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Is it possible to untie history from propaganda?

 
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 08:46 pm
Is it possible to untie history from propaganda?

I've got some of my own thoughts on the issue but I wanted to open the floor to some discussion first.

Any thoughts?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 3,371 • Replies: 36
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Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 09:23 pm
@rhinogrey,
Of course you can entangle history from propaganda, but propaganda has had much influence on history (and will through the future years until the mass recognizes it for its self-serving interests). I think separating the two is key to having the most true historical account as possible.

History is self-serving when it is written by the people that shaped history. Only when history can be detached from interest can it be truly objective.
0 Replies
 
RDRDRD1
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Jul, 2009 10:23 pm
@rhinogrey,
History requires aging - at least three or four generations before the interests that cloak it in self-serving spin, propaganda if you like, fade enough for truth to emerge. I think future generations will have vastly more original source material to comb through to separate fact from fiction. There will be more work (computer aided of course) but I think the sheer volume of information will offer a clearer understanding of reality.

Information isn't as tightly controlled today making it much harder to define historical reality within a history maker's lifetime. Without being able to cast the narrative earlly that power falls into the hands of others.

Look how much the accepted history of the Second World War has changed since I went to high school in the 60's. Many of the early "truths" have been proved barely more than myths and now lie in the debunked discard pile.
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Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jul, 2009 05:15 am
@rhinogrey,
No, I don't think one can ever completely separate history (assuming we're talking about what *really* happened) from propaganda - not totallyl. But I think that along with this, a few clarifications are in order.
[INDENT] 1. The distortions that do exist - between what happened and what didn't, etc. - aren't just propaganda-based. I think there are a lot of reasons for those non-correlations; probably the most prevalent is perspective (wherein X is recorded by "Bill" and Bill only has his knowledge to go by - he hasn't seen "it all", doesn't know "it all" and only is privy to what he believes he knows). [/INDENT][INDENT] 2. One can get to a relatively "safe" place for historical knowledge; but like how we get our Daily News, the key is going to different sources from different perspectives to try and gain an "overall" idea from the many pieces. [/INDENT][INDENT] 3. Even if you and I stood there, way back when, with pen and clipboard in hand right in the fray of "that" event, we'd still not see it all. Years later, as the 'historians' came out of the woodwork they'd write something else, with slightly different tones and perspectives. This is the bane of history - that it relies on human perspective and interpretation (again, illustrating how it's inconsistencies aren't necessarily malevolently-propaganda based in nature).
[/INDENT][INDENT] 4. One example that comes to mind are events from the Crusades; I've read no less than 3 full books on the subject and several references from other sources (including eyewitness journal accounts, archeological results and the like). So I feel like I have a pretty good 'feel' for what all went down; but no, I won't ever REALLY know. I wasn't there and it likely wouldn't matter if I would - I'd still have only pieces.
[/INDENT] So I guess what I"m trying to say is: No, we can't ever get ALL of the EXACTness of any portion of history. Nor even from the most attentive and well-intentioned sources is completely-accuracy forthcoming. But this is a far cry from saying it's worthless; all things in our world that we associate with "knowing the truth" are as flawless as we'd like them to be.

Thanks - hope this adds well.
GoshisDead
 
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Reply Wed 22 Jul, 2009 12:46 pm
@Khethil,
History is propoganda. The very fact that it is written, filmed, recorded, by people in one era and revised and/or consumed by people in another makes it so. Same problem that happens with archaeology or any other material X that is diachronically consumed. It is seen through the propoganda ideals of people that did not experience it.
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jgweed
 
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Reply Wed 22 Jul, 2009 01:46 pm
@rhinogrey,
Critical, or academic, history seems a far cry from propaganda, since the purpose of the former is to provide (following commonly accepted rules and procedures aiming as far as possible for impartiality) as accurate an account as possible.
One the other hand, propaganda's purpose is to, by any means including falsification and slanting of evidence, promote a particular, mostly political, cause. Thus the goal and purpose of both would appear quite different, and an important distinction becomes blurred.

Just because historians obtain new data that causes them to revise our interpretation of an event, period, or person--- or indeed that one accepts that there can be legitimate differences of interpretation of existing data--- does this qualify their intellectual effort to be condemned and dismissed as propaganda, with all the attending negative connotations of Communist and Nazi ideologues shouting their slogans to the masses?

