Gérard de Villiers, the Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much –

Last June, a pulp-fiction thriller was published in Paris under the title “Le Chemin de Damas.” Its lurid green-and-black cover featured a busty woman clutching a pistol, and its plot included the requisite car chases, explosions and sexual conquests. Unlike most paperbacks, though, this one attracted the attention of intelligence officers and diplomats on three continents. Set in the midst of Syria’s civil war, the book offered vivid character sketches of that country’s embattled ruler, Bashar al-Assad, and his brother Maher, along with several little-known lieutenants and allies. It detailed a botched coup attempt secretly supported by the American and Israeli intelligence agencies. And most striking of all, it described an attack on one of the Syrian regime’s command centers, near the presidential palace in Damascus, a month before an attack in the same place killed several of the regime’s top figures. “It was prophetic,” I was told by one veteran Middle East analyst who knows Syria well and preferred to remain nameless. “It really gave you a sense of the atmosphere inside the regime, of the way these people operate, in a way I hadn’t seen before.”

The book was the latest by Gérard de Villiers, an 83-year-old Frenchman who has been turning out the S.A.S. espionage series at the rate of four or five books a year for nearly 50 years. The books are strange hybrids: top-selling pulp-fiction vehicles that also serve as intelligence drop boxes for spy agencies around the world. De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves. Nearly a year ago he published a novel about the threat of Islamist groups in post-revolutionary Libya that focused on jihadis in Benghazi and on the role of the C.I.A. in fighting them. The novel, “Les Fous de Benghazi,” came out six months before the death of the American ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and included descriptions of the C.I.A. command center in Benghazi (a closely held secret at that time), which was to become central in the controversy over Stevens’s death. Other de Villiers books have included even more striking auguries. In 1980, he wrote a novel in which militant Islamists murder the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, a year before the actual assassination took place. When I asked him about it, de Villiers responded with a Gallic shrug. “The Israelis knew it was going to happen,” he said, “and did nothing.”

Though he is almost unknown in the United States, de Villiers’s publishers estimate that the S.A.S. series has sold about 100 million copies worldwide, which would make it one of the top-selling series in history, on a par with Ian Fleming’s James Bond books. S.A.S. may be the longest-running fiction series ever written by a single author. The first book, “S.A.S. in Istanbul,” appeared in March 1965; de Villiers is now working on No. 197.

For all their geopolitical acumen, de Villiers’s books tend to provoke smirks from the French literati. (“Sorry, monsieur, we do not carry that sort of thing here,” I was told by the manager at one upscale Paris bookstore.) It’s not hard to see why. Randomly flip open any S.A.S. and there’s a good chance you’ll find Malko (he is Son Altesse Sérénissime, or His Serene Highness), the aristocratic spy-hero with a penchant for sodomy, in very explicit flagranteIn one recent novel, he meets a Saudi princess (based on a real person who made Beirut her sexual playground) who is both a dominatrix and a nymphomaniac; their first sexual encounter begins with her watching gay porn until Malko distracts her with a medley of acrobatic sex positions. The sex lives of the villains receive almost equal time. Brutal rapes are described in excruciating physiological detail. In another recent novel, the girlfriend of a notorious Syrian general is submitting to his Viagra-fueled brutality when she recalls that this is the man who has terrorized the people of Lebanon for years. “And it was that idea that set off her orgasm,” de Villiers writes.

“The French elite pretend not to read him, but they all do,” I was told by Hubert Védrine, the former foreign minister of France. Védrine is one of the unapologetic few who admit to having read nearly every one of Malko’s adventures. He said he consulted them before visiting a foreign country, as they let him in on whatever French intelligence believed was happening there.

About 10 years ago, when Védrine was foreign minister, de Villiers got a call from the Quai d’Orsay, where the ministry is based, inviting him to lunch. “I thought someone was playing a joke on me,” de Villiers said. “Especially because Védrine is a leftist, and I am not at all.” When he went to the ministry at the scheduled time, Védrine was waiting for him in his private dining room overlooking the Seine.

“I am very happy to join you,” de Villiers recalled telling the minister. “But tell me, why did you want to see me?”

Védrine smiled and gestured for de Villiers to sit down. “I wanted to talk,” he said, “because I’ve found out you and I have the same sources.”

De Villiers’s books have made him very rich, and he lives in an impressively grand house on the Avenue Foch, a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe. I went there one day this winter, and after a short wait on the fourth-floor landing, a massive wooden door swung open, and I found myself facing a distinguished-looking man in brown tweeds with a long, bony face and pale brown eyes. De Villiers uses a walker — a result of a torn aorta two years ago — but still moves with surprising speed. He led me down a high-ceilinged hallway to his study, which also serves as a kind of shrine to old-school masculinity and kinky sex. I stood next to a squatting woman made of steel with a real MP-44 automatic rifle coming out of her crotch. “That one is called ‘War,’ ” de Villiers said. In the middle of the floor was a naked female figure bending over to peek at the viewer from between her legs; other naked women, some of them in garters or chains, gazed out from paintings or book covers. On the shelves were smaller figurines in ivory, glass and wood, depicting various couplings and orgies. Classic firearms hung on the wall — a Kalashnikov, a Tommy gun, a Winchester — and books on intelligence and military affairs were stacked high on tables. Among the photos of him with various warlords and soldiers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, I noticed a framed 2006 letter from Nicolas Sarkozy, praising the latest S.A.S. novel and saying it had taught him a great deal about Venezuela. “He pretends to read me,” de Villiers said, with a dismissive scowl. “He didn’t. Chirac used to read me. Giscard read me, too.”

After an hour or so, de Villiers led me downstairs to his black Jaguar, and we drove across town to Brasserie Lipp, a gathering spot for aging lions of the French elite. As we pushed through a thick crowd to our table, a handsome old man with a deeply tanned face called out to de Villiers from across the room. It was the great French nouvelle vague actor Jean-Paul Belmondo. He grinned and waved de Villiers over for a conspiratorial chat.

“That’s Table No. 1,” de Villiers said as we sat down. “Mitterrand always used to sit there.” After a waiter rushed up to help him into his seat, de Villiers ordered a suitably virile lunch of a dozen Breton oysters and a glass of Muscadet. He caught me looking at his walker and immediately began telling me about his torn aorta. He nearly died and had to spend three months in a hospital bed. “If you fall off your horse, you have to get back on or you are dead,” he said. He was able to maintain his usual publishing pace even while in the hospital. There was only one real consequence: he had used the real name of the C.I.A. station chief in Mauritania in his manuscript, and in the confusion after the accident, he forgot to change the final text. “The C.I.A. was angry,” he said. “I had to explain. My friends at the D.G.S.E. [the French foreign-intelligence agency, General Directorate for External Security] apologized on my behalf, too.”

One of the many myths surrounding de Villiers is that he employs a team of assistants to help with his prodigious turnout. In fact, he does it all himself, sticking to a work routine that hasn’t changed in half a century. For each book, he spends about two weeks traveling in the country in question, then another six weeks or so writing. The books are published on the same schedule every year: January, April, June, October. Six years ago, at age 77, de Villiers increased his turnout from four books a year to five, producing two linked novels every June. “I’m not a sex machine, I’m a writing machine,” he said.

De Villiers was born in Paris in 1929, the son of a wildly prolific and spendthrift playwright who went by the stage name Jacques Deval. He began writing in the 1950s for the French daily France Soir and other newspapers. Early on, during a reporting assignment in Tunisia, he agreed to do a favor for a French intelligence officer, delivering a message to some members of the right-wing pro-colonial group known as la main rouge. It turned out de Villiers was being used as a pawn in an assassination scheme, and he was lucky to escape with his life. He returned to Paris and confronted the officer, who was completely unrepentant. The incident taught him, he said, that “intelligence people don’t give a damn about civilian lives. They are cold fish.” But rather than being turned off, de Villiers found that blend of risk and cold calculation seductive.

In 1964, he was working on a detective novel in his spare time when an editor told him that Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, had just died. “You should take over,” the editor said. That was all it took. The first S.A.S. came out a few months later. Although sales are down a bit since his peak in the 1980s, he still earns between 800,000 and a million euros a year (roughly $1 million to $1.3 million) and spends summers at his villa in St. Tropez, where he gads about on his boat by day and drives to parties in the evenings in his 1980s Austin Mini.

He has long been despised by many on the French left for his right-wing political views. “We are all strangled by political correctness,” he told me, and he used the word “fags” several times in our conversations. But his reputation as a racist and anti-Semite is largely myth; one of his closest friends is Claude Lanzmann, the Jewish leftist and director of “Shoah,” the landmark Holocaust documentary. And in recent years, de Villiers has gained a broader following among French intellectuals and journalists, even as his sales have slowed down. “He has become a kind of institution,” said Renaud Girard, the chief foreign correspondent of Le Figaro. “You can even see articles praising him in Libération,” the left-leaning daily.

De Villiers created Malko, his hero, in 1964 by merging three real-life acquaintances: a high-ranking French intelligence official named Yvan de Lignières; an Austrian arms dealer; and a German baron named Dieter von Malsen-Ponickau. As is so often the case, though, his fiction proved prophetic. Five years after he began writing the series, de Villiers met Alexandre de Marenches, a man of immense charisma who led the French foreign-intelligence service for more than a decade and was a legend of cold-war spy craft. De Marenches was very rich and came from one of France’s oldest families; he fought heroically in World War II, and he later built his own castle on the Riviera. He also helped create a shadowy international network of intelligence operatives known as the Safari Club, which waged clandestine battles against Soviet operatives in Africa and the Middle East. “He was doing intelligence for fun,” de Villiers told me. “Sometimes he didn’t even pick up the phone when Giscard called him.” In short, de Marenches was very close to being the aristocratic master spy de Villiers had imagined, and as their friendship deepened in the 1970s, de Villiers’s relationship with French intelligence also deepened and lasts to this day.

De Villiers has always had a penchant for the gruesome and the decadent. One of his models was Curzio Malaparte, an Italian journalist whose best-known book is “Kaputt,” an eerie firsthand account from behind the German front lines during World War II. Another was Georges Arnaud, the French author of several popular adventure books during the 1950s. “He was a strange guy,” de Villiers said. “He once confessed to me that he started life by murdering his father, his aunt and the maid.” (Arnaud was tried and acquitted for those murders, possibly by a rigged jury.) I couldn’t help wondering whether Georges Simenon, the famously prolific and perverted Belgian crime writer, was also an influence. Simenon is said to have taken as little as 10 days to finish his novels, and he published about 200. He also claimed to have slept with 10,000 women, mostly prostitutes. De Villiers laughed at the comparison. “I knew Simenon a little,” he said, then proceeded to tell a raunchy story he heard from Simenon’s long-suffering wife, involving roadside sex in the snow in Gstaad.

