And the Cow Jumped over the Moon

On the theme of how much one can believe of stories told there is an illustrative passage in the authors introduction, or rationale as he calls it, in the book “People in Auschwitz” by Hermann Langbein.

Langbein came as a prisoner to Auschwitz as a communist after much travail, including participation in the Spanish Civil War. One of his comrades at Auschwitz,Bruno Baum, also a communist, wrote a little book  about the resistance in Auschwitz that was published in the German Democratic Republic in 1949 and repreinted in 1957 and 1961

People in the first edition of the book were portrayed as heroes of the resistance but omitted from later editions of the book as they had had a falling out with the Communist Party. Not only that, but people who had not had anything to do with the resistance appeared as leaders of the resistance in the third edition because they had faithfully toed the party line.

Langbein goes on to mention several cases of faulty memory or events experienced differently and wildly erroneously depending on where one stood in the Concentration Camp hierarchy, and what type of person one was.He includes himself in this to point to show how painstakingly clear one must be in any attempt to describe events objectively. These points are too numerpous to go into here. One can simply highly recommend reading the book. Langbeins book is essential reading on the subject for any scholar of the holocaust.

Hermann Langbein, 1940. Photograph from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The point I am making is that what Langebein describes as free licence with veracity does not only apply to concentration camps where people were living under unimaginable duress. It applies to life itself. What is a lie to one can be the truth in a different form to another, depending on many factors.

It’s one of the main reasons I do not watch television and why I read every day a wide variety of newspapers from as wide a representative viewpoint as possible in order to ply my little venture. The urge to find the truth in a matter is quite impossible, because any single matter contains several, and not one single truth. And, alas a great many untruths.

I was much possessed by these thoughts during a very restless night, so now for a cup of strong coffee and a voyage into the fairy tales being spun all over the world. In politics, the word “spin” describes it all. When politicans gather they decide on how to present a case, not necessarily the case itself. The same applies to Journalism, both consciously and unconsciously.

I have actually met several Pakistani men of high intelligence, who, because of their intense dislike for and distrust of Americans, refuse to believe that the Americans landed men on the moon. They all said it was a studio scam to fool the people and were deadly serious about it all. They were also of the opinion that George.W.Bush and the Israeli’s were behind the 9-11 attacks in order to turn the West against the Muslim world.Again they were deadly serious, and shared a great dislike for conspiracy theorists.

As I child I always disliked and was vaguely disturbed by the Nursery Rhyme about the cow jumping over the moon.

©Howard Gamble
30th August 2011

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