In spite of what their enemies might think, there weren't too many revisionists who were worked up about this year's presidential election. In general, there didn't seem to be any big concern over the fact that Al Gore had picked a Jewish running mate, and even in the immediate aftermath of Election Night there weren't many revisionists who were concerned about the electoral effect of the absentee votes of dual citizens of the United States and Israel. The reason is that revisionists are not as hung up on Jewish things as their critics like to insist.
"As I watched Hadassah's story, I paused to think of those in her family who did not survive the camps to live to see this momentous day. I thought, if only it had been possible, in the final moments before their deaths, for someone to whisper to them that this madness will indeed end, that the Jewish people will not only survive but see the day when a child of theirs is married to the man running for vice president of the United States! Whatever small comfort that could have given them to alleviate their pain and suffering before their lives were exterminated, I wish... I wish... they just could have known that their death was not in vain."
Truly, the idea of Holocaust victims consoling themselves at the hour of their deaths with the notion that sixty years hence a Jew would be the vice president of the United States has got to be one of the most noxious and idiotic ideas ever presented. In fact it is even a more repellent conceit than the claim, made by "eyewitness" Filip Mueller, that "exterminations" were preceded by a series of fiery political speeches concluding with four part harmony of various national anthems and the
Internationale as the "gas crystals" were tipped in. Nevertheless, like Al Gore says, "You ain't seen nothing yet "
"Sixty-two years ago tonight, the Holocaust began in full force on what was called Kristallnacht. The German government sent goon squads throughout the country to trash and burn the homes, stores and temples of its Jewish citizens. Seven years and 6 million slaughtered lives later, the Jewish people of Europe were virtually extinct. A few survived. I will not allow those who survived to come here to this "land of the free" be abused again. They are our fellow citizens in our great democracy, and their voice, if I have anything to say about it, will never be snuffed out."As Alexander Cockburn commented wearily: "Now we're at the point when to deny Al Gore the victory in Florida is to deny the Holocaust."
How did it happen that the Holocaust was brought into an American presidential election? How is it possible that the Holocaust was once more perverted for crass purposes? Thereby hangs a tale.
The Butterfly Ballot
Of course by now, everyone knows the outlines of the story. A lot of people in Palm Beach County, Florida, are old, and a lot of them are Jewish. To accommodate the poor eyesight of these seniors, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, the Palm Beach County Canvassing Commission created a ballot that opened up like a book, and which contained the names of the presidential candidates on both sides of the open, "butterfly" page. Then the voters were supposed to work their way down the center of the page, pick their candidate, follow the arrows, and poke a hole in the ballot. Simple.
What happened is that the word got out that there were problems with the ballots. The story goes that Pat Buchanan got too many votes in Palm Beach County, those votes must have been meant for Al Gore (but mysteriously, not for George W. Bush). The media followed up, featuring a number of elderly Jews who raved on about how they might have voted for Buchanan, who is persona non grata these days thanks to a smear campaign mostly by Jewish groups that have labeled as an "anti-Semite" and a "Hitler apologist." This standard slur on Buchanan, in turn, was supposed to negate the three thousand votes he apparently got, since, the logic runs, no Jew would ever vote for him. Thus what would have been a minor election hassle anywhere else, became, by virtue of the tight election, and the desire of Democrats to turn the result, an occasion to roll out once more the blazing virtue of the Mighty Holo of Holies.
There are, however, some things that the media hasn't been talking about much. There hasn't been much discussion of the fact that not only do a lot of Jews live in Palm Beach County, but also a lot of wealthy non-Jewish independents, exactly the kinds of people who might vote for Pat Buchanan, and who in fact gave Buchanan over eight thousand votes in 1996. So the idea that any sizable number of elderly Jews were traumatized because they stuck it for Buchanan is a non-starter.
The second thing that hasn't been discussed is the fact that there's a reason why all of these people started thinking they had voted for Buchanan. It's called mass suggestion.
Manufactured Mass Hysteria
The real story of what happened during the earlier part of Election Day is still a little unclear. It seems that there were some elderly Jewish congregants who told their rabbis at morning services that there were some problems with the ballots. The word got around, and the story probably grew in the process. Perhaps some voter who was momentarily thrown off by the arrangement of the ballot, talked about it, someone mentioned it to someone else, pretty soon someone was the self-appointed maven of the supposed intricacies of the Palm Beach ballot, advising others, "Make sure you poke the right hole!" On that level, the story might have become an entrant into the folklore of the offbeat, a little squib in the Saturday paper.