This seemed like a good moment to ask about de Villiers’s own preoccupations. “I’ve had a lot of sex in my life,” he said. “That’s why I have so much trouble with wives. In America they would say I am a ‘womanizer.’ ” He has married four times and has two children, and now has a girlfriend nearly 30 years his junior, an attractive blond woman whom I met briefly at his home. When I suggested that the sex in S.A.S. was unusually hard-core, he replied with a chuckle: “Maybe for an American. Not in France.”

One thing de Villiers does not have is serious literary ambitions. Although he is a great admirer of le Carré, he has never tried to turn espionage into the setting for a complex human drama. He writes the way he speaks, in terse, informative bursts, with a morbid sense of humor. When I asked whether it bothered him that no one took his books seriously, he did not seem at all defensive. “I don’t consider myself a literary man,” he said. “I’m a storyteller. I write fairy tales for adults. And I try to put some substance into it.”

I had no idea what kind of “substance” until a friend urged me to look at “La Liste Hariri,” one of de Villiers’s many books set in and around Lebanon. The book, published in early 2010, concerns the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister. I spent years looking into and writing about Hariri’s death, and I was curious to know what de Villiers made of it. I found the descriptions of Beirut and Damascus to be impressively accurate, as were the names of restaurants, the atmosphere of the neighborhoods and the descriptions of some of the security chiefs that I knew from my tenure as The Times’ Beirut bureau chief. But the real surprise came later. “La Liste Hariri” provides detailed information about the elaborate plot, ordered by Syria and carried out by Hezbollah, to kill Hariri. This plot is one of the great mysteries of the Middle East, and I found specific information that no journalists, to my knowledge, knew at the time of the book’s publication, including a complete list of the members of the assassination team and a description of the systematic elimination of potential witnesses by Hezbollah and its Syrian allies. I was even more impressed when I spoke to a former member of the U.N.-backed international tribunal, based in the Netherlands, that investigated Hariri’s death. “When ‘La Liste Hariri’ came out, everyone on the commission was amazed,” the former staff member said. “They were all literally wondering who on the team could have sold de Villiers this information — because it was very clear that someone had showed him the commission’s reports or the original Lebanese intelligence reports.”

When I put the question to de Villiers, a smile of discreet triumph flashed on his face. It turns out that he has been friends for years with one of Lebanon’s top intelligence officers, an austere-looking man who probably knows more about Lebanon’s unsolved murders than anyone else. It was he who handed de Villiers the list of Hariri’s killers. “He worked hard to get it, and he wanted people to know,” de Villiers said. “But he couldn’t trust journalists.” I was one of those he didn’t trust. I have interviewed the same intelligence chief multiple times on the subject of the Hariri killing, but he never told me about the list. De Villiers had also spoken with high-ranking Hezbollah officials, in meetings that he said were brokered by French intelligence. One assumes these men had not read his fiction.

What do the spies themselves say about de Villiers? I conducted my own furtive tour of the French intelligence community and found that de Villiers’s name was a very effective passe-partout, even among people who found the subject mildly embarrassing. Only one of those I spoke with, a former head of the D.G.S.E., said he never provided information to de Villiers. We met in a dim corridor outside his office, where we chatted for a while about other matters before the subject of de Villiers came up. “Ah, yes, Gérard de Villiers, I don’t know him,” he said, chuckling dismissively, as if to suggest that he had not even read the books. Then after a pause, he confessed: “But one must admit that some of his information is very good. And in fact, one sees that it has gotten better and better in the past few novels.”

Another former spook admitted freely that he had been friends with de Villiers for years. We met at a cafe in Saint-Germain-des-Prés on a cold, foggy afternoon, and as he sipped his coffee, he happily reeled off the favors he’d done — not just talking over cases but introducing de Villiers to colleagues and experts on explosives and nuclear weapons and computer hacking. “When de Villiers describes intelligence people in his book, everybody in the business knows exactly who he’s talking about,” he said. “The truth is, he’s become such a figure that lots of people in the business are desperate to meet him. There are even ministers from other countries who meet with him when they pass through Paris.”

A third former government official spoke of de Villiers as a kind of colleague. “We meet and share information,” he told me over coffee at a Paris hotel. “I’ve introduced him to some sensitive sources. He has a gift — a very strong intellectual comprehension of these security and terrorism issues.”

It is not just the French who say these things. De Villiers has had close friends in Russian intelligence over the years. Alla Shevelkina, a journalist who has worked as a fixer for de Villiers on a number of his Russian trips, said: “He gets interviews that no one else gets — not journalists, no one. The people that don’t talk, talk to him.” In the United States, I spoke to a former C.I.A. operative who has known de Villiers for decades. “I recommend to our analysts to read his books, because there’s a lot of real information in there,” he told me. “He’s tuned into all the security services, and he knows all the players.”

Why do all these people divulge so much to a pulp novelist? I put the question to de Villiers the last time we met, in the cavernous living room of his Paris apartment on a cold winter evening. He was leaving on a reporting trip to Tunisia the next day, and on the coffee table in front of me, next to a cluster of expensive scotches and liqueurs, was a black military-made ammunition belt. “They always have a motive,” he said, absently stroking one of his two longhaired cats like a Bond villain at leisure. “They want the information to go out. And they know a lot of people read my books, all the intelligence agencies.”

Renaud Girard, de Villiers’s old friend and traveling companion, arrived at the apartment for a drink and offered a simpler explanation. “Everybody likes to talk to someone who appreciates their work,” he said. “And it’s fun. If the source is a military attaché, he can show off the book to his friends, with his character drawn in it.” He also suggested that if the source happens to have a beautiful wife, she will appear in a sex scene with Malko, and some of them enjoy this, too. “If you have read the books,” he said, “it’s fun to enter the books.”

I asked de Villiers about his next novel, and his eyes lighted up. “It goes back to an old story,” he said. “Lockerbie.” The book is based on the premise that it was Iran — not Libya — that carried out the notorious 1988 airliner bombing. The Iranians went to great lengths to persuade Muammar el-Qaddafi to take the fall for the attack, which was carried out in revenge for the downing of an Iranian passenger plane by American missiles six months earlier, de Villiers said. This has long been an unverified conspiracy theory, but when I returned to the United States, I learned that de Villiers was onto something. I spoke to a former C.I.A. operative who told me that “the best intelligence” on the Lockerbie bombing points to an Iranian role. It is a subject of intense controversy at the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., he said, in part because the evidence against Iran is classified and cannot be used in court, but many at the agency believe Iran directed the bombing.

De Villiers excused himself to continue packing for Tunisia, after cheerfully delivering his cynical take on the Arab Spring. (“What this really means is the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region.”) His views on other subjects are similarly curt and disillusioned. “Russia? Russia is Putin. People fooled themselves with Medvedev that there would be change. I never believed it.” And Syria? “If Bashar falls, Syria falls. There is nothing else to hold that country together.”

Girard and I poured ourselves more Scotch, and he began reeling off stories of his and de Villiers’s adventures together. Many of them involved one of de Villiers’s former wives, who always seemed to show up in Gaza or Pakistan in wildly inappropriate dress. “One time in the mid-’90s, we went to a Hamas stronghold together, and Gérard had his wife with him, wearing a very provocative shirt with no bra,” Girard said. “There were young men there who literally started stoning us, and we had to flee.”

It was getting late, and Girard seemed to be running out of stories. “He is 83 years old, and he is not slowing down,” he said before we parted. “He still goes to Mali and Libya, even after his heart troubles.” He paused for a moment, looking into his Scotch. “I remember one time during the rebellion in Albania, in 1997, we were sitting on a rooftop together, and we started talking about death. He told me: ‘I will never stop. I will keep going with my foot on the accelerator until I die.’ ”



El Holocausto nazi fue un éxito – Jot Down Cultural Magazine

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Holocausto 4

Cuando pensamos en Europa no pensamos en la Abadía de Westminster, ni en la Catedral de Estrasburgo, ni en los tesoros de Florencia. Europa para nosotros son las cruzadas, los pogromos de Rusia. Auschwitz”. El portavoz de una asociación de supervivientes judíos del Holocausto contaba esto a finales de los años 40. Lo contaba porque dos terceras partes de su pueblo no vivían para hacerlo. Acababan de ser aniquilados. En realidad fue bastante sencillo: un estado europeo decidió eliminarlos; los agrupó y aisló del resto de población, los trasladó a campos de prisioneros y después los mató. En cámaras de gas, para ser más precisos. Uno tras otro, sin motivo, hasta formar una montaña de seis millones de cuerpos. Por suerte esta montaña nunca tomó forma, de modo que nos queda la cifra. Y la cifra, como casi siempre, no nos dice nada.

Es muy sorprendente que todavía haya vida judía en Europa”, afirmaba no hace mucho en una entrevistaMichael Brenner, profesor de Historia Judía de la Universidad de Munich. Tan sorprendente como que, aunque sea de vez en cuando, los europeos no nos echemos las manos a la cabeza por lo sucedido. Y no solo por la masacre, que también, si no por haber dilapidado tal riqueza humana: siendo el 0,4% de la población mundial, los judíos poseen el 24% de todos los premios Nobel, por poner un ejemplo. Este texto tiene la pretensión final de ser eso: un echarse las manos a la cabeza por lo que hicimos.

Judíos occidentales vs. judíos auténticos

Unos 9,5 millones de judíos vivían en Europa en 1933, lo que suponía el 60% de la población mundial judía. Étnicamente se dividían en dos grupos: ashkenazim y sefardim. Los ashkenaz eran, en principio, los judíos que vivían en Alemania, sin embargo en los años 30 el término se extendió también a los judíos del noreste de Europa. Muchos de ellos hablaban yidish, un dialecto del alemán que se mezclaba con gramática hebrea y también eslava. Eran ashkenaz los judíos de Alemania, Polonia, Ucrania y Rusia. El otro grupo, los sefardim, era los judíos que descendían de los españoles expulsados a millares en el año 1492 (sefardí en hebreo significa español). Se instalaron, en su mayoría, en Gran Bretaña, Holanda y los Balcanes. Entre ellos hablaban ladino con frecuencia, dialecto del castellano que todavía hoy utilizan algunos sefarditas en los Balcanes o Israel y que, escrito, parece un castellano repleto de faltas ortográficas: “El djudeo-espanyol, djudio, djudezmo o ladino es la lingua favlada por los sefardim, djudios ekspulsados de la Espanya enel 1492. Es una lingua derivada del espanyol i favlada por 150.000 personas en komunitas en Israel, la Turkia, antika Yugoslavia, la Gresia, el Maruekos, Mayorka, las Amerikas, entre munchos otros. Sin embargo, la división ashkenaz-sefardim no es la más clara para dibujar el mapa judío de Europa antes de la guerra. Mucho más real y pragmática es la división entre los judíos del este y del oeste.

