Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Paris Vendetta - Book Review

The Paris Vendetta
by Steve Berry
Random House 2009

This is a long post and includes politics.

The main story is how Napoelon Bonaparte discovered a secret and then hid it where noone could find it. Also during WW2, how the nazi's found a treasure and hid that as well.

Lord Graham Ashby (a British millionaire) has spent years chasing clues and finally finds the Nazi treasure in Corsica. He is also investigating another treasure rumoured to be one that Napoleon found in Egypt.

But Ashby is not above killing anyone who gets in his way. Two years previously he had ordered a man to be killed and the man was killed in Mexico city along with several other innocent people. One of those innocents was a young man from the Danish embassy named Cai Thorvaldsen. His father is Henrik Thorvaldsen, a Danish millionaire and Cotton Malone's friend.

Henrik has grieved his son and then spent 2 years looking for the man who ordered the killings. He is bound and determined to kill Ashby with his own hands.

It turns out that Ashby is in dire straits, almost bankrupt and desperate to find a large cache of treasure to pay his debts. One of the things he has done is to be invited to join the Paris Club - which is a small group of millionaires - who want to increase their wealth without having to pay any taxes. Finding this treasure that Napoleon is rumoured to have found is one means of achieving their goal.

Henrik Thorvaldsen infiltrates the Paris Club by telling the leader (Eliza LaRocque) that Ashby is a security risk. Thorvaldsen indicates that Ashby is desperate for money and is not being discreet about how he gets it. Henrik has also asked Cotton to help find and apprehend Ashby.

This adventure follows the movements and adventures of Ashby, Thorvaldsen, Malone, and Eliza Larocque as they attempt to find this treasure in their bid to either start or prevent WW3 from breaking out.

The main message behind this story is how the entire world is presently controlled by the rich (called neocons) and how the majority of taxpayers (the rank and file) are nothing but slaves to the rich.

Don't beleive me?

Read this and confirm that it has not already happened.

It was long ago realised, even by ancient monarchs, that their subjects would not tolerate in peace that which they would willingly accept in war. This concept is particularly true today, in modern democracies.

Napoleon realized that war is good for society. Like nothing else, it mobilized his best thinkers to think better. He discovered that scientists were more creative when a threat was real. Manufacturing became moer innovative and productive, the people more obedient. He discovered that the citizenry, if threatened, would allow just about any violation from government, so long as they were protected. People will only tolerate so much.

There is death,destruction, devastation, waste, but war has always existed. War works. Mans greatest technological achievements have come as a result of war. Look at the second world war. We learned to split the atom and fly in space, not to mention countless advances in electronics, science, medicine, engineering.

The idea would be to create an alternative enemy. A threat, either real or perceived, against which society rallies to defend itself. Mass destruction by nuclear weapons for example. That was what the cold war was all about. Neither side ever did much to the other, but both sides spent billions and billions in preparation. Government flourished during the cold war. The american federal system expanded to unprecedented levels. Western civilization escalated to new heights from 1950 to 1990. Man made it to the Moon thanks to the cold war.

Again look at America. In the 1950s it allowed the trampling of its First Amendment when the threat of encroaching communism was thought real. Free speech became unimportant when compared with the imagined danger of the soviet union. Even more recently, after the attacks of September 11th (2001), laws were passed that, at any other time Americans would have found repulsive. The patriot act suppressed liberties and invaded privacies on an unprecedented level. Surveillance laws curbed civil liberties and restricted established freedoms. Identification laws came into being that, previously americans had found repugnant. But the people allowed these violations so that they would be safe - or at least perceive themselves to be safe.

A credible external threat equals expanded political and economic power - as long as the threat remains credible.

Any threat would have to be containable. To scare the people into obeying - and then extract profit from their fear. Thankfully in todays world, a credible enemy already exists and has already galvanized public sentiment.


Still don't beleive me?

How about this.

Back in the year 1947, the House Select Committee began an investigation into the Motion Picture Industry. Ostensibly the goal was to ferret out communists working in the film industry. But in actuality the US Government was concerned that Hollywood was no longer as blindly supportive of government policy as it had been only a few years earlier at the height of WW2. In particular, J. Edgar Hoover had long held the opinion that the entertainment industry should be the propaganda arm for the government in peace time as well as war.

However, as WW2 had ended, the defense establishment had lobbied for the creation of a "Cold" war against the Soviet Union, a war not actually to be fought, but constantly to be prepared for at huge cost to the taxpayers. This cost was the visible manifestation of the "Military Industrial Complex" President Eisenhower referred to in his farewell address, and many in Hollywood openly wondered just why so much more money had to be thrown into the war machine during a time of peace, and more to the point, just why we were supposed to be so afraid of the communists.


