Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The History of the World, Up Until Now.

The Death of Spartacus, Herman Vogel.

Ian Cooper

Up until now, history has always been a generally agreed-upon thing.

It is also true that history was, up until now, written by the ruling classes, usually wealthy, aristocratic males with plenty of leisure time. History was the accepted story of that class, the history of the world as they knew it and from their point of view.

From the modern perspective, the revolt of Roman slaves under Spartacus is understandable, even laudable.

From the point of view of those writing about it at the time, it was a mortal danger, to them and to the state. It was an abomination, one that was rightly crushed according to the morality of the day.

If Fox News, or any other news organization existed at that time, this would have been how it was reported: as an abomination that must be crushed. This reporting would have been seen as good journalism.

But that was then. This is now. Times have changed. There are all kinds of people with leisure time. Literacy is at an all-time high.

History will no longer be an agreed-upon thing. There are too many voices. There are too many sources of information. There’s too much money floating around, and too much power up for grabs.

Objective journalism, objective history, has gone out the window. It is no longer a question of a very small number of news and information sources, all jockeying for audience and market share based on notions of objectivity.

There are now millions of sources of information. People routinely set up information and disinformation sites and sources, with an avowed political or social agenda firmly and foremost in mind. They don’t agree with the facts, they don’t agree with history, or the interpretation, and so they give their own. They make it up and spew it out there.

They are, like William Randolph Hearst, the man who invented the news in a sense, (one could almost say he invented the modern world), going straight for the lowest common denominator, and that is sensationalism. It is also pandering of the worst kind.

In the future, there will be openly and unashamed right-wing historians who will write that the Presidency of Barack Obama was a disaster. Open and unashamed left-wing historians will write that it was the greatest presidency in all of history. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between.

(For the purpose of this article, my own opinion is irrelevant. That is not a claim of disinterestedness.)

There will be no objective, middle of the road historians of the future. Objectivity is an affront to both sides, in a dispute where the stakes are so high. History has value. History is money in the bank, for the eventual 'winners.'

To be in the middle is to be a target, or to quickly become irrelevant when news, when history, is no longer that but merely preaching to the converted; and telling them what they want to hear.

There is no such thing as a fact anymore, for the dispute will rage on forever. The only things that will become historical fact, is when the issue dies a natural death, as all issues eventually do. When no one cares to argue any more—what’s left are the facts.

What’s really strange is that the common man is so often neither left nor right, but just trying to survive, trying not to get involved, trying not to get sucked into the vortex that is modern disinformation politics. Some of them are interested. They just want to know what the truth is, and of course we will never know now, will we?

The majority is silent. It is my hope that the majority is not easily swayed and that they are withholding judgement.

Perhaps they are merely confused and have the grace and the wit to see that—and thus, being reasonable-minded men and women, they hold their tongues. Until they get further information, information that they can actually trust, ladies and gentlemen.

Trust can also be misplaced.

Here’s a funny thing. The people that watch Fox News know that much of the reporting is flawed. It’s skewed. It presents a point of view, using false and misleading information, ‘creative editing’ and presentation, and they know that, and they still keep watching.

The attitude is, we know it is bullshit, but it is bullshit that represents our point of view. It normalizes and validates our own bullshit attitudes, our own bullshit prejudices. The fact that it is so ignoble, so obnoxious, so ignorant, is reason for glee.

The way to make Fox News go away would be for the audience to get up and walk away.

That’s not going to happen when a large proportion of the viewers are angry, frightened bigots and pseudo-religious zealots, who just want the real world to go away.

History marches on regardless, whether we agree with it or not.

“Why is America so crazy for religion?”

“Because in the absence of a civilization, what else is there?” > Gore Vidal, in Empire.

Let us hope that we become a little more civilized as times goes on.

Otherwise, I think we are doomed.


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