Thursday, October 28, 2010

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L’Affaire Dreyfus

L’Affaire Dreyfus « Iconic Photos

People will defend a process even when doing so destroys the credibility and legitimacy of the institution the process was created to serve. Whether it is the trial of Dreyfus or the disciplining of priests by the Catholic Church or peer reviewed credentialing of global warming reports or the maintenance of feudal loyalty to the staff in the Committee to Reelect the President during Watergate the result is the same. It is the coverup that destroys the institution that those who perverted the process with lies had a duty to serve.

If the Anti-Dreyfusards had any idea of the damage that would be done to institutions that they valued would they have insisted on the truth? It is easy to teach children to admire the discipline of Titus Manlius Torquatus, who ordered his own son executed for breaking the law.

Human beings being social animals naturally rely on loyalty to shelter us from from harsh realities. When to that fear of the harsh disinfecting light of truth is added the pull of anti-Semitism the choice for many became irresistible. Some were willing to risk damaging the law, the social structure, and the loyalty of the people to defend the authority of the French army. More were secretly willing to sacrifice their public loyalty to all those institutions to indulge their desire to attack the Jews.

Dreyfus himself only survived by being convinced that he was living out the ideal of Manlian virtue. He became more conservative than his opponents. He was a Jew acting "more Catholic than the Pope." The idea that he could be equated with the Anarchists Saccho and Vanzetti must have filled him with horror.

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