that average is 76%). A full 50% of Brazilian women have jobs today. Both Brazil and Helô Paes Pinto have come a long way since those innocent days back in the early sixties.

Interesting Sidelights:

Helô was one of the very few girls on Ipanema beach to wear a two-piece swimsuit. Nowadays, when we think of the beaches of Rio we think of butt-floss and band-aids so it is difficult to think there was a time when a modest two-piece swimsuit that barely exposed the navel was considered daring. But Rio was different then, and it certainly was not the French Riviera where the bikini was in style. When the “Girl from Ipanema” contests that de Moraes reacted against continued, the girls who took part knew they were being compared to a girl who wore a two-piece swimsuit. So they knew they had to become daring. As daring as Helô at first, then more daring than the previous year’s winner as the contests continued. The more daring the girls became, the skimpier the swimsuits became. The evolution of the Brazilian bikini and the string bikini is traced directly back to this contest and therefore back to the youthful Heloísa.

The 45 rpm release of The Girl from Ipanema was, according to Billboard, the fifth best selling song in the world in 1964 (the other four were Beatle songs) and was awarded the Grammy as best song of the year. According to a 1996 United Kingdom Channel 4 production “Without Walls: The Girl from Ipanema” that recording is the fifth most played record in the history of the world.

There are various stories as to how Astrid Gilberto was selected to sing the English version. One is that Astrid claims it was her husband, Joao, who argued that she should sing the English version because he was singing the Portuguese version, another story is that it was Stan Getz’s wife Monica who convinced Joao, Getz, and Jobim to let Astrid to sing it, and a third story is that Stan Getz himself insisted on Astrid over everybody else’s objections. It is interesting to note that because she was a non-professional and, therefore, not under any contract, Astrid Gilberto was never paid for this recording. She did not receive one red cent, nor, I guess, was she entitled to any payment. This recording did launch her successful career as a singer, but still, you’d think she should get something for being the vocalist for one of the most popular songs of all time.

The Getz / Gilberto album released by Verve Records stayed on the pop charts for 96 weeks and won four Grammys.

The very first performance of A Garota de Ipanema (then named Menina que Passa) was on August 12, 1962 at the Au Bon Gourmet restaurant on the Avenida Nossa Senhora in Copacabana and featured Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Joao Gilberto, Otavio Bailly, Milton Banana, and the vocal group Os Cariocas.

The Bossa Nova craze that began in the late fifties ended rather quickly in the middle sixties. In the atmosphere of a military coup in Brazil and the war in Viet Nam, its light, lyrical and melodic sounds lost out to hard driving beats and the sounds of protest. Perhaps the downfall of the Bossa Nova began when it came to the United States. In the early sixties record companies were looking for the latest dance craze. The Twist, the Watusi, and other fads were making money for the record industry. When the Bossa Nova came, the thought was to make it into another dance fad. So songs like Blame It On The Bossa Nova by Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme and Bossa Nova Baby by Elvis Presley were produced. These were not Bossa Nova. Bossa Nova is a soft sophisticated sound meant for vocal and instrumental interpretations, not for Las Vegas lounge acts. You listen to the Bossa Nova sound, you don’t rock to it on a dance floor. American commercialism miss-named its songs and in doing so relegated a new Jazz form to realm of the lounge-lizards.

The Bar Veloso has since changed its name to “A Garota de Ipanema”. The name of the North/South street the café is on has also changed from the Rua Montenegro to the Rua Vinicius de Moraes. Consequently the bar Garota de Ipanema is on the corner of Rua Vinicius de Moraes and Rua Prudente de Moraes. Helô’s store is to the north, next door on the Rua Vinicius de Moraes. Also, extensive construction on the Rua Prudente de Moraes took place in the seventies and early eighties so you can no longer see the beach from the bar.

The 1958 album made by Jobim, de Moraes, and Joao Gilberto that launched the Bossa Nova movement was released on the old 78 rpm records.

Tom Jobim’s full name is Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim.

Joao Gilberto’s full name is João Gilberto do Prado Pereira de Oliveira.

Stan Getz’s real name is Stanley Gayetsky.

Vinicius de Moraes full name is Marcus Vinicius da Cruz de Mello Moraes.

In 1966, Frank Sinatra came up with the idea of recording an album with Tom Jobim. To get a hold of Jobim to talk about it, the first place he called was the Bar Veloso. Tom was there. The result of their collaboration was the 1967 release of “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim”.

Tom Jobim served as best man when Helô married Fernando Pinheiro.

In 1976, at age 49, Tom Jobim took up with a 19 year old photographer named Ana Beatriz Lontra who he married in 1986. It has been strongly suggested that Ana, at age 19, looked an awful lot like the young Helô. (I wish I could find a picture)

Norman Gimbel (born 1927 in Brooklyn) is a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame who has Grammys for the lyrics to The Girl From Ipanema and Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly. In 1979 he and David Shire won an Academy Award for Best Song for It Goes Like It Goes from the movie Norma Rae. He has three songs in the BMI list of Top 100 Songs of the Century, The Girl From Ipanema, Killing Me Softly, and Canadian Sunset. A very prolific writer, he is responsible for the theme music to many TV shows including Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Wonder Woman, and The Paper Chase. His movie credits include Norma Rae, Goodfellas, Johnny Dangerously, Crimes of Passion, Meatballs, and Chisum.

It has been said that there are two types of Brazilian music, Before Jobim and After Jobim. Born on January 25, 1927 Tom Jobim did not start studying music until 1941 and originally went to school to become an architect. In 1953 his first album was published. Before he died on December 8, 1994 he had written the songs for 28 individual albums, the scores for eight movies, and a number of single releases that appeared on other albums. After he died of a heart attack at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, his body was flown back to Rio where it was draped in a Brazilian flag and carried through the streets of Rio. He is buried in a tomb at the Sao Joao Batista Cemetery near his old friend Vinicius de Moraes.

Tom Jobim was married twice, Thereza Hermanny in 1949 and Ana Lontra in 1986. Vinicius de Moraes was officially married nine times. Once, Jobim asked of his friend, “After all, little poet, how many times do you have to be married?” Vinicius answered, “As many times as necessary”.

Born October 19, 1913 and died July 9, 1980, Vinicius de Moraes was a man of many interests. He was a poet, a writer, a lyricist, a musician, a film critic, a career diplomat, and a lawyer who studied English at Oxford University in Cambridge. As a diplomat he served in France, Uruguay, and the United States. In the US he was Consular at the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles and while in LA he took the opportunity to study film under the tutelage of Orson Welles. He too is buried in the Sao Joao Batista Cemetery.

In 2001, Helô Pinheiro opened her “Garota de Ipanema” boutique in Sao Paolo catering mostly to women and offering a variety of beachwear. One of the products she offers is a T-shirt imprinted with the music and lyrics from the song. Since this is a copy of the original sheet music, it also contains the signatures of Vinicius de Moraes and A. C. Jobim. The estates of de Moraes and Jobim filed suit arguing that the words and music belong to the estates and that all monies made from the sale of those T-shirts belong to the families of de Moraes and Jobim. Fortunately for us romantics, the Brazilian courts acted properly. In February, 2004, the court ruled in favor of Helô Pinheiro stating “…without her there would not have been the song”.

Voir enfin:

Garota d’Ipanema

Olha que coisa mais linda

Mais cheia de graça

É ela menina

Que vem e que passa

Num doce balanço, a caminho do mar

Moça do corpo dourado

Do sol de Ipanema

O seu balançado é mais que um poema

É a coisa mais linda que eu já vi passar

Ah, porque estou tão sozinho

Ah, porque tudo é tão triste

Ah, a beleza que existe

A beleza que não é só minha

Que também passa sozinha

Ah, se ela soubesse

Que quando ela passa

O mundo sorrindo se enche de graça

E fica mais lindo

Por causa do amor

The Girl From Ipanema

Tall and tan and young and lovely

The girl from Ipanema goes walking

And when she passes, each one she passes goes – ah

When she walks, she’s like a samba

That swings so cool and sways so gentle

That when she passes, each one she passes goes – ooh

(Ooh) But I watch her so sadly

How can I tell her I love her

Yes I would give my heart gladly

But each day, when she walks to the sea

She looks straight ahead, not at me

Tall, (and) tan, (and) young, (and) lovely

The girl from Ipanema goes walking

And when she passes, I smile – but she doesn’t see (doesn’t see)

(She just doesn’t see, she never sees me…)

La Fille d’Ipanema

Regarde quelle chose plus belle

Et pleine de grace

Que cette fille

Qui va et vient

Dans un doux balancement, au bord de mer

Demoiselle au corps doré

Par le soleil d’Ipanema

Son déhanchement est plus qu’un poème

C’est la chose la plus belle que j’ai vue passer

Ah, pourquoi suis je si seul

Ah, pourquoi tout est si triste

Ah, la beauté qui existe

La beauté qui n’est pas seulement mienne

Qui aussi passe seule

Ah, si elle savait

Que quand elle passe

Le monde souriant se remplit de grace

Et s’embellit

A cause de l’amour


Impostures médiatiques: Dans combien d’autres pays un tel film aurait-il pu voir le jour? (Anyone for a Michael Moore hatchet job on the Israeli FBI ?)

6 mars, 2013
La grande incertitude [liée au manque] d’informations en période de guerre est d’une difficulté particulière parce que toutes les actions doivent dans une certaine mesure être planifiées avec une légère zone d’ombre qui (…) comme l’effet d’un brouillard ou d’un clair de lune, donne aux choses des dimensions exagérées ou non naturelles. Carl von Clausewitz ("Sur la guerre")
Plus on est loin de la scène de l’horreur, plus c’est facile de parler. Paul Fussell
Les documentalistes d’Apocalypse n’ont choisi que des images authentiques, mais le montage de deux authenticités qui n’ont rien à voir – par exemple tel visage et tel nom propre – n’est que pur mensonge au regard de l’histoire. Georges Didi-Huberman
Post-war filmmakers gave us the documentary, Rob Reiner gave us the mockumentary and Moore initiated a third genre, the crockumentary. Jean-Luc Godard
The problem with “The Fog of War” isn’t one of balance. (…) But, as in his other films, Morris feels much more concerned with aesthetics than with moral or historical questions. The interviews with McNamara were filmed with the gizmo Morris calls the “Interrotron.” Morris places his subject in one room in front of a camera and conducts the questioning from another room. There is a small monitor above the camera lens on which the interviewee sees Morris asking the questions. The filmed result is the subject speaking directly to the camera, and in effect to the audience. Morris has said that he believes this results in true first-person cinema. Well, that’s nonsense. The interviewee is still presented as Morris wants him to be seen and through the footage Morris surrounds the interview clips with. The director remains free to take any attitude he wishes toward his subjects. Furthermore, if one of the aims of a good interviewer is to get the subject into a state where he or she is receptive to being questioned, you can’t expect that of a person sitting alone in a room talking to a camera. What seems so strange about Morris’ claim that his method results in more natural interviews is how much it fails to take into account. People engaged in the rhythms of an interview reveal themselves in ways that the audience can see (if Morris were dealing with fiction, the supposition of his method would be that a dialogue couldn’t possibly be as revealing as a monologue). And Morris doesn’t seem much interested in naturalism when he shoots McNamara from skewed camera angles, or layers Philip Glass’ noodling (which Morris praises in the production notes for its “existential dread”) on the soundtrack. (…) There’s nothing objectionable about documentarians who try to give their work aesthetic value. (…) The trouble comes when the aesthetics come first. Several times during “The Fog of War,” Morris includes montages of charts and documents relating to the period McNamara is discussing (the World War II firebombing of Tokyo under Gen. Curtis LeMay; various bombings in Vietnam). The montages increase in speed as they go on. The meaning of these sequences seems to be that the specifics of each mission are beside the point, that they are just facts and figures which can’t square with the attendant bloodshed. Perhaps this is not what Morris intends, but the questions Morris is debating in these sections about the morality and effectiveness of the bombings makes you want more information, not less — and this reduction of everything to a blur of documents comes across as a too easy point. And there’s something cheap about the repeated visual of dominoes falling across a map of Southeast Asia, one Morris returns to again and again and again, long after we’ve grasped its somewhat paltry import. If you can scrape off the movie’s aesthetic pretension and its portentous longueurs, there are hard questions being investigated here. (…) What may be so hard to accept here is that LeMay’s thinking is appropriate to war. Put in its crudest terms, it is the belief that the object of war is to kill more of the enemy than they kill of you. But as Paul Fussell observed in his essay “Thank God for the Atom Bomb,” “the farther from the scene of the horror, the easier the talk,” by which he means that it’s easy to condemn anyone’s actions from a distance. There is, as Fussell recognized, a moral cushiness to the sensibility that deplores the Tokyo bombing (and also, of course, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs) that helped bring the war to a speedy conclusion, and would have accepted much higher casualties on both the American and Japanese sides in the planned land invasion of Japan. Unfortunately, that cushiness can be heard in Morris’ questioning during this section, a barely repressed incredulity at McNamara’s explication of LeMay’s insistence that his duty was to defeat the Japanese while saving as many American lives as he could. What comes through in that section is Morris’ distance from the experience he is describing, how easy it is for him to make a moral judgment in a situation with no clean alternatives. (…) Even the division of the movie into 11 “lessons” smacks of a design being imposed where no design really fits. It’s not that Errol Morris is intellectually incapable of delving into the unanswerable questions this movie poses. And no one could have held “The Fog of War” wanting if Morris had concluded that it’s impossible to get all the way to the bottom of Robert McNamara. But explicating an enigma is not the same thing as blurring it with artistic ambitions. The thickest fog in this documentary has been conjured not by McNamara, but by Errol Morris. Charles Taylor
On ne fait pas la paix avec des méthodes militaires. La paix se construit sur la confiance. Moi qui connaît bien les Palestiniens, je pense que ça ne devrait pas être difficile d’instaurer avec eux une véritable relation de confiance. Avi Dichter (patron du Shin Bet de 2000 à 2005)
Le futur est sombre. Noir est l’avenir. Le service militaire façonne la mentalité de toute la population. L’immense majorité de nos jeunes gens est incorporée dans l’armée. Ce qu’ils voient là-bas, c’est tout et son contraire. D’un côté, une armée qui se veut populaire comme l’étaient les unités du Nahal. Et de l’autre, une armée d’occupation cruelle, semblable à l’armée allemande pendant la Seconde guerre mondiale – semblable, pas identique. Et je ne parle pas de son comportement avec les juifs qui était tout à fait hors norme, avec ses spécificités. Je parle de sa façon de traiter les Polonais, les Belges, les Hollandais, les Tchèques. Avraham Shalom (91e minute)
Du jamais vu. Un peu comme si en France les anciens responsables de la Direction centrale des renseignements généraux (DCRI) dévoilaient les coulisses des affaires de sécurité intérieure auxquelles ils ont été confrontés depuis trois décennies. On en rêve. (…) Dans combien d’autres pays un tel film aurait-il pu voir le jour? Télérama
Le réalisateur israélien ne cache pas s’être inspiré de The Fog of War (Brumes de guerre) remarquable documentaire de l’Américain Errol Morris, qui raconte l’histoire de l’Amérique vue par Robert S. McNamara, ancien secrétaire de la Défense américaine, un des personnages les plus controversés et les plus influents de la scène politique internationale de l’après-guerre. Au départ, la difficulté de The Gatekeepers consistait à faire parler des hommes plus habitués à faire parler les autres qu’à prendre eux-mêmes la parole. Après des semaines de siège, Dror Morey finit par obtenir un entretien avec Ami Ayalon, dirigeant du Shin Beth entre 1996 et 2000. Coïncidence ou non, l’homme était un admirateur de The Fog of war qui, selon lui, méritait d’être montré dans les académies militaires du monde entier. « Si votre objectif est de réaliser un film de ce type. J’en suis », lui déclare-t-il. Télérama

Les anciens responsables du FBI israélien sont-ils de vrais juifs utiles ou,  devant l’inrefusable bonheur de jouer les McNamara dans leur "Fog of war" à eux, se sont-ils fait avoir par nos embrumeurs de guerre professionnels?

Responsables (à la retraite) répondant à des questions que le spectateur ignore, lien entre ces monologues assuré par des morceaux d’archives (dont on ne sait si elles sont tirées d’images de l’armée ou de films de fiction ?) qui conduisent l’argumentation, aucune discussion entre les "confessés" ou d’éventuels contradicteurs des questions qui font débat, citations tronquées et utilisées à contresens, partis pris, anachronismes, techniques du montage et du dossier exclusivement à charge à la Michael Moore …

Au lendemain de la diffusion sur Arte (visionnable toute la semaine sur leur site) du fameux documenteur du Michael Moore (ou Mordillat) israélien Dror Moreh ("The Gatekeepers/Israel confidential) …

Et du procès en béatification du maitre imposteur français Stéphane Hessel

Pendant que 60 ans après on attend toujours le Nuremberg du communisme et que coulent, avant celles des frères Castro, les larmes de crocodile pour l’autocrate d’opérette anitisémite de Caracas …

Comment ne pas se poser la question que comme souvent personne ne semble se poser …

Du choix de quelles paroles des "confessés" ont été retenues ou passées à l’as  ? (Ou de quelles questions des "confesseurs" n’ont pas été posées ?)

Sur les quelque "douze à quinze heures d’entretien" de chacun d’eux ?

Notamment, pour ne prendre qu’un exemple, sur la notoire duplicité d’Arafat et de ses hommes de main …

“The Gatekeepers”, un documentaire ravageur pour les dirigeants israéliens

FIPA | Présenté au Fipa, ce documentaire donne la parole à six anciens dirigeants des services de contre-espionnage israéliens. Explosif.

Olivier Milot

Télérama

23/01/2013

The Gatekeepers a-t-il eu une influence sur le résultat des élections législatives israéliennes qui ont vu ce mardi 22 janvier 2013, Benyamin Nétanyahou décrocher à l’arraché un troisième mandat à la tête d’Israël ? Le documentaire diffusé en pleine campagne électorale fait en tous cas salles combles et a perturbé le ronron d’une élection dont le héros n’aura pas été le Premier ministre sortant, mais Yair Lapid, chef du parti centriste, Yesh Atid (« Il y a un futur ») devenu moins d’un an après sa création, le deuxième parti du pays avec dix-neuf députés élus à la Knesset.

Pourquoi le contenu de The Gatekeepers présenté ce mercredi 23 janvier 2013 au Fipa à Biarritz et diffusé le 5 mars sur Arte est-il si explosif ? Tout simplement parce qu’il raconte une histoire inédite d’Israël et du conflit israélo-palestinien. Six anciens dirigeants du Shin Beth, l’agence de renseignements chargée de la défense d’Israël contre le terrorisme et l’espionnage, se mettent à table sans esquiver les questions qui fâchent, les échecs sur le terrain, les bavures et les doutes sur le bien-fondé de la politique menée depuis trente ans par leurs dirigeants politiques. Du jamais vu. Un peu comme si en France les anciens responsables de la Direction centrale des renseignements généraux (DCRI) dévoilaient les coulisses des affaires de sécurité intérieure auxquelles ils ont été confrontés depuis trois décennies. On en rêve.

Dror Morey lui l’a fait. Et bien fait. Le réalisateur israélien ne cache pas s’être inspiré de The Fog of War (Brumes de guerre) remarquable documentaire de l’Américain Errol Morris, qui raconte l’histoire de l’Amérique vue par Robert S. McNamara, ancien secrétaire de la Défense américaine, un des personnages les plus controversés et les plus influents de la scène politique internationale de l’après-guerre. Au départ, la difficulté de The Gatekeepers consistait à faire parler des hommes plus habitués à faire parler les autres qu’à prendre eux-mêmes la parole. Après des semaines de siège, Dror Morey finit par obtenir un entretien avec Ami Ayalon, dirigeant du Shin Beth entre 1996 et 2000. Coïncidence ou non, l’homme était un admirateur de The Fog of war qui, selon lui, méritait d’être montré dans les académies militaires du monde entier. « Si votre objectif est de réaliser un film de ce type. J’en suis », lui déclare-t-il. Le réalisateur israélien a trouvé sa porte d’entrée. Avec l’aide d’Avi Ayalon et beaucoup de patience, il obtient ensuite que six des sept derniers dirigeants du Shin Beth acceptent de lui parler. Il recueille auprès de chacun d’eux douze à quinze heures d’entretien. Une mine d’information incroyable dont Dror Morey va faire un film intelligemment construit et surtout un véritable pamphlet contre la politique israélienne à l’égard des palestiniens. Car si sur la forme, The Gatekeepers n’a rien d’un réquisitoire, sur le fond il l’est. Les responsables du Shin Beth n’ont aucune considération pour les dirigeants politiques de leur pays et jugent suicidaire et sans avenir la politique menée par leurs gouvernements depuis l’assassinat de Yitzhak Rabin.

Ce qui rend le film passionnant, c’est précisément la personnalité de ceux qui en arrivent à ces conclusions. Les anciens dirigeants du Shin Beth ne sont ni des enfants de choeur, ni des idéalistes. Au contraire. Ils ont le patriotisme dans leur ADN et la sécurité d’Israël comme obsession. En son nom, ils soutiennent sans ciller qu’en matière de lutte contre le terrorisme "la morale n’existe pas" et ont planifié méthodiquement les assassinats de nombreux dirigeants palestiniens. Leur analyse est froide, pragmatique, uniquement fondée sur leur connaissance du terrain depuis trente ans. Et ce qu’ils disent est terrible pour Israël et la politique de ses dirigeants. Extraits :

- « Les premiers ministres d’Israël se sont succédés sans jamais prendre en considération le peuple palestinien, ni en deça des frontières de 1967, ni au-delà. » Avraham Shalom (patron du Shin Bet de 1980 à 1986)

- « Nous rendons la vie de millions de gens insupportables. Leurs souffrances sont permanentes. Et nous laissons un soldat qui n’est à l’armée que depuis quelques mois décider de ce qui est admissible ou non. Dans le meilleur des cas, il a passé son bac l’année précédente. Il est là devant un père avec un bébé dans les bras et il doit décider s’il le fouille ou non, s’il le laisse passer ou non. Ça me rend malade. » Carmi Gillon (patron du Shin Bet de 1994 à 1996)

- « Le futur est sombre. Noir est l’avenir. (…) Nous sommes devenus cruels envers nous-mêmes mais surtout envers la population que nous contrôlons sous prétexte de lutter contre le terrorisme. » Avraham Shalom

- « On ne fait pas la paix avec des méthodes militaires. La paix se construit sur la confiance. Moi qui connaît bien les Palestiniens, je pense que ça ne devrait pas être difficile d’instaurer avec eux une véritable relation de confiance. » Avi Dichter (patron du Shin Bet de 2000 à 2005)

- « Je suis prêt à tous les interlocuteurs possibles. Il n’y a pas d’alternative au fait de se parler. Il faut parler avec tout le monde, ça inclut même Ahmadinejad, n’importe qui.» Avraham Shalom

- « La tragédie du débat public sur la sécurité est que nous ne comprenons pas que nous sommes dans une situation frustrante où nous gagnons chaque bataille, mais nous perdons la guerre. » Ami Ayalon (patron du Shin Bet de 1996 à 2000).

Les anciens dirigeants du Shin Beth seront-ils entendu? La réélection de Benyamin Nétanyahou à la tête d’Israël et la poussée – moindre qu’attendue mais réelle – de l’extrême droite nationaliste et religieuse, laisse peu d’espoir. A rebours de ce qu’analysent froidement ceux qui l’ont protégé pendant trente ans, Israël semble bien parti pour une nouvelle fuite en avant dans sa politique suicidaire à l’égard des Palestiniens (lire à ce sujet l’excellent numéro de Books du mois de janvier. Elle n’en reste pas moins une démocratie imparfaite mais authentique. Dans combien d’autres pays un tel film aurait-il pu voir le jour?

Voir aussi:

"The Gatekeepers": les guerriers de l’ombre d’Israël plaident pour la paix

Pierre Haski

Rue89

05/03/2013

C’est un passage exceptionnel de l’autre côté du miroir, dans la tête de six hommes qui ont eu à connaître, et à agir brutalement, au cœur du conflit israélo-palestinien. Ces anciens patrons du Shin Bet, le service de renseignement israélien chargé de la lutte antiterroriste, se livrent avec une déconcertante franchise dans un documentaire diffusé ce mardi soir sur Arte.

Le documentaire, signé Dror Moreh, sélectionné pour les Oscars, montre des hommes qui admettent avoir ordonné des assassinats ciblés, avoir opéré des rafles, et même avoir torturé pour obtenir des informations afin d’empêcher des attentats.

Mais, surtout, « The Gatekeepers », c’est l’histoire d’un pays qui, depuis sa victoire historique de la « Guerre des six jours » de juin 1967, n’en finit pas de chercher des réponses sécuritaires à des questions politiques.

C’est la principale leçon de ces entretiens fascinants avec ces hommes qui ont dirigé le Shin Bet entre 1980 et 2011. Maîtres d’une action de renseignement et d’action de plus en plus sophistiquée et de plus en plus efficace, ils expriment, chacun à leur manière, un pessimisme de la raison.

« On ne fait pas la paix avec des méthodes militaires »

L’un d’eux exprime tout simplement la leçon d’une vie dans la guerre de l’ombre :

« On ne fait pas la paix avec des méthodes militaires. La paix repose sur des relations de confiance. Avec les Palestiniens, ça ne devrait pas être si difficile à construire. »

Prononcé par toute autre personne qu’un ancien patron du Shin Bet, un tel propos pourrait être aisément balayé d’un revers de manche. On a affaire ici à des hommes qui ont été confrontés à la vie et à la mort tout au long de leur carrière.

Et, à contre courant de ce que pense la majorité des Israéliens, si l’on prend pour référence les dernières élections, ils estiment qu’il faut « parler avec tout le monde », y compris le Hamas ou le Jihad islamique, « et même [le président iranien] Ahmadinejad », dit l’un d’eux.

Pour en arriver là, ils sont passés par une lutte à mort avec leurs ennemis, d’abord le Fatah de Yasser Arafat jusqu’aux accords d’Oslo de 1993, puis les islamistes du Hamas ou du Jihad islamique jusqu’à aujourd’hui.

Ils ont constaté les limites des assassinats ciblés qu’ils ont eux-mêmes ordonnés – c’est immoral et en plus c’est « inefficace », dit Ami Ayalon, l’un des plus impressionnants ;

ils se sont confrontés aux questions éthiques de la guerre de l’ombre, de la torture, de l’arbitraire ;

ils ont constaté le vide de la pensée politique, la lâcheté des dirigeants qui refusent d’assumer leurs erreurs, et la transformation de la lutte antiterroriste comme une fin en soi.

Assassinats entre juifs

Parmi les aspects les plus inquiétants de ce documentaire, l’épisode de l’assassinat du premier ministre Yitzhak Rabin par un extrémiste juif en 1995, qui a pris le Shin Bet par surprise, et qui fait dire à l’un de ses anciens patrons qu’il y aura d’autres assassinats politiques entre juifs si, un jour, Israël choisit de se retirer des territoires occupés palestiniens.

Et cette stupéfiante conclusion d’un de ces ex-patrons de la lutte antiterroriste, à qui l’auteur lit une phrase prophétique du philosophe Yeshayahou Leibowitz, qui avait prédit dès 1967 qu’en choisissant l’occupation et la colonisation après sa victoire, Israël perdrait son âme et irait au désastre.

L’un des anciens chefs du Shin Bet réfléchit, et dit qu’il est d’accord « avec chaque mot » prononcé par ce philosophe, aujourd’hui disparu, longtemps considéré comme un affreux gauchiste. Il ajoute, avec le sourire :

« Quand tu quittes le Shin Bet, tu deviens un peu gauchiste… »

Comme l’armée allemande…

Mais sur un mode plus sombre, plus tragique au regard de l’histoire, l’un de ces anciens patrons de la lutte antiterroriste va jusqu’à comparer l’armée israélienne à… l’armée allemande, non pas dans son traitement des juifs, mais dans son rapport aux peuples occupés en Pologne, Tchécoslovaquie ou Belgique.

Ce message n’est pas audible aujourd’hui pour la plupart des Israéliens qui ont choisi les partis qui leur promettent la sécurité plutôt que la paix. Ce qui fait dire à l’un de ces hommes de l’ombre :

« Ça me rend malade, le futur est sombre, l’avenir noir. »

Le titre anglais "The Gatekeepers" a été bizarrement traduit en français : "Israël confidentiel", comme un vulgaire thriller, alors que l’idée est plutôt celle des "Gardiens du temple", qui sonnent l’alarme mais que personne n’écoute.

Voir également:

"The Gatekeepers" : le film qui dérange Netanyahou

Danièle Kriegel

Le Point

05/03/2013 à 08:55

Le documentaire diffusé mardi soir sur Arte regroupe les confessions de six anciens chefs du Shin Beth sur les dessous du conflit israélo-palestinien.

De notre correspondante à Jérusalem, Danièle Kriegel

La droite israélienne n’a pas aimé le film. Face à la caméra : Avraham Shalom, Yaacov Peri, Avraham Dichter, Youval Diskin, Ami Ayalon, Carmi Gillon, six anciens "patrons" du Shin Beth, la sécurité intérieure israélienne, racontent pendant une heure et demie dans The Gatekeepers ("Les gardiens"), leur lutte contre le terrorisme palestinien mais aussi contre l’extrême droite religieuse juive. Une histoire secrète de trente ans qui débute avec l’occupation de la Cisjordanie et de Gaza, à la suite de la guerre des Six-Jours de 1967, et court jusqu’à fin 2011.

Entre répression au quotidien d’une population de plus en plus hostile, deux intifadas, la multiplication des attentats anti-israéliens avec en représailles les liquidations ciblées, exécutions sommaires, bavures, détentions administratives sans acte d’accusation ni procès, interrogatoires implacables et mise en place d’informateurs palestiniens. En parallèle, ils doivent également neutraliser un mouvement terroriste juif qui ira jusqu’à tenter de faire sauter le dôme du Rocher, sur le Haram El Sharif (l’esplanade des Mosquées en pleine vieille ville de Jérusalem, le mont du Temple pour les Israéliens juifs). Une lutte de l’extrême droite juive qui s’affichera au grand jour lors de l’assassinat d’Yitzhak Rabin, en novembre 1995, par Yigal Amir.

Mais le plus étonnant de la part de ces six "gardiens", au-delà de l’évocation sans fard de leurs échecs et de leurs succès, c’est le jugement qu’ils portent sur la politique des différents gouvernements qu’ils ont servis. "Uniquement de la tactique, jamais de stratégie", déclare Yaacov Peri, chef du Shin Beth entre 1988 et 1994. Pour Youval Diskin comme pour le plus ancien d’entre eux, Avraham Shalom, des batailles ont été gagnées, mais la guerre a été perdue. Autrement dit, Israël n’a pas su créer une situation politique meilleure. En conclusion, tous font le même constat : celui d’une désespérance politique qui ne pourra se résoudre qu’en parlant avec tout le monde : le Fatah, le Hamas, le Hezbollah et… Ahmadinejad. "Même s’ils répondent mal, il faut continuer à parler, il n’y a pas d’autres choix."

Feu aux poudres

Projeté l’été dernier au festival international du film de Jérusalem, ce documentaire réalisé par Dror Moreh est d’abord passé quasiment inaperçu. Arrive la fin de l’année et la décision de la cinémathèque de Jérusalem de le programmer. Très vite les séances ont lieu pratiquement à guichet fermé. On refuse du monde. Un succès dû au bouche-à-oreille et à quelques bonnes critiques. Mais il faudra attendre sa nomination aux Oscars pour que Israël confidential (The Gatekeepers pour la version anglaise) fasse vraiment du bruit. En moins d’un mois, plus de 50 000 Israéliens vont se précipiter dans les sept salles qui désormais assurent sa diffusion.

Les télés et les radios, nomination aux Oscars oblige, finissent par en parler et surtout font réagir les politiques. À droite, c’est glacial et unanime : un film "orienté", "tendancieux". À la présidence du Conseil, Benyamin Netanyahou laisse son porte-parole déclarer : "Le Premier ministre n’a pas vu le film et il n’a pas l’intention de le voir." Au lendemain de la cérémonie des Oscars, la droite fait des gorges chaudes du fait que Dror Moreh, le réalisateur du film, est reparti les mains vides. "Nous ne verserons pas une larme", dit-on en coeur… Quelques jours plus tard, Limor Livnat, la ministre de la Culture, met le feu aux poudres. Après avoir dénoncé "ces films qui salissent l’image d’Israël", elle appelle les réalisateurs à s’autocensurer. Les professionnels du cinéma lui répondent par une lettre ouverte dans laquelle ils rappellent que "le rôle du ministre de la Culture est de promouvoir l’art, pas de censurer" ! Si elle conserve son portefeuille, Limor Livnat a annoncé son intention de changer la composition de la commission d’attribution des subventions aux projets cinématographiques.

Voir encore:

Le documentaire qui trouble Israël

Baudouin Loos

13 février 2013

Avec The Gatekeepers (les Gardiens), Dror Moreh secoue Israël. Ses témoins: les six anciens chefs de la sécurité israélienne intérieure. Qui parlent face caméra et contre l’occupation. « Car ils sont inquiets pour l’avenir d’Israël », dit le réalisateur.

Un documentaire peut-il changer la face du monde? Certes non. Mais il peut susciter une prise de conscience salutaire. Dror Moreh, le réalisateur israélien qui a filmé The Gatekeepers (1) a sans aucun doute fait oeuvre utile, en jetant ce pavé dans la mare, ou plutôt en apportant cette pierre dans l’édifice encore à bâtir qui s’appellerait la paix au Proche-Orient. Parce que ses « acteurs », les témoins qu’ils a interrogés avec minutie pendant trois ans, ne sont pas n’importe qui. Ce ne sont pas ceux qui argumentent en général pour la paix israélo-palestinienne. Ce ne sont pas « des juifs qui cultivent la haine de soi », ou quelques gauchistes mal dégrossis. Non. Ce sont les six ex-chefs du Shin Beth encore en vie. Le Shin Beth, aussi appelé la Shabak, ce sont les services de sécurité intérieure. Des durs.

Le documentaire choc qui, signe des temps, a vaincu sans problème la censure militaire israélienne, connaît un beau succès en Israël. Une quinzaine de cinémas le diffusent et font salles combles…

Nous voilà donc en présence de ceux qui ont, des années durant, dirigé les services qui espionnaient la société palestinienne, réprimaient, arrêtaient, torturaient, tuaient des Palestiniens. Accessoirement aussi, ils s’occupaient des extrémistes israéliens juifs. Six anciens responsables qui ont voué leur vie à la défense de la sécurité d’Israël. Et qui disent, chacun à sa façon, comment, comme le proclame l’un d’eux en conclusion du film, « nous avons gagné toutes les batailles mais nous perdons la guerre ».

La plongée dans les « batailles » du Shin Beth ne laisse pas indemne. C’est la lutte « contre le terrorisme ». A savoir le monde des exécutions (plus ou moins bien) ciblées, du recrutement intensif de collaborateurs, de la torture. Les chefs à la retraite en parlent. Tous avec réalisme. Certains aussi avec cynisme. Comme celui qui sourit au souvenir de l’assassinat par téléphone piégé de « l’ingénieur » du Hamas Yehya Ayache, en janvier 1996, « un beau travail, très propre, élégant ». Les représailles du Hamas, sans doute moins « élégantes », allaient faire des dizaines de morts dans des bus israéliens et ramener la droite extrémiste israélienne au pouvoir…

« L’avenir est noir, dit l’un des anciens responsables. Nous sommes devenus une force brutale d’occupation. Comparable à l’armée allemande durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, du moins pour ce qu’elle fit aux populations polonaise, belge, hollandaise ou tchèque. » Un autre lâche: « Nous rendons la vie de millions de gens insupportable, nous les maintenons dans une souffrance humaine prolongée et ça me tue ».

Les six hommes n’affichent pas tous contrition ou résipiscence. Et puis, leurs états d’âme pourraient être considérés comme tardifs, ainsi que l’estime Gideon Levy, un chroniqueur du quotidien Haaretz qui n’a pas l’habitude de dissimuler ses sentiments: « Ils roulent des yeux, écrivait-il le 30 décembre dernier, et rejettent la responsabilité sur les dirigeants politiques comme s’ils n’auraient pas pu les influencer, comme s’ils n’auraient pas pu moins torturer, moins tuer ».

Binyamin Netanyahou a fait savoir par un communiqué qu’il n’avait pas vu le film et qu’il n’avait pas l’intention de le voir. On peut comprendre le Premier ministre israélien. Que des experts israéliens bien plus qualifiés que lui en matière de sécurité, de terrorisme, viennent proclamer face caméra, après mûres réflexions, que « l’occupation est mauvaise pour Israël » ne peut résonner agréablement à ses oreilles.

(1) La RTBF figure parmi les coproducteurs de ce documentaire. La Une le diffusera le 27 février à 22 heures, sous le titre Israel Confidential. Trois jours plus tôt, le réalisateur de The Gatekeepers saura s’il a reçu à Hollywood l’oscar du meilleur documentaire, catégorie dans laquelle il est nommé.

Voir par ailleurs:

“The Fog of War”

Errol Morris tries to pin down Vietnam War chess-master Robert McNamara, and the results are fascinating — also troubling, deeply confusing and way too artistically precious.

Charles Taylor

Salon

Dec 19, 2003

Among the insults directed at Robert S. McNamara during his years as secretary of defense for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson was that he was less a man than an IBM machine with legs. To the people who came to call the Vietnam conflict “McNamara’s war,” the man was the epitome of the soulless technocrat. Having come to the Department of Defense straight from the presidency of Ford Motor Company, McNamara was seen as treating war like a corporate enterprise, coldly detached from the human cost of his decisions.

That’s why it’s ironic that, of all the documentary filmmakers he should agree to sit down and be interviewed by, McNamara should give his consent to Errol Morris, whose work has always been so distanced from the people he puts on screen.

“The Fog of War,” which is subtitled “Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara,” isn’t a hatchet job. Morris isn’t out to “get” McNamara. He doesn’t trap McNamara in the frame and turn him into a caricature, as he did with the interviewees in pictures like “Gates of Heaven” and “The Thin Blue Line.” It might have been pointless to try, since, unlike most of the people who appear in Morris’ films, McNamara is used to appearing in the public eye and knows how to handle himself.

The problem with “The Fog of War” isn’t one of balance. Barring the convictions people already hold about the former secretary of defense, it would be very hard to come away from the movie feeling it either fully condemns or fully exculpates McNamara. The man himself is both distant and frequently emotional (his voice breaks with tears several times in the course of the film), willing to examine his actions — not just in Vietnam but during World War II and the Cuban missile crisis — and stubbornly unwilling to issue a mea culpa (that itself seems both arrogant and humble). The McNamara we see in “The Fog of War” is as much of a pickle as he’s always been, seeming both searching and blind, hounded and complacent. He isn’t haughty and dismissive in the way that still makes Henry Kissinger so hateful. McNamara’s actions may fill us with repugnance, but you’d have to blindly hate the man not to acknowledge his intelligence or his willingness to talk, often bluntly, about his time in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

If Morris had simply concluded that he was dealing with an enigma, this investigation into McNamara’s psyche might have been intellectually satisfying. But, as in his other films, Morris feels much more concerned with aesthetics than with moral or historical questions.

The interviews with McNamara were filmed with the gizmo Morris calls the “Interrotron.” Morris places his subject in one room in front of a camera and conducts the questioning from another room. There is a small monitor above the camera lens on which the interviewee sees Morris asking the questions. The filmed result is the subject speaking directly to the camera, and in effect to the audience. Morris has said that he believes this results in true first-person cinema. Well, that’s nonsense. The interviewee is still presented as Morris wants him to be seen and through the footage Morris surrounds the interview clips with. The director remains free to take any attitude he wishes toward his subjects. Furthermore, if one of the aims of a good interviewer is to get the subject into a state where he or she is receptive to being questioned, you can’t expect that of a person sitting alone in a room talking to a camera.

What seems so strange about Morris’ claim that his method results in more natural interviews is how much it fails to take into account. People engaged in the rhythms of an interview reveal themselves in ways that the audience can see (if Morris were dealing with fiction, the supposition of his method would be that a dialogue couldn’t possibly be as revealing as a monologue). And Morris doesn’t seem much interested in naturalism when he shoots McNamara from skewed camera angles, or layers Philip Glass’ noodling (which Morris praises in the production notes for its “existential dread”) on the soundtrack.

The strangest thing about Morris’ method is that it undervalues his considerable abilities as an interviewer. Frequently in the course of “The Fog of War,” we hear Morris’ disembodied voice interrogating McNamara, and he’s an alert, astute interviewer. That was obvious from a recorded conversation toward the end of Morris’s “The Thin Blue Line,” where Morris is heard talking with the convict David Harris. Morris brings Harris very close to confessing to the murder that the film’s subject, Randall Adams, was charged with. (The critic Ray Sawhill said that he listened to this exchange and thought, “My God, Morris is thinking on his feet while talking to a psychopath.”)

There’s nothing objectionable about documentarians who try to give their work aesthetic value. The film “Lodz Ghetto,” while being a devastating account of life in the Polish ghetto, had a beautiful poetic structure. The trouble comes when the aesthetics come first. Several times during “The Fog of War,” Morris includes montages of charts and documents relating to the period McNamara is discussing (the World War II firebombing of Tokyo under Gen. Curtis LeMay; various bombings in Vietnam). The montages increase in speed as they go on. The meaning of these sequences seems to be that the specifics of each mission are beside the point, that they are just facts and figures which can’t square with the attendant bloodshed.

Perhaps this is not what Morris intends, but the questions Morris is debating in these sections about the morality and effectiveness of the bombings makes you want more information, not less — and this reduction of everything to a blur of documents comes across as a too easy point. And there’s something cheap about the repeated visual of dominoes falling across a map of Southeast Asia, one Morris returns to again and again and again, long after we’ve grasped its somewhat paltry import.

If you can scrape off the movie’s aesthetic pretension and its portentous longueurs, there are hard questions being investigated here. Morris has included some extraordinary recordings made in the Kennedy White House during the debates over the Cuban missile crisis. They will not do much to strengthen the argument of those who claim that it was Kennedy’s steadfastness that averted Armageddon. Hard on the heels of each other, the White House received two contradictory telexes from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The first promised to withdraw missiles from Cuba in exchange for the Americans’ promise not to invade the island. The second, bearing Khrushchev’s name but apparently written by Kremlin hard-liners, threatened to retaliate for any nuclear strike on the USSR. We hear Kennedy meeting with his staff and saying that he doesn’t believe Khrushchev will back down.

Tommy Thompson, a specialist on the USSR who was advising the president, states his disagreement and argues that the U.S. should simply ignore the second, more aggressive telex and respond to the conciliatory first one. Kennedy has been so widely praised for the courage he showed during the crisis (among other places, in the film “Thirteen Days”) that it may be tough for some to acknowledge the voice here of the cold warrior willing to risk nuclear war, even when faced with a solution that would allow both countries to save face. This may not be a popular view, but it isn’t pro-communist to conclude that, from what we hear in the movie, Khrushchev had a much better grasp of what was really at stake.

Inevitably, most of the interest in “The Fog of War” will focus on McNamara and Vietnam. But it’s the section on the fire-bombing of Tokyo during World War II that is the most provocative and provides an insight into the mindset of McNamara. He is at his most straightforward, his most unflinchingly honest, in this section, and any decent person will be repelled by what he has to say. I don’t mean to criticize him. Virtually all the great memoirs and great literature to emerge from the two world wars — I’m thinking of work by Robert Graves, E.B. Sledge, Paul Fussell, William Manchester and James Jones, and the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Edmund Blunden — would affirm that view of war.

This section is complicated by the presence of Gen. Curtis LeMay. The “bomb ‘em all” reputation LeMay garnered during Vietnam made him seem to be a liberal’s nightmare version of a military man. The images we see of him here — stout, with a stogie stuck in his unforgiving face — are exactly what an antiwar caricaturist might come up with. LeMay conducted (and McNamara helped to plan) the March 1945 bombing of Tokyo that killed 100,000 civilians and burned 50 square miles of the city, whose buildings were largely made of wood. McNamara says that LeMay’s rationale is not one sensitive people could abide. And he quotes LeMay as telling him that if the Allies had lost, both he and McNamara would have been prosecuted as war criminals.

What may be so hard to accept here is that LeMay’s thinking is appropriate to war. Put in its crudest terms, it is the belief that the object of war is to kill more of the enemy than they kill of you. But as Paul Fussell observed in his essay “Thank God for the Atom Bomb,” “the farther from the scene of the horror, the easier the talk,” by which he means that it’s easy to condemn anyone’s actions from a distance. There is, as Fussell recognized, a moral cushiness to the sensibility that deplores the Tokyo bombing (and also, of course, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs) that helped bring the war to a speedy conclusion, and would have accepted much higher casualties on both the American and Japanese sides in the planned land invasion of Japan.

Unfortunately, that cushiness can be heard in Morris’ questioning during this section, a barely repressed incredulity at McNamara’s explication of LeMay’s insistence that his duty was to defeat the Japanese while saving as many American lives as he could. What comes through in that section is Morris’ distance from the experience he is describing, how easy it is for him to make a moral judgment in a situation with no clean alternatives.

Morris doesn’t fall into that during the Vietnam sections, and it’s fair to say that what we’ve learned about McNamara by then — his acceptance of duty to his superiors, his understanding that grasping the essential ugliness of war can exist side by side with waging it — leads into the hubris of Vietnam. Morris adopts something close to the standard distaste for LBJ, presenting him as a gung-ho warrior, and McNamara and others in his Cabinet as working to serve his wishes. What he doesn’t consider, as Robert Dallek details in his two-volume biography of Johnson, is how much Johnson, the graduate of a Texas teachers’ college, felt himself the intellectual inferior of all the Ivy League men who worked for him.

It’s here, though, that the paradox of McNamara really opens up. His private pessimism about winning the war contrasts sharply with the public optimism we see in newsreel clips from the time. Watching these, it’s hard not to feel as appalled as McNamara’s critics have always been about the discrepancy between his knowledge and his public statements. Morris makes it difficult, though, to dismiss McNamara’s contention that his job was strictly to do the bidding of the president. McNamara also feels it would have been disloyal to criticize the war after he had left the Pentagon, and you understand why he would not want to betray the people he worked with. On the other hand, it’s reasonable to ask whether McNamara’s moral qualms about such a betrayal might not have been outweighed by his historical responsibility to speak out on the deepening futility of the war.

McNamara doesn’t provide an easy answer. You could see, as many have, the grudging mea culpas he has offered as too little, too late. But the reluctant quality of those pronouncements may be a reflection of just that: McNamara’s realization that an apology is a meager thing in the face of war. Similarly, his refusal to give his personal feelings about the war suggests, as his critics have said, a man divorced from the human consequences of his actions but also a recognition that he must be judged on his actions rather than his private feelings.

This is the frustration of Robert McNamara, his simultaneous ability to seem obsequious and weirdly honorable, honest and evasive. But any serious plumbing of this enigma gets lost in Morris’ quest for aesthetics. The clips of McNamara’s battered old bullfrog countenance come to seem like just another of Morris’s visual motifs. Even the division of the movie into 11 “lessons” smacks of a design being imposed where no design really fits.

It’s not that Errol Morris is intellectually incapable of delving into the unanswerable questions this movie poses. And no one could have held “The Fog of War” wanting if Morris had concluded that it’s impossible to get all the way to the bottom of Robert McNamara. But explicating an enigma is not the same thing as blurring it with artistic ambitions. The thickest fog in this documentary has been conjured not by McNamara, but by Errol Morris.

Charles Taylor is a columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger.

Voir encore:

The fog around Robert McNamara

Director Errol Morris discusses how his Oscar-winning "The Fog of War" resonates with George W. Bush’s foreign policy in Iraq, and the complicated morality of his film’s star.

David Talbot

Salon

Feb 28, 2004

Toward the end of “The Fog of War,” Errol Morris’ deeply important and haunting documentary about the hard-won lessons of history, the subject of the film, former Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara — shrunken and liver-spotted, but older and wiser now — quotes from T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

In “The Fog of War,” Morris, who throughout his career has raised documentary filmmaking to the level of art, succeeds in showing us well-worn pages from our past — the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War — in such a way that we know them for the first time. Though McNamara has not fully come to terms with his past as the numbers-driven architect of the Vietnam War, his impassioned grappling with that war and the rest of his defense record make for a uniquely fascinating history lesson. Morris began his interviews with McNamara before 9/11 and the war in Iraq. But the film, with its insights into how even the most rational officials can blunder and deceive themselves and the public into epic tragedies, has struck a chord that Morris could not have predicted.

Salon spoke to Morris (before “The Fog of War” won the Oscar on Sunday for best documentary) by phone in Cambridge, Mass., where he works and lives with his wife, art historian Julia Sheehan, and their son Hamilton.

You are responsible, in a way, for rehabilitating Robert McNamara. And yet he still remains a troubling figure for many people, who criticize him for not speaking out during the Vietnam War about his growing doubts about the war — even after he left office in 1968. You must have a pretty good sense of the man by now. What prevented him from speaking out?

