Bogus History

7 Warning Signs of Bogus History

Many people get suckered in by false accounts of history. It is often not their fault — they don’t have the background to pick up on the falsehoods, which are often rather obscure; and partly, it’s because our school texts don’t prepare children (and us as adults, later) to be alert to people trying to hoax us, for political reasons or for financial gains, or just for the hoax of it.

Bogus history marker

You can buy this decal, but that won’t make bogus claims legitimate.

Following the sterling example of Robert Parks, I wrote two posts to try to help people identify bogus history when it plops onto their computer screens. This is important. Teachers should teach this; but if they don’t, students should learn it. Trying to ferret out the bogus from the genuine was a fun exercise for me in school and college, and it is a great way to learn the material better. [You may need to read Parks’s essay here.]

You can see both of these posts in their re-runs, here:

Here’s the shorthand list (please read the posts!):

The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus History

1. The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, for pay.

2. The author says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.

3. The sources that verify the new interpretation of history are obscure; if they involve a famous person, the sources are not those usually relied on by historians.

4. Evidence for the history is anecdotal.

5. The author says a belief is credible because it has endured for some time, or because many people believe it to be true.

6. The author has worked in isolation.

7. The author must propose a new interpretation of history to explain an observation; heroes become villains, or great conspiracies are often invoked.

54 Responses to Bogus History

  1. […] Bogus History […]

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  2. […] Bogus History […]

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  3. […] Bogus History […]

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  4. And what a scourge it is. You should check out Thomas E. Woods’ Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. It is very well done.

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  5. zumpoems says:

    Important info!

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  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks, Mike. Not sure why Akismet didn’t catch it, and I was off at a meeting of a youth organization (ironic).

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  7. MikeO says:

    Jwakhijb should not be allowed and the posts deleted

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  8. Nick K says:

    And its two attempts at providing “evidence” that Obama was born in some other country have been the most ludicrous and asinine forgeries that anyone with a basic understanding of either the law or world history could spot.

    It’s time for you and yours, David, to bother to remember that living in a country in which the people elect their leaders….sometimes means that the people you want to lead lose. It’s a fact of life, quit whining about it and conjuring up conspiracy theories that have no proof just because you want to act like a petulant child.

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  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Hmm. I wonder why there’s no trackback?

    Discussion on this post started today at this site:

    http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread623026/pg1

    Go take a look.

    Hey! AboveTopSecret visitors! See the longer explanations, here:

    http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2007/07/03/encore-post-recognizing-bogus-history-1/

    and here:

    http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2007/07/03/encore-post-recognizing-bogus-history-2/

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  10. Nick K says:

    David writes:
    Why is Obama challenging the request to see his
    birth certificate?

    You mean the birth certificate that the Whacked….excuse me..the World Net Daily said is his birth certificate?

    Tell me, David, where was your concern whether John McCain was actually qualified to be President? Did you demand his birth certificate?

    You guys claim he isn’t an actual native born American. It’s up to you to prove your claim…it’s not up to him to disprove your claim. That’s not how the law or logic works, David.

    And it is absolutely preposterous to claim that the George Bush administration, the Obama administration, the FBI, CIA, NSA, Secret Service, the state of Hawaii, the government of Kenya, the RNC, and the DNC are engaged in some conspiracy. And it’s equally as preposterous to claim that a young woman 40 years ago engaged in a conspiracy because she somehow knew her son would run for president 40 years later.

    Face it, David, this is all some grand farce predicated on the fact that the guy you don’t like won and you and yours are trying to illegally overturn an duly elected President.

    Noone has to provide evidence that you’re wrong. You have to provide evidence that you’re right. Since your side can’t…bugger off.

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  11. Ed Darrell says:

    Why is Obama challenging the request to see his birth certificate?

    Who lied to you about that? Will you let that person keep you in the dark about other things?

    Obama posted his birth certificate, on-line, in June 2008. Why do you refuse to honor Hawaiian and U.S. law, and honor a duly-issued, sealed-by-the-State-of-Hawaii document?

    Also see here:

    http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2008/11/27/6-ways-challenges-to-obamas-citizenship-fail/

    There are about a half-dozen other posts on the issue here.

    Or go see this site — and read it, first:

    http://ohforgoodnesssake.com/

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  12. Jim Stanley says:

    David,

    Because he’s a Kenyan-born Muslim witch doctor who, when he’s not personally aborting babies and worshiping Satan, is torturing puppies while urinating on the American flag.

    Please make a note of it.