Los judíos del este de Europa eran los “auténticos judíos”. Vivían en comunidades con una identidad étnica clara que prevalecía sobre la identidad territorial: los estados en los que habitaban definían su estatus judío en los documentos. Los judíos rusos, por ejemplo, tenían especificado en su pasaporte “Grupo étnico: judío” y “Nacionalidad: judío”. Esto les otorgaba un rol meridiano de pueblo diferenciado que estaba por encima —o al menos a la misma altura— del estado al que pertenecían, algo que les permitía mantener sus tradiciones, costumbres y formas de vida enteramente arraigadas. Especialmente en las zonas rurales, como la región de Galitzia, comprendida entre Ucrania y Polonia, donde habitaban muchos de estos “auténticos judíos”. Lo hacían en pueblos y aldeas llamados shtetls donde se hablaba yidish y prevalecían las leyes judías, las costumbres, las vestimentas y las tradiciones. Un pueblo de este tipo está perfectamente recreado en la película El tren de la vida. Su “autenticidad” viene de vivencias de intelectuales judíos de la época. El escritor alemán Alfred Döblin estaba a punto de convertirse al cristianismo —religión cercana a la educación reformista que había recibido— cuando decidió viajar al este de Europa para conocer más a fondo el judaísmo. Se trasladó a Polonia y en su libro Berlín Alexanderplatz escribió: “Aquí vi por primera vez judíos”. Él era judío. El también escritor Martin Buber, en susCuentos Jasídicos, dijo: “¡Ajá! ¡Estos sí son judíos auténticos!”. No es que los judíos occidentales fueran “menos judíos”, pero sí había una razón que explicaba reacciones como las de estos literatos: los estados occidentales no permitían una diferenciación étnica. Gran Bretaña, Holanda, Francia o Alemania definían oficialmente el judaísmo como una condición religiosa, por lo que sus ciudadanos judíos eran —por poner un ejemplo— “alemanes de fe judía”. Eso a pesar de que muchos de ellos eran judíos seculares, es decir, judíos no practicantes o incluso ni siquiera creyentes. Entre los judíos occidentales no había prácticamente relación o, al menos, había la misma que podía haber entre un alemán y un francés no judíos. Las comunidades judías de estos países vivían integradas en los estados, también en sus costumbres y condiciones. De hecho, y como recogen no pocos historiadores, los judíos alemanes de principios de siglo XX eran “auténticos patriotas alemanes”. De ahí que no existiesen comunidades como las del este. Un judío francés era, antes que nada, francés, y su relación con un judío alemán era, antes que nada, una relación con un alemán. El hecho de que tampoco tuvieran un idioma común, como el yidish en el este, les distanciaba todavía más.

Holocausto 6

Esta diferenciación entre judíos occidentales y orientales lleva, inevitablemente, a referirnos a la identidad judía. Se han escrito kilómetros de literatura acerca de la identidad judía y no tendría sentido volver a reescribirlos aquí. Ni siquiera los propios judíos se han puesto de acuerdo para responder a la gran pregunta: ¿qué es ser judío? Volviendo al profesor Michael Bremmer, este opina que, como pasaba antes de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, la identidad judía queda definida por el Estado: si este —como es el caso en la actualidad de la mayoría de países europeos—, considera el judaísmo solo una condición religiosa, entonces los judíos son eso, una religión. En este caso la halajá (ley judía) reconoce como judío a todo aquel de madre judía o al que se convierte al judaísmo. Pero si el Estado, como sucedía con la URSS, promueve las nacionalidades según las etnias, podría decirse que los judíos son una nación e incluso, por qué no, una etnia. Esta última opción abarca, además, a aquellos judíos no religiosos, pero que forman parte de una comunidad con historia, cultura, costumbres, religión y lengua propia. Esta definición se aproxima a la de las corrientes reformistas y liberales que contemplan el judaísmo como una condición más allá de la religión, es decir, como un pueblo. Incluso el humanismo judío sostiene que es judío todo aquel que se sienta judío, sin necesidad de que tenga ascendencia judía.

Aunque el debate sigue vivo, el Holocausto, por paradójico que parezca, unificó gran parte de los criterios. Antes de la guerra, occidentales y orientales ignoraban en gran medida un movimiento que había nacido años atrás, a finales del siglo XIX: el sionismo. El sionismo, entendido como el derecho del pueblo judío a poseer un Estado propio, no tenía peso ante una población plenamente integrada en Europa: en el oeste era patriotas de sus Estados y en el este los Estados les permitían desarrollar sus necesidades nacionales. No precisaban nada más y por eso los congresos sionistas celebrados en la década de los años 10 y 20 apenas tenían repercusión. Pero cuando los judíos europeos supervivientes se encontraron sin nada tras la guerra, la percepción cambió. Con perspectiva se puede ver que fue Alemania quien les dejó claro que, efectivamente, eran un pueblo. Y que por eso iban a ser eliminados. Así que la reflexión sionista es clara: “Si somos un pueblo tenemos derecho a una tierra”. El sionismo triunfó en posguerra y fue gracias —en gran parte— al nazismo, lo mismo que la identidad judía, reforzada hasta el extremo tras verse al borde del abismo.

Mapa judío de Europa antes de la Segunda Guerra Mundial

Según datos oficiales en 1933 vivían en la URSS 2,5 millones de judíos; el 36% fue asesinado. En Rumanía había casi un millón; fue exterminado el 47%. Entre Letonia, Estonia y Lituania albergaban a unos 250.000 judíos y el 70% fue eliminado. Alemania: 525.000 judíos, una cuarta parte asesinados. Hungría: 450.000 judíos, el 70% exterminado. Francia: 220.000 judíos, el 22% asesinado. Holanda, 160.000 judíos, el 71% eliminado. También fueron diezmadas las poblaciones judías de Austria, Bélgica, Eslovaquia, Yugoslavia, Grecia, Noruega y Luxemburgo. Pero si algo da forma a lo que fue este exterminio, si algo permite comprender las dimensiones de lo sucedido y deja ver cómo un próspero y fructífero pueblo fue barrido porque sí de Europa, ese algo es Polonia.

A excepción del siglo XIX, en el que vivió sometida al Imperio Ruso, podría decirse que Polonia ha sido, a lo largo de la historia europea, el paraíso de los judíos. Desde su fundación destacó por ser uno de los países más tolerantes del mundo, algo que la convirtió en destino prioritario para los judíos, expulsados entre el año 1100 y el 1600 de: Francia (cuatro veces), Alemania (tres veces), Hungría (dos veces), Silesia (dos veces), Lituania (dos veces), Gales, Inglaterra, Crimea, Austria, Portugal, Nápoles, Provenza, los Estados Pontificios y España, esta última la expulsión más numerosa de cuantas ha habido. Muchos de ellos se refugiaron en Polonia, hasta completar una población de tres millones. Sus raíces penetraron en la historia y cultura del país en el siglo XV, gracias al Rey Casimiro III (Kazimierz III, apodado El Grande, y que da nombre al barrio judío de Cracovia), quien confirmó y amplió los fueros judíos. Uno de sus sucesores, Alexander I, promovió la inmigración judía convirtiendo Polonia en un refugio para la población y, de paso, en un centro cultural y espiritual del judaísmo. Hasta tal punto que Polonia —pronunciado Polania en hebreo— es una palabra judía de buen augurio.

La presencia semita impulsó el país. Se construyeron escuelas, universidades e imprentas. Por primera vez en la historia se imprimió la Torah en hebreo, en la ciudad de Cracovia. Si bien la comunidad judía vivía con sus propias normas (basadas en el Talmud) y con sus propias autoridades (rabinos), poco a poco y hasta alcanzar el siglo XIX se fueron integrando en la vida polaca no judía, sobre en todo en las zonas urbanas, donde aumentaba el número de judíos laicos que formaban partidos políticos, sindicatos, empresas y todo tipo de asociaciones y círculos de poder. A comienzos del siglo XX la población judía en Polonia era numerosa, plena y establecida. Había judíos religiosos, laicos, rurales, urbanos, intelectuales, obreros, músicos, políticos, profesores, burgueses… Eran parte integral del país. Lo mismo sucedía en casi todos los demás estados. Los judíos estaban plenamente integrados en Europa. Nada invitaba a pensar en lo que se aproximaba.


No, no ocurrió de repente

Representemos el proceso que culminó con el holocausto con un suponer que se desarrolla en Polonia: La familia Dresner vive en la calle xxxx del barrio de Kazimierz, en Cracovia. Clase media, matrimonio con tres hijos, dos chicos y una chica. Casi la totalidad de vecinos del barrio son judíos, la zona emana vida, fluye la actividad: las mujeres van al mercado, los niños a las escuelas y los hombres al trabajo. Para cristalizar definitivamente esta imagen conviene ver la película Yidl con su violín, filmada en 1936 en el propio barrio. Mientras tanto, en Alemania, gana las elecciones el Partido Nazi, de extrema derecha. Nadie parece alertarse por ello. Y es que las cosas, aunque ahora las estudiemos como capítulos de la historia, como compartimentos estancos con personajes en blanco y negro sacados de la biblioteca, no ocurren de repente ni porque sí. No, no llegaron los nazis al poder y se pusieron a aniquilar judíos. No, no llegó Adolf Hitler a la presidencia y los judíos huyeron despavoridos (entre otras cosas porque no sabían quién era). No, lo que ocurría en Alemania no llegaba a oídos del resto de judíos europeos como llegaría hoy por cualquier canal de comunicación. Todo lo que sucedió fue lento, progresivo y tan inesperado como podría ser hoy en día. Y es que, al fin y al cabo, no fue hace tanto.

