Thursday, October 21, 2010


“A good narrative trumps good history about nine times out of ten.”

Recently several people have written about a topic I've had on the back burner for a long time, waiting for enough information to do it myself. They did the research and found the data and saved me the trouble - and the scoop, unfortunately. Which is probably for the best, my reach and media attention is much less than others, so it wouldn't get as much notice.

So instead I'm going to pull together posts from several different people: Ed Driscoll, Kathy Shaidle, and Chicago Boyz, compiling their information. What is this about? Ed Driscoll's title says it well: Everything you know about the last 100 years is wrong. I started to notice about ten years ago that story after story I knew all about ended up being not exactly accurate; that things I grew up presuming or was taught or read about were inaccurate.

For example, the Kent State Massacre. I already have written about how the famous image was manipulated to remove a fence because it made the image seem more closed in and less broad and encompassing:

Kent State Photo Manipulation
Neat trick eh? But that's not the only myth. John Mangles writes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
A noisy, violent altercation and four pistol shots took place about 70 seconds before Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on antiwar protesters at Kent State University, according to a new analysis of a 40-year-old audiotape of the event.

The discovery adds new perspective to -- and raises new questions about -- one of the signature events of the 20th century, after four decades of spirited discussion and research.
That's right, the hippies shot first. Oh, but that's not all. The Chicago Boyz give a bit more detail:
...the shootings at Kent State were preceded by a month of increasing violence. The “peaceful sit-in” of the ROTC building was violent with doors kicked in, desks and filing cabinets destroyed, burned or tossed through windows. ROTC officers and students as well as school officials were physically attacked. All this culminated in a riot the night before the shootings in downtown Kent, that resulted in broken windows, arson, stonings and beatings that overwhelmed the Kent police force. That pattern of increasing violence and destruction, not the governor’s ideological opposition to the protesters’ support of communist goals, caused the governor to call out the National Guard. The violence continued the day of the shootings with rock throwing and shouts of “kill, kill, kill”. The Guardsmen were on edge because of the violence, not the ideology.
These weren't peace-loving, kindly hippies putting flowers in guns and preaching love and non violence. They were ripping Kent State to pieces, setting it on fire and shouting violence. They were hardcore leftist, some of the leaders total communists trying to incite national revolution. The National Guard shouldn't have opened fire, but they had a lot more reason than we've been told. That's the myth that we believed: peaceful, kindly hippie kids were shot for no reason by fascist monsters, which is absolutely false.

So here's the rest of the myths; things we need to have the real story about, things the left has lied about for decades creating a false narrative about the past, about the icons they adore, and about the hippie era especially.
W. Joseph Campbell called Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism, and Ed Driscoll interviewed him for Pajamas Media. Here's a few of the myths he uncovered:
  • William Randolph Hearst didn't start the Spanish-American war, despite Citizen Kane. There zero evidence, and Hearst always denied it.
  • Kennedy didn't win the race based on his performance at the televised debate with Nixon, he only got a 2% bump in the polls, which is within the margin of error.
  • Johnson probably never said "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost America;" he wasn't even watching the news when Cronkite treacherously declared the Vietnam war lost despite all evidence to the contrary. Johnson continued to be upbeat about the war and condemned people who called for withdrawal.
  • For that matter, the Tet Offensive was a disastrous, ghastly defeat for the North Vietnamese Army. The US military totally obliterated them, reversing their temporary gains in a matter of days, and the VC all but ceased to exist from that point on.
  • The press didn't bring Nixon down. Even Bob Woodward calls that horse(bleep). It was the special prosecutor and the supreme court, not the press, but the "heroic journalist" narrative is too sweet for the media to pass up.
  • Following the Watergate scandal, there was supposedly a doubling of journalism students, making reporters hot for the first time in history... except that never happened. There was a very slight gain, but the doubling had already taken place.
  • And then there's the myth that started me doubting all the things I'd been told: McCarthy. The movie Good Night and Good Luck portrayed Murrow as a heroic, crusading reporter fighting the evil anti communists, but he was in fact an anti-communist himself who worked on a movie after McCarthy was already out of power to warn of communist infiltration. Murrow didn't take down McCarthy; he was actually late in the game piling on McCarthy and congress was investigating McCarthy already.
  • For more on McCarthy and what really happened - and the validity of his concerns, if not his methods, even left-leaning Slate has mythbusting on it.
Want more? Oh yes, I have a lot more.
  • Michael Moore's entire movie Roger And Me was based on his not being able to get into talk to the president of GM... but he did, and just didn't bother showing that in the film. Moore is a serial liar and hypocrite.
  • Canada's Montreal Massacre, painted by women's studies groups as an indictment of masculinity in general fails to mention that the killer was Muslim, and the men failed to come to the rescue of the women, even after the man left the room - hardly a sign of excess testosterone, as Mark Steyn notes.
  • Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty.
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were guilty.
  • Alger Hiss was guilty.
  • Rachel Carson was wrong, perhaps deliberately
Exposing Feminism has another great run down of myths, these being ones the leftist feminist movement tries to tell us, including:
  • One in Four women in college have not been the victim of attempted rape
  • Women do not earn merely 75 cents per 1 dollar men earn - in fact now, they are doing better in terms of employment than men
  • 30% of women's visits to emergency rooms do not come from domestic abuse
  • The "rule of thumb" does not refer to the size of a rod that can be used to beat women legally.
  • Girls have not in any way been short changed in school, are not called upon less in classrooms, and do not need government programs to help them achieve, as they were doing far better than boys academically even before all the schemes to help them.
  • Girls are not taught to put up with sexual harassment in schools, nor are they training grounds for mistreating girls.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. From Hurricane Katrina to Florida 2000, the myths are all around us. The big difference lately is that, unable to monopolize the news reporting and public discussion, the left can't keep their myths on top. AGW, the Iraq invasion, Bush AWOL, the list goes on and on just in the last 10 years of myths the left has tried to build and seen ripped to shreds by the truth that is so easy to find in the internet. Some of them have clung on despite the facts around them - Iraq is one good example - but most of the time they have to give way to the truth.

