1/30/2006

more on the Oprahfication of Auschwitz

I got a comment worthy of comment on the issue of the Oprahfication of Auschwitz this morning. It would not surprise me if it was from an old friend from Indy, who has had some personal dealings with Elie Wiesel over the years.

I anticipated some of the criticism here. I wanted to focus more on the book itself, and its lack of sentimentality. But inevitably its author will come under fire. While there’s a long list of Holocaust writers who’ve committed suicide, Elie Wiesel has gone on living, and has made his living as Shoah spokesman (or "salesman," some would say). Has he been utterly unselfish in this? Should he live in abject poverty to prove a point? And what point would it prove? It’s the Holocaust we're dealing with here, but it’s also his life, and he is entitled to make a living. He is also entitled to a hair-weave. He is entitled to every human foible, as far as I’m concerned.

But the insinuation that there is something unethical in his exploitation of his personal experience for personal gain does deserve serious attention.

Regarding Wiesel's speaking fee. A little cursory research at keyspeakers.com puts it in the range of $42,000. It seems steep, until you consider that it is the same as Phylicia Rashad’s. And it’s not much more than Star Jones’.

To give you some idea of the range for “diversity” speakers: even a nobody like Steadman Graham, whose only claim to fame is his fag hag, Oprah, commands $13,250. Danny Glover makes $30,000. Jesse Jackson’s fee is $50,000. Magic Johnson’s: $85,000. Whoopi Goldberg’s is a whopping $120,000.

The best-known motivational speakers, politicians, and past-presidents usually command well over $100,000 as well.

I don't personally know anything about the speaker's fees for funerals, and have been unable to verify the story, but I believe Wiesel is well within his rights to collect whatever speaker’s fees he can command.

As for the business of the Iraq War. Elie Wiesel has been entangled in Israeli politics for decades. To believe that anyone intimately involved in the fate of Israel could avoid unpalatable compromises and unholy alliances is naïve in the extreme. Nor is it particularly surprising that a supporter of Israel would support President Bush and his campaign in Iraq. I mean, on the one hand, you’ve got the US. On the other Iraq. US. Iraq. US. Iraq. Hmm. It’s a tough choice. Seeing as Iraq has been so kind and helpful towards Israel over the years, and the US has been so hostile. I mean, come on. Wiesel is, after all, a Jew and a Zionist.

Of course, largely because of the success of Night, Wiesel has become a prime target of Holocaust revisionists, who question whether he was even in a concentration camp at all. Impugning his intentions in collecting speaking fees is a step away from accusing him of flat-out fabrication, and from there, questioning whether any of it was true at all.

I think there’s ample evidence out there that the Holocaust happened. I myself don’t think it’s a fabrication of greedy Jews who want to make money by guilt-tripping the anti-Semites and cheating honest and guiltless nations out of billions. But there are plenty of very angry people out there who seem to believe that this is the case. They believe that the Holocaust is the latest in a long line of hoaxes, perpetrated by Jews at the expense of their own for their personal enrichment.

But wouldn’t the Jews have to be really, truly, utterly vile to do such a thing? And isn’t that what the anti-Semites would have us believe of them? And isn’t it strange that they would so willingly conform to such a caricature? And if they are as vile as all that, shouldn’t we draw up plans to round them up, and… hey, wait a minute. Is this the Wannsee Conference or what?

1 Comments:

Anonymous drz said...

Regarding the Elie Wiesel issue, there's probably a desire on the part of most people to expect him, as a holocaust survivor/'spokesman', to be saintly like. Maybe it's assumed that it comes with the role.

Oprah will be able to mass market her brand of sentimentality in this case by not concentrating on the book, but on the person. On how he (Wiesel)survived, how he created a new life for himself, how life triumphed over death and evil, etc. Because ultimately, that's what people want to hear,that people can overcome great hardships, and that's why fraudulent memoir books of various 'survivors' succeed. Be it
a pretend back-from-the-gutter story of a down and out drug addict (James Frey), a heartwrenching story of a down and out boy prostitute turned novelist turned transgender activist (and in reality was a woman,Laura Albert,who was looking to make a buck)or the compelling story of a - yes - down and out holocuast survivor (not Wiesel of course, but the award winning novelist who was exposed a few years ago)who overcame great odds. People buy into it because we want to believe that there can be hope and redemption after great suffering, that people can reinvent themselves and be saved, that there are some good endings even after the most dire of times. The truth is, that's understandable, because without hope, life does suck.

11:15 PM  

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