En el salón de la familia Dresner el calendario señala que es el siete de Nisán el de año 5693, esto es, el tres de abril de 1933. El padre, Itzak Dresner, lee en voz alta una noticia en el periódico: el gobierno alemán está impulsando un boicot contra negocios y empresas judías del país. Primeros comentarios, primeros rumores entre los vecinos. “Esto se veía venir”, suponemos que dirían. Se veía venir por cosas como el asesinato, pocos años antes, del político judío alemán Walter Rathenau a manos de la extrema derecha en Alemania. Durante los siguientes años, y a lo largo de toda su campaña electoral, el Partido Nazi propagó la idea de que los judíos habían sido los culpables de la derrota de Alemania en la Primera Guerra Mundial. Lo cierto es que todo el mundo tenía claro la que a la extrema derecha no le gustaba los judíos: los consideraban intrusos en una sociedad aria. Pero no hay tiempo para mucho más, los chicos tienen que ir a la yeshiva y el padre al trabajo. Anna, la madre, se queda recogiendo la mesa. Pocos días después el mismo periódico recoge que el gobierno de Alemania ha hecho pública y oficial una definición para judío: “Todo aquel que tenga padre o abuelo judío”. Itzak Dresner suelta una carcajada mientras golpea el periódico con el anverso de la mano. Los niños se pelean en la mesa ante la pasividad de su padre. A partir de la definición, el gobierno instaura una ley para la Restauración de la Administración Pública y el siete de abril de ese año expulsa a todos los trabajadores públicos no arios. “Dicen que algunas familias se están yendo de Alemania, que están viniendo a Polonia”, diría Anna. El mercado de trabajo para los judíos alemanes cada vez se estrechaba más. El ocho de abril la ley que regulaba el permiso para el ejercicio de la abogacía en Alemania prohibió la admisión de abogados de ascendencia no aria a la profesión. También expulsó a los que ya ejercían. La siguiente mala noticia la escuchó un vecino de los Dresner por la radio: el decreto sobre los servicios médicos otorgados por el plan de salud nacional negaba el reintegro de los gastos a los pacientes que consultaran a médicos no arios. “¡Qué barbaridad!”, exclamaría Itzak. “Alemania es un país serio y moderno, ¿qué está pasando?”. A estas alturas miles de judíos alemanes hacían las maletas, con más enfado que miedo. El gobierno les ahogaba y ellos salían a respirar. Entre los emigrados había familias burguesas de Berlín, patriotas alemanes descendientes de varias generaciones, que no comprendían nada de lo que estaba pasando. Los alemanes judíos veteranos de la Primera Guerra Mundial ni siquiera se lo podían creer.

En el colegio el profesor de los Dresner lee otro paso más en la inaceptable política alemana. La ley contra la superpoblación en las escuelas alemanas establece que el número de judíos inscritos en escuelas secundarias no podía superar el 1,5% del cuerpo estudiantil. Es 25 de abril de 1933. “¿A dónde van a llegar con esto?”, piensa el rabino. El 14 de noviembre de 1935 el gobierno nazi publica una nueva y definitiva definición de judío: “Toda persona con tres abuelos judíos, toda persona con dos abuelos judíos que perteneciera a la comunidad judía el 15 de septiembre de 1935, o se le hubiera unido con posterioridad a esa fecha; todo aquel que estuviera casado con un judío o con una judía el 15 de septiembre de 1935, o con posterioridad a esa fecha; todo aquel que hubiera nacido de un matrimonio o relación extramatrimonial con un judío el 15 de septiembre de 1935 o con posterioridad a esa fecha”. Sin quererlo —o queriéndolo, quién sabe— los nazis daban alas a la identidad judía para lo que restaba de siglo XX y parte del XXI.

Es el colmo”, diría Iztak Dresner. Pero no lo era. 

En 1938 Alemania invade Austria. La comunidad judía europea, por primera vez realmente alarmada, levanta la cabeza, abre los ojos y toma aire. Algo está pasando. Algo muy serio. 300.000 judíos alemanes y austríacos se largan. Un año después los rumores toman forma en el salón de los Dresner: los nazis se dirigen a Polonia. “Supongo que aquí no se atreverán a imponer semejantes leyes, el país se les quedaría vacío”. La guerra es rápida y desigual. Muchos judíos polacos participaron en ella. El 28 de septiembre de 1939 las botas nazis retumban en fascista desfile por la plaza de Rynek Glowny. La familia Dresner se pega a su vieja radio para escuchar entre interferencias. Alemania convierte la mitad del país (incluida Cracovia) en el Gobierno Central.

Esos días 80.000 judíos huyen precipitadamente del país, pero la mayoría se queda porque Francia e Inglaterra anuncian en paralelo que le han declarado la guerra a Alemania. Será cuestión de días, Polonia ya no está sola. Sin embargo, historia conocida, no fue cuestión de días y los judíos polacos sí se encontraron solos ante la maquinaria nazi. Los que se quedaron, como los Dresner, no tuvieron tiempo ni de reaccionar. El 12 de noviembre de 1939 el Dziennik Polski lleva en portada un anuncio del Gobierno General: todos los judíos de más de 12 años deberán llevar un brazalete identificativo, con la estrella de David bordada. El anuncio especifica medidas y forma. Los jóvenes se revuelven, se niegan a llevarlo, pero los violentos e imprevisibles soldados nazis que patrullan por las calles del barrio les convencen de que no es buena idea. El día 25 de ese mismo mes se decreta el cierre de todas las sinagogas y yeshivas del país. En un solo mes los judíos polacos, hasta hacía pocos días sumidos en su apacible vida, se ven señalados y diferenciados. El clima se torna espeso. Nadie tiene claro qué está ocurriendo. “¿Por qué no nos vamos?”, propone Anna. Pero ya es tarde.

Holocausto 3

No pueden matarnos, nos necesitan”

El siguiente paso que dio el gobierno nazi fue el más brusco en la progresión que tuvo lugar desde las primeras leyes hasta las cámaras de gas. Tras marcarlos y aislarlos legal y laboralmente, Alemania decidió desahuciar a las familias judías de sus casas y envió a la mayoría a pueblos y zonas apartadas. A otros, sobre todo trabajadores, los estableció en barrios aislados dentro de la ciudad. Les explicaron que desde ahora esas serían sus casas, tal y como marcaba la ley, y que ahí desarrollarían su vida. Les enviaron planos de sus nuevos pisos y les escoltaron hasta el que iba a ser su hogar. La familia Dresner, como tantas otras, y con la incredulidad en el rostro, cogió sus pertenencias y se dirigió al barrio de Podgorze, al sur de la ciudad. 15.000 personas llegaron en solo unos días. Los vecinos seguían a la expectativa. “Es intolerable que nos hagan vivir amontonados a todos en el mismo barrio”, diría Itzak. “¡Me quitan mi casa!”. Al tercer día, desde la ventana, los Dresner contemplaban cómo los soldados levantaban un muro de hormigón. El barrio se convirtió en pocas semanas en un gueto, sin comida, sin medicinas, sin dinero. Sin armas.

El proceso se repetía en todos los países tomados por Alemania y con presencia judía. Sorprendentemente los nazis se encontraban, en no pocas ocasiones, con la entusiasta colaboración de la población local. En algunos incluso se formaron movimientos fascistas que perseguían por su cuenta a los judíos. Es el caso de la Guardia de Hierro en Rumanía, la Guardia de Flecha en Eslovaquia o la inestimable colaboración del ejército croata. La excepción, valga escribirlo y que se recuerde, estuvo en Bulgaria y Dinamarca, donde se protegió decididamente a los judíos. También hubo grupos clandestinos que lucharon a favor de los judíos, como el grupo Joop Westerweel en Holanda, el Zegota en Polonia y el movimiento Assisi en Italia. Pero, para escarnio de la posteridad europea, esto fue la excepción.

En 1941 miles de judíos comienzan a ser enviados a campos de trabajo. Es en este período donde muchos judíos toman definitiva conciencia de cuál será su final. Otros tantos, ante el secretismo y los engaños de los nazis, se resisten a creerlo. Esta dualidad fue la que impidió un levantamiento y resistencia a gran escala y se refleja perfectamente en películas fundamentales como El pianista o La lista de Schilnder, en las que discuten entre ellos: “Nos van a matar”. “No, no pueden prescindir de todos nosotros”. Sencillamente ni los judíos ni el resto del mundo desarrollado podían concebir lo que se acercaba. A pesar de haber dado ya intolerables pasos contra ciudadanos europeos, nadie podía imaginar que Alemania pusiese sobre la mesa la Solución Final. ¿Acaso lo imaginaríamos hoy?

Holocausto 5

La oscuridad

Cuando se establecieron los campos —y a diferencia de todas las medidas antijudías anteriores, que habían ido saliendo en la prensa— el secretismo acerca del destino de los judíos aumentó. La información recogida por los corresponsales era cada vez más escasa hasta alcanzar el oscurantismo. El primer informe que habla sobre un plan para llevar a cabo el asesinato masivo de los judíos salió de Polonia por contrabando a cargo del Bund (organización política socialista judía) y llegó a Inglaterra en la primavera de 1942. Los detalles de dicho informe fueron suministrados a los Aliados por fuentes del Vaticano y por informantes de Suiza y del movimiento clandestino polaco. Posteriormente, a finales de noviembre de 1942, el gobierno de Estados Unidos envió a los líderes judíos la confirmación de los informes. Fueron publicados en forma inmediata. Días después los Aliados hicieron una declaración oficial repudiando todo ataque a la población judía. No hicieron mucho más. No hubo bombardeos a campos de concentración ni a líneas de ferrocarril que conectaran con ellos, tal y como solicitaron varias asociaciones judías de Estados Unidos y Reino Unido. No hubo, ni siquiera, peticiones de no colaboración a las autoridades locales. Y mientras tanto los nazis hacían creer a los prisioneros judíos que serían reasentados en el Este, donde vivirían en mejores condiciones. 

Aunque hubo focos de resistencia —como el levantamiento en el gueto de Varsovia, que duró cinco semanas, o unidades partisanas judías, que actuaron en diversas zonas del centro y este de Europa, como Baranovichi, Minsk o Vilna (una de estas unidades es recreada, a su estilo, por Quentin Tarantino en Malditos Bastardos)—, aunque hubo focos de resistencia, decíamos, los nazis actuaron a placer. La Solución Final se llevó a cabo. Puede que no al cien por cien, pero se llevó a cabo. Tras las deportaciones, los guetos y los campos de trabajo, finalmente llegaron las cámaras de gas. Al principio fueron asesinatos aislados, después en masa, sistemáticos. Los últimos días antes del fin de la guerra, las familias judías llegaban a los campos, bajaban del tren, se desvestían ante unas chimeneas que expulsaban humo y cenizas y entraban en las cámaras de gas. Miles y miles cada día. Los nazis lograron asesinar a seis millones de judíos.

La nueva Europa, sin judíos

El paisaje resultante fue desolador. La existencia judía fue barrida de Europa. Pueblos enteros desaparecieron, a regiones como Galitzia no les quedó ni el rastro de lo que un día fueron. El barrio judío de Cracovia, donde vivían los Dresner, ya no existía. No quedaba una sola familia judía donde hacía solo unos pocos años Iztak leía el periódico, Anna iba al mercado y los niños acudían a la escuela. Lo mismo sucedió en Ámsterdam, Varsovia, Minsk, Vilna, Budapest, Atenas, Bucarest… Europa borró a un pueblo milenario en solo cuatro años. Basta con viajar hoy en día a cualquier ciudad del Este de Europa para comprobar que nada queda donde hace poco prosperaba la vida judía.

