Dear National Security Establishment, Please stop your collective freak-out about North Korea. The power of that country’s weapons lies mainly in our inability to tolerate any risk whatsoever.
False information gains strength from its roots in stories that make sense to a lot of people; mow down the latest false facts and more will soon sprout until we address those stories themselves—and the reasons people believe them. – Paul, J. Croce, “What We Can Learn from Fake News,” History News Network, July 23, 2017, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166400.
Jeet Heer’s provocative commentary in the New Republic is worth a read: “America Has Always Been Angry and Violent”. The historical rhetoric he offers is startling. I definitely need to read more U.S. history.
I’ve been off RSS readers for a while, in part because of Google’s exit from the game, but also because of information overload. Thinking about using it again and revisiting some old stomping grounds in the blogosphere, I found Dan Cohen’s relevant comments on Ann Blair’s Too Much to Know. Seems I am in good company with my occasional ignoring of information—ignoring that I prefer to think won’t lead to, might even prevent, ignorance. I treat Twitter rather cavalierly too, as if it were a place to hang out, learn… Read more Information, Sociability, Reality Check →
If we pass around quotes on images without even a hint of the quotes’ origins, aren’t we part of the problem? #socialmediabehavior
The polarizing contemporary debate on science in the United States could be extraordinarily interesting for historians of knowledge, if it were occurring in the past. Still, if we could divert… Read more The History of Knowledge and Contemporary Discourse on Science →
“How do the early days of the Trump administration look like the Third Reich? Historian Richard Evans [an important historian of Nazi Germany] weighs in. Interview by Isaac Chotiner, Slate, Feb. 10, 2017.
The question might still seem hyperbolic to many, but sober, historically informed analysis along such lines can be informative for understanding both present and past.
No really, Laurel Leff wants to know. This isn’t a poltical-rhetorical question but something bigger. What are we to make of the president’s recent nod to Holocaust denial? We need to consider the matter in an open, fearless, and dispassionate way, but how? “For those of us who teach and research the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, the Trump administration’s refusal to mention Jews in a statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day has been both horrifying and confusing.” Read Leff’s whole piece, and if you haven’t read Deborah Lipstadt on why “Holocaust… Read more What’s Going On? →
All administrations lie, but what we are seeing here is an attack on credibility itself.
The Russian dissident and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov drew upon long familiarity with that process when he tweeted: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”
The following piece contains an important error, which I have highlighted in yellow below. I have corrected the record in a follow-up post. In the USSR, during certain periods, key individuals were erased from photographs and history when they fell out of favor. Trotsky was perhaps the most famous example. Such attempts to falsify images and textbooks for political ends went further, however. Historical reality itself—not just its interpretation and instruction—needed to bend to the regime’s will. Who knew that such crude reality-bending tools would be used in the United… Read more Governmental Data Erasure →
There is an infectious simplicity about this film, which rings true politically in these times, even if the history it tells was more complicated.
Asked whether federal workers are dissenting in ways that go beyond previous party changes in the White House, Tom Malinowski, who was President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said, sarcastically: “Is it unusual? . . . There’s nothing unusual about the entire national security bureaucracy of the United States feeling like their commander in chief is a threat to U.S. national security. That happens all the time. It’s totally usual. Nothing to worry about.”
Interesting comment today by Cameron Blevins:
History and its Limits under Trump
Being a historian right now feels like being kept awake through brain surgery.
—Elizabeth Catte on Twitter, January 28, 2017
Am still shaking my head over the new administration’s discriminatory ban on Muslims entering the United States. It was no surprise after the hateful rhetoric of the election season, but announcing it on Holocaust Remembrance Day? And not mentioning Jews in a statement about the Holocaust? I wish I could call these actions tone-deaf, but they feel more intentional and sinister than that, even if the more apt historical parallels are the U.S. rejection of Jews fleeing Nazism and the internment of Japanese-Americans as an entire class of people during the Second World War.
“But Hitler was a fixated ideologue with a strong party organization, while Trump is an opportunistic narcissist driven above all by the need for adulation. Hitler was the ‘little corporal,’ the man of the people, who feigned austerity, while Trump is a billionaire who flaunts his wealth and luxurious life-style. Ultimately, Trump seems far more a hybrid of Berlusconi and Putin, potentially merging kleptocracy and autocracy, than the reincarnation of an ideologically driven, war-mongering, and genocidal dictator.” “I would suggest that a major source of our unease — beyond Trump’s… Read more From the historian who brought us ‘Ordinary Men’ →