To ask of the discipline of history that it provide complete and absolute answers to the narration and explanation of past human events is to demand of it something that no human endeavor can possibly achieve in any field.
To then dismiss it as useless because it is subject to revisions and new perspectives and fails thereby to provide that surety of answer, is to give up the attempt to understand the past at any level, and to let propaganda win.
richrf
 
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Reply Wed 22 Jul, 2009 02:59 pm
@jgweed,
Hi,

I don't know about using the concept of propaganda to describe all types of history, however I do believe that all history is entangled with the point-of-views of both the writer and the reader. Points-of-views can be influenced by a whole host of factors. But I do not think that history alone is influenced in this way. All fields of interest are influenced as far as I can tell. So, for me, history is just another way to understand how people view the world and what may have brought us to where we are currently situated. I believe history is no better or no worse in describing who we are, just a different way of looking at it.

Rich
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Philosopher Jay
 
  1  
Reply Sat 25 Jul, 2009 01:14 pm
@rhinogrey,
Hi rhinogrey,

I think we reach a Kantian antinomy here.
Quote:


1. A. History can be separated from propaganda
B. But pretending that propaganda is objective history is the stongest kind of propaganda. Who is to judge what is objective history and how can we be sure if they are not just propagandists saying that their history is objective.
C. Therefore it seems that history cannot be separated.
Quote:

2. A. History cannot be separated from propaganda.
B. But Certainly the propagandist who leaves out material facts and reorders them to fit conclusions cannot be the same as the reporter who includes all of them and gets the order right.
C. Thereofore it seems that history can be separated from propaganda.
Quote:
3. See #1.
Perhaps we need to be more concrete in our exploration of history/propaganda.

This reminds me of some debates in the Soviet Union in the 1930's. Certain Soviet writers suggested that there was no objective ideology apart from class ideology and language itself was ideology. One may see their position as suggesting that there was no history only propaganda.

Comrade Stalin corrected them and insisted that language was outside of class struggle. He promoted the idea of the objectivity of language beyond class ideology. He also upheld the idea that history was objective and not to be confused with propaganda.

Warmly,

Philosopher Jay





rhinogrey;56451 wrote:
Is it possible to untie history from propaganda?

I've got some of my own thoughts on the issue but I wanted to open the floor to some discussion first.

Any thoughts?
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 25 Jul, 2009 01:29 pm
@Philosopher Jay,
Any presentation of history will be seen as propaganda by some viewers. So, the historian's job is to use the propaganda of the past to give a round account of what happened.
0 Replies
 
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Sat 25 Jul, 2009 06:25 pm
@rhinogrey,
Under Comrade Stalin, a great deal of effort was made by the Party to deliberately alter historical records, to the point where "unpersons" were erased from contemporary photographs, and the "official" history was periodically rewritten and earlier accounts were withdrawn and destroyed. The attempt was made to make history serve as propaganda and to prevent any attempt to allow an independent and "scientific" history to be possible. So it seems that Joe was able to distinguish history from propaganda.

Perhaps a way out of the semantic intermingling of history with propaganda is to ask, whether "critical" history (at least from Ranke onwards) can be subsumed under the Idea of science, so that:

1. there can exist at least some public data (even if known indirectly);
2. accepted processes and rules govern both the viewing and the interpretation of that (actual) data allowing us to distinguish between an historical account and one that failed to live up to those standards;
3. and furthermore, this historical method aims at, as far is possible, the bracketing of the influences of relative conditions in which the historian operates so as to distance itself from accounts of the past that are made for different purposes;
4. and moreover, inductive interpretive theories are distinguished from the data on which they are based, and are subject to verification and peer discussion.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 25 Jul, 2009 09:02 pm
@jgweed,
I don't think anyone would really want a detached, objective, "scientific" history. History is not a long string of facts, that's not the half of it. History is interpretation and narrative, that's the bulk of it.
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gentryman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Aug, 2009 09:54 am
@rhinogrey,
History is and will always be subjective. One can't help viewing any given aspect of history through a personal and contemporary prism, that is to say, influenced by factors such as prevalent perspective in society on that aspect, one's own ideologies, quantity of hindsight, and so forth.

So the question is not whether history can be separated from propaganda, but whether fact can be separated from opinion in a historical sense.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Aug, 2009 09:59 am
@rhinogrey,
rhinogrey;56451 wrote:
Is it possible to untie history from propaganda?

I've got some of my own thoughts on the issue but I wanted to open the floor to some discussion first.

Any thoughts?