Por si fuera poco, la masacre se llevó por delante una cultura e intelectualidad sin parangón. Bruno Apitz, Imre Kertesz, Anna Frank, Primo Levi, Violeta Friedman, Roman Polanski, Jean Amery, Hermann Leopoldi, Petr Ginz… son solo algunos de los que murieron o padecieron los campos, lo que invita a preguntarse: ¿Cuántos genios anónimos y sus descendientes habrá perdido la humanidad esos años?

De los 9,5 millones de judíos que había en 1933 en Europa, quedaron 3,5 millones al final de la guerra. Sin duda, el holocausto nazi fue un éxito.

Holocausto 2

Jot Down Cultural Magazine | El Holocausto nazi fue un éxito.


Obama, the puppet master – Politico

By: Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen
February 18, 2013 10:29 PM EST

President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.Not for the reason that conservatives suspect: namely, that a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated. Instead, the mastery mostly flows from a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting). And it’s an equal opportunity strategy: Media across the ideological spectrum are left scrambling for access.

The results are transformational. With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly. And future presidents from both parties will undoubtedly copy and expand on this approach.

“The balance of power used to be much more in favor of the mainstream press,” said Mike McCurry, who was press secretary to President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Nowadays, he said, “The White House gets away with stuff I would never have dreamed of doing. When I talk to White House reporters now, they say it’s really tough to do business with people who don’t see the need to be cooperative.”

McCurry and his colleagues in the Clinton White House were hardly above putting their boss in front of gentle questions: Clinton and Vice President Al Gore often preferred the safety of “Larry King Live” to the rhetorical combat of the briefing room. But Obama and his aides have raised it to an art form: The president has shut down interviews with many of the White House reporters who know the most and ask the toughest questions. Instead, he spends way more time talking directly to voters via friendly shows and media personalities. Why bother with The New York Times beat reporter when Obama can go on “The View”?

At the same time, this White House has greatly curtailed impromptu moments where reporters can ask tough questions after a staged event — or snap a picture of the president that was not shot by government-paid photographers.

The frustrated Obama press corps neared rebellion this past holiday weekend when reporters and photographers were not even allowed onto the Floridian National GolfClub, where Obama was golfing. That breached the tradition of the pool “holding” in the clubhouse and often covering — and even questioning — the president on the first and last holes.

Obama boasted Thursday during a Google+ Hangout from the White House: “This is the most transparent administration in history.” The people who cover him day to day see it very differently.

“The way the president’s availability to the press has shrunk in the last two years is a disgrace,” said ABC News White House reporter Ann Compton, who has covered every president back to Gerald R. Ford. “The president’s day-to-day policy development — on immigration, on guns — is almost totally opaque to the reporters trying to do a responsible job of covering it. There are no readouts from big meetings he has with people from the outside, and many of them aren’t even on his schedule. This is different from every president I covered. This White House goes to extreme lengths to keep the press away.”

One authentically new technique pioneered by the Obama White House is extensive government creation of content (photos of the president, videos of White House officials, blog posts written by Obama aides), which can then be instantly released to the masses through social media. They often include footage unavailable to the press.

Brooks Kraft, a contributing photographer to Time, said White House officials “have a willing and able and hungry press that eats this stuff up, partly because the news organizations are cash-strapped.”

“White House handout photos used to be reserved for historically important events — 9/11, or deliberations about war,” Kraft said. “This White House regularly releases [day-in-the-life] images of the president … a nice picture of the president looking pensive … from events that could have been covered by the press pool. But I don’t blame the White House for doing it, because networks and newspapers use them. So the White House has built its own content distribution network.”

When Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, she gave one interview — to White House TV, produced by Obama aides.

“There’s no question that technology has significantly altered the playing field of competitive journalism,” said Josh Earnest, principal deputy White House press secretary — and the voice of “West Wing Week,” produced by the administration.

“Our ongoing challenge is to engage media outlets with audiences large and small — occasionally harnessing technology to find new ways to do so.”

By no means does Obama escape tough scrutiny or altogether avoid improvisational moments. And by no means is Obama unique in wanting to control his public image and message — every president pushes this to the outer limits. His 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, was equally adept at substance-free encounters with reporters.

But something is different with this White House. Obama’s aides are better at using technology and exploiting the president’s “brand.” They are more disciplined about cracking down on staff that leak, or reporters who write things they don’t like. And they are obsessed with taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and every other social media forums, not just for campaigns, but governing.

“They use every technique anyone has ever thought of, and some no one ever had,” New York Times White House reporter Peter Baker told us. “They can be very responsive and very helpful at pulling back the curtain at times while keeping you at bay at others. And they’re not at all shy about making clear when they don’t like your stories, which is quite often.”

Conservatives assume a cozy relationship between this White House and the reporters who cover it. Wrong. Many reporters find Obama himself strangely fearful of talking with them and often aloof and cocky when he does. They find his staff needlessly stingy with information and thin-skinned about any tough coverage. He gets more-favorable-than-not coverage because many staffers are fearful of talking to reporters, even anonymously, and some reporters inevitably worry access or the chance of a presidential interview will decrease if they get in the face of this White House.

Obama himself sees little upside to wide-ranging interviews with the beat reporters for the big newspapers — hence, the stiffing of even The New York Times since 2010. The president’s staff often finds Washington reporters whiny, needy and too enamored with trivial matters or their own self-importance.

So the White House has escalated the use of several media manipulation techniques:

*The super-safe, softball interview is an Obama specialty. The kid glove interview of Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Steve Kroft of CBS’s “60 Minutes” is simply the latest in a long line of these. Obama gives frequent interviews (an astonishing 674 in his first term, compared with 217 for President George W. Bush, according to statistics compiled by Martha Joynt Kumar, a political scientist at Towson University), but they are often with network anchors or local TV stations, and rarely with the reporters who cover the White House day to day.

“This administration loves to boast about how transparent they are, but they’re transparent about things they want to be transparent about,” said Mark Knoller, the veteran CBS News reporter. “He gives interviews not for our benefit, but to achieve his objective.” Knoller last talked to Obama in 2010 — and that was when Knoller was in then-press secretary Robert Gibbs’s office, and the president walked in.

* There’s the classic weekend document dump to avoid negative coverage. By our count, the White House has done this nearly two dozen times, and almost always to minimize attention to embarrassing or messy facts. “What you guys call a document dump, we call transparency,” the White House’s Earnest shot back. If that’s the case, the White House was exceptionally transparent during the Solyndra controversy, releasing details three times on a Friday.

* There is the iron-fisted control of access to White House information and officials. Top officials recently discouraged Cabinet secretaries from talking about sequestration. And even top officials privately gripe about the muzzle put on them by the White House.

* They are also masters of scrutiny avoidance. The president has not granted an interview to print reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO and others in years. These are the reporters who are often most likely to ask tough, unpredictable questions.

Kumar, who works out of the White House press room and tallies every question a journalist asks the president, has found that in his first term Obama held brief press availabilities after photos ops or announcements one-third as often as George W. Bush did in his first term — 107 to Bush’s 355.

* While White House officials deny it is intentional, this administration —like its predecessors — does some good old-fashioned bullying of reporters: making clear there will be no interviews, or even questions at press conferences, if aides are displeased with their coverage.

Still, the most unique twist by this White House has been the government’s generating and distributing of content.

A number of these techniques were on vivid display two weekends ago, when the White House released a six-month-old photo of the president shooting skeet, buttressing his claim in a New Republic interview that he fires at clay pigeons “all the time” at Camp David.

Obama and his team, especially newly promoted senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, often bemoan the media’s endless chase of superficial and distracting storylines. So how did the president’s inner circle handle the silly dust-up about whether the president really did shoot skeet?

Pfeiffer and White House press secretary Jay Carney tweeted a link to the photo, with Pfeiffer writing that it was “[f]or all the skeeters” (doubters, or “skeet birthers”). Longtime adviser David Plouffe then taunted critics on Twitter: “Attn skeet birthers. Make our day – let the photoshop conspiracies begin!” Plouffe soon followed up with: “Day made. The skeet birthers are out in full force in response to POTUS pic. Makes for most excellent, delusional reading.”

The controversy started with an interview co-conducted by Chris Hughes, a former Obama supporter and now publisher of The New Republic. The government created the content (the photo), released it on its terms (Twitter) and then used Twitter again to stoke stories about conservatives who didn’t believe Obama ever shot a gun in the first place.

“The people you need to participate in the process are not always the people hitting ‘refresh’ on news websites,” said Jen Psaki, the Obama campaign’s traveling press secretary, who last week was appointed the State Department spokeswoman. “The goal is not to satisfy the requester, but doing what is necessary to get into people’s homes and communicate your agenda to the American people.”

Katie Glueck contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story neglected to credit Martha Joynt Kumar for statistics on presidential interviews.

Obama, the puppet master – Print View.


Doctores en plagios – El País

Hay escándalos y hay escándalos alemanes. Un escándalo fue la trama de financiación ilegal que en 1999 tumbó a los patriarcas democristianosHelmut Kohl y Wolfgang Schäuble. Habría sacudido a cualquier partido en cualquier democracia. Pero el que costó la semana pasada la cartera de Educación a Annette Schavan, aliada política y amiga personal de la canciller Angela Merkel, es un escándalo propiamente alemán.

Schavan dimitió después de que la Universidad de Düsseldorf le revocara el título de doctora por plagios en una tesis defendida en 1980, a los 24 años. No fue la primera. Dos años antes, el ministro de Defensa Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg dimitió tras perder su grado de doctor en un caso similar. Las evidencias se acumularon gracias a las aportaciones anónimas en página de Internet abierta a la participación.

Se confirman así dos viejas pasiones alemanas: la (inquietante) de aleccionar o amonestar al prójimo por cualquier nimiedad y la (arrebatadora) que sienten por los títulos académicos.

Los buscadores de plagios dicen que no cazan, que documentan. En 2011 se organizaron en torno a GuttenPlag, una página de Internet que funciona con el sistema wiki: cualquiera puede participar y escribir. Con este método fueron cerrando huecos en la tesis doctoral que el barón de Guttenberg, estrella conservadora de la Unión Social Cristiana (CSU) bávara en el Gobierno de Merkel, había terminado en 2007. Empezaron cuando un jurista descubrió 24 plagios en la tesis, pero aún se desconoce al verdadero fundador de la wiki, que usa el seudónimo PlagDoc. En poco tiempo, el enjambre de cazadores había descubierto plagios en el 94% de las páginas.