It’s a question that I certainly would like to answer, but I’m not sure I can answer. If it was a mystery when I started making this movie, it remains a mystery having finished the movie. McNamara was up in my office yesterday for a number of hours, and the issue comes up again and again and again and again: Why didn’t you speak out back then against the war in Vietnam? You talk to different people, they have different complaints about McNamara, different reasons why they hate him.

I know when I spoke to [Vietnam War correspondent] Frances Fitzgerald while I was making this movie, she said it was the fact that she would get off these transports from Vietnam at Andrews Air Force Base, where there would be crowds of reporters, and McNamara would say over and over again, “Things are improving. We’re winning the war” — when he knew otherwise. Basically, he lied to the American people, and possibly to himself. For other writers, like my friend Ron Rosenbaum, it’s the fact that he didn’t speak out after he left office in 1968. The fact that he continued to serve Johnson despite his doubts about the war, that’s maybe OK, but it’s not beyond the pale. What for him is beyond the pale is that he left in early ’68, and we all know that the war went on and on and on and on — ’69, ’70, ’71, ’72, ’73. And he still did not speak out. Fifty-eight thousand American dead, millions of Vietnamese, and there he was, safely ensconced as president of the World Bank. For him, that is inexcusable.

What do you feel?

You know, it depends on which day you ask me. Someone asked me this earlier today — that I should talk more about my father. My father died when I was 2 years old. I have no memories of my father. McNamara is perhaps the ultimate father figure. He was the father figure in some way for a generation. Maybe that’s making too much of it. But for me, having this relationship with him — and it is a relationship, it would be incorrect to claim otherwise — produces such a range of emotion for me. It’s not as if, say, close to 40 years later, I’ve come to love the Vietnam War, a war which I demonstrated against in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I found the war appalling then, I find the war appalling now, I’ve had no reason to change that view. That has been a constant.

It’s not only people on the left who are deeply disturbed by McNamara, of course. He’s also vilified by the right, who believe that he forced the military to fight with one hand tied behind its back, out of fear of widening the war.

Absolutely. As I point out often, McNamara got the hat trick. He’s hated by the left, the right and the center. Congratulations!

“The Fog of War” focuses of course on McNamara’s career, but I think it’s touched a public chord because the lessons of Vietnam resonate in Bush’s America. Was that your intention?

I started my interviews with McNamara well before 9/11, but as we worked on the film, I would show various sections of the movie, and eventually rough cuts of the movie, to different people, and they would constantly point out, “This is incredibly relevant … The movie should be out today.”

I don’t believe that history exactly repeats itself. That’s not the argument. History’s like the weather — it never exactly repeats itself. And there’s a danger in making inappropriate and false analogies, but it’s really hard to look at this story without seeing parallels, common themes. I think about why I was attracted to doing this movie with McNamara in the first place. One of the reasons most certainly is that his stories, whether he knows it clearly or not, his stories are about error, confusion, mistakes, self-deception, wishful thinking, false ideology. It’s a cornucopia of bad stuff, of human failings. And what’s so interesting is that in some form or another, we see them in play today.

You see in the film the story behind the imagined attack by the North Vietnamese on two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 4, 1964. Never happened. We imagined it. We imagined something that wasn’t there. Sound familiar?

Another riveting section of your film deals with the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, when McNamara says we were a hair’s breadth away from nuclear holocaust. It’s startling for people today to realize how close we were, and how hard-pressed Kennedy and his inner circle, including McNamara, were by the military hard-liners to go to war.

There’s an amazing moment if you listen to the recordings when the Joint Chiefs confront Kennedy. And it’s really, really, really frightening.

What do they say?

They’re basically saying that Kennedy should invade and bomb Cuba. And he should do it sooner rather than later. All he’s doing through delay is giving the Soviets more time to get ready to launch an attack on the United States. That delay is unconscionable, and that anything other than a military response is unconscionable. There’s a moment — you listen to the tapes, you can imagine what that scene must’ve been like — when Curtis LeMay [the famously zealous Air Force chief] says to Kennedy, “This is worse than Munich.”

And of course, he knew what a slap in the face that was to Kennedy, whose father, Joe, was considered a Nazi appeaser before World War II.

Yes, indeed. That is part of that story. Thank you very much.

How does Kennedy respond?

Kennedy does not respond. There’s silence. Kennedy says very little to the generals.

One of the things that really fascinates me about that moment, where LeMay says this is worse than Munich, is that it goes right back to a question you asked me at the beginning of our conversation about historical analogies. Iraq, Vietnam, Munich, the Cuban missile crisis, the danger of this sort of thing. But let’s look at the reality here.

First of all, the Kennedy administration had been given faulty information by the CIA. They had been told there were no Soviet warheads on Cuba. OK, so what should the president conclude? Perhaps the Joint Chiefs are absolutely right. Act sooner rather than later. Take out the missiles, take out the missile launchers and the missile sites before the warheads arrive. Although in fact several of those Joint Chiefs wanted to go a little further than Cuba, they wanted to go take out the Soviet Union and China as well. They had big appetites. But we now know that if LeMay and the other Joint Chiefs had had their way, and there was bombing and an invasion, the local Soviet commanders who had autonomy would have used those missiles with warheads against the United States. Can I say this with certainty? No. But was there a good likelihood if we invaded and bombed that they would reply? Yep. So that in this instance, “appeasement” averted a catastrophe. The analogy to Munich isn’t an analogy at all. People often make these analogies. What is Munich? It’s a way of calling a leader like Kennedy a candy-ass. And because of your weakness, because of your policies, everyone will have to suffer. It will lead to an even worse catastrophe than you can imagine. In this instance — wrong! The diplomatic solution proved to be the correct one.

So during the Cuban missile crisis, “The Fog of War” makes clear that the Kennedys and McNamara acted heroically, and by defying the generals, saved the world.

Yes. You know, I worry for many reasons about being seen as a McNamara apologist. But based on the research that I’ve done, I do not see McNamara in the same way I saw him years ago. I see him quite differently. I no longer see him as the chief architect of the war in Vietnam. I no longer see it the way that ["The Best and the Brightest" author] David Halberstam sees the Vietnam War, for instance, that it was the product of a bellicose McNamara and a vacillating Johnson. I believe it was the other way around. And I believe that McNamara, throughout the Cuban missile crisis, was a restraining force on the military. And helped keep us out of war.

Now I also believe that McNamara willingly implemented Johnson’s Vietnam policies. Why? Why is the question. If he was so opposed in Oct. 2, 1963, while Kennedy was still president, not just to the escalation of the war, but to our continued presence in Vietnam past 1965, how is it that he becomes the enabler in the Johnson administration? How the hell does this come to be? I have my answers. Are they conclusive answers? They aren’t. But it does go back to these questions of McNamara’s personal code of honor — if you’re rule-bound, when does loyalty to the public, when does loyalty to the republic, when does loyalty to the truth trump responsibility and loyalty to the president. As one Harvard historian, Peter Hall, very kindly said about my movie, it is one of the very few works of history — and he did consider it a work of history — that shows clearly the complexity of the decisions that people had to make.

Speaking of McNamara’s role as a restraining force on the military, it’s ironic — today, in the Bush administration, the situation is reversed. It’s the military commanders who are the voice of reason, and the civilians like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and the others who are the crazies.

They’re like cheerleaders. They’re out there with short skirts and pompoms and letter sweaters, urging the country into war. The one military leader in a civilian post in the Bush administration [Colin Powell] has been marginalized because of his reluctance to go to war. It’s ironic. It’s even funny in a grim sort of way. And it’s goddamn frightening.

But perhaps not as frightening as the Cuban missile crisis, when the entire world was on the brink.

Yes. And you don’t know whether it was a ploy, of course, a way to wring concessions from the Soviets. But in the middle of that crisis, Bobby Kennedy told the Soviet ambassador, Anatoly Dobrynin, that Moscow had to understand that if there is not some kind of resolution quickly to this, there is a risk of a coup in the U.S. The military will topple JFK. I like to say that we have come to realize that “Dr. Strangelove” is not a drama, it’s a documentary.

McNamara speaks most clearly about himself when he’s speaking about others. There’s a moment in my movie when Johnson gives McNamara the Medal of Freedom at his farewell ceremony and he’s unable to speak. And then in the movie he says what he would’ve said to Johnson if he had been able to speak. He would have said that people should understand that he had reasons for what he did. That there were people who wished for a war with the Soviet Union and Red China, and he was determined to prevent it. And if you like McNamara, if you’re sympathetic to him, it’s a key moment. If you hate him, if you dislike him, it is seen as one more pathetic excuse among many. But there’s a reason why General LeMay is in this movie so prominently, because he represents a dark part of American history that was there, it was real. This was not a figment of McNamara’s imagination. He knew all too well what he was dealing with.

Voir enfin:

An Interview with Dror Moreh

The director talks about his film, ‘Sharon," which will be screened tonight in San Jose

Danny Wool

San Jose.com

Nov 10, 2009

Sharon plays Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7:30pm at Camera 12 in San Jose as part of the 18th Annual Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival.

Anyone who ever encountered Ariel Sharon is left with an image that betrays conventional wisdom. To many in the Arab world, he was the "Butcher of Beirut," big-headed, belligerent, and brutal. It was this very image that served as the basis of Time Magazine’s controversial assertion that he was directly responsible for the Sabra and Shatilla massacre—an assertion ruled false by an American court—or why another court in Belgium was prepared to try him as a war criminal. But even in the Israeli media he was often portrayed as an opportunistic politician, whose ill-considered jaunt on the contested Temple Mount with an escort of over 1,000 Israeli police launched the Second Intifada.

Which is why it is all the more startling that anyone who ever met Sharon has a very different image of him. I met him at least twice, and I most recall his smile and his stomach, so very different from the iconographic photos of a bandaged Israeli commander, standing with his troops at the Suez Canal. Yet even now when I remember Sharon, I immediately think of the Hartzufim, a popular Israeli political comedy, based on Britain’s Spitting Image. Who can forget that corpulent puppet—a beardless Santa in a business suit—with his trademark call of "Ho hooooo!" (that’s two ho’s, as opposed to Santa’s three)?

Sharon was all of these, but he was also none of these, because each of these images portrays a single aspect of a complex man, larger than life, whose story, for better or for worse, has so many of the features of a classic Greek tragedy. This is the man that Israeli director Dror Moreh captures in his documentary film Sharon, which will be screening at 7:30 pm, November 10, at Camera 12 in San Jose, as part of the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival.

Moreh, who also coproduced the film, had unusual access to Sharon and the people who surrounded him in the final, most critical stage of his career. He was cinematographer for the election campaign that brought Sharon’s Likud Party to power in 2001. While doing this, he followed Sharon and his entourage through all the major campaign events, but he also filmed Sharon in his most intimate, on his beloved farm in southern Israel.

What’s interesting is that while he was doing this, Moreh was not an ardent fan of "Arik," as Sharon was commonly called by the press and the Israeli public. In fact, Moreh identified—and continues to identify—with the left wing of the Israeli political spectrum, the very people who were terrified of a possible Sharon victory.

"Sharon is one of the most fascinating historical figures in Israel," he told me. "After his victory in the ’73 war, people cheered him as ‘Arik King of Israel,’ but nine years later, after Sabra and Shatilla, he was vilified by all but the far right. For years he was a hero of the settler movement in the West Bank and Gaza, but rejected by much of the Israeli mainstream." I thought back to where I first encountered Sharon—in the dark alleyways of the casbah in occupied Hebron, during the heyday of the settler movement.

"Once Sharon became prime minister," Moreh continues, "he underwent an insane transformation." Change and transformation were two words that came up again and again in my chat with Moreh. "He was ready to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, even if it meant painful concessions, even if it meant giving up the land he’d fought for and tearing down the very settlements that he was so instrumental in building."

"People usually remember how Sharon evacuated all the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip [in September 2005]," Moreh continued, "but by that point just about everyone realized that Israel had to get out of Gaza. What they forget is that Sharon also dismantled four Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank, and that if the Palestinians responded positively to this, he was ready to take it a step further and perhaps even to dismantle more settlements. He believed that he was the only person who could determine the permanent boundaries of the State of Israel—without the Occupied Territories. He was willing to take responsibility for this, and for every other decision he made as prime minister. Once he assumed that ultimate position of power, he refused to play all the little games that characterize most politicians. ‘The buck stops here,’ he used to say, quoting the famous sign on Truman’s desk."

I asked Moreh why Sharon is still vilified today. He didn’t think he is. "The fact is that the response to Sharon is far from homogeneous. The Talmud says: ‘Where the penitent stand, even the righteous cannot stand.’ World leaders came to realize that Sharon was a ‘penitent.’ By undergoing such an abrupt transformation, Sharon had redeemed himself, even to his harshest critics, even to the Arab world. He may not have been forgiven for all that he did in the past, but they were ready to work with him. They knew that he, more than anyone, had the courage that it takes to move things forward. That is why, when he spoke at the UN, all the European leaders rushed to shake his hand." I wasn’t convinced, so he started to outline the history of Sharon’s evolution, as it appears in his film.

"[Prime Minister Ehud] Barak had destroyed the peace process. After the failed Camp David talks with Yasser Arafat, he returned to Israel and announced to the country that ‘We have no partner for peace,’ and that a violent clash with the Palestinians was inevitable. Then Sharon was elected. Two weeks later he told President Bush that he would be willing to take the bold steps necessary to create a new reality in the Middle East. He was prepared to take down settlements as far back as then."

"There are two issues here," Moreh continued. "The first is that in this fast-paced, media-driven world, people want to hear soundbytes, not some lengthy explanation. They want to be able to catalogue people and ideas instantly into black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. The problem is that conflicts, especially Middle Eastern conflicts, can’t be pigeonholed like that. The problem is that the news media doesn’t take the time to delve into those complexities." I immediately thought of Jon Stewart a few weeks ago, riffing on CNN’s famous line, "We’ll have to leave it there." As John Stewart asked: "You have 24 hours in a day! How much more time do you need?"

"Then there is the fact that Sharon spent most of his adult life as a soldier, and war inevitably leads to mistakes. The Israeli army has made many mistakes, under all its generals, including Sharon. It’s the nature of the beast, just like the U.S. made and continued to make many mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan with the support of its European allies. The challenge is to rise above those mistakes, to correct them, and to put a stop to them. That is what Sharon began to do by recognizing the rights of the Palestinian people."

Many people in Israel claim that only the right wing parties can make peace. People were terrified when Begin came to power, but he ended up returning the Sinai to Egypt and negotiating Israel’s first peace treaty with an Arab State. I asked Moreh if he felt that was true of Sharon as well.

"There’s no doubt that Sharon was willing and able to bear the burden of doing what was necessary in order to arrive at some modus vivendi with the Palestinians. But it wasn’t a question of him being aligned with the right or the left. Actually, the spirit of the Mapai Party [the precursor to Israel's Labor Party] flowed in his veins, and the positions he took were actually quite far to the left of Labor Party leadership in the 1970s. What set Sharon apart was that he was a genuine leader with real moral authority to make decisions that were needed. Left or right, there are no real leaders left. He was the last of the giants."

Describing those decisions, he added: "People tend to think that Sharon was headstrong, and that he made his decisions on the spur of the moment. People called him a "bulldozer." In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. He took a long time before deciding anything, consulted with people, and considered what other people had done throughout history. But once he finally made up his mind, even if that meant he had changed his mind from one extreme to the other, he proceeded without hesitation—even if he had to rein in his own instincts. It took him a long time before he could even utter the term, ‘Palestinian state,’ but once he did, he said it with the confidence of a leader. He got up and he said to his colleagues and the public, ‘People, we are occupiers!’ And the people listened."

Why did they listen to him? Just a few years earlier, Yitzhak Rabin, another giant, also tried to make concessions, and he was mowed down by an assassin’s bullet at a peace demonstration, of all places.

"Sharon had a rare gift of charisma, and this was recognized even by his greatest rivals. One of them," said Moreh, "Asaf Shariv, the current consul in New York, had long been identified with the Israeli left. Nevertheless, he told me that he would dive on a grenade if it would save Sharon’s life. Sure he had his fatal flaws, like the hero of any Greek tragedy, and in some way perhaps these flaws did him in, but he was also marked by greatness. What stands out about Sharon is that he was a man of contradictions. He was, first and foremost, a fighter, a warrior, but he also loved poetry. He was truly larger than life: he was often described as grandiose. But he also had a rich sense of humor and a genuine feeling of warmth for everyone he met."

To illustrate that humor and warmth, Moreh told me a story about Sharon that never made it into the film. One day at a cabinet meeting, a woman came in to serve the ministers their tea, but one senior minister scolded her because the tea was lukewarm. Sharon noticed, even if no one else did. Twenty minutes later, he started telling a story about a battle he was in during the War of Independence. He had just been wounded in the stomach during the fierce fighting at Latrun, so he and an adjutant tried to crawl to safety. They made their way in the hot afternoon across the bodies of their Jewish comrades and the Arab Legionnaires they were fighting, but it had taken them hours. They were thirsty, and when they finally came across a pool of water, they dived in and began to refresh themselves. Only after they had started to drink, did they notice the body of a dead Legionnaire sprawled in the water beside them. "So what did I do?" Sharon asked the ministers. "I kept on drinking, and let me tell you. Only after you’ve had water seasoned with the blood of a dead enemy can you truly appreciate the tea we were just served."

Although he has disappeared from the headlines, Arik Sharon is not dead. In January 2006, he suffered a stroke, probably brought on by his obesity and high cholesterol, and has been lingering in a coma ever since. In some ways this reminded me of Ronald Reagan, a hero to so many Americans, who spent the last years of his life withering away from Alzheimer’s disease. I asked Moreh about this: "In his book, Tear Down This Myth, Will Bunch argues that much of the myth of Ronald Reagan is just that—a myth—that the Ronald Reagan that so many Americans look back on so fondly is far removed from the Ronald Reagan of history. He is remembered as a hawk, but he also withdrew American forces from Lebanon after the barracks bombing of 1983 and kidnappings of 1984, because he finally concluded, as his economic adviser Bruce Bartlett later wrote, ‘that you cannot undo a mistake by continuing to make it. All you can do is stop making the mistake, cut your losses and move on.’ Is it possible," I went on, "that a similar mythology could emerge around Sharon—one that he cannot challenge?"

Moreh did not think so. He stressed again that what was most important about Sharon’s life was not all the events, great and small, that happened before he became prime minister but the change that took place in those very last years, when he finally realized that force is not the answer to everything—that it has its limitations. It was this final realization in the twilight of his life that consummated everything that came before it and transformed Sharon’s story from the epic tale of an unrepentant warrior into the saga of a long and arduous quest in search of coexistence. While Reagan’s story follows a straight path, Sharon’s is marked by a remarkable turning point just as he reached the pinnacle of power. In some way, Sharon was like Moses, climbing to the heights to see the Promised Land lain—only to find out that it wasn’t the same Promised Land that he’d spent his whole life struggling to achieve. And unlike Moses, Arik had no Joshua to lead the people there after he was gone. "Even the left still misses his leadership," said Moreh.

But is there really no one? I know Dror Moreh through Philippa Kowarsky, a close friend and colleague, who is also co-producer, together with Arte, of Dror’s upcoming film, The Gatekeepers. In that film, Dror interviews all the surviving heads of Israel’s Secret Service and finds that, despite minor differences between them, they all agree that the time has come to make painful concessions in order to reach peace with the Palestinians. Ironically, these are the very same people behind such controversial policies as targeted assassinations and the interrogation through torture of thousands of Palestinians.

Yaakov Peri was one of these men. In a 2003 interview he said: "It is interesting that everyone—heads of the Secret Service, former chiefs-of-staff, veteran security officers—became flag-bearers of reconciliation with the Palestinians. Why is that? Because we were there; we know both sides: the material, the people, the terrain." It was at about this time that Prime Minister Sharon began to plan Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. Could men like Peri—real generals, not armchair generals, who understand the brutality and futility of war—be the key to peace?

I thought back on my first encounter with Sharon in the winding casbah of Hebron two and a half decades ago. I remember the settlers hoisting him in the air—no easy task—and singing, "Arik King of Israel will live for ever and ever!" Many of those very same settlers would later lead the protests against him during the withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria. It’s hard to imagine, but maybe one of them will lead us to peace. If there is one thing we can learn from Sharon, it’s that salvation sometimes comes from the least expected quarters.

Today Arik King of Israel is lying unconscious in a hospital bed. Gaza has since erupted in flames, and peace seems as remote as ever. But as Dror Moreh’s film Sharon shows, it just takes one bold man with a vision to change that, in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afganistan, America, or anywhere.


Impostures littéraires: Les choses ne sont pas toujours telles qu’elles paraissent être (Fake minority misery lit: Have a lie, will travel)

4 mars, 2013

Love & consequences

If the individual wishes, he can add touches to his clothes to make them a costume, expressing whatever he feels at the moment. With the magic deftness of stage sorcery, a headband can produce an Indian, a black hat a cowboy badman. Charles Reich (The Greening of America, 1970)
Les choses ne sont pas toujours telles qu’elles paraissent être : noires, blanches, grises ou brunes.  Margaret B. Jones
There’s a very long history of fake Native American memoirs because in this country we see Native Americans as the most authentic Americans, in a way, as a doomed, suffering, pure group of people with great spiritual potential. I mean I think it’s significant that the most famous fake Native American memoir to this day is "The Education of Little Tree," about a Cherokee orphan, which turned out to be written by a prominent Ku Klux Klansman, you know, a synagogue bomber, a church bomber. Laura Browder
Le problème est d’abord éthique : on ment sur la marchandise. Un livre qui ment sur son label c’est comme une lessive qui affiche “laver blanc” et qui teinterait vos chemises en noir.  (…) à mon sens, c’est l’éditeur le seul responsable : il a la charge, comme le rédacteur en chef d’un journal, de vérifier les sources. Philippe di Folco
D’une manière générale, on note que ces histoires d’impostures réunissent trois personnes ou potentialités : l’impostant (l’imposteur en devenir), la future personne dupée, et le témoin qui atteste de l’honnêteté ou de la véracité des propos émis par l’impostant. C’est une règle en général gagnante à condition que l’impostant, comme au poker, ne révèle son jeu ni au futur dupé ni au témoin. Un jeu pervers, donc. Un « double-blind », un double aveugle maîtrisé par celui qui tire les ficelles. Je pense, et cela peut s’expliquer facilement, que celui qui est dupé prend du plaisir à l’être… Nous sommes dans l’ordre de la séduction et du simulacre, mais aussi et surtout dans une forme de musique, celle des mots ronronnant et caressant… « Cette personne me plait bien : elle sait me parler, j’aime écouter ses histoires qui me font rêver… Philippe di Folco

Suite à nos derniers billlets sur les impostures littéraires et les histoires pour toubabs

Retour, de la bonne soeur canadienne Maria Monk à l’ancien membre du Ku Klux Klan texan indianisé et à la jeune fille de bonne famille (mi-indienne, elle aussi, pour faire bonne mesure) prétendument élevée par un gang, sur le cas nord-américain …

A débattre

"Love and Consequences", le récit qui a trompé l’Amérique

Oriane Jeancourt-Galignani | Journaliste

Rue 89

18/05/2008

L’« autobiographie », best-seller salué par les critiques, était inventée. Les éditeurs sont accusés de pousser les auteurs à l’imposture.

Une nouvelle arnaque secoue le prestigieux milieu littéraire américain. Une jeune femme a réussi, en publiant ses mémoires, a se jouer de sa propre maison d’édition et des critiques littéraires de tout le pays. Fausse autobiographie devenue best-seller, « Love and Consequences : A Memoir of Hope and Survival » (« Amour et conséquences, des mémoires d’espoir et de survie ») narre une lutte, celle d’une petite fille d’origine indienne adoptée par une famille noire dans les quartiers pauvres de Los Angeles.

Avec un singulier talent de narration, Margaret B. Jones raconte comment, dès ses 8 ans, elle a commencé à vendre de la drogue pour les gangs du quartier, jusqu’au jour où elle voit son jeune frère se faire descendre par un de leurs membres.

Ce livre, paru en mars aux Etats-Unis, fut d’emblée un best-seller : l’Amérique entière a pleuré sur le sort de cette jeune femme. Le Times a salué « des mémoires d’une profonde humanité », et un grand hebdomadaire culturel, l’Entertainment weekly, « une histoire puissante de résilience et d’amour inconditionnel ».

Héroïne moderne, de celles qui forcent l’admiration parce qu’elles ont inversé leurs destins, Margaret B. Jones est devenue très vite une cliente idéale pour les médias. La jeune femme a raconté sur toutes les chaînes, avec un accent afro-américain mimé à la perfection, son expérience du monde des gangs, de la drogue et des bavures policières. (Voir la vidéo, en anglais.)

Quelle ne fut donc pas la déception de ces millions de lecteurs lorsqu’ils découvrirent la véritable identité de Margaret B. Jones, alias Margaret Seltzer, jeune femme d’origine européenne élevée dans une école privée épiscopale des beaux quartiers de Los Angeles ! « Une grande trahison personnelle et professionnelle » pour l’éditeur

Ce scandale a été révélé par la propre sœur de Margaret Seltzer, et très vite relayé par tous les grands médias. La maison d’édition de la jeune femme, Riverhead Books, s’est déclarée victime d’une « grande trahison personnelle et professionnelle », et a fait retirer de la vente tous les exemplaires de « Love and Consequences ». Sur son site, l’éditeur propose même de rembourser les lecteurs floués.

Livre brûlant parce que faux, les mémoires de Margaret B. Seltzer font désormais partie des introuvables dans les librairies américaines. Sur les blogs de critiques littéraires, la jeune femme se fait désormais traiter de « grosse menteuse ». Alors, Margaret Seltzer n’est-elle qu’une mythomane qui voulait à tous prix ses quinze minutes de célébrité ? Refusant toute invitation à la télévision, elle s’est justifiée dans une interview parue dans le New-York Times : selon elle, son mensonge était le meilleur moyen de se faire le porte-voix des pauvres qu’elle a rencontré dans son quotidien d’aide sociale dans la cité des anges.

« Le problème est d’abord éthique : on ment sur la marchandise »

Est-ce à dire qu’il faut apposer le sceau « histoire vraie » à un récit pour qu’il émeuve les éditeurs et les lecteurs ? Déjà, en 2006, James Frey, l’auteur d’une autobiographie devenue best-seller, « A Million little Pieces », dans laquelle il relatait son combat contre la drogue, avait reconnu avoir menti dans certains passages, se justifiant par la pression des éditeurs pour vendre son livre comme une expérience vécue.

Comme l’explique l’écrivain Philippe di Folco, auteur des « Grandes Impostures littéraires » (éd. Ecriture, paru en 2006) : « Le problème est d’abord éthique : on ment sur la marchandise. Un livre qui ment sur son label c’est comme une lessive qui affiche “laver blanc” et qui teinterait vos chemises en noir".

Or, ces impostures deviennent monnaie courante ; récemment la révélation des mensonges d’un livre, succès mondial, de Misha Defonseca, « Survivre avec les loups », récit d’une petite fille juive pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale qui échappe aux camps en survivant avec des loups, avait aussi posé la question de la véracité d’un témoignage invérifiable.

Pour Philippe di Folco, les auteurs ne sont pas les premiers coupables, « à mon sens, c’est l’éditeur le seul responsable : il a la charge, comme le rédacteur en chef d’un journal, de vérifier les sources. »

« Mentir sur ses écrits c’est rompre un pacte de toute façon rompu d’avance »

Dans le livre de Margaret B.Jones, certaines phrases auraient pu interpeller le lecteur attentif : « Les choses ne sont pas toujours telles qu’elles paraissent être : noires, blanches, grises ou brunes », écrit-elle. Même si la critique américaine se retrouve dégrisée par ses aveux, Margaret Seltzer renouvelle une grande leçon littéraire : tout récit est un leurre. Philippe di Folco le rappelle :

« Mentir sur ses écrits c’est rompre un pacte qui de toute façon est rompu d’avance : écrire c’est réinventer le monde. Aucune autobiographie ou biographie ne peut dire exactement ce qui a été de façon absolue. »

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, virtuose du mensonge autobiographique, promettait dans la préface de ses « Confessions » ; mémoires largement romancées, « le seul portrait d’homme, peint exactement d’après nature et dans toute sa vérité… »

Prêcher la sincérité pour mieux tromper son lecteur, promettre une vérité pour vendre le roman de sa vie, Margaret Seltzer n’a pas inventé ce procédé, elle a juste bénéficié des médias modernes pour faire la promotion de sa vérité littéraire. Après tout, l’écrivain a tous les droits, Borges l’affirmait une fois pour toutes dans « Fictions » : « Tout ceci est vrai parce que je l’ai inventé. »

Voir également:

Margaret Seltzer Joins List of Fabricating Writers

NPR

March 05, 2008

Author Admits Gang Memoir Was Fabricated March 4, 2008

Margaret Seltzer has admitted to fabricating most of her memoir, Love and Consequences, which described her childhood as one plagued with drugs and violence. Three literary figures discuss other writers who have deceived their readers, such as James Frey and former journalist Stephen Glass.

MICHELE MARTIN, host:

I’m Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, the Tennessee Williams classic, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," gets a twist in a latest Broadway production. We’ll talk to director Debbie Allen about it and about her own remarkable career. That’s a little later. But first, we learned yesterday that a young woman we’d interviewed under the name Margaret B. Jones had in fact made up the whole story, including that name. She claims that her book, "Love and Consequences," which describes the life of a half-white, half-native American girl growing up in foster care in South Central L.A., was based on the accounts of friends and kids whom she had mentored. But that’s not how she presented herself to us and to the world. Here is a short clip from her interview with us. We did it about a week or so ago.

Ms. MARGARET B. JONES (Author, "Love and Consequences"): Gangs in L.A. recruit like the NFL. They go out, they look at kids – okay, that kid doesn’t have parents, that kid’s kind of messing up at school. Oooh, look at that kid, that kid can fight.

MARTIN: We all know now that that was a lie. Her real name is Margaret Seltzer, she’s white, not mixed. She went to private school in the San Fernando Valley. But the question remains, why did she do it? How did she think she could get away with it? I’m joined now by three people who have to think about these questions a lot. Chuck Lane is on the editorial board at the Washington Post. He also teaches a class on journalistic fraud at Princeton University. But he was formerly an editor at The New Republic, where he helped uncover stories fabricated by reporter Stephen Glass. Lane joins us on the phone from his home in Chevy Chase.

Vera Lee was the ghost writer for Misha De Fonseca, whose book, "Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years," was a best seller in Europe, but recently revealed as a fabrication. She’s on the phone from her home in Newton, Massachusetts. And also with us is Laura Browder, the author of a book about the history of fake ethnic autobiographies. It’s called "Slippery Characters: Ethnic Impersonators and American Identities," and she’s on the phone with us from her home in Richmond, Virginia. Thank you all so much for speaking with us.

Mr. CHUCK LANE (Princeton University): Thank you, Michel.

Ms. VERA LEE (Author): Thank you.

Ms. LAURA BROWDER (Author): Thank you.

MARTIN: Chuck Lane, if I could begin with you. That whole Stephen Glass episode must have been very traumatic for you and I just wanted to ask, you know, when you think about it now, what do you think about why something like this happens?

Mr. LANE: I think there are some people who, for whatever kind of twisted internal reason, enjoy tricking other people, and there is a tremendous rush that they get. At least I think that was part of what was going on with Stephen Glass. Psychologists even have coined a name for it. They call it duping delight. And if you can get away with it for a long time and get rewarded for it, I think the delight just grows even stronger.

MARTIN: Laura, what’s your take on this?

Ms. BROWDER: Well, I think there’s a long history of these kinds of autobiographies, and people write them for a couple of reasons. There are a number of people who are caught in historical traps. You know, their identities are such, like a Sylvester Long, who was an early Indian impersonator, who grew up in North Carolina, was defined as colored by the racial laws of his time and was working as a janitor. When he re-invented himself as Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, he suddenly could become an international movie star, have his own line of running shoes. It was a better life.

But then there are other people like Margaret Seltzer who I think feel pain, feel traumatized, feel unhappy, and they want to attach that kind of inchoate pain to an identity that everyone recognizes as suffering. And that’s why we get a lot of fake Holocaust memoirs. That’s why we get fake Vietnam vets, and that’s why we get fake memoirs like this, where she is a foster child, parentless, she’s in a gang. You know, everyone understands that she’s had a bad time when she attaches this to a racial or ethnic identity, to poverty, to parentlessness.

MARTIN: I take it that you think it’s significant that she chose to be part Native American.

Ms. BROWDER: Absolutely. There’s a very long history of fake Native American memoirs because in this country we see Native Americans as the most authentic Americans, in a way, as a doomed, suffering, pure group of people with great spiritual potential. I mean I think it’s significant that the most famous fake Native American memoir to this day is "The Education of Little Tree," about a Cherokee orphan, which turned out to be written by a prominent Ku Klux Klansman, you know, a synagogue bomber, a church bomber.

MARTIN: Yes, you’re right, that is a remarkable story. And Vera Lee, the story in which you are involved just happened very recently. Misha de Fonseca’s book perhaps not as well known in the United States but a bestseller in Europe. And how did it come apart? How did it get unraveled?

Ms. LEE: It became unraveled because there was a genealogist who either was invited to research the – Misha’s background or she just happened to. I never got that part of the story right. But apparently the jig was up. Misha knew that she had been discovered and she thought that she had better admit to it.

MARTIN: No, but in hindsight, and I’m getting these emails now from people saying almost everybody knew that was made up, and who – I smelled a rat from the beginning. And of course Misha’s story or Monique’s story is actually, is rather remarkable, she says that she kind of ran off to escape the Nazis into the woods and was on her own for quite a long time living in the forest among the wolves as a very young child. But did you ever feel that way when you were working with her? Did you ever suspect something was wrong?

Ms. LEE: I did see discrepancies, definitely. And I wondered a lot about it and I did research into it, talked to many people about it. But the more I spoke with Misha, and the more research I did, the more I thought it was quite possible, not in the small details, because after all she was trying to reconstruct memoirs from her childhood – and that had been 50 years ago – but in general I would say it made sense to me.

MARTIN: Speaking of sort of the little variations around the details, I have a short clip from my interview with Margaret, I guess I want to call her Margaret Seltzer, who presented herself as Margaret Jones, where she sort of – she admits to me that she, that some of the characters were composites. But here is her explanation for that. Let’s play that short clip.

Ms. MARGARET SELTZER: Everything is true. It’s just, let’s say like the scene where I went to the grocery store with my little sisters. There was more like, instead of three of us there was five of us. But I sort of combined them into one person just because, well if you’re keeping track as a reader of five kids running around the store, you’re not focused on any one of them.

MARTIN: I understand what you’re saying.

So Chuck Lane, talk to me about this. When you were trying to figure out what was going on with Stephen Glass, is this the same kind of explanation he gave? Now, obviously he’s a journalist. He’s supposed to be doing sort of news stories, and I think people are willing to give memoir, you know, memoirs a little bit more latitude, because how could you possible reconstruct, you know, conversations, you know, from when you were 12? So I do think people give people a little bit more latitude there. But is that a common thing?

Mr. LANE: As I listened to your clip there, I had a sense of déjà vu; it was just like listening to Stephen Glass. In his first line of defense, his first attempt to defend his stories from the discrepancies, from the discrepancies that we discovered, he said, oh well, look, you have to understand, I wasn’t there at this particular meeting but I reconstructed it later on. One of the themes that my students and I were discussing this term is this whole issue of the composite.

This is a very, very common excuse that fraudulent writers develop when they come under suspicion, because if you think about it, it’s very difficult to disprove. Once you start talking about how I combined the elements of several different people or whatever, it just makes the job of the fact checker that much more difficult. And so I’m not at all surprised to hear that this Margaret Seltzer is adopting this as an attempted line of defense because it’s so commonly used by fraudulent writers.

MARTIN: If you’re just joining us, we’re talking about Margaret Seltzer’s confession that she fabricated her memoir, "Love and Consequences," and I’m joined by three writers who have a close experience with the previous literary frauds – Chuck Lane, formerly an editor at The New Republic, Vera Lee, a ghost writer for Misha de Fonseca, whose memoir about fleeing the Nazis has been exposed as a fraud, and Laura Browder, author of a book about ethnic impersonation in American literature.

Laura, I’m just curious about the question of whether you think that these writers, the whole controversy of taking on an identity other than one’s own, I mean fiction writers can do that. In fact, some have really celebrated works, like thinking of "Memoir of a Geisha" was written by somebody who was not Japanese, not a woman. There’s, you know, "Remains of the Day," written by somebody who is not an English sort of butler. So I’m curious why people, because these people are all talented writers, why they don’t just write a novel and take on whatever voice they want?

Ms. BROWDER: Well, I think that Americans are in love with the idea of authenticity. And this is demonstrated by the vast popularity now of memoirs and memoir writing and by our idea that people who are not white and not middle class are living more authentic lives and having more authentic lives and having more authentic experiences than white middle class people, and I think because of this, the people like Margaret Seltzer feel that their stories will have more power and more grit if they present them as authentic memoirs.

MARTIN: What do you buy of her story that she thought she was doing something positive to get this story out in a way that she feels it would not have been received otherwise, that she felt she was kind of, what is it, showing the flag, you know, for the hood as it were and doing something positive?

Ms. BROWDER: You know, it’s so funny. When I read that, I immediately thought of all those white abolitionists who wrote fake slave narratives in the 1840s and 1850s because they felt that they were more qualified to tell the authentic stories of slaves than the slaves were themselves.

So that’s got a long history, and you see it also in a memoir like Grace Halsell’s "Soul Sister," which she wrote in the ’60s. She was a speechwriter in the Johnson White House who decided that she needed to become black, had melanin treatments, moved to Harlem, and wrote about how she soon became more authentically black than the actual black people that she met because she felt that they were not suffering enough, they were not embracing what she saw as their primitive spirits.

So this idea of white middle class people feeling that they are more qualified to tell the story of someone who is black and poor than actual poor black people has a long, long history in American literature.

MARTIN: Vera, what about Misha or Monica? Does she feel sorry about this, to your knowledge? I mean, her explanation when she was reached by a reporter – and she’s given very few interviews – was to say this really is my story as I understand it, but she does seem to know the difference between fact and fiction. I mean…

Ms. LEE: Yes, and apparently she did issue an apology, a general apology to anybody that she had offended by her duplicity, but it’s hard to know what’s in her mind. She’s a very complicated person.

MARTIN: Chuck Lane, what about Stephen Glass? Do you – and I, as a journalist obviously you’re very concerned that people sort of tell the truth at the work, have the power of truth, with journalism very much sort of under fire in this country and around the world, you know, frankly, in lots of places for not, you know, sort of getting it right.

But do you think that Stephen Glass – I’m still interested in his motivation. Do you think that he thought he was doing something worthwhile or he just wanted to be famous and thought he could get away with it?

Mr. LANE: I think Stephen Glass is different from some of the memoirists that your other guests are very astutely discussing here. I think he was not – I don’t think he had a larger kind of project to document the plight of a particular group or anything like that.

I think Stephen Glass was actually a much, much – sort of like a super-prankster, a kind of journalistic vandal, if you like, who just delighted secretly in knocking over all the furniture of our profession.

And he was lavishly rewarded for it. He was on his way to making a lot of money, to having lucrative freelance contracts with other magazines, not just the New Republic, and in a way the real question might be why wouldn’t he do it, as long as he was getting away with it.

I just want to say, if I might, I think there is a real harm, though, done, perhaps not so much by the content of a Stephen Glass story, but when you have people faking documents about the Holocaust, unfortunately there are Holocaust deniers in this world, and that sort of fabrication can really feed very pernicious views about the underlying truth of what are actual historical events.

MARTIN: And also I think the realities life as experienced by people. That’s some of the e-mail I’m getting from people, saying, okay, now when people who really are experiencing these things, you know, who’s going to believe them, people who are abused in foster care, people who are lured into gang life. Who’s going to believe them?

Laura Browder, how do these people think they’re going to get away with it? In Margaret Seltzer’s case, it seems that her sister saw her picture in the New York Times and called the publisher and said, you know, no way. So why do these people think that nobody’s going to tell?

Ms. BROWDER: Well, probably because very often either people don’t tell, or even when these memoirs are exposed, you know, people are shocked for a day and then get over it. You know, "The Education of Little Tree" was exposed in 1976 after Asa Carter, the Klansman, got on the Barbara Walters show as Forrest Carter, the Cherokee orphan, and his old friends in Alabama saw the show and said, hey, that’s Asa.

So there was a little article in the New York Times, fine. Time went by, the book sold another 600,000 copies, and it was finally exposed again in the early ’90s. But it’s still selling, and many people to this day don’t know that it’s a fake.

So I think the Margaret Seltzer story is unusual in that publisher acted so quickly to recall the copies. Most of the time there’s a scandal, everyone’s shocked, everyone forgets.

MARTIN: Vera, final question to you. What has this been like for you?

Ms. LEE: For me?

MARTIN: Yeah.

Ms. LEE: Reading about this? I find it really fascinating, and you know, I agree with Chuck. We shouldn’t forget that some real harm is done, because most of the time ethnic-impersonator autobiographies succeed because they cater to people’s preconceived ideas about what the experience of Native Americans or black people living in the inner city or immigrant Jews or whoever the particular group is – they cater to stereotypes, and so they tend to reinforce those stereotypes.

I mean, in a very concrete way I think of Asa Carter, who was literally financing his career as a white supremacist by writing these fake memoirs.

MARTIN: We’re going to have to leave it there. All right, thank you so much. We heard from Laura Browder. She’s the author of a book about authors who assume ethnic identities in their autobiographies. It’s called "Slippery Characters: Ethnic Impersonators and American Identities." We were also joined by Chuck Lane. He’s on the editorial board at the Washington Post, a former editor at the New Republic who exposed Stephen Glass as a fake. And we were joined by Vera Lee, ghost writer for the book "Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years." That story was also recently exposed as untrue. Thank you all so much for speaking with us.

Ms. LEE: Thank you.

Mr. LANE: Thank you.

Voir également:

However Mean the Streets, Have an Exit Strategy

Michiko Kakutani

The New York Times

February 26, 2008

LOVE AND CONSEQUENCES

A Memoir of Hope and Survival

Margaret B. Jones

296 pages. Riverhead Books. $24.95.

Editors’ Note Appended

In the South-Central neighborhood of Los Angeles, where Margaret B. Jones grew up in the 1980s, gangs recruited “with the same intensity as the N.F.L. did,” she says, and shootouts and hits were so ubiquitous that “the odds were stacked against a male child living to see 25.” Peddlers went door to door selling life insurance policies, reminding parents of these deadly stats, and even teenage girls and elderly church ladies carried pistols to protect themselves. As the crack epidemic metastasized, and turf wars escalated, the ’hood became a combat zone, with police raids and deadly face-offs between Bloods and Crips becoming routine parts of daily life.

A dealer the young Ms. Jones made deliveries for lays out the unforgiving rules of the street:

¶ “Trust no one. Even your own momma will sell you out for the right price or if she gets scared enough.”

¶ “War has no room for diplomacy, war is outright vicious. Never expect mercy and never show it.”

¶ “There is no greater sin in war than ignorance. Never speak or act on anything you aren’t 100 percent sure of, or someone will expose your mistake and take you down for it.”

This violent world has been memorably depicted before in Sanyika Shakur’s “Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member” (1993) and Leon Bing’s “Do or Die” (1991). What sets Ms. Jones’s humane and deeply affecting memoir apart is not just that it’s told from the point of view of a young girl coming of age in this world, but also that it focuses on the bonds of love and loyalty that can bind relatives and gang members together, and the craving after safety and escape that haunts so many lives in the ’hood.

Although some of the scenes she has recreated from her youth (which are told in colorful, streetwise argot) can feel self-consciously novelistic at times, Ms. Jones has done an amazing job of conjuring up her old neighborhood. She captures both the brutal realities of a place where children learn to sleep on the floor to avoid the random bullets that might come smashing through the windows and walls at night, and the succor offered by family and friends. She conveys the extraordinary stoicism of women like Big Mom, her foster mother, who raised four grandchildren while working a day job and a night job. And she draws indelible portraits of these four kids who became her siblings: two young girls she would help raise, and two older boys, whom she emulated and followed into the Bloods.

Ms. Jones — or Bree, as she was known to family and friends — was abused as a child, put in foster care, and after three years of carrying a trash bag filled with her possessions from one temporary home to another, ended up, at 8 ½, in Big Mom’s home in South-Central — a part white, part Native American girl who looked utterly out of place in this nearly all-black world.

Bree had been told she had attention deficit disorder, reactive attachment disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and labeled “S.E.D. (severely emotionally disabled).” By age 8 she had “decided not to hurt anymore” and mastered the art of detachment: “I was shocked that I hadn’t thought of it before. I would watch my life from the outside rather than feel it from within. If I couldn’t feel it, it couldn’t hurt me.”

Though her foster family’s love would help heal Bree’s heart, the numbness always threatened to return, and she observes that this sort of emotional hibernation was rampant in South-Central. When Bree went to visit her foster brother Taye in prison — he’d been sentenced for selling drugs — he told her he loved her but didn’t want her to come back for any more visits: waiting for visits and letters, he said, “was killin me,” and he’d decided he wasn’t going to “even find out what was up wit y’all.” He had to do his “time solo” or he “ain gonna make it.”

Ms. Jones’s portraits of her family and friends are so sympathetic and unsentimental, so raw and tender and tough-minded that it’s clear to the reader that whatever detachment she learned as a child did not impair her capacity for caring. Instead it heightened her powers of observation, enabling her to write with a novelist’s eye for the psychological detail and an anthropologist’s eye for social rituals and routines.

She tells us how her brother Terrell became an “official” Blood, getting “jumped into” the gang by surviving a savage initiation beating. (“So five grown men beat 13-year-old Terrell for two minutes in the street.”) She tells us about getting a .38 for her 13th birthday and learning how to cook up a batch of crack to pay her family’s overdue water bill. She tells us about survival tips for visiting the local park. (“You must always scan the park, figure out who is where and the best escape route from each direction.”) And she tells us about the iconography of the tattooed tear many prisoners and ex-prisoners wear on one cheek. (It “can mean a few things, but usually it’s that the wearer killed someone in prison or lost a loved one while in prison.”)

Ms. Jones’s own story is strewn with loss and death and grief. She saw a gang elder named Kraziak, who’d patiently taught her about the history of L.A., gunned down by rival Crips. She saw her next-door neighbor Big Rodney, who used to give her books to read, grabbed by the police in a violent raid.

Both her older brothers, Terrell and Taye, were sent to prison, and after his release, Terrell, who’d talked of getting a straight job so his children wouldn’t grow up in the ’hood, was shot to death by Crips as he sat outside Big Mom’s house, waiting to meet his son for his weekend visit. Ms. Jones’s friend Marcus, a brother figure with whom she used to drive around Los Angeles, dreaming of what life might be like “beyond the lights” of the city, was shot and killed, she says, and her boyfriend, Slikk, was arrested for an attempted murder he didn’t commit.

Although one of Bree’s teachers urges her to apply to college, the idea initially seems “almost unimaginable” — “so beyond my reach that I couldn’t really picture myself doing it.” Finally, however, she does apply and eventually graduates from the University of Oregon with a degree in ethnic studies. She finds love with, of all men, a Crip who “changed every detail of my life” and who taught her that “we are not each other’s enemies,” we “were just born into different streets and neighborhoods.”

“Unlike most of my homies,” she writes, “I made it out of L.A. with my life and without a prison record. Wait, let me reword that, as it is not entirely true as it stands. I made it out of L.A. with what life I had left. I wake up in the morning, and where I live, in a little house on a dead-end street in a small Oregon town, I hear birds singing in a big-leaf maple outside my bedroom window, and I thank God because I know it shouldn’t have been so.”

There are “some parts of me that did die in L.A.,” she adds, “and that I’ll never get back, and other parts of me that die daily because I exist away from the city, in a world where people can’t begin to imagine what it was like where I grew up.”

One of her friends in prison writes her that “so few of us will ever get the chance to see what it’s like outside L.A.,” that she should “be our eyes.” That Ms. Jones has done, and with this remarkable book she has also borne witness to the life in the ’hood that she escaped, conveying not just the terrible violence and hatred of that world, but also the love and friendship that sustained her on those mean streets.

Editors’ Note: March 5, 2008

The Books of The Times review in The Arts on Feb. 26 and an article in House & Home on Thursday described the experiences of Margaret B. Jones, who said that she had been a foster child and gang member in South Central Los Angeles and survived to write a book about that life. “Margaret B. Jones” turned out to be a pseudonym, and her story a complete fabrication, as The Times reported on Tuesday. An article about how her publisher, and the newspaper, failed to discover the truth earlier appears today in The Arts.

Voir encore:

The Transformation of a Klansman

Dan T. Carter

The NYT

October 04, 1991

"Surprising best sellers often provide publishing’s sweetest stories," began a story that appeared in USA Today on Tuesday about the nonfiction paperback hit of the summer, "The Education of Little Tree."

First published in 1976 by Delacorte Press and reprinted in 1986 by the University of New Mexico Press, the late Forrest Carter’s gentle memoir of his Native American childhood has remained in first or second place on The New York Times paperback best-seller list for 14 weeks.

