History is written by the idiots

The concept of history is very curious. as most of it is concerned about things that don’t actually exist, that is to say, events of the past. And the same is true about our expectations about the future. We can only really speak about the past and the future as causal projections of the present. When we say, for instance, that World War 2 started in 1939, we say this because we’re taking the existing evidence about these events (official records, memories, photographs, and so on) and extract from all this a timeline of events, which represents nothing more than a concretization of the causal relation between the evidence and the projected events.

In that sense, our concept of the past is very much an illusion, as much as our concept of the future. This is not to say that I don’t believe events actually happened, of course, but that our present perception of them is very much removed from the events themselves. So this is why, in the case of history, there is a great deal of leeway for delusions, illusions, lies and frauds to insinuate themselves in that gap between reality and knowledge. The idea of a fixed past is probably a brain delusion.

But the same is true about the present. We don’t have immediate access to events that are going on around the world. We rely on other people to tell us, and that supply chain can become a target of co-optation as well. So in fact we are very, very vulnerable to those people who control what we learn about the past and the present, simply because we have very little way to independently verify.

Now think about this. Where do you get your ideas about the past? We imagine specific things when we think about this or that era, where do these images come from? Let’s say, for instance, the “Wild West.” Most of our ideas about that period comes from movies. In fact, most of the things we think are trademarks of the “Wild West” were invented by movie people and have really nothing to do with the habits or events of that time, all the way from details (like cowboy hats) to the big picture of the portrayal of the “Wild West” as a wild, violent place. Of course, this portrayal serves the purposes of the ruling class in associating freedom and lawlessness with violence.

Another source of knowledge about history is schooling. A lot of what is taught about history is a lie, and a lot of vital things to teach in history is simply omitted. Furthermore, their whole approach to teaching history is teaching a timeline, not teaching the principles of why things happen or the principles moving the people you supposedly learn about. They have no interest in teaching history by applying principles to building blocks, the way than one would teach a language, an art or a science. To teach history in such a principled manner would require one to teach about freedom and exploitation, which is a taboo topic in a system which relies on exploitation every step of the way.

Finally, the way we explain history to each other puts the emphasis on individual figures (especially ruling class figures) and individual motivations. In fact, history is dominated by the actions of the people composing broad movements of class and ideology, and the principles that move those actions. But it is a sad attribute of the human race that we think using narratives, and that narratives are most interesting when they involve single individuals that we can identify with. In the end, this creates the whole manichean worldview I’ve discussed before. We look at the trees so closely that we don’t even realize the forest exists.

This also inculcates to people the belief that they can’t change anything, that change comes from some exterior determinism that one must then follow slavishly. If history is made by individuals with the power to do so, then we powerless masses must therefore participate in the system and try to back the right horse. This must be our only hope of salvation. The belief in a messiah figure or a god to atone for our own sins also participates in that feeling of powerlessness.

How do we get our ideas about the present? People get their ideas mainly from the news and television shows. The manipulation of public opinion by the media for ruling class interests is a topic in and of itself: Noam Chomsky has pretty much made it his political theme. Through semantics, selection and plain lying, television presents to us a vision of the world that reinforces our belief in the need for law and order, in a world that is getting always better thanks to political and technological progress, and reassures people by carefully omitting any facts that go contrary to the ruling ideology.

We can identify four main areas from which our ideas about the world outside of our little sphere of observation are derived: the first being our parents when we are children, the second our education, and the third the media that keeps us company (obviously there are also things like the opinions of our friends, but those are also derived the same way). Of these, education and the media occupy by far the greatest mind space. Our parenting influences our basic beliefs about our life and that of others, but does not generally fill out our mental space (except insofar as setting life goals like being “successful,” or getting married).

Now the education system and the media, being heavily dependent on both government and capitalism, are obviously not going to tell people the truth about the capital-democratic system we currently live under. The education system, being a coercive hierarchy, certainly cannot produce free individuals. The media, at least the part that is controlled by giant corporations and dependent on the power elite as its sources of news, approval and funding, cannot tell people the truth about the current state of our freedoms.

In fact, what they indoctrinate people into believing is quite the opposite. They have made people believe that we live in a classless, free society, that democracy and wars are justified by that freedom, that the police is there for us, that “the economy” serves our interests, that without authority there can be no unity of purpose, that group cohesion is more important than values, and so on and so forth. They make hierarchies so omnipresent that we cannot imagine life without them.

Most importantly, they tell us what the important current events are, and what to think about them. Not directly, most of the time (unless you listen to “pundits” or “demagogues”), but through the selection of 1. what is shown, 2. how it is described and 3. what is omitted. As Chomsky has showed, the end result is the manufacture of consent regarding whatever policy is being put on the table, anything from a new municipal bill to a new war.

We can’t talk only of the “manufacture of consent,” but rather of a whole manufactured world. But this is a necessary fact, you see. No matter what system we live under, the limits of individual perception and individual knowledge are intrinsic. The problem becomes, how much control do we have over the sources of this content?

