Laughter is a good thing. It releases endorphins in the brain, helps you feel better. On a recent afternoon I shared some laughs with Norman and Diane Butler, owners of “The Contented Cow”. And we shared some serious stuff too. We sat in the “Cow” and talked about the aftermath of the “Cow Conspiracy”. It seems things have died down a bit. I asked whether the boycott had had any effect on business. Norman said honestly, it was hard to tell. The last two weeks of January this year have been busier than last year at this time but the first week of February has been slower. However, the events that the Cow regularly schedules were at different times this year than last so that could have made the difference. Events tend to bring in more customers. A couple of the bands that play there have since pulled out but a couple others cancelled and then came back. One person who hosts a regular event pulled out but someone else stepped in to take over. Checking out the amount of people who were coming in as we talked made me feel that things were going good. Although some things have changed, it looked like business as usual.
So what exactly happened? Simply put, when it was discovered that “The Cow” would be featuring a series of talks given by James Fetzer, a conspiracy theorist who believes among other ideas that the “holocaust” during WWII didn’t happen as accepted history proclaims, certain citizens got angry. Seemingly decent people can get very ugly when they’re crossed. Many, many emails were sent out to let people know about these events, many more were sent to let people know that this could not be tolerated by some, and that “The Cow” needed to cancel these talks and the bar would be boycotted. People were called hate mongers and anti-Semitic. The Cow and some of it’s employees were harassed. Norman and Diane’s business and livelihood were threatened and there were rumors that the bar would close.
And all this took place because a conspiracy theorist believes that history was written wrong. So let’s take a small look at history. Anyone who has sat through American History classes in high school should know that history is written by the winners and always, I repeat, always slanted to make the winners look great and the losers look worse. Take Native American history for instance. I was led to believe through my teachers and books that Native Americans were rampaging savages who killed white settlers for sport and collected their scalps for prizes. And I was also led to believe that the benevolent white people gave the poor Indian savage, civilization, and religion and a decent language to speak. Unfortunately this all led to today’s Indian being drunk and on welfare, apparently because they didn’t realize what was good for them. Sound familiar? Today of course, we know that this history is wrong. Very wrong. But it proves a point. Sometimes history is not accurate.
However, if you say anything about Jewish history or for that matter, Israeli history or Zionism you are labeled as “anti-Semitic” and it seems there are plenty of people waiting to go on the offensive. An article from “The Electronic Intifada” dated 08/15/2013 tells of how Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Color Purple”, was “dis-invited” from giving the Keynote address at the 50th anniversary celebration of the University of Michigan’s Center For The Education Of Women because certain donors didn’t like her pro Palestinian views. So it seems whether you are a bar owner or a Pulitzer Prize winning author or a conspiracy theorist, (or even a blogger) you are at risk of having your free speech rights used against you and attacked if you have any criticism of Jews or Israel. From the book, “The Buddha Walks Into A Bar…” by Lodro Rinzler, the author writes: “It is not compassionate activity to wield a set of standards as a weapon against others. If you do this, you end up thinking less of people because you have developed a set of morals that others do not adhere to.” I don’t think the constitutional right to free speech qualifies as a set of standards wielded against others however.
From the website of the Anti Defamation League we have this definition of “anti-Semitic”: “The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.” So according to this definition, criticizing Israel or saying that history may have been written wrong certainly doesn’t qualify. Criticizing Zionism, the national and/or political movement that helped the country of Israel get it’s start doesn’t qualify as anti-semitism either. And yet the charge was leveled more than once during the “Cow Conspiracy” (my term).
So now things have quieted down but something is different. People are talking. Many who have never heard of the conspiracy theories about the Holocaust or American and Israeli involvement in the 9/11 tragedy that James Fetzer talks about have heard them now. There are even rumors that one or more people belonging to or having connections with Mossad, the Israeli secret service are living in Northfield. So if there are any of you secret service types out there hiding in the bushes, be careful. People are talking about you. And for my part I’d like to send out a big thank you to those who protested and boycotted the Cow over this. You have helped to enlighten many who may never have known about this before. And I think it’s safe to say that The Contented Cow will be around for a long time to come. Stay tuned!