Flat Earth

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The Independent Online
Fiction v fact

WHAT would Anne Frank make of last week's proceedings in an Amsterdam court?

After a case brought by the Anne Frank Foundation, it is now a crime to claim, as a recent book does, that her famous diary was a forgery written by her father after the Second World War. In future anyone found guilty of denying the diary's authenticity will be liable to a fine approaching pounds 8,000.

The action arose from a revisionist diatribe called Anne Frank, A Critical Approach. Its extreme-right publisher, Siegfried Verbeke, says it is already available on the internet, but the foundation, which described the court's verdict as "a very important step", is looking at trying to suppress it there too.

I wonder at the wisdom of this. Apart from showing a lack of confidence in the ability of truth to prevail over lies, it will now be open to any Holocaust-denier who wants martyrdom to invite a fine, refuse to pay it and demand to be sent to jail. Then it will be argued that the authorities are trying to suppress the "truth". The people the Anne Frank Foundation is fighting crave any kind of attention, and this seems to give them a foolproof way of getting it.

Get the point?

FOR another example of good intentions going wrong, we turn to New York, where someone had the idea of discouraging schoolkids from dabbling in narcotics by distributing pencils with the slogan, "It Isn't Cool to Do Drugs".

But a smart pupil soon pointed out that as one sharpened the pencils, the message changed to "Cool to Do Drugs", and eventually to "Do Drugs". They have now been withdrawn, so that the message can be printed the other way round. Maybe they should have stuck to Nancy Reagan's advice: "Just Say No".

Marcos marked

POOR Imelda Marcos has been getting death threats. The shoe fetishist and widow of Ferdinand, who did for the Philippines what Augusto Pinochet did for Chile, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that she had to change the number of her fax machine after she started receiving all sorts of unpleasant suggestions about her future health. Just to play safe, she increased her complement of bodyguards by 25 and borrowed a bulletproof car from her nephew.

What could be causing all this hostility? Is it anything to do with a series of interviews she gave the Inquirer, in which she claimed: "We practically own everything in the Philippines"?

According to Imelda, her family secretly owns majority stakes in at least 200 companies, including most of the country's leading corporations, through "cronies" who held the shares on paper. But these cronies, instead of doing the decent thing, have hung on to the wealth, and she plans to sue them to get it back.

Perhaps this has upset some of them. I don't know. But Imelda has asked the Inquirer to stop printing the interviews, saying that "it's getting too dangerous". Her daughter, for what it's worth, says she is "wild and crazy".

Bill owns up

HERE IS proof that the power of Flat Earth reaches all the way to the White House. You may remember Desiree Wilson, whose school report went missing when she gave it to Bill Clinton to sign. Her teachers thought this was a variant on the "dog ate my homework" excuse, but after we publicised her plight, the report was posted back to her school, signed, "To Desiree, from President Clinton." Always glad to help.