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.
Following the sterling example of Robert Park, 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 Park’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. If it’s a claim that should be reported to authorities — say the police, to arrest criminals — that report did not occur.
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; often it is so anecdotal it qualifies as urban legend (see Jan Brunvand).
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.