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  13. David Anderson says:

    Why is Obama challenging the request to see his
    birth certificate?

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  14. Jim says:

    This is why original source documents are paramount to keeping things straight. You get propaganda in all ages, but what is most important is the thoughts that people are writing about.

    Many modern historians are not really historians, but activist’s pushing an political agenda. They bend and twist history to be politically correct and to bolster their political agenda.

    Get rid of modern paraphrases of historical documents, let us read the real thing!

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  15. hannah k. says:

    i say who cares about history!!!!!

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  16. MikeO says:

    I like your site. History is a problem, with the postmodern movement we have departed from trying to discover the facts. I am sure you would be interested in “The Killing of History” by Keith Windschuttle. Here in Australia we have a fabricated history around our indigenous peoples. The activists think it helps their cause unfortunately it doesn’t. They portray a noble savage “nation” that was invaded by the wicked white man.

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  17. graemebird says:

    Ed. If you guys had not won the cold war, or otherwise, the Soviet Archives had not been opened up, then the conspirational view of history, at least insofar as the KGB, particularly under Stalin, but under other leadership too ………. well this history would not have been spectacularly confirmed. (And subsequently moronically denied and ignored).

    Hence apriori, it ought to be judged that mainstream views of history are insufficiently conspirational. That conspirational views of history are probably WAY TOO conspirational (a view which is my best guess) does not contradict my initial proposition. If a regime, or organisation, must come to an end, and its papers be opened, prior to us finding out about its acts of ongoing hanky panky, and intelligence operations….. it simply stands to reason that there is more off-books activity going on with history then the mainstream view would have it.

    Certainly we know a great deal about World War I that was going on behind the scenes. Since so many entities fell out of existence as a result. But the mainstream is still a bit naive and lost when it comes to World War II and the aftermath in my view.

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  18. opit says:

    It gets confusing.
    I used to cite some of your articles in posts at the now defunct Oldephartteintraining, opit.wordpress.com
    When I was taken offline around Christmas 2007 I switched to Opera…and kept blogging. I used the name BlueGirlRedState had constantly pushed for my site : Opit’s LinkFest!
    As to what I was doing – that is treated at http://my.opera.com/oldephartte/about.
    Then last June 404 returns started to be common on posts past the front page. I found I could search archives even if I couldn’t access them directly…but wasn’t happy with that for a site which should have a tendency to reflect my evolving online interests and discoveries. Which is why the Blogger site : which allowed ads and perhaps could eventually generate modest revenue.
    On Opera, then, the real action is on the Links page, where I am playing with an assortment of RSS feeds. Most newsblogging. etc. is posted at Blogspot.

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  19. Ed Darrell says:

    Impressive collection of stuff, OPIT — your original work?

    Is there a lead post that explains what you’re doing there?

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  20. opit says:

    ‘History is not bunk, but it’s often questionable.’
    O.K. Let’s. Here’s some serious alternative history…I have much more inflammatory!

    http://opitslinkfest.blogspot.com/2009/09/look-at-record.html

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  21. Just because something is popular does not mean it is true. The world is not flat but it was popular in our past history to believe that it was “flat!”
    Many historians believe that it is difficult to get to the truth of the matter at the time something just happened. Those that have an ax to grind will muddy the waters so that the truth is distorted or rendered obscure, so as to protect a vested interest from being exposed of wrong doing or a criminal act.
    When you have conspiracies, where popular powerful forces are involved, it is easier for historians to get at the truth when those involved cannot make waves.
    It never ceases to amaze me that the popular media will ignore new concrete evidence that is uncovered that will throw new light on a suspected conspiracy.
    I am referring to the evidence that proved beyond a doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald was working for the CIA and was deliberately set up by the CIA to take the fall for the Kennedy assassination.
    The fact that there is a mystery about what actually happened during the Sept. 11th bombing and the major media won’t even talk about it, but instead dismisses the suspicions that it “was an inside job!” by calling those that want an investigation of the evidence compiled, “a bunch of paranoid nuts.” This contemptuous attitude by the news media. furthers the attitude that someone has something to hide, and the National Media is attempting to cover up, what happened on Sept 11th!