Of course, what was really involved was money. War is good for business. Business had been great during WW2 and the newly created "Cold War" was just a way to keep business good. The Military Industrial Complex NEEDED Hollywood to demonize the Soviets. Otherwise, too many people were going to ask why we were being told to be so afraid of them, and few in the government had a really convincing answer for that question. So, in order to perpetuate the Cold War, those in Hollywood who might sympathize with the designated villains had to be removed; their ruined lives a small price to pay for unending access to the taxpayers' wallets.

But that was then and this is now.

Once again vast sums of money are being spent on a war, this time a hot one and getting hotter. Once again parties with a vested interest are out to smear and destroy anyone who dares ask if the wars are worth the sacrifice of our young people (not to mention the money), indeed if there really is any point at all to the wars aside from justifying the flow of money to defense contractors.

But the Soviet Union has gone out of business. The word "communist" doesn't carry the same psychological impact it used to, so the war hawk smear squad has come up with a new one, "Anti-Semite." Like "Communist", "Anti-Semite" is used to ruin the lives of people who have not actually done anything wrong other than to challenge the war profiteers. It is a new word for an old trick, and I am amazed that they are still playing the same old game, but I guess the FBI can always find some dumb-assed idiot to fall for it and do their dirty work of wrecking a career for them.

Of course, it really isn't that new a word. Oddly enough, Charles Lindbergh the famous aviator commented in a speech in Des Moines in 1941...

Our theaters soon became filled with plays portraying the glory of war. Newsreels lost all semblance of objectivity. Newspapers and magazines began to lose advertising if they carried anti-war articles. A smear campaign was instituted against individuals who opposed intervention. The terms "fifth columnist," "traitor," "Nazi," "anti-Semitic" were thrown ceaselessly at any one who dared to suggest that it was not to the best interests of the United States to enter the war. Men lost their jobs if they were frankly anti-war. Many others dared no longer speak.

Today we are seeing once again the heavy hand of the war profiteers trying to reshape the film industry into a tool to propagandize the public into a high war-fever such that they will gladly trade their own blood for gold to line the pockets of the defense establishment. And those individuals who have the courage to speak out are attacked, and once again they are smeared to silence them. In the 1940s it was "Communist", today it is "Anti-Semite", but aside from the particular label used, the methods, goals, and morality are little changed from the days of Joseph McCarthy.

If there is a difference today it is that the American people are better educated. No longer dependent on the state schools, or controlled media, the public understands the tactics used to silence those who speak out. As a result, those who speak out are more and more not only accorded the sympathetic ear that their message deserves, but the effects of the smearing are far less ruinous than in times past.

Thus, when we see people like Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Marion Cotillard speak out and survive, it sends a message that it is now permissible to speak out. This is not to say that there are not risks. Rosie O'Donnell lost her spot on "The View", but the majority of Americans understand exactly why, and understand that Rosie sacrificed a great deal trying to get the truth out. Rosie is and will be remembered as a hero for truth long after her co-hosts on "The View" are properly forgotten.

In contrast, of course, we look back at those who aided the "Commie" witch-hunts of the 1940s with deserved contempt. No doubt many aided Hoover purely to rid themselves of competition, and then tried to lull themselves to sleep with the idea that in some way they had actually done something good for the nation by wrecking their neighbors' careers. I have no doubt strong liquor played a role in this grossest of self-deception. But if the informants and smear artists of the 1940s are remembered in a poor light, that should serve as a reminder to the informants and smear artists of today. It does not matter what you do with the rest of your life, aiding the new version of McCarthyism is how history will remember you. While people like Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Marion Cotillard (and to step out of entertainment, former President Jimmy Carter) will be remembered and honored for their courage, history will lump the smear artists together with Stalin's "Useful idiots", little more than no-talent opportunists for whom ratting out someone was the fastest path to advancement.

They say that history repeats itself, and indeed that is the major thing wrong with history. We are seeing history repeat itself again. We have been down this path before, in the 1940s. Whether the word is "Communist" or "Anti-Semite", Hollywood is making the same mistake all over again. And Hollywood will have to live with that image in the coming decades.

McCarthyism is back

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1 comment:

Hannah Stoneham said...

Sounds really interesting. I am living in France - quite close to Paris right now so i am on the look out for France themed books - great review thank you for sharing