Recordándolo, el catedrático berlinés Gerhard Dannemann se reía el viernes entre dos exámenes orales de la Universidad Humboldt: “Era tremendo, estaba todo plagiado, usaba cualquier cosa” ajena. Eso sí, “el par de frases que interponía entre plagio y plagio se corresponden sin duda con el estilo de escribir y hasta de hablar de Guttenberg”. El que haya escuchado en persona alguno de los engolados discursos del telegénico barón se hará una idea.

Alemania es el país de los ‘doktoren’. La abreviatura Dr. figura en tarjetas, buzones, DNI y pasaportes

Dannemann es una de las escasas caras que se le pueden poner a VroniPlag, la wiki heredera de la que tumbó a Guttenberg. Casi todos los demás se mantienen en el anonimato. El administrador de la web, un matemático cuarentón que usa el apodo Hindemith, explica que todos trabajan en su “tiempo libre, perdiendo dinero”. Hindemith entiende que desde el extranjero “todo esto es difícil de concebir”, pero, sin sombra de pretenciosidad, explica al teléfono que “es importante combatir la ciencia vista como espectáculo o como entretenimiento”. Doctor a su vez, defiende que “la ciencia esté comprometida con la verdad”. Por eso ve “mucho más graves los plagios cometidos por académicos y científicos, que dificultan la busca de la verdad”. Nada en sus serenas explicaciones suena a fanatismo o a afán denunciatorio: los plagiarios le dan “algo de pena, pero un trabajo se publica para que esté abierto a la crítica y al examen”.

Dannemann está de acuerdo en que lo más peligroso son los científicos plagiarios, pero apunta que “en Alemania, estos títulos tienen una relevancia social que para la ciencia es irrelevante o hasta nociva: demasiados se doctoran sin tener aspiraciones científicas o académicas”. Es aquí donde quedan los Guttenberg, personas que hicieron sus tesis como palanca para una carrera política o empresarial.

Alemania es el país de los doktoren, el de la abreviatura Dr. en sus tarjetas de visita, en los buzones o hasta en el DNI y en los pasaportes. “Y la mayoría solicita figurar así al empadronarse”, dice un alto funcionario de Berlín. Cada año obtienen el título de doctor 25.000 alemanes.



» Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Exministro de Defensa, miembro de la Unión Social Cristiana de Baviera (CSU). Perdió el título de doctor en Derecho en febrero de 2011. Plagió el 94% de las páginas de su tesis.

» Veronica Sass. Su caso en mayo de 2011 dio nombre al movimiento VroniPlag. Vroni es el diminutivo de Verónica en el dialecto de Baviera. La abogada es hija del ex primer ministro bávaro Edmund Stoiber (CSU). Plagió el 54% de la páginas de su tesis de Derecho.

» Silvana Koch-Mehrin. Una de las estrellas ascendentes del Partido Democrático Liberal (FDP), donde renunció a todos los cargos tras perder el título. Es diputada en el Parlamento Europeo, pero anunció que no se presentará de nuevo en 2014. Plagió el 34% de las páginas.

» Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (FDP). Julio de 2011. Otro eurodiputado liberal cazado. No ha dimitido.

» Bijan Djir-Sarai (FDP). Marzo de 2012. Diputado en el Bundestag. No ha dimitido.

» Annette Schavan. Democristiana, ministra de Educación hasta la pasada semana. Plagió el 29% de su tesis.

» Además perdieron sus títulos los siguientes políticos: Matthias Pröfrock (democristiano de la CDU), Uwe Brinkmann (exmiembro del SPD),Margarita Mathiopoulos (FDP) y Siegfried Haller(SPD).

De los 30 presidentes de las corporaciones que cotizan en el DAX de Fráncfort, 18 son doctores. Alguno es además Prof., es decir, profesor o catedrático. Angela Merkel también tiene el título de doctora, lo mismo queel vicecanciller Philipp Rösler y buena parte de sus ministros. El jefe de la Fundación del Patrimonio Cultural Prusiano, Hermann Parzinger, riza el rizo con el Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. que adorna su biografía en Internet. Es pasmoso, pero no un caso aislado. Más que un ornato para vanidosos, el doctorado es un escalón muy útil hacia las alturas políticas y empresariales.

También es la prueba del triunfo tajante de la burguesía alemana, más nacionalista que liberal, sobre las élites aristocráticas y clericales. El historiador Manfred Görtemaker recuerda que la irresistible clase social que transformó Alemania en la potencia industrial, militar y científica que asombraba al mundo a principios del siglo XX “se impuso sobre la vieja nobleza con sus títulos propios, que son fruto del esfuerzo personal y no del nacimiento”.

El caso de Zu Guttenberg es ilustrativo de las prioridades alemanas: el barón bávaro, casado con una condesa, era muy popular entre los votantes y un héroe de las revistas del corazón. Pero la pérdida de su tesis lo enfrentó a la prensa conservadora culta, que, capitaneada por el Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, no le dio tregua hasta que dejó el puesto. Que un millonario aristócrata como él se jugara la carrera por ser llamado doktor da idea de esa relevancia social de la que habla el profesor Dannemann.

Los participantes en VroniPlag quieren, insisten, “concienciar a los estudiantes de la importancia de lo que hacen y también que las universidades aumenten el control y la información”. La controversia actual hará que muchos empiecen a preguntarse qué es un doctorado y para qué sirve. Algunos proponen reformas legales para sacar el título del DNI. Dannemann cree que “aun así, tendrían que pasar dos generaciones” para que Alemania pierda sus pasiones doctorales.

Doctores en plagios | Internacional | EL PAÍS.


Homenajes, covers y afanos – Radar

Además de la larga tradición de la caricatura política autóctona, la otra influencia para los protagonistas de esta prehistoria de la historieta argentina es la aparición de las primeras tiras diarias norteamericanas en las publicaciones locales. Casi al mismo tiempo que el nuevo género iba desarrollándose en los Estados Unidos, empezó a traducirse y publicarse en el Río de la Plata, siendo los primeros en hacerlo los responsables de La Vida Moderna, un semanario inspirado en Caras y Caretas. Dirigido por los hermanos Arturo y Aurelio Giménez (este último dibujante de Caras y Caretas), su dirección artística estaba a cargo de Pedro de Rojas, que al mismo tiempo que empezó a publicar en 1907 los primeros trabajos de pioneros como Rudolph Dirks (autor de The Katzenjammer Kids, traducidos como Los sobrinos del Capitán) y Frederick Burr Opper (And her name was Maud: La mula Maud), despuntaba él mismo con sus propias historietas en PBT. Al año siguiente, apareció en La Vida Moderna otra creación de Burr Opper, Happy Hooligan, traducido como Cocoliche, que tuvo un gran éxito y luego sería publicado también por Rojas en Tit-Bits, un semanario dedicado a la literatura popular que apareció en 1909. La primera aparición del influyente norteamericano George McManus en la prensa local sucedió también en Tit-Bits, con su tira The Newlywed’s baby, aquí conocida como El nene de los Pérez. Por supuesto, ninguna de estas primeras series norteamericanas publicadas en la Argentina tenían las firmas de sus autores. Según apuntan Gociol y Gutiérrez, no habría de reconocerse ni la autoría ni el origen de las mismas hasta alguna intervención legal por parte de sus dueños hacia mediados de la década del ’20. Esa debe haber sido la razón del gran malentendido alrededor del primer gran fenómeno historietístico local, Las aventuras de Viruta y Chicharrón, publicada en Caras y Caretas a partir de 1912, que durante años fue considerada la primer historieta argentina. Pero los autores de La historieta salvaje identifican en esas aventuras a Spareribs and Gravy, una breve tira que inició George McManus antes de hacerse mundialmente famoso con Bringing up father, aquí conocida como Pequeñas delicias de la vida conyugal. Adaptada al argot local, la creación de McManus resultó tan popular que cuando dejaron de llegar capítulos nuevos, empezó a ser dibujada anónimamente por autores locales, uno de los cuales fue el español Juan Sanuy, que continuó las aventuras del dúo que siempre terminaba sus desplantes con el latiguillo: “¡Llamá a un automóvil!”.



Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, the stories said, played this season under a terrible burden. A Mormon linebacker who led his Catholic school’s football program back to glory, Te’o was whipsawed between personal tragedies along the way. In the span of six hours in September, as Sports Illustratedtold it, Te’o learned first of the death of his grandmother, Annette Santiago, and then of the death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.Kekua, 22 years old, had been in a serious car accident in California, and then had been diagnosed with leukemia. SI‘s Pete Thamel described how Te’o would phone her in her hospital room and stay on the line with her as he slept through the night. «Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice,» Thamel wrote.Upon receiving the news of the two deaths, Te’o went out and led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 upset of Michigan State, racking up 12 tackles. It was heartbreaking and inspirational. Te’o would appear on ESPN’s College GameDay to talk about the letters Kekua had written him during her illness. He would send a heartfelt letter to the parents of a sick child, discussing his experience with disease and grief. The South Bend Tribune wrote an article describing the young couple’s fairytale meeting—she, a Stanford student; he, a Notre Dame star—after a football game outside Palo Alto.

Did you enjoy the uplifiting story, the tale of a man who responded to adversity by becoming one of the top players of the game? If so, stop reading.

Manti Te’o did lose his grandmother this past fall. Annette Santiago died on Sept. 11, 2012, at the age of 72, according to Social Security Administration records in Nexis. But there is no SSA record there of the death of Lennay Marie Kekua, that day or any other. Her passing, recounted so many times in the national media, produces no obituary or funeral announcement in Nexis, and no mention in the Stanford student newspaper.

Nor is there any report of a severe auto accident involving a Lennay Kekua. Background checks turn up nothing. The Stanford registrar’s office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled. There is no record of her birth in the news. Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there’s no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed.

The photographs identified as Kekua—in online tributes and on TV news reports—are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua. She is not a Stanford graduate; she has not been in a severe car accident; and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te’o.

* * *
Here is what we know about Manti Te’o: He is an exceptional football player. He’s a projected first-round NFL pick. He finished second in the Heisman voting, and he won a haul of other trophies: the Walter Camp, the Chuck Bednarik, the Butkus, the Bronko Nagurski. In each of his three seasons as a full-time starter, he racked up at least 100 tackles.

We also know that Te’o is a devout Mormon. When asked why he picked Notre Dame over Southern California, the school he had supported while growing up in Hawaii, he said he prayed on it. «Faith,» he told ESPN, «is believing in something that you most likely can’t see, but you believe to be true. You feel in your heart, and in your soul, that it’s true, but you still take that leap.»