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  22. opit says:

    Why the disregarding of the ‘911 Truthers’ ?
    I came to many of the same conclusions they have regarding the world via a wildly different path : basically taking the War Game ‘After Saddam Iraq’ as a template to explain Bush policy. That led me back to the Great Game, Energy Empire and more.
    About that time one quip made me grin and consider who was being reasonable : ‘a scientific theory only qualifies as such when it best explains observablke phenomena’.
    That is so close to ‘Occam’s Razor’ – a tool of logic – that it isn’t funny.
    ‘ Conspiracy Theorist’ is a poor popularization for honest research into whether or not the principles publicly espoused as policy objectives were actually met by those political figures touting them : the Project for the New American Century. It totally ‘begs the question’ of the motivations for such by ‘poisoning the well’ tactics designed to obfuscate instead of openly debate : a variation of ‘strawman argumentation’ of false representation perhaps.
    It should not be that far-fetched to think those involved in the energy industry have an interest in national energy policy : especially when they multiply their fortunes doing so!
    It was about the time I looked at the different kinds of political systems that I realized how badly most of us were ‘in over our heads’ in evaluating the various proposals resulting from anthropology and sociology.

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  23. John Stone says:

    Huh? Call me a dummy, I guess.

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  24. opit says:

    As a boy, I was more interested in the whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence episode where Tom figures play is ‘work you don’t have to do.’ These days I muse on the gifted irreverence remembered in ‘Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven’. The favourite has to be a simple piece using the gift of ‘walking in another’s shoes’ : The War Prayer

    http://www.lysator.liu.se/lurk/www.midwinter.com/lurk/making/warprayer.html

    Bogus history ? I don’t know where it starts. Dare I suggest the Old Testament ? How about the Egyptian Book of the Dead ?
    The practice must be rooted in antiquity – as religion and flim-flam are root characteristics of being human. I should send a couple of links on YouTube for thought when the origins of Christianity are considered : but it’s likely as easy to click my ‘Friends’ header>window for Solar Ravyn’s post of 12 Oct 2008.

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  25. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m not worried about the truths that come out of fiction, and I often recommend Twain’s Huckleberry Finn as THE example of a fictional encounter that gets at great truth, especially Huck’s calculations while floating on the raft that Jim, though property of someone else, is also a man — and a good friend at that. So, Huck says, though he knows the preachers tell him he’ll go to hell for not turning Jim in as an escaped slave, though he’s sure he’s violating the Word of God, Huck determines he’ll not turn Jim in for capture. America came of age when it read that.

    I’m concerned more about false histories that are used solely for propaganda purposes, hurtful inventions designed to derail the political process: Swiftboat Veterans for Truth and their false tales against Kerry, Willie Horton and the false tales against Dukakis, the false claims that Rachel Carson is a mass murderer, false claims about vaccines causing autism, etc.

    There’s a difference between fiction and bogus history. Fiction can get to the truth, and often revels in it. Bogus history does not, and is instead designed to cover up the truth.

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  26. opit says:

    As a side note after scanning your site : search ‘Link Checker’ to find a choice of tools to identify your broken links.

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  27. opit says:

    ‘His Story’ as the Official Bumpf would do as well. George Orwell was hounded by the secret service after he broke cover as a radio host pushing propaganda to publish a ‘fictional’ ‘futuristic’ scenario of a programmed population.
    Dare I say that anyone wishing to push the powers of Search can find evidences of false reporting and paid opinions that sound completely implausible to anyone who hasn’t indulged in the practice ?
    I’m not going to bother ‘proving’ that. Rather I have listed ‘alternative’ information for the same reason courts are adversarial : to provide contrasting data.
    I have an old rule of thumb : I will trust the wild sounding dissenter at least as much as the known paid propagandist ( a low bar ) and consider there may be more honest reporting called fiction than reporting called fact worthy of the title.
    That’s my cynicism for the day : where a cynic fits the modern Daffynition : someone who’s been around.
    Here are a couple of related sources.

    http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3402300123.html

    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=100

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  28. […] Bogus History […]

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  29. Ed Darrell says:

    I suspect that strikes you as too close to your own home, eh, Mr. Bird?

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  30. graemebird says:

    Those are not signs of bogus history. Those are mindless ad hom attacks on your part. This is a set of pseudo-arguments on your part to avoid competing with someone who has a superior argument to you.

    You sound like some sort of leftist wikipedia editor.

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  31. […] 7 Signs of Bogus History […]

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  32. […] 7 Signs of Bogus History […]

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  33. Roadtripper says:

    I just found your site by way of Pharyngula. (Traffic spiking much?)

    The 7 signs of bogus history all looked rather familiar…it occurs to me that those are really all good indicators for spotting a ‘crank’ or crackpot in any field, history included.