Adolescent and adult readers have warmed to the uplifting story of how this well-known writer of westerns — author of "The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales" and "Cry Geronimo" and friend of Clint Eastwood — came to know the wisdom of his Cherokee ancestors. In the wake of the success of "Dances With Wolves," there is even talk of a Hollywood film.

Unfortunately, "The Education of Little Tree" is a hoax. The carefully constructed mask of Forrest Carter — Cherokee cowboy, self-taught writer and spokesman for Native Americans — was simply the last fantasy of a man who reinvented himself again and again in the 30 years that preceded his death in 1979.

His real name was Asa (Ace) Earl Carter. We share a common Southern heritage and he may be a distant relation of mine. Between 1946 and 1973, the Alabama native carved out a violent career in Southern politics as a Ku Klux Klan terrorist, right-wing radio announcer, home-grown American fascist and anti-Semite, rabble-rousing demagogue and secret author of the famous 1963 speech by Gov. George Wallace of Alabama: "Segregation now . . . Segregation tomorrow . . . Segregation forever."

He even organized a paramilitary unit of about 100 men that he called the Original Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy. Among its acts, these white-sheeted sociopaths assaulted Nat (King) Cole during a concert in Birmingham in 1956. In 1957, the group, without Mr. Carter present, castrated a black man they chose at random in a Birmingham suburb as a warning to "uppity" Alabama blacks.

His agent and publishers have described Mr. Carter as a self-taught writer. Indeed he was. For almost 30 years he honed his skills by spewing out racist and anti-Semitic pamphlets. In 1970 he wrote that all N.A.A.C.P. presidents "have been Jews . . . the same gang who financed the Russian Communist Revolution with millions out of New York City."

The same year, in a disquisition on the prospect of black policemen, he wrote: "SOON, you can expect your wife or daughter to be pulled over to the side of the road by one of these Ubangi or Watusi tribesman wearing the badge of Anglo-Saxon law enforcement and toting a gun . . . but [ he will be ] as uncivilized as the day his kind were found eating their kin in the jungle."

Those who knew the gun-toting Ace Carter never found him very amusing, certainly not the two fellow Klansmen who were critically wounded by Mr. Carter in a 1957 shootout over Klan finances. Though Mr. Carter was indicted for assault with intent to murder, the Jefferson County district attorney, influenced by the highly charged racial climate in Alabama, ultimately decided to drop the charges.

But anyone who transformed himself into a new-age wise man for the greening of America while taking the name of "Forrest" Carter couldn’t have been entirely humorless. Mr. Carter, after all, took his new name from Nathan Bedford Forrest, the tobacco-chewing ex-mule skinner, slave trader and Civil War general who founded the original Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee in 1866.

Can this be the same man who wrote "The Education of Little Tree" with its saccharine environmentalism and patronizing descriptions of imaginary Cherokee grandparents? ("They gave themselves . . . to nature, not trying to subdue it, or pervert it, but to live with it. And so they loved the thought, and loving it grew to be it, so that they could not think as the white man.")

One explanation is suggested by the Calhoun County High School yearbook for 1943. The senior class prophet predicted he would return to Calhoun County as a "famous movie star." When he died in Abilene, Tex., of heart failure at the age of 53, he was on his way to California with a screenplay for his second Josey Wales book. Handsome, energetic, ambitious, always the actor, his classmates had known that Asa Carter would do whatever he had to to escape the sleepy little Alabama town of Oxford.

In his lifetime, Forrest Carter was able to move from Klan rabble-rouser to speech writer for George Wallace’s white backlash to successful author and screenwriter by finding a voice in harmony with a changing America.

In Asa Carter’s first book, the rebel outlaw Josey Wales seeks common ground with the Commanche chief, Ten Bears, in a soliloquy that Clint Eastwood repeats in his film. "What ye and me cares about has been butchered . . . raped," Wales tells Ten Bears. "It’s been done by them lyin’, double-tongued snakes that run guv-mints. Guv-mints lie . . . promise . . . back-stab . . . eat in youre lodge and rape youre women and kill when ye sleep on their promises."

Even the gentle Little Tree, Mr. Carter’s newly popular hero, learned to despise all representatives of organized society — teachers, politicians, religious leaders — as "powerful monsters who had no regard for how folks had to live and get by."

From Tom Mix to Gary Cooper, the task of the traditional western hero was to replace the savage world of the desperado with the civilized community governed by the rule of law. Americans might feel a loss at the end of the frontier, but the word "outlaw" was seldom a compliment.

All that changed in the 1960’s. American moviegoers flocked to see Clint Eastwood in "A Fistful of Dollars," his grimy spaghetti western, and by the 1980’s, Rambo was king of the box office. Asa Carter’s celebration of sadomasochistic violence and thinly veiled vigilantism in his westerns of the 1960’s and 70’s had become a powerful theme of American popular culture.

In the last three years of his life, with his books on "The Education of Little Tree" and "Cry Geronimo," Mr. Carter changed course. But there are threads that stretch from Asa Carter’s racist pamphlets to his new-age novels of the Native American: We live unto ourselves. We trust no one outside the circle of blood kin and closest comrades. We have no responsibilities outside that closed circle. Government and all its agencies are corrupt. Politics is a lie.

What does it tell us that we are so easily deceived?

Dan T. Carter, professor of history at Emory University, is working on a biography of George Wallace.

Voir aussi:

The Real Education of Little Tree

How the author of a current best-seller conned the world into believing he was a gentle Texas novelist instead of a vicious Alabama Klansman.

Dana Rubin

Texas Monthly

February 1992

Everyone knew Forrest Carter had been drinking. It was October 1978, and the novelist from Abilene was a guest speaker at the Wellesley College Club book-and-author luncheon in Dallas. Wearing his trademark cowboy hat, the author of the Rebel Outlaws: Josey Wales and other Western adventures delivered a slurred speech about the need for people to love one another. The message was straight out of Carter’s 1976 book, the Education of Little Tree, an account of his upbringing in the backwoods of Tennessee, where his Indian grandparents taught him self-reliance, distrust of “guvmint,” communion with nature, and love of one’s fellow man.

In the grand ballroom of the Sheraton, the audience shifted uneasily at this gushing of bonhomie. Most of the listeners were well-groomed North Dallas men and women—the distinguished supporters of what passed for the city’s literary scene. In an expansive moment, Carter pointed across the podium at his fellow speaker, historian Barbara Tuchman.

“Now, she’s a good ol’ Jew girl,” Carter said. Then he swung his arm toward Stanley Marcus, who was in the audience. “Now, Stanley,” he went on, “there’s a good ol’ Jew boy.”

A few uneasy titters arose from the audience as Carter’s boozy attempts to demonstarte his bigheartedness. The listeners were left to wonder how someone who had written so poignantly about humanitarian values could suddenly start talking like an anit-Semite. The answer was not fully known until last summer, when The Education of Little Tree improbably reached the New York Times best-seller list, fifteen years after its publication and twelve years after Forrest Carter’s death.

As it turned out, he was not a cowboy author after all. He wasn’t even Forrest Carter. His real name was Asa Earl Carter, and he was not from Texas but Alabama. He had sounded like an anti-Semite because he had been one all his life. He had also been a racist, an open advocate of white supremacy. As Asa Carter, he had been a writer, not of novels but of incendiary speeches for George Wallace, the David Duke of twenty years ago. The most famous lines Carter ever wrote were for Wallace’s 1963 inaugural address: “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!”

What’s more, all of this was known to many people during the years that Asa Carter masqueraded as Forrest Carter. The story had appeared in the New York Times in 1976, two years before Carter’s speech to the Wellesley College Club. Yet it was forgotten — or ignored — for years. Not until The Education of Little Tree became a best-seller did the truth resurface that Carter and the book were phonies. By that time, Carter had joined Clifford Irving and the forgers of the Hitler diaries as perpetrators of the century’s most brazen literary hoaxes.

THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE SOLD moderately well during Forrest Carter’s lifetime. But when it was reissued in 1986, its gentle message of environmentalism and multiculturalism was perfectly attuned to the times. Carter’s story about life with Granma and Granpa is filled with rhapsodic passages about nature:

I trotted behind Granpa and i could feel the upward slant of the trail.

I could feel something more, as Granma said i would. Mon-o-lah, the earth mother, came to me through my moccasins, i could feel her push and swell here, and sway and give there … And the roots that veined her body and the life of the water-blood, deep inside her. She was warm and springy and bounced me on her breast, as Granma said she would.

Last summer, Little Tree mania broke out across the country. Hollywood studios competed for movie rights. School-children formed Little Tree fan clubs. But then an Atlanta historian wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times that unmasked Asa Carter a second time. For weeks, Carter’s agent, Eleanor Friede, vehemently denied any link between the two men. “An anti-semite, anti-Negro? That was never Forrest,” she said. Not until Carter’s reclusive widow acknowledged the truth in October did the Times shift The Education of Little Tree from its nonfiction list to fiction.

With the book revealed as a fabrication, the questions remained: Who was Forrest Carter? How could someone who had ranted about the “bestiality” of blacks, who had once vowed to die to preserve the Anglo-Saxon race, write so movingly about downtrodden Indians? Did he undergo a spiritual conversion? An emotional breakdown? The mystery was enhanced by the silence of Carter’s wife and four children, who refused to discuss the details of Carter’s double life. His New Age fans desperately wanted to believe he had changed, for if he had not, they had been duped. Worse, they would have to acknowledge that the book they had seen as a validation of their leftist beliefs actually sprang from the far right, from a value system they abhorred.

The only way to learn the answers was to reconstruct Carter’s life — to talk to his friends in Alabama who knew him as Asa and to the Texans who knew him as Forrest. In Alabama, he saw himself as a crusader, the last defender of the noble south. He clung to the idea of a white uprising against the civil rights movement, but by 1970 he had to concede that his cause was lost. A defeated man, Asa Carter did what so many other Southerners had done when faced with failure — carved “GTT” on the porch post and headed West, gone to Texas. But where others moved to find a new future, Asa Carter moved to find a past. To become Forrest Carter, all he had to do was dress up in cowboy clothes and alter his Southern self-reliant ideology to a Western frontier guise. So convincing was his performance that he seemed to believe it himself. Two days after the book club luncheon, Dallas Morning News columnist Bob St. John wrote, “I tell you the man was amazing, as much of an established character as anybody in his books.” Unknowingly, St. John had hit upon the truth: Forrest Carter had become his own best character.

GROWING UP NEAR CHOCOLOCO CREEK, in the piedmont of the Appalachians in northern Alabama, Asa Carter was fascinated by his geneology. His roots were deep in the Confederacy. His maternal great-grandfather was James Weatherly, a Confederate capatain and one of Morgan’s raiders. His great-uncle on his father’s side served with Mosby’s Partisans and was hanged by the Union general Philip Sheridan.

Carter was already ideologically uncompromising when he graduated from high school in 1943. He enlisted in the Navy, he told friends, so he wouldn’t have to fight the Germans, whom he regarded as racially akin to his true ancestors, the Scotch Irish. Moreover, Germany hadn’t attacked our country. Why should the United States be fighting a Jewish war? Carter returned from the service in 1945, having been a boxing champ in the Third Fleet in the South Pacific. That year he married his quiet high school girlfriend, Thelma India Walker. They moved to Colorado, where he studied journalism and worked at a radio station. In 1953, at 28, he moved back to Alabama with Thelma and their son and quickly became enmeshed in the racial upheaval that was spreading across the South.

Figuring out Carter’s political beliefs is not difficult; copies of his radio broadcasts are available, as are issues of the Southerner, a monthly newsletter he wrote and edited. Many of his associates from the fifties and sixties are eager to talk about their notorious colleague. Their stories are chilling. On the issue of race, Carter was ruthless. To him, white supremacy was the foundation for law, order, and civilization. Racial equality would lead to race mixing, or “mongrelization,” which was against the laws of nature and God. The NAACP was the “National Association for the Agitation of Colored People,” and the civil rights movement was a concotion of world Jewry — the impetus behind the liberal tide that was threatening American democracy. In Carter’s view, blacks were to be pitied, but Jews were to be feared. Blaming them had a kind of dark logic; how else could you explain why previously docile Negroes would suddenly revolt?

His conception of the South was caught up in a mythic notion of noble people and an aggrieved land. He saw himself as an Ivanhoe, the valiant knight who fights romantic battles against great odds for a pure motive. The struggle against integration was, to him, Reconstruction all over again. Blacks, he said, were undeserving compared with the patient and brave Indians, who had suffered terrible wrongs inflicted by the Yankees. “I heard him say many times that blacks don’t know what it is to be mistreated,” says Buddy Barnett, Asa’s friend from childhood, who lives in Oxford, Alabama. “The Indians have suffered more.”

Asa’s views found adherents, particularly among Birmingham’s wealthy establishment, but he was always on the political fringe. Time and again he was frustrated when he tried to run for public office: for the Birmingham city commission, for lieutenant governor, and later for governor of Alabama. In 1954, the year of the landmark school desegregation ruling, he attracted the attention of the American States Rights Association, a Birmingham businessmen’s group opposed to integration. Carter was hired to stir up support for its cause through broadcasts on radio station WILD. But Carter was fired after six months because he used his broadcast to blast National Brotherhood Week, sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Later that year, Carter formed a white citizens council. Throughout the South, the citizens council movement was gaining support as a respectable segregationist alternative to the Ku Klux Klan. Membership began to boom after the Montgomery bus boycott got under way in December 1955; at one time, Carter’s group claimed thirty to forty chapters. But Carter soon ran into trouble with other Alabama citizen council leaders because, once again, his views were too extreme: He wouldn’t allow Jews in his group. “We believe that this is basically a battle between Christianity and atheistic communism,” he told a reporter. He saw conservative values threatened everywhere — even in the Blondie comic strip, where, he said, Dagwood’s foolishness undermined fatherhood. He picketed a rock concert with signs that said, “Jungle Music Promotes Integration” and “Bebop Promotes Communism.”

In the mid-fifties, Asa Carter always seemed to be on the periphery of violence. Although he denied that he was a member of the Klan, his signature appears on the articles of incorporation of a shadowy paramilitary gang called the Original Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy, whose members met secretly and wore Rebel-gray robes. Meetings were called to order with the thrust of a sword into the floor and a knife into the speaker’s stand. In 1957, two men were wounded and left for dead in a gunfight at a statewide meeting of Carter’s Klan. One of them later identified Asa as the robed and hooded man who had shot him, but the state never prosecuted the case. On Labor Day, 1957, six alleged members of his Klan abducted a black handyman, sliced off his scrotum, and tortured him by pouring turpentine on his wounds. Buddy Barnett says Asa was scornful of the way his cohorts had treated the black man. He says Carter told him, “It would have been better to have killed him than to do that.”

In his speeches, Asa openly advocated violence. Newspapers reported that at one rally he vowed to put his “blood on the ground” to halt integration; at another, he said of the federal government, “If it’s violence they want, it’s violence they will get.”

Even among his most resistant segreationist circles in the South, Carter’s tactics were beyond the pale. Eventually he was drummed out of the citizens council movement. In the spring of 1958, he made a pitiful stab at the Democratic primary for state lieutenant governor and finished fifth in a five-man field. Dispirited, he was quoted in a newspaper article as calling the Klan leadership “a bunch of trash.” And then just when Asa hit bottom, he hooked up with someone who offered fresh hope.

IN 1958, A YOUNG LAWYER NAMED GEORGE WALLACE ran for governor of Alabama against the state’s attorney general, John Patterson. Backed by the Klan, Patterson campaigned for a white Alabama and trounced Wallace, who was considered a moderate. After the election, Asa Carter was invited to join the Wallace team as a speech writer. Wallace was a skilled extemporaneous speaker: very forceful but only in spurts. Ace — as he was known to Wallace’s men — had a talent for inflated images and grandiloquent language. “Wallace wanted him to use hate,” says Seymore Trammell, Wallace’s former finance director. “He wanted it real strong.”

But Carter’s sinister reputation presented a problem. Nervous about their candidate’s being linked with Carter, Wallace’s men arranged for him to be paid sub rosa through various Wallace cronies — a Montgomery printer, a road contractor, and an insurance executive. At Wallace’s campaign headquarters, Carter was given a rear office, where he could work unnoticed. After Wallace’s victory in 1962, Carter took over a cubbyhole in the basement of the capitol. “We would go into the room, and by the time we got through talking for two hours, we’d get him riled up,” says Trammell. “We fed him raw meat. We would treat him almost like an animal — like you would give a race-horse a shot.” Carter would take a pack of Pall Malls, close the door, and emerge hours later with a riveting speech.

Wallace’s 1963 inaugural address — delivered on the steps of the Alabama state capitol, where Jefferson Davis had been sworn in as president of the Confederacy — was a call to arms for the embattled people of Alabama: “In the name of the greatest people that ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny. And I say: Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” The audience leapt to their feet. Six months later, in Tuscaloosa, Wallace delivered his “Standing in the schoolhouse door” speech, also largely written by Ace Carter. These speeches helped propel Wallace to national prominence.

But Carter frightened even Wallace’s toughest men. A large man with a barrel chest, jet-black hair, and thick eyebrows, he exuded an air of danger. He kept an old Webley six-shooter with him at all times. In his personal life, he was circumspect. During the week, he lived at the Jefferson Davis Hotel in Montgomery, where Wallace’s men picked up the tab. On weekends, he would drive 120 miles up to Oxford to see his wife and four children. To his Montgomery friends, who talked politics with him at the Sahara restaurant, he had one weakness: After a few drinks, he turned belligerent. “I would not be around him when he was drinking,” says former Wallace associate Ray Andrews. “He more or less would start foaming at the mouth.”

Increasingly, Carter saw Wallace as the nation’s would-be savior. If he could make it to the presidency, he could prevent the country from falling prey to the evils of integration and communism. When Wallace was excluded from the governor’s race in 1966 because of a nonsuccession rule, he toyed with a run for the Senate. But Carter was among those who discouraged him; he thought Wallace would have to make too many compromising stands. Instead, he encouraged Wallace’s wife, Lurleen, to run for governor. After she won the election, Lurleen wanted to make Ace her press secretary, but her husband’s staff thought that was too controversial, so he continued to write speeches. When Lurleen died of ovarian cancer after only eighteen months in office, Carter was once again out of a job.

In 1968, when Wallace ran for president on a third-party ticket, Carter made several trips through the Midwest with Bobby Shelton, the Grand Wizard from Tuscaloosa, drumming up support for the campaign. But by then Wallace had tempered his racial rhetoric, and Carter’s skills as a speech writer were no longer helpful. He wanted Wallace to use language like “race mixing,” while Wallace insisted on “busing.” For Carter, Wallace’s political shift was a profound betrayal. So complete was his estrangement from Wallace that in 1970, Carter even ran against him as a Democratic candidate for the governor’s seat. His platform was predictable: anti-integration, anti-pornography, anti-Red movie writers in Hollywood. One Montgomery lobbyist recalls watching Carter campaign at the Talladegah County courthouse, protected by a phalanx of bodyguards. On the lawn before him was a large crowd, including a group of blacks trying to disrupt his speech by heckling. Carter kept gesturing to the blacks and saying, “This is a nigger mentality. This is typical slave mentality. This is all they know how to do.”

One of five candidates in the primary, Carter came in last, with only 15,000 votes. Then he made what must have been a humiliating pact: In exchange for the payment of his campaign debts, he agreed to write speeches for Wallace in the runoff against liberal Albert Brewer. But in his heart, Carter felt Wallace was a traitor. At Wallace’s inauguration in January 1971, Carter picketed with signs that said, “Wallace Is a Bigot” and “Free Our White Children.” Shortly after the ceremony, reporter Wayne Greenhaw recalls Carter’s complaining bitterly that Wallace had compromised his Southern ideals just when the fate of the nation hung in the balance. “If we keep on the way we’re going, with the mixing of the races, destroying God’s plan,” Carter told Greenhaw, “there won’t be an earth on which to live in five years.” When Carter finished, tears were streaming down his face. “You could see this horribly tortured human being,” Greenhaw says, “a totally defeated person.”

After that, Carter tried to found a string of all-white private schools, then feuded with Alabama attorney general Bill Baxley over taxes. In the Southerner, he raved because Baxley had appointed a “bushy headed black buck” as his assistant. Carter also blasted Wallace for letting blacks join the state highway patrol. “Soon,” Carter wrote, “you can expect your wife or daughter to be pulled over to the side of the road by one of these Ubangi or Watusi tribesmen wearing the badge of Anglo-Saxon law enforcement and toting a gun … but as uncivilized as the day his kind were found eating their kin in the jungle.”

In early 1971, Carter set up a statewide paramilitary organization whose members wore gray armbands with Confederate flags. Like his earlier political ventures, this one ended in failure. After one speech, a reporter wrote, Carter “seemed to have lost his spirit as he marched back and forth in a cadence before his assembly with a memorized speech. he drew but one applause.” The following year, Carter was arrested three times on alcohol-related charges. Then he seemed to drop from sight.

“EVERYBODY WANTS TO WRITE BOOKS,” Carter once told Bob St. John, explaining how he had come to be an author. “I also had developed this great interest in history and got the yearn to make some of the characters of which I’d heard real.” One lobbyist remembers visiting Carter’s home in the early seventies, around the time that he dropped out of politics. In the middle of the day, Carter was in pajamas and a smoking jacket, writing in longhand on lined yellow paper. He was working on an adventure novel about a die-hard Confederate soldier. The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales is based on the life of Jesse James. After Josey Wales’s wife and children are butchered by Union sympathizers, he continues to fight for his cause, time and again outfoxing the enemy with cunning tactics.

But the book is also about Asa Carter — or about the author as he saw himself persecuted by the federal government. By the time it was privately printed in 1973, Carter has selected a new name — Forrest Carter — borrowed from Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate hero and founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Changing his name was no big deal; he had gone by Bud as a boy and Earl in Colorado. This time the reason for his deception was simple: His discredited career as Asa Carter would prevent him from becoming a writer; adopting a pseudonym was a way to start afresh.

In 1973, Asa and Thelma Carter auctioned their home in Alabama and moved to Florida. Their two eldest sons settled in Abilene, where their father set them up with a filling station. That year, Carter’s book was accepted for publication by Eleanor Friede and Delacorte Press.

Carter visited Abilene often, sometimes staying for months in the house he had bought his sons – whom he now called his nephews. He cultivated a new circle of friends, for whom he had to concoct an entirely new past. He told them he was part Cherokee, a former cowboy, bronc rider, dishwasher, and ranch hand, a man with no formal education but with a knack for writing. He said he spent his time drifting around the country from his home in Florida, where his wife lived, to the Indian nation, where his kinfolk lived. Everything about the way he presented himself was a fraud, from his ungrammatical speech to his cowpoke ways. He wore jeans, a bolo tie with a turquoise stone, and a black cowboy hat. His Abilene friends loved him for his fabulous stories and his highspiritedness. Sometimes he woud sing ballads. And sometimes, especially if he had been drinking, he would preform Indian war dances and chant in what he said was the Cherokee language.

Speaking to a literature class in Hardin-Simmons University, Carter talked about how he had rambled around the country looking for work. He said he had gone to the back door of a ranch house north of Dallas “when I was almost starved to death” and asked for work. The owner had offered him a meal, “but I wouldn’t take it without working first,” Carter said. He eventually became close friends with the rancher, Don Josey. Today, Josey is the president of Rancho Oil in Dallas. He and Carter were friends all right, but the rest of the story was a lie. Josey says he met Carter at a rally for Lurleen Wallace. The heir to an oil fortune, Josey is also a Confederate history buff. He and Carter had a lot in common, Josey says, including a shared sense of mirth over Carter’s ability to pull of a hoax.

Of all the people Forrest Carter deceived, it was perhaps his agent, Eleanor Friede, whom he betrayed the most. Carter had no respect for the agents, the editors, the lawyers, and, above all, the Jews who ran the New York publishing world. Friede, who had become famous for discovering Jonathon Livingston Seagull , was a Manhattan liberal married to a Jewish publisher – just the kind of person Carson would be likely to hate. But he and Friede struck up a strange relationship. With her, Carter played his wide-eyed bumpkin role to the hilt. Friede, who now lives in rural Virginia, recalls that when she met Carter in 1976, she was astonished to find a large man with a commanding presence. From his letters and phone conversations, he had come across as an awestruck country boy. “He really seemed like a child,” she says.

Because Friede was Carter’s main contact with the publishing world, maintaining the masquerade with her was essential. Ron Taylor, one of Carter’s close friends in Alabama, says he helped Carter to keep up the image of a drifting cowboy. Taylor would mail Friede telegrams signed by Carter from various places throughout the South. “He kept feeding her these side stories to confuse her,” Taylor says. Carter told Friede he could write only when he retreated to meditate, fast, and commune with nature. he called it ‘hidin’ out.” Friede saw it as part of his creative, tormented personality; she still defends Carter, maintaining that The Education of Little Tree is no hoax. There’s no doubt that Carter shamelessly manipulated Friede. To her face, he was tender. He called her ‘Miss Eleanor.” But in letters to friends, he put her down. the relationship he cultivated with her was part friendship, part con game.

FOR SEVERAL YEARS THE LIE worked flawlessly. Not until the summer of 1976 did Alabama newspaper Wayne Greenshaw figure ot that Forrest was really Ace. He wrote an article saying so for the New York Times, but his revelations had practically no effect. A few months later, Delacorte came out with The Education of Little tree which it promoted as a true story. That was also the year that Clint Eastwood turned Josey Wales into a hugely successful movie. Invited to appear on the Today show with Barbara Walters, Carter was petrified that she might learn about his background, so he took pains to disguise himself. He was forty pounds lighter than he had been in Alabama. He was tanned and had grown a moustache. And he wore a cowboy hat pulled down over his face. Walters did not probe into his past, but several of Carter’s Alabama acquaintances saw the program, recognized their friend, and laughed at how old Ace had pulled a fast one.

Carter’s views did not mellow in Texas. His easygoing humor was a facade he had adopted to preserve the mask. An Abilene friend, Louise Green, remembers hearing Carter rage about blacks more than once. At a steakhouse in Abilene, Carter flew into a nasty tirade. ‘He said he didn’t want anybody to take care of his poor old mother, and he didn’t want to take care of ‘some niggers old mother either’,” Green says. On and on he went, louder and louder, about how “the niggers ought to go back to Africa.” until other diners began to glare.

Only a few friends knew of his double life, and to them, he revealed a profound cynicism about the people he was deceiving. “He said,’Y’all screwed me all those years, and I’m gonna get you back,’” says his Birmingham attorney, R.B. Jones. “‘Y’all think you’re so damn smart. I’ll show you who’s so damn smart.’” To Don Josey, Carter wrote about his plans for a Little Tree sequel, which would cover his life from the age of nine to fourteen, when he had supposedly rambled the Oklahoma backwoods with the Cherokees and then crossed into Texas. Carter wrote that he intended to ‘work some good stuff in there about knocking on your back door for work and eats, etc. in the process of which we will try to learn them sick New Yorkers something.”

By 1979, the lies and the liquor had caught up with him. he had gained weight and look dissipated. His friends in abilene worried that he might never dry out enough to write another book. On June 8, 1979, Carter was passing through Abilene on his way to Hollywood to discuss the feature film version of Watch for Me on the Mountain his fourth and final book, which was about the life of Geronimo. It was at his son’s home in Potosi, south of Abilene, that Carter died mysteriously. Listed as the cause of death on the certificate was ‘aspiration of food and clotted blood’ due to “history of fist fight.” The ambulance driver told one of Carter’s friends that Carter had had a drunken fight with his son, fell, and most likely choked on his own vomit.

It is possible to read The Education of little Tree as a story about a child beset by evils of organized religion and intrusive government. The characters of Granpa and Granma personify pure goodness that Carter imputed to Native Americans. But there is little that is truly autobiographical about the book. According to Doug Carter, Asa’s younger brother, Granpa is based on great-grandfather James Weatherly, who died sometime around 1930, when Asa was about five — too young for Asa to have remembered him in detail. There is no counterpart to Granma in the Carter family. No one in the family ever called Asa Little Tree. According to Eleanor Friede, Carter’s wife maintains that the family is of Cherokee descent. But Doug Carter insists that there isn’t any Indian blood in the family.

Asa Carter admired the Indian people, especially the Cherokees. But the Cherokee language used in the book is mostly made up. There is no such thing as “Mon-o-lah, the earth mother.” His depiction of the Cherokee way of life is romanticized, like something out of Longfellow. “It’s very precious,” says Cherokee Geary Hobson, a professor of English at the University of Oklahoma. “The Indians are sweet, sweet little creatures who can’t do any wrong.”

Only in an ideological sense is The Education of Little Tree true. It expounds an extreme kind of Jeffersonian political attitude that can be extended in any number of directions. To the left, it intersects with liberalism and multiculturalism; to the right, with libertarianism and anarchism. Out of context, the book might sound like a New Age manifesto. For many readers, it can exist on that level—surely all works of art take on a reality independent of their creators’ prejudices. But viewed in the context of Carter’s life and writings, The Education of little tree is the same right-wing story he had been telling all along. Perhaps there is another sense in which the story of Little Tree is true. Maybe, for Asa Carter, it represented a wishful kind of truth, the upbringing he wished he really had. “I think he felt so close to the background of the character he created,” says Doug Carter, “that I don’t believe he ever thought of it as deception.”

Voir de plus:

False Memoir of Holocaust Is Canceled

Motoko Rich and Joseph Berger

The New York Times

December 29, 2008

A man whose memoir about his experience during the Holocaust was to have been published in February has admitted that his story was embellished, and on Saturday evening his publisher canceled the release of the book.

And once again a New York publisher and Oprah Winfrey were among those fooled by a too-good-to-be-true story.

This time, it was the tale of Herman Rosenblat, who said he first met his wife while he was a child imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and she, disguised as a Christian farm girl, tossed apples over the camp’s fence to him. He said they met again on a blind date 12 years after the end of war in Coney Island and married. The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary this year.

Ms. Winfrey, who hosted Mr. Rosenblat and his wife, Roma Radzicki Rosenblat, on her show twice, called their romance “the single greatest love story” she had encountered in her 22 years on the show. On Saturday night, after learning from Mr. Rosenblat’s agent that the author had confessed that the story was fabricated, Berkley Books, a unit of Penguin Group that was planning to publish “Angel at the Fence,” Mr. Rosenblat’s memoir of surviving in a sub-camp of Buchenwald with the help of his future wife, canceled the book and demanded that Mr. Rosenblat return his advance.

Harris Salomon, who is producing a movie based on the story, said he would go ahead with the film, but as a work of fiction, adding that Mr. Rosenblat had agreed to donate all earnings from the film to Holocaust survivor charities.

Berkley’s decision came in the same year that another unit of Penguin, Riverhead Books, was duped by Margaret Seltzer, the author of “Love and Consequences,” her fabricated gang memoir about her life as a white girl taken into an African-American foster home in South Central Los Angeles. She had in fact been raised by her biological family in a well-to-do section of the San Fernando Valley. It also followed the revelations, nearly three years ago, that James Frey, the Oprah Winfrey-annointed author “A Million Little Pieces,” had exaggerated details of his memoir of drug addiction.

This latest literary hoax is likely to trigger yet more questions as to why the publishing industry has such a poor track record of fact-checking.

In the latest instance, no one at Berkley questioned the central truth of Mr. Rosenblat’s story until last week, said Andrea Hurst, his agent. Neither Leslie Gelbman, president and publisher of Berkley, nor Natalee Rosenstein, Mr. Rosenblat’s editor at Berkley, returned calls or e-mail messages seeking comment. Craig Burke, director of publicity for Berkley, declined to elaborate beyond the company’s brief statement announcing the cancellation of the book. In an e-mail message, a spokesman for Ms. Winfrey also declined to comment.

After several scholars and family members attacked Mr. Rosenblat’s story in articles last week in The New Republic, Mr. Rosenblat confessed on Saturday to Ms. Hurst and Mr. Salomon that he had concocted the core of his tale. Ms. Hurst said that in an emotional telephone call with herself and Mr. Salomon, Mr. Rosenblat said his wife had never tossed him apples over the fence.

In a statement released through his agent, Mr. Rosenblat wrote that he had once been shot during a robbery and that while he was recovering in the hospital, “my mother came to me in a dream and said that I must tell my story so that my grandchildren would know of our survival from the Holocaust.”

He said that after the incident he began to write. “I wanted to bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people,” he wrote in the statement. “I brought good feelings to a lot of people and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world. In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream.”

According to Ms. Hurst, who represents other inspirational writers including Bernie Siegel, author of “Love, Medicine & Miracles,” Mr. Rosenblat first concocted his story in the mid 1990s as an entry to a newspaper contest soliciting the “best love stories.” In 1996, he appeared on Ms. Winfrey’s show with his wife and repeated the fabricated story. From there, it snowballed, with versions appearing in magazines, a volume of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, and a children’s book, “Angel Girl,” by Laurie Friedman, released in September by an imprint of Lerner Publishing. Mr. and Mrs. Rosenblat, who now live in North Miami Beach, appeared on CBS’s “Early Show” in October.

As media coverage of Mr. Rosenblat’s story spread, scholars and others began to question the veracity of the romance throughout the blogosphere, pointing out that, among other things, the layout of the camp would have prevented the pair from meeting at a fence.

In a telephone interview in November, Mr. Rosenblat defended his story against such doubts. He said that his section of Schlieben, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, was not well guarded and that he could stand between a barracks and the six-to-eight-foot fence out of sight of guards. Roma was able to approach him because there were woods that would have concealed her.

In recounting the stunning “reunion” with Ms. Radzicki 12 years later as survivors living in New York, Mr. Rosenblat said Ms. Radzicki told him she had saved a boy by hurling apples over a fence to him.

“Did he have rags on his feet instead of shoes?” Mr. Rosenblat said he asked her.

She said yes and he told her, “That boy was me.”

In a telephone interview Sunday, Ms. Hurst, who sold the book to Berkley for less than $50,000, said she always believed the essential truth of Mr. Rosenblat’s tale until last week. “I believed the teller,” Ms. Hurst said. “He was in so many magazines and books and on ‘Oprah.’ It did not seem like it would not be true.” On Sunday, Ms. Hurst said that she was reviewing her legal options because “I’ve yet to see what kind of repercussions could come from this, and I was lied to.”

Ms. Hurst said that Mr. Rosenblat did provide some documentation, including a 1946 letter from a warden with the Jewish Children’s Community Committee for the Care of Children From the Camps that said Mr. Rosenblat had attended a technical school in London. Evidence of an organization with that name did not appear in Internet searches on Sunday.

Susanna Margolis, a New York-based ghost writer who polished Mr. Rosenblat’s manuscript, said she was surprised by his description of his first blind date with Ms. Radzicki. “I thought that was far-fetched.” she said. “But if somebody comes to you, as an agent and a publisher, and says, ‘This is my story,’ how do you check it other than to say, ‘Did this happen?’ ”

That so many would get taken in by Mr. Rosenblat’s inauthentic love story seems incredible given the number of fake memoirs that have come to light in the last few years. The Holocaust in particular has been fertile territory for fabricated personal histories: earlier this year, Misha Defonseca confessed that her memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years,” about her childhood spent running from the Nazis and living with wolves, was not true.

A decade ago, a Swiss historian debunked Binjamin Wilkomirski’s 1996 memoir, “Fragments,” which described how he survived as a Latvian Jewish orphan in a Nazi concentration camp. It turns out the book was written by Bruno Doessekker, a Swiss man who spent the war in relative comfort in Switzerland. Mr. Rosenblat, at least, appears to have told the truth about being a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps.

The primary sleuth in unmasking his fabrication of the apple story was Kenneth Waltzer, director of Jewish studies at Michigan State University. He has been working on a book on how 904 boys — including the Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel — were saved from death by an underground rescue operation inside Buchenwald, and has interviewed hundreds of survivors, including boys from the ghetto at Piotrkow in Poland who were taken with the young Herman Rosenblat to the camp.

When Dr. Waltzer asked other survivors who were with Mr. Rosenblat about the tossed apple story, they said the story couldn’t possibly be true.

In his research of maps drawn by ex-prisoners, Dr. Waltzer learned that the section of Schlieben where Mr. Rosenblat was housed had fences facing other sections of the camp and only one fence — on the south — facing the outside world. That fence was adjacent to the camp’s SS barracks and the SS men there would have been able to spot a boy regularly speaking to a girl on the other side of the fence, Dr. Waltzer said. Moreover, the fence was electrified and civilians outside the camp were forbidden to walk along the road that bordered the fence.

Dr. Waltzer also learned from online documentation that Ms. Radzicki, her parents and two sisters were hidden as Christians at a farm not outside Schlieben but 210 miles away near Breslau.

Holocaust survivors and scholars are fiercely on guard against any fabrication of memories because they taint the truth of the Holocaust and raise doubts about the millions who were killed or brutalized.

“There’s no need to embellish, no need to aggrandize,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt, the Dorot professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University. “The facts are horrible, and when you’re teaching about horrible stuff you just have to lay out the facts.”

Voir enfin:

Stories and lies I

Stolen suffering

Daniel Mendelsohn

The New York Times

03.09.08

On a March day four years ago, a very old lady, striking, snowy-haired, unsmiling, was looking at me with disgust. A Polish Jew who had survived the Holocaust, she’d been telling me how she and her young son had managed to keep a step ahead of the people who were hunting them down, and at the end of this stupefying tale of survival I’d looked up at her and said, "What an amazing story!" It was at that point that she flapped her spotted hand at me in disdain.

"Amazing story," she mimicked me, tartly. She fetched a heavy sigh.

"If you didn’t have an amazing story, you didn’t survive."

She was referring to literal survival, of course – survival at its meanest, most animal level, the mere continuance of the organism. At a time when Jews throughout Europe were being rounded up like livestock or hunted down like game, survival indeed depended on feats of endurance or daring so extreme, on accidents or luck so improbable, that they can seem too far-fetched to be true.

A Jewish couple who hid in the attic of a Nazi officers’ club, forced to listen as the soldiers below joked and drank after a day’s slaughter; two young brothers who hid in a forest, strapping the hooves of deer to their feet whenever they ventured into the snow to confuse those who were trying to find them; a youth who, the day before the Germans entered his Polish hometown, left home and just kept walking east, until he reached China.

I heard these stories firsthand five years ago, while researching a book about relatives of mine who didn’t survive. But still they keep coming. Last Monday, I heard about an orphaned Jewish girl who trekked 2,000 miles from Belgium to Ukraine, surviving the Warsaw ghetto, murdering a German officer, and – most "amazing" of all – taking refuge in forests where she was protected by kindly wolves.

The problem is that this story is a lie: Recounted in a 1997 international bestseller by Misha Levy Defonseca, it was exposed last week as a total fabrication – no trekking, no Warsaw, no murder, no wolves. (No Jews, either: The author, whose real name is Monique De Wael, is Roman Catholic.) To be sure, phony memoirs aren’t news: In 1998 the acclaimed child-survivor memoir "Fragments" was proved a fake, and more recently James Frey’s credibility infamously exploded into a million little pieces. But the trickle now seems to be a flood.

Just days after the revelations about De Wael’s book yet another popular first-person account of extreme suffering turned out to be a fraud. (This one, "Love and Consequences," purports to be the autobiography of a young half-white, half-American Indian woman who was raised by a black foster mother in the gang-infested streets of Los Angeles.) This trend sheds alarming light on a cultural moment in which the meanings of suffering, identity and "reality" itself seem to have become dangerously slippery.

Each of the new books commits a fraud far more reprehensible than Frey’s self-dramatizing enhancements. The first is a plagiarism of other people’s trauma. Both were written not, as they claim to be, by members of oppressed classes (the Jews during World War II, the impoverished African-Americans of Los Angeles today), but by members of relatively safe or privileged classes. De Wael was a Christian Belgian who was raised by close relatives after her parents, Resistance members, were taken away; Margaret Seltzer, the author of "Love and Consequences," grew up in a tony Los Angeles neighborhood and attended an Episcopal day school.

In each case, then, a comparatively privileged person has appropriated the real traumas suffered by real people for her own benefit – a boon to the career and the bank account, but more interestingly, judging from the authors’ comments, a kind of psychological gratification, too. Seltzer has talked about being "torn," about wanting somehow to ventriloquize her subjects, to "put a voice to people who people don’t listen to." De Wael has similarly referred to a longing to be part of the group to which she did not, emphatically, belong: "I felt different. It’s true that, since forever, I felt Jewish and later in life could come to terms with myself by being welcomed by part of this community." ("Felt Jewish" is repellent: Real Jewish children were being murdered however they may have felt.)

While these statements want to suggest a somehow admirable desire to "empathize" with the oppressed subjects, this sentimental gesture both mirrors and exploits a widespread, quite pernicious cultural confusion about identity and suffering. We have so often been invited, in the past decade and a half, to "feel the pain" of others that we rarely pause to wonder whether this is, in fact, a good thing.

Empathy and pity are strong and necessary emotions that deepen our sense of connection to others, but they depend on a kind of metaphorical imagination of what others are going through. The facile assumption that we can literally "feel others’ pain" can be dangerous to our sense of who we are – and, more alarmingly, who the others are, too. "We all have AIDS," a recent public-awareness campaign declared. Well, no, actually we don’t. And to pretend that we do, even rhetorically, debases the anguish of those who are stricken.

Similarly – to return to the world of the Holocaust – a museum that offers ticket holders the chance to go inside a cattle car, presumably in order to convey what it was like to be in one, can ultimately encourage not true sympathy or understanding, but a slick "identification" that devalues the real suffering of the real people who had to endure that particular horror. (When you leave the cattle car, you go to the cafeteria to have your chicken salad; when they left it, they went into a gas chamber. Can you really say you "know what it was like"?)

In an era obsessed with "identity," it’s useful to remember that identity is precisely that quality in a person, or group, that cannot be appropriated by others; in a world in which theme-park-like simulacra of other places and experiences are increasingly available to anyone with the price of a ticket, the line dividing the authentic from the ersatz needs to be stressed, rather than blurred. As, indeed, De Wael has so clearly blurred it, for reasons that she has suggested were pitiably psychological. "The story is mine," she announced. "It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving."

"My reality," as opposed to "actual reality," is, of course, one sign of psychosis, and given her real suffering during the war, you’re tempted to sympathize – until you read that her decision to write her memoir came at a time when her husband was out of work, or (we real Jews call this chutzpah) that she successfully sued the publisher for more than $20 million for professional malfeasance. Or until you learn about her galling manipulations of the people who believed her. (Slate reported that she got one rabbi to light a memorial candle "for animals.")

"My reality" raises even more far-reaching and dire questions about the state of our culture, one in which the very concept of "reality" seems to be in danger. Think of "reality" entertainments, which so unnervingly parallel the faux-memoirists’ appropriation of others’ authentic emotional experience: In them, real people are forced to endure painful or humiliating or extreme situations, their real emotional reactions becoming the source of the viewers’ idle gratification. Think of the Internet: an unimaginably powerful tool for education but also a Wild West of random self-expression in which anyone can say anything about anything (or anyone) and have it "published," and which has already made problematic the line between truth and falsehood, expert and amateur opinion, authentic and inauthentic identities, reality and fantasy.

That pervasive blurriness, the casualness about reality that results when you can turn off entire worlds simply by unsubscribing, changing a screen name, or closing your laptop, is what ups the cultural ante just now. It’s not that frauds haven’t been perpetrated before; what’s worrisome is that, maybe for the first time, the question people are raising isn’t whether the amazing story is true, but whether it matters if it’s true. Perhaps the most dismaying response to the James Frey scandal was the feeling on the part of many readers that, true or false, his book had given them the feel-good, "redemptive" experience they’d hoped for when they bought his novel – er, memoir.

But then, we all like a good story. The cruelty of the fraudulent ones is that they will inevitably make us distrustful of the true ones – a result unbearable to think about when the Holocaust itself is increasingly dismissed by deniers as just another "amazing story." Early on in my research for my book, another very old woman suddenly grew tired being interviewed. "Stories, stories," she sighed wearily at the end of our time together. "There isn’t enough paper in the world to write the stories we can tell you." She, of course, was talking about the true stories. How tragic if, because of the false ones, those amazing tales are never read – or believed.

Daniel Mendelsohn, the author of "The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million," is a professor of humanities at Bard College.


Impostures littéraires: Ces sornettes qui n’attendrissent que les toubabs (Looking back at France’s fake minority misery lit: Have a lie, will travel)

4 mars, 2013
J’ai arrangé ma biographie parce que je pensais que cela aurait plus d’impact. Mon témoignage ne repose pas uniquement sur des événements que j’ai vécus personnellement mais aussi sur des drames vécus par d’autres, des anonymes dont la voix est trop souvent tue. Omar Ba
Pourquoi ne dit-il pas que c’est un roman qu’il imaginé en s’inspirant des récits des aventuriers au lieu de vouloir nous faire gober ces sornettes qui n’attendrissent que les Tubaab (Occidentaux) à qui il peut raconter qu’il dormait dans les arbres, avec tous les membres de sa famille, pendant que des lions affamés rôdaient autour ? En tout cas, il ne manque pas d’imagination. J’aime bien le passage où il écrit que sa mère lui avait donné un grigri qu’il avait attaché autour de sa taille avec un fil en peau de léopard. Ça fait très exotique en effet. Signalons qu’il avait auparavant publié deux livres sans succès. Cette fois-ci, il a mis le paquet. Bravo ! La littérature sénégalaise a de beaux jours devant elle. Bathie Ngoye Thiam
Nous restons cependant solidaires de la cause et de l’analyse qu’Omar Ba défend dans son essai, parce qu’il n’y a pas de doute possible sur la tragédie de l’immigration clandestine. Son histoire personnelle est un canevas complexe, comme celle de beaucoup d’immigrés venus d’Afrique portés par l’espoir violent d’atteindre l’eldorado. Ils vivent dans la peur et sont probablement obligés de mentir pour survivre en Europe. Max Milo (éditeur)
Pendant près de vingt ans, Elissa Rhaïs ne cessera de publier avec un succès grandissant. Kerkeb, danseuse berbère, La Fille des pachas, L’Andalouse, Les Juifs ou la Fille d’Eléazar.. Truffés d’épices, d’eau de rose et de proverbes locaux, sa douzaine de romans, ses nouvelles et ses pièces de théâtre ressuscitaient les coutumes, les couleurs, les saveurs d’un Proche-Orient de légende. Traversés par la passion, muselés par les tabous, ensanglantés par la fatalité, ce n’était que contes merveilleux et tragiques; mirages situés à mi-chemin des Mille et une Nuits et des ouvrages de Pierre Loti ou des frères Tharaud. Conférences, chroniques dans les journaux, voyages, réceptions : Elissa Rhaïs, qui jamais ne se déplaçait sans celui qu’elle présentait comme son fils aîné, Raoul, de dix-huit ans son cadet, fut reçue partout et partout honorée. Dans son appartement luxueux du boulevard Saint-Jacques, les admirateurs qui lui faisaient fête s’appelaient Gide, Mauriac, Colette, Morand ou Sarah Bernhardt. Sa gloire était telle, et son talent – que seul le critique Billy, à l’époque, osa mettre en doute -, et ses mérites, que plus d’une personnalité la soutint lorsqu’elle s’avisa d’aspirer à la Légion d’honneur. Barthou et Poincaré furent de ceux-là, qui en 1938 lui accordaient leur appui. En vue de lui décerner la rosette, on procède donc à l’enquête d’usage… En 1939, le scandale éclate : Leila Bou Mendil (également connue. sous le nom de Rosine Boumendil), alias Elissa Rhaïs, est illettrée, presque analphabète! Elle n’a fait que signer les livres écrits par son prétendu fils, en fait un parent pauvre, Raoul Dahan, qu’elle tient sous sa coupe financière et amoureuse depuis plus de vingt ans. (…) Le scandale est étouffé. Le monde de l’édition, victime de la géniale imposture, opte pour la conspiration du silence. La France en guerre a d’autres. drames à pleurer. Toute trace s’apprête à disparaître de la naguère célèbre Elissa Rhaïs… Toute trace? Pas forcément. Car Raoul Dahan, plus anonyme que jamais, mais marié et père de famille, va, sur son lit de mort, confier à son fils son secret et tous ses manuscrits précieusement conservés. Quatorze ans plus tard, en 1982, ce fils prendra la plume. Sous le nom de Paul Tabet, il clamera à la face du monde la fabuleuse histoire d’un jeune homme pauvre, juif d’Alger pétri de culture française, qui, tombé sous la coupe d’une énergique cousine, la laissera signer les milliers de pages qu’il écrira au fil de vingt années. Le Figaro

Suite à notre dernier billlet des impostures littéraires

Retour sur le cas particulier, de nos Beyala à nos Ba ou à nos Smaïl ou à nos Rhaïs, des histoires pour toubabs …

L’écrivain Calixthe Beyala est de nouveau soupçonnée de plagiat

Jean-Luc Douin

Le Monde

26.11.96

ALIXTHE BEYALA, récente lauréate du Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française pour Les Honneurs perdus (Albin Michel), est-elle victime de « persécution » et de « haine raciale » des « journalistes de gauche » ? C’est ce qu’elle a prétendu après avoir pris connaissance des accusations portées, dimanche soir 24 novembre, par Pierre Assouline lors du rendez-vous hebdomadaire « RTL-Lire ». Le journaliste, biographe de Georges Simenon, a affirmé en direct sur l’antenne que Calixthe Beyala, déjà condamnée en mai pour contrefaçon partielle du roman d’Howard Buten, Quand j’avais cinq ans je m’ai tué, dans son livre Le Petit Prince de Belleville, avait récidivé en faisant « des emprunts flagrants à deux reprises à l’écrivain nigérian Ben Okri ».

