Monday, May 29, 2006

The Da Vinci Crock

I had more or less vowed to never devote a single word to "The Da Vinci Code". Why? More than a decade ago I read "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail"; left to me by a dear friend with a penchant for conspiracy theory (I also inherited a book on "the murder of Pope John Paul I, the involvement of P Due and Opus Dei and the "mysterious links" to the suicide of Roberto Calvi). So, my mindset was sceptical to start with. The book, however, didn't disappoint me in the sense that it highly amused me: the idea that the Merovingian kings are essentially the bloodline of Jesus is a little too preposterous to take serious (but that opinion does not in any way constitute evidence, of course).

The "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" is one of these conspiracy theories that builds implausibility upon implausibility, while bombarding the reader with a plethora of minutiae he will never be able to verify. And so, doubt can be sown into the mind of the most sceptical of readers, not to mention the gullible.

One of the central tenets of the book from which the rest derives, the existence of the Priory of Sion, to me instinctively smacked of a hoax. The "evidence" presented for its existence is flimsy, amateurish, almost boyish I felt.

So, a decade passed and I forgot all about the book (I actually donated it to a charity, along with similar junk literature: book-burning in the backyard seemed just a little too harsh at the time).

And when in 2003 "The Da Vinci Code" came out I did not pay much attention. I have to this day not read the book or seen the film and have no intention of doing either anytime soon. The lawsuit against Dan Brown by the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail", the alleged precursor of "The Da Vinci Code", did jog my memory but I thought nothing more of it.

So why the change of heart? Well, in the past few weeks I've been subjected to at least four independent documentaries of the subject of "The Da Vinci Code". It appears that Dan Brown's slightly disingenuous mix of fictional and factual writing seems to have convinced many that there is indeed an "explosive secret" at the heart of the Catholic Church, namely that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers and had offspring, whose bloodline may continue to this day. This is indeed also the core idea of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail".

At polite dinner conversations around the Western world the question "Do you believe in "The Da Vinci Code"? now arises routinely, a question I tend to dismiss with the enquiry "Do you believe in Harry Potter"? But Brown's almost certainly deliberate mixing of "fact" (or rather factoid snippets presented as fact) with fiction make this dismissal problematic and unconvincing in the eyes of the "believer". The book has not merely spawned worldwide dinner conversation; it has also caused pilgrimage-style trips to key locations of the book and more besides that.

Despite the fact that Pierre Plantard, one of the perpetrators of the Priory of Sion hoax had admitted under oath (in 1993) that the whole thing was nothing but fabrication from start to finish, the myth surrounding "secret documents" proving the existence of such an organisation, allegedly founded by Godfrey de Bouillon and with Grandmasters like Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and Jean Cocteau (to name but a few) continues to this day. For a

good overview of very strong evidence that Sion is indeed a complete hoax which continues to be supported by some as factual, click here
. And Plantard had a strong motive to commit this fraud: he considered himself a descendant of the Merovingian king Dagobert II...

For further debunking of "The Da Vinci Code", see Salon's "The Da Vinci Crock". None of this will stop the believers, of course. As Brown apparently put it once: "everyone likes a good conspiracy". Apparently the "Flat Earth Society" is still going strong too. And as long as there is money to be made from kooky books on any subject, such lies and manipulations will continue to be spread. That's the more sinister side of Mr Brown's new-found fortune...

Here's a really funny review of the film.

8 Comments:

At 7:32 PM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

Having nothing to do with the whole contreversy, the book was a really good read - so were his other books that didn't make a loud noise.

As for the rest - people will believe anything that sounds sexy these days. and if you mix in a bit of Drama and some religion -- and you have your self a fun thing to talk about for a few years till the next Fab. come around.

 
At 4:21 AM, Blogger Chris Atwood said...

I suppose you could dismiss the bible with the same enquiry, no? I think they are both far fetched...

 
At 7:40 AM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

I just finished reading the book a few days ago. It's an entertaining and fun read, even though it's far from being a good book.

I'm not a Christian. My world wouldn't be shattered if the whole Mary and Jesus marriage thing turned out to be true - but it still seemed very obvious to me that the conspiracy theories in the book are a load of bullshit meant to make the book interesting.

That so many people think the "facts" in this book are facts serves as an example for the stupidity of mankind.

 
At 4:46 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Well, I'm not a Christian either but that's not the point. It's troublesome that an old and proven hoax can be revived so easily and that readers accept this bull as the gospel (pardon the pun). If you can make them believe this, you can probably make them beieve in any, slightly better constructed "historical" fabrication. That's actually quite dangerous (see also "Protocols of Zion"!)

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger markfromireland said...

Well I am a Christian, worse I'm a papist, and I found the book hilarious. I'm awed at how much money good schlock can make. As it's potboiling schlock I promise not to nominate it for "THE INDEX"

You're right though Gert it is troubling how easily crocks get revived.

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Gert said...

The more I think about it, the more I feel Dan Brown is actually a crook, nothing more.

I'm not an Opus Dei fan in any sense of the word, but the nonsense that is being spouted about them reaches dangerous levels in Brown's concoction. If it was my organisation that was being slandered in this kind of way, I wouldn't take too kindly to Brown.

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger markfromireland said...

I've no time for them (Jesuit boy and ne'er the twain shall .... ) but I have to agree about the nonsense being spouted about them. What I find hilarious is that suddenly I'm being assured by Danes of all sorts of things that they know I believe and do.

I've found fighting fire with fire works quite well and have taken to discussing with a completely straight face the central importance of the troupe of sacred monkeys housed in a golden cage at Castel Gandolfo. Intelligent Danes get it. The unintelligent ones .......

 
At 1:52 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Lifted from Brown's own FAQ:

"PARTS OF THE DA VINCI CODE DESCRIBE THE ACTIVITIES OF THE RELIGIOUS GROUP OPUS DEI. HOW DOES OPUS DEI FEEL ABOUT YOUR NOVEL?
I worked very hard to create a fair and balanced depiction of Opus Dei. Even so, there may be those who are offended by the portrayal. While Opus Dei is a very positive force in the lives of many people, for others, affiliation with Opus Dei has been a profoundly negative experience. Their portrayal in the novel is based on numerous books written about Opus Dei as well as on my own personal interviews with current and former members."


... numerous books. Well, I guess he must mean all the kooky books that link Opus Dei to every other conspiracy theory under the sun.

In essence this portrayal of a group in such a stereotyped and malignant way, whoever the group is, is nothing but racism and bigotry. Clearly the latter still pay off handsomely...

 

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