Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chapter 15 - "Let The Dead Be Heard": Part 4 - A Villain With A Smiling Cheek

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Before heading to Washington where he was to meet Mira, Alfred attended a meeting of Ferguson’s group on October 31, where he introduced an acquaintance of his—Boris Brasol—to the group. Brasol, a cultured Russian émigré, worked for the Army Military Intelligence Department (MID). Korzybski, who had contacts at MID, may have met Brasol while visiting or lecturing there:
Mr. Brasol, who I am expecting this evening, is one of the most brilliant brains that Russia has ever produced. He is a lawyer and attorney general here for the old Russian Government. His analytical brain belongs to the international world. He may be some day a tremendous power in putting the New Machine in Russia.(19) 
Herein lies a curious tale of misevaluating. The literate and sophisticated Brasol, who arrived late to the October 31 meeting, surely qualified as what Shakespeare would call “a villain with a smiling cheek”.(20) Would Korzybski—hardly a lover of Tsarism—have spoken so highly of Brasol if he had known more about this “goodly apple rotten at the heart”(21), a member of the notorious “Black Hundreds” organization in Tsarist Russia? The Black Hundreds had supported the most extreme ideology of authoritarian monarchism with an associated army of thugs to terrorize those whom they considered enemies of the Tsarist state—among them Jews. As a lawyer in the Ukraine, Brasol had worked for the Tsarist Ministry of Justice assisting in the government prosecution of a Jew, Mendel Beilis, on charges of ritually murdering a boy in order to obtain his blood to make matzah. Beilis sat in jail from 1911 to 1913 before finally being released after trial; the jury accepted his innocence while agreeing that Jews sometimes did murder children to make matzah. (His travails were fictionalized in Bernard Malamud’s 1966 novel, The Fixer.) Brasol’s “analytic brain” now belonged to the expanding international world of proto-Nazi antisemitism that had infected Tsarist Russia and was spreading throughout Europe and the U.S. like an epidemic. Sometime during the war, Brasol—who had been working for the Russian government in London—met members of the MID. After the Russian Revolution, they helped him to come to the U.S., where he soon became an agent for the intelligence organization.

Brasol brought with him a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which detailed a supposed secret meeting of Jewish leaders—the Elders of Zion—in Switzerland in 1897. (The place and date corresponded to those of the well publicized meeting of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, presided over by Theodore Herzl.) First published in 1905, the forged Protocols document was put together by agents of the Ochrana, the Tsar’s Secret Police which, as historian Norman Davies described it, “…learned how to invent the problems which it was supposed to solve. Working on the fail-safe principle of provokatsiya (provocation), the Ochrana fomented conspiracies in order to break them,…”.(22) The Protocols, which provided ‘proof’ of a ‘Jewish plot’ for world domination, was its pièce de résistance. (See Norman Cohn’s Warrant for Genocide and Will Eisner’s The Plot.)
People at the MID, as in other places, were becoming more and more concerned about the possible expansion of Bolshevism beyond Russia. For this very reason, at MID after the war there was strong support for the Polish national cause as a bulwark against a Soviet advance into Europe. This was probably one of the main reasons for Korzybski’s visits to MID headquarters. As Joseph Bendersky documents in his book The Jewish Threat, many of the MID staff found it relatively easy to at least seriously consider the possibility that the Russian Revolution was part of a Jewish plot to take over the world. In 1918, Brasol gave a copy of the Protocols to Natalie DeBogory, another Russian émigré employed as the assistant of Captain Harris Houghton, M.D, another MID intelligence officer. DeBogory translated it into English with Brasol’s help. Houghton, already obsessed with Jews and Bolshevism, became interested. He and Brasol began introducing the document to select people at MID and the State Department. 