Pierre Assouline a cité les deux passages plagiés de La Route de la faim (Julliard), que Calixthe Beyala a sans doute « beaucoup aimé ». L’un, aux pages 27-29 du roman de la Camerounaise, ressemble étrangement à la page 56 du roman du Nigérian lauréat du Booker Prize (l’équivalent britannique du Goncourt). Tous deux décrivent une scène où une femme attrape un homme par les parties. « Tout le déroulement est exactement le même, les mots et les expressions reviennent », explique Pierre Assouline. Chez Beyala, il est écrit : « Sa femme ne l’écouta pas. Elle l’attrapa par le pantalon et le traîna. Il tenta de se libérer de cette poigne de fer qui, en plus du pantalon, agrippait ses testicules. » Chez Ben Okri, « sa femme cessa de l’écouter. Quand nous passames devant la foule, nous vimes qu’elle avait entrepris de le trainer en le tirant par son pantalon. Il essayait de se libérer de sa poigne de fer qui, sous le pantalon, avait même agrippé ses parties génitales. »

COINCIDENCES ÉTRANGES

Autres exemples : des coïncidences étranges entre les pages 117 à 122 chez Calixthe Beyala et l’épilogue de Ben Okri, ainsi qu’entre les pages 136 et 147 chez Beyala et les pages 161 à 166 et 171 à 174 chez Ben Okri. Tous deux évoquent « un village africain où deux partis politiques promettent de la nourriture en échange de votes, mais la nourriture est avariée et provoque une épidémie. La seule différence, note Pierre Assouline, est que chez Ben Okri il s’agit de lait en poudre et chez Beyala de maïs. »

Le commentaire du directeur de la rédaction de « Lire » est ironique : la condamnation de Calixthe Beyala « aurait dû inciter les académiciens français à être plus circonspects. Ils ont plongé comme un seul homme. Quelque chose me dit qu’ils vont bientôt le regretter. » Ce ne fut pas le cas au moment de l’attribution du prix. Plusieurs académiciens avaient volé au secours de leur lauréate en déclarant qu’il y avait des gens très bien qui s’étaient livrés au plagiat, sans conséquences. Il semble néanmoins que l’Académie française ait cautionné des pratiques douteuses en accordant son label à un « contrefacteur et récidiviste ». Calixthe Beyala, elle, ne désarme pas et accuse ses accusateurs de « malveillance et de méchanceté. Je gêne parce que je suis femme, et noire ». Elle ajoute qu’elle en a « assez ! », et envisage de poursuivre Pierre Assouline pour diffamation.

Voir également:

Paul Smaïl est… Jack-Alain Léger

26/02/2009

Un ovni littéraire sort en librairie en 1997 : un certain Paul Smaïl publie Vivre me tue (Balland) qui se présente comme un récit autobiographique. L’auteur serait un jeune Beur, titulaire d’un DEA de littérature comparée, qui cite Genet, Melville ou Conrad. Pour survivre, il travaille la nuit dans un hôtel fréquenté par les prostituées. Il veut s’en sortir. Smaïl décrit une banlieue comme on l’a rarement fait.

C’est sûr, ça sent le vécu. Le livre est plébiscité. Smaïl continue d’écrire. En 2001, il publie aux Éditions Denoël un autre livre dont on parle beaucoup, Ali le magnifique.

On finit par apprendre que derrière Paul Smaïl se cache l’écrivain Jack-Alain Léger, auteur d’une œuvre qui compte une vingtaine de récits et romans. D’ailleurs, l’année de la parution de Vivre me tue était sorti également Ma vie (titre provisoire), signé Jack-Alain Léger…

Ce dernier n’a qu’une obsession : qu’on lise une œuvre pour elle-même, sans préjugés sur l’auteur. Comme il l’a dit lui-même, Jack-Alain Léger – c’est son nom de plume «officiel» – aime porter des masques et varier les pseudonymes : il s’est appelé au fil des ans Melmoth, Dashiell Hedayat, Eve Saint-Roche…

Voir de plus:

Mais qui est donc Chimo?

Olivier Le Naire

L’Express

25/04/1996

Lila dit ça est arrivé chez Plon sous forme de deux cahiers d’écolier. Roman sur le sexe, la banlieue et le mystère, ce texte signé Chimo ne peut être l’oeuvre que d’un écrivain confirmé. A L’Express, nous penchons pour Ravalec. Et vous?

Lila dit ça est arrivé chez Plon sous forme de deux cahiers d’écolier. Roman sur le sexe, la banlieue et le mystère, ce texte signé Chimo ne peut être l’oeuvre que d’un écrivain confirmé. A L’Express, nous penchons pour Ravalec. Et vous?

Rédigés à la main, d’une écriture maladroite, les deux cahiers Clairefontaine ont atterri sur le bureau d’Olivier Orban, le directeur des éditions Plon, un jour de décembre 1995. Le début du texte donnait le ton, déconcertant: "Elle s’arrête, elle commence par me dire ça: ??Tu vois que j’ai le visage de l’ange, que tout le monde me le dit. Tu vois mes yeux qui sont clairs et bleus que tu leur donnerais jusqu’au fond de ta poche."" S’il n’avait été remis à l’éditeur par un cabinet d’avocats, s’il n’était signé d’un certain Chimo – manifestement un pseudo – le manuscrit aurait été écarté. Seulement, voilà, il y avait cette énigme et le précédent célèbre de Romain Gary, qui, sous le masque d’Emile Ajar, remporta le Goncourt 1975. Orban poursuit donc sa lecture.

Maladroite de prime abord, l’oeuvre prend vite son envol. Elle raconte l’histoire de Lila, jeune fille de banlieue à l’imagination et à la sensualité exacerbées. "Pas une meuf ni une gonzesse ou une mousmée ni une fendue ni une nana", simplement une fleur troublante qui bouleverse Chimo, ado timide et plutôt romantique. Quand elle lui propose, dès la page 3, de lui "montrer sa chatte", Chimo admire sans voix le spectacle de Lila, jupe au vent, exhibant son irréfutable blondeur le temps d’une glissade en toboggan. On la retrouve bientôt en amazone sur la barre du vélo de notre narrateur: "Tu veux la revoir?" La longue scène qui s’ensuit restera à coup sûr dans les annales de la littérature érotique (et de l’acrobatie), tant elle révolutionne le genre. On salue l’exploit. Mais Lila dit ça – joli titre – est bien plus qu’un simple ouvrage à ne tenir que d’une main. Si Lila nous émeut, c’est d’abord pour son charme déconcertant. Cette fragile ingénuité qui tranche si poétiquement avec la cochonne brutalité de ses propos. Le portrait de cet ange pervers, la minutie avec laquelle est recréé l’univers de la banlieue, la construction du récit sont à l’évidence d’un écrivain confirmé. Mais qui?

Bien des noms circulent déjà. On évoque les connaisseurs de la banlieue: Tournier, Picouly; les accros de l’érotisme littéraire, comme Ravalec et le jeune Yann Moix; on parle aussi de Pennac, Queffélec, Serguine. L’analyse graphologique trahirait, paraît-il, un homme, ordonné, intelligent, d’une affectivité pathologique et masochiste. Une chose est sûre, celui qui se cache derrière Chimo (mioche en verlan?) est d’abord un gros malin. Non seulement il a su capter l’attention de l’éditeur, mais encore il a éveillé la curiosité de la critique. Mieux, Lila dit ça, au carrefour de ces dernières terres d’aventures que sont le sexe, la banlieue et le mystère, s’arrache à l’étranger (Plon a déjà vendu pour 1,4 million de francs de droits en Europe, et les enchères montent aux Etats-Unis et au Japon). On négocie même l’adaptation au cinéma. Qui touchera ce pactole?

A L’Express, nous parions sur Vincent Ravalec, qui se fit connaître par la fausse recommandation adressée à Françoise Verny pour se faire éditer chez Flammarion. On retrouve dans Lila dit ça – en meilleur – l’univers riche, poétique et en partie mystique de son dernier roman, Wendy. On retrouve aussi cette sensibilité touchante mais parfois fleur bleue d’un écrivain qui ne maîtrise pas encore parfaitement son écriture, a fortiori lorsqu’il cherche à la contrefaire sur un ton prétendument populaire. Lila dit ça, comme Wendy, pèche par la faiblesse de certaines métaphores ("[ses seins] beaux comme la beauté", "Je me mets du courage à la bouche"…), ses lieux communs ("[dans la banlieue] il fait très chaud, étouffant mais jamais beau") et ses tournures aussi loufoques que gratuites. Et pourtant, le talent est là, indéniable. Comme dirait Jacques Pradel: "Vincent, si vous vous reconnaissez, appelez-nous!"

Lila dit ça, par Chimo. Plon, 172 p., 89 F.

Voir encore:

Vu & commenté

Le récit de l’unique survivant

Dominique Dhombres

Le Monde

27.05.08

Omar Ba était monté avec une cinquantaine d’autres malheureux dans une pirogue qui devait les emmener aux Canaries. C’était en septembre 2000. Tous les autres sont morts, il a survécu. Ce jeune Sénégalais a fini par arriver en France, où il étudie la sociologie. Il racontait sa traversée de l’enfer à Thierry Demaizière, dimanche 25 mai, dans le « Sept à huit » de TF 1. C’est un témoignage bouleversant sur le calvaire enduré par les clandestins qui, chaque jour ou presque, tentent d’atteindre l’Europe de cette façon.

Ils partent des côtes sénégalaises sur des embarcations de fortune et mettent le cap sur les Canaries, province espagnole, et donc terre européenne. Beaucoup périssent en mer. Ce que décrit Omar Ba, c’est ce qui se passe à bord d’une de ces pirogues lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à manger ni à boire. Il avait 21 ans lorsqu’il est parti, attiré par l’Europe telle qu’il la voyait à la télé, jolies filles et châteaux. Il a payé son passeur 2 000 euros. Les passagers quittent les côtes africaines avec environ 200 litres d’eau, 100 litres de gazole, 4 grands sacs de riz et deux réchauds pour le cuire. « Dès le troisième jour, il n’y a pratiquement plus de riz ni d’eau, et la pirogue commence à couler parce qu’il y a trop de personnes à bord », explique-t-il. C’est alors que le passager le plus costaud, Mourad, décide de jeter les plus faibles par-dessus bord. « Il commence par Abdou, qui souffrait de douleurs pulmonaires, et le balance à la mer. » Sept seront éliminés ainsi.

Dès lors, plus personne ne dort. « On se dit : il ne faut pas dormir ! » Dès qu’on somnole, on a peur d’être jeté par-dessus bord. Certains préfèrent se suicider.

Pour couronner le tout, la pirogue essuie une tempête et d’autres passagers tombent encore à l’eau sous l’effet des vagues. Il ne reste qu’une dizaine de clandestins, sous un soleil de plomb, dans une pirogue qui dérive depuis longtemps, moteur éteint. « Le plus terrible, c’est la nuit et l’odeur des cadavres. A bord, il y en a qui sont morts. Le soleil accélère la décomposition des corps. Une odeur insupportable. » Mourad se suicide, apparemment en buvant ce qui reste de gazole dans le moteur. Omar survit, mais ne parle plus. « Dans ces conditions-là, on cesse de penser. On devient animal. On ne dit plus rien.

Tous les mots deviennent tabous. Le mot «mort», par exemple, alors qu’on est entouré de cadavres. »

Il a le réflexe de crier avec ce qui lui reste de forces lorsqu’il aperçoit un navire espagnol qui se dirige vers la pirogue. Il s’évanouit. Lorsqu’il revient à lui, on lui donne le choix entre un verre de Coca et de l’eau fraîche. Il raconte son aventure dans Soif d’Europe, un livre qui vient de paraître aux éditions du Cygne.

Voir aussi:

Contre-enquête sur un affabulateur

Benoît Hopquin

Le Monde

08.07.09

Le Sénégalais Omar Ba raconte dans deux livres largement promus dans les médias son odyssée de clandestin. Problème : tout ou presque est faux

Depuis un an, Omar Ba est un clandestin très visible. Le Sénégalais écume les plateaux de télévision et les radios, publie tribunes et entretiens, multiplie les conférences. Abord avenant, visage éminemment sympathique, discours convaincu et convaincant, il raconte au bord des larmes son odyssée de Dakar à Paris, via les Canaries, Lampedusa, Ceuta et Melilla. Entre 2000 et 2002, affirme-t-il, il a ainsi frappé à toutes les portes dérobées de l’Europe, traversé les mers et les déserts. Un périple poignant, jonché des cadavres de ses frères d’infortune.

Aujourd’hui nanti d’un titre de séjour, le jeune homme a fait paraître Je suis venu, j’ai vu, je n’y crois plus (Ed. Max-Milo, 256 p., 18 €). Un chant d’amour déçu sur l’Europe, ce continent magnifié en eldorado par l’Afrique. L’auteur adresse une supplique aux candidats à l’exil : « Ne venez pas ! » Sous la plume d’un homme qui a bravé la mort pour atteindre ce paradis rêvé, le message n’en a que plus de force.

Las ! Cette épopée est largement inventée. Omar Ba a décrit son parcours dans un précédent livre : Soif d’Europe. Témoignage d’un clandestin (Editions du Cygne, 2008). Un récit à la première personne, truffé d’incohérences et d’anachronismes. Les descriptions des lieux, les noms des rues, les situations, en Libye, sur l’île italienne de Lampedusa, autour de l’enclave espagnole de Melilla, à Madrid, aux Canaries ou à Paris ne collent pas. Certains centres de rétention administrative n’existaient même pas au moment où il est censé les avoir fréquentés. La présentation des procédures espagnoles ou italiennes est fausse.

Omar Ba assure être arrivé en France à l’automne 2002, puis avoir été expulsé en novembre. Il aurait dormi dans les rues de Paris, le 1er novembre, fouillant les poubelles recouvertes de neige : il faisait 10 degrés cette nuit-là dans la capitale. La description de son expulsion est également truffée d’invraisemblances procédurales : le ministère de l’immigration et le service juridique de la Cimade, l’association qui défend les sans-papiers, arrivent à cette même conclusion. Son avocat, un certain Patrice Clément, est inconnu au barreau. Le tribunal de Bobigny, où est censé avoir été jugé le clandestin, n’a gardé nulle trace de son passage.

Plus probant encore, un compatriote d’Omar Ba, Abdoul Aziz Sow, a expliqué au Monde que l’auteur était étudiant en sociologie à l’université Gaston-Berger, à Saint-Louis du Sénégal, durant la période supposée de son voyage. Photo d’époque à l’appui, cet assistant en droit, qui vit toujours à Saint-Louis, assure qu’ils occupaient des chambres mitoyennes sur le campus. « Il est libre d’écrire ce qu’il veut, de faire gober des histoires aux Toubabs [Blancs], mais il n’a pas le droit de raconter des choses qu’il n’a pas vécues », estime l’ami déçu.

Rencontré longuement à trois reprises par Le Monde, mis en face de ces contradictions, Omar Ba a longtemps hurlé à la cabale. « Ce que je dis, je l’ai vu et je l’ai vécu », maintenait-il. Acculé, il est finalement revenu sur son histoire, au moins partiellement. Non, il n’a jamais été en Libye ni sur l’île italienne de Lampedusa. Non, il n’a jamais dormi dans les rues de Paris, n’a jamais été arrêté ni expulsé. Oui, il était bien étudiant à l’université Gaston-Berger de Saint-Louis, de 2001 à 2003. Oui, il est bien arrivé en France en 2003 avec un banal visa d’étudiant et a suivi pendant deux ans des cours de sociologie à l’université de Saint-Etienne. En 2005, il est ensuite venu à Paris afin de s’inscrire à l’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), section sociologie des médias.

Mais le récit reste en partie vrai, persiste l’intéressé. Il se serait, en fait, déroulé durant huit mois et non trois ans, entre avril et décembre 2006. L’auteur aurait antidaté les faits pour éviter d’éventuelles poursuites des services de l’immigration. A la fin de 2005, ne parvenant pas à faire renouveler son titre de séjour en France et donc à s’inscrire à l’EHESS, le Sénégalais serait retourné à Dakar pour obtenir un nouveau visa. Il se serait retrouvé coincé sur place et aurait donc pris des chemins clandestins pour revenir en Europe.

Mais même ainsi remanié, son périple comporte toujours des incohérences. A l’aller, il aurait convoyé une voiture, embarqué à Marseille et débarqué au Maroc. Cette liaison maritime n’existe pas, assure-t-on au Port autonome de Marseille. Au retour, les conditions de la traversée jusqu’aux îles Canaries, telles que présentées, diffèrent notablement des témoignages des clandestins que Le Monde avait pu recueillir sur place, en 2006 justement. Mêmes erreurs dans la description de l’assaut de Melilla : les protections décrites ne correspondent pas aux nouvelles défenses installées autour de l’enclave en 2006.

Le dossier d’Omar Ba à l’EHESS contredit sa nouvelle histoire. L’étudiant était bien inscrit en 2005, avec des papiers parfaitement en règle. Il s’y est surtout fait remarquer par ses absences, conduisant sa directrice d’études à interrompre la collaboration. A l’automne 2006, alors qu’il était censé crapahuter comme clandestin loin de la France, il faisait le siège de l’EHESS, à Paris, pour obtenir sa réinscription. Il a alors fourni de fausses attestations et l’école l’a radié. Une restauratrice francilienne, qui a employé l’étudiant comme extra, assure également que son employé avait des papiers en bonne et due forme à cette époque.

L’homme a déjà un lourd passif. Le parquet d’Evry recense huit dossiers au nom d’Omar Ba, « né en 1982, à Thiès (Sénégal) », les date et lieu de naissance officiels du personnage. Le parquet de Créteil a également son nom dans ses fichiers, pour une affaire de faux et usage de faux en écriture privée qui attend d’être jugée. Interrogé à ce sujet, Omar Ba assure n’avoir « aucun commentaire à faire ».

L’éditeur Max Milo se dit « surpris et troublé » par ces faits. « Nous restons cependant solidaires de la cause et de l’analyse qu’Omar Ba défend dans son essai, parce qu’il n’y a pas de doute possible sur la tragédie de l’immigration clandestine, poursuit l’éditeur. Son histoire personnelle est un canevas complexe, comme celle de beaucoup d’immigrés venus d’Afrique portés par l’espoir violent d’atteindre l’eldorado. Ils vivent dans la peur et sont probablement obligés de mentir pour survivre en Europe. »

Modeste maison animée par des hommes de bonne volonté, les Editions du Cygne, qui ont publié Soif d’Europe, avouent leur embarras. Youssef Jebri, le directeur de collection qui a aidé Omar Ba, affirme qu’il n’avait pas les moyens de vérifier l’exactitude des descriptions. « S’il a menti, explique-t-il, cela fera du mal à la cause des clandestins qu’il prétend défendre. »

"Soif d’Europe" : L’imposture d’un immigré

Bathie Ngoye Thiam

16 juillet 2008

Nombreux sont ceux qui, comme moi, ont été affligés en voyant sur TF1, dans le magazine « 7 à 8 » du 25 mai 2008, un immigré raconter son « odyssée infernale » pour arriver en Europe, son « voyage au bout l’enfer ». Mon Dieu ! Quelle aventure ! Mais, à la fin de l’émission, il déclare que s’il a une haine, c’est envers son pays qui n’a pas su lui donner les raisons de rester chez lui. Ce pays est … le Sénégal.

Alors là, je n’ai pu m’empêcher de regarder encore l’émission sur le Net et de lire quelques unes de ses interviews, car beaucoup de journaux français ont consacré des pages entières à l’histoire de ce garçon qui hait son pays. Il s’appelle Omar Ba et était étudiant à l’université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis.

L’immigration est un sujet d’actualité. Il y a plein de discours là-dessus, de débats, de livres, de films. Depuis quelques années, les clandestins ont commencé à parler, racontant leur vécu et leur traversée du désert. L’un des plus médiatisés est Kinsley, un jeune Camerounais qui avait quitté son pays en 2004 pour rejoindre la France en passant par le Maroc. Son périple fut un cauchemar.

« Au Maroc, ils sont 18 à voyager à l’arrière d’un camion avec moins de deux litres d’eau par jour à se partager, sous la chaleur du désert. »

« Deux personnes perdront la vie lors du voyage, suite à un premier naufrage. Mais ne pouvant pas faire marche arrière, Kingsley ne se décourage pas et décide de retenter sa chance, et réussi à arriver sur les côtes espagnoles. »

Son histoire, émouvante, est plausible, vraie, et il y a des témoins, comme le montre un reportage d’« Envoyé Spécial », sur France 2 .

Le réalisateur Cédric Klapish s’en est inspiré pour faire un film « Paris ». Kinsley y joue son propre rôle. Après les dures épreuves, enfin le succès.

Omar Ba, notre cher compatriote, s’est sans doute dit : « Voilà un bon créneau… » Il raconte alors « son » aventure tirée par les cheveux, tellement il en rajoute et s’y perd.

Des Africains ont marché dans le désert pour se rendre en Europe, ont pris des pirogues, se sont cachés dans des bateaux, etc. Nous avons souvent entendu leurs terribles péripéties. Omar, lui, les aurait vécues toutes ou presque.

Il dit qu’ils étaient 50 dans une pirogue pour se rendre clandestinement en Europe. Tous les autres seraient morts, donc il n’y a personne pour le contredire. Mais tout le monde n’est pas dupe. Dans un discours ponctué de « c’était affreux », « c’était atroce », « c’était l’horreur », il tente de toucher les âmes sensibles et crédules.

Il quitte le Sénégal, dit-il, le 5 septembre 2000. Des navires heurtent des pirogues, des passagers se noient, leur pirogue prend l’eau, il est arrête au Tchad et jeté en prison, on le largue avec d’autres prisonniers en plein désert sans eau ni nourriture, l’un d’eux, épuisé, s’affale et le sable, poussé par le vent, l’ensevelit aussitôt, des soldats tirent sur eux, il est arrêté et tabassé par la gendarmerie royale marocaine, il se retrouve en Lybie où il prend une pirogue dans la quelle se trouve, entre autres passagers, une jeune Somalienne qui va mourir, laissant son bébé, son corps est jeté à la mer, la pirogue chavire à cause d’une tempête, beaucoup meurent noyés, il est repêché par des policiers italiens, etc. Il a survécu à tout cela. Superman n’aurait pas fait mieux. Le revoilà au Maroc. Septembre 2001. Un an déjà.

L’aventure, la « vraie » commence. Ils sont 50 dans une pirogue de 30 places.

« Survivre, dit-il au début de l’émission, pour moi, c’était partir. »

Seulement, en 2000, quand il « partait », l’alternance politique venait d’avoir lieu au Sénégal. L’espoir se lisait partout. Les jeunes étaient les plus enthousiastes. Personne ne pensait à aller risquer sa vie dans l’Atlantique. Omar dit qu’il avait 20 ans (parfois c’est 21) et qu’il était parti pour soulager sa famille. Il dit qu’il ne mangeait pas tous les jours, pourtant il était étudiant. Or, il est bien connu que dans les familles très pauvres, on retire les enfants de l’école pour qu’ils aillent travailler. Et il me semble aussi que ces pirogues dont il parle n’ont commencé à transporter des clandestins qu’en 2003. Les aventuriers d’avant cette date voyageaient autrement. Mais bon…

Dans l’émission « 7 à 8 » de TF1 , il dit qu’il avait payé deux millions de francs CFA au passeur, et dans le livre qu’il a écrit pour raconter son histoire et qui a comme titre « Soif d’Europe : Témoignage d’un clandestin », on lit : « À présent celui qui entend son nom (lu par le passeur, la nuit, au bord de la mer) verse les cinq cent mille francs CFA du billet, environ sept cent soixante euros. » Il devait relire son livre avant d’aller à la télé. Et le plus drôle est que le passeur leur demande de montrer leurs passeports. Il ne manquait plus que ça.

Ils avaient quatre sacs de riz. Il écrit : « On est obligé de se serrer la ceinture pour ne pas manquer de nourriture. Au lieu de deux repas quotidiens nous n’en prenons qu’un. » Le troisième jour, il n’y avait plus de riz. Est-ce que 50 personnes, ne mangeant qu’une fois par jour, peuvent finir quatre sacs de riz en moins de trois jours ? Ils devaient être bien petits, ces sacs.

(3ème jour toujours) La pirogue, raconte-il, commence à couler parce qu’il y avait trop de personnes à bord. Cela veut-t-il dire que pendant trois jours la pirogue n’avait pas senti qu’elle était surchargée ?

Un Gambien nommé Mourad (prénom pas très commun en Gambie) décide alors d’alléger la pirogue. Il prend des gens et les jette à la mer. Voyons ! Même des enfants de cinq ans auraient du mal à y croire. Les aventuriers de l’époque étaient des « guerriers », des durs à cuire. Et même s’ils étaient des poltrons, ils n’allaient pas se laisser faire. La logique dicte que les autres (ils étaient 50 dans la pirogue) se jettent sur Mourad. Même si Mourad était aussi herculéen que nos lutteurs, seul avec 49 femmes, ces dernières se seraient ruées sur lui pour le livrer aux requins au lieu de le regarder les jeter une par une par-dessus bord. Dans le récit d’Omar, Mourad en a jeté sept qui hurlaient, se débattaient, gémissaient. « C’était atroce, dit-il, on les entendait respirer sous l’eau. » Pendant ce temps, les autres, attendant tranquillement leur tour, se disaient : « Je ne dois pas dormir sinon il va me surprendre et me jeter. » Qui peut croire cela ? Omar continue : « Y en a qui se sont suicidés parce qu’il y avait plus à boire, y avait plus à manger. » Depuis que les pirogues partent vers l’Europe, c’est la première fois que j’entends parler de gens qui se sont donné la mort parce qu’ils avaient faim et soif. Ces gens sont coriaces et ont toujours l’espoir de s’en sortir, jusqu’à leur dernier souffle. Regardez à la télé les pirogues qui arrivent en Espagne. Il y a souvent des morts et des gens déshydratés ou dans un état lamentable, mais on ne parle pas de suicidés.

Après, il nous dit qu’ils n’étaient plus qu’une dizaine parce que la pirogue qui tanguait en avait jeté quelques uns. Ici, un petit calcul s’impose. Ils étaient 50. Mourad en jette 7. Il reste donc 43. Maintenant, il n’en reste plus que 10. Et 43-10 = 33. Veut-il nous faire croire que 33 se sont suicidés ou sont tombés accidentellement dans l’océan ? Ça fait quand même beaucoup et ce n’est pas du tout facile à avaler. L’instinct de survie est plus tenace que ça. Aussi, pense-t-on à se compter quand on est dans une telle situation pour savoir si on est neuf ou dix ?

Il pousse le bouchon plus loin en disant que l’odeur des cadavres dans la pirogue les importunait. Mais voyons ! Pourquoi ces 10 survivants sont-ils restés avec des cadavres en putréfaction dans la pirogue pendant une semaine ? Omar dit que l’odeur était insupportable. Dans ce cas, mon cher, on prie pour eux et on les balance dans la mer. Ou bien ?

Mourad se suicide, selon Omar, en buvant du gasoil. Tiens ! Comment ce monstre, comme il l’appelle, qui tue pour sauver sa peau, peut-il avoir des problèmes avec sa conscience au point de se suicider ? Le comble, Omar dit que dans ces conditions-là, on cesse de penser, on devient animal. Comment donc imaginer que Mourad, un monstre dès le départ, se mette, lui, à penser ?

Brusquement, Omar s’endort ou s’évanouit après avoir utilisé sa dernière énergie pour lancer un cri de détresse en voyant un navire se diriger vers leur pirogue. Ça me rappelle le film « Titanic » et le radeau de la Méduse, mais ici, une partie du film est « volé ». On ne saura pas comment sont morts les neuf autres. Il se réveille, récupéré par un cargo espagnol qui l’a « débarqué à Fuerteventura, aux Canaries, au milieu des gens qui bronzaient sur la plage. » Oh ! Que c’est émouvant ! J’en pleure presque… de honte, oui. Les journalistes devraient faire des recherches pour retrouver ce cargo. Omar doit quand même se souvenir de la date.

Il dit, parlant de son arrivée en Europe : « Pour la première fois de ma vie, j’ai eu le choix entre le Coca et l’eau, une eau fraîche en plus. » Alors là, c’est vraiment trop. S’il avait deux millions de francs CFA à payer au passeur, il avait donc de quoi s’acheter une bouteille de Coca et de l’eau fraîche dans n’importe quelle ville du Sénégal.

Il va encore plus loin, déclarant que nos familles préfèrent que leurs fils soient au fond de l’océan plutôt que de les voir revenir d’Europe les mains vides. Ah Bon ? J’en apprends des choses.

Il raconte : « Aux Canaries, les autorités m’ont mis dans un avion pour Barcelone. Et j’ai rejoint Paris dans un camion de fruits de mer. J’ai failli mourir gelé dans la chambre froide. » Ndeysaan ! Passez-moi un mouchoir, waay, pour que j’essuie mes larmes. Rester vivant dans la chambre froide, de Barcelone à Paris, même un esquimau aurait du mal à le faire. Ce garçon est vraiment très fort. Il poursuit : « À Paris, je me suis fait expulser. Retour au Sénégal… Finalement, j’ai eu une bourse pour aller étudier en France. »

Ah bon ? Pour avoir une bourse, je croyais qu’il faut soit avoir le bras long, c’est-à-dire connaître des gens très influents, ce qui signifie riches, ou être un excellent étudiant. Quelqu’un qui ne mange pas tous les jours n’a pas dans son entourage des riches qui veulent l’aider. Et un brillant étudiant, sachant qu’il a un bel avenir devant lui, ne laisse pas tomber ses études pour aller risquer sa vie dans la mer. Et puis, comment peut-il abandonner ses études pendant plus de trois ans à essayer de se rendre en France, puis retourner au Sénégal et obtenir une bourse ?

Supposons que son histoire est vraie. Dans ce cas, comment ose-t-il, maintenant qu’il est bien installé à Paris, dire qu’il hait son pays (le Sénégal) alors qu’après toutes ses terribles aventures infructueuses, c’est ce pays qui lui a donné une bourse d’étudiant, donc un billet d’avion pour voyager confortablement et un séjour en toute légalité en France ? Si ce n’est pas de l’ingratitude, dites-moi ce que c’est.

Il y a dans ses paroles et écrits un manque criant de crédibilité. La partie la plus hilarante de l’interview est quand il fait semblant d’être sur le point de pleurer et dit « excusez-moi » Ha ! Ha ! Pourquoi ne dit-il pas que c’est un roman qu’il imaginé en s’inspirant des récits des aventuriers au lieu de vouloir nous faire gober ces sornettes qui n’attendrissent que les Tubaab (Occidentaux) à qui il peut raconter qu’il dormait dans les arbres, avec tous les membres de sa famille, pendant que des lions affamés rôdaient autour ? En tout cas, il ne manque pas d’imagination. J’aime bien le passage où il écrit que sa mère lui avait donné un grigri qu’il avait attaché autour de sa taille avec un fil en peau de léopard. Ça fait très exotique en effet. Signalons qu’il avait auparavant publié deux livres sans succès. Cette fois-ci, il a mis le paquet. Bravo ! La littérature sénégalaise a de beaux jours devant elle.

Mais on peut gagner de l’argent sans mentir et sans cracher sur son pays d’origine.

Bathie Ngoye Thiam, Un Sénégalais choqué par cette histoire à dormir debout.

Voir encore:

La rocambolesque imposture d’Elissa Rhaïs

Laurence Vidal

Le Figaro

28/03/1996

L’empire français brillait de tous ses feux. Dans la capitale, la mode était à l’exotisme, à l’orientalisme et au paternalisme colonial. En cet automne 1919, une musulmane anonyme débarquait à Paris avec ses trois enfants. Riche de deux manuscrits et d’une lettre de recommandation, celle qui se faisait appeler Elissa Rhaïs partait à la conquête des lettres. Bientôt, son nom serait sur toutes les lèvres.. Tandis que les éditions Plon publiaient Saada la Marocaine, un roman, la nouvelle Le Café chantant trouvait place dans les colonnes de La Revue des Deux-Mondes, alors antichambre de l’Académie française.

Aussitôt la critique s’émouvait qu’une «petite musulmane d’Algérie» eût «toute jeune exprimé le désir de fréquenter l’école française de Blida et d’apprendre notre langue». Ici, on saluait «ce talent naturel si franc, cet art de pousser le récit à sa fin, ce don d’évoquer les choses et les gens, de les faire vivre dans leur milieu et parler avec leur accent». Ailleurs, on s’extasiait sur ce «bavardage oriental tempéré par la mesure française». Partout, de La Revue bleue au Journal des débats ou aux Nouvelles Littéraires, on accueillait à bras ouverts cette petite musulmane courageuse et géniale, dont «la plume magique» et «la rare puissance d’évocation» n’avaient pas fini d’épater.

Pendant près de vingt ans, Elissa Rhaïs ne cessera de publier avec un succès grandissant. Kerkeb, danseuse berbère, La Fille des pachas, L’Andalouse, Les Juifs ou la Fille d’Eléazar.. Truffés d’épices, d’eau de rose et de proverbes locaux, sa douzaine de romans, ses nouvelles et ses pièces de théâtre ressuscitaient les coutumes, les couleurs, les saveurs d’un Proche-Orient de légende. Traversés par la passion, muselés par les tabous, ensanglantés par la fatalité, ce n’était que contes merveilleux et tragiques; mirages situés à mi-chemin des Mille et une Nuits et des ouvrages de Pierre Loti ou des frères Tharaud. Conférences, chroniques dans les journaux, voyages, réceptions : Elissa Rhaïs, qui jamais ne se déplaçait sans celui qu’elle présentait comme son fils aîné, Raoul, de dix-huit ans son cadet, fut reçue partout et partout honorée. Dans son appartement luxueux du boulevard Saint-Jacques, les admirateurs qui lui faisaient fête s’appelaient Gide, Mauriac, Colette, Morand ou Sarah Bernhardt. Sa gloire était telle, et son talent – que seul le critique Billy, à l’époque, osa mettre en doute -, et ses mérites, que plus d’une personnalité la soutint lorsqu’elle s’avisa d’aspirer à la Légion d’honneur. Barthou et Poincaré furent de ceux-là, qui en 1938 lui accordaient leur appui.

En vue de lui décerner la rosette, on procède donc à l’enquête d’usage… En 1939, le scandale éclate : Leila Bou Mendil (également connue. sous le nom de Rosine Boumendil), alias Elissa Rhaïs, est illettrée, presque analphabète! Elle n’a fait que signer les livres écrits par son prétendu fils, en fait un parent pauvre, Raoul Dahan, qu’elle tient sous sa coupe financière et amoureuse depuis plus de vingt ans. Lorsque, en décembre, reçue au ministère de l’Instruction publique, où elle espère l’annonce officieuse de sa décoration, Elissa Rhaïs se voit démasquée, elle s’évanouit. De ce coma, elle ne se relèvera pas. Et mourra quelques mois plus tard, oubliée de tous.

Le scandale est étouffé. Le monde de l’édition, victime de la géniale imposture, opte pour la conspiration du silence. La France en guerre a d’autres. drames à pleurer. Toute trace s’apprête à disparaître de la naguère célèbre Elissa Rhaïs… Toute trace? Pas forcément. Car Raoul Dahan, plus anonyme que jamais, mais marié et père de famille, va, sur son lit de mort, confier à son fils son secret et tous ses manuscrits précieusement conservés. Quatorze ans plus tard, en 1982, ce fils prendra la plume (1). Sous le nom de Paul Tabet, il clamera à la face du monde la fabuleuse histoire d’un jeune homme pauvre, juif d’Alger pétri de culture française, qui, tombé sous la coupe d’une énergique cousine, la laissera signer les milliers de pages qu’il écrira au fil de vingt années. Dans ce récit romanesque en diable, où certains noms sont maquillés, et qu’il présente, précisément, comme un «roman», Paul Tabet racontera au passage le personnage extrême de Leïla Bou Mendil, née en 1882 à Blida, de père musulman et de mère juive, mariée à l’âge de 17 ans, recluse quinze ans durant dans un harem, où elle frôle la folie. De cette même Leïla/Rosine, rendue à la liberté par la mort de son mari, bientôt riche héritière, et qui s’entiche du timide cousin dont elle fait son secrétaire et son amant. D’elle, toujours, immonde et fascinante, ancienne captive devenue geôlière, qui conte à son «protégé» les récits merveilleux entendus au harem, histoires qui nourriront les premiers textes de Raoul. D’elle, enfin, splendide comédienne qui, se joue du Tout-Paris avec un panache qui force l’admiration…

Après la mort d’Elissa Rhaïs, Raoul n’écrira plus. De toute façon, les portes de l’édition lui sont fermées. Et lorsque, au nom du père, Paul Tabet exhume le passé, et la mystification, il est violemment contesté par les parents d’Elissa, qui, à leur tour, l’accusent… d’imposture. La réédition, cette année, du roman Le Sein blanc ressemble à une réhabilitation. On y découvre l’atmosphère hautement sentimentale, faite d’amours impossibles, de violences cachées et d’interdits vengeurs, qui fit le succès d’Elissa Rhaïs.

Mais si le charme désuet est indéniable, de cet Orient d’Epinal plus conforme aux goûts des années 20 qu’aux nôtres, le plus romanesque est ailleurs : dans la maléfique emprise qu’exerça autrefois une femme blessée sur un très jeune homme, histoire d’une fabuleuse fusion d’identités, contée par Paul Tabet avec une grande sensibilité.

(1) Elissa Rhaïs, par Paul Tabet, Grasset, 1982.

LE SEIN BLANCD’ELISSA RHAÏS.L’Archipel, 98 F.

Voir enfin:

FRANCE 2 20.50

ELISSA RHAIS, une imposture littéraire

Paul De Brem

La Vie

9 septembre 1993

Dans les années 30, en Algérie, une riche et magnifique jeune femme, mi-juive mi-arabe, et qui vit seule avec ses domestiques, accueille chez elle Raoul, le fils d’une parente. Leïla et Raoul tombent amoureux. Lui, fasciné par ses talents de conteuse, écrit la vie de Leïla dans un roman qui connaît un grand succès. Elle, pourtant analphabète, s’en prétend l’auteur sous le pseudonyme d’Elissa Rhaïs, afin de pénétrer les milieux littéraires parisiens, d’en devenir la coqueluche et d’obtenir la revanche sur la vie qu’elle attend depuis toujours.

Elissa Rhaïs est l’histoire vraie d’une imposture littéraire, révélée au grand public en 1982 par le propre fils de Raoul, lequel lui a tout raconté avant de mourir, et confirmée par des études graphologiques. Le téléfilm tiré de cette rocambolesque histoire, admirablement interprétée par Anne Canovas et Emmanuel Salinger, explore aussi les complexes relations amoureuses entre une très séduisante dissimulatrice un rien mythomane et son "nègre", tenu par son amour de cacher la vérité et de jouer le rôle que sa maîtresse lui impose.

Elle, particulièrement, paraît mystérieuse: d’où lui vient ce désir de mystification ? Sensuel et somptueux, le Maghreb évoqué ici par des images très soignées est celui des fontaines, des mosaïques et de la lumière. Ce téléfilm français décidément très riche se veut aussi une réflexion sur la vérité en littérature: à quel moment une histoire vraie, mais romancée, devient-elle mensonge ?


Impostures littéraires: La mise au pavois de Stéphane Hessel en dit beaucoup sur le désarroi intellectuel de notre société (Looking back at the long tradition of literary fakes)

4 mars, 2013
Les choses ne sont pas toujours telles qu’elles paraissent être : noires, blanches, grises ou brunes.  Margaret B. Jones (alias Margaret Seltzer)
Je suis une personne honnête et je me suis laissé entraîner d’une manière un peu légère dans un projet te concernant auquel je n’aurais pas dû participer. Les gens avec lesquels j’ai travaillé m’ont un peu dégoûté après coup parce qu’ils se sont servis de moi comme d’un instrument pour te nuire. Et ce n’est pas cela que je cherchais. Je te le jure. Je ne voulais pas te nuire mais essayer de comprendre ce phénomène étrange que tu es. Mon livre sur ton affaire américaine je l’ai écrit parce que ce sont eux qui me l’ont demandé. Le fait de chercher à te rencontrer était partie du même projet. Marcela Iacub
C’est l’occasion pour moi de revenir sur deux idées fausses. [...] L’autre erreur est de m’accorder le rôle de corédacteur de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme. Stéphane Hessel
Non, malheureusement pour moi. Mon éditeur ne me refuse rien. Il me faut deviner si le livre est mauvais ou non, parce qu’il ne me le dira pas. Frédéric Beigbeder
Nous pensons que la mise au pavois de Stéphane Hessel, malgré ses accommodements avec la vérité historique et sa faiblesse argumentative, en dit beaucoup sur le désarroi intellectuel de notre société et sur le rôle aberrant qu’y joue le marketing des individus qu’on transforme à bas prix en luminaires idéologiques. Richard Pasquier
C’est une espèce de nouveau Petit Livre rouge. Le libelle dans le vent qu’il était de bon ton d’offrir à Noël. Un cadeau donnant bonne conscience à celui qui l’offre et celui qui le reçoit. Son titre : Indignez-vous ! Anne Fulda (Le Figaro)
Quand on pense que ceux qui l’achètent par dizaines pour l’offrir autour d’eux y voient un programme d’action, une philosophie morale, un bréviaire, on est consterné tant le contenu manque de contenu, ce qui ne lui est guère reproché en raison de son statut d’icône. Mais la démonstration est si faible et la plume si incertaine que l’appel n’a pas la puissance d’un pamphlet. Qui pourrait décemment s’opposer à un texte dégoulinant de bons sentiments, aux grands principes, aux grands idéaux et aux grandes idées qui y son énoncées ? (…) Il nous appelle donc à l’indignation permanente en toutes circonstances et en tous lieux, même si cette manière de mettre ainsi sur une même ligne morale la situation des sans-papiers, la dérégulation du capitalisme et les crimes du totalitarisme national-socialiste devraient nous… indigner. Pierre Assouline
Radios et télés se sont saisies de Stéphane Hessel pour le figer dans son statut et sa statue de père Noël des bonnes consciences, en Tirésias des plateaux. Pierre Marcelle (Libération)
A défaut de jouir sous son propre nom, (le mystificateur) aime à jouir, sous le nom d’un autre du succès de son propre talent. Charles Nodier (Questions de littérature légale)
Et pourtant, que la prière est pauvre au regard de la ferveur qu’elle suscite ! La bombe est désespérément artisanale : quelques combats à la mode, les sans-papiers, les retraites, l’insoumission enseignante, amalgamés dans une dénonciation générale de la mondialisation, des banques, d’Israël et des Américains. Le cocktail est pauvre mais explosif dès lors que vous en secouez les ingrédients dans un shaker en acier inoxydable, estampillé Conseil national de la Résistance. Car tout est là, dans le déroulement complaisant d’un horizon régressif. L’art des grands indignés, c’est la conduite au rétroviseur. Ce bricolage idéologique n’aurait guère de sens s’il ne permettait l’érection hâtive d’une statue du commandeur, un gouvernement de la Libération peint en rose, la franche convivialité de l’après-guerre, tendant la main, par-delà les Trente Glorieuses, aux éclopés des Quarante Piteuses que nous sommes devenus. Ce qui soutient le combat des indignés, non de ceux qui luttent hors d’Europe pour la démocratie mais de ceux qui doutent en Europe de celle-ci, c’est la certitude de voir le monde de demain ne pas tenir les promesses de celui d’hier. C’est, derrière la posture tiers-mondiste, la piqûre de rappel d’un entre-soi européen si confortable. L’effort rhétorique, misérable de grossièreté mais remarquable d’efficacité, vise à offrir une causalité diabolique à cette cruelle déconvenue. L’anathème est une garantie contre l’analyse, le déni bloque le débat et paralyse l’action démocratique. (…) L’indignation n’est ici qu’une récusation sublimée de l’avenir. Aussi bien l’impuissance de la démarche n’est-elle pas le problème, mais la solution. L’échec fait partie du programme. Le vieil homme parle mais il se garde de rien dire. C’est la dérobade qui fait la force du mouvement. L’anathème est une garantie contre l’analyse, le déni bloque le débat et paralyse l’action démocratique. Ce qui soutient le combat, c’est le refus de prendre congé d’un monde où la rigueur budgétaire fait figure d’obscénité, la crise, de conspiration ploutocratique, la mondialisation, d’option récusable, et la solidarité européenne, de mystification répressive. L’indignation, c’est ce qui reste du rêve quand on a tout oublié, et de la révolution quand on a perdu les soviets, l’Armée rouge et le Parti fer de lance de la classe ouvrière, c’est un extrémisme qui n’a pas les moyens. Jean-Louis Bourlanges
Le problème est d’abord éthique : on ment sur la marchandise. Un livre qui ment sur son label c’est comme une lessive qui affiche “laver blanc” et qui teinterait vos chemises en noir.  (…) à mon sens, c’est l’éditeur le seul responsable : il a la charge, comme le rédacteur en chef d’un journal, de vérifier les sources. Philippe di Folco
D’une manière générale, on note que ces histoires d’impostures réunissent trois personnes ou potentialités : l’impostant (l’imposteur en devenir), la future personne dupée, et le témoin qui atteste de l’honnêteté ou de la véracité des propos émis par l’impostant. C’est une règle en général gagnante à condition que l’impostant, comme au poker, ne révèle son jeu ni au futur dupé ni au témoin. Un jeu pervers, donc. Un « double-blind », un double aveugle maîtrisé par celui qui tire les ficelles. Je pense, et cela peut s’expliquer facilement, que celui qui est dupé prend du plaisir à l’être… Nous sommes dans l’ordre de la séduction et du simulacre, mais aussi et surtout dans une forme de musique, celle des mots ronronnant et caressant… « Cette personne me plait bien : elle sait me parler, j’aime écouter ses histoires qui me font rêver… Philippe di Folco

Après Wilkomirski, Holstein, Defonseca

PPDA, Enderlin, Daniel, Riché, Meyssan, Macé-Scaron, Boniface

 BHL, PPDA, Drucker, Macé-Scaron, Iacub …

Voici… Hessel !

A l’heure où l’actualité nous fournit coup sur coup les impostures d’une célèbre carnivore repentie (et défenseuse acharnée depuis lors du cochon) et de l’auteur  adulé du "nouveau petit livre rouge" des bonnes consciences de gauche et prétendu co-rédacteur de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme, évidente victime, dans ses dernières années, du pire des abus de faiblesse

Retour, avec le livre de Philippe Di Folco, sur la longue histoire de ces impostures littéraires (mais aussi, sans parler de nos cryptomnésiques et avec le mélange systématiques des genres, presque inséparablement médiatiques) …

Qui, comme le rappelait tout récemment le président du CRIF, en disent tant "sur le désarroi intellectuel de notre société et le rôle aberrant qu’y joue le marketing des individus qu’on transforme à bas prix en luminaires idéologiques"

Les grandes impostures littéraires

Juliette Cua

L’Express

09/07/2009

Le discrédit jeté par l’enquête du Monde sur le témoignage du sénégalais Omar Ba rappelle que l’imposture littéraire est chose courante. Romans ou essais publiés sous pseudonymes, écrits attribués à un être imaginaire, c’est souvent le critique qui flaire le piège. Rappel de quelques impostures littéraires.

Le discrédit jeté par l’enquête du Monde sur le témoignage du sénégalais Omar Ba rappelle que l’imposture littéraire est chose courante. Romans ou essais publiés sous pseudonymes, écrits attribués à un être imaginaire, c’est souvent le critique qui flaire le piège. Rappel de quelques impostures littéraires.

Omar Ba. En juillet 2009, Le Monde révèle dans une enquête que les récits d’Omar Ba dans Soif d’Europe puis Je suis venu, j’ai vu, je n’y crois plus (Max Milo), sont truffés d’invraisemblances, d’incohérences. Omar Ba raconte la trajectoire d’un clandestin qui a traversé au péril de sa vie les mers et les déserts pour rejoindre la France. Un "imposteur" dénoncé par la diaspora sénégalaise. L’Express avait cru à son histoire.

Le couple Radzicki-Rosenblat. C’est pour ce cas une imposture littéraire évitée grâce à la perspicacité d’un professeur de l’Université du Michigan. Roma Radzicki et Herman Rosenblat étaient prêts à publier leur trop belle histoire : celle d’une enfant de 9 ans qui aurait sauvé un adolescent de quinze ans en lui donnant du pain dans un camp près de Buchenwald, et qui s’étaient retrouvés et mariés des années plus tard à New York. Les doutes de l’universitaire suffirent à annuler la publication du récit, dont Oprah Winfrey avait cependant déjà fait la publicité à la télévision ….