    Rt

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  34. […] 7 Signs of Bogus History […]

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  35. […] 7 Signs of Bogus History […]

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  36. Mark Teel says:

    p.s. Check out The Intelligence Briefing, at http://intelligence-briefing.blogspot.com

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  37. Mark Teel says:

    Thanks for your valuable site! The war of fiction versus fact IS a matter of national security and credibility. If America becomes a church-state, like Iran or the Taliban’s Afghanistan, it’s all over. The original movie “The Planet of the Apes” is a decent commentary on the Creationism issue…

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  38. Ed Darrell says:

    No, not all history is anecdotal, not even the parts that are anecdotes.

    If one were to apply legal rules of evidence, for example, one quickly comes to realize that much of history is based on firm physical evidence. George Washington left a raft of documents, including his diaries and his will; Jefferson left several thousands of letters, which qualify as business records and contemporary writings.

    Much of history can be verified through scientific means. Much of what is anecdotal can be corroborated or verified, passing through the zone of “not sure” into definity.

    In your realm of Christian apologetics, there is a lot of flaccid academic work, screwballs like Josh McDowell wandering around claiming there is as much evidence for Jesus as other figures in history. That’s exactly the sort of bogus history that often gets people into trouble.

    No, most of what we study as history is not anecdotal, but is instead corroborated through several lines of evidence.

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  39. Edgar says:

    I like the list – but isn’t all history anecdotal?

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  40. MormonIsNOTtheTrueReligion says:

    Let’s not forget the Bible….written by man.
    My fantasy for all the religious zealots…

    Die….wake up dead….
    no heaven….no nothing…you are eternally asleep.

    Hell is here on Earth…..now.

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  41. […] 7 Signs of Bogus History […]

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  42. ken benobi says:

    OH GOODIE! I was just looking for some professional counterpoint to an egg-head conservative I was debating history with….

    Can I just roll my blog up into yours and we call it even?!?!?

    THANKS MILLARD!

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  43. Tim says:

    :D

    My favorite confrontation with one of the “truthers” ended when she said, “Tim, I don’t deal in conspiracy theory… I deal in conspiracy FACT.” Oh well. – Tim

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  44. Ed Darrell says:

    “9/11 Truth Movement?” Those are the people who claim stuff like the World Trade Center was dynamited, and didn’t come down from the airplanes? That no airplane hit the Pentagon?

    Yeah, they’d be poster children for this Bogus History designation, if they had another 10% real history in ‘em.

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  45. Tim says:

    Ed, the 9/11 Truth Movement seems to qualify quite well. – Tim

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  46. […] Fillmore’s Bathtub posted a short essay — that you might want to read — discussing the signs of bogus history. A lot of those traits are shared by intelligent […]

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  47. Ed Darrell says:

    So, you don’t grant much credence to the claims of 1421? Or you think it’s a book that shows all seven signs and is still accurate?

    Alas, I’ve not found time to read it (still have 1491 on the to-read list, too).

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  48. Steve Shea says:

    OK, I admit to (a) having majored in history, and (b) really enjoying a book that manifests all seven of the signs, to varying degrees. It’s Gavin Menzies’ 1421 – the year China discovered the world (or -America, in the American version… why are we so effing provincial?).

    I enjoyed the book, but experienced the nagging feeling throughout the read that he protested too much.

    So a simplified version may be that all historical claims need to be run through a handy copy of Hamlet. That will net you (a) protestations of innocence are the signal-fires of guilty conscience – “Methinks he doth protest too much”; (b) kings are no better than commoners – “a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar”; (c) the good guy is not always all that good – witness the fate of Ophelia, and some kind of corollary about Laertes; and (d) men’s attitudes toward women change glacially, if at all.

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  49. I say, that History is written by either the one who changes History for their Purposes and is written from their Own Perspective with Persuasive Writing and persuasive colored terms in order to cloud the Thinking and to persuade to emotional Movement of the feelings of the reader, intended or to inform honestly, and there are examples of both generally on every subject which excites the anger or moral base of the Readers of the Culture and time in which these Informative and Persuasive Writings take place.

    The Media has always been the prime Mover, and I saw some very Influential Men mentioned in the comments and the post, such as Napoleon,

    Many talk about the French Revolution and how the aristocracy was Corrupt and their Morals were deplorable, however, when you look at the Mass of the Aristocracy which was obliberated and Guillotined by the Perpetrators of this travesty of Justice, and you realize and read how the Media, the Newspapers and the Living plays which kept the Populace Angry over such a long period of time, simplt to prolong the bloodshed and retain power over the People to continue a reign of terror, you can see, how out of control the perpetrators were and power mad and even blood thirsty, they were, they were not normal people but had to be madmen and Criminal Element only, yet glorified by the Revolution and its leaders at that time and even today, are glorified by a corrupt press.

