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Bertelsmann needed to spruce up its image because it has taken over Random House, the biggest U.S. publisher. In cahoots with Barnes & Noble, Bertelsmann is trying to capture the nascent electronic publishing market as well. And the p.r. campaign has mollified its critics so well that the company's foundation was honored last year by the Anti-Defamation League.
For Pierce's purposes, of course, the banning of Mein Kampf in Germany simply reinforces his theory that Jews control the media. He wasn't well known until after the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Soon afterward, it was revealed that bomber Tim McVeigh was one of Pierce's most ardent followers. McVeigh had hawked Pierce's apocalyptic novel, the Turner Diaries, replete with a white revolt against evil Jews and their "Negro" lackeys, a story some say provided the model for the attack.
Pierce, on his recent radio broadcasts and in Web musings, has praised Griffin's book, sneering at the print-publishing houses that rejected it as supposedly dominated by Jews. Griffin himself, having suffered through a series of rejection slips from publishers, carries somewhat of a grudge against Pierce's criticsnot to mention a point of view that is sympathetic at least to Pierce's intellect.
"I'm not defending him," Griffin says. "But I think it's possible to have two points of view on, for instance, interracial marriage. Someone who's not comfortable with it? I think they have a right to be heard. You don't need to read my book to call Pierce a white supremacist. But it becomes qualified, becomes layered. It's not that easy. I think a reasonable person could come out with a negative view of Pierce."
Griffin insists his book is not a biography, but a "relatively unfiltered look" at Pierce and his ideas. Sounding a little freaked out and defensive when a reporter tracked him down to question him about the book, Griffin argues readers shouldn't make up their mind about his "portrait" of the 67-year-old Pierce until they've made "a careful reading" of every word of the tome.
He has a point. Griffin does sprinkle in some perspective on Pierce, but in the process, Pierce's racial theories and love of hate get a lengthy hearing. The notion of filters and the question of censorship will be hotly debated if the book starts spreading among the general populace.
And it could spread just as easily as it was published.
To sell it on the Web, Griffin says, all he had to do was upload it to MightyWords.com, where it was beamed around the world, unedited but nicely packaged and heavily promoted on a high-class site. "I didn't even deal with a human being," marveled Griffin, who set his own price and gets half of the sales for each copy downloaded.
That lack of process worries people like Cooper. "As Americans," says Rabbi Cooper, "we're brought up not to be afraid of ideas. But in this case, it's not the thoughts that concern us, it's the promotion, the packaging."
At regular publishing houses, he points out, "someone's involved in the processlike editors."
And even though most words on the Web on any subject are unreadable rubbish, Pierce's words have a track record of influencing people. Asked whether Jewish lobbyists will take action against the bestselling book, Cooper demurs. "The fact that it's on a vanity press speaks volumes," he says. "I'm sure Pierce is number one because he told his friends to buy it. Let's take a look and see where it is in four weeks."