Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake 700 years ago this week. The unfinished cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris—its towers completed just 65 years earlier—stood nearby as de Molay went up in flames. His death sparked conspiracy theories that have traveled through the centuries, across oceans and Ivy League campuses, and onto our flat-screen TVs.
As the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, de Molay was considered a heretic by both the French Monarchy and the papacy. King Philip IV of France had him tortured and burned, slowly, on the Île de la Cité, the tiny Parisian Island in the Seine. It was March 18, 1314—give or [...]
One of the major contentions of Alexander Stille's excellent The Sack of Rome is that Silvio Berlusconi, through his control of the country's most popular television networks, created an electorate which would happily vote for someone like him. Berlusconi was aided immeasurably by the massive corruption of both the left and the right, but it was only through his channels' steady diet of crappy American nightime soaps like Dallas and game shows featuring scantily clad young women that Berlusconi was able to coarsen the culture to the extent that a ridiculous figure such as himself could be viewed as a plausible candidate for high office.