Saturday, March 13, 2010

Whoever writes the history books

Winston Churchill once observed that the history books are written by the victors in a conflict, but I sometimes wonder if even he appreciated the extent to which the causality can run both ways. Conservapedia has edited the Treaty of Tripoli to make it appear that the United States was founded as a Christian theocracy.

Why bother even to note this? Surely everyone knows that Conservapedia is a biased unreliable source. The bias is proudly heralded even in its very name. It would be easier to be blase about this if not for the fact that Conservapedia is just the tip of the iceberg. It is not out of the question, if current trends continue, that factual objective history will become more and more inaccessible. After all, I have never seen the original Treaty of Tripoli. The only reason I have to believe that it even exists, let alone that it says what it says is that I have never seen the claims of its existence and its content challenged.

Until now.

I can dismiss this challenge because I can remember a world where there was historical consensus about the Treaty of Tripoli. But imagine what it might be like for someone born today. They might well grow up in a world where half -- maybe even more than half -- of the sources available to them say that the Treaty of Tripoli says what Conservapedia says it says, and that any claims to the contrary are a liberal plot to undermine the foundations of the nation. How would a person growing up in such a world be expected to sort out the truth? (For that matter, how can we be sure that we ourselves are not growing up in such a world?)

Farfetched? Consider that the Texas State Board of Education recently decided to make some changes to the curriculum, including removing Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment from history classes, and placing more emphasis on "The strong Judeo-Christian influences on the nation’s Founding Fathers."

This is not some random right-wing web site. This is the State of Texas.

I fear that George Orwell may have been more prescient than anyone ever imagined.

9 comments:

lordbap said...

Ron, I've been a lurker for quite a while now, was wondering if you ever considered writing a short book on your take on politics, and hints toward conspiracy theories. I don't want to suggest what you should do, I only say that if you wrote 10,000 words and made no attempt to stay on topic, I would be first in line to read it.

Ron said...

Thanks, that's very flattering. But what would a book do that Rondam Ramblings doesn't?

lordbap said...

You have it in you to write a book. A blog is different.

If you have enough cash (I think your ten million+ should suffice), why not do what most appeals to you? Lay it all out on paper, even if it's inflammatory. You have nothing to lose.

You obviously have strong opinions on dicey matters. I want to read about them, and I don't really wish to read short blog posts. Or 10k of them.

lordbap said...
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Ron said...

> You have it in you to write a book.

I have it in me to do lots of things. But there are only so many hours in a lifetime.

> If you have enough cash (I think your ten million+ should suffice), why not do what most appeals to you?

What makes you so sure that what most appeals to me is not sitting on the beach drinking margaritas?

I am very happy to share my opinions about things, and even more happy when someone listens. But writing a book is a non-trivial undertaking. Writing a book that doesn't suck is an even more non-trivial undertaking. And getting a book published, whether it sucks or not, is more non-trivial still. But I'll make a deal with you: you find me a publisher, I'll write a book.

(I actually have outlines for two books, one novel (which I originally wrote as a screenplay -- if you want to read it send me an email) and one about programming. But honestly, I have no idea what I would write about if I were going to try to do a book about politics. Notwithstanding my strong opinions about certain issues, I just don't know that much about it.)

> Lay it all out on paper, even if it's inflammatory. You have nothing to lose.

It's not true that I have nothing to lose. In fact, I'm pretty sure that some of the things I've written here in Rondam Ramblings have been fairly costly to me in terms of lost opportunities. The mega-memes are watching :-)

lordbap said...
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Ron said...

20 hours, eh? Not asking much are you.

Let me see what I can do.

> What's it about?

It's a mystery thriller with a biology theme. Like I said, send me an email and you can read the screenplay version.

Anonymous said...

There has been a lot more of taking religion out of schools than putting it in. Why not write about that?

Ron said...

Religion is a drug. It doesn't belong in schools any more than any other drug.