Where do phony “hero tales” come from!

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013

A common part of our discourse: It’s hard for people to understand how much of our discourse is simply made up—invented by pseudo-journalists.

Our press corps routinely repeats bogus facts to punish outcasts or reward friends. In such situations, they also know which facts they must, as a group, withhold.

In the process, utterly bogus “demon tales” get invented about the guild's targets. Utterly phony “hero tales” may also be widely pimped.

Last Thursday, the New York Times debunked a well-known “hero tale” dating from the Holocaust.

On the front page of Thursday's paper, Patricia Cohen debunked a remarkable but bogus hero tale. As it turns out, an Italian long praised for saving Jews was in fact an executioner:
COHEN (6/20/13): Italian Praised for Saving Jews Is Now Seen as Nazi Collaborator

He has been called the Italian Schindler, credited with helping to save 5,000 Jews during the Holocaust. Giovanni Palatucci, a wartime police official, has been honored in Israel, in New York and in Italy, where squares and promenades have been named in his honor, and in the Vatican, where Pope John Paul II declared him a martyr, a step toward potential sainthood.

But at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the tale of his heroic exploits is being removed from an exhibition after officials there learned of new evidence suggesting that, far from being a hero, he was an enthusiastic Nazi collaborator involved in the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz.

A letter sent this month to the museum’s director by the Centro Primo Levi at the Center for Jewish History in New York stated that a research panel of more than a dozen scholars who reviewed nearly 700 documents concluded that for six years, Palatucci was “a willing executor of the racial legislation and—after taking the oath to Mussolini’s Social Republic, collaborated with the Nazis.”

The letter said that Italian and German records provided no evidence that he had helped Jews during the war and that the first mention only surfaced years later, in 1952. Researchers also found documents that showed Palatucci had helped the Germans identify Jews to round up.
We recommend the whole report. We also suggest that you consider how this sort of thing happens.

How did this bogus “hero tale” manage to gain so much purchase? Basically, Cohen cites three reasons:

First, the phony story “seemed to bolster the reputation of Pope Pius XII, whom Jewish groups have described as being indifferent to genocide.” Powerful interests thus had a motive to push this bullshit along.

Also, the phony story helped advance “the belated claims of some Italians that they went out of their way to save Jews as part of an attempt to recast Italy’s Fascist past.” When the wider world purchased this phony tale, Italy itself looked better.

Finally, the phony story helped the family in question gain a postwar pension. According to Cohen, that is how this “hero tale” got started.

In short, various groups had an interest in pushing the phony “hero tale.” Result: Palatucci, who helped assemble Jews for death, has been hailed as a hero for lo, these fifty years.

In the past twenty years, of course, America’s Potemkin “press corps” has crafted quite a few demon and hero tales of its own. This week, it’s using phony facts to help create a demon tale about Paula Deen, a cultural outcast.

In 1999 and 2000, some of the very same people invented a string of “demon tales” about Candidate Gore. Purpose: Punishing Clinton!

In the end, Mission Accomplished!

That said, we've also suffered our fair share of phony “hero tales.” During the Clinton-Gore era, the fakers and frauds still known as a “press corps” created silly hero tales about a string of secular saints named Bradley, McCain and Powell. Beyond that, hero tales have been invented about pleasing corporate favorites like Michelle Rhee and Wendy Kopp.

As the New York Times invents and withholds basic facts about Deen, a familiar pattern is playing out. This sort of thing rarely ends well.

This sort of practiced group deception rarely ends real well. As your heroes know but won’t say, it’s how George Bush reached the White House!


  1. OT: But the new revelations on the "I.R.S. Scandal" show that Bob called that one correctly up and down the line. Ah, if only we could bring back Ken Starr NOW, right David in CA?

  2. "Utterly phony 'hero tales' may also be widely pimped."

    Lance Armstrong, anyone?

  3. Deen will again be savaged tomorrow as the NYTimes web site shows. Funny, she pays here workers very well, has had on Black guests for years, but suddenly Deen is evil for things she did not do.

    The writer tells us that Deen pays her workers so well that they do not wish to say anything negative because, well, other chefs evidently do not pay so well. Duh.