Sure. As someone once said, "We know that in 1914 Germany invaded Belgium, and that Belgium did not invade Germany".
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 07:21 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;85782 wrote:
Sure. As someone once said, "We know that in 1914 Germany invaded Belgium, and that Belgium did not invade Germany".


Which is fine and true, but that's not the work of an historian - that's the obvious understanding of anyone who happened to open up a newspaper.

The specifics, the details, the motivations, the alternatives, the social impact - there is the work of the historian.

The detached and objective account is surface. The depth of the oceans is not contained in the surface of the oceans, nor is the depth of history.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 07:43 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;85988 wrote:
Which is fine and true, but that's not the work of an historian - that's the obvious understanding of anyone who happened to open up a newspaper.

The specifics, the details, the motivations, the alternatives, the social impact - there is the work of the historian.

The detached and objective account is surface. The depth of the oceans is not contained in the surface of the oceans, nor is the depth of history.


That's not the complete work of the historian, but the historian must get his facts straight before he interprets them. And, so, the historian should not propagandize the facts. But many historians have not even refrained from that.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 08:09 am
@kennethamy,
History rocks!

Yes there are tons of inaccuracies out there; so what, all that says is that History is like any other thing humans do. Besides, we can only separate fact from fiction just so much (especially for events and people long gone). But history can teach us so much more than facts; perspective, trends, mistakes, failures, lies, conspiracies, the little-known heroes, the perpetual nature of human behavior, the futility of conquest, the evolution of cultures and social trends and so much more.

We can contextualize our own experiences having learned that those long gone "aren't so different after all". We can, over time, watch the pendulum swing - way back when just as it does now. Our heritage, the slightings of human bias, traditions, progression and regression of values... on and on it goes.

So whether those tidbits pro-ported to be fact, really are, is only a minute - virtually insignificant portion. I guess what I'm trying to say here is this:[INDENT]What is accepted as fact - as we learn here daily - is a matter of perspective, the question asked, context and the motives we sometimes unfairly attribute to the person reporting. History's lessons go so much deeper, and richer, than this.
[/INDENT]Be critical; Sure!
Be skeptical; By all means!

But don't fall into the trap that says if fact number 2,339,299 of this particular event is in question, the entire message is therefore without worth - that's two-dimensional thinking (something I think the philosopher should always be on their guard against). I read somewhere, god I wish I could remember where, another thought to consider here: "... don't my lies tell you more about myself than any truth could?"

Just stuffs to ponder. Thanks
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Aug, 2009 11:48 pm
@Khethil,
kennethamy;85993 wrote:
That's not the complete work of the historian,


Sure: most time is spent reading widely on whatever subject the historian is covering. Before you can interpret you must have something to interpret in the first place.

kennethamy;85993 wrote:
And, so, the historian should not propagandize the facts. But many historians have not even refrained from that.


I agree, but then again we have to ask what it is to "propagandize" the facts. Some people would call Zenn's work or Thuchman's work propaganda, yet simultaneously read Kissinger's accounts of the Nixon White House as Bible truth.
0 Replies
 
Sorryel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Oct, 2009 07:27 am
@rhinogrey,
rhinogrey;56451 wrote:
Is it possible to untie history from propaganda?

I've got some of my own thoughts on the issue but I wanted to open the floor to some discussion first.

Any thoughts?


Most of history will always be free of any taint of propaganda because most of history covers things that most people don't care about.
For example, Wittgenstein's earliest intellectual interest was apparently in giant kites, but this is of no interest to most people so we can get a perfectly clear and direct account of Wittgenstein's early kite-flying adventures.

Amazon.com: Wittgenstein Flies a Kite: A Story of Models of Wings and Models of the World: Susan G. Sterrett: Books
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Oct, 2009 11:38 am
@Sorryel,
Most significant history is subject to political bias. I'm not well read on kites, but otherwise, people can't help but argue their political perspective. Myself included.
Sorryel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Oct, 2009 06:21 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;97214 wrote:
Most significant history is subject to political bias. I'm not well read on kites, but otherwise, people can't help but argue their political perspective. Myself included.


It's all in the word significant. If its just a question of what actually happened and why, then outside of some well-hashed cases you're fine in terms of just getting the story of what happened. To give another example, the actual history of the Falklands War is pretty clear and you're likely only to encounter propaganda around the topic of whether HMS Conqueror should or should not have sunk the Belgrano. The Belgrano is as far as I know the only "significant" (ie much-discussed) incident of the war.
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