We know, further, that Te’o adores his family. Te’o’s father said that Manti had revered his grandfather, who died in January 2012, since the day he was born. He ran his sister’s post-graduation luau. And he loved his late maternal grandmother, Annette Santiago. (Here’s her obituary.)

But that’s where the definite ends. From here, the rest of Te’o’s public story begins to grade into fantasy, in the tradition of so much of Notre Dame’s mythmaking and with the help of a compliant press.

Assembling a timeline of the Kekua-Te’o relationship is difficult. As Te’o’s celebrity swelled, so did the pile of inspirational stories about his triumph over loss. Each ensuing story seemed to add yet another wrinkle to the narrative, and details ran athwart one another. Here is the general shape of things, based on occasionally contradictory media accounts:

Nov. 28, 2009: Te’o and Kekua meet after Stanford’s 45-38 victory over Notre Dame in Palo Alto, according to the South Bend Tribune: «Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.» Kekua, a Stanford student, swaps phone numbers with Te’o.

2010-2011: Te’o and Kekua are friends. «She was gifted in music, multi-lingual, had dreams grounded in reality and the talent to catch up to them» (South Bend Tribune). «They started out as just friends,» Te’o’s father, Brian, told the Tribune in October 2012. «Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there.»

Early 2012: Te’o and Kekua become a couple. They talk on the phone nightly, according to ESPN.

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A HoaxSome time in 2012: Kekua has a car accident somewhere in California that leaves her «on the brink of death» (Sports Illustrated). But when? Eight months before she died of cancer, in September, reports ESPN. «About the time Kekua and Manti became a couple,» reports the South Bend Tribune. April 28, reports SI.

June 2012: As Kekua recovers from her injuries, doctors discover she has leukemia. She has a bone-marrow transplant. («That was just in June,» Brian Te’o told the South Bend Tribune in October of 2012. «I remember Manti telling me later she was going to have a bone marrow transplant and, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. From all I knew, she was doing really, really well.»)

Summer 2012: Her condition improves. Kekua «eventually» graduates from Stanford, according to the South Bend Tribune. (A New York Times story, published Oct. 13, identifies her as a «Stanford alumnus.») She soon takes a turn for the worse. At some point, she enters treatment, apparently at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif. (In a letter obtained by Fox Sports published Oct. 25, Te’o writes to the parents of a girl dying of cancer: «My girlfriend, when she was at St. Jude’s in LA, she had a little friend.»)

Te’o talks to Lennay nightly, «going to sleep while on the phone with her,» according to Sports Illustrated. «When he woke up in the morning his phone would show an eight-hour call, and he would hear Lennay breathing on the other end of the line.»

Sept. 10, 2012: Kekua is released from the hospital; Manti’s father, Brian, congratulates her «via telephone» (South Bend Tribune).

Sept. 11-12, 2012: Te’o’s grandmother dies in Hawaii. Later, Kekua dies in California. Or is it the other way around? «Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died Sept. 11 of complications from leukemia. His grandma, Annette Santiago, died after a long illness less than 24 hours later,» according to the Sept. 22 South Bend Tribune. No, Annette dies first, according to the Oct. 12 South Bend Tribune. In fact, Lennay lives long enough to express condolences over the death of Annette:

Less than 48 hours later [after Lennay’s release from the hospital], at 4 a.m. Hawaii time, Kekua sent a text to Brian and Ottilia, expressing her condolences over the passing of Ottilia’s mom, Annette Santiago, just hours before.

Brian awakened three hours later, saw the text, and sent one back. There was no response. A couple of hours later, Manti called his parents, his heart in pieces.

Lennay Kekua had died.

Or does Kekua die three days later (New York Post)? Four days (ESPN, CBS)?

In any case, according to Te’o’s interview with Gene Wojciechowski in a segment aired during the Oct. 6 episode of College GameDay, Lennay’s last words to Te’o were «I love you.»

Sept. 12, 2012 (morning): Te’o is informed of his grandmother’s passing (Sports Illustrated).

Sept. 12, 2012 (afternoon): Te’o is informed of Kekua’s passing by her older brother, Koa (Sports Illustrated).

Sept. 15, 2012: Te’o records 12 tackles in leading the Irish to an upset win over Michigan State.

Sept. 22, 2012: Kekua’s funeral takes place in Carson, Calif. (The Associated Press puts it in «Carson City, Calif.,» which does not exist.) Te’o skips the funeral, saying Kekua had insisted that he not miss a game (Los Angeles Times). Her casket is closed at 9 a.m. Pacific time, according to Te’o. That night, Notre Dame beats Michigan, 13-6, to go to 4-0, the school’s best start in a decade. Te’o intercepts two passes. After the game, he says of Lennay: «All she wanted was some white roses. So I sent her roses and sent her two picks along with that.» Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly awards the game ball to Lennay Kekua, handing it to Te’o to «take back to Hawaii.»

* * *
It was around this time that Te’o’s Heisman campaign began in earnest, aided in part by the South Bend Tribune. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated‘s Oct. 1 issue, above the headline, «The Full Manti.»

And it was around this time that Manti and his father began filling in details about the linebacker’s relationship with Lennay. Brian Te’o told multiple reporters that the family had never met Kekua; the Te’os were supposed to spend time with her when they visited South Bend, Ind., for Notre Dame’s Senior Day on Nov. 17. The elder Te’o told the South Bend Tribune in October, «[W]e came to the realization that she could be our daughter-in-law. Sadly, it won’t happen now.»

Lennay Kekua’s death resonated across the college football landscape—especially at Notre Dame, where the community immediately embraced her as a fallen sister. Charity funds were started, and donations poured into foundations dedicated to leukemia research. More than $3,000 has been pledged in one IndieGogo campaign raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Te’o’s story moved beyond the world of sports. On the day of the BCS championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama, CBS This Morning ran a three-minute story that featured a direct quote from Lennay Kekua:

Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise that you’ll stay there and you’ll play and you’ll honor me through the way you play.

CBS also displayed this photo of Kekua several times throughout the piece:

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

This week, we got in touch with a woman living in Torrance, Calif. We’ll call her Reba, to protect her identity. She was initially confused, then horrified to find that she had become the face of a dead woman. «That picture,» she told us over the phone, «is a picture of me from my Facebook account.»

* * *
Manti Te’o and Lennay Kekua did not meet at Stanford in 2009. The real beginning of their relationship apparently occurred on Twitter, as an encounter between @MTeo_5 and @lovalovaloveYOU, on Oct. 10, 2011. Here’s the moment they first made contact.

Lennay Kekua’s Twitter name was @lovalovaloveYOU from 2011 until April 2012, @LennayKay from April until September 2012, and has been @LoveMSMK ever since. Their interactions, by and large, consisted of mild flirting. By January 2012, they were a «couple,» and Te’o sprinkled #LMK (for Lennay Marie Kekua) throughout his Twitter timeline in 2012.

As for what Kekua was tweeting, we have only bits and pieces. Her Twitter was private during most of this time, though various Google caches reveal her ever-changing series of avatars and a handful of Twitpics.

All of those photographs—with one important exception—came from the private Facebook and Instagram accounts of Reba, whom we found after an exhaustive related-images search of each of Lennay’s images (most of which had been modified in some way to prevent reverse image searching). We sent her a number of photographs that had appeared on Lennay’s Twitter account, which is now private but apparently still active (see this retweet, for instance). One picture in particular brought Reba to a start. It had been used briefly as @LoveMSMK’s Twitter avatar and later in the background of the page (we’ve blurred out the face, at Reba’s request):

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

That photo hadn’t appeared on the internet—at least, not to Reba’s knowledge. She had taken it in December 2012 and sent it directly to an old high school acquaintance. The two hadn’t talked since graduation, but the classmate, whom Reba remembered fondly, contacted her on Facebook with a somewhat convoluted request: His cousin had been in a serious car accident, and he had seen her photos before and thought she was pretty. Would she be so kind as to take a picture of herself holding up a sign reading «MSMK,» to put in a slideshow to support the cousin’s recovery? (He didn’t explain what MSMK meant, and Reba still doesn’t know.) Baffled but trusting, Reba made the sign and sent along the photo.

And now here it was on a dead girl’s Twitter profile. After googling Lennay Kekua’s name, Reba began to piece things together. She called up the classmate. He expressed alarm, Reba told us later, and «immediately began acting weird.» «Don’t worry about it,» he told her. Moments after the phone call, Reba’s picture was removed from the @LoveMSMK Twitter profile. Then, in a series of lengthy phone calls, Reba told us everything she knew about the classmate, a star high school quarterback turned religious musician named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

* * *
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo comes from a big football family. His father, Titus, played for USC in the late ’80s and early ’90s. One uncle, Navy, played for the L.A. Rams; another uncle, Mike, coaches the defensive line at Colorado. A cousin from an older generation, Manu, went to Seattle in the first round in 1979; another cousin, Marques, went to Oakland in the second round in 2001. A cousin from a different side of the family, Fred Matua, earned All-America honors at guard for USC and played on several NFL teams, before dying this past August of a heart-related issue. (He was 28.)

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A HoaxRonaiah Tuiasosopo

Tuiasosopo, now 22, had once been something of a football prospect himself. In 2005, the Los Angeles Daily News wrote that the young Tuiasosopo, then the sophomore starting quarterback for Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, Calif., «looked like a star» in practice, despite some in-game growing pains. His coach said he was a «great kid» who did a fine job leading the older seniors. He was an honorable mention for the all-league team. But then he transferred out of town, to Franklin High in Stockton, where he spent his junior year living with an aunt and handing the ball off. His team featured two 1,000-yard rushers, and he completed only five passes all season. He transferred again: His senior year, he turned up at Paraclete High in Lancaster. Titus, his father, had become an assistant coach there. That’s where he encountered Reba. His team lost in the semifinals. A season recap article suggested that he might sign with Hawaii, but that evidently went nowhere.

Once high school ended, in 2008, Tuiasosopo threw himself into his father’s church. Titus is the pastor at the Oasis Christian Church of the Antelope Valley, and Ronaiah leads the church’s band. He also has his own little YouTube music career. He sings secular songs, with a cousin (Conan Amituanai, a former Arizona lineman whom the Vikings once signed), and religious songs, both solo and as part of an ensemble. «Ignite,» the lead single on the group’s ReverbNation page, is a likable enough song. It borrows its chorus from Katy Perry’s catchy «Firework.» But the song only has 10 Facebook likes, a fairly low figure that seems especially low once one considers who plugged Tuiasosopo’s single on Twitter in December 2011: Manti Te’o.

