Re.: Falsifying history

Chris Brady chris_brady at
Fri Nov 10 11:49:40 MST 2000

Engels is more concise and "useful" but just to follow up: the current
issue of History and Theory presents a couple of essays about
falsification, obscuration, and mystification.
Here is the abstract for one of them:

Telling More: Lies, Secrets, and History
History and Theory, Theme Issue 39 (December, 2000), 11-22
This essay argues that secrets and lies are not forms of withholding
information but forms by which information is valorized. Lies are
constructed: what is to be lied about, what a lie is to consist of, how
it is to be told, and whom it is to be told to, all reveal a social
imaginary about who thinks what and what constitutes credibility.
Secrets are negotiated: continual decisions about whom to tell, how much
to tell, and whom not to tell describe social worlds, and the shape and
weight of interactions therein. All of this makes lies and secrets
extraordinarily rich historical sources. We might not see the truth
distorted by a lie or the truth hidden by a secret, but we see the ideas
and imaginings by which people disclose what should not be made public,
and how they should carry out concealing one narrative with another.
Such insights involve a step back from the project of social history, in
which an inclusive social narrative is based on experience and
individuals' ability to report it with some reliability, and suggests
that historians need to look at social imaginings as ways to understand
the ideas and concerns about which people lie and with which people
construct new narratives that are not true. The study of secrets,
however, links the study of social imaginings with the project of social
history, as the valorization of information that results in the
continual negotiation and renegotiation of secrets shows individuals and
publics imagining the experiences labeled as secret because of the
imagined power of a specific version of events.

AS for myself (i.s., Chris Brady),
I might introduce the notion of "social conceptualization" as a critical
factor, insofar as in the capital of capital, i.e., the USA, the masses
have little concept of socioeconomic classes.  That factor has immense
value to the class in power.

The US population remains blithely ignorant of certain "social
conceptualizations" (except for the most euphemistic and therefore not
true) of any of many versions of specific grand and more discrete
events, in particular for example 1) the invasion of the Americas by
Europeans, and 2) the Smithsonian's capitulation to junk the Enola Gay
exhibit in the face of reactionary pressures.  However, if we insist on
shedding light on the truth some try to hide, if we keep on keepin on,
we will set the truth free. Witness the portrayal of Christopher
Columbus fifty years ago in children's literature versus how his
adventure is portrayed today.  (Actually I found it difficult to read
some of those maudlin accounts without laughing.  They come across now
like Parson Weem's apochryphal anecdote of the child George Washington
and The Cherry Tree).

Chris Brady

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