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hasbro Donating Member (258 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-14-09 05:08 AM
Original message
Right Wing Revisionism
I am fascinated/repulsed at the current spate of Neo-Con revisionist history going on. Now I don't know if this is exactly something new, but it seems to have picked up in the last few years.

The biggest example to me is trying to cast the Nazis as liberals, which is a patently ridiculous argument and a red flag that someone is ignorant of history that the first thing they hit is Godwin's Law.

Other examples I can think of are trying to downplay FDR's accomplishments, rehabilitating McCarthy and retroactively claiming figures as conservative (like MLK).
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-14-09 06:17 PM
Response to Original message
1. Generally speaking ...

Historians aren't the ones doing this, if it matters.

You've got a very small subset of historians who do, but then they always have. You've also got a collection of right-wing and libertarian economists who suddenly have an audience.

Mostly, though, it's "journalists," and I use the term quite loosely.

Not that this makes it any better ... just saying.

The local Barnes and Noble does have a display of that asinine book about so-called liberal fascists. Can't recall the title, nor can I remember who wrote it ... probably Glenn Beck or one of Beck's sockpuppets.

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hasbro Donating Member (258 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-17-09 12:03 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. So
Pretty much the same mechanism used to debunk global warming and evolution.

Ann Coulter waged a one... "woman"... war to rehabilitate McCarthy.
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-17-09 03:40 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Pretty much ...

I don't want to downplay its impact. What you notice is certainly real and definitely a running concern.

But, it isn't new at all. The subjects change. The tactics remain the same. Go back 100 years, and you have journalists writing the history with historians playing catch-up to debunk what's been written. Unfortunately, 100 years ago, a history as a profession wasn't well refined, and you had, for instance, people like UB Phillips running around telling everyone that slavery was largely a benign institution and that Jim Crow was a good thing in that it entrenched the "positive" aspects of slavery without the dehumanizing components. He was well-respected in his day, but as was later realized, he got most of his ideas from a largely uncritical acceptance of what "journalists" and other like-minded mouthpieces had to say through the 19th century.

In the current age, the one positive outlook on all this is that, for the most part, the history profession is acting as though it is a profession. I know several historians who have conservative politics who also decry this kind of revisionism, particularly the bit about fascism being in any way analogous to modern day liberalism. They may disagree with liberal political positions, but they're not stupid.

Of course, there are the stupid ones, as mentioned, and they've always been there too. I still tend to see most of these in the economics profession for some reason ... probably has something to do with Friedman and his vast influence on the educational establishment.

The one area where you'll find a lot of whack-a-doodle historians is in military history. Some of those guys (and they are mostly male ... and white) are from a different planet.

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hasbro Donating Member (258 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-20-09 04:01 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Oh yeah definitely
The impact is more pronounced with void created by the general historical ignorance in this country; a national scandal if you asked me. If you have someone with a decent education they are less apt to believe it when someone tells them FDR could have prevented Hitler in 1937.

Different interpretations are there, but where it's a problem is when the people making it are ignorant, unqualified and agenda driven.

I'll cite and example from Conservopedia's article on World War I:

Historian Jacques Barzun observed how Darwinism caused the horrendous brutality of the wars leading up to this one: "Since in every European country between 1870 and 1914 there was a war party demanding armaments, an individualist party demanding ruthless competition, an imperialist party demanding a free hand over backward peoples, a socialist party demanding the conquest of power and a racialist party demanding internal purges against aliens all of them, when appeals to greed and glory failed, invoked Spencer and Darwin, which was to say science incarnate."<1>

That is the third paragraph of a 3 para introduction.
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david13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-03-09 02:05 PM
Response to Original message
5. Some very good examples have been cited here. But I think it's
important to remember that it is not a partisan phenomena. It exists all over the spectrum.
It is one of the reasons I dislike Ken Burns, in addition to his homely, folksy, hokey style.
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-03-09 03:13 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. I have a love/hate relationship with Burns ...

I give him credit for inspiring popular interest in various historical subjects and at the very least suggesting why it is important that we understand these things. His current project on National Parks is a good example. It is important that the public know the origins of how these parks came to be and the struggles they faced.

Similarly, I like the fact his Civil War production placed so much focus on the plight of the enslaved and formerly enslaved. His series is probably more responsible for the popular mind even being aware that blacks actually fought in that war than any other individual. Even in the historical establishment -- or perhaps I should say especially in the establishment -- the focus was on the institution of slavery itself rather than the individuals affected by it. The story of slavery has been told in many forms, but mostly it boils down to studying now dead white men and whether they were oppressors or the agents of freedom. Ken Burns' documentary did more to establish that the enslaved established their own agency and fought for their own freedom. He didn't get into the detail, of course, but he lit a spark that allowed those note steeped in the minutia to begin to understand these things.

But one can rightly question the kind of understanding he offers. A lot of it is hokey. It's too narrow in many ways, creating false impressions. Some of it is flatly wrong. Again with the Civil War series, he entrenched the incorrect idea that Shelby Foote is a historian, a notion that Foote himself denied. Foote was a story-teller, and a good one. He gets a lot of things right, but he gets a lot of things wrong as well. He too can provide false impressions. Indeed, I think many direct analogies can be drawn between Foote's Civil War series and that of Ken Burns.

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david13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-04-09 06:39 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Well said. The big problem I have with so called public or educational
tv is that it is far more entertainment than education.
And in a sense it adds to the corruption of youngsters who then conclude, if it's not entertaining, I don't need to pay any attention to it, let alone study it.
Or that study or scholarly research has to be fun or easy.
But you are right, it did get people interested, to look more closely, and to begin to understand that it wasn't like that portrayed in 'Birth of a Nation'.
So, it's a good starting point.
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-04-09 07:46 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. As a slight tangent ...
Edited on Sun Oct-04-09 07:51 PM by RoyGBiv
I attended a conference last year on something completely different, and one of the speakers, whose topic was essentially about dealing with the so-called Entertainment Generation, started his presentation with a PowerPoint slide of Big Bird (from Sesame Street) with devil's horns.

"This is the most evil creation of a the 20th century ..."

It was intentional hyperbole, but it was an effective introduction to his point. Shows like Sesame Street, while effective, have had the unfortunate side effect of instilling a sense of "entertainment entitlement" into the affected generations. Everything from work to school to taking the car to the garage to get an oil change is now an opportunity to be entertained, and if those individuals are not entertained, they react negatively, believing the experience to be a failed one, a waste of their time.

Education for the sake of education is no longer in and of itself popularly considered a common good. If it's not also entertaining, it's worthless.

This is a long way of saying, I agree.

OnEdit: I decided to add this, just because ...

The context of this presentation I attended provides some evidence of just how pervasive the problem is. We weren't even talking about education, per se. I'm a "Bursar." We were talking about, basically, how to make the process of paying a bill, disputing a bill, going off half-cocked and screaming obscenities and threatening to kill staff members because they don't want to pay the bill "fun and entertaining."

Someone in the audience suggesting inventing a time machine and using it to assassinate Big Bird. :)
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david13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-04-09 10:54 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. Still tangent. And the concept of a time machine to assassinate
Big Bird is more entertainment than thought.
But the thought is, it's not Big Bird, it's not Burns, it's a society that looks for the easier softer way. And maybe the first thought is, we are helpless vis a vis this trend.
I don't mind it in commerce. If they want to market restaurants as "fun, exciting, best entertainment value", rather than good food, and people want that and participate in it. Fine for them.
But the educational system. That's where it becomes a problem for the future of the society.
And a resultant inability anywhere along the political spectrum to see historical revisionism.
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