By the beginning of 1919, Brasol’s and Houghton’s missionary work was succeeding. The notion of a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy seemed to spread exponentially and was becoming familiar to many people in the U.S. government, especially in the Army and the State Department. One who believed this fundamentally unwarranted rumor about the Jews would transmit it (like an infectious disease) to others who, if they accepted it, would spread it to others still. At some point along the way, such a one might hear the rumor again from someone else, which to an uncritical person would ‘confirm’ the rumor’s correctness. A Senate Committee on Bolshevik Propaganda, headed by North Carolina Senator Lee S. Overman, began investigative hearings in February 1919. The Overman Committee heard hours of testimony concerning the supposed Jewish plot. Reverend George A. Simons of New York City, who had lived in Russia from 1907 to 1918, introduced the Protocols to the committee. Simons believed Jews from New York’s Lower East Side had fomented the Bolshevik Revolution.(23) Representatives of the American Jewish community testified to the Overman Committee to refute these claims.

By 1920 Boston publisher Small, Maynard & Company issued The Protocols and World Revolution, Brasol’s translation of the Protocols with his commentary. (Brasol seems to have decided he could insinuate his poison better if he remained anonymous as the author.) Brasol got a copy to the rabidly antisemitic automaker Henry Ford who then hired him to help promulgate the anti-Jewish creed in a series of articles based on the Protocols, which were published from 1920 to 1922 in Ford’s newpaper, The Dearborn Independent. Millions of copies of The International Jew, a book by Ford based on these articles, were distributed internationally. Ford’s book inspired Hitler and the Nazi movement. Later, in the 1930s, Brasol wrote for Social Justice, a magazine published by the antisemitic radio priest Father Coughlin. Brasol was suspected of working as a Nazi agent then and throughout World War II. He spoke modestly when, in 1921, he claimed in a letter to a friend: “Within the last year I have written three books, two of which have done the Jews more injury than would have been done by ten pogroms.”(24) 

No direct evidence exists that Brasol gave Alfred a copy of the Protocols or described its contents to him in 1919. (Korzybski later obtained a copy of the 1920 Small, Maynard book.) Yet it doesn’t seem unlikely that Brasol may have introduced the Protocol’s message to Korzybski and to the other people involved with the New Machine. He definitely had the opportunity at or around the time of the October 31, 1919 meeting. Although Ferguson himself seems to have remained free of antisemitism, many of his colleagues in the “Social Credit” movement did not. C. H. Douglas, the main social credit theorist, became a life-long advocate of the Protocols. (Korzybski probably met Douglas in New York in 1919 after Ferguson arranged a meeting between the two men.) Becoming acquainted with people like the M.I.D. conspiracy theorists, Boris Brasol, and C.H. Douglas was probably not the best way to reduce whatever stereotypes about Jews that Alfred had absorbed from his earlier days in Poland—where anti-Jewish sentiments had been festering since the last quarter of the 19th Century.(25) 

Only a few days after the New Machine meeting where he had introduced Brasol, Korzybski arrived in Washington for the International Labor Conference. He seemed to ‘have a bee in his bonnet’ about the Protocols since he almost immediately began trying to find the whereabouts of Harris Houghton, Brasol’s collaborator.(26) He also obtained a copy of the report of the Overman Committee—Mira had requested it from the office of California Senator James D. Phelen, who sent a copy of the document to the Korzybskis’ hotel room.(27) Whether he ever found Houghton is unknown. And until August 1920, there is little if any hint of what he did with the Overman Committee material or of his developing views about Jews.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
19. Transcription of 10/31/1919 Meeting of “The New Machine”.  AKDA 32.646. 

20. The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene III 

21. Ibid. 

22. Davies 2005, p. 71. 

23. Overman Committee. See U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, 1919. Bolshevik Propaganda..., p. 135. The entire Overman Committee Report can be downloaded from Google Books or from at this link.   

24. Carlson, p. 204. For more on Boris Brasol’s reprehensible career see Joseph W. Bendersky’s The Jewish Threat, John Roy Carlson’s Undercover, Albert Lee’s Henry Ford and the Jews, and Steven G. Marks’ How Russia Shaped The Modern World

25. See Blobaum, ed., Antisemitism And Its Opponents In Modern Poland. Here is a link to the comprehensive conference report upon which Blobaum's book was based:

26. W. S. Mackay [?] to AK, 11/5/1919. AKDA 32.610-611. 

27. John D. Costello to Mira Edgerly-Korzybska, Nov. 1, 1919. AKDA 32.593 

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