What about you, what things have you always believed to be true that you found out later wasn't exactly that way or was completely mythological? What stories have you read and learned later were false?

For me, I've learned to sit back and wait when something comes out, because like the old story about enemies, when you've got the internet, eventually the truth will come floating by.


eric said...

"What about you, what things have you always believed to be true that you found out later wasn't exactly that way or was completely mythological?"

Austin City Limits is not filmed on a beautiful hillside overlooking downtown Austin. It's a soundstage. Granted, I was like 12 years old when I discovered this fact, but it still haunts me.

On a more serious note, the history of the colonial British and U.S. government's involvement with the Indian tribes is much more complicated and nuanced than what is taught in the classroom. To properly understand it you really have to look at relations tribe by tribe. You can't really talk broadly at all about how the government treated "the Indians" because each case had its own set of circumstances, doublecrosses, and injustices perpetuated by one side or the other, or both.

Likewise, we are led to believe we live in a sort of utopian time of ethnic diversity and racial toleration, but as I read through the history of the mostly lawless Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) of the 19th century, I see story after story of a widely diverse ethnic population living in neighborly harmony.

Also, my dad always told me that werewolves hide in the bushes on foggy mornings if there was a full moon the night before. Turns out that was a flat-out lie.

Christopher Taylor said...

Just because you haven't run into a werewolf yet doesn't mean dad was lying!

Anonymous said...

Many years back I had an economics professor present a mini-lecture that has always stuck with me. He asked the class of roughly 150 students for a show of hands of anyone who had ever been witness to an event that they had subsequently seen reported on the news. Thirty or so students raised their hands. He then asked, of those students, for a show of hands if the news reporting got all their facts correct. No hands.

He urged the class to resist the all too human impulse to trust the news in an inverse proportion to our knowledge of whatever subject is being reported on. The less you know about a subject the more you tend to believe what is reported. This was demonstrated most recently to me by various co-workers who can't figure out the fax machine or the coffee maker but were suddenly experts on blow-out prevention and something called "top kill", a phrase that too many people just loved to say.

The professor told the students, especially the younger ones, that as they gain experience in life they'll notice that anytime the news reports on something they happen to know about, the reporting will invariably contain errors, often grievous errors. And therefore if we have no knowledge about what is being reported we would be better served to assume that much of it is incorrect.

My two primary hobbies are flying and shooting. And even with my limited knowledge of each I have yet to see any reporting on either that is substantially correct. So I doubt that the reporting on events in Pakistan, for example, is suddenly to the level of accuracy where I can parade myself around the water-cooler confident in my knowledge of current events.

Not that that doesn't prevent a seeming majority of people from behaving just that way.

LordSomber said...

Anon 6:13, it sounds like your professor was well aware of the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.