Misha Defonseca. En 2008, Misha Defonseca avoue la supercherie de son autobiographie, Vivre avec les loups. Son histoire de petite fille juive traversant seule l’Europe à la recherche de ses parents, en pleine seconde guerre mondiale, est fausse. Elle présente ses excuses à ses lecteurs, et son éditeur est amené à faire de même.

James Frey. En 2003, Oprah Winfrey lance sur son plateau l’auteur d’une "autobiographie" racontant ses années de galère et sa rédemption. Vendu à 3,5 millions d’exemplaires dans le monde, ce livre est, en réalité, une pure fiction… N’arrivant pas à faire publier son roman, James Frey avait préféré "frauder" et transformer son récit en autobiographie. A lire sur le blog (fermé) de Laurent Mauriac et Pascal Riché.

J.T. Leroy. En 1999, Jeremy Terminator Leroy devient la coqueluche du tout New-York et des écrivains gays, avec Sarah. Il renouvelle son succès avec Le livre de Jérémie (Denoël). En 2005, le New York Times enquête et pousse Laura Albert à révéler qu’elle est l’auteur des livres et du personnage de J.T. Leroy. Elle s’était faite passer pour la mère de J.T. Leroy. Interview de Laura Albert au magazine littéraire américain The Paris Review.

Jack-Alain Léger. En 1997, Jack-Alain Léger publie sous le nom de Paul Smaïl deux romans (Vivre me tue, Balland) présentés comme le récit autobiographique, "d’un jeune beur de trente ans, né de parents marocains, titulaire d’un DEA de littérature comparée". Le livre est plébiscité. En 2001, Smaïl publie aux Éditions Denoël un autre livre Ali le magnifique. Très vite, Jack-Alain Léger avoue qu’il souhaite qu’on lise une oeuvre pour elle-même, sans préjugés sur l’auteur et qu’il aime porter des masques : Melmoth, Dashiell Hedayat, Eve Saint-Roch, c’est lui. Voir Le cache-cache de Smaïl d’Olivier Le Naire dans L’Express.

Chimo. En 1996, les éditions Plon publient un roman "érotico-banlieusard" sur les expériences sexuelles d’une adolescente, attribué à un jeune beur. Le manuscrit de Chimo serait arrivé à la maison d’éditions par l’intermédiaire d’un avocat resté anonyme. Lila dit ça rencontre un certains succès. Le doute sur l’identité de l’écrivain est immédiat. Olivier Le Naire dans L’Express pense immédiatement à une supercherie et lance les noms de plusieurs écrivains confirmés, susceptibles d’avoir écrit ce récit.

Binjamin Wilkormirski. En 1995, Binjamin Wilkormirski publie Fragments, une enfance 1939-1945, qui raconte sa vie dans les camps. La presse encense le livre pendant quatre ans avant qu’un journaliste n’émette des doutes. L’auteur est en fait Bruno Doesseker Bruno, fils d’Yvonne Grosjean, associé avec une affabulatrice, Lauren Stratford, qui se faisait passer pour Laura Grabowski, soi-disante survivante des camps d’extermination. Voir L’imposture inconsciente par Olivier Le Naire.

Romain Gary-Emile Ajar. La plus célèbre des impostures littéraires peut-être … De 1975 à 1980, Romain Gary inventa un écrivain imaginaire du nom d’Emile Ajar. Romain Gary, primé au Goncourt en 1956 obtient un second prix Goncourt en 1975, avec La vie devant soi, publié sous le nom d’Emile Ajar.

Elissa Rhaïs. Des années 20 à 1939, les romans d’Elissa Rhaïs conquièrent la critique parisienne (La fille d’Eleazar en 1921). L’auteur est une femme musulmane d’Algérie, arrivée à Paris avec ses trois enfants, et elle décrit dans un français parfait l’ambiance du Proche-Orient… En 1939, l’enquête menée avant de lui remettre la légion d’honneur met à jour la supercherie : Elissa Rhaïs est illettrée et presque analphabète. Elle n’a fait que signer les livres écrits par son prétendu fils Raoul Dahan, un cousin qu’elle tient sous sa coupe. Le monde littéraire tient le secret. Ce n’est qu’à la mort de Raoul Dahan et à la publication par son fils en 1982 de l’histoire complète que le scandale ressurgit.

Voir aussi:

Impostures littéraires

L’imposture, mode d’emploi

François Busnel

L’Express

23/11/2006

Faux Rimbaud, vrai Gary… Dans un abécédaire passionnant, Philippe Di Folco recense les mystifications qui jalonnent le monde des livres. Une enquête réjouissante sur la création littéraire

Les imposteurs, en littérature, sont légion. Ne nous attardons pas, ici, sur le cas de ces écrivains dont on estimera que la production remporte un succès immérité ("La malveillance et le dénigrement, écrivait Chateaubriand, sont les deux caractères de l’esprit français", de sorte que l’on sera toujours un imposteur – ou plutôt un usurpateur – aux yeux d’un tiers plus ou moins amer, plus ou moins malheureux), mais sur celui, beaucoup plus objectif, des mystificateurs. Qu’est-ce qu’un imposteur? Un écrivain qui avance masqué, auteur d’un texte qui ment sur sa nature. Ces faussaires en tous genres ont inspiré à Philippe Di Folco une somme tragi-comique qui fera grincer des dents ceux qui, dans un milieu littéraire de plus en plus gagné par l’esprit de sérieux, prennent l’air effondré afin d’extorquer du crédit aux crédules. Gageons qu’il ravira, en revanche, les véritables amoureux des lettres.

"Guillaume Apollinaire a-t-il endossé la paternité de manuscrits qui n’étaient pas de lui? Qui est l’auteur d’Histoire d’O? Corneille a-t-il réellement écrit les comédies de Molière? Comment le journal d’Adolf Hitler, un faux grossier, a-t-il pu abuser la presse internationale? Qui est vraiment Jack-Alain Léger? Les Mémoires de Napoléon ont-ils été trafiqués? Shakespeare a-t-il seulement existé?" Voilà quelques-unes des questions (des énigmes?) abordées dans cet abécédaire érudit, écrit à la façon d’un reportage.

L’imposture littéraire ne date pas d’hier. Ainsi le best-seller du IVe siècle de notre ère fut-il intégralement forgé par de savants imposteurs. La grande bibliothèque d’Alexandrie, raconte Di Folco, regorgeait de faux louant la vie et l’oeuvre d’Alexandre le Grand. Au lieu de les détruire, il fut décidé de les réunir au sein d’un "canon alexandrin". Il n’y eut ensuite qu’à inventer un auteur unique à cette compilation littéraire, un certain Callisthène, que l’on alla même jusqu’à doter d’une biographie – parfaitement fictive.

Zola inaugure une agréable lignée

Falsifier un texte fut, pour de nombreux écrivains, un passe-temps. Apollinaire est à la lisière du plagiat lorsqu’il publie Les Onze Mille Verges, orgie fantaisiste et débridée "empruntée" à plusieurs obscurs auteurs de romans érotiques de la fin du XIXe siècle. Le cas d’Emile Zola est différent et inaugure une agréable lignée d’impostures: celles commises par de joyeux plaisantins. Le futur auteur des Rougon-Macquart, apprenant, à la mort de Baudelaire, que l’oeuvre intégrale du poète allait paraître, donna à la presse des poèmes prétendus inédits du grand homme. Le canular fit long feu: on découvrit que les poèmes étaient l’?uvre d’un protégé de Zola, Paul Alexis.

Que cherchent ceux qui se rendent coupables de ces mystifications? A échapper à la critique, tout d’abord. A la prendre au piège, ensuite. Le cas de Romain Gary se transformant en Emile Ajar et remportant une seconde fois le prix Goncourt est célèbre. Celui du faux Rimbaud l’est moins, mais relève du même désir de revanche par l’humour, cette politesse du désespoir. L’affaire remonte à 1949. Le journal Combat publia des extraits d’un inédit de Rimbaud intitulé "La Chasse spirituelle", qui se concluait par un musical et rimbaldien "Certes il est d’autres rives". Maurice Saillet et Pascal Pia, critiques redoutés, préfacèrent l’inédit, qui fut aussitôt publié en livre. Quelque temps plus tard, deux comédiens récemment étrillés par la critique se présentèrent comme les auteurs du faux. Que l’on attribue désormais à Verlaine…

Désopilante lorsqu’elle prend la forme du canular ou du pastiche (on se souviendra longtemps de Marguerite Duraille par Patrick Rambaud et des supercheries de Dominique Noguez), l’imposture peut aussi devenir tragique. Notamment lorsqu’elle met en scène le vol de l’oeuvre d’un autre – généralement un inconnu. C’est ce que raconte l’écrivain espagnol José Angel Manas dans Je suis un écrivain frustré: un professeur de lettres s’approprie le roman d’une de ses élèves, puis la séquestre. L’imposteur, ici, troque les habits du farceur pour ceux de l’escroc. Dans son dernier ouvrage, Brooklyn Follies, Paul Auster met ainsi ses héros aux prises avec un bibliothécaire qui souhaite revendre un faux manuscrit perdu, celui du livre fondateur de la littérature américaine, La Lettre écarlate, de Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Mettre les autres devant leur vanité

Curieusement, ces dernières années, l’imposture littéraire se pratique beaucoup moins en France qu’à l’étranger. Philippe Di Folco revient sur quelques cas édifiants. Celui de James Frey, notamment, auteur d’une "autobiographie" racontant ses années de galère et sa rédemption. Vendu à 3,5 millions d’exemplaires dans le monde, ce livre est, en réalité, une pure fiction… Refusé par tous les éditeurs, il n’a pu être publié que lorsque Frey prétendit qu’il racontait sa "vraie" vie. Dernière imposture en date – et qui mériterait sa place dans la réimpression du livre de Di Folco – le subterfuge employé par Jonathan Littell lorsqu’il adressa son manuscrit aux éditeurs, usant d’un pseudonyme qui résonne comme un sobriquet: Jean Petit.

Di Folco ne dénonce ni ne démasque. Il se contente d’apostropher l’amateur de livres. Et si les impostures étaient les véritables triomphes? Oscar Wilde écrivit, jadis, un éloge du mensonge, du faux, du voile: les impostures, canulars, supercheries, escroqueries et autres mystifications servent d’abord à mettre les autres devant leur vanité. La littérature n’est jamais bien loin de l’illusionnisme. Voilà ce que montre ce document passionnant.

Voir également:

Philippe Di Folco – De Claude, fausse Jeanne D’Arc à l’ET de Santilli… Le bluff était presque parfait !

25.05.12

Auteur – Philippe Di Folco a signé une trentaine de livres dont Les grandes impostures littéraires, en 2006.

Scénariste – Il a notamment participé à l’écriture du film Tournée de Matthieu Amalric.

Longtemps attiré par les sciences du langage et la sémiologie, il s’est toujours intéressé aux imposteurs. En 2011, il a d’ailleurs publié un Petit traité de l’imposture. Il revient aujourd’hui avec l’ouvrage Histoires d’imposteurs : une invitation à mieux connaître les vies d’usurpateurs, de manipulateurs, de menteurs qui ont marqué leur époque, et qui ont tenté de faire fortune sur le dos de leurs congénères.

Philippe Di Folco nous parle de ces femmes et de ces hommes, qu’il voit parfois comme des déclassés, ou d’irréductibles « démolisseurs de l’ordre social ».

Philippe di Folco, auteur de Histoires d’imposteurs publié en 2012 aux éditions "La Librairie Vuibert", du Petit Traité de l’imposture publié en 2011 chez "Larousse", etc.

Vous avez sélectionné quelques rois de l’esbroufe et du mensonge pour votre livre Histoires d’imposteurs. Quels sont leurs points communs ? Pourquoi nous interpellent-ils autant ?

Philippe Di Folco : Au cours de mes travaux précédents, j’ai cherché à comprendre les interconnexions existant entre le corps social, le corps politique et le corps désirant.

Tout en exerçant un métier quelque peu alimentaire, j’allais dans des séminaires, le soir. J’ai été à l’écoute d’intellectuels à la fin des années 1980, dont l’essentielle de la réflexion tournait autour de la question du discours. Tout est parti de cette interrogation : « Qu’est-ce que parler veut dire ? »

Vous savez, il est très facile de faire bifurquer une trajectoire humaine. Vous dîtes oralement que vous êtes médecin, et en fait vous ne l’êtes pas. Dans certaines situations paniques, cela va fonctionner… Pourquoi ?

C’est finalement le procès du langage qui jaillit à travers ces histoires d’impostures.

Les imposteurs brisent notre pacte social, qui est tacite : nous ne pouvons pas dire des bêtises dans notre vie de tous les jours. Mais eux le font, et avec brio !

La liberté comme cheval de bataille

Quels sont les traits d’union entre ces différents personnages ?

Philippe Di Folco : Je dirais que les imposteurs ont la volonté d’être libre d’écrire leur propre « roman de soi », leur singulière épopée afin d’en être le héros et ce, au prix de simulacres assez simple au fond : prétendre être le contraire de ce qu’ils sont.

Même s’il est difficile de reconstituer la vie d’une personne en général, et de l’imposteur dans notre cas particulier, on peut noter que ces individus éprouvent à un moment donné de leur existence, le besoin viscéral de changer de peau.

Du coup, nous nous sentons proches d’eux car qui n’a pas eu l’envie un jour, de se fondre dans la peau de quelqu’un d’autre ?

Les mots ont leur poids. Quand je dis : « changer de peau, cela me touche », cela nous ramène à la notion de surface… Quand nous rencontrons quelqu’un, nous sommes face à la « superficie » de la personne, à son aura, à sa façon de bouger les lèvres, de se mouvoir dans l’espace…

Mais en réalité, qui peut savoir ce qu’il se passe réellement dans la tête de son interlocuteur ?

Et puis il y en a d’autres qui usent en plus d’artifices sous la forme d’objets, d’imitations, de leurres. La panoplie de l’imposteur semble infinie.

Plus l’imposture est énorme, et mieux elle semble fonctionner…

Philippe Di Folco : Nous arrivons là dans le domaine de la comédie. Tout individu doit transiger avec le jeu social, s’en accommoder, l’arraisonner, le transgresser, pour arriver à ses fins : survivre.

D’une manière générale, on note que ces histoires d’impostures réunissent trois personnes ou potentialités : l’impostant (l’imposteur en devenir), la future personne dupée, et le témoin qui atteste de l’honnêteté ou de la véracité des propos émis par l’impostant. C’est une règle en général gagnante à condition que l’impostant, comme au poker, ne révèle son jeu ni au futur dupé ni au témoin. Un jeu pervers, donc. Un « double-blind », un double aveugle maîtrisé par celui qui tire les ficelles.

Je pense, et cela peut s’expliquer facilement, que celui qui est dupé prend du plaisir à l’être… Nous sommes dans l’ordre de la séduction et du simulacre, mais aussi et surtout dans une forme de musique, celle des mots ronronnant et caressant… « Cette personne me plait bien : elle sait me parler, j’aime écouter ses histoires qui me font rêver… »

C’est le triomphe de l’étrangeté surgissant au cœur de l’ennui.

La stratégie hasardeuse

Philippe Di Folco : L’imposteur se construit en tant que personnage, au sein d’une mise en scène qui peut être fulgurante. Il s’engouffre à travers une brèche. Tout est ensuite question d’intelligence et d’instinct de survie.

Le cas de la princesse Caraboo traduit ce processus : cette femme à l’allure exotique, a débarqué mystérieusement sur la côte anglaise, près de Bristol, en 1817.

Elle a affirmé être une princesse originaire de l’île de Javasu… Elle a dupé un juge, plusieurs familles qui au fond n’existèrent sur cette jeune étrangère : enfin de l’animation ! Elle a réussi son coup car elle a été une très bonne comédienne.

Elle n’a eu besoin que de peu d’artifices (quelques pièces d’origine étrangère dans sa poche, un turban dans les cheveux, un accent sorti de nulle part…) pour jeter de la poudre aux yeux…

Parlez-nous de cette pièce Le Docteur amoureux, jouée au XIXème siècle. Elle est au cœur d’une imposture invraisemblable…

Philippe di Folco : L’imposture s’est déroulée en 1845, à une période marquée par le boom du théâtre romantique.

La Comédie-Française était la scène officielle. L’Odéon, le second théâtre français, était dirigé par un certain Victor-Auguste Lireux.

Ce directeur, qui voulait redorer le blason de l’Odéon, a reçu un jour Ernest de Calonne. Ce dernier était un jeune homme arriviste qui n’avait composé que des pièces ridicules, sans intérêt. Intelligent, le jeune homme avait cherché un moyen pour se faire connaître, pour atteindre enfin la gloire. Il a alors eu l’idée de commettre un faux et d’en user, en fabriquant un pseudo manuscrit original de Molière.

Il a donc montré ce soi-disant manuscrit de Molière à Lireux : alors que l’on ne connaît aucun manuscrit de la main de Molière, le directeur de l’Odéon uniquement obsédé par sa notoriété, ne s’est pas méfié. Il s’est laissé duper.

Inutile de vous dire que la pièce Le Docteur amoureux a remporté un vif succès !

L’imposture a pourtant été révélée par Théophile Gautier le soir même. L’écrivain, savait pertinemment que Molière n’avait laissé aucun manuscrit.

Quand la vérité a surgi, le Tout-Paris s’est amusé de la mésaventure du directeur de l’Odéon. Celui-ci a d’ailleurs mal terminé sa vie…

Quant à l’imposteur, il est retourné à ses études et est devenu professeur de lettres à Alger tout en continuant à écrire des comédies…

Claude, Dame des Armoises et fausse Jeanne D’Arc (XVe siècle). Mary Willcocks, la Princesse Caraboo (XVIIIe siècle). Thèrèse Humbert (1856-1918) qui fut condamnée à 5 ans de travaux forcée pour l’escroquerie de l’héritage Crawford. Screenshot du film de Ray Santili mettant en scène la prétendue autopsie du cadavre d’un extraterrestre de Roswell

Nous avons tous entendu parler de « la fausse Jeanne », cette femme qui a usurpé l’identité de Jeanne d’Arc, cinq ans après sa mort. Pouvez-vous nous raconter cette folle épopée ?

Philippe di Folco : Comme nombre d’historiens, je continue à croire qu’il y a eu plusieurs fausses Jeanne d’Arc. La plus célèbre est Claude, dont je parle dans mon livre.

Cette Claude a surgit le 30 mai 1436, près du bourg de Saint-Privat. Elle disait être la Pucelle de France. Elle avait 26 ans, ressemblait à Jeanne d’Arc et portait l’habit d’homme.

En s’habillant en homme, chose rare à l’époque, Claude a en quelque sorte signé un acte proto-féministe en s’inscrivant dans la continuité de sa déjà légendaire prédécesseure !

Les deux frères de Jeanne d’Arc ont alors été avertis de l’arrivée de cette jeune femme. Ils l’ont reconnue.Ils sont partis tous les trois à Bacquillon, passer les fêtes de la Pentecôte, durant une semaine. Nul ne sait ce qui s’est passé, ce qui s’est dit entre eux.

La grande énigme de l’histoire tourne autour de ces questions : Les frères de Jeanne ont-ils été dupés ? S’ils ne l’ont pas été, ont-ils passé un accord avec Claude ? Ou bien la fausse Jeanne a-t-elle brandi un argument idéologique pour les faire plier ?

Il reste beaucoup de zones d’ombre dans cette histoire…

L’imposteur a souvent beaucoup d’amis

Excommuniée, menacée d’être jetée en prison, cette fausse Jeanne a été enlevée par le Comte de Wurtenberg, puis elle s’est mariée avec le chevalier Robert des Armoises. Mais l’histoire ne s’est pas arrêtée là !

Cette Jeanne a toujours bénéficié d’appuis, dans son parcours chaotique.

Elle a ensuite quitté son mari, elle a vécu en concubinage avec un clerc de Metz, puis elle est partie en Italie. Elle est revenue à Orléans en 1439. Sa renommée n’a cessé de grandir.

Une héroïne, ça ne peut pas mourir

L’épopée de la fausse Jeanne s’est arrêtée après sa rencontre avec le Roi. Il lui a demandé de partager le fameux secret qui le liait avec la vraie Jeanne d’Arc.

La jeune femme est alors tombée à genoux, a demandé grâce et a confessé ses péchés, …le Roi a été touché par ses aveux et il a juste décidé de l’éloigner. Elle s’est alors installée en pays d’Anjou.

Des héros immortels

L’histoire de Jeanne nous renvoie à cette incapacité à intégrer la mort des personnes célèbres et charismatiques.

D’une façon générale, le personnage public ne peut pas mourir. Il ne disparaît pas. La mémoire est vive, comme éternelle. D’où les rumeurs « il n’est pas mort ». Les clones et les imitateurs sortent alors de l’ombre et surfent sur le mythe.

À la fin du XIXe siècle, une femme, Thérèse Humbert, a été au centre de l’une des plus grandes escroqueries de son temps. Elle était une Bernard Madoff au féminin…

Philippe Di Folco : L’histoire s’est déroulée entre 1878 et 1905. Thérèse Humbert est arrivée à Paris, « armée » d’un mari faible, qui était cependant le fils d’un ministre puissant de la IIIème République.

Cette femme avait dans sa valise un bien précieux. Il s’agissait d’un testament américain (qui en réalité, n’existait pas) qui lui accordait 100 millions de francs-or.

Elle a été intégrée dans les milieux aisés. Elle avait du bagout, une bonne tête, un côté « poissonnière » généreuse et avide de savoirs. Elle était très intelligente, et elle possédait une excellente mémoire, comme bon nombre d’imposteurs d’ailleurs…

Cette dame, grâce à une combine intellectuelle et financière, a créé une rente foncière. Ce fut là une vraie entreprise avec des autorisations en règle.

Quand le scandale a éclaté, elle est tombée car elle n’avait pas le droit de toucher à ces fonds-là. Le mensonge lié à son faux testament n’a pas été la cause de sa perte. C’est la petite ironie de l’histoire…

Les imposteurs ont l’art de flairer le bon filon pour gagner de l’argent… L’affaire Roswell, en est un exemple parlant. Quelle est la véritable version de l’affaire Roswell ?

Philippe di Folco : L’histoire de Roswell a commencé ainsi : Nous étions au Nouveau-Mexique. Le propriétaire d’un terrain, le fermier Brazel, a vu des lumières dans le ciel et des débris tombés sur ses terres.

Le 8 juillet 1947, un journal local, le Roswell Daily Record a alors titré « L’armée de l’air américaine s’empare d’une soucoupe volante dans un ranch près de Roswell ».

L’information a été reprise par des agences de presse. Cela a créé l’émoi dans la population.

L’armée a du se justifier, afin de calmer les esprits. Elle a expliqué qu’elle effectuait des essais militaires, en envoyant des ballons dans la stratosphère. L’objectif, secret à l’époque, de ces opérations était de capter et de surveiller les explosions atomiques soviétiques.

Par contre, personne n’est allé vérifier de façon scientifique sur le terrain l’information délivrée par le Roswell Daily Record. Une rumeur a suffi a provoqué l’emballement. Mais cela pouvait s’expliquer : nous étions dans la période de la guerre froide.

Le mythe des soucoupes volantes prenait de l’essor, les craintes de subir une invasion extraterrestre (et donc soviétique !) étaient dans les esprits… ce scoop, construit sur du vide, a nourri les passions !

L’ingéniosité est sans borne

La seconde phase de l’affaire Roswell, s’est déroulée en mai 1995, avec l’imposture de Ray Santilli.

Cet homme a présenté un footage (une séquence de film sans montage) à des ufologues. Ce film montrait l’autopsie d’un soi-disant alien.

Ray Santilli a expliqué que ce film provenait des archives secrètes de l’US Army… Il précisait qu’il avait été tourné par un soldat caméraman en juillet 1947, après le crash d’un aéronef non terrestre…

Nous le savons, toute cette histoire était mensongère. Car la réalité est autre : ce footage était un pilote destiné à convaincre la société britannique Merlin Inc de financer un documentaire sur les OVNI…

Ray Santilli avait aussi un autre but en tête : convaincre Spielberg de lancer une série de science-fiction, le fameux « Projet X ». Mais l’histoire a pris une autre tournure !

Les gens ont cru en cette histoire d’autopsie. La ville de Roswell est devenue la « Mecque des aliens ». On a démontré que l’affaire Roswell était une imposture, et pourtant, bon nombre de gens continuent à croire en cette histoire hasardeuse…

La réalité est souvent plus difficile à admettre que la fiction !

Extrait du livre Histoires d’imposteurs : « Certains penseurs comme Jung, ont cherché à expliquer à voir des OVNI partout. On raconte que c’est le désir d’être emporté très loin qui pousse certaines personnes à raconter cela, pour échapper à la contingence, aux soucis, à la routine des jours et à la solitude ».

Livre : Histoires d’imposteurs, (Éditions La Librairie Vuibert) de Philippe Di Folco. Le premier roman My love suprême, de Philippe Di Folco vient d’être réédité dans une nouvelle version aux éditions Stéphane Million. En septembre, il publiera « Littérature gourmande », aux éditions Eyrolles. Une invitation à se balader dans les textes français, sur les chemins du goût et de la gastronomie.

Voir encore:

Marcela Iacub / DSK: un travail de cochon

Durant toute sa liaison, et après, Iacub la chroniqueuse pour Libération ne s’est absolument pas retenue d’écrire sur son amant, sans informer le lecteur de son lien particulier avec le sujet de ses textes.

Charlotte Pudlowski

21/02/2013

On attendra de lire le livre —dont le Nouvel Observateur a choisi d’héberger les bonnes feuilles en rubrique Culture— pour juger de sa qualité littéraire. Même si la fulgurance des extraits de Belle et Bête, livre de Marcela Iacub racontant son aventure de quelques mois avec Dominique Strauss-Kahn, n’est pas flagrante. Mais on peut d’ores et déjà s’interroger sur la déontologie de la juriste et philosophe.

On sait désormais que la chroniqueuse pour Libération a entretenu avec l’ancien patron du FMI une liaison de «la fin janvier 2012 au mois d’août de la même année», tout en le défendant dans les colonnes du quotidien, dans au moins trois articles.

Elle avait déjà écrit un livre, Une société de violeurs, sorti peu avant le début de leur relation, dans lequel elle défendait l’ex-patron du FMI.

Ainsi en juin 2012 —ils sont alors amants depuis environ cinq mois– Iacub écrivait dans Libé un article sur le livre de Raphaëlle Bacqué et Ariane Chemin, Les Strauss-Kahn:

«Les deux journalistes du Monde ne nous donnent dans cet essai aucune information nouvelle ou importante sur l’histoire du couple légendaire. Des énoncés aux sources très diverses sont présentés tous azimuts comme s’ils avaient la même valeur de vérité: informations publiques, rumeurs, racontars, documents judiciaires, simples hypothèses.

Il n’empêche qu’elles réussissent à dessiner un portrait aussi vraisemblable qu’exécrable de l’ex-directeur du Fonds monétaire international. Et peu importe que certains faits n’aient jamais eu lieu ou qu’ils soient exagérés. Car le récit vise moins à dire la vérité historique qu’à faire la synthèse de l’opinion que se font les médias d’un homme devenu une célébrité mythologique négative depuis un peu plus d’un an.»

Sur le site de Libération, le journaliste Quentin Girard (ex-Slate.fr) qui revient sur la publication de cette chronique, entre autres, souligne: «Pour écrire ces quelques lignes, Marcela Iacub se fiait un petit peu plus qu’à Gala, mais elle n’a pas jugé bon à l’époque de le préciser, ni aux lecteurs, ni à Libération».

La défense de la sainte

En octobre 2012, alors que leur relation venait de prendre fin depuis environ deux mois, Iacub comparait son ancien amant au personnage de l’Etranger:

«L’affaire du Carlton de Lille ressemble à maints égards au procès de Meursault, le héros de l’Etranger d’Albert Camus. Ce célèbre personnage avait été condamné à la guillotine parce qu’il n’avait pas pleuré lors de l’enterrement de sa mère. Comme si la fonction de la justice pénale était non pas de punir les comportements illégaux, mais d’autres offenses qui n’ont aucune traduction juridique.»

En décembre 2012, nouvelle chronique après l’annonce d’un accord au civil entre DSK et Nafissatou Diallo:

«Celles qui dénoncent la prostitution devraient se demander si elles ne seraient pas prêtes à laisser leurs principes de côté si on les payait, comme à la spectaculaire Nafissatou Diallo, 6 millions de dollars pour une pipe. On peut imaginer que certaines des militantes les plus acharnées seraient prêtes à se trahir pour une telle somme –fût-ce pour financer les associations qui luttent contre la prostitution. Et si à cette prestation à 6 millions leur en était proposées d’autres au même tarif, ces militantes regarderaient la suggestion comme un miracle comparable au fait de gagner au loto.»

Finalement, elle ne faisait sans doute qu’appliquer ce principe qu’elle révèle désormais au Nouvel Observateur:

«Je suis une sainte au sens où je me sens obligée de sauver ceux qui sont honnis ou méprisés. Dominique Strauss-Kahn était la personne idéale pour cela. Je voulais le sauver de son enfer.»

A-t-elle mis Libération au service de son sauvetage?

Quel dommage que DSK ne voit pas la sainte sous cet oeil-là. Dans une lettre à l’hebdomadaire, révèle Le Figaro, il s’est ainsi dit «saisi d’un double dégoût». A commencer par «celui que provoque le comportement d’une femme qui séduit pour écrire un livre, se prévalant de sentiments amoureux pour les exploiter financièrement».

Même tonalité dans les propos d’Anne Sinclair, qui a aussi écrit au Nouvel Obs, selon Le Point. Dans les bonnes feuilles publiées par le Nouvel Obs, Sinclair apparaît comme la marionettiste du couple, avide de pouvoir et manipulatrice. L’épouse (séparée) de DSK écrit à l’Obs: «Vous accréditez la manoeuvre d’une femme perverse et malhonnête, animée par la fascination du sensationnel, et l’appât du gain». DSK, lui, souligne «une atteinte méprisable à (sa) vie privée et la dignité humaine».

De fait, c’est la dignité du cochon que Iacub entendait sauver. Elle construit toute une théorie sur la double personnalité de l’ancien directeur du FMI, sorte de minotaure mi-homme, mi-porc, écrit que «la protection des porcs est chez [elle] une sorte de vocation». Elle poursuit plus loin, selon les «bonnes feuilles» de l’Obs:

«Je tiens à dire à quel point cette mise au pilori est une injustice. Je tiens à préciser, à souligner, à répéter mille fois qu’il faudrait médicaliser l’homme, l’enfermer, le neutraliser, et sauver le cochon.»

C’est l’homme pourtant qui envisage de porter plainte.

Mise à jour:

En fin de journée, la société des rédacteurs de l’hebdomadaire s’est émue du traitement de l’affaire par leur journal:

«Sans contester la légitimité à rendre compte de ce livre, le bureau de la SDR s’interroge, dans sa majorité, sur l’opportunité de mettre à la Une de notre magazine l’ouvrage de Marcela Iacub. Il regrette, en outre, que les personnes mises en cause n’aient pas été contactées comme le prévoit la Charte. Il demande, enfin, à la direction de la rédaction de s’en expliquer le plus rapidement possible devant la rédaction.»

Voir enfin:

Stéphane Hessel : "Je n’ai pas rédigé la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme"

Enquête & débat

6 février 2011

Encore un énorme bobard que les médias cherchent à nous faire avaler : Stéphane Hessel, qu’on voit partout depuis qu’il a sorti son petit opuscule « Indignez-vous! », n’est pas un des rédacteurs de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme de 1948, comme il le reconnaissait lui-même en 2008 sur le site de l’ONU.

Pourquoi donc ce mensonge, selon lequel Stéphane Hessel serait « co-rédacteur de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme », est-il devenu une vérité universelle ? Principalement du fait des médias, qui ont tous relayés sans questionner cette pseudo-vérité.

La présentation de cette vidéo de France Inter est la suivante : « 5 minutes avec Stéphane Hessel. L’écrivain, diplomate, militant politique, co-rédacteur de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme, est l’invité de Pascal Clark dans le 7/9 de France Inter (7h50 – 3 janvier 2011). Stéphane Hessel vient de signer un manifeste, déjà succès de librairie, « Indignez-vous » (paru aux Editions Indigène) »

Jeune Afrique, le 19 janvier 2011 : « un diplomate qui, en 1948, a participé à la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle – laquelle, dans son article I, rappelle que « tous les hommes naissent et demeurent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits ». À partir de ces bases, Stéphane Hessel construit méthodiquement son indignation.«

L’Humanité, relayée par Mediapart, le 5 août 2010 : « Ancien résistant et diplomate, Stéphane Hessel fut l’un des rédacteurs de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme. »

Arte, le 25 septembre 2010 : « En octobre 1945, il est nommé ambassadeur de France à l’ONU, en 1948, il participe à la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme. »

Le Nouvel Observateur, le 7 janvier 2011 : « L’ancien diplomate Stéphane Hessel corédigea la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme adoptée par l’ONU en 1948. »

La Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (qui en plus de faire des procès pour mal-pensance, désinforme), le 27 janvier 2011 : « Stéphane Hessel, grand résistant, co-rédacteur de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme de 1948 et ambassadeur de France. »

Rue 89, le 13 novembre 2010 : « il devient Français en 1937, s’engage dans la résistance, est capturé et torturé par la Gestapo, déporté à Buchenwald et Dora, avant de participer, à la Libération, à la rédaction de la déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme aux Nations unies naissantes. »

Le JDD, le 7 décembre 2008 : « En 1948, Stéphane Hessel, rescapé du camp de Buchenwald, a participé à la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme (DUDH). »

Daniel Mermet, dans Là-bas si j’y suis, affirme également le 8 janvier 2009 : « On continue à Gaza avec Stéphane Hessel, diplomate, ambassadeur et ancien résistant français, qui participa à la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme de 1948, et qui nous donne son point de vue sur ce conflit. »

France 24, le 30 décembre 2010 : « Stéphane Hessel a participé à la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’Homme en 1948. Six décennies plus tard, il défend l’universalité de ce texte, épingle la question migratoire et la situation des Palestiniens. »

France Info, le 13 octobre 2010 : « Des associations pro-palestiniennes, des politiques, intellectuels et des journalistes ont lancé une campagne de soutien aux militants poursuivis par la justice française pour avoir appelé au boycottage de produits d’origine israélienne en 2009 et 2010. Parmi les militants poursuivis par la justice, Stéphane Hessel, co-rédacteur de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme. »

20 Minutes, le 2 décembre 2010 : « «Indignez-vous!» Depuis quelques semaines, l’injonction est devenue un phénomène éditorial. C’est le titre d’un coup de gueule de 22 pages publié par Stéphane Hessel. Agé de 93 ans, l’homme est ancien déporté, membre du Conseil national de la Résistance et corédacteur de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme en 1948. »

La liste pourrait continuer longtemps… Or Stéphane Hessel lui-même, selon les occasions, reconnaît ou contredit le fait d’être co-rédacteur de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme. Dans Politis, voici ce qu’il déclare le 3 janvier 2011 :

Politis : « Vous avez été l’un des rédacteurs de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme. Ces droits vous semblent-ils respectés ?

Stéphane Hessel : C’est l’occasion pour moi de revenir sur deux idées fausses. [...] L’autre erreur est de m’accorder le rôle de corédacteur de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme. »

Après avoir écrit le 23 décembre 2010 que Stéphane Hessel « participe à la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme« , L’Express écrit ceci le 31 décembre 2010, comme pour se justifier : « Son action au cours de la guerre 39-45 et sa participation à la rédaction de la déclaration universelle des Droits de l’homme en 1948 ont même été mis en doute. [...] En 1948, il est nommé secrétaire de la Commission des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies quand celle-ci entreprend la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme. S’il n’est pas directement rédacteur, il participe donc bien aux travaux de la Commission, et donc à l’élaboration du texte. »

Sur cette vidéo, postée le 15 octobre 2009, il laisse la présentatrice dire qu’il est co-rédacteur de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme, sans la reprendre.

Sur le site de l’ONU, le 10 décembre 2008, il explique clairement ne pas être rédacteur de la Déclaration : « J’étais en contact permanent avec l’équipe qui a rédigé la Déclaration, dont l’Américaine Eleanor Roosevelt et le Français René Cassin », se souvient-il. « Au cours des trois années, 1946, 1947, 1948, il y a eu une série de réunions, certaines faciles et d’autres plus difficiles. J’assistais aux séances et j’écoutais ce qu’on disait mais je n’ai pas rédigé la Déclaration. J’ai été témoin de cette période exceptionnelle », ajoute-t-il. »

Pourtant, le 16 décembre 2010, lors de l’émission Parole du monde sur Public Sénat, il déclare : « Quand j’en avais 30, je m’occupais de la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme aux Nations Unies ».

Même Wikipedia, qui n’est pourtant pas connue pour être objective, l’explique clairement : « Appelé en 1946 comme chef de cabinet du secrétaire général adjoint des Nations Unies Henri Laugier, il est à ce titre nommé secrétaire de la Commission des Droits de l’Homme en 1948 quand celle-ci est constituée pour entreprendre la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme[12]. Son rôle n’est pas celui d’un rédacteur[13],[14] comme le furent René Cassin et, en tant que membre du Conseil Economique et Social, Pierre Mendès France. »

Voilà comment on construit un mythe, sur la base d’un mensonge, mais qui arrange tellement de journalistes et de militants, souvent les mêmes d’ailleurs. On attendra longtemps les rectifications dans tous ces médias. Enfin, on peut se demander dans quelle mesure une personnalité qui laisse passer un tel mensonge sur les droits de l’homme peut encore être considéré comme un de ses défenseurs.


Salem/320e:Tous les 50 ans le mal doit être chassé (From Salem to McMartin)

3 mars, 2013
Salem witch trialsJe suis innocent et il n’y a point en moi d’iniquité. Job (33: 9)
Je suis innocente et Dieu révelera mon innocence. Rebecca Nurse
Lorsque tu seras entré dans le pays que l’Éternel, ton Dieu, te donne, tu n’apprendras point à imiter les abominations de ces nations-là. Qu’on ne trouve chez toi personne qui fasse passer son fils ou sa fille par le feu, personne qui exerce le métier de devin, d’astrologue, d’augure, de magicien, d’enchanteur, personne qui consulte ceux qui évoquent les esprits ou disent la bonne aventure, personne qui interroge les morts. Car quiconque fait ces choses est en abomination à l’Éternel; et c’est à cause de ces abominations que l’Éternel, ton Dieu, va chasser ces nations devant toi. Tu seras entièrement à l’Éternel, ton Dieu. Deuteronome 18: 9-12
Tu ne laisseras point vivre la magicienne. Exode 22: 18
Si un homme ou une femme ont en eux l’esprit d’un mort ou un esprit de divination, ils seront punis de mort; on les lapidera: leur sang retombera sur eux. Levitique 20: 27
On apprend aux enfants qu’on a cessé de chasser les sorcières parce que la science s’est imposée aux hommes. Alors que c’est le contraire: la science s’est imposée aux hommes parce que, pour des raisons morales, religieuses, on a cessé de chasser les sorcières. René Girard
Il y avait vraiment des gens qui s’agitaient devant des courts-bouillons de grenouilles et de scorpions, mais nous savons que leurs manigances n’empêcheraient pas les avions de voler (…) C’est bien pourquoi, même lorsqu’elles étaient condamnées, même lorsqu’elles étaient techniquement coupables, les sorcières étaient des boucs émissaires. René Girard
C’est un moment génial de l’histoire de France. Toute la communauté issue de l’immigration adhère complètement à la position de la France. Tout d’un coup, il y a une espèce de ferment. Profitons de cet espace de francitude nouvelle. Jean-Louis Borloo (ministre délégué à la Ville, avril 2003)
Aujourd’hui, ma principale indignation concerne la Palestine, la bande de Gaza, la Cisjordanie. (…)  Pas mal… Il faut être israélien pour qualifier de terroriste la non-violence. Stéphane Hessel
En réalité, le mot qui s’applique – qui devrait s’appliquer – est celui de crime de guerre et même de crime contre l’humanité. (..)  Pour ma part, ayant été à Gaza, ayant vu les camps de réfugiés avec des milliers d’enfants, la façon dont ils sont bombardés m’apparaît comme un véritable crime contre l’humanité. Stéphane Hessel (à propos de l’offensive israélienne dans la bande de Gaza, 5 janvier 2009)
Au cours des trois dernières années, à l’invitation de mes amis israéliens, qui font partie d’une minorité courageuse, nous y sommes allés, ma femme et moi, par trois fois. Nous avons constaté que la Cisjordanie est complètement ingérable parce qu’elle est occupée, colonisée. Les routes ne sont pas autorisées pour les Palestiniens. Ces derniers sont traités avec un mépris épouvantable par Israël. Quant à la bande de Gaza, elle a été enfermée dans ce que l’on peut appeler une « prison à ciel ouvert ». L’opération « Plomb durci », de décembre 2008 à janvier 2009, a été une succession de crimes de guerre et de crimes contre l’humanité. La manière dont l’armée israélienne s’est comportée est absolument scandaleuse. Nous étions à Gaza en même temps que l’équipe dirigée par le juge Goldstone, et je peux témoigner que tout ce que relève le rapport Goldstone est exact. (…) Le gouvernement d’Israël bénéficie en effet d’une impunité scandaleuse, alors que depuis des années il bafoue le droit international et rejette les résolutions de l’ONU, ne respecte pas la Convention de Genève.  (…) Dès la fin de la guerre, je me suis retrouvé à New York comme fonctionnaire à l’ONU. J’ai assisté simultanément à deux événements importants : la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme et la création de l’État d’Israël. Pour quelqu’un comme moi, né de père juif et qui sortait des camps de concentration, cette création était de l’ordre du merveilleux. Je n’étais pas conscient du fait que cet État ne pouvait exister qu’en chassant un nombre considérable de Palestiniens de leurs terres. (…) Pendant vingt ans, j’ai continué à considérer favorablement le développement d’Israël : j’étais admiratif des kibboutz et des moshav. Tout a changé en 1967 avec la guerre des Six Jours. Cette guerre, gagnée par Israël pratiquement en une matinée, a donné aux gouvernants de l’époque ce que j’appelle une hubris, un sentiment de supériorité extraordinaire, qui les a amenés à ne plus tenir compte du droit international. C’est à partir de 1967 que je me suis engagé dans le camp de ceux qui voulaient un retrait des forces israéliennes la création d’un État palestinien. Stéphane Hessel (Jeune Afrique, 17.05.10)
Le décès de Stéphane Hessel a provoqué une vive émotion, à la hauteur du respect que l’homme suscitait. Au delà, nous souhaitons que le sens du combat de Stéphane Hessel perdure et soit reconnu. Le parcours de Stéphane Hessel fait en effet de lui un grand Républicain, bien au delà des clivages partisans. Son engagement dans la Résistance, son courage jamais démenti, sa droiture dans le service de la France, sa défense de la démocratie, son acharnement à promouvoir les valeurs des droits de l’Homme, son souci constant des plus démunis, donnent au mot de citoyenneté tout son sens. Notre identité nationale se forge aussi à partir des luttes concrètes telles que celles que Stéphane Hessel a mené tout au long de son existence. Ni l’âge, ni les difficultés de la vie ne l’ont détourné de sa bataille permanente pour élever la dignité de l’humain au dessus de toutes les contingences. Le message de Stéphane Hessel, cet appel à l’indignation, ce refus de toutes les formes d’injustices doit désormais faire partie de notre héritage commun. Nous demandons donc au Président de la République que Stéphane Hessel entre au Panthéon, pour que la République rende à ses combats l’hommage qui leur est dû. Nous souhaitons ardemment que la pédagogie civique et la mémoire collective témoignent de l’importance de l’esprit de résistance. Parce qu’avec Stéphane Hessel, c’est une vie consacrée à l’intérêt général et au service d’une certaine idée de la France qu’il s’agit d’honorer. Pétition L’Indignation doit rentrer au Panthéon
Il n’est pas question pour moi d’ajouter mon encre aux critiques de l’œuvre et des idées de Stéphane Hessel. (…) Si je m’exprime aujourd’hui, c’est pour dire ce qu’ils n’ont pas dit et qui est cause, chez moi, d’une profonde inquiétude. Cela s’articule sur un constat principal : ce n’est pas Hessel et son discours qui sont préoccupants mais ceux qui l’encensent et ceux qui le propagent. Le problème ne se situe pas tant dans l’essai de 32 pages Indignez-vous !, paru en 2011, mais dans la couverture dramatique de Libération, présentant le portrait du vieillard défunt, accentué de ces deux mots : "Un juste". Je cite cette une, mais je pourrais mentionner la totalité de la presse tricolore, tombant en extase devant ce "grand homme" qu’elle avait d’ailleurs découvert sur le tard. Des pétitions poussent maintenant comme des champignons, exigeant que la dépouille d’Hessel soit inhumée au Panthéon. Les politiciens unanimes saluent le grand résistant et le défenseur des droits de l’homme qui les a quittés à l’âge avancé de 95 ans. Les seuls bémols que l’on entend se résument aux murmures de certains tribuns de l’opposition, sur le thème "je n’étais peut-être pas d’accord avec tout ce qu’il disait". Mais la seule critique devant ce requiem national vient des Juifs. Et c’est précisément cela qui me préoccupe. Stéphane Juffa
Engagement. Semaine difficile, la France a perdu Stéphane Hessel. Alors, je suppose que tout le monde voit Stéphane Hessel, le père castor du lieu commun engagé?! Stéphane Hessel, un mec tellement engagé que lorsqu’il est né, il portait déjà un nom qui évoquait les poilus. Indignez-vous! Indignez-vous! qu’il disait! C’est vrai, la paix, c’est mieux que la guerre. Le bien est supérieur au mal. Le capitalisme, c’est caca… Oops, zut, crotte, flûte, il est l’heure de changer mes couches! Ah le grand âge, ce coma éthylique sans alcool… En tout cas, c’est un triste destin, franchement: révélé à 92 ans, mort à 95, 3 ans de célébrité! Dans son malheur, une chance: trop âgé pour faire splach. Je dis ça, son bouquin, son fascicule, j’ai adoré! A-t-on jamais rendu un si bel hommage à du Helvetica police 24? Pour une fois que la littérature s’engage aussi sincèrement contre la presbytie, pourquoi bouder notre plaisir! Alors, de toutes façons, c’était un résistant, hein? C’est un gage d’inattaquabilité en France.Pour pouvoir dire n’importe quoi en France, c’est simple, entre 40 et 45, soit tu as fait le mariole dans le maquis, soit tu as planqué des juifs dans ta cave, tu vois. Une fois que tu as fait ça, même si après tu te mets à raconter que la terre est plate, tout le monde va te trouver génial! Gaspard Proust
Nous sommes une société qui, tous les cinquante ans ou presque, est prise d’une sorte de paroxysme de vertu – une orgie d’auto-purification à travers laquelle le mal d’une forme ou d’une autre doit être chassé. De la chasse aux sorcières de Salem aux chasses aux communistes de l’ère McCarthy à la violente fixation actuelle sur la maltraitance des enfants, on retrouve le même fil conducteur d’hystérie morale. Après la période du maccarthisme, les gens demandaient : mais comment cela a-t-il pu arriver ? Comment la présomption d’innocence a-t-elle pu être abandonnée aussi systématiquement ? Comment de grandes et puissantes institutions ont-elles pu accepté que des enquêteurs du Congrès aient fait si peu de cas des libertés civiles – tout cela au nom d’une guerre contre les communistes ? Comment était-il possible de croire que des subversifs se cachaient derrière chaque porte de bibliothèque, dans chaque station de radio, que chaque acteur de troisième zone qui avait appartenu à la mauvaise organisation politique constituait une menace pour la sécurité de la nation ? Dans quelques décennies peut-être les gens ne manqueront pas de se poser les mêmes questions sur notre époque actuelle; une époque où les accusations de sévices les plus improbables trouvent des oreilles bienveillantes; une époque où il suffit d’être accusé par des sources anonymes pour être jeté en pâture à la justice; une époque où la chasse à ceux qui maltraitent les enfants est devenu une pathologie nationale. Dorothy Rabinowitz

Attention: un espace de francitude nouvelle peut en cacher d’autres !

A l’heure où, au lendemain de la mort d’un antisémite notoire (pardon: antisioniste!), le Pays autoproclamé des Droits de l’homme se refait une santé d’unanimisme

Qui, même si les "santo subito" ont remplacé les "morts aux juifs", n’est pas sans rappeler à sa façon un autre épisode de "francitude nouvelle" où la démagogie incarnée d’un certain Jacques Chirac avait elle aussi rempli les rues il y a exactement 10 ans  …

Comment ne pas repenser, avec ce billet écrit mais non encore mis en ligne suite à ma visite de Salem en décembre dernier, à ces crises qui secouent périodiquement, comme si elles avaient besoin de se purger de leur trop-plein de tensions, nos sociétés?