    I notice that the press today, Television is even today, Corrupt in the Same manner and will Depose a man who is not really guilty of any more then some news men who obtained no real punishment for the same indiscretions except they did not pay 80 thousand dollars for the services of a Lady.

    The problem is that when they deposed the Governor of New York, they installed a Black Man as Governor and in the same time frame in Florida and Michigan, you have the use of an allegedly Too Early Dated Election in these states to Stop the Progress of two other Candidates via Cancelling the Results of these elections then, Validating One of the Remaing Candidates as the Coronation Intendent of the Kennediies by Edward Kennedy of Massachussets, seemingly Coordinated by Rich New Yorkers Retired in Florida and Rich Unions in Michigan, to Control the Time the ELections were to be held and perhaps only to Stop the Possible Election of White Candidates running for the Democratic Nominaation, thereby Invalidating the Votes of Floridians and Installing the Nominee of Choice of Retired New Yorker Financiers and Michigan Auto Unions, and all this at the exclusion of Florida Citizen Voters from the Process. So history is seemingly Full of Similar Seeming Conspiracies but then there are ususally not so many in a short Time period as this, the Installation of a New York Lieutenant Governor who happens to be Black and the Seeming attempt to Control the Elections of Michigan and Florida to put a Black Candidate for President in the Lead in the Democratic Convention, what do you think, quite a Coincidence isn’t it, …

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  50. harayz says:

    i afree with the first comment by Marion D. i think history are written by the winning party.. thats why i always say – party on!

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  51. Elvis says:

    History is interesting enough. Determining the motivating factors and emotions behind that history is far more interesting and diverse.

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  52. Cynthisa says:

    Of course, the problem is that “history” relies on TWO things: FACTS (actual observable occurances, like the World Trade Center towers falling down – indisputable) and CONTEXT (the why’s and who’s behind the events). Unfortunately, the contexts cannot always be determined with the kind of certainty (proof) that one expencts, demands even, in other fields, like science, law, medicine. Plus, the human perception of context is changable over time. In addition, the context ultimately attributed by historians, generally by CONSENSUS, may or may not corrolate with the “actual” motives of the participants in the historical events. These typically can only be inferred, and certainly not even “verified.” This, in my mind, is what makes humans so poor at assessing “recent” history. But, interesting, none the less.

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  53. Ed Darrell says:

    History is often questionable, but should always be questioned, if only the better to learn it.

    I haven’t found it yet, but I’ll bet we could find an event that carries all the seven signs of bogus history, but is truer than an arrow’s arc.

    So, I’ll keep reading, digging, and writing a little.

    Thanks, Marion.

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  54. Marion Delgado says:

    With great respect I must still insist that people like Michael Parenti are completely correct when they say history is a human, social process, that a disproportionate influence is felt by elite power, and that, frankly, distortions of history come about from systemic influences, expressed by actual people, and thus, often, including conspiracy. This is true even if, as seems to me to be the case, 9/10ths of conspiracy theories are outright nonsense, and 9/10ths of the remainder are marginally less plausible than what are (and these somewhat vary nation to nation and culture to culture) canon history.

    Scientists aren’t all that good as a body in judging the sociology of science (regardless of whether a postmodern absurdist like Steve Fuller says they are – even idiots and frauds can exploit correct points, just incorrectly). Historians, especially when specifics concern their own society, especially with a history that “matters,” aren’t the best judges of the sociology of history. It’s provable that the JFK assassination history was covered up. Obviously (even by the yardstick of whether promised investigations were made, hearings held, or sources made available) the first draft of 9/11 history has been whitewashed.

    One thing that would really help people trying to not avoid this elephant in the room yet not also be taken in by buncombe is to simply admit the awful likelihood that coverups and whitewashes work. Was it Napoleon who said that it was not necessary to hide the truth forever, just long enough? I would say if you hide it long enough, it is hidden forever. Because even if it’s “found” it will be questionable due to distance in time and competing stories.

    At any rate, sometimes you have to admit defeat, I think, and that you’ll never know with a high degree of confidence what has been obscured. I also think, on the other hand, that so much disinformation and elite obstruction actually exists sometimes that perhaps official history should be treated as partly legendary and digging for the roots and detection of patterns is warranted.

    In short, often history is so distorted that telling bogus from real is a presumption. History is not bunk, but it’s often questionable.

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