Te’o and Tuiasosopo definitely know each other. In May 2012, Te’o was retweeting Tuiasosopo, who had mentioned going to Hawaii. Wrote Te’o, «sole»—»bro,» in Samoan—»u gotta come down.» In June, Te’o wished Tuiasosopo a happy birthday. How they know each other isn’t clear. We spoke to a woman we’ll call Frieda, who had suggested on Twitter back in December that there was something fishy about Lennay Kekua. She was Facebook friends with Titus Tuiasosopo, so we asked her if she knew anything about Ronaiah.

«Manti and Ronaiah are family,» she said, «or at least family friends.» She told us that the Tuiasosopos had been on-field guests (of Te’o or someone else, she didn’t know) for the Nov. 24 Notre Dame-USC game in Los Angeles. USC was unable to confirm this, but a tweet from Tuiasosopo’s since-deleted account suggests he and Te’o did see each other on that West Coast trip. «Great night with my bro @MTeo_5! #Heisman #574L,» Ronaiah tweeted on Nov. 23, the night before the game.

And there was something else: Tuiasosopo had been in a car accident a month before Lennay’s supposed accident.

Was this Lennay Kekua? We spoke with friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who asserted that Ronaiah was the man behind Lennay. He created Lennay in 2008, one source said, and Te’o wasn’t the first person to have an online «relationship» with her. One mark—who had been «introduced» to Lennay by Tuiasosopo—lasted about a month before family members grew suspicious that Lennay could never be found on the telephone, and that wherever one expected Lennay to be, Ronaiah was there instead. Two sources discounted Ronaiah’s stunt as a prank that only metastasized because of Te’o’s rise to national celebrity this past season.

The hoax began crumbling around the edges late last year. On Nov. 4, 2012, an «U’ilani Rae Kekua,» supposedly Lennay’s sister, popped up on Twitter under the name @uilanirae. Manti Te’o immediately tweeted out the following:

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

Te’o also wished U’ilani a happy Thanksgiving on Nov. 22.

Numerous Notre Dame fans sent U’ilani messages of condolence, and she responded with thanks. On Nov. 10, U’ilani tweeted the following:

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

A few weeks later, the @uilanirae account was deleted. The deletion came immediately after tweets from two now-suspended Twitter accounts had alleged that U’ilani was a fraud, that the same person behind Lennay was operating the U’ilani account, and that the images of «U’ilani» were really of a woman named Donna Tei.

Tei’s Twitter account is @FreDonna51zhun; Fred Matua wore No. 51, and Tei’s profile is full of pictures of herself with the late football star (and cousin of Tuiasosopo’s). We showed U’ilani’s Twitter avatar to one of Tei’s friends, and he confirmed it was her.

In yet another now-deleted tweet, Tei herself reached out to Nev Schulman, star of the 2010 film Catfish and executive producer of the MTV program of the same title. Schulman’s movie and show are about romantic deception through fake online personas.

Manti Te’o, meanwhile, has deleted his tweets mentioning U’ilani.

* * *

There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te’o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te’o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te’o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te’o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te’o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te’o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.

Lennay Kekua’s last words to Manti Te’o were not «I love you.»

A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was «80 percent sure» that Manti Te’o was «in on it,» and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua’s death with publicity in mind. According to the friend, there were numerous photos of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te’o together on Tuiasosopo’s now-deleted Instagram account.

The sheer quantity of falsehoods about Manti’s relationship with Lennay makes that friend, and another relative of Ronaiah’s, believe Te’o had to know the truth. Mostly, though, the friend simply couldn’t believe that Te’o would be stupid enough—or Ronaiah Tuiasosopo clever enough—to sustain the relationship for nearly a year.

Since Notre Dame was blown out in the BCS national championship game, Te’o has kept a low profile. He has tweeted sparingly, and he declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl. His father made news recently when he announced on the «Manti Te’o ‘Official’ Fan Club» Facebook page that he had «black listed» the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which had carried a photo on its front page of Manti getting bowled over by Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the title game.

Te’o hasn’t tweeted at Lennay since Nov. 6, when he wrote:

As of this writing, Te’o’s Twitter profile carries a quotation from Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, the great adventure novel about a man in disguise.

Life is a storm.. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.

We called a cellphone for Manti Te’o, but the number we had is not accepting calls. Brian Te’o, Manti’s father, was in a meeting when we called, according to a text message he sent in response. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo did not answer his phone or respond to multiple text messages. We left a message with Notre Dame earlier this afternoon. We’ll update with comments when and if we get any.

Update (5:17 p.m.): Notre Dame responds:

On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.

Dennis Brown
University Spokesman | Assistant Vice President

Update (6:10 p.m.): Manti Te’o’s statement:

This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.

Additional reporting by Dom Cosentino and Tom Ley. Top image by Jim Cooke/photo by Getty. Email Tim Burke at or find him on Twitter @bubbaprog. Jack Dickey is at and @jackdickey.


Diario de lecturas: «Borges», de Bioy Casares

Escribir ficción: cómo interesar con algo que nadie ignora que es mentira

Después de leer innumerables (y áridos) cuentos presentados al concurso de La Nación, hablamos del arte de escribir cuentos y novelas.

BORGES: «Es un arte difícil. ¿Cómo interesar con algo que nadie ignora que es mentira? O hay que ser encantador, como Eça de Queiroz; o alucinantemente visual, como Stevenson; o persuasivo de la realidad, como Bennett en Old Wives’ Tale; o erótico; o sobrenatural; o manejar el suspenso, como los novelistas por entregas y tanto escritor de segundo orden: el arte mejor se desentiende de la atención de los lectores pero corre el riesgo de perderlos».


Diario de series: Episodes S02E04

Los guionistas Beverly y Sean le presentan a la gente del canal la trama de un nuevo episodio

Beverly: De acuerdo, la historia principal es un poco un viaje de Lyman y Nicola…

Carol: ¡Divertido!

Sean: … entonces, es la boda de la hermana de Nicola, pero hay una gran tormenta y los aviones no están volando…

Andy: ¡Oh, oh!

Beverly: … el coche de Nicola está enterrado bajo una montaña de nieve, así que Lyman se ofrece a llevarla en su camioneta.

Carol: ¿Puedo interrumpir? Un pensamiento rápido: ¿qué pasa si en lugar de que sea la hermana de Nicola la que se case, es una de las hermanas de los chicos?

Andy: Eso es divertido.

Sean: Bueno… pero esa sería una historia muy diferente.

Carol: Sí, es solo una manera de meter a todos los chicos ahí.

Beverly: ¿Y por qué van a ir todos los chicos a esta boda?

Myra: ¿Qué pasa si no es una boda?

Carol: Correcto. ¿Qué pasa si fuera como un gran partido que no se quieren perder?

Sean: ¿Un gran partido en una tormenta?

Myra: ¿Por qué tiene que haber nieve?

Beverly: Sí. ¿Por qué tiene que haber clima, en realidad?

Sean: Entonces, ¿ahora Lyman va a llevar a los chicos a un gran partido?

Carol: Miren, obviamente ninguno de nosotros es guionista…

Beverly y Sean: Obviamente.

Carol: …pero ¿qué pasa si los chicos toman la camioneta de Lyman sin su permiso?

Andy: Eso está bien y da mucho juego.

Sean:  Entonces… ¿la única parte de nuestra historia que queda es que hay una camioneta?

Myra: ¿Qué pasa si no la hay?

Beverly: De acuerdo, paren. Solo… paren. Dígannos qué está pasando.

Carol: Bueno… es el rating.

Sean: ¡Dijiste que no nos preocupáramos por las audiencias!

Carol: Sí, ya pueden empezar a preocuparse.

Sean: Ya veo.

Carol: Pero esperen, ¡hay buenas noticias! Nuestra investigación dice que hay una audiencia principal adolescente que está conectando de verdad con los chicos, especialmente con Stoke.

Andy: Stoke.

Myra: Stoke.

Beverly: ¡Stoke ni siquiera puede actuar! Básicamente es el pelo.

Carol: Les gusta su pelo.

Andy: Es un buen pelo.


Diario de series: How I met your mother S02E16

Cuatro cosas que no se les deben pedir a los amigos, según Barney

Lily: ¡Recién publicado!

Barney: No quiero folletos.

Lily: Tomaste uno segundos antes de venir aquí.

Barney: Es diferente. Tenía un descuento para un club de striptease. ¿Qué descuento me das en tu folleto?

Lily: Bueno. Es un folleto sobre mi obra.

Barney: Lily, me encantaría pero no estamos en la universidad y no intento acostarme contigo.

Marshall: La amiga de Lily le pidió que estuviera en esta obra y eso será genial.

Barney: Lily, te adoro, pero ya estás grande para estas cosas. Pedirle a alguien que vaya a ver tu obra es como pedir que te lleven al aeropuerto o alojamiento gratis o que te ayuden a mudarte. Pide un taxi, alquila una habitación, llama a una empresa de mudanzas y di: «Los amigos no permiten que sus amigos vayan a ver sus pésimas obras.»


Diario de series: Boss S02E01

Donde el dueño del diario le explica al nuevo director cuál es «el Eje»

Peter Baine: ¿Sabe cuánto representa este diario dentro de mi conglomerado mediático?

Sam Miller: Creo que es la mitad del 1%.

Peter Baine: No lo digo para sugerir que The Sentinel no tiene importancia para mí. La tiene y mucha. De hecho, si así no fuese así, no estaría aquí con usted.

Sam Miller: De acuerdo.

Peter Baine: Leí su editorial.

Sam Miller: Creo que es uno de mis mejores trabajos.

Peter Baine: McGantry Enterprises, Nyco, Tizer… ¿sabe lo que son?

Sam Miller: ¿Malvadas corporaciones monopólicas?

Peter Baine: Son inversionistas con participación en la reurbanización de un área llamada Lennox Gardens.

Sam Miller: Con todo respeto, usted dijo que podía ir tras Kane a voluntad si sorteaba ese ciclo de noticias. Solo ese. Hice eso.

Peter Baine: Esto no es sobre el alcalde. Esto es sobre el eje, el nuestro. Mira, Jack Bentley entendía esto. ¿Cometí un error al echarlo?

Sam Miller: No, no lo hizo.

Peter Baine: Bueno, me alivia escuchar eso. Y también a nuestros amigos corporativos que le mencioné. Como usted, irán a la ceremonia de la expansión del O’Hare. De hecho, mientras esté allí, podría considerar ofrecer sus disculpas por su errónea opinión. Y pídales que reconsideren el sacar sus anuncios de nuestra publicación.

Sam Miller: Sí, Sr.

Peter Baine: Y cómprese un traje decente. Luce como la mierda.