This is why the Anarchist must be very careful in his selection of media. Television, for instance, is an untrustworthy oligarchy which has no interest in telling us the truth and plenty of reasons to lie. Even a suspicious individual can get indoctrinated by watching television shows, because the indoctrination is often subtle.

11 thoughts on “History is written by the idiots

  1. Azrael February 7, 2009 at 23:33

    Well said

  2. Db0 February 7, 2009 at 23:33

    Very true. One can be certain that the mainstream view of the world is false but most people are so immersed in it that it’s impossible to see outside the box. It’s very similar to the way a religion works to tell the truth.

    Once you take the “red pill” however, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to go back to the blissful ignorance you had before.

    I’ve stopped watching television 10 years ago and I never looked back or regretted one moment of that. But this indoctrination goes much much further than simple television. It comes into video games, movies, advertisements etc. I came to this realization when I fired up civilization 4 lately and checked what the representation of Communists is like. Anarchist don’t even come into the picture.

    An even more telling example. Check how many stories and movies have good kings and benevolent dictators, and how many have working communes of some sort or a world which has Anarchism/Communism and isn’t dystopic.

  3. Francois Tremblay February 8, 2009 at 04:00

    In Civ 2 you can play Anarchism, but then you get no scientific developments, making it virtually unplayable. What a bummer.

    I don’t watch television either, the only stuff I watch is from the Internet (specific shows).

  4. k February 14, 2009 at 07:46

    Human Beings are selective ‘interpreters’ of their reality. After the formation of our core values during childhood imprinting, we generally pick those things which reinforce our self and reject what does not. The State and its linked agencies like to do most of the early imprinting so that the kids are held for life.

    History is selective interpretations from a particular point of view. So is Science.

  5. Tym Machine February 23, 2009 at 01:36

    History is not only written by idiots, it is made for the idiots themselves who use this history to foster their evil plans for the future.

    Plans are for idiots as well as pointed out by the Joker himself in Batman the return.

  6. Involute Mirage March 1, 2009 at 11:07

    Actually, according to Plato (after his visit with some Egyption Priests)he found out that history is constantly re-written. About every 12 thousand years or so, the earth really works like a living clock, so that mankind is forced to start over again like children, forgetting what happened before us.

  7. Rabbi Chossen One March 1, 2009 at 11:51

    I was born in NYC in 1952. My mother was murdered in a Flabber Gas Chamber by evil Germans a mere 6 months before I was born. Shortly afterward in 1941my entire family was rounded up & sent to Camp Feiertag along with 6 million other Jews from the Bronx and Long Island. I was separated from my family, denied even the most basic creature comforts such as soda&snacks,and forced to bathe in mass gravies. I was in a state of shock. I could hardly eat or sleep and to make matters worse, I had misplaced my cell phone charger. I felt powerless. This coming on the heels of a Hamas rocket attack that had left a scratch in my driveway, left me feeling kind of sad. So I ask fans of the Holocaust to send me huge amounts of money to help a whining victim of the Kosher Armamaggedon Holohaux Minstral Show get over this injustice commited by those evil ZIONazi’s. Cash is prefered, but I will accept checks, money orders and precious metals.

    This story is meant to be ridiculous satire, just as the Jewish Holocaust is ridiculous and does not stand up to mathematical or scientific scrutiny. If the Germans had started murdering Jews at the very first second that Germany invaded Poland and kept killing them every second, every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and did not stop until the very second that Germany surrendered, They would have had to kill 5 Jews every two seconds in order to reach 6 million. If they only killed for 12 hours a day then that would be 10 Jews every 2 seconds, or 300 each minute. That is 18,000 each hour or 432,000 per day. The Jewish population of Germany at the start of WWII was about 600,000. In 2 days more Jews would have been killed than actually exsisted.

    “Truth needs no laws to support it. Throughout history, only lies and liars resort to the courts to enforce adherence to dogma.”

  8. ehswan March 1, 2009 at 12:31

    One thing I,ve noticed about popular tv shows is their tendency to promote infantalism in ways that are very funny and strangely appealing. The underlieing message seems to be we’re all infantile and that’s ok. 30 rock, Earl, the office, you name it.

  9. Another Mindless Drone March 1, 2009 at 12:53

    Everyone has to get their endorphins from somewhere. Society provides many sources for these and in mass quantitites. So, everyone in society is addicted to something — food, their job, sex, TV, games, money, etc., etc. Addicts don’t live in the real world and hardly care to find it. History means nothing to the addicted slave.

    Karl Marx was wrong in much of what he wrote, but he was right when he said “religion is the opiate of the people.” Truth is, it’s no longer just religion that’s the opiate, it’s just about everything that comes into your visual field. Let it linger there long enough, and you’ll be mesmerized and addicted too.

    What are YOU addicted to?

  10. sijepuis March 2, 2009 at 07:44

    See also, The Struggle for History, lecture by Michael Parenti, who describes the work of an historian as a wholly political act.

    Fascinating, powerful talk [run time 1’30”].

  11. maggie March 25, 2009 at 20:22

    very true. its cool to see there are different opinions and get resources to learn more.

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