Why Do These Stupid Books Sell?

[From the blog M-L-M Mayhem!]

I am always fascinated and frustrated by the North American mainstream public’s willingness to buy and accept as authoritative “historical” books of dubious scholarship that popularize ruling class ideology.  The reason these books are not treated with the suspicion they deserve, obviously, is because they are designed to reinforce what people are already taught to believe.  These books masquerade as academic, as well-researched and expert, and yet they rarely fit the standards of academic feasibility and honesty.  And yet they still become part of popular discourse, defended by laypersons who repeat, ad nauseaum, these books’ claims and pour scorn on the qualified critics who raise questions.

Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel, for example, not only argued the ahistorical and racist-colonial position that Palestine was an empty desert, a terra nullius, before the European Zionists arrived to “make it bloom again” (and that the Palestinians are really all lying Arabs who snuck into the Zionist paradise from neighbouring states), but he plagiarized his argument from Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial––a book already apprehended as a work of historical hucksterism decades earlier.  Despite the attempt of proper historians, The Case for Israel is still a best-seller and Harvard University Press is more than happy to re-issue further editions.

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