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Posted: February 8, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Revisionist historians, source documents

One of the great dangers faced by contemporary historical researchers is that documents considered as absolutely trust-worthy may actually contain errors, or be criminally fraudulent.

One of the great perpetrators of such misinformation is the Internet, as many researchers turn to it as "the easy way" to find information, but fail to validate the actual source of the data.

Who said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us?" Our instant gratification society, if outside a "Wi-Fi" zone, may soon be unable to identify the very trees which obscure their forests.

The Internet is surely the most treasured tool of every public relations spokesperson — and every terrorist. Anyone with a cause can put outrageous or even patently dangerous misinformation there for the naïve or academically uniformed to swallow, hook-line-and-sinker.

A few more years of relying on the Internet for primary research should complete the "dumbing down" of America. The propaganda boys will have won, as the gray matter in more and more voter’s heads will have been transformed to mush from having sought answers to all of life’s perplexing questions on the Internet — controlled by the spin doctors.

I can still hear Al Gore celebrating himself as the creator of that Internet, can’t you? And speaking of Gore, how about global warming? One of the coldest winters on record: an inconvenient truth, indeed.

Anyone old enough to have seen "The Ed Sullivan Show" the night The Beatles appeared for the first time on American television understands what "shoot the bull" means; it occurs when a high school history essay question totally foreign to the student is encountered.

The Internet now makes it possible for virtually anyone to effectively "shoot the bull" by lifting a phrase from one source, a comment from another, then mixing them with a few facts from an encyclopedia to make for a fairly convincing statement.

This problem is multiplied when subsequent researchers accept the fraudulent document as truth and build facts from it into their presentations, which are then, themselves, taken as gospel and built into later publications, ad infinitum, until the real truth is eventually obfuscated.

Illustrating the danger of contemporary researchers taking "the easy way" is the question of whether President Franklin D. Roosevelt actually knew of the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and intentionally let it happen in order to embroil America in World War II.

The answer to that question is an unequivocal, emphatic "no." Serious researchers who take the time and make the effort know that FDR and his chain of command did all they could with the information available at the time regarding Japanese intentions.

Enter the revisionists. Enter the self-aggrandizing, opportunistic, egotistical profiteers who would alter history, who create cottage industries feeding off the burgeoning masses of the uneducated and suspicious, who seek sinister plots which those same revisionists all too eagerly furnish.

The saddest part of this particular example is that some members of the Pearl Harbor Survivor’s Association have been fooled by this empty sensationalism and embrace it as truth. That comprises the worst tragedy: these great veterans, themselves soon to join their shipmates as time passes, will cast off lines for the last time believing their Commander-in-Chief sold them out.

And that’s just not so. The great source documents, notably "At Dawn We Slept" by Gordon W. Prange, uniformly refute any treachery from the White House.

Today’s politicians and lobbyists have noted the success enjoyed by revisionist historians and are also hard at work revising history before the ink reporting current events has dried, trying to swing public opinion to their causes.

Consider this objective review of historical facts: the Democratic Party took control of the House of Representatives in January 2006; one of the first things they undertook was to force the resignation of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan — widely acclaimed for overseeing the greatest growth in economic prosperity in U.S. history. Greenspan, however, had in 1999 vigorously opposed President Bill Clinton’s proposals to assist low-income citizens’ purchases of high-income housing.

Well, just last month those Congressional Democrats summoned Greenspan to Capitol Hill, fully 10 years after his protests, and accused him of being guilty for the housing collapse.

I find it amazing how the same people barking criticism at our 43rd President take offense when calls for accountability are applied to the 44th. How conveniently they forget who it was that loosed the dogs of war on Sept. 11, 2001, and fail to recall that our 43rd President mobilized America with nearly 100 percent support of Congress, joining armed forces from a multiplicity of countries with the approval of the United Nations.

As revisionists and political party spokespersons hasten to add their versions of what happened in America at the turn of the 21st Century, one wonders if researchers in the 22nd Century will be able to find an unimpeachable source document. If so, will it be found, conveniently, on Al Gore’s Internet?

I won’t be around to fight that battle, for sure. For now, though, I just do my part as an old Georgia boy, writing what most anybody with common sense sees as being the truth.

Funny thing about truth, though: it doesn’t sit well with those who have a problem recognizing it. And, the hit dog hollers.

 

Nat Harwell is a resident of Newton County. His column appears in The Covington News on Sundays.

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