  4. I am puzzled about Somerby's defense of Deen. Yes, he cloaks it in a criticism of press coverage (yesterday's NYT article, his posts today about the general journalistic tendency to create heroes and villains -- to which might be added journalists' special pleasure in taking down the people it has previously exalted as heroes). But as Mr. Somerby knows, partial truth can be as misleading as inaccuracies and lies. For instance, Ta-Nehisi Coates' post on Deen, which Somerby was very hard on for no good reason, is far more measured and thoughtful than anything in the NYT, and many other bloggers have written thoughtfully and intelligently on the Deen story -- including many aspects of this story that Mr. Somerby doesn't bother to mention as he harps on a few inaccuracies in mainstream coverage.

    I have a southern side in my (white) family history and am sensitive to non-southerners' glib condescension to southerners. But I am also keenly aware of the relevance of Ta-Nehesi Coates' opening discussion of southwest Georgia's history (which Somberby seemed to think wholly irrelevant to the Deen story). You'd think that Mr. Somerby, in eloquently reminding us constantly not to forget the affect of history on black children in our schools today, would be more receptive to the point Coates was making.

    1. It's far more reasonable to use cultural demographics as mitigations of guilt rather than as suggestions for it.

      Even if Coates was trying suggest that Deen is to be understood as a product of her background, he did based upon disinformation he put out in his article.

    2. What disinformation?

    3. And, before I go to sleep tonight, I have to ask: why is it "far more reasonable to use cultural demographics as mitigations of guilt rather than as suggestions for it"? I like to go for the mitigations myself -- as does Coates, btw. But "reasonable" to do so? Oh, reason not the need! Deen could easily have explained herself as a product of her times -- a mostly good product -- had she any imagination for the suffering of others. She has shown no such imagination. Instead, we are invited by her to grieve for her slave-holding, suicide-driven (great? I lose track)-grandfather more than for the slaves he held. She is CLUELESS, in a morally reprehensible way. Much more clueless than my own Virginia grandmother (born in the 1890's!). Really, this Deen story is not the drivel-ridden nonsense Somerby would have us believe.

    4. where "a few inaccuracies" = making shit up.

      yeah you're right mch -- that's no big deal!

    5. First off, Coates didn't put out any disinformation. I misread Somerby's remarks about it being the commenters on Coates' piece who were rehashing media inaccuracies.

      It's more reasonable to use cultural demographics as mitigations of guilt because it's a "logic" that follows our established principles on the assumption of innocence.

      Coates didn't follow that principle for Deen. He accepted the media narrative was true and then went to adding dimension and texture to what is now the media tale of the "character" Paula Deen.

      There's something immoral and unprincipled in a discovery process of Deen's soul that is largely inspired by media distortions. It's too much a rendering of our own psychological associations even though we nearly always find that the characterization we crafted closely patterns the Real McCoy.

      In the midst of media lies and distortions about the objective facts of what Deen and the woman suing her have said, we took a subjective excursion into Deen's psyche and found her woefully shallow and clueless. Too clueless to have lied in the first place, and too clueless to have used her background as a mitigation of cultural guilt, rather than as a denial of guilt. Worst of all, we find her rife with the determined sort of cluelessness that shields her from a reckoning of irredeemable wrong.

      What does Deen owe for our sidelined journey into the discovery of her cluelessness? Is that discovery worth the lies it took to get there, the assumptions, and our own self-indulgence?

      Just how good should we feel about ourselves for having taken this trip in the first place? How good should we feel about how we came to discover that Paula Deen doesn't float.

  5. Shorter Somerby: Liberals are liars; Conservatives are misunderstood.

    1. Is that what you took away from Somerby's post? Seriously?

    2. You're replying a person who takes time out of his day -everyday- to pretend not to get the point of several TDH posts. To put it another way, this is a crazy person.

    3. Matt in the Crown = Comments Section Enforcement Officer, self-appointed.

    4. Pointing out the fact that you have some deranged compulsion to troll a comments section of a blog does not make me a self-appointed enforcement officer. Sorry.

    5. Pointing out the fact that you have some deranged compulsion to troll a comments section of a blog does not make me a self-appointed enforcement officer. Sorry.