Somewhere between fake news and the passing of time in a world where being politically correct trumps honesty is the place where we are slowly rewriting history. We often get it wrong or later are told we did, so no wonder we are confused. The fascinating chart below shows how beliefs morph or can shift over time. It seems that when speaking of who defeated Hitler the answer depends not whom, but rather when you ask. This change of view reflects how over the years and decades a subtle campaign to convince people America was largely responsible for defeating Hitler in World War II has been effective in overshadowing the role Russia played.
The vivid example above shows that following the war a storing majority of the people of France credited Russia for defeating Hitler and the German war machine. Russia was indeed a key factor even though the Soviets didn’t play much of a role in France’s liberation, relative to the US and Britain. By 1995 and 2004, however, the French had changed their minds and were crediting the US as the biggest contributor to victory in Europe according to survey data from the French Institute of Public Opinion. The reason for this is probably due to Russia having a diminished role in the world compared to the influence America wields.
The removal of Civil War statues across the nation is in a way a reflection and symbol of the movement to rewrite history. A favorite example of mine concerns the economy and whether the policies of President Franklin Roosevelt brought the Great Depression to an end or if the onset of war was really the catalyst for growth. Another issue is how history views individuals such as Edward Snowden and whether they are labeled as a hero or goat. How we look back and catalog the past is a most curious thing. Often it is a case of the truth be damned, let us not look too closely to facts but redefine the images to fit our liking. Thanksgiving in America gives the impression the Indians welcomed the white man to his land.
How we remember the past is not carved in stone. Betamax was a technology that was superior to the VHS that resulted in its demise, VHS has since been sent to its grave by DVDs. The reason I bring up the often forgotten Betamax technology is that most people now assume VHS was the best viewing system and that is what won the consumer over and as time goes by this idea will solidify. This is another example where history as George Orwell reminds us, is written by those who claim victory and truth is often cast aside in an effort to give the impression of righteousness. This is a popular skeptical viewpoint about history that has been expressed several different ways:
What is history but a fable agreed upon?
History is a set of lies agreed upon.
History is a set of lies that people have agreed upon.
These cynical adages have been linked to several major figures but more important is we try to remember the message they convey. The gap between reality and perception can at times be very large. The fact people see and hear what they want to only adds to this problem, and it is a problem that seems to be occurring with greater frequency. That is the logic behind the saying, “be careful or reality will bite you in the ass.” When we ignore reality we create a situation where we can be blindsided and caught totally off guard.
This leads us to the question of motives and whether someone lurks behind the curtain pulling our strings. To paraphrase the comment of a reader on another blog; There are, of course, good conspiracy analysts and bad conspiracy analysts, just as there are good and bad historians or practitioners of any discipline. The bad conspiracy analyst tends to make two kinds of mistakes, which indeed leave him open to the Establishment charge of “paranoia.” Secondly, the bad conspiracy analyst seems to have a compulsion to wrap up all the conspiracies, all the bad guy power blocs, into one giant conspiracy.
While attitudes and views change over time the idea “truth is fungible” can be disturbing and bends the definition of truth beyond recognition but in a world of fake news truth often is placed behind perception. It would be wise to question everything assuming there are several power blocs trying to gain control and influence both government and society. The efforts of those struggling for our hearts and minds may sometimes be in conflict with other such groups and sometimes working in alliance. Whether the intent is sinister or not when history is rewritten something important is lost and that is the truth. When future generations reflect upon the economics and politics of today it will be interesting to see their take on events.
H/T: Bruce Wilds