 Comme ce dernier grand épisode d’hystérie collective (19 mises à mort et quelque 200 emprisonnés mais surtout un impact démultiplié par sa reprise par la littérature et le théâtre ou le cinéma) qui, avec les mêmes ingrédients d’une société en crise, présence d’idéologues et d’élément étranger, marquera, dans un petit village de Nouvelle Angleterre il y a 320 ans et dix ans après l’Angleterre, la fin des chasses aux sorcières aux Etats-Unis …

Ou, beaucoup plus récemment après les grandes "peurs rouges" des années 20 et 50 provoquées par les campagnes de subversion soviétiques, les accusations de maltraitances supposées d’enfants qui, des Etats-Unis et du Canada (ou de l’Australie) et de la Grande-Bretagne à la Belgique, à la France ou à l’Italie, se sont répandues comme une trainée de poudre dans les années 80-90 ?

The Daycare Abuse Trials of the 1980s and the Salem Witchcraft Trials: Some Parallels

1. Both the Daycare Abuse Trials (McMartin, Michaels, and others) and the Salem Witchcraft Trials placed heavy reliance on the testimony of children. In both sets of trials, people urged others to "believe the children." In practice, that generally meant, "believe the children when they are making remotely plausible accusations, but ignore the inconsistencies in their stories."

2. In both sets of trials, accusations multiplied over time. At first just a few persons faced accusations, but as the hysteria spread, so did the accusations. Often, the new targets of accusations were those who expressed skepticism about charges or who came to the defense of an accused person.

3. Both sets of trials had their origins in behaviors or statements of children–behaviors or statements that could have been given an innocent interpretation, but instead were interpreted in the most omenous or threatening way possible.

4. In both sets of trials, "experts" found meaning in unlikely places. In Salem, for example, the presence of a mole on the body of an accused person was seem as evidence that the "familiar" had an entry (or sucking) point on the accused. In the daycare cases, for example, the drawing of hands on stick figures was seen as evidence that the child who drew the figure had been molested. In another example, a child’s dislike of tuna fish was seen as evidence that the child had been exposed to vaginal smells.

5. In both sets of trials, the investigation itself was the source of many of the problems. Investigators in both instances employed leading questions, and effectively put the burden of proving innocence on the accused. In Salem, accused persons were asked to explain how their presence could trigger such bizarre reactions in the allegedly afflicted. In the daycare cases, the accused were confronted by the suggestion that the children would not be talking about penises and the like if they hadn’t been molested–when in fact their frequent use of such anatomic terms resulted from the investigation of the alleged crime.

6. In both sets of trials, the extent of the injustices was increased by the unwillingness–or fear–of enough persons to step forward and say, "This is crazy!" People in both instances feared that by doing so they might either face accusations themselves or hurt their standing in their communities–be it the church community in Salem or the journalism community in the daycare cases.

We are a society that, every fifty years or so, is afflicted by some paroxysm of virtue–an orgy of self-cleansing through which evil of one kind or another is cast out. From the witch-hunts of Salem to the communist hunts of the McCarthy era to the current shrill fixation on child abuse, there runs a common thread of moral hysteria. After the McCarthy era, people would ask: But how could it have happened? How could the presumption of innocence have been abandoned wholesale? How did large and powerful institutions acquiesce as congressional investigators ran roughshod over civil liberties–all in the name of a war on communists? How was it possible to believe that subversives lurked behind every library door, in every radio station, that every two-bit actor who had belonged to the wrong political organization posed a threat to the nation’s security?

Years from now people doubtless will ask the same questions about our present era–a time when the most improbable charges of abuse find believers; when it is enough only to be accused by anonymous sources to be hauled off by investigators; a time when the hunt for child abusers has become a national pathology.

–Dorothy Rabinowitz, From the Mouths of Babes to a Jail Cell,

HARPER’S MAGAZINE (May 1990).

Voir aussi:

The Witchcraft Trials in Salem: A Commentary

Douglas Linder

O Christian Martyr Who for Truth could die

When all about thee Owned the hideous lie!

The world, redeemed from superstition’s sway,

Is breathing freer for thy sake today.

–Words written by John Greenleaf Whittier and inscribed on a monument marking the grave of Rebecca Nurse, one of the condemned "witches" of Salem.

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended.

Why did this travesty of justice occur? Why did it occur in Salem? Nothing about this tragedy was inevitable. Only an unfortunate combination of an ongoing frontier war, economic conditions, congregational strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousies can account for the spiraling accusations, trials, and executions that occurred in the spring and summer of 1692.

In 1688, John Putnam, one of the most influential elders of Salem Village, invited Samuel Parris, formerly a marginally successful planter and merchant in Barbados, to preach in the Village church. A year later, after negotiations over salary, inflation adjustments, and free firewood, Parris accepted the job as Village minister. He moved to Salem Village with his wife Elizabeth, his six-year-old daughter Betty, niece Abagail Williams, and his Indian slave Tituba, acquired by Parris in Barbados.

The Salem that became the new home of Parris was in the midst of change: a mercantile elite was beginning to develop, prominent people were becoming less willing to assume positions as town leaders, two clans (the Putnams and the Porters) were competing for control of the village and its pulpit, and a debate was raging over how independent Salem Village, tied more to the interior agricultural regions, should be from Salem, a center of sea trade.

Sometime during February of the exceptionally cold winter of 1692, young Betty Parris became strangely ill. She dashed about, dove under furniture, contorted in pain, and complained of fever. The cause of her symptoms may have been some combination of stress, asthma, guilt, boredom, child abuse, epilepsy, and delusional psychosis. The symptoms also could have been caused, as Linda Caporael argued in a 1976 article in Science magazine, by a disease called "convulsive ergotism" brought on by injesting rye–eaten as a cereal and as a common ingredient of bread–infected with ergot. (Ergot is caused by a fungus which invades developing kernels of rye grain, especially under warm and damp conditions such as existed at the time of the previous rye harvest in Salem. Convulsive ergotism causes violent fits, a crawling sensation on the skin, vomiting, choking, and–most interestingly–hallucinations. The hallucinogenic drug LSD is a dervivative of ergot.) Many of the symptoms or convulsive ergotism seem to match those attributed to Betty Parris, but there is no way of knowing with any certainty if she in fact suffered from the disease–and the theory would not explain the afflictions suffered by others in Salem later in the year.

At the time, however, there was another theory to explain the girls’ symptoms. Cotton Mather had recently published a popular book, "Memorable Providences," describing the suspected witchcraft of an Irish washerwoman in Boston, and Betty’s behavior in some ways mirrored that of the afflicted person described in Mather’s widely read and discussed book. It was easy to believe in 1692 in Salem, with an Indian war raging less than seventy miles away (and many refugees from the war in the area) that the devil was close at hand. Sudden and violent death occupied minds.

Talk of witchcraft increased when other playmates of Betty, including eleven-year-old Ann Putnam, seventeen-year-old Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott, began to exhibit similar unusual behavior. When his own nostrums failed to effect a cure, William Griggs, a doctor called to examine the girls, suggested that the girls’ problems might have a supernatural origin. The widespread belief that witches targeted children made the doctor’s diagnosis seem increasing likely.

A neighbor, Mary Sibley, proposed a form of counter magic. She told Tituba to bake a rye cake with the urine of the afflicted victim and feed the cake to a dog. ( Dogs were believed to be used by witches as agents to carry out their devilish commands.) By this time, suspicion had already begun to focus on Tituba, who had been known to tell the girls tales of omens, voodoo, and witchcraft from her native folklore. Her participation in the urine cake episode made her an even more obvious scapegoat for the inexplicable.

Meanwhile, the number of girls afflicted continued to grow, rising to seven with the addition of Ann Putnam, Elizabeth Hubbard, Susannah Sheldon, and Mary Warren. According to historian Peter Hoffer, the girls "turned themselves from a circle of friends into a gang of juvenile delinquents." ( Many people of the period complained that young people lacked the piety and sense of purpose of the founders’ generation.) The girls contorted into grotesque poses, fell down into frozen postures, and complained of biting and pinching sensations. In a village where everyone believed that the devil was real, close at hand, and acted in the real world, the suspected affliction of the girls became an obsession.

Sometime after February 25, when Tituba baked the witch cake, and February 29, when arrest warrants were issued against Tituba and two other women, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams named their afflictors and the witchhunt began. The consistency of the two girls’ accusations suggests strongly that the girls worked out their stories together. Soon Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis were also reporting seeing "witches flying through the winter mist." The prominent Putnam family supported the girls’ accusations, putting considerable impetus behind the prosecutions.

The first three to be accused of witchcraft were Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborn. Tituba was an obvious choice (LINK TO TITUBA’S EXAMINATION). Good was a beggar and social misfit who lived wherever someone would house her (LINK TO GOOD’S EXAMINATION) (LINK TO GOOD’S TRIAL), and Osborn was old, quarrelsome, and had not attended church for over a year. The Putnams brought their complaint against the three women to county magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, who scheduled examinations for the suspected witches for March 1, 1692 in Ingersoll’s tavern. When hundreds showed up, the examinations were moved to the meeting house. At the examinations, the girls described attacks by the specters of the three women, and fell into their by then perfected pattern of contortions when in the presence of one of the suspects. Other villagers came forward to offer stories of cheese and butter mysteriously gone bad or animals born with deformities after visits by one of the suspects.The magistrates, in the common practice of the time, asked the same questions of each suspect over and over: Were they witches? Had they seen Satan? How, if they are were not witches, did they explain the contortions seemingly caused by their presence? The style and form of the questions indicates that the magistrates thought the women guilty.

The matter might have ended with admonishments were it not for Tituba. After first adamantly denying any guilt, afraid perhaps of being made a scapegoat, Tituba claimed that she was approached by a tall man from Boston–obviously Satan–who sometimes appeared as a dog or a hog and who asked her to sign in his book and to do his work. Yes, Tituba declared, she was a witch, and moreover she and four other witches, including Good and Osborn, had flown through the air on their poles. She had tried to run to Reverend Parris for counsel, she said, but the devil had blocked her path. Tituba’s confession succeeded in transforming her from a possible scapegoat to a central figure in the expanding prosecutions. Her confession also served to silence most skeptics, and Parris and other local ministers began witch hunting with zeal.

Soon, according to their own reports, the spectral forms of other women began attacking the afflicted girls. Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce, and Mary Easty (LINK TO EASTY’S EXAMINATION) (LINK TO EASTY’S PETITION FOR MERCY) were accused of witchcraft. During a March 20 church service, Ann Putnam suddenly shouted, "Look where Goodwife Cloyce sits on the beam suckling her yellow bird between her fingers!" Soon Ann’s mother, Ann Putnam, Sr., would join the accusers. Dorcas Good, four-year-old daughter of Sarah Good, became the first child to be accused of witchcraft when three of the girls complained that they were bitten by the specter of Dorcas. (The four-year-old was arrested, kept in jail for eight months, watched her mother get carried off to the gallows, and would "cry her heart out, and go insane.") The girls accusations and their ever more polished performances, including the new act of being struck dumb, played to large and believing audiences.

Stuck in jail with the damning testimony of the afflicted girls widely accepted, suspects began to see confession as a way to avoid the gallows. Deliverance Hobbs became the second witch to confess, admitting to pinching three of the girls at the Devil’s command and flying on a pole to attend a witches’ Sabbath in an open field. Jails approached capacity and the colony "teetered on the brink of chaos" when Governor Phips returned from England. Fast action, he decided, was required.

Phips created a new court, the "court of oyer and terminer," to hear the witchcraft cases. Five judges, including three close friends of Cotton Mather, were appointed to the court. Chief Justice, and most influential member of the court, was a gung-ho witch hunter named William Stoughton. Mather urged Stoughton and the other judges to credit confessions and admit "spectral evidence" (testimony by afflicted persons that they had been visited by a suspect’s specter). Ministers were looked to for guidance by the judges, who were generally without legal training, on matters pertaining to witchcraft. Mather’s advice was heeded. the judges also decided to allow the so-called "touching test" (defendants were asked to touch afflicted persons to see if their touch, as was generally assumed of the touch of witches, would stop their contortions) and examination of the bodies of accused for evidence of "witches’ marks" (moles or the like upon which a witch’s familiar might suck) (SCENE DEPICTING EXAMINATION FOR MARKS). Evidence that would be excluded from modern courtrooms– hearsay, gossip, stories, unsupported assertions, surmises– was also generally admitted. Many protections that modern defendants take for granted were lacking in Salem: accused witches had no legal counsel, could not have witnesses testify under oath on their behalf, and had no formal avenues of appeal. Defendants could, however, speak for themselves, produce evidence, and cross-examine their accusers. The degree to which defendants in Salem were able to take advantage of their modest protections varied considerably, depending on their own acuteness and their influence in the community.

The first accused witch to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop. Almost sixty years old, owner of a tavern where patrons could drink cider ale and play shuffleboard (even on the Sabbath), critical of her neighbors, and reluctant to pay her her bills, Bishop was a likely candidate for an accusation of witchcraft (LINK TO EXAMINATION OF BISHOP). The fact that Thomas Newton, special prosecutor, selected Bishop for his first prosecution suggests that he believed the stronger case could be made against her than any of the other suspect witches. At Bishop’s trial on June 2, 1692, a field hand testified that he saw Bishop’s image stealing eggs and then saw her transform herself into a cat. Deliverance Hobbs, by then probably insane, and Mary Warren, both confessed witches, testified that Bishop was one of them. A villager named Samuel Grey told the court that Bishop visited his bed at night and tormented him. A jury of matrons assigned to examine Bishop’s body reported that they found an "excrescence of flesh." Several of the afflicted girls testified that Bishop’s specter afflicted them. Numerous other villagers described why they thought Bishop was responsible for various bits of bad luck that had befallen them. There was even testimony that while being transported under guard past the Salem meeting house, she looked at the building and caused a part of it to fall to the ground. Bishop’s jury returned a verdict of guilty . One of the judges, Nathaniel Saltonstall, aghast at the conduct of the trial, resigned from the court. Chief Justice Stoughton signed Bishop’s death warrant, and on June 10, 1692, Bishop was carted to Gallows Hill and hanged (LINK TO IMAGE OF BISHOP’S HANGING).

As the summer of 1692 warmed, the pace of trials picked up. Not all defendants were as disreputable as Bridget Bishop. Rebecca Nurse was a pious, respected woman whose specter, according to Ann Putnam, Jr. and Abagail Williams, attacked them in mid March of 1692 (LINK TO EXAMINATION OF NURSE). Ann Putnam, Sr. added her complaint that Nurse demanded that she sign the Devil’s book, then pinched her. Nurse was one of three Towne sisters , all identified as witches, who were members of a Topsfield family that had a long-standing quarrel with the Putnam family. Apart from the evidence of Putnam family members, the major piece of evidence against Nurse appeared to be testimony indicating that soon after Nurse lectured Benjamin Houlton for allowing his pig to root in her garden, Houlton died. The Nurse jury returned a verdict of not guilty, much to the displeasure of Chief Justice Stoughton, who told the jury to go back and consider again a statement of Nurse’s that might be considered an admission of guilt (but more likely an indication of confusion about the question, as Nurse was old and nearly deaf). The jury reconvened, this time coming back with a verdict of guilty(LINK TO NURSE TRIAL). On July 19, 1692, Nurse rode with four other convicted witches to Gallows Hill.

Persons who scoffed at accusations of witchcraft risked becoming targets of accusations themselves. One man who was openly critical of the trials paid for his skepticism with his life. John Proctor, a central figure in Arthur Miller’s fictionalized account of the Salem witchhunt, The Crucible, was an opinionated tavern owner who openly denounced the witchhunt. Testifying against Proctor were Ann Putnam, Abagail Williams, Indian John (a slave of Samuel Parris who worked in a competing tavern), and eighteen-year-old Elizabeth Booth, who testified that ghosts had come to her and accused Proctor of serial murder. Proctor fought back, accusing confessed witches of lying, complaining of torture, and demanding that his trial be moved to Boston. The efforts proved futile. Proctor was hanged. His wife Elizabeth, who was also convicted of witchcraft, was spared execution because of her pregnancy (reprieved "for the belly").

No execution caused more unease in Salem than that of the village’s ex-minister, George Burroughs. Burroughs, who was living in Maine in 1692, was identified by several of his accusers as the ringleader of the witches. Ann Putnam claimed that Burroughs bewitched soldiers during a failed military campaign against Wabanakis in 1688-89, the first of a string of military disasters that could be blamed on an Indian-Devil alliance. In her interesting book, In the Devil’s Snare, historian Mary Beth Norton argues that the large number of accusations against Burroughs, and his linkage to the frontier war, is the key to understanding the Salem trials. Norton contends that the enthusiasm of the Salem court in prosecuting the witchcraft cases owed in no small measure to the judges’ desire to shift the "blame for their own inadequate defense of the frontier." Many of the judges, Norton points out, played lead roles in a war effort that had been markedly unsuccessful.

Among the thirty accusers of Burroughs was nineteen-year-old Mercy Lewis, a refugee of the frontier wars. Lewis, the most imaginative and forceful of the young accusers, offered unusually vivid testimony against Burroughs. Lewis told the court that Burroughs flew her to the top of a mountain and, pointing toward the surrounding land, promised her all the kingdoms if only she would sign in his book (a story very similar to that found in Matthew 4:8). Lewis said, "I would not writ if he had throwed me down on one hundred pitchforks." At an execution, a defendant in the Puritan colonies was expected to confess, and thus to save his soul. When Burroughs on Gallows Hill continued to insist on his innocence and then recited the Lord’s Prayer perfectly (something witches were thought incapable of doing), the crowd reportedly was "greatly moved." The agitation of the crowd caused Cotton Mather to intervene and remind the crowd that Burroughs had had his day in court and lost.

One victim of the Salem witchhunt was not hanged, but rather pressed under heavy stones until his death. Such was the fate of octogenarian Giles Corey who, after spending five months in chains in a Salem jail with his also accused wife, had nothing but contempt for the proceedings. Seeing the futility of a trial and hoping that by avoiding a conviction his farm, that would otherwise go the state, might go to his two sons-in-law, Corey refused to stand for trial. The penalty for such a refusal was peine et fort, or pressing. Three days after Corey’s death, on September 22, 1692, eight more convicted witches, including Giles’ wife Martha, were hanged. They were the last victims of the witchhunt.

By early autumn of 1692, Salem’s lust for blood was ebbing. Doubts were developing as to how so many respectable people could be guilty. Reverend John Hale said, " It cannot be imagined that in a place of so much knowledge, so many in so small compass of land should abominably leap into the Devil’s lap at once." The educated elite of the colony began efforts to end the witch-hunting hysteria that had enveloped Salem. Increase Mather, the father of Cotton, published what has been called "America’s first tract on evidence," a work entitled Cases of Conscience, which argued that it "were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person should be condemned." Increase Mather urged the court to exclude spectral evidence. Samuel Willard, a highly regarded Boston minister, circulated Some Miscellany Observations, which suggested that the Devil might create the specter of an innocent person. Mather’s and Willard’s works were given to Governor Phips. The writings most likely influenced the decision of Phips to order the court to exclude spectral evidence and touching tests and to require proof of guilt by clear and convincing evidence. With spectral evidence not admitted, twenty-eight of the last thirty-three witchcraft trials ended in acquittals. The three convicted witches were later pardoned. In May of 1693, Phips released from prison all remaining accused or convicted witches.

By the time the witchhunt ended, nineteen convicted witches were executed (LINK TO LIST OF DEAD), at least four accused witches had died in prison, and one man, Giles Corey, had been pressed to death. About one to two hundred other persons were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges. Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches.

Scholars have noted potentially telling differences between the accused and the accusers in Salem. Most of the accused lived to the south of, and were generally better off financially, than most of the accusers. In a number of cases, accusing families stood to gain property from the convictions of accused witches. Also, the accused and the accusers generally took opposite sides in a congregational schism that had split the Salem community before the outbreak of hysteria. While many of the accused witches supported former minister George Burroughs, the families that included the accusers had–for the most part–played leading roles in forcing Burroughs to leave Salem. The conclusion that many scholars draw from these patterns is that property disputes and congregational feuds played a major role in determining who lived, and who died, in 1692.

A period of atonement began in the colony following the release of the surviving accused witches. Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a public confession of guilt and an apology. Several jurors came forward to say that they were "sadly deluded and mistaken" in their judgments. Reverend Samuel Parris conceded errors of judgment, but mostly shifted blame to others. Parris was replaced as minister of Salem village by Thomas Green, who devoted his career to putting his torn congregation back together. Governor Phips blamed the entire affair on William Stoughton. Stoughton, clearly more to blame than anyone for the tragic episode, refused to apologize or explain himself. He criticized Phips for interfering just when he was about to "clear the land" of witches. Stoughton became the next governor of Massachusetts.

The witches disappeared, but witchhunting in America did not. Each generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating its mistakes. Salem should warn us to think hard about how to best safeguard and improve our system of justice.

Voir également:

FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES TO A JAIL CELL

Child abuse and the abuse of justice: A case study

Dorothy Rabinowitz

Dorothy Rabinowitz writes frequently on social and pohtical issues. She lives in New York City.

Harper’s Magazine

May 1990

On August 2, 1988, Margaret Kelly Michaels, then twenty-six years old, was sentenced by a New Jersey judge to forty-seven years in prison. It was as harsh a sentence as any judge in this country is likely to mete out for a crime involving neither drugs nor murder, but it was not nearly harsh enough for most of those assembled in the courtroom that day at the Essex County Court House in Newark. She faced, according to those moved to carefully calculate such things (and there were many on hand), an imprisonment of no fewer than 730 years. Three months earlier, Michaels had been convicted on 115 (of an alleged 131) counts of sexual abuse against twenty children, ranging in age from three to five. Each of the children had been in her charge at the Wee Care Day Nursery, an exclusive preschool in the suburban community of Maplewood, New Jersey, about twenty miles from New York City; each of the crimes was said to have been committed during regular school hours at the nursery, essentially a few rented rooms in the basement and on the second and third floors of the town’s large Episcopal church; each day during the seven months she worked as a teacher’s aide and then as a teacher at Wee Care, from September 1984 to April 1985, Kelly Michaels, according to the prosecutors, raped and assaulted them with knives, forks, a wooden spoon, and Lego blocks. The prosecution maintained that she had been able to do all this unnoticed by her fellow teachers, by school administrators, by parents and other visitors to the school, and unnoticed as well by anyone working for the church or attending services at the church that is to say, unnoticed for nearly 150 school days by any adult. Unnoticed, and on a daily basis, Michaels had also, according to the prosecutors, licked peanut butter off the children’s genitals, played the piano in the nude, and made them drink her urine and eat a "cake" of her feces. For 150 school days, not a single child ever said so much as a single word about any of these crimes because-again according to the prosecution-Kelly Michaels had forced them to keep at least 115 terrible secrets.

Although monstrous in its allegations, the case against Kelly Michaels was as much a work of the prosecution’s feverish imagination as a construction of the law. A substantial body of evidence suggests that Kelly Michaels was convicted of crimes she did not commit. Her story deserves telling in some detail because the circumstances that resulted in her arrest, trial, and imprisonment bespeak a condition of national hysteria not unlike the hysteria that seized the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century during the excitements of the Salem witch trials. If Kelly Michaels was unjustly convicted, it is because we live in an age of trial by accusation.

Our society, at the moment, is quick to condemn anybody and everybody charged, on the flimsiest of evidence, with the crimes of abusing or molesting children. In the interest of a higher virtue (i. e., protecting the search was not only the story of a young woman on only the children), a credulous public and a sensational whom I believe to have been falsely accused and testimony of ist press stand willing to cast aside whatever civil liberties or constitutional rights obstruct the judgment of heaven.

At the time of Kelly Michaels’s conviction, I was working for WWOR-TV, New Jersey’s largest television station. I reported and wrote commentaries about the media for the station’s evening news program, and because the Michaels case was one of the biggest local stories, I had followed it for months. From the beginning, I found something strange about the state’s case-something incomprehensible in the many counts of abuse, in the large number of children allegedly victimized, in the highly improbable circumstances in which Kelly Michaels was said to have accomplished the molestation of half the children in the school. I found no less strange the reactions of my colleagues to my casually voiced doubts to the effect that the case against Kelly Michaels was as rotten as last week’s fish. Youngish journalists who prided themselves on their skepticism – types who automatically sniffed with suspicion at any and every pronouncement by the government official – were outraged by the merest suggestion that the state’s charges against Kelly Michaels lacked credibility. In late July 1988, just before Michaels’s 5,000 sentence was to be handed down, I told one of the station’s news managers that I planned to do a commentary on the media coverage of the trial. The Village Voice  had published a lengthy story on the case by rely on only the testimony of small children; journalist Debbie Nathan that raised critical and this testimony invariably comes to involve questions about the press coverage. The story provided, I thought, the perfect opportunity to raise certain, by now deeply nagging, questions of my own about this case.

Forget it," the news managers informed me. ents, prosecutors, and jurors must-in a phrase This meant, in translation: This news organizawhispered frequently at such trials and even aftion is not prepared to air doubts about the trial fixed to posters and buttons-believe the chilof one of the most despised defendants ever condren. As proof of the prevailing doctrine, Essex victed in a New Jersey court-a child molester. County Assistant Prosecutor Glenn Goldberg,

Shortly after Kelly Michaels’s sentencing, I who tried the state’s case against Kelly Michaels

People everywhere in the country have believed tales as fantastic as any story ever told by the Brothers Grimm

By and large, this commandment has been obeyed. People everywhere in the country have believed. Believed almost anything and everything told to them by witnesses under the age of six. Believed tales as fantastic as any fairy story ever told by the Brothers Grimm. In Sequim, Washington, investigators listened attentively as children in a local preschool charged that they had been taken by a teacher to graveyards and forced to witness animal sacrifices. In Chicago, children told sympathetic authorities of how they were made to eat a boiled baby. A Memphis preschool teacher, Frances Ballard, was acquitted of terrorizing children into watching her put a bomb in a hamster and exploding it, and of fifteen other charges no less fantastic; but, in a trial to rival those of the Salem witches, she was convicted of kissing the genitals of a four-year-old boy.

The most sensational case of child abuse reached its denouement on January 18 of this year, when a jury in Los Angeles acquitted Ray Buckey and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, on fifty-two counts-this after deliberating for nine weeks over evidence presented in the course of thirty-three months at a trial that cost the taxpayers of California an estimated $15 million. Buckey, a teacher at the Virginia McMartin Preschool (founded by his graI,ldmother) in Manhattan Beach, a well-to-do seaside city that is a part of greater Los Angeles, was said by the children to have stuck silverware in their anuses, taken them on visits to cemeteries, and killed a horse with a baseball bat. The parent who first came forth after believing her son, a woman named Judy Johnson, died in 1986 of an alcohol-related illness; not long after her initial charge against Buckey of child sodomy, she made a similar allegation against the prosecution of Kelly Michaels took place in the midst of a national hysteria about the crimes of child abuse that, by the spring of 1985, had become as virulent and as contagious as the Asian flu. Kelly Michaels left the Wee Care Day Nursery on April 26, 1985, in order to accept a better-paying job in the nearby town of East Orange, New Jersey. Four days later, on April 30, one of her fonner students, a four-year-old boy whom I will call Terry Weldon, • inadvertently set in motion her transfonnation into an object of revulsion. His mother had taken him to his pediatrician for a checkup, and a nurse began to take his temperature by putting a thennometer in his rectum. Terry played quietly for a halfminute or so and then said, "That’s what my teacher does to me at nap time at school." When the nurse asked him what he meant, he answered, "Her takes my temperature." His nap-time monitor was Kelly Michaels.

Kelly Michaels had not come to Maplewood from Pittsburgh, where she was raised, to teach preschoolers. Nor, for that matter, had she come east to settle in Maplewood. She loved the theater and wanted to be an actress. She was pretty in a traditional, American-girl sort of way, with a dimply smile and eyes, as even her childhood photos show, that knew how to meet a camera lens. She was voted "best actress" of her high school, St. Benedict’s Academy, and went on to major in theater at Seton Hill, a Catholic women’s college near Pittsburgh. In the summer of 1984, then just a few credits shy of her B.A., she took up the offer of a college friend who had invited her to share an efficiency apartment in a poor, mostly black neighborhood in East Orange. For the time being, East Orange was as close as she could get to Manhattan’s theaters and drama schools.

Up to this point, she had lived with her parents, John and Marilyn Michaels, and her four sisters and brothers in a pleasant, woodsy, middle-class section of Pittsburgh called White Oak Heights. Her early life had been, from all evidence, a happy one as the eldest child of a close-knit family. They were a talkative, bookish lot, given to heated debate on art and polities, whieh might explain Kelly Michaels’s rather extraordinary command of the language-a faintly formal, old-fashioned eloquence that made her seem, at times, the child of another era.

When I met Kelly Michaels for the first time, in the dark visitors’ cubicle at the women’s prison in Clinton, New Jersey, two months after her sentencing, she still retained some of the wholesome look I had seen in her school photographs. Her shock at the accusations brought against her were still as fresh in her mind as at the moment when she was first questioned in 1985. Her gift for language allowed her to express not only rage at her accusers but also an intellectual scorn for the absurdity of their charges. On several subsequent occasions when I spoke to her, she never failed to voice her amazement that a jury had believed the charges. "To watch these witnesses, these prosecutors with their details-and none of it had ever happened," she once told me. "Yet, all these people were coming up to the stand to give descriptions of what never happened."

After arriving in East Orange, Michaels began looking for work. She answered a number of want ads, including one for a teacher’s aide. She had never worked in the child-care field, but the director of the nursery was impressed with her. She was subsequently hired by Wee Care (the pay was about four dollars an hour) and began work there in September. Her mother, Marilyn, told me last year, when I visited her in White Oak Heights, that she had teased Kelly when she called to say she had begun working at a preschool. Be careful, she told her daughter, look at what is happening in Los Angeles to those teachers in the McMartin case.

Within a month at Wee Care, Kelly Michaels was promoted to teacher. She had impressed her supervisors and appeared to be popular with the three-year-olds whose class she took charge of and with the other children whom she supervised during nap time. Following days that she stayed home sick, children would run to greet her-a fact the prosecution would not deny but rather pointed to as evidence that Michaels "was an actress" and that "child abusers are very clever people." Michaels liked the children and their parents too, but the salary proved impossible to live on. When she went home for Christmas, her parents told me, she said she planned to leave Wee Care and return to Pittsburgh. John Michaels, to his bitter regret, urged her to be responsible and finish out the year. Kelly Michaels returned to Wee Care but did not finish out the year; she left two months before the school was to close for the summer in order to take the job in East Orange.

Ten days after Terry Weldon’s checkup, Essex County Investigator Richard Mastrangelo and Maplewood Detective Sergeant John

Noonan knocked on the door of the apartment Kelly Michaels shared with her friend Cynthia. Terry Weldon’s mother, upon arriving home after his examination, had fixed her son lunch and then phoned the doctor to talk about the temperature-taking incident. The doctor advised her to call the state child-protective agency, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). Her call was referred to the agency’s Institutional Abuse Unit, which contacted the Child Abuse Unit of the Essex County prosecutor’s office, which agreed to initiate an investigation. We have now in this country a vastly increased number of child-protection agencies and experts. This is largely a result of the passage in 1979 of the Federal Child Abuse Act, which dramatically increased funds available to states and localities for such agencies and experts. Funds begat staffs, which grew, as did their zeal.

On May 2, Terry’s mother-the wife of a Maplewood police officer and the daughter of a prominent Essex County judge-brought him to the Essex County prosecutor’s office in Newark, where he was questioned by the head of the office’s Child Abuse Unit, Assistant Prosecutor Sara Sencer, now Sara McArdle. She happened to live in Maplewood.

McArdle questioned Terry, handing to him during the interview what is called, by childabuse experts, an "anatomically correct" dollthat is, a rag doll that has an anus and genitalia. On the basis of what the child does with-and to-such a doll, investigators like McArdle say they can conclude whether and what type of abuse is likely to have occurred. Under questioning by McArdle, according to a prosecutor’s report, Terry Weldon stuck his finger in the doll’s rectum.

Terry also told McArdle that two other boys had had their temperature taken. Both were questioned. The boys seemed to know nothing about temperature-taking, but one of them, according to McArdle, said Michaels had touched his penis. Then a fourth allegation was made: The Weldons had notified Wee Care director Arlene Spector of their son Terry’s story, and

We have now in this country a vastly increased number of child,protection agencies and experts. Funds begat staffs, which grew, as did their zeal

The child, abuse experts convince parents that the number of abuses and abusers is virtually limitless, beyond their imagination

Spector, in tum, had notified the members of the school board. Under repeated questioning from his father, a board member-with the father telling him "he was his best friend and that he could tell him anything" {this from the prosecutor’s office report)-another boy said that Michaels had touched his penis’With a spoon. A decision was made to bring Kelly Michaels in for questioning.

The two investigators who arrived at Kelly Michaels’s apartment on the morning of May 6 found only one bed in the apartment, and this, Michaels later said, at once attracted their attention. She said they exchanged sly and significant glances. She was told she was not under arrest and did not need a lawyer but that she was under investigation and would she please come to the prosecutor’s office for questioning. Once there, she waived her Miranda rights and spent several hours insisting that the allegations were unfounded and that she was innocent. About temperature-taking, she explained that teachers took it by placing plastic strips on the children’s· foreheads. She was urged to take a lie-detector test and did; she passed. Two and a half years later, at Michaels’s trial, the county prosecutors prevented the results of this polygraph from being admitted into evidence, basing their objection on a state law stipulating that any person submitting to a police lie-detector test must first sign an agreement authorizing future use of the results. Michaels, who had never before been brought into a police station, knew nothing of this requirement; nor did the detectives questioning her see fit to mention it.

She was driven home, and, shaken though she was at the end of this day, she remembers reaching the conclusion that it must all have been some kind of bizarre misunderstanding. In one sense it was: The jury eventually rejected the charge that she had taken Terry Weldon’s temperature rectally-the very charge that provoked the entire investigation: anal penetration of the boy. But, as is invariably true in these cases, the first accusation was followed by more accusations-many more.

No one examining the scores of such child sexual-abuse cases can fail to be struck by the way in which, in almost every instance, an initial accusation leads to others and still othersand on and on, until the charges number in the hundreds. At one point during the McMartin case, the police announced they had thirty-six suspects and had uncovered as many as 1,200 alleged victims of sexual abuse. An investigation begun in Jordan, Minnesota, at about the same time that Judy Johnson first made her allegations about Ray Buckey, followed a similar-if even stranger-pattern.

There, a case was opened after a woman named Christine Brown alleged that her daugh. ter had been sexually abused by James Rud, a trash collector and a neighbor in the trailer park where she and her daughter lived. Other children in the trailer park were questioned, and some acknowledged that they, too, had been victimized-by Christine Brown. She was charged soon after with eighteen COunts of criminal sexual activity. A mother of five with little money, Brown approached her older sister and brother-in-law, Helen and Tom Brown (the shared surname is coincidental), for help, and they agreed to mortgage their house to post Christine’s bail. Two months later, the prosecutor in the case, Kathleen Morris, had Tom and Helen arrested for child abuse, and they spent five days in jail. Several dozen local residents met at City Hall to protest the arrests, among them an automobile painter named Bob Bentz, his wife, Lois, and a local policeman, Greg Myers. Not long after, all three were arrested on charges of child abuse, along with Myers’s wife and a married couple who had driven the Browns home from jail.

In nearly all such cases, the allegations and the numbers of suspects begin to mount only after the entry of investigators and of representatives of child-abuse agencies. It is these experts who convince parents and children alike that the number of abuses and abusers is virtually limitless-beyond their imagination.

On May IS, 1985, nine days after Kelly Mi· chaels had been brought in for questioning, Wee Care convened a meeting of parents. The school had sent out a letter on May 8, infonning the parents that a former employee of the school was being investigated "regarding serious allega. tions made by a child," and while this prompted a flurry of phone calls by parentse to the school, no other allegations against Michaels emerged. The prosecutor’s office was set to wrap up its case-based on the allegations made by Terry Weldon and the two boys who alleged Michaels touched their penis-and present it to a grand jury. But the Wee Care board thought it best that the parents be infonned about abuse by an expert, in this instance, Peg Foster, a social worker who codirected a Sexual Assault Unit at a Newark hospital.

On the evening of May 15, Foster told the as· sembled parents a number of things they had never heard before. She told them that sexual abuse is not unusual. She told them that, although she could point to no hard evidencebecause no such evidence exists-she believed that one in three children in the United States has had an "inappropriate sexual experience" by the time he or she reaches the age of eighteen. She encouraged the parents to take their child to their pediatricians to check for physical injury. She told them to go home and begin checking their sons and daughters carefully for genital soreness-and also for nightmares, biting, spitting, bed-wetting, masturbation, or for what might be construed in any way as sexual behavior, or, for that matter, for any sort of noticeable changes in behavior. She did not tell them, of course, that the "symptoms" are for many children a normal part of development.

On May 22, the state’s Division of Youth and Family Services-the ager.c:y that Terry Weldon’s mother had first contacted-initiated its own investigation. The agency had allowed the county prosecutor’s office to have the first chance at the case, but by law its staff was required to undertake its own inquiry. That afternoon, a DYFS social worker named Lou Fonolleras made his first of many visits to Wee Care and conducted his first of many interviews with the school’s children. It was Fonolleras, a roundish man of thirty-four with a B.A. in psychology, who played the crucial role in building the case against Kelly Michaels.

Something of the state of mind that Fonolleras brought to his work is perhaps revealed in his official report of his first day at Wee Care. Describing the large, stone-faced church’s many nooks and crannies, he noted that these would make ideal hiding places for child molesters. In his report, he described the school as a "pedophile’s paradise." But no child he interviewed that first day told him that he or she had been abused by Kelly Michaels, or by anyone else. Two days after Fonolleras’s visit to Wee Care, the county prosecutor’s office brought its case to the grand jury, and the grand jury, agreeing that the state had a case, handed up an indictment. On June 12, Kelly Michaels was arrested and charged with six counts of abuse; she pleaded innocent to all charges. She was taken to the county jail, where she was confined in protective custody.

Fonolleras continued to suspect that there was more to the Wee Care case than six counts of abuse. When I met with him more than two years later, he explained that despite the denials of abuse voiced by the children he had talked with that day in May, he had glimpsed clues in "the children’s body language," and that "you can’t go by what they say"-though, of course, he himself eventually did just that. On June 6, he returned to Wee Care at the behest of a parent who, following instructions, had noticed her son behaVing strangely. During the course of this interview, Fonolleras has said, he learned of the "pile-up" game. The "pile-up" is said to have worked this way: During nap time in a basement classroom, Kelly Michaels would march her students upstairs to a third-floor choir room, place kitchen utensils on the floor, and make the children strip and, once naked, roll around together.

In the days that followed, Fonolleras conducted interviews with other Wee Care children, bringing to these meetings not only crayons and paper but knives and forks and spoons. Remarkably, he made no tape recordings of these interviews, nor did he keep his written records. At the Michaels trial, he told the court that he had destroyed all the notes he took at these initial meetings because, at the time, he saw no reason to save them. He was not at this time gathering evidence for a criminal prosecution-although, as it turned out, there would have been no prosecution, beyond the six initial charges, had not Fonolleras, moved by what he heard in these unrecorded interviews, raised the specter of widespread child abuse. During my conversation with him, he explained that the only way to understand his technique of eliciting testimony about child abuse was to know what the children had told him in the very first interviews-the records of which, of course, he had thrown away.

Sometime in mid-June, Fonolleras called the county prosecutor’s office with the suggestion that it might want to look further into the Wee Care case. The prosecutor’s office and the DYFS agreed to launch a joint investigation and also brought in Peg Foster, who had earlier instructed the Wee Care parents on what she believed to be the symptoms of child abuse. For two months-during july and August of 1985-this investigative team talked with the Wee Care staff and with parents, and also recorded interviews with the children. These interviews, it is important to understand, are not like those that might take place between two adults. Listening to tapes of the interviews, one might be struck by how little the children actually confided on their own and also by the wholly fantastical natureofsomuch ofwhattheydid say. Mostofthe children were confused, had nothing to say, or flatly denied that anything had happened to them. It was also clear that what a child actually said during the questioning often carried little weight with the investigators. If a child persisted in denying that anything had been done to him or her, Fonolleras or another investigator would typically write: "At this time Hugh denied victimization. It should be noted [that] during the interview, Hugh was victimizing an anatomically correct doll."

As a rule, the children were given knives and forks and then asked to show-on an anatomically correct doll-where Kelly had hurt them. On the tapes that I heard, a child’s first response more often than not was to poke the doll in the eye or the neck or a knee. Invariably, the Iisten-

Listening to tapes of the interviews with the allegedly abused children, one might be struck by how little they actUlllly confided on their own

As the investigations progressed, it became amply clear that some of the parents took as true every word of the stories of abuse

er then hears the voice of Fonolleras, urging, "Where else? Uh-huh, where else?" After a succession of "where else?" responses, rhe child winds up poking at a penis, or a vagina, or an anus. Here, the "where elses" stop. Later, Fonolleras’s official report typically would note how a child "described" the penetration of her vagina or his anus.

Fonolleras was quick to praise those who confinned his suspicions: "Boy,’ you’re doing so good." But he was stern with those who responded with firm orlfrequent noes. Here is Fonolleras

with one tiny recalcitrant: "If you don’t help me, I’m going to tell your friends that you not only don’t want to help me but you won’t help them."

What follows is part of a transcript of an interview with Luke, age four, conducted by Fonolleras and Essex County Investigator Richard Mastrangelo.

FONOLLERAS: A lot of other kids have helped us

since we saw you last.

LUKE: I don’t have to. No!

FONOLLERAS: Did we tell you Kelly is in jail?

LUKE: Yes, my mother already told me.

FONOLLERAS [indicating Mastrangelo): Did I tell

you this is the guy who arrested her, put her in

there? Don’t you want to ask us any questions?

LUKE: No!

Fonolleras at this point handed Luke an anatomically correct doll, then proceeded with his questioning.

FONOLLERAS: What color did Kelly have down there? Brown like her head? Did she have hair under her arm?

LUKE: My daddy do.

At this point, Luke began to shriek, and there are indications that he was kicking Fonolleras. Fonolleras offered him a piece of cake anu asked him if he would like to see Investigator Mastrangelo’s badge. Mastrangelo then said to Luke, "So your penis was bleeding?" Luke laughed.

FONOLLERAS [taking a new tack): Did Kelly play

"Jingle Bells" with clothes on?

LUKE [screaming now): No, I saw her penis! I peed on her!

FONOLLERAS: You peed on her?

LUKE: No, she peed on me!

At this time Luke told Fonolleras that he wanted to stop. But Fonolleras urged him to continue. He asked more questions about Luke’s penis, about whether he put it in Kelly’s mouth.

FONOLLERAS: Whose mouth did you have to put

your penis in?

LUKE: Nobody.

FONOLLERAS: Did anybody kiss your penis?

LUKE: No. I want to go home.

FONOLLERAS: Did she put this fork in your bottom?

Yes or no.

LUKE: I forgot.

FONOLLERAS: Did she do anything else to Your bottom? LUKE: That’s all she did.

There followed a series of "I forgot" and "I don’t know" responses. Finally, tiredly, Luke said, "Okay, okay, I’ll try to remember." He then said-in an obviously playful, makebelieve tone-"She put that in my heinie."

FONOLLERAS: The fork!

LUKE [shrieking]: Yes!

There were more questions, and more noes, from Luke. Fonolleras then said, in a disap, pointed tone, "I thought you were going to help me." The session ends with Luke shouting, "It’s all lies!"

If the parents of the Wee Care children har, bored any doubts about these interviews and the resulting abuse charges, they kept those’doubts to themselves. One Wee Care parent, grateful for the kindness Kelly Michaels had shown his child, did write to express his faith in her inno, cence. Still, the months of group meetings with investigators and other parents eroded his faith. At the trial, this father took the stand as a vocal witness for the prosecution.

As the investigations progressed, it became amply clear that some of the parents took as true every word of the stories of abuse they began hearing from their children. One mother ex, plained (to a grand jury) how her four-and,a, half-year-old son had told her that Kelly had stuck a spoon and a pencil in his ear, that her aide, Brenda Sopchak, had given him a "truth drink," that Kelly had begged the aide not to call the police, that she had told the little boys she would cut them in pieces and throw them away so the mothers couldn’t find them again.

Asked if she thought her son might have been fantasizing, the mother, a school board member, answered, "No." He was, she further explained, "merely recounting what had hap, pened during the day."

If Kelly Michaels’s fellow teachers harbored doubts about her guilt, they, too-with one no, table exception-kept these doubts largely to themselves. There were children, it appears, who had told investigators that other teachers had been present when they were being molest’ ed by Kelly. Some of the children named every teacher in the school. This would explain the clear eagerness to please in the answers some teachers gave during their grand jury testimony. Before being questioned herself, Kelly Mi, chaels’s classroom aide, Brenda Sopchak, was played a tape of a child accusing her. She now began to remember things: Michaels’s suspiciously even temper, how she seemed to be in a daydreamlike state at times, and the like. An’ other teacher testified that Kelly wore no under’ pants under her jeans. Only Wee Care’s headteacher, Diane Costa, remained unwaveringly sought to stir outrage-and, of course, to consupportive of Kelly Michaels, whom she devince the jurors that they should simply believe scribed as a "model teacher." But Costa herself the children. was indicted on the charge of failing to report They needed some sort of facsimile evidence, child abuse, which meant that she could not and in the summer of 1985, months before the testify at Michaels’s trial without placing herself 235-count indictment against Michaels was under the threat of prosecution. The indicthanded up, they began instructing Wee Care ment effectively silenced the one authoritative parents in the preparation of charts and diaries voice capable of undermining the state’s case. detailing the "symptoms" of abuse-the bedAfterclosing for the summer, Wee Care did wetting, nightmares, changes in behavior, and not reopen in September 1985. Only the memso on-that they had first learned of at the bers of the investigative team returned from meeting at Wee Care in mid-May of that year. time to time to the classrooms. Assessing their During my interviews at the prosecutor’s office months of research, these investigators claimed in the winter of 1988, I saw huge stacks of these that Kelly Michaels had, in her seven months charts. One of the more noteworthy symptoms at the school, sexually abused the entire Wee of abuse listed on the charts was "child won’t eat Care student body, fifty-one children. Two peanut butter." The children’s lack of appetite more grand juries were convened, and in December, Kelly Michaels was indicted on 235 counts of abuse against thirty-one children.

1he trial of Kelly Michaels began on June 22, 1987. (One of the \1 retur

Wee Care families had moved out of

ng. She,f

Maplewood, and others had chosen 1’1 COI1\’1

not to expose their children to the gfOUn

rigors of a jury trial; as a result, the charges against Kelly Michaels now

numbered 163.) Because the Michaels family had run out of money,

Kelly Michaels was defended by a

team of "pool attorneys" appointed

by New Jersey’s Office of the Public her app Defender. Pool attorneys are not , will be salaried employees of the state but article free-lancers permitted to pick and noW, choose among available cases. Mchaels’s case went unassigned for many of these lawyers were relucornieel tant to take on a case that looked as though it would drag on for months, t.o~..r. t\l\tI re61"•

or to defend a woman accused of d the 1’1,000 ,In

sexually assaulting, among others,

the grandson of a prominent local judge. (The for peanut butter, the prosecutors contended,

judge, as it turned out, was the first witness was proof of the charge made by the children

called by the prosecution.) that Michaels had spread peanut butter on their

Harvey Meltzer and Robert Clark, the degenitals and then licked it off. Sometimes it was fense attorneys eventually assigned to the case, peanut butter alone, but sometimes-as the tesbelieved their client to be innocent. They timony evolved in ever more elaborate detailhoped to base their defense on logistics and it was peanut butter and jelly. common sense-on the contention that no one I met that winter as well with a number of could have abused children sexually in every Wee Care parents who were eager to tell me all comer of the school without anybody else findthe significant changes they had noticed in ing out about it. their children, in particular their suddenly sexThe

prosecutors, for their part, knew their ualized behavior. Each time I was told a new dehopes lay in the emotional nature of the case. tail-how a child grabbed his father’s genitals Lacking material evidence, the prosecutors or talked about kissing penises-I inquired

Lacking material evidence, the prosecutors sought to stir outrage-and, of course, to convince the jurors that they should simply believe the children

No matter what else might be going on at home, the parents held that their children’s problems stemmed from abuse

when this kind of behavior or talk had begun. Invariably I was told, "Just after disclosure." That is, not after Kelly Michaels is said to have begun sexually molesting the children, in the fall of 1984, but after the parents were told, in the spring of 1985, to look for portents and signs.

One mother told me, "My daughter was all over my husband. She had turned into a little five-year-old whore!"

I asked her when this behavior had begun.

"After disclosure."

Disclosure, like so many other quasilegalisms that support the accusations of child abuse, became a household word among the Wee Care parents. It never occurred to the mother in question or to any of the other mothers with whom I spoke that the hypersexuality of their children might have to do not with Kelly Michaels but with the exhaustive questioning, and lurid disclosures, to which they were subjected by investigators and by their parents. (There were parents, I learned, who kept separate charts listing suspicious behavior they began to remember having occurred prior to disclosure. But not one of these parents had found the behavior unusual enough at the time to consult a pediatrician or ask a Wee Care teacher about it.)

