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The Paranoid ApocalypseA Hundred-Year Retrospective on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion$
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Richard Landes and Steven T. Katz

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814748923

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814748923.001.0001

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The Melian Dialogue, the Protocols, and the Paranoid Imperative

The Melian Dialogue, the Protocols, and the Paranoid Imperative

(p.23) 2 The Melian Dialogue, the Protocols, and the Paranoid Imperative
The Paranoid Apocalypse

Richard Landes

NYU Press

This chapter explores the way in which the Protocols takes up a very long and largely dominant strain of political thought, articulated by the ancient Athenians as “the law that those who can, do what they will, and those who cannot, suffer what they must.” This represents the Machiavellian position in fact rejected by the very text the Protocols plagiarized, the Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu; and this position is called the “paranoid imperative”: Rule or be ruled. This approach systematically projects the lust to dominate onto others, thereby justifying preemptive aggression: Do onto others before they do onto you. To understand both the logic and the appeal of the Protocols, one has to appreciate how profoundly consistent that projection is, how much it has shaped political relations both between elites and commoners and between states for millennia, during which “democracy” was a dirty word.

Keywords:   paranoid imperative, political thought, political relations, democracy, Machiavellian position

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