What actually happened however is that the Democratic election officials in Florida got wind of the potential problem. Naturally, they wanted to find out how severe the problem was. So they hired a telemarketing firm in the late afternoon of Election Day to make phone calls to lists of registered Democratic voters in Palm Beach. In each case, the voter was told "there was a problem" with the ballot, could the voter recall having any difficulties with it, is it possible the voter may not have properly registered his or her choice, etc. Over five thousand calls were made in the space of about an hour.
Now it's a fact that most people don't even know which shoe they put on first in the morning. Ninety per cent of the things we do are automatic. On any given weekday morning, probably millions of Americans go back inside the house to make sure they turned off the stove, or the coffee pot, before leaving for good. That is the background for these calls. Now imagine that you get a phone call at work from who-knows-where asking you if you know whether you left the porch light on. Compound that with the fact that you are getting on in years, and are starting to question your perception and your memory, even if you try to conceal it from your spouse or kids. What you have is a recipe for mass hysteria.
It seems that it was only after the phone calls that you began to get these panicked seniors claiming that they "might" have voted incorrectly, that they "might" have voted for Buchanan, or, as they put it, that they "might have voted for Hitler." What could make better copy than that? And what better way to give Al Gore and his enforcers the gut conviction that they had somehow won this thing, enough to turn the country on its back for several weeks in the process?
The butterfly ballot is no longer with us, of course. It has now been succeeded by the "pregnant chad," a condition, contrary to what you might think, brought about by the failure to achieve penetration of the ballot. Now the issue of the absence of holes in the ballot cards has become a matter of supreme importance, so much so that we half expect to see Robert Jan van Pelt turning up at any moment to insist that, while there may be no holes in the cards, "does that mean they were never there?"
Still, for several days we were treated to the spectacle of impromptu Holocaust remembrance, with pathetic elderly Jews (who still haven't received any Swiss money, by the way) being wheeled out by lawyers in pursuit of their own agendas. The Michael Moores of the world dissolved into righteous spasms of grief over sixty year old tragedies, while continuing to ignore civilian massacres that are six years, six months, or even six days old. The race baiting of Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson, invoking the Holocaust in between Sharptonesque chants of "Gore got more" and "No Recount, No Peace!" provided a fitting capstone to the grotesque display.
While this particular abuse of the Holocaust was due to the demographics of the voters, it reminds us again of just why it is that revisionists feel the Holocaust should be de-mystified. Not only that, but there is a deeper way in which this invocation of the Holocaust was, in our view, very appropriate.
Bear in mind that this particular hysterical reaction was created, not on purpose, but almost by accident. Democratic officials heard some rumors. Not very wisely, they hired an independent telemarketing firm to canvas the voters. They in turn broadcast the rumors back to the voters, who then started to second guess themselves. Next thing you know, there were dozens of freaked-out people who were convinced that they had seen, or done, what had been suggested to them.
While it's true that none of these panicky voters claimed that poison gas came out of the ballot holes, or that the curtains of the voting booth were made from human skin, there seems to be an obvious similarity between what happened in Palm Beach and the way a number of Holocaust stories got started in World War Two. Back then, you had remote Jewish agencies, looking for information. So they passed on the rumors they heard, looking for verification. What they didn't realize is that by passing along the stories, they were not only helping to create them but they were giving the stories their own imprimatur.
So it was in Palm Beach. The Democrats wanted information. They passed it on. The people on the receiving end, as in World War Two, internalized the message and made it true. The possibility that one could have voted wrongly, created the fact that one had voted wrongly, just as surely as the possibility of making soap out of people created the mythic bars of Jewish soap.
There's a sequel, here, too. Because of the rumors that have settled as fact around the Holocaust, the Jewish people have acquired an attitude, a bunker mentality of intransigence, that even to many Jewish observers is not only destructive but self-destructive. Watching Al Gore pursue a path destructive not only to himself but to the United States, we can't help but wonder how much of his bunker mentality is traceable to the "Holocaust" in Palm Beach County, where he first became convinced of his entitlement of victory.