The charts were useful not only to the prosecution. They also provided some parents with a way of explaining all types of problems they had with their children. That their children had been molested at school now served to explain everything. As one parent said, "Everything my husband and I had passed off as just some phase our child was going through, we could look back on and say, ‘Now, now we could understand why."’ Other parents cited the molestation as the cause of their marital breakup. No matter what else might be going on at home, parents held that their children’s problems stemmed from abuse at Wee Care.

In court, the charts aided the parents in their testimony and perhaps aided Judge William Harth in his decision to allow such testimony. In a similar case, a higher state court in New Jersey subsequently ruled as inadmisSible-as

hearsay-the testimony of parents on the subject of what their children told them. Michaels’s lawyer Harvey Meltzer requested a mistrial based on this ruling, which was handed down after the prosecution had presented its case. The judge refused to grant the mistrial. Instead, he instructed the jury to disregard some twenty charges based on hearsay; but he did not give the instruction until much later, just prior to the jury’s deliberation. Thus, the jurors had been allowed to listen for months to hearsay that at the last moment they were told to erase from their minds.

In Judge Harth’s courtroom, the parent-plaintiffs were treated with unstinting consideration for their every concern, particularly the concern for anonymity. The guarantee of anonymity, of course, encourages the multiplication of charges and accusations. To the privacy of the parents and children Judge Harth accorded something akin to sacred status, while the name of the accused-like that of the accused and

their families at similar tribunals across the nation-was emblazoned in headlines, irremediably tarnished.

To protect the Wee Care families’ anonymity, the judge strictly curtailed the amount of investigation into their backgrounds he would allow defense attorneys. To protect that anonymity, the judge sealed the trial transcript. Nor were the children required to testify in open court. They testified in the judge’s chambers, and their testimony was shown to the jury on closed-circuit TV-a not uncommon arrangement at such child-abuse trials. Judge Harth also refused to allow the defense psychologists to

examine the children, as the prosecution doctors had been able to do. These children (who had, in fact, been analyzed and counseled for some twO years prior to the trial) would, the judge said, be too traumatized to answer questions by a second set of psychologists. The defense argued in vain that its psychologists must have a chance to determine whether the children were, in fact, traumatized, but the judge held firm. It was a decision that violated the most fundamental principle of due process-the principle that both sides must be heard in a courtroom. Notevenacardinalprincipleofthejustice system was a match, apparently, for the revered status accorded alleged victims of child abuse.

At the trial the children’s testimony, given after two and a half years of preparation and training, was rich in detail, a startling difference from the earlier denials and bewilderment recorded during the investigative phase. One witness was Luke, who had shouted "It’s all lies!" at Fonolleras’s questions. Mindful of this taped outburst, prosecutor Sara McArdle asked Luke whether he hadn’t meant he was hoping it was all lies. This time he didn’t disappoint his interrogator: Yes, the child answered, he had been hoping it was all lies.

Still, even now there were child witnesses who continued to change stories, midtestimony, or to deny that anything had happened. One child told the court that Kelly forced him to push a sword into her rectum. A lengthy and earnest colloquy then took place, between the attorneys and the judge, as to whether the child was saying sword or saw. After he had pushed the sword, or saw, into his teacher’s rectum, the boy told the court, she told him to take it out.

"What did Kelly say when you took the sword out?" the child was then asked.

"She said, ‘Thank you."’

Brad Greene told the court that Kelly threatened to tum him into a mouse-that, in fact, she had turned him into a mouse for a little while during a plane trip to visit his grandmother. Child witness Celine Mauer said that she had been "tractored" by Kelly; that is, been abused, with other children, inside a tractor. Indeed, the prosecutors went to some trouble to substantiate this claim-bringing a representative of the Maplewood street maintenance department to confirm that a tractor had been parked in the vicinity of the school.

Who would have believed any of this? Surely no reasonable adult, no jury. Yet it was offered as evidence. Thanks to the current zeal to prosecute child abusers, strange new rules have come to obtain at these trials according to which the witnesses need not be credible all the time. These rules did not obtain at the McMartin trial, at which jurors rejected the children’s stories, but it did obtain at the trial of Kelly Michaels. Prosecutor Glenn Goldberg advised the jury at the outset that it was not necessary to believe everything the children said. Where child abuse is concerned, the prosecutor told them, "there is no physical evidence. Is the jury going to be able to understand this?"

In effect, the prosecutor asked the jurors if they could bring themselves to forget certain values with which they had been imbued as citizens of a democracy, values such as the importance of evidence in a criminal trial, and if they could suspend their belief in the Constitution in the interest of protecting children. As the verdict proved, they could.

Perhaps the most important witness for the prosecution was not a child or a parent but Bronx psychologist Eileen Treacy. An article in New York magazine later revealed that the curriculum vitae of this particular child-abuse "expert" exaggerated her credentials. The article also cited a ruling by a New Jersey judge, Mark Epstein, in a similar child-abuse case. That ruling declared, "The most damning witness [against the prosecution] was Eileen Treacy…. Ms. Treacy’s questioning gently but surely led [the child) where Ms. Treacy wanted to take him." The judge was convinced, he said, that Treacy would have been able to elicit the same accusations from children who had not been abused.

If a child said emphatically that nothing had happened, the denial, Treacy explained, was the very proof that the abuse had taken place. In this expert’s view, all friendship or affection shown by teacher to child signified an effort to seduce. At the Michaels trial, Treacy testified that the Wee Care students were "the most traumatized group of children" she had ever seen. She explained the trauma by referring to the theories of Suzanne Sgroi, a pediatrician and the discoverer of the Child Sex Abuse Syndrome. According to Dr. Sgroi, the syndrome develops in a number of phases. There is the "engagement phase," during which time the abuser seduces the child into the activity. This is followed by the "secrecy phase," the "suppression phase," and so on; and Treacy explained each of them to the jury. "Proof of the suppression stage," she said, "is the succession of no, no, no answers." When one child, during testimony, expressed concern for Michaels, this demonstrated "that she [the child) had a relationship with Kelly, and that fits into the engagement phase."

Treacy, it should be said, did not limit herself to interpretations based on the theories of Dr. Sgroi. In one of the abuse diaries, a parent had noted that her child no longer liked tuna fish.

Not even the principle of due process was a match, apparently, for the revered status accorded alleged victims of child abuse

song that Kelly Michaels had copied into her roll book. The lyrics included the lines "Your lover who just walked out the door / Has taken all his blankets from the floor." The prosecutor who has an undergraduate major in psychology: told the jury that the song was very significant•that it was an extremely important clue to Kelly Michaels’s secret life as a sexual criminal. The Wee Care children, he told the jury, "slept on blankets and mats.")

With no character witnesses called-no old classmates, friends, neighbors, or teachers to color in, with stories and comments, the outline of a normal life-the jurors saw only the KellJl Michaels of the Wee Care case, the abuser of children so luridly portrayed in the testimony.

For the jurors who doubted that one woman .’ could commit so many awful crimes, Assistant Prosecutor Sara McArdle reminded them in her summation that Adolf Hitler, "one man," had persecuted not a "little school" but the "entire world"-"Jews, Gypsies, Czechs, and blacks." Blacks, of course, were not among Hitler’s victims, but many of the jurors were black.

Bearing in mind, perhaps, that prosecutorial excess is one of the grounds relevant to an appeal, prosecutor McArdle later vehemently denied any intentional parallel between the defendant and Adolf Hitler. She went on to say that she could not imagine that anyone could read anything untoward into this simple historical analogy. Thus, the prosecution, which had vested so much faith in a lack of appetite for peanut butter, and which divined damning I proofs of guilt in Bob Dylan lyrics in a roll book, j now disdained as fanciful any notion that a comparison to Hitler might be something other than a neutral reference.

It took the jury thirteen days to reach its verdict that Michaels was guilty of 115 counts of abuse. Meltzer requested that the court consider granting his client bail pending appeal. The judge turned down the request: Michaels, he said, was a danger to the community. He said, "1 just cannot forget the children."

But a three-member appellate panel agreed that, because of the legal questions the trial raised, Kelly Michaels should be granted bail pending appeal. Among the questions the judges doubtless had in mind was the defendant’s constitutional right to face her accusers-denied in this trial, as in many of the other trials involVing children’s hearsay testimony.

News that Kelly Michaels might get bail raised storms of protest from the Wee Care parents. The prosecutors appealed. Local politicians, declaring themselves outraged, joined them. The parents marched and picketed. One mother, weeping, told reporters that when she had informed her child that Kelly had been con-

The psychologist had in effect told the jury that they must suspend all rational belief if they were to understand the abuse the children had suffered

This, Treacy pointed out to the jurors, was significant. "It’s well known," she said, "that the smell of tuna fish is similar to the odor ofvaginal excretions." In the winter of 1988, when I visited Treacy in her office in the Bronx, I remarked on the many children’s drawings on the walls. She told me that if I looked closely at the drawings, I would "see how obvious hands are in all their pictures." The predominance of hands, she explained, was a strong sign that the children who drew these pictures had been molested.

To encounter Treacy’s Kafkaesque testimony is to understand how a jury managed to find the accused in this case guilty, however improbable the evidence. The abuse expert, a psychologist, had in effect told the jury that they must suspend all rational belief if they were to understand the abuse the children had suffered. It was a world in which no meant yes, black meant white. Yet, the jury was told, they must believe its premises, believe the children, or else be counted guilty of betraying these young victims.

The principal witness for the defense was Dr. Ralph Underwager, an avowed opponent of the child-abuse investigators’ techniques, their reliance on dolls and children’s draWings, and their insistence on finding child abuse whether or not any took place. At the Michaels trial, Dr. Underwager said, "The child is interrogated and desperately is trying to figure out what are the roles, what’s wanted of me by this powerful adult before me? The child says no, Kelly’s clothes were on, when the interrogators want the response ‘Her clothes were off.’ And what happens? The interviewer doesn’t stop, doesn’t believe the child, repeats the question. It just tells the child: What you told me before isn’t enough. It isn’t right. It’s not what I want … " His testimony said, in effect, that nothing had happened to the Wee Care children except the visits of the investigators. The Wee Care parents I talked to vehemently agreed that, of everybody on the defense side, the person they hated the most was Dr. Underwager.

Defense attorneys Clark and Meltzer made the decision early not to present character witnesses to testify on Kelly Michaels’s behalf. Such a witness may be asked anything under cross-examination, and what the attorneys feared most was the discovery that Michaels had been involved in two brief homosexual love affairs. Kelly Michaels refers to the liaisons as nothing more than youthful experiments, but the defense lawyers reasoned that the prosecution would seek to make a damaging connection between her sexual history and the criminal acts with which she was charged.

(Prosecutor Goldberg sought to nourish this view by close textual analysis of a Bob Dylan

victed, the child had said, "Now I’m safe." "What do I tell her now? Now, my daughter’s

not safe!" The state’s highest court, in

short order, vacated the bail decision.

In the days immediately following the end of the McMartin trial and the acquittal of Ray Buckey and his mother, the Los Angeles Times published an analysis of the press coverage of the case. The headline above the first installment in the series could as easily have been affixed to analyses of the Michaels trial: WHERE WAS SKEPTICISM IN MEDIA! PACK JOURNALISM AND HYSTERIA MARKED … COVERAGE…. FEW JOURNALISTS STOPPED TO QUESTION THE BELIEVABILITY OF THE PROSECUTION’S CHARGES.

During the trial, stories began leaking from the prosecutor’s office suggesting that Kelly Michaels had herself been sexually abused by her parents. The stories were widely circulated among reporters covering the case. One of them, a television reporter, told me of stories she had heard that Kelly Michaels’s mother had molested her and sent her nude photographs of herself; and of how Kelly Michaels’s fatherwho, the story went, also molested his daughter-had called Wee Care every day to make sure that she was initiating the children in the practices of pederasty.

Such stories were not broadcast or printed. Still, they had enormous impact on the press, for they meshed nicely with current dogmaand the press is nothing if not up on the latest dogma-which holds that children who are molested become molesters themselves. The rumors that Ke\ly Michaels had been sexually abused by her parents thus counted heavily in persuading many reporters that she was guilty. In tum, these reporters, subtly and sometimes not so subtly, conveyed their belief to their readers and viewers.

Of course, the newspapers and the TV stations no longer concern themselves with Kelly Michaels, who will not come up before a parole board for twelve more years. When she does come up for parole, the Wee Care parents have vowed they will be there to see that it is denied. Her attorney is moving ahead with an appeal. In the meantime, Kelly Michaels sits in her sma\l cell at the women’s prison in Clinton, New Jersey, where the Wee Care parents are determined to keep her.

The Wee Care Day Nursery closed down in the aftermath of the investigation; the former Wee Care students, it would appear, thereafter went to another sort of school: one in which they were instructed, by child-agency investigators and by prosecutors, in the details of the sex crimes supposedly committed against them. Perhaps the worst thing about the long investigation and trial is that-however unfounded the charges-the child witnesses grow up having internalized the belief that they have been the victims of hideous sexual abuse. No one who saw them wi\l soon forget the frenzied faces of thirteen-and fourteen-year-old former McMartin pupils in the hours following the verdict. These adolescents had spent their last six years -fully half their lives-instructed in the faith that they had been subjected, at ages four and five, to unspeakable sexual horrors; this belief they had come to hold as the defining truth of their lives and identities. It is not surprising that these children should have wept and raved when the verdict was handed down denying all that they believed in.

Believe the children is the battle cry of the child-abuse militants, who hold as an article of faith that a pederast lurks behind every door and blackboard. But child after child repeatedly said that Kelly Michaels had done nothingand they had not been believed. The prosecutors had brought experts to court to testify that children denying abuse should not be believed. Believe the children apparently means-to those raising the rallying cry-believe the children only if they say they have been molested. "To believe a child’s no is simplistic," prosecutor McArdle had told the jury.

The scores of investigations and trials of alleged child molesters, undertaken in the name of a good-protecting children-have irreparably shattered lives and reputations. It is not an unfamiliar pattern in our history. We are a society that, every fifty years or so, is afflicted by some paroxysm of virtue-an orgy of selfcleansing through which evil of one kind or another is cast out. From the witch-hunts of Salem to the communist hunts of the McCarthy era to the current shrill fixation on child abuse, there runs a common thread of moral hysteria. After the McCarthy era, people would ask: But how could it have happened? How could the presumption of innocence have been abandoned wholesale? How did large and powerful institutions acquiesce as congressional investigators ran roughshod over civil liberties-all in the name of the war on communists? How was it possible to believe that subversives lurked behind every library door, in every radio station, that every two-bit actor who had ever belonged to the wrong political organization posed a threat to the nation’s security?

Years from now people doubtless will ask the same questions about our present era-a time when the most improbable charges of abuse find believers; when it is enough only to be accused by anonymous sources to be hauled off to the investigators; a time when the hunt for child abusers has become a national pathology. _

However unfounded the charges, the child witnesses grow up believing they have been the victims of abuse

Voir encore:

The Ritual Sex Abuse Hoax

Debbie Nathan

The Village Voice

January 12, 1990

After the First McMartin Trial

The eight kids sitting in Geraldo Rivera’s New York studio after the first McMartin trial ended could have stepped out of a candy bar commercial on Saturday morning TV. They gleamed with the healthy tans, shopping-mall clothes, and moussed sun-bleached hair of the southern California suburbs; their parents looked equally affluent. But these families were far from cheerful. “We were molested,” a strapping blond teenager told the audience solemnly, “and that’s an honest-to-God fact.” When some of the children – most of them by now adolescents – described suffering flashbacks and night terrors, their mothers quietly dabbed at tears. Other parents seemed angry and driven. “The parents and children standing up here will not stop,” said Marymae Cioffi, who since the beginning of the case had been organizing to convince the public and the courts that bizarre sex abuse claims at places like the McMartin preschool should be believed.

As Cioffi spoke, her lips twitched in spasms of anger. The children sat politely. But when a relative of the defendants noted that the investigation had never produced any evidence against them, the eyes of a small, until then subdued 14-year-old boy suddenly turned to slits; his teeth bared and his lips trembled, just like Cioffi’s. For even though the jury had completely exonerated Peggy McMartin Buckey while acquitting her son Ray on most counts and deadlocking on the rest, Geraldo’s guests insisted their former teachers really were sadistic sex criminals.

Gerald reminded the audience that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But he also asked whether the acquittals spelled doom for child abuse prosecutions, and titled the program “The McMartin Outrage: What Went Wrong?” Finally, when he patted the children’s shoulders and remarked on their “sincere pain,” it was clear this show was adding to the pressures that would lead to the current retrial of Ray Buckey on eight counts involving three girls.

What Geraldo neglected to mention was that none of these children had ever taken the stand: since McMartin first hit the media in 1984, his guests’ accusations had been so consistently bizarre and illogical that their testimony would only have damaged the case. There was 18-year-old Chris Collins, whose father belongs to a McMartin parents’ group that believes the teachers are part of an intergenerational Satanic conspiracy. Collins, who insists that he was molested attending McMartin in the mid-‘70s, remembers a room below the school office and “major, major sacrifices” connected with the “Satanic Church.” The problem with his claim is that when Collins was at McMartin, Ray Buckey was in high school and, according to his mother, maintained a perfect attendance record – meaning he was never at the preschool when Collins was. Then there was round-faced, 10-year-old Elizabeth Cioffi. According to her father, she has talked about being molested under the school in tunnels lined with flashing lights and pictures of the devil.

Irrationality pervaded the McMartin case from the beginning. The first allegation came from a woman alter diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. After Judy Johnson noticed one day in 1983 that her two-year-old son’s bottom was red, she told police he said something about a man named Ray at his nursery school. In the next few weeks, Johnson accused 25-year-old Buckey of donning a mask and sodomizing her child while sticking his head in a toilet; of wearing a cape while taping the boy’s mouth, hands, and eyes; and of sticking an air tube in his rectum. She also said Ray made the child ride naked on a horse and molested him while dressed as a cop, fireman, clown, and Santa Claus. Later, she claimed that the McMartin teachers, including Ray’s 57-year-old mother, Peggy, jabbed a scissors into the boy’s eyes and staples in his ears, nipples, and tongue; that Ray put her son’s finger into a goat’s anus; and that Peggy killed a baby and made the boy drink the blood. She also told the D.A.’s office than an AWOL marine and three models in a health club had raped her son, and that the family dog was sodomized as well.

Within a few months, Peggy, Ray, his 28-year-old sister, his 77-year-old wheelchair bound grandmother, and three other women teachers would be jailed and charged with hundreds of counts of sex abuse. During the investigation, some parents would claim that hundreds of Los Angeles-area children were brutally molested in several day-care centers, over a 20-year period, by a conspiracy of Satanic child pornographers. Children would talk about playing the “Naked Movie Star” game, about being photographed nude, about sexual assault in hot-air balloons, on faraway farms, on the shoulders of busy highways, in cemeteries, in tunnels under the school yard.

The McMartin School was painstakingly probed for tunnels. None were found. Neither was child pornography, nor witnesses from the traffic-filled freeways, nor any other evidence. Doctors’ findings of physical abuse were later debunked by medical researchers. Child protection experts have since criticized the prosecution’s social workers for using leading, suggestive interviewing methods that resembled brainwashing. Judy Johnson was hospitalized for psychosis in early 1985 (she later died of an alcoholism-related liver disease.) An assistant D.A., who quit the case and then helped the defense told the press over three years ago that the woman had been mentally ill when she made her first charges – information the McMartin jurors were never allowed to hear.

But none of these revelations seemed to dampen the prosecutors’, the media’s, or the public’s need to believe horrible things had happened at McMartin. For the first two years, the press slavishly trumpeted every illogical accusation, so that when charges against five women defendants were dropped in 1986 – after the Los Angeles D.A. called the evidence “incredibly weak” – polls showed that most people still thought that abuse had occurred at the pre-school. During the subsequent, almost three-year trial, neither the Los Angeles Times nor the rest of the metropolitan media bothered to critically dissect the case.

Finally the verdicts were announced, but the facts that they were overwhelmingly not guilty didn’t seem to matter much either. In each of the 13 hung decisions, from 7 to 11 jurors decided in Buckey’s favor, but this was glossed over by the press. So were the comments of jurors like Darryl Hutchins: he said that during deliberations he decided that Ray Buckey had molested the first child, but that he would have voted differently had the judge allowed testimony about the mother’s mental illness – or the defense’s contention that while the McMartin defendants were in jail, the little boy was molested by his father.

Refiling counts that most of the jury has rejected is almost unheard of. Immediately after the verdicts, however, McMartin parents began a media campaign to push the D.A. to prosecute Ray Buckey a second time/ Again, the press dealt uncritically with the pressure. On tabloids like Geraldo and Oprah, support for a retrial was overt; “responsible” media like The New York Times were more subtle, suggesting, for example, that the jurors in the first trial were “stymied” by “the malleable memories of children and the distorting effects of questioning, particularly when a child has been traumatized.” Hardly anyone acknowledged that most of the jurors had concluded the children had likely not been abused, except possibly by their own relatives and certainly by the investigation itself.

Clearly, the public had come to believe that something as monstrous –sounding, yet as patently absurd, as McMartin was eminently imaginable. So imaginable in fact that a rash of similar cases surfaced across the country. A month after the McMartin investigation started, a Jordan, Minnesota, garbage collector accused of molesting three girls told authorities several local families were in a child sex ring. The charges against the middle-aged couples met widespread disbelief. But as neighbors stepped forward to support the accused, they, too, were arrested – the children had named them as perpetrators. Stories of ritual and slaughter emerged after the children were removed to foster care and many were interviewed more than 30 times apiece. The murder tales were later deemed fabrications, and some children admitted they lied to get relentless interviewers to leave them in peace. A husband and wife were acquitted, charges against 21 others were dropped, and the garbage collector confessed to inventing the charges in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

In Chicago, a child told her mother that a day-care janitor had tickled her vagina. During repeated interviews, some 300 other children accused 40 teachers of abusing them during Satanic rituals, complete with baby killing. No physical evidence was produced; the janitor was tried anyway and acquitted. Several other cases surfaced, and by 1985, McMartin parents with media connections were collaborating with ABC’s “20/20” on shows claiming that “Satanic” crime and day-care abuse were epidemic. Other journalists ran with the story, disregarding the lack of evidence. Meanwhile, prosecutors, police, and social workers were attending nationwide conferences to “network” with “experts” on Satanic kiddie-porn conspiracies and learn how to root them out of nursery schools. There was a wave of cases that year, among them one in El Paso, Texas, where two women teachers were accused. Investigators were in touch with McMartin child interviewers and with Satanic Conspiracy theorist ken Wooden, who helped produce the “20/20” series. The preschoolers never testified; instead, parents described their children’s “outcries” since the investigation had started, and behavioral changes like masturbating, urinating on walls, and assuming “sexual” postures. The teachers were convicted.

In these and some thirty others covered by the Memphis Tennessee Commercial Appeal in 1 1988 series, journalists noted striking similarities in what child protection officials dubbed “ritual abuse” cases. Investigations usually began because of vague medical symptoms or after an upper-middle-class child did something that adults thought inappropriately sexual. Then, even though most sexual abuse occurs within the family, investigators immediately directed their inquiries outside the home. Sometimes they even suspected community sex rings, but most often they focused on elite childcare centers. The first allegation sometimes seemed plausible. But in remarkable departures from forensics, police, social workers, doctors, and therapists badgered children to name more victims and perpetrators, ignoring answers that contradicted a ritual abuse scenario. As a result, many men were charged; but women were too, and this was especially shocking, since females have not been thought of as child molesters, much less sex torturers.

From 1984 to 1989, some 100 people nationwide were charged with ritual sex abuse; of those, 50 or so were tried and about half convicted, with no evidence except testimony from children, parents, “experts” expounding on how the children acted traumatized, and doctors talking about tiny white lines on anuses or bumps on hymens – “signs of abuse” that later research would show on nonabused children. By 1986, in many states, hastily reformed criminal statutes made it unnecessary for children to come into court; parents could act as hearsay witnesses, or kids could testify on closed-circuit TV, giving juries the automatic impression that defendants had done something to frighten the child. And once a person stood accused, the community often decided that something must have happened. Any remaining skeptics were blasted for “condoning child abuse” and some were accused themselves.

As the cases snowballed, many parents were skeptical, but therapists told doubters that unless they believed the allegations, their children would be further traumatized. Anxious, guilt-ridden parents formed organizations with names like Believe the Children, the group begun by the McMartin parents. Besides offering psychological support, these groups helped prosecutors put together cases, did media promotion, and lobbied for laws allowing children to testify outside the courtroom.

Despite the support they received from adults, instead of getting calmer as time passed, many of the children showed increasingly traumatized behavior, such as flashbacks. Their tales of abuse followed a pattern; at first they said they were merely fondled; later in the investigation, they mentioned rape, sodomy, and pornography; then they progressed to increasingly bizarre scenarios. Across the country, the molesters were described as black men, mulattos, deformed people, or clowns; the abuse took place in churches; adults wore masks and costumes; they urinated and defecated on children; they burned, stabbed, cooked, or drowned babies; they sacrificed animals; they molested children in funeral homes and buried Barbie dolls. Extensive investigations have failed to turn up material evidence to support any of those claims.

In a 1987 case in Holland, the authorities decided there were no culprits at all. A four-year-old boy in the town of Oude Pekkela returned home from a play area with a bloody anus. In the next few months, some 100 children told authorities that German pornographers dressed as clowns had kidnapped, molested, and tortured them in Satanic rituals, and as time passed they acted more and more traumatized. But after a massive investigation, officials concluded that the four-year-old had poked himself with twigs while playing with another preschooler; that no German pornographers – or any other molesters – had ever existed. And in suburban Philadelphia, where an investigation began last year into claims that a teacher and her 68-year old aide ritually assaulted three girls with excrement, the Bucks County D.A. dismissed the allegations as hysteria. Still, an unquestioning belief in ritual sex abuse in the U.S., Canada, and other post-industrial countries remains the rule. Here, not only religious fundamentalists and the unschooled, but large numbers of literate, secular people seem ready to accept the idea that scores of people in crowded daycare centers could engage hundreds of children in vicious – not to say extremely messy – assaults, and yet leave neither a scintilla of physical evidence nor an adult material witness. What’s going on?

In a sense, nothing new. Moral panics – the Salem witch trials and McCarthyism, for example – have often run rampant through cultures in flux, and “ritual abuse” is today’s mythic expression of deep-seated worries over sweeping changes in the family. Since the 1970s, the number of working women have risen, and so have the divorce rates and female-headed households. Children are being socialized less by family authority and more by the media and its consumerist focus on the erotic, yet AIDS has imbued eros with a new danger. All these changes spell anxiety. For conservatives, they are literally sinful, and since moral traditionalists hate public day-care, a right-wing impulse to demonize childcare workers is not surprising. But many feminists and progressives have bought into the hysteria, too: ritual abuse panic has become an outlet for women’s rage at sexual violence and harassment. While this anger could hardly be more justified, it has increasingly been articulated through an anti-sexual current in the feminist movement, a current that jibes with the views of conservatives who loathe pornography – and who also fear women, their need for day-care, their independence, and their sexuality.

Until recently, generations of silence and denial shrouded the problem of child sexual abuse, especially incest. Academic literature had long described it as a one-in-a-million event, and when women and girls told therapists and child protection authorities they had been molested, their stories were usually dismissed as nasty figments of the female psyche. But by the mid-70s, as feminists were fighting this society’s tendency to belittle and disbelieve women’s rape reports, theoreticians like Florence Rush began eloquently arguing that children – especially girls – had the same problem when they tried to talk about being sexually abused. Meanwhile, several studies reported that one out of every hundred women remembered having sex with fathers and stepfathers – and that did not even include experiences with other family members like uncles. By 1980, thanks largely to feminist efforts to create and publicize reporting systems, the government tallied almost 43,000 cases of sex abuse annually, up from a few thousand only a few years earlier. Most perpetrators were fathers and other male relatives and most of the victims were girls.

Feminists who analyzed incest defined it as inherently victimizing the daughter; they said her extreme dependence on her family and the men in it meant she could not give meaningful consent to sex. But then they made a dubious leap: they began applying their perspective on incest to non-relatives. Judith Herman, in her 1982 book, Father-Daughter Incest, wrote that any sexual relationship between an adult and a child, even if the child is a teenager, “must necessarily take on some of the coercive characteristics of rape.” Florence Rush compared children choosing adult sex partners to chickens meeting up with hungry foxes.

Actually, studies show that the realities of transgenerational sex outside the family, where individual adults wield a good deal less power over children, are more ambiguous. Most male pedophilia consists of caressing and fondling. For most children, these experiences appear to be at best confusing, at worst traumatic. But others seem to willingly participate, and some adults recall that while still legally minors they accepted, even welcomed sex with grownups. (Many gay men, for example, say they instigated these encounters, and some suggest that such relationships offer the boys the only real possibility for healthy acculturation into homosexuality.) Nonetheless, the prevailing feminist view of child sexual abuse broadened its meaning to include, without distinctions, any contact between someone below the age of consent with someone older – even if that meant ignoring how the younger partner remembered the incident.

In the early 1980w, feminist sociologist Diana Russell asked women to remember any unwanted sexual contact before age 18, including with boyfriends of the same age – “sexual contact meaning anything from anal intercourse to glimpsing a flasher to an unwelcome hug.” She also asked women to recall “incest,” defined as sexual contact between relatives (even distant ones) more than five years apart in age. By Russell’s standards, tongue kissing between a 13-year=old and her cousin’s 19-year-old husband would be considered incestuous and therefore exploitative, even if the woman remembered enjoying it. Using her extravagantly broad definitions, she found that one in five women were “incest victims” and more than half suffered child sexual abuse. Because the media quoted this and similar studies without explaining how diverse the reported experiences were, it suddenly seemed to the public that little kids were in imminent danger of being raped.

But even before feminist anti-sex abuse efforts had begun, a national fear was growing that terrible, previously unheard of perversities were endangering children. It began with rumors of Halloween sadists. In 1970, The New York Times reported that the “plump red apple that Junior gets from a kindly old woman down the block … may have a razor blade hidden inside. By 1972, many kids were not allowed to trick-or-treat; three years later Newsweek warned that several children were dead and hundreds more injured by viciously doctored Halloween candy. A few years later, kiddie porn was the new threat. In 1977, NBC reported that “as many as two million American youngsters are involved in the fast-growing, multi-million dollar child pornography business…” and “police say the number of boy prostitutes may be as high as half a million” (some 10 percent of all male adolescents in the entire country.)

Then, in the early 1980s, following the New York City disappearance of Etan Patz, the kidnapping and slaying of Adam Walsh, and the murders of 28 Atlanta schoolchildren, the missing children’s movement emerged. Crusaders began describing a stranger abduction problem of astonishing proportion: U.S. Representative Paul Simon offered House members a “conservative estimate … 50,000 children abducted by strangers annually,” and a leading child-search organization said 5000 of these children were murdered each year.

Research by journalists and sociologists has debunked all these claims. In the entire U.S., only one child has ever been killed by Halloween candy – and the poison was put there by his own father. Only 18 injuries were reported nationwide during the 25 years before 1984, the most serious one a wound requiring some stitches. Some of these were hoaxes or fabrications by attention-seeking kids. As for kiddie-porn, it’s estimated that even before 1978, when all production and commercial distribution of such material was banned under federal law, only about 5000 and 7000 were involved worldwide. Since then the commercial market in America, miniscule to begin with, has been virtually wiped out.

Research into claims about mass kidnappings likewise deflates the hype: a recently released Justice Department study finds that almost all missing children are teenage runaways and throwaways. The typical kidnapping is committed by a divorced parent who has lost custody. As for stranger-abductions, the Washington D.C.-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children currently lists about 240 children missing in the entire country. Still, much of the American public is convinced that molesters, sadists, kidnappers, and pornographers are major threats to our kids.

This fear has been reinforced by yet another strand of irrationality – the rise of paranoia about Satanism. Religious belief in child-torturing conspiracies of devil worshippers – whether Christian, Jewish, or Satanist – has flowered and withered since the early days of the Church. Lately, the belief has resurged in the U.S. and gained widespread acceptance via tabloid media like Geraldo. Things have gotten so far out of hand that last year a Texas school district told students they could no longer wear T-shirts with peace symbols, since self-styled experts on Satanism say the design represents the devil. Another popular belief, that Satanists kidnap blonde virgins for sacrifice, cropped up nationwide in 1997 and 1998, and spawned a wave of what sociologist Jeffrey Victor calls “rumor panics”: townspeople from Montana to Maine banned library books, armed themselves into vigilante squads, and raided purported “covens” that often turned out to be nothing more than teen punk-rocker hangouts.

The latest Satan scare has its roots in 1970s fundamentalism. In The Late Great Planet Earth and Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth, both of which sold millions of copies, Christian TV celebrity Hal Lindsey decries the corrupting influence of the “New Age” ‘60s, yearningly prophesies the end of the world and Armageddon, and warns of the sinister power of rock music, witches and devil worshippers. Meanwhile, many white teenagers shocked their elders by reading popular works about Satanism, scrawling “666”-style graffiti, and listening to the music Cardinal O’Connor, in his recent “exorcism” sermon, called pornography in sound.

During the late ‘70s, “urban legends,” or modern folk rumors, about devil worshippers spread across the U.S. One tale had it that Ray Kroc, former owner of McDonald’s, had tithed his hamburger profits to the church of Satan in exchange for prosperous Big Mac sales. Another was that Procter & Gamble’s century-old moon-and-stars logo was a secret Satanic symbol. (The rumor got so out-of-control that the company had to change the logo in 1985.)

Another evolution in the popular zeitgeist was signaled by the 1980 release of Michelle Remembers, coauthored by Lawrence Pazder, a Catholic psychiatrist from Vancouver, and his wife and former patient, Michelle Smith. The book recounts how Smith, in treatment for depression, underwent months of hypnosis and “remembered” being imprisoned at age five by her mother and a group of Satanists. She said she was locked up, buried with snakes, smeared with human waste, raped with candles and crucifixes, and finally forced to destroy an infant. Smith’s therapy consisted of more hypnosis, prayers to the Virgin Mary, and exorcism.

There is no confirmation that anything Smith “remembers” occurred. Psychiatric anthropologist Sherrill Mulhern, who has reviewed tapes of sessions similar to Pazder’s and Smith’s, says patients retain an unshakable belief in whatever a therapist suggests under hypnosis. Smith’s “memories,” Mulhern says, were probably constructed piecemeal, with Pazder introducing the Satanic motifs. Still, Michelle Remembers became a “non-fiction” bestseller, and the authors appeared on national Christian talk shows. Another self-styled cult survivor had her story published in a tabloid, and by 1983 the FBI was getting calls from women around the country, claiming they too had escaped devil-worshipping cults. Their stories hardly varied: the cults were part of a generations-old, international conspiracy including prominent people, and practiced rites like the ones in Michelle Remembers; they also kidnapped and sacrificed children, which explained the country’s thousands of missing kids.

According to Kenneth Lanning of the FBI, at first the agency took the stories seriously. Perhaps there were a few isolated cults, maybe they could have killed some children. Authorities nationwide began digging up reported burial sites, but found nothing, and Lanning’s doubts increased as “survivor” reports mushroomed (the FBI now gets a call a day). “If the cults were real,” he says, “they would constitute the greatest conspiracy in history.”

Who, then are these “survivors” and what’s their connection to ritual abuse accusations? Sherrill Mulhern, who has spent years studying traditional cults and modern groups like Jonestown, began researching the “survivors” and their therapists about five years ago. She soon realized that she was looking not at a real cult, but at people linked by a delusionary belief in one.

Many “survivors,” Mulhern says, are former teen runaways who lived on the streets and took up prostitution – behavior typical of incest victims. Many have abused drugs that produce paranoid delusions; many have been treated for schizophrenia and for borderline personality, which is characterized by compulsive lying. More recently, many have been diagnosed by therapists as suffering from multiple personality disorder. And virtually all had fundamentalist Christian parents or alter converted. While being “born again,” they were often hypnotized by fellow “survivors” of by self-styled Christian spiritual therapists.

The public knows about multiple personality from The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil. This diagnosis – which was called double consciousness in the 19th century and later fell out of favor – has been officially resurrected during the past 15 years by the American psychiatric profession. A century ago, Freud’s term for multiple personality was hysteria, and he first treated hysterical women during the 1880s. When hypnotizing deeply religious Catholic patients, Freud was struck by how many told trance tales of being raped by black-robed Satan worshippers, stories identical to those told by women during earlier witch trials. He speculated that these stories were actually sadomasochistic fantasies overlying memories of real childhood incest but articulated in the language of religion.

A century later, therapists started hearing the same tales again. This time around, they weren’t’ so willing to call them fictions. The new, unqualified belief that all women’’ and girls’ rape and incest stories were true reflected the reemergence of that strain in feminist thinking that condemned all sexual impulses as merely forms of male domination. In this view, men were inherently predatory, obsessed with penetration and violence – or, as Andrea Dworkin put it, “the stuff of murder, not love.” Women, on the other hand, wanted gentle, not-necessarily-even-genital-sex. By analogy, children were just as pure.

Feminists like Diana Russell, Florence Rush, and Dworkin denied that sadomasochistic acts or thoughts could be erotic for women. Russell viewed them as inventions of the patriarch and reflections of women’s powerlessness; Rush, in her groundbreaking work on sex abuse, The Best Kept Secret, disapprovingly connected the “uncensored erotic imagination” with “the total freedom of the sadist.” Besides being theoreticians, these women were also activists in Women Against Pornography, which was lending the right’s anti-porn crusade a modern “progressive” aura by arguing, despite the lack of evidence, that representations of women being wounded or sexually dominated by men cause sexual violence. At the same time, many therapists who considered themselves feminists adopted the belief that when patients bring up fantasies, dreams, or memories of coerced or brutal sex, they can never be products of the erotic imagination; they must really have happened – and anyone who says otherwise is an apologist for patriarchal violence.

This was the complaint lodged against Freud. During his early career, when female hysterics told him they had been seduced during childhood by their fathers and other adults, Freud believed them; he concluded that such violations were common and led to neurosis. Later, he decided many of the stories were untrue. Freud undoubtedly ended up underestimating the prevalence of abuse, though he never dismissed all his patients’ seduction stories. To explain the others as fantasies, he developed the theory of the Oedipus complex.

In recognizing children as intensely sexual beings, the theory was revolutionary. But its assumption that all women envy men their penises helped reinforce sexual stereotypes and encouraged therapists to mindlessly dismiss women’s memories of childhood molestation. Not surprisingly, then, Freud’s theories of sexuality were later just as simplistically attacked by feminists eager to conflate sexuality with male violence. Their criticisms were most forcefully articulated in 1984, with the publication of Jeffrey Masson’s The Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory.

And even as Masson institutionalized Freud-bashing, women and children were telling therapists and police rococo tales about sadomasochistic, diabolical assaults. How could these bizarre stories be true? But then, hadn’t we learned that sex abuse was much more common than previously thought?

The stage was set for McMartin hysteria.

In 1983, as part of his upcoming, hotly contested reelection campaign, the Los Angeles district attorney commissioned a survey asking voters to name their biggest crime concerns. He was surprised to learn that their main worry wasn’t drugs or drunken driving – it was child abuse. At about the same time the pollsters were at work, a mentally ill mother was telling Los Angeles County authorities Story-of-O tales about the McMartin preschool. Following her first accusations, police sent 200 letters to parents, listing specific questions to ask their children about whether and how Ray Buckey molested them. Virtually all the children denied being abused. Nevertheless, at the suggestion of the prosecution, panicked families made appointments at the Children’s Institute International (CII), a Los Angeles abuse therapy clinic.

There, social workers plied the children with puppets, suggested ritual abuse scenarios, coaxed recalcitrant kids to “pretend,” and said that if they didn’t tell the “yucky secret” it meant they were stupid. This interviewing method followed from Los Angeles psychiatrist Roland Summit’s “child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome,” a theory about incest. Summit argues that if there is evidence of sex abuse and a child denies it, this is only further proof that it happened and a therapist should use any means necessary to help the child talk. When this technique was applied to criminal investigation, there wasn’t supposed to be any problem with false allegations. Research has since suggested that as many as one in twelve sex abuse reports are fabricated, that in divorce custody disputes, the rate may be as high as one in two, and that a disturbingly common source of false allegations is mentally ill mothers who injure their children, even genitally, to get attention. But in 1984, few were thinking about such issues – conventional wisdom was that since children are innocent beings, they never lie about sexual abuse. If they later recant, that means they are under family pressure to protect the father – and their turnabout is further proof of the crime.

So no matter how much coercion was used to get an accusation and no matter if a child later retracted it, once Summit’s incest theory was applied, a charge of abuse became irrefutable. Child protection workers ignored the fact that this logic had little to do with day-care. After all, why would children staunchly deny abuse to protect an adult who wasn’t part of the family? And if they’d been so brutally attacked at school, why wouldn’t they tell their parents?

Therapists and investigators came up with all sorts of rationales. One was that the teachers threatened them by slaughtering animals and warning that the same thing would happen to their parents if they told. Kids who revealed nothing were said to have split off unbearable memories and developed amnesia. Following this line of thinking, it’s not surprising that some investigators and psychologists used hypnotic suggestion to get children to “remember” abuse; more typical was endless interrogation, much of it done by parents.

In imposing such techniques, adults no doubt injected their own motifs into allegations. Indeed, there is evidence that the details in ritual abuse charges come more from grown-ups than children. Lawrence Pazder, coauthor of Michelle Remembers, told the San Francisco Examiner he acted as a consultant to Los Angeles police investigating McMartin and to parents nationwide; McMartin parent Jackie McGaulley has confided she met with him during the early days of the investigation. Around the same time, ken Wooden, the Satanic conspiracy theorist, mailed information to 3,500 prosecutors describing what to look for in ritual abuse cases. Women claiming to be survivors contacted McMartin investigators and parents; some even joined parents at nationwide child protection conferences to speak about ritual abuse. Meanwhile, prominent psychiatrists like Bennett Braun began appearing at symposia on multiple personality, telling colleagues that a fourth of the women with this diagnosis are escapees from cults organized like the “Communist cell structure.” Soon, other therapists would be carrying guns for protection against devil worshippers. And soon, more and more prosecutors would make front-page news by leveling charges of unspeakably sadistic rape, sodomy and terrorism against people whose only previous experience with the law was in traffic court.

Yet Satanism as a motive in ritual abuse cases didn’t always wash: Though prosecutors tried to keep it quiet, if the public or jury found out that the accusations included the belief that the defendants danced around in covens, cases tended to become laughingstocks and collapse. (Indeed, the phrase ritual abuse was coined by child-protection people worried that Satanic abuse would evoke public disbelief.) So prosecution-minded child-protection activists tried to develop sensible-sounding explanations for why ordinary people would suddenly get the urge to stick swords up toddlers.

To do this, common sense had to be reformed. Nobody, not even the most jaded of cops, had ever heard of people with no relationship to enragé politics or cults and with no mental health problems practicing intricate sexual tortures against little children in nursery schools. The situation was akin to the dilemma faced by inquisitors during the witch trials, when one of the biggest issues was how to physically identify a consort of Satan. The accused would be stripped and a search would ensue for “devil’s privy marks”: warts, scars, and skin tags, especially on the genitals. Such blemishes were said to prove the bearer had a compact with the devil. Three hundred years later, bodily flaws wouldn’t do. Now what was needed was a new psychology.

Serious research was no help. Most male molesters and pedophiles who commit non-violent offenses score normally on psychological tests, but one would expect a Rorschach to ferret out someone remarkable about a person who rubs feces on toddlers and barbecues babies. Nevertheless, batteries of exams given to ritual abuse defendants turned up virtually nothing unusual. This was especially remarkable when it came to women, since the few female child molesters mentioned in earlier medical literature had invariably been diagnosed as mentally retarded or psychotic.

But in the 1980s, rapidly increasing reports of incest included several cases with female perpetrators. Recent studies suggest that these women are unusually emotionally disturbed, abuse drugs, and were themselves incest victims. When molesting their children, they do it nonviolently, by fondling them during diaper changes, for example; and they often feel ashamed and turn themselves in. others report helping their husbands molest their daughters. These women seem to share many traits with battered wives, and after escaping abusive marriages, some have willingly confessed their former complicity.

As soon as female incest offender studies were published in the mid-1980s, prosecutors of ritual cases rushed to pound the accused into the profiles. In most cases, it takes a huge stretch of the imagination to link ritual abuse defendants with incest offenders. Accused groups have usually contained more women than men, and that doesn’t fit the battered or dominated wife profiles. And virtually all the defendants have insisted they are innocent even after generous plea bargaining.

Nevertheless, zealous child protection authorities keep trying to suggest “profiles,” even if it means fictionalizing defendants’ lives. In several cases, with no supporting evidence, officials have told journalists that the accused were “abused as children.” In others, prosecutors have intimated that benign activities, often having something to do with sex, reflect psychopathology. In one case, a middle-aged married woman had an affair (with a man) while she was working at a preschool; one week, when she was considering leaving her husband, she signed the daily attendance sheet with her maiden name. At trial, the prosecutor displayed the signatures and implied the woman was mentally ill.

Another profile gained popularity after the 1985 Meese Commission hearing where critics of adult pornography were joined by spokespeople for the kiddie porn, missing children, and ritual abuse panics. Appearing with a chart supposedly describing confessed and convicted male sex abusers, the FBI’s Lanning advised cops to check whether a suspect seemed Regressed (“low self-esteem”); Inadequate (“social misfit”); Morally Indiscriminate (“a user and abuser of people”); Sexually Indiscriminate (“try sexual – willing to try anything”). Though this typology is about as scientific as a horoscope, Lanning, a vocal Satanic-conspiracy-theory skeptic, has cautioned his chart wasn’t developed for women or ritual abuse defendants – which hasn’t kept prosecutors from using it.

Even so, the search for a more convincing profile goes on. In response to true believers’ urgings, the federal government followed Meese Commission recommendations and funded studies that accept, a priori, the validity of ritual abuse charges. In 1985, the University of California at Los Angeles got $405,000 to monitor into adulthood the “coping” skills of children allegedly molested in local preschools, though authorities later dismissed virtually all their stories as unbelievable.

One researcher for this study is sociologist David Finkelhor, a self-styled sexual progressive and longtime colleague of feminist Diana Russell. Finklehor got a grant to profile day-care sex crimes. Again, most of the cases he researched had so many investigative and evidentiary flaws that they never made it to trial. Except for idle speculations, Finklehor found nothing remarkable in ritual defendants’ histories or personalities. But instead of asking if this meant the charges were false, he implied that since the accused are normal, being normal is part of the typology of the ritual offender. With this sleight of hand, the study, titled Nursery Crimes, immediately became a bible for child protection fanatics eager to supply incredulous communities and journalists with a “scientific” rationale for their paranoia.

The updating of ritual abuse hysteria with pop psychology is vividly illustrated in New Jersey’s Margaret Kelly Michaels case – the northeast’s version of McMartin. Michaels, a teacher at a suburban Newark day-care center, was accused in 1985 of assaulting preschoolers sexually with peanut butter, swords, bloodied tampons, urine, feces, and terroristic threats. She was said to have committed these crimes against dozens of children daily, for seven months, in a crowded facility, without any adults seeing her and without leaving any physical evidence.

After investigators made all the mistakes that characterized McMartin, they still had no evidence that Michaels was in a cult. So they searched for psychopathology. Again, nothing strange in Michaels’ background. They pressed on anyway. To fit her into the incest offender profile, prosecutors played up unfounded rumors that her father fondled her during jailhouse visits. At a preliminary hearing, they brought in the FBI’s Lanning to “instruct” the judge that women don’t have to be psychotic to molest children. Both in court and off the record, the prosecutors plugged Michaels into anything that passed for a profile, even those developed for men. They suggested she was “dissociated” – i.e., a multiple personality – because she did dance exercises at the day-care center while looking “spacey.” They implied she was a pedophile – a term never before applied to women – because she took photographs at the playground. And the fact that Michaels adamantly insisted she was innocent was supposed to mean she was “morally indiscriminate.” As proof of her cunning, prosecutors told the jury that during one psychological evaluation, Michaels drew a person with one foot turned inward; but another time she drew it pointed out!

With such nonsense offered – and largely accepted – as “motive,” it was unavoidable that Michaels would be demonized for any sexual behavior not conforming to the strictest traditional standards. At her women’s college, for example, she had experimented with lesbianism. The prosecution insinuated that Michaels’ homosexual experiences and the fact that she had not slept with a man until age 25, were proof of “confusion” that would cause her to torture children. Michaels was ultimately convicted on 115 counts of abuse. The case against her, permeated as it was by the testimony of social workers and psychologists, exchanged open talk of Satanic conspiracies for a secular, feminist-sounding idiom that nevertheless couches a profound hostility towards women and a loathing for any erotic impulse.

Even children’s play with each other is becoming suspect. Abuse-finders now worry that preschoolers who play sexually with their peers may be “perpetrators” or pedophiles-in-the-making. CII, the Los Angeles clinic known for its abominable McMartin interviews, is now treating “offenders” as young as four years old if they have so much as “verbally cajoled” a younger child into sex play that CII deems not “normal.” While researchers say most of the “offenders” were themselves sexually abused, the clinic’s history of eliciting false allegations makes any such claims suspect. More telling is the CII therapists’ disapproval that some of their little girl patients said they acted sexually not out of “love and caring,” but simply “to feel good.”

