The Holocaust in Holograms
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A minor flurry of news items has attended the announcement that certain purported veterans of German-enabled mistreatment of Jews during World War II are being recorded “in three dimensions” as they recount tales of the suffering endured by them and others they knew and heard about. Condemnation of Germans, Nazis, and other familiar villains of the story surely will not be neglected. The funding of this extravaganza comes through an organization based at the University of Southern California, the USC Shoah Foundation, an organization commanding veritable torrents of funding from and through association with Steven Spielberg, possibly the best-known, most successful and richest illusionist of modern times.
The material is produced from the traditional ingredients of film-making: lights (many of them), cameras (dozens of them), and action (a “witness” typically sitting in a chair, talking, and perhaps gesticulating in a descriptive, emotive manner). And it isn’t true holography. Just as the “Holocaust” was not a sudden, massive outbreak of destructive and uncontrollable fire, these “holograms” are little more than sophisticated pseudo-three-dimensional renderings of subjects that typically are, visually, neither interesting nor attractive. And although these confabulations are programmed to “interact” with viewer-participants, the simulation of interaction is attained by recording the subject responding to dozens upon dozens of anticipated (and hopefully respectful) questions from audiences in museums, memorials and other gathering places of the curious (and hopefully impressionable). It’s grueling work for the hyperannuated storytellers, quite aside from whatever the actual creation of their tales might have entailed. And it’s no more spontaneous than anything else one might view on a television or theater screen. Or read in a book for that matter, with or without pictures.
There’s plenty of creative work for many others besides those contriving the questions and concocting the scriptworthy answers. Others are toiling with ever-expanding, intricate technologies like speech recognition to translate the queries of credulous viewers into instructions that can be carried out by the ethereal automaton brought to non-life by the money, fame, and hunger for respect of Steven Spielberg. Just what all this energy, ingenuity, and lucre may contribute to the dissemination and understanding of history, to say nothing of truth, remains profoundly elusive.
What is being portrayed, of course, is not any alleged event, but descriptions of events, occasionally from phenomena claimed to have been witnessed by the raconteur himself, but often from tales the raconteuse herself claims to have heard. There could be some show-and-tell in the form of photographs (again, not of events but, for example, of purported victims before they were victimized), the odd artifact, and the ever-popular tattooed inmate number. The entire project brings to mind a saying usually attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the infamous National Socialist Minister of Information of the Third Reich: Any lie, repeated often enough, will eventually be believed. What the Reichsminister neglected to specify, at least in the oft-repeated aphorism, is that the induced belief should be repeated loudly, conspicuously, entertainingly, and impressively. That it should be repeated for a very long time is implied, and is honored by this project’s continual trumpeting of preserving the testimony for future generations. All of them.
In the larger scheme of things, it strikes one as peculiar that these particular narrations should cop the first-place prize among the various interesting, significant testimonies that might compete for the early applications of this high-tech treatment. There are today thousands of (real) veterans of World War II combat, not to mention war crimes, walking around in quite adequate physical and mental condition to recount what they saw and felt back then, and with unaccented command of English to boot, along with most of the world’s other major languages. There are that many more veterans of more-recent wars, including a few the United States wasn’t officially involved in. How about witnesses from the ground of Hiroshima? Dresden? And that’s just the wars, which tragically are a dime a dozen. But no holography for them even contemplated. Of course not.
There are witnesses to assassinations, not to mention people accused of having committed them. There are scientists, as well as rank amateurs, who made world-shaking discoveries and innovations. Witnesses of 9/11 abound, along with dubious footage of the events themselves. Would a hologram of Bill Gates be interesting? Of Mikhail Gorbachev? Of Nelson Mandela? Jimmy Carter? OK – it does not have to be someone you love or admire to be interesting—Manuel Noriega remains very much among the living at this point, along with Queen Elizabeth. How about a doubleheader with Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch, famous female veterans of the recent conflict in Iraq? Bradley Smith and Abraham Foxman, no spring chickens either of these, facing off about—oh, yeah, we’re back to the Holocaust again at this point.
No, that’s not what the vaunted new technology is kicking off with. It’s emerging into our awareness featuring…victims, like Pinchas Gutter (http://tinyurl.com/dyrntgz)—innocent victims telling tales of other victims and their evil tormentors. Maybe this new technology isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be in terms of viewer/interrogator experience. Maybe it won’t stand well the test of time.
But then, we know that it is more than merely likely that some of the stories they tell will not stand the test of time. But no matter their veracity. We have here the latest Hollywood technology for forwarding Hollywood fraud and falsehood about Germans and Jews, and Mr. Steven Spielberg to thank for it.
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|Title:||The Holocaust in Holograms|
|Sources:||Smith's Report, No. 200, November 2013, pp. 1f.|
|First posted on CODOH:||Feb. 12, 2014, 6 p.m.|