Footnotes to defuse fascism.

July 9, 2012, 3:29 pm

The Chronicle has an article by Paul Hockenos about the forthcoming annotated edition of Mein Kampf, the first edition to be (legally) published in Germany since the end of World War II. It sounds from the interviews as though the annotators want their scholarly apparatus to go beyond the usual service of providing helpful points of reference to the reader, and actually to argue against Hitler – “Mein Kampf is like a rusty old grenade. We want to remove its detonator … We intend to defuse the book. This way it will lose its symbolic value and become what it really is: a piece of historical evidence—nothing more” – although it’s hard to tell, inasmuch as there are no examples, just comments from people involved or interested in the project.

But suppose it were so: is there another example of a book that could or should get a sort of scholarly fisking edition, pointing out that the writer’s assertion is not only insupportable but unsupported, wrong and also dangerous? I can think of no text we treat that way, even some with quite reprehensible ideas and results. Generally we leave it to the instructor’s presentation in class, or the marketplace of ideas, to counter even the most toxic arguments.

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