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April 03, 2008

Comments

Barry Larking

I read the Laquer's article yesterday and it provoked very different reactions in me. I find this 'what if' approach to history for practical purposes useless and in turns, dangerous. At the height of the successful IRA-Sein Fein campaign one benighted Unionist politician opined that, but for a few miles of water, Northern Ireland (and Ireland) would be connected to Great Britain, with obvious consequences for the history of both islands. John Hume replied "It isn't".

Essentially what Mr Laquer has created (rather elegantly) is an illusionary narrative which actually does nothing to develop a useful understanding of the present. Much less elegantly, Hollywood (the name itself is almost a shorthand for this phenomenon) has practised this trope as a sort of art form for many years, writing off whole historical episodes where the plot (largely a device for massaging American contemporary sensibilities) demanded it, which it always did. This is easily dismissed by the snooty; yet film in the 20th century has been all pervasive and persuasive in connecting with mass audiences.

A gifted practitioner of this 'art form' in these islands is been Robert Harris. Mr Harris writes intelligently, far more subtly than the average film script, and does not, as far as I am aware, suggest his entertainment should supplant history. Yet all around us, especially on the internet, the weak minded willingly propel themselves into an alternative reality where mere wishful thinking is enough to frame and perhaps even alter in some psychologic way, the unpleasant reality of the world we have and with which we must deal.

I am very grateful for your link to the paper prepared by Peierls and Frisch on the possibility of creating a weapon by exploiting the nuclear process in fissionable material. Unfortunately the providers of the link failed to mention that this paper was written at the University of Birmingham, England. I understand this work was subsequently provided free of restraint to the Americans by way of Lord Cherwell's (Frederick Lindemann) famous 'Black Box' in 1940, as an inducement to obtain continued US financial support for Britain following Dunkirk.

Tom

Why confuse 'the fortunes of Judaism' with Israel? Most Israeli Jews - like Jews elsewhere - are secular. Most ultra-Orthodox Israelis reject Jewish sovereignty before the Messiah's arrival; some, like the Neturei Karta, even support Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel.

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