The Deceptive Politics Edition
The best thing I’ve read on the Internet today is from the “History Chick in AZ.” It looks like a major paper on the subject of the misuse of history by advocacy groups in particular, The Federalist Society, although it talks about quite a few others.
These days, if you wander the Internet, it seems there are tidal waves of made up history from Black regiments fighting for the confederacy, to white people being most of the slaves, to Puritans seeking religious freedom, all of them running a muck at all times.
But the paper is talking not about just made up history but made up with a purpose. And the purpose is to change the law by creating an impression of a scholarly take on American history.
My first encounter with the phenomenon was an article extolling the idea that the Old West was a paradise of tranquility since everybody carried a gun and it mentioned prominently that Tombstone, Arizona only had two or three murders a year during that wonderful period. Except that Tombstone never had more than 7,000 people in it and the average modern American city of 10,000 has one murder every ten years. I wasn’t impressed by those claims then and I’m not impressed now.
When you don’t have any government and no legal avenues for justice, people get killed and not just a few. The Old West was a time of chaos and crime in American history, and all the spin you can slap on it isn’t going to change what happened.
But there are many other areas where history and simple factual data are under attack – one of them is climate change.
Here’s an excerpt from the article –
One of the more visible examples of the power of these groups to shape policy and public perceptions has been the issue of climate change. Flush with money from oil and gas companies, several political advocacy groups were able to wage a public battle against scientists to successfully create the perception of doubt, when there was none within the scientific community. With public confusion and cowed politicians, they were able to bring any legislation meant to deal with the problem to a halt. (19) The media, sadly concerned more with the appearance of neutrality than with the truth helped create this perception of doubt. In addition, reporters have been too trusting of experts without checking their affiliations and potential conflicts of interest. Realizing the problem the ProPublica reporterRobert Faturechi states, “Reporters and editors need to be more skeptical of experts, and the false sense of security that their name brand affiliations provide. Before we quote them or their studies, or publish their op-eds, we have to ask harder questions about their funding and their outside employment.” (20) We are now all paying the price for this mischief, and it will only get worse.
I recommend to got the “history chick’s” blog and have a good read. The article I’m referring to can be read here.
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