If it were ever in doubt that one can be very talented and very stupid (or possibly simply venal), Oliver Stone’s recent interview with The Sunday Times surely settles the matter. Stone is planning a 10-part documentary about Stalin and Hitler that will put them “in context.” And heaven knows we need a dollop of “context” for the planet’s top two pathological murderers with 8-figure victims (well, top three, you have to include Mao).
No, Oliver, “context” is a mitigating, larger, more nuanced truth that yields a less judgmental perspective. As body counts go, Stalin and Hitler created the über-context, and any impulse to be “less judgmental” is a moral travesty. In fact, it is not possible for a human being to be sufficiently judgmental of Stalin and Hitler.
I’m apt to give the Stone documentary a pass — not because it wouldn’t deliver some sparkle of Stone’s filmmaking aptitude, and not even because Stone would likely indulge his penchant for conspiracy theories — but because Stone’s core ideology, with which the documentary will presumably be suffused, is offensive nonsense. Here, courtesy of Norman Geras, are excerpts from the Stone interview in The Sunday Times:
“Hitler was a Frankenstein but there was also a Dr. Frankenstein. German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.”
He also seeks to put his atrocities in proportion: “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30m.”
Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? “The Jewish domination of the media,” he says. “There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years.”
Okay, first, Dr. Frankenstein’s monster was not named Frankenstein. Not a biggie, but come on, a filmmaker, particularly one specializing in faux-history, should know it. Second, I’m no fan of Chamberlain’s appeasement — who is? — but equating hopeful appeasement of a monster with creation of a monster is philosophical silliness. Similarly, I’m no fan of American pacifism in the early years of Hitler’s aggressions — some are — but equating pacifism toward a monster with creation of a monster is likewise philosophical silliness.
Such philosophical silliness already suggests — even before we get to the good stuff — the mind of a child of nine (no offense to nine-year-olds).
Third, if we’re actually talking about “empowerment” of Hitler rather than “creation” of Hitler, then Stone’s singling out of “German industrialists, the Americans and the British” (as opposed to, say, the welcoming Austrians, the Soviets with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed a week before the invasion of Poland, or the Vichy French) already tells you all you need to know about the ideological derangement of this man.
Then we come to Stone’s enough-already-about-the-Holocaust. In an age where Iran’s theocratic thugs openly indulge in Holocaust denial, actively pursue an atomic bomb, and speak candidly of obliterating Israel, I just don’t see a compelling case for putting the Holocaust “in context.”