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Werner Herzog For Israeli Prime Minister

A CNN transcription error inspires new hope—and a speech

Liel Leibovitz
July 28, 2015

In an interview with Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker, CNN quoted the Wisconsin governor musing about his talks with the leader of the Israeli left. But rather than identifying Labor’s head as Isaac Herzog, the non-stop news network awarded the privilege to another Herzog, documentary filmmaker and monotone messiah Werner.

Mistakes are revealing. They are often, as any amateur student of Freud would tell you, the only pathway available for great and repressed truths to slip into the light. Who, after all, is better-suited to lead not just the Israeli left but the nation itself than a man who has famously said he believed the common denominator of the universe wasn’t harmony but chaos, hostility, and murder? Here, then, in the hope he’d consider running, is the brief inaugural speech for Israel’s new hope, Werner Herzog:

My Fellow Israelis,

You are all wrong.

The last twenty years of your history has been stupid. There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and it would be a stupid stupidity not to stop and consider how lost you’ve become in the wrong, boring story. You are all obsessed with facts; facts like the reach of this missile or the strength of that battalion. But facts are misleading. Facts can only create norms; only truth can create illumination. Can you see the truth, the poetic and ecstatic truth? It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.

This will not be easy. I look into the eyes of my fellow members of Knesset, and discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature, a blank stare that speaks only of a half-bored interest in graft. But I am not deterred; in their great stupidity, they are like a great metaphor for me.

And I am ready to lead. I am so used to plunging into the unknown that any other surroundings and form of existence strike me as exotic and unsuitable for human beings. And I am ready to lead this promised land, a land that, like the landscapes I explore in our movies, exists only in our dreams. For me, a true landscape is not just a representation of a desert or a forest; it shows an inner state of mind, literally inner landscapes, and it is the human soul that is visible through the landscapes presented in my films.

In conclusion, the state of our union is grim, but let us not forget that we ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile. It is time we learned how to dream better dreams. It is time we learned to articulate ourselves, or else become like the cows in the field. The universe is monstrously indifferent to our presence. It is time we trusted our own imaginations once again.

And remember: When the cannibals come for you, you will not hear them.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.