While such rhetoric may still be patently laughable, repressing older kids is another story. Teenagers are increasingly victimized by laws denying them access to birth control, confidential abortions, or a sense that sex is anything more than a deadly disease. The trend is now justified via the rhetoric of “child protection”; in Arizona, after a law passed mandating teachers and counselors to report sex abuse victims, officials in the state’s largest school district gathered the names of sexually active students and handed them over to the cops.

Meanwhile, in divorce disputes and especially on the day-care front, hysteria continues unabated. Across the country, more and more losers in custody battles are accusing spouses of being Satanic cult sex abusers. And since 1989, the town of Edenton, North Carolina, has been disrupted by charges that five women and two men associated with an elite preschool molested, raped, and filmed sex acts with 70 young children and infants. Earlier in the investigation, officials said they had photographic evidence of the crimes, and the D.A. claims the children have made most of their allegations to therapists. But the only ‘evidence” to emerge is one Polaroid photo, found in a woman defendant’s home, of her having sex with her fiancé (an adult); at least one therapist is giving Satanism and ritual abuse seminars around the state, and some parents of the alleged victims are active in Believe the Children.

The North Carolina kids’ stories have unerringly followed the ritual abuse plot, progressing lately to tales of witnessing babies slaughtered. Perhaps not coincidentally, their most bizarre allegations began surfacing this past fall, around the time that 27 million viewers watched Do You Know the Muffin Man?, a BCS move that rehashed details from several ritual abuse cases, but included the wholly fictional climax of parents discovering day-care teachers worshipping the devil amidst piles of kiddie porn. Or maybe the North Carolina woman, accompanied by her Jewish therapist, claimed to be a survivor of childhood cult ritual abuse and added that Jewish families had been sacrificing babies since the 1700s.

A few months later, during the taping of the Geraldo post-trial show, the McMartin children and their parents sat under bright lights and gave their names. Back at a Los Angeles studio hookup, a girls sat in a darkened area, anonymous. She told how when she was five she used to spend after-school hours with Ray Buckey helping him clean up classrooms, yet he never molested her. She recalled going to CII during the investigation, and how the therapists kept suggesting the details of ritual sex games before they even started up the tape recorder. Then they turned it on, all the while telling her things she’d never heard of, and insisting she repeat them.

She wouldn’t, and now six years later, a boy sitting in the bright lights – one whose parents parade him on national TV and make speeches about Satanist sex abuse networks in Episcopal churches – glared at her silhouette and insisted she was really molested. The girl sat in the shadows, afraid to show her face or give her name. She and her family fear harassment – not for proclaiming she was raped, but for insisting she wasn’t.

As for the children who sat in the light, their parents have invested years believing in demonic conspiracies and underground nursery tunnels. (until recently, the parents were still digging. They came up with Indian artifacts.) They have spoken unremittingly of such things, to the world and to their sons and daughters. They have told their children, over and over again, that they were abused, then rewarded them for acting traumatized. They have put them in therapy with adult fanatics who have done the same, and enrolled them as guinea pigs in the “research” projects of zealots.

The McMartin kids, and hundreds of others in ritual abuse spin-offs across the country, have spent years trapped in clans now extended to include psychologists, social workers and prosecutors –– clans whose identity derives from a tent-revival belief in their children’s imagined victimization. Right wing devil-mongers may find the subculture to their liking, but the rest of us ought to recognize the harm it is wreaking, not only on civil liberties and the falsely accused, but also on day-care, on women’s rights, and especially on children. Because the kids involved in this hysteria have indeed suffered, but not at the hands of their teachers. And the abuse perpetrated against them by the child-protection movement gone mad are every bit as awful as the tyranny of incest.

Voir enfin:

C’est la béatification médiatique d’Hessel qui pose problème

Analyse

01 mars 2013

Stéphane Juffa

MetullahNews Agency

Il n’est pas question pour moi d’ajouter mon encre aux critiques de l’œuvre et des idées de Stéphane Hessel. A l’image du Dr. Richard Prasquier, devant les caméras d’I-télé, plusieurs intellectuels ont parfaitement décortiqué le message de feu le vieil indigné.

Revenir sur leurs arguments presque toujours pertinents réduirait inutilement la puissance de leurs analyses, et ils ne méritent pas cette injustice.

Si je m’exprime aujourd’hui, c’est pour dire ce qu’ils n’ont pas dit et qui est cause, chez moi, d’une profonde inquiétude. Cela s’articule sur un constat principal : ce n’est pas Hessel et son discours qui sont préoccupants mais ceux qui l’encensent et ceux qui le propagent.

Le problème ne se situe pas tant dans l’essai de 32 pages Indignez-vous !, paru en 2011, mais dans la couverture dramatique de Libération, présentant le portrait du vieillard défunt, accentué de ces deux mots : "Un juste".

Je cite cette une, mais je pourrais mentionner la totalité de la presse tricolore, tombant en extase devant ce "grand homme" qu’elle avait d’ailleurs découvert sur le tard. Des pétitions poussent maintenant comme des champignons, exigeant que la dépouille d’Hessel soit inhumée au Panthéon.

Les politiciens unanimes saluent le grand résistant et le défenseur des droits de l’homme qui les a quittés à l’âge avancé de 95 ans. Les seuls bémols que l’on entend se résument aux murmures de certains tribuns de l’opposition, sur le thème "je n’étais peut-être pas d’accord avec tout ce qu’il disait".

Mais la seule critique devant ce requiem national vient des Juifs. Et c’est précisément cela qui me préoccupe.

Car, lorsqu’il était sorti, j’avais lu Indignez-vous ! en une vingtaine de minutes. Cet opus imposait une conclusion qui me paraissait alors évidente : il est court.

Il avait été produit par un auteur alignant les réflexions embryonnaires, les thèses sans défenses et les argumentaires, qu’un analyste au courant de la réalité pouvait exploser sans excès de sudation.

Pour ne rien cacher, la focalisation d’Hessel sur la centralité universelle du différend israélo-palestinien m’avait instinctivement fait penser à l’écriture d’un homme déstabilisé ou blessé. Ce, tant la réduction des problèmes du monde à la Bande de Gaza est objectivement indéfendable pendant qu’on s’étripe en Syrie, et tant sa critique de l’Etat hébreu est outrageusement… disproportionnée.

Bis repetita de l’indigné sur la fable de Gaza, "prison à ciel ouvert" ; le vieil homme était de ceux qui ignorent que la porte de cette geôle ouvre sur quatorze kilomètres de frontière commune avec l’Egypte islamiste des Frères Musulmans, eux-mêmes les créateurs et les mentors idéologiques du Hamas qui gouverne Gaza.

Or c’est un lieu commun de considérer qu’une prison dont la porte n’est pas fermée n’est pas une prison. Ou que si le Hamas connaît des problèmes avec Moubarak et Morsi, cela ne regarde pas Israël.

Bien qu’il ait passé sa vie à faire oublier que son père était juif, j’avais l’impression, à le lire, que l’auteur était encore en train de se débattre avec son ascendance ; un peu à la manière d’un autre résistant israélite avec lequel nous avons eu maille à partir, Edgar Morin/Nahum, qui aboutit à la conclusion que les Juifs prennent – ce ne peut être qu’atavique – du plaisir à maltraiter leurs voisins.

Mais consacrer plus de la moitié de trente-deux pages d’indignation universelle à Israël, c’était trop. Trop, en tout cas pour une personne intellectuellement équilibrée.

Reste que si ce fascicule est faible et qu’il manque même d’originalité quant aux idées qu’il expose, il se place dans l’air du temps. Il est, en effet, de nos jours, difficile de demander aux djeunes de se concentrer sur plus de 32 pages. Encore faut-il, de plus, qu’elles soient dénuées de toute complexité, ce qui cadre sans aucun doute avec le livre en question.

Stéphane Hessel se positionnait dans la droite ligne des néo-existentialistes genre Marius Schattner, commandant une vision manichéenne du Moyen-Orient et du monde, scandée avec de fortes inflexions fanoniennes concernant les axiomes oppresseur-oppressé, occupant-occupé, ainsi que les gentils barbares exploités, qui, afin de retrouver leur dignité, doivent impérativement massacrer leurs ennemis de la façon la plus sauvage possible.

Las de ces considérations ! Les propos et les fantômes de l’indigné de service furent ce qu’ils furent et personne n’est obligé ni d’aimer Israël, ni de professer une approche équilibrée des conflits. D’ailleurs, et, pour ne pas l’imiter, il faut le lui concéder, il ne prônait pas la disparition d’Israël mais la solution dite des deux Etats, ce qui ne coïncide pas forcément, d’un point de vue logique, avec le reste de ses propositions.

Et c’est à partir de là qu’Hessel se retrouve en position de hors-jeu ; quand, pour aller jusqu’au bout de sa haine de l’Etat hébreu, Hessel prend la liberté de normaliser le nazisme en affirmant que "l’occupation allemande (de la France) était, si on la compare par exemple avec l’occupation actuelle de la Palestine par les Israéliens, une occupation relativement inoffensive".

A quoi Hessel trouvait naturel d’ajouter : "(…) abstraction faite d’éléments d’exception comme les incarcérations, les internements et les exécutions, ainsi que le vol d’œuvres d’art. Tout cela était terrible. Mais il s’agissait d’une politique d’occupation qui voulait agir positivement (…)".

Au Panthéon, dites-vous ?

Parce que cette "occupation positive" a tout de même coûté la vie, entre 39 et 45, à la bagatelle de 567 600 Français, soit à 1.35% de la population hexagonale de l’époque. Ce, tandis que toutes les guerres entre Israéliens et Arabes, depuis avant même la création de l’Etat hébreu, à partir de 1945, civils et combattants des deux bords confondus, n’ont pas tué plus de 60 000 êtres humains. Et que l’ "occupation" israélienne ne fait de victimes que fort occasionnellement.

Mais comment, pour rester dans les chiffres, Hessel peut-il parler de la sorte d’un conflit mondial ayant anéanti entre 60 et 70 millions d’individus ? Et comparer favorablement les dégâts du nazisme à la politique de l’Etat démocratique d’Israël ?

Des intellectuels décents ont également abondamment commenté ces affirmations déraisonnables et haineuses de l’indigné, nul besoin, dans ces conditions, d’analyser cette dérive. J’ai commencé ce papier en disant que ce n’est pas Hessel qui cause souci mais la réaction de ceux qui l’écoutent.

Car, en situation régulière, un homme se permettant d’émettre de semblables non-sens serait mis au banc de la société en général, et, particulièrement, de celle de l’intelligentsia et de la politique. Lors, ce n’est pas le cas, et nous de nous poser la question de savoir comment un être sans relief particulier, capable d’élucubrations historiques afin d’attiser la détestation d’un peuple, normalisant l’inénarrable monstruosité hitlérienne, dont l’extermination industrielle de six millions d’Israélites, devient-il, à sa mort, le juste d’une nation.

Nous en tirons un double enseignement. D’abord, il est à nouveau possible, dans la France du début de ce XXIème siècle, de stigmatiser Israël et les Juifs sans avoir besoin d’étayer ses propos. Fustiger l’Etat hébreu en le comparant, par exemple, défavorablement au IIIème Reich ne suffit plus à relativiser le jugement des journalistes, des intellos et des hommes politiques bleu-blanc-rouge sur l’auteur d’une telle comparaison.

Nous sommes revenus aux périodes brunes de la République, à l’Occupation précisément, et, antérieurement à la période de l’Affaire Dreyfus, quand on pouvait être un grand homme tout en abhorrant les Israélites ; ou pire, être considéré comme un juste – j’ai aussi lu qu’Hessel avait été un sage – précisément parce qu’on les exècre.

Il n’est plus nécessaire, aujourd’hui en France, de respecter l’honneur de la nation d’Israël pour déclencher la pamoison. On l’avait déjà remarqué en considérant le commentaire oiseux que l’émission du service public "Un Œil sur la planète" a récemment consacrée à Israël, de même que la démission des garde-fous de ladite République et de tous les syndicats de journalistes unanimes, qui hurlent, au nom de la liberté d’expression, haro sur le baudet israélien, à la place d’exclure les charlatans racistes de l’info de leur sein.

On a aussi patiemment observé le fonctionnement de la presse francilienne à l’occasion de la Controverse de Nétzarim, celui de la justice tricolore, et celui de l’exécutif, n’ayant pas hésité à mélanger leurs efforts afin de protéger de la disgrâce la grossière imposture anti-israélienne de Charles Enderlin et de France 2.

Et si je rappelle ces trois occurrences, dans l’ordre chronologique, l’Affaire Dura, un Œil sur la planète et l’hommage exagéré d’un pays à Hessel, négationniste par occultation du génocide nazi, c’est parce qu’en ces trois occasions, toutes les élites du pays France ont pris position, tandis que les Juifs français et leur bon droit se sont retrouvés terriblement seuls et isolés dans l’autre camp.

Et s’il n’est pas concevable d’attendre d’un Juif qu’il accepte la normalisation de l’Occupation nazie ni la comparaison de l’hitlérisme avec Israël, il reste à observer que les goys franchissent ces pas avec enthousiasme et bonne conscience.

A la nuance près que pendant l’Affaire Dreyfus, la condamnation d’un Juif innocent – c’est toujours la même chanson qui passe en boucle, semble se faire oublier, puis revient, plus féroce qu’auparavant – tous les Dreyfusards n’étaient pas israélites, alors que de nos jours, on compte les anti-Hessel non juifs sur les doigts de ses deux mains.

Ce qui arrive aujourd’hui, et qui va, derrière l’indigné disparu, rechercher ses valeurs dans la résistance, ne le fait pas par hasard. Car le temps de l’Occupation constitue l’une des nombreuses pages de leur histoire que les Français ne sont pas parvenus à analyser puis à tourner. Car pour pouvoir tourner une page, il faut d’abord être capable de l’expurger de ses toxines. Sinon elle se rouvre toute seule et quand elle le décide.

Or les Français ont laissé derrière eux tant de pages ouvertes s’accumulant dans leur inconscient collectif, qu’elles aboutissent à des comportements publics qui demeurent imperméables à la compréhension des étrangers.

En écrivant ce qu’il a écrit sur la douceur de la vie sous les Boches, en imputant artificiellement à la nation juive une cruauté supérieure à la leur, en faisant, de la sorte, d’Israël le repère symbolique du mal absolu, on réalise une sorte d’exorcisme nauséabond et terriblement dangereux, rétroactif, du droit qu’auraient pu avoir les grands-parents de détester les Juifs sans avoir de raison à présenter. Et pourquoi pas, celui de ne pas être braves et de les livrer aux Allemands ou de copuler avec eux.

Et cette France intellectuelle, démocrate chrétienne tout en se voyant à gauche, et surtout adaptable à l’envi, briguant le privilège de donner des leçons sans jamais en recevoir, qui supporte mal d’avoir sans cesse à se justifier du traitement de ses Juifs sous l’Occupation, applaudit des deux mains le témoignage indigne d’un Israélite affirmant que l’ère nazie n’était pas si terrible que cela, et que ce qu’Israël inflige aux Arabes est largement pire.

(…)


Histoire: Attention: un génocide peut en cacher un autre ! (The Holocaust just got more shocking)

2 mars, 2013
Le décès de Stéphane Hessel a provoqué une vive émotion, à la hauteur du respect que l’homme suscitait. Au delà, nous souhaitons que le sens du combat de Stéphane Hessel perdure et soit reconnu. Le parcours de Stéphane Hessel fait en effet de lui un grand Républicain, bien au delà des clivages partisans. Son engagement dans la Résistance, son courage jamais démenti, sa droiture dans le service de la France, sa défense de la démocratie, son acharnement à promouvoir les valeurs des droits de l’Homme, son souci constant des plus démunis, donnent au mot de citoyenneté tout son sens. Notre identité nationale se forge aussi à partir des luttes concrètes telles que celles que Stéphane Hessel a mené tout au long de son existence. Ni l’âge, ni les difficultés de la vie ne l’ont détourné de sa bataille permanente pour élever la dignité de l’humain au dessus de toutes les contingences. Le message de Stéphane Hessel, cet appel à l’indignation, ce refus de toutes les formes d’injustices doit désormais faire partie de notre héritage commun. Nous demandons donc au Président de la République que Stéphane Hessel entre au Panthéon, pour que la République rende à ses combats l’hommage qui leur est dû. Nous souhaitons ardemment que la pédagogie civique et la mémoire collective témoignent de l’importance de l’esprit de résistance. Parce qu’avec Stéphane Hessel, c’est une vie consacrée à l’intérêt général et au service d’une certaine idée de la France qu’il s’agit d’honorer. Premiers signataires de la pétiton L’indigation doit rentrer au Panthéon: Julien Bayou (cofondateur de Génération Précaire et Jeudi noir, conseiller régional EE-LV), Eva Joly (eurodéputée EE-LV, ancienne candidate à l’élection présidentielle), Pouria Amirshahi (député PS), Etienne Pinte (ancien député UMP), Pascal Blanchard (historien), François Durepaire (historien), Elise Aubry (Jeudi noir, Sauver les riches), Aurélie Trouvé (coprésidente d’Attac France).
Fort heureusement, la réplique de Szlamowicz à Hessel est là pour nous rappeler un certain nombre de vérités attestées par des documents : la responsabilité de Hadj Amine El Husseini, grand admirateur d’Hitler dans l’exode de certains Arabes de Palestine lors de la Guerre d’Indépendance d’Israël, le chiffre extravagant du nombre des « réfugiés » palestiniens, l’occultation de la question des réfugiés juifs des pays arabes spoliés et chassés de leurs terroirs ancestraux, les attendus effrayants pour Israël et pour les Juifs contenus dans la charte de l’OLP jamais amendée comme dans celle du Hamas, l’éducation donnée aux enfants dans les écoles palestiniennes, le principe islamique de la tromperie, la taqqiya, Sans oublier l’utilisation abusive du terme « colon », le passé négationniste de Mahmoud Abbas auteur d’une « thèse » d’histoire soutenue à Moscou en 1982 et intitulée « La connexion entre les nazis et les dirigeants sionistes, 1933-1945 », ou encore l’expression de « Mur de l’apartheid » pour fustiger une barrière de sécurité appelée en hébreu geder hahafrada, « grillage de séparation », ce que le « Mur » est effectivement sur 96% de son parcours. Fort opportunément l’auteur nous rappelle les grands textes fondateurs de l’Israël moderne, notamment le traité de San Remo de la Société des Nations qui date de 1920 relatif aux territoires de Judée-Samarie. Ce traité, nous explique-t-il, n’a jamais été abrogé. Il aurait pu l’être par le plan de partage de 1948 mais les Arabes, on le sait, l’ont refusé. En somme, nous explique Szlamowicz, « non seulement les prétentions d’Israël sur ces territoires sont légitimes par rapport à cette histoire récente, mais les territoires aujourd’hui sous contrôle israélien ont été acquis-dans le cadre d’une nouvelle guerre d’extermination menée par les pays arabes et perdue par ces derniers-lors de la Guerre des 6 Jours de 1967 aux dépens de la Jordanie (et de l’Égypte pour Gaza) qui ne les réclame plus depuis 1988. Il s’agit donc de territoires qui n’ont jamais appartenu à une entité palestinienne qui n’existait pas à l’époque-et qui ne les a d’ailleurs jamais réclamés ni aux Jordaniens ni aux Égyptiens. Considérer que ces territoires seraient légitimement et automatiquement « palestiniens » est donc largement abusif ». Présentation de l’Editeur ("Détrompez-vous", Jean Szlamowicz)
[Stéphane Hessel] se présente et se laisse présenter comme le rédacteur de la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme, alors que, poussé dans ses derniers retranchements, il a fini par concéder un jour – mais un peu tard – qu’il ne l’avait jamais été. Autre imposture de taille : ses choix dans le registre de sa prétendue indignation. Je vous mets au défi de trouver dans ce livre la moindre indignation en politique étrangère à l’exclusion notable de la Palestine. Il ne s’indigne pas de la Syrie, du Rwanda, du Tibet, ni du sort des chrétiens d’Orient, les nouveaux esclaves des émirats. Le génocide au Darfour ne lui arrache pas un soupir : la seule chose qui l’intéresse, c’est de fustiger Israël. Gilles-William Goldnadel (auteur de Le vieil homme m’indigne, 2912)
Je constate qu’après la formation de leur Etat, les Juifs, de victimes, sont devenus bourreaux. Ils ont pris les maisons, les terres des Palestiniens. Abbé Pierre (1991)
A Gaza et dans les territoires occupés, ils ont [les meurtres de violées] représenté deux tiers des homicides » (…) Les femmes palestiniennes violées par les soldats israéliens sont systématiquement tuées par leur propre famille. Ici, le viol devient un crime de guerre, car les soldats israéliens agissent en parfaite connaissance de cause. Sara Daniel (Le Nouvel Observateur, le 8 novembre 2001)
On a peine à imaginer qu’une nation de fugitifs issus du peuple le plus longtemps persécuté dans l’histoire de l’humanité, ayant subi les pires humiliations et le pire mépris, soit capable de se transformer en deux générations en peuple dominateur et sûr de lui, et à l’exception d’une admirable minorité en peuple méprisant ayant satisfaction à humilier.Les juifs d’Israël, descendants des victimes d’un apartheid nommé ghetto, ghettoîsent les palestiniens. Les juifs qui furent humiliés, méprisés, persécutés, humilient, méprisent, persécutent les palestiniens. Les juifs qui furent victimes d’un ordre impitoyable imposent leur ordre impitoyable aux palestiniens. Les juifs victimes de l’inhumanité montrent une terrible inhumanité . Les juifs, boucs émissaires de tous les maux, ‹ bouc-émissarisent › Arafat et l’Autorité palestinienne, rendus responsables d’attentats qu’on les empêche d’empêcher. Edgar Morin
Si je parle d’Auschwitz, ce n’est pas pour dire qu’il y a chambre à gaz, qu’il y a… non, c’est l’esprit ! José Saramago (Prix Nobel de littérature, 2002)
(L’armée israélienne) continue fidèlement (…) les doctrines génocidaires de ceux qui ont torturé, gazé et brûlé ses ancêtres. José Saramago
(…) ces experts en cruauté, ces diplômés en mépris, qui regardent le monde du haut de leur insolence qui est à la base de leur éducation. Nous comprenons mieux leur dieu biblique lorsque nous observons ses disciples. Jéhova, ou Yahvé, quel que soit le nom qui le désigne, est un dieu rancunier et féroce, un dieu que les Israéliens actualisent en permanence. José Saramago
Le blond David d’antan survole en hélicoptère les territoires occupés de Palestine. Il lance des missiles sur des innocents désarmés. Le délicat David d’antan conduit les tanks les plus puissants du monde et rase et détruit tout ce qu’il trouve sur son chemin. Le David lyrique qui chantait les louanges de Bethsabée, incarné à présent dans la figure gargantuesque d’un criminel de guerre nommé Ariel Sharon, lance le message ‘poétique’ qu’il faut au préalable en finir avec les Palestiniens pour après négocier avec ceux qui restent." (…) (…) Mentalement intoxiqués par l’idée messianique du grand Israël qui leur permettra de concrétiser enfin les rêves expansionnistes du sionisme le plus radical ; contaminés par la ‘certitude’ monstrueuse et indéracinable que, dans ce monde catastrophique et absurde, il existe un peuple élu de Dieu et que, de ce fait, et au nom des horreurs du passé et des peurs du présent, toutes les actions inspirées d’un racisme obsessionnel, psychologiquement et pathologiquement exclusiviste, sont automatiquement justifiées et autorisées ; éduqués et endoctrinés dans l’idée que toute souffrance déjà infligée, ou en cours d’infliction, ou qui sera infligée, à n’importe qui d’autre, mais en particulier aux Palestiniens, sera toujours inférieure aux souffrances qu’eux-mêmes ont vécues pendant l’Holocauste, les juifs grattent sans cesse leur propre plaie pour qu’elle n’arrête pas de saigner, pour la rendre incurable, et ils l’exhibent au monde comme s’il s’agissait d’un drapeau. Israël s’approprie les terribles paroles de Dieu dans le Deutéronome : « à moi la vengeance, à moi la rétribution ». Israël veut que nous nous sentions, directement ou indirectement, tous coupables des horreurs de l’Holocauste ; Israël veut que nous renoncions à notre plus élémentaire faculté de jugement critique pour que nous nous transformions en un docile écho de sa volonté ; Israël veut que nous reconnaissions de jure ce que pour eux constitue déjà un exercice de facto : l’impunité absolue. Du point de vue des juifs, parce qu’ils ont été torturés, gazés et incinérés à Auschwitz, Israël ne pourra jamais être soumis à la loi. Je me demande si les juifs qui sont morts dans les camps de concentration nazis, ceux qui furent persécutés tout au long de l’histoire, ceux qui sont morts dans les pogroms, ceux qui furent oubliés dans les ghettos, oui, je me demande si cette immense multitude de malheureux n’aurait pas eu honte des actes infâmes que leurs descendants commettent. Je me demande si le fait d’avoir tant souffert ne serait pas la meilleure raison de ne pas faire souffrir autrui. José Saramago
Aujourd’hui, ma principale indignation concerne la Palestine, la bande de Gaza, la Cisjordanie. (…)  Pas mal… Il faut être israélien pour qualifier de terroriste la non-violence. Stéphane Hessel
J’étais en contact permanent avec l’équipe qui a rédigé la Déclaration, dont l’Américaine Eleanor Roosevelt et le Français René Cassin. (…) Au cours des trois années, 1946, 1947, 1948, il y a eu une série de réunions, certaines faciles et d’autres plus difficiles. J’assistais aux séances et j’écoutais ce qu’on disait mais je n’ai pas rédigé la Déclaration. J’ai été témoin de cette période exceptionnelle. Stéphane Hessel (2008)
En réalité, le mot qui s’applique – qui devrait s’appliquer – est celui de crime de guerre et même de crime contre l’humanité. (..)  Pour ma part, ayant été à Gaza, ayant vu les camps de réfugiés avec des milliers d’enfants, la façon dont ils sont bombardés m’apparaît comme un véritable crime contre l’humanité. Stéphane Hessel (à propos de l’offensive israélienne dans la bande de Gaza, 5 janvier 2009)
Au cours des trois dernières années, à l’invitation de mes amis israéliens, qui font partie d’une minorité courageuse, nous y sommes allés, ma femme et moi, par trois fois. Nous avons constaté que la Cisjordanie est complètement ingérable parce qu’elle est occupée, colonisée. Les routes ne sont pas autorisées pour les Palestiniens. Ces derniers sont traités avec un mépris épouvantable par Israël. Quant à la bande de Gaza, elle a été enfermée dans ce que l’on peut appeler une « prison à ciel ouvert ». L’opération « Plomb durci », de décembre 2008 à janvier 2009, a été une succession de crimes de guerre et de crimes contre l’humanité. La manière dont l’armée israélienne s’est comportée est absolument scandaleuse. Nous étions à Gaza en même temps que l’équipe dirigée par le juge Goldstone, et je peux témoigner que tout ce que relève le rapport Goldstone est exact. (…) Le gouvernement d’Israël bénéficie en effet d’une impunité scandaleuse, alors que depuis des années il bafoue le droit international et rejette les résolutions de l’ONU, ne respecte pas la Convention de Genève.  (…) Dès la fin de la guerre, je me suis retrouvé à New York comme fonctionnaire à l’ONU. J’ai assisté simultanément à deux événements importants : la rédaction de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme et la création de l’État d’Israël. Pour quelqu’un comme moi, né de père juif et qui sortait des camps de concentration, cette création était de l’ordre du merveilleux. Je n’étais pas conscient du fait que cet État ne pouvait exister qu’en chassant un nombre considérable de Palestiniens de leurs terres. (…) Pendant vingt ans, j’ai continué à considérer favorablement le développement d’Israël : j’étais admiratif des kibboutz et des moshav. Tout a changé en 1967 avec la guerre des Six Jours. Cette guerre, gagnée par Israël pratiquement en une matinée, a donné aux gouvernants de l’époque ce que j’appelle une hubris, un sentiment de supériorité extraordinaire, qui les a amenés à ne plus tenir compte du droit international. C’est à partir de 1967 que je me suis engagé dans le camp de ceux qui voulaient un retrait des forces israéliennes la création d’un État palestinien. Stéphane Hessel (Jeune Afrique, 17.05.10)
Il faut toujours se méfier des mots, mais [Gaza] c’est d’une certaine manière une prison à ciel ouvert, puisque ces gens ne peuvent pas rentrer, ne peuvent pas sortir, ne peuvent pas se baigner dans la mer. (…) J’ai vu la vie à Gaza. Ce n’est pas une situation qui peut perdurer (…) C’est la position de la France et de la grande majorité des pays qui sont par ailleurs amis d’Israël. Henri Guaino (plume du président Sarkozy, Radio J, 25.03.12)
Mon parti, Lutte Ouvrière, a toujours dénoncé avec détermination la politique du gouvernement d’Israël qui pousse les Palestiniens hors de leurs terres, enferme les populations derrière des barbelés et des murs de béton et des kilomètres de barbelés, qui transforment les territoires palestiniens en camps de concentration à ciel ouvert, et en particulier dans le cas de Gaza. Nathalie Arthaud
Oui, je signe cela. J’ai visité Gaza avec une délégation du parlement européen en 2008 et, réellement, ils sont enfermés, que ça soit vers la mer -la distance sur laquelle ils sont autorisés à pêcher est extraordinairement réduite-… ils ne peuvent pas cultiver les terres, et la communication est tout à fait contrôlée. C’est un mot très fort. Mais ils sont enfermés. Eva Joly
Des camps de travail ont été créés par les nazis durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Ils étaient à la fois destinés à exploiter la main d’œuvre constituée par les prisonniers, tout en maintenant délibérément ces personnes dans un état de dénuement physique et moral destiné à briser leur volonté et leur santé, l’objectif affiché étant d’en faire mourir un maximum ce qui les rapproche des camps d’extermination. Des camps de travail forcé étaient réservés aux Juifs avant leur déportation et leur extermination à Auschwitz. Ainsi le Judenlager des Mazures, dans les Ardennes de France et dont tous les Juifs avaient été emmenés de force depuis Anvers (Belgique). Son histoire est arrachée à l’oubli depuis des recherches entamées en 2002. Le travail forcé des jeunes filles a aussi eu lieu dans les Ardennes. Il existait aussi des camps de travail près des camps de concentration, tel celui de Bobrek près du complexe d’Auschwitz-Birkenau, dont est sortie Simone Veil, où le travail étant accompli à l’intérieur, les conditions de vie étaient moins rudes que dans le camp principal. Wikipedia
Eléonore Baur naît à Oberhaching près d’Augsbourg le 25 octobre 1886. Elle participe activement au putsch de Hitler en novembre 1923 et est la seule femme à laquelle est attribué le célèbre « Blutorden », la « médaille de sang », récompense suprême dans le monde nazi, tout comme elle sera la seule femme du corps des SS à être nommée « SS-Oberführerin ».Elle devient une des premières femmes SS gardienne gradée dans le camp de Dachau et sera bientôt responsable des horribles expériences médicales réalisées par les « médecins maudits »… C’est à Dachau qu’elle fêtera son cinquantième anniversaire. Elle se taille rapidement sous le pseudonyme de « Blutschwester Pia » « Sœur Pia la sanguinaire » une réputation de sadique ; Elle se plaît à battre, à rouer de coups de pied, à gifler, à fouetter les détenus dans le camp, dans les commandos ou dans sa villa. Elle est de très loin la plus redoutée des gardes féminines de Dachau. Après la seconde guerre mondiale, elle est condamnée à huit années de travaux forcés dans un camp de prisonniers, dont elle sera libérée après quelques années à cause de sa « santé chancelante »… Elle mourra en 1981, à l’âge de 95 ans, dans sa villa d’Oberhaching près de Munich, villa construite par d’anciens détenus de Dachau, sans jamais avoir admis ses crimes ni avoir eu le moindre geste de regrets… Encyclopédie BS
Our research has revealed that the Nazi concentration camp universe was much larger than scholars had previously believed. The size, scope and interconnectedness of the camp system can only be understood through a comprehensive examination. This project will provide the public and historians with a much more detailed understanding of the scale of the Nazis’ systematic attempt to exterminate Europe’s Jews, as well as their persecution of other groups for racial and political reasons. Geoffrey Megargee (Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies)
Nous savions déjà à quel point la vie dans les camps et les ghettos étaient horribles, mais les chiffres sont incroyables. Hartmut Berghoff (German Historical Institute in Washington)

Attention: un génocide peut en cacher un autre !

30 000 camps de travail forcé, 1 150 ghettos juifs, 980 camps de concentration, 1 000 camps de prisonniers de guerre, 500 maisons closes remplies d’esclaves sexuelles, milliers de camps destinés à l’euthanasie des personnes âgées ou infirmes, avortements forcés, "germanisation" des prisonniers ou transport des victimes vers les centres d’extermination …

A l’heure où nos belles âmes rivalisent d’hommages (à quand, avant la béatification, la panthéonisation ?) pour un homme qui, après nos Abbé Pierre ou nos Morin voire nos Guaino, s’était fait un véritable fonds de commerce de la nazification de l’actuel Etat d’Israël …

Petite remise des pendules à l’heure, avec le NYT, sur les premiers résultats des recherches en cours sur le génocide juif …

Et, cachée derrière l’émiettement et la monographisation de la recherche et après celle de la Shoah des Einsatzgruppen ou par balles, la (re)découverte de la véritable étendue du massacre …

Notamment, de la France à la Russie et à l’Allemagne elle-même mais aussi du camp d’extermination à la Auschwitz aux esclaves privés de dignitaires du régime à la "Soeur Pia", l’on dénombre pas moins de 42 500 ghettos et camps nazis à travers l’Europe pendant les douze années du Troisième Reich …

Pour un total de 15 à 20 millions de personnes emprisonnées ou mises à mort …

The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking

Eric Lichtblau

The New York Times

March 1, 2013

THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.

What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.

The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.

“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.

Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear.

The maps the researchers have created to identify the camps and ghettos turn wide sections of wartime Europe into black clusters of death, torture and slavery — centered in Germany and Poland, but reaching in all directions.

The lead editors on the project, Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean, estimate that 15 million to 20 million people died or were imprisoned in the sites that they have identified as part of a multivolume encyclopedia. (The Holocaust museum has published the first two, with five more planned by 2025.)

The existence of many individual camps and ghettos was previously known only on a fragmented, region-by-region basis. But the researchers, using data from some 400 contributors, have been documenting the entire scale for the first time, studying where they were located, how they were run, and what their purpose was.

The brutal experience of Henry Greenbaum, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives outside Washington, typifies the wide range of Nazi sites.

When Mr. Greenbaum, a volunteer at the Holocaust museum, tells visitors today about his wartime odyssey, listeners inevitably focus on his confinement of months at Auschwitz, the most notorious of all the camps.

But the images of the other camps where the Nazis imprisoned him are ingrained in his memory as deeply as the concentration camp number — A188991 — tattooed on his left forearm.

In an interview, he ticked off the locations in rapid fire, the details still vivid.

First came the Starachowice ghetto in his hometown in Poland, where the Germans herded his family and other local Jews in 1940, when he was just 12.

Next came a slave labor camp with six-foot-high fences outside the town, where he and a sister were moved while the rest of the family was sent to die at Treblinka. After his regular work shift at a factory, the Germans would force him and other prisoners to dig trenches that were used for dumping the bodies of victims. He was sent to Auschwitz, then removed to work at a chemical manufacturing plant in Poland known as Buna Monowitz, where he and some 50 other prisoners who had been held at the main camp at Auschwitz were taken to manufacture rubber and synthetic oil. And last was another slave labor camp at Flossenbürg, near the Czech border, where food was so scarce that the weight on his 5-foot-8-inch frame fell away to less than 100 pounds.

By the age of 17, Mr. Greenbaum had been enslaved in five camps in five years, and was on his way to a sixth, when American soldiers freed him in 1945. “Nobody even knows about these places,” Mr. Greenbaum said. “Everything should be documented. That’s very important. We try to tell the youngsters so that they know, and they’ll remember.”

The research could have legal implications as well by helping a small number of survivors document their continuing claims over unpaid insurance policies, looted property, seized land and other financial matters.

“HOW many claims have been rejected because the victims were in a camp that we didn’t even know about?” asked Sam Dubbin, a Florida lawyer who represents a group of survivors who are seeking to bring claims against European insurance companies.

Dr. Megargee, the lead researcher, said the project was changing the understanding among Holocaust scholars of how the camps and ghettos evolved.

As early as 1933, at the start of Hitler’s reign, the Third Reich established about 110 camps specifically designed to imprison some 10,000 political opponents and others, the researchers found. As Germany invaded and began occupying European neighbors, the use of camps and ghettos was expanded to confine and sometimes kill not only Jews but also homosexuals, Gypsies, Poles, Russians and many other ethnic groups in Eastern Europe. The camps and ghettos varied enormously in their mission, organization and size, depending on the Nazis’ needs, the researchers have found.

The biggest site identified is the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, which held about 500,000 people at its height. But as few as a dozen prisoners worked at one of the smallest camps, the München-Schwabing site in Germany. Small groups of prisoners were sent there from the Dachau concentration camp under armed guard. They were reportedly whipped and ordered to do manual labor at the home of a fervent Nazi patron known as “Sister Pia,” cleaning her house, tending her garden and even building children’s toys for her.

When the research began in 2000, Dr. Megargee said he expected to find perhaps 7,000 Nazi camps and ghettos, based on postwar estimates. But the numbers kept climbing — first to 11,500, then 20,000, then 30,000, and now 42,500.

The numbers astound: 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers.

In Berlin alone, researchers have documented some 3,000 camps and so-called Jew houses, while Hamburg held 1,300 sites.

Dr. Dean, a co-researcher, said the findings left no doubt in his mind that many German citizens, despite the frequent claims of ignorance after the war, must have known about the widespread existence of the Nazi camps at the time.

“You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,” he said. “They were everywhere.”

A reporter for The New York Times in Washington and a visiting fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Voir aussi:

"L’indignation doit entrer en Panthéon"

Libération

27 février 2013

Tribune

Pour rendre, «au-delà des communiqués», un hommage en acte à Stéphane Hessel, une pétition vient d’être lancée pour appeler François Hollande à le faire entrer au Panthéon. Libération en publie le texte en exclusivité.

Par Julien Bayou (cofondateur de Génération Précaire et Jeudi noir, conseiller régional EE-LV), Eva Joly (eurodéputée EE-LV, ancienne candidate à l’élection présidentielle), Pouria Amirshahi (député PS), Etienne Pinte (ancien député UMP), Pascal Blanchard (historien), François Durepaire (historien), Elise Aubry (Jeudi noir, Sauver les riches), Aurélie Trouvé (coprésidente d’Attac France).

Le décès de Stéphane Hessel a provoqué une vive émotion, à la hauteur du respect que l’homme suscitait. Au delà, nous souhaitons que le sens du combat de Stéphane Hessel perdure et soit reconnu.

Le parcours de Stéphane Hessel fait en effet de lui un grand Républicain, bien au delà des clivages partisans.

Son engagement dans la Résistance, son courage jamais démenti, sa droiture dans le service de la France, sa défense de la démocratie, son acharnement à promouvoir les valeurs des droits de l’Homme, son souci constant des plus démunis, donnent au mot de citoyenneté tout son sens.

Notre identité nationale se forge aussi à partir des luttes concrètes telles que celles que Stéphane Hessel a mené tout au long de son existence. Ni l’âge, ni les difficultés de la vie ne l’ont détourné de sa bataille permanente pour élever la dignité de l’humain au dessus de toutes les contingences.

Le message de Stéphane Hessel, cet appel à l’indignation, ce refus de toutes les formes d’injustices doit désormais faire partie de notre héritage commun. Nous demandons donc au Président de la République que Stéphane Hessel entre au Panthéon, pour que la République rende à ses combats l’hommage qui leur est dû.

Nous souhaitons ardemment que la pédagogie civique et la mémoire collective témoignent de l’importance de l’esprit de résistance. Parce qu’avec Stéphane Hessel, c’est une vie consacrée à l’intérêt général et au service d’une certaine idée de la France qu’il s’agit d’honorer.

La pétition «L’Indignation doit entrer au Panthéon»

Premiers signataires: Julien Bayou (cofondateur de Génération Précaire et Jeudi noir, conseiller régional EE-LV), Eva Joly (eurodéputée EE-LV, ancienne candidate à l’élection présidentielle), Pouria Amirshahi (député PS), Etienne Pinte (ancien député UMP), Pascal Blanchard (historien), François Durepaire (historien), Elise Aubry (Jeudi noir, Sauver les riches), Aurélie Trouvé (coprésidente d’Attac France).

TRADUCTION:

Shoah – la cartographie des sites nazis révèle 42500 camps et ghettos en Europe

Misha Uzan

Israel infos

06.03.2013

Il y a treize ans, des chercheurs du Mémorial de la Shoah aux Etats-Unis, se sont donnés la mission de recenser tous les ghettos, camps de travaux forcés, camps de concentration et d’extermination mis en place par les nazis ont dans toute l’Europe.

Ce qu’ils ont trouvé a choqué les scientifiques et historiens les plus versés dans l’histoire de la Shoa.

Les chercheurs ont en effet répertorié quelques 42.500 ghettos et camps nazis en Europe, couvrant les zones contrôlées par les Allemands de la France à la Russie, et en Allemagne même, pendant la période durant laquelle Hitler a exercé le pouvoir en Allemagne, de 1933 à 1945.

Le résultat est tellement incroyable que même les spécialistes de la Shoah ont dû s’assurer qu’ils avaient bien entendu lorsque les principaux chercheurs leur ont fait part de leurs conclusions en janvier dernier à un forum académique à l’Institut historique allemand de Washington.

"Les chiffres sont beaucoup plus élevés que ce que nous pensions, ils sont incroyables", a déclaré dans une interview Hartmut Berghoff, directeur de l’Institut d’histoire allemande de Washington, après avoir pris connaissance des nouvelles données.

Le recensement ne comprend pas seulement les camps d’extermination", mais également, par exemple, les milliers de camps de travaux forcés, les sites nommés par euphémisme "centres de soins", où, les femmes enceintes étaient contraintes à avorter – ou voyaient leurs bébés tués dès la naissance – ainsi que les maisons closes, où les femmes étaient contraintes à avoir des relations sexuelles avec des militaires allemands.

Auschwitz et une poignée d’autres camps de concentration symbolisent aujourd’hui la machine de mort nazie dans la conscience publique.

De même, le système nazi de ghetto est devenu associé à un site unique : le ghetto de Varsovie, célèbre pour son soulèvement en 1943 et sa destruction.

Mais ces sites, aussi infâmes qu’ils aient été, ne représentaient qu’une infime partie de l’ensemble du réseau allemand, comme le montre clairement la nouvelle recherche.

Les cartes que les chercheurs ont mis au point pour identifier les camps et les ghettos, transforment de larges pans de l’Europe pendant la guerre en camps de mort, de torture et d’esclavage, en Allemagne et en Pologne, mais également partout en Europe.

Les responsables du projet de recherche, Geoffroy Megargee et Dean Martin, estiment que 15 à 20 millions de personnes sont mortes ou ont été emprisonnées dans les sites qu’ils ont identifiés et répertoriés dans le cadre d’une encyclopédie en plusieurs volumes.

Le Mémorial de la Shoah a publié les deux premiers, et cinq autres sont prévus d’ici à 2025.

La connaissance de l’existence de nombreux camps et ghettos était auparavant fragmentée, connue pays par pays.

Les chercheurs ont collecté les données de près de 400 contributeurs, pour dresser une carte à l’échelle de l’Europe entière.

Le New York Times rapporte l’expérience d’Henri Greenbaum, 84 ans, survivant de la Shoah qui vit dans la banlieue de Washington, un vécu caractéristique de cette multiplicité des sites nazis.

Bénévole au Mémorial de la Shoah, lorsqu’il raconte aux visiteurs son expérience de la guerre, les auditeurs concentrent sur son enfermement à Auschwitz, le plus connus des camps.

Mais les images des autres camps où les nazis l’ont emprisonné sont ancrées dans sa mémoire aussi profondément que le numéro A188991 tatoué sur son avant-bras gauche.

En effet, Henri a d’abord connu le ghetto de Starachowice dans sa ville natale en Pologne, où les Allemands ont parqué sa famille –comme d’autres juifs polonais – en 1940, alors qu’il n’avait que 12 ans.

Il fut ensuite déplacé avec sa sœur dans un camp de travail à quelques pas des limites de la ville, tandis que le reste de sa famille était envoyé à la mort à Treblinka.

Après avoir été contraint au travail forcé en usine, les Allemands l’ont contraint – avec d’autres prisonniers – à creuser des tranchées qui ont été utilisées pour l’ensevelissement des corps des victimes.

Ensuite il fut envoyé à Auschwitz, puis retiré du camp pour travailler dans une usine de fabrication de produits chimiques en Pologne connue sous le nom de Buna Monowitz.

Lui et quelques 50 autres prisonniers extirpés d’ Auschwitz y ont été envoyés pour la fabrication de caoutchouc et d’huile synthétique.

Enfin, il a travaillé dans un camp de travaux forcés à Flossenbürg, près de la frontière tchèque.

À l’âge de 17 ans, Greenbaum avait été ainsi un "esclave du travail forcé" pendant 5 ans dans 5 camps différents.

Il était en route vers un sixième camp lorsque les soldats américains l’ont libéré en 1945. "Personne ne connaissait ces lieux jusqu’à maintenant", a déclaré Henri Greenbaum.

"Tout doit être recensé.

C’est très important. Nous voulons le dire aux jeunes pour qu’ils sachent, et qu’ils se souviennent."

Par ailleurs, cette recherche pourrait avoir des implications juridiques en aidant un petit nombre de survivants, grâce à ces informations, à récupérer des polices d’assurances, des compensations, ou des propriétés perdues.

"Combien de demandes ont été rejetées parce que les victimes ont été placées dans un camp que nous ne connaissions pas?" a demandé Sam Dubbin, un avocat de Floride qui représente un groupe de survivants qui cherchent à porter plainte contre les compagnies d’assurance européennes.

Le Dr Megargee, principal chercheur, a déclaré que le projet faisait aussi évoluer la compréhension qu’ont les spécialistes de la Shoa de la façon dont les camps et les ghettos ont évolué.

Dès 1933, au début du règne d’Hitler, le Troisième Reich a créé environ 110 camps spécialement conçus pour emprisonner quelques dix mille opposants politiques.

Lorsque l’Allemagne a envahi et occupé ses voisins européens, l’utilisation des camps et des ghettos a été élargie pour enfermer et parfois déjà exterminer les Juifs mais aussi les homosexuels, les Tziganes, les Polonais, les Russes et de nombreux autres groupes ethniques de l’Est de l’Europe.

Selon les chercheurs, les types de camps et de ghettos ont énormément varié en fonction de leur mission, leur organisation et leur taille, en selon les besoins de l’appareil nazi.

Le plus grand site identifié est le ghetto de Varsovie, qui a enfermé jusqu’à 500.000 personnes.

Mais une dizaine de prisonniers seulement travaillaient sur le site München-Schwabing en Allemagne, l’un des plus petits camps.

De petits groupes de prisonniers y ont été envoyés depuis le camp de concentration de Dachau, surveillés par des gardes armés.

Ils étaient chargés de travaux domestiques dans la maison d’une dignitaire nazie, et …régulièrement battus; il leur fallait nettoyer sa maison, son jardin et même construire des jouets d’enfants.

Lorsque la recherche a débuté en l’an 2000, le Dr Megargee s’attendait à trouver quelques 7.000 camps et ghettos nazis, selon les estimations d’après-guerre.

Mais les chiffres ont grimpé d’abord à 11.500, puis 20.000, puis 30.000, et désormais 42.500.

Les chiffres sont impressionnants : 30.000 camps de travaux forcés, 1150 ghettos juifs, 980 camps de concentration, 1.000 camps de prisonniers de guerre, 500 maisons closes remplies de femmes réduites à l’esclavage sexuel, des milliers d’autres camps utilisés pour euthanasier les personnes âgées et les infirmes, et pratiquer des avortements forcés, "germaniser" les prisonniers ou encore transporter les victimes vers les camps d’extermination.

Rien qu’à Berlin, les chercheurs ont répertorié quelque 3.000 camps, tandis qu’il y en avait 1300 à Hambourg.

Le Dr Dean, qui a effectué des recherches pour le projet, estime que les résultats ne laissent aucun doute dans son esprit sur le fait que de nombreux citoyens allemands, malgré les déclarations fréquentes de leur ignorance des crimes nazis après guerre, ont dû avoir connaissance de l’existence généralisée des camps nazis.

"Vous ne pouviez littéralement aller nulle part en Allemagne sans vous rencontrer à des camps de travaux forcés, des camps de prisonniers de guerre, ou des camps de concentration", a-t-il déclaré, "Ils étaient partout." (avec New York Times)


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