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Sunday, August 03, 2014

The frustration of arguing with history deniers

I've recently had several on and off-line discussions about the history of our region with people I'd always considered to be intelligent and well-educated.

Those discussions have led me to the inescapable conclusion that, not only do many people lack even the most rudimentary curiosity about history, but they actually actively avoid any aspect of its study which might contradict / threaten their currently held political views and opinions.

If I only had to contend with the frustration of not having a common pool of knowledge upon which to draw while discussing current events with these people, I would gladly prepare, carry and distribute copies of a short 'Cliff Notes'-style cheat sheet of verifiable (or at least widely accepted) historical events that shaped the near east over the past three millennium (with emphasis placed on the legal ramifications of the events of the last 200 years); No editorializing or interpretation, mind you... 'just the facts' (as Sgt. Joe Friday used to say).

Unfortunately, most people would slam the door on such a historical 'cheat sheet' as automatically as they would a tract or pamphlet being offered door-to-door by religious missionaries.

I'm not sure if it is a lack of confidence in the accuracy of the historical record, or if they simply believe that sheer force of will and modern mores should trump legal precedent and historical fact.

But whatever the reason, anyone who attempts to place current events in any sort of historical context should prepare themselves for blank stares and rather one-sided conversations.

Posted by David Bogner on August 3, 2014 | Permalink


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In some quarters it is considered impolite to confuse others with facts.

Posted by: quietusleo | Aug 3, 2014 4:50:42 PM

quietusleo... Sadly, what you said is quite true and not a joke. On an unrelated topic, I've been wanting to call you for a lunch date, but I know you've probably been swamped at the hospital treating the wounded. When you see a little light at the end of the tunnel, call me and I'll pick you up for some chow (on me).

Posted by: treppenwitz | Aug 3, 2014 5:21:23 PM

As they say:

You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

Posted by: Jerod | Aug 3, 2014 9:53:10 PM

Ronald Reagan — 'It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.'

Posted by: antares | Aug 4, 2014 1:54:22 AM

I've given up, and created second, pro-Israel-people-only accounts on social media. It was making me physically ill every day seeing blood libel and ignorance blaring from all quarters, and I've lost a lot of acquaintances and several people I had thought were good friends over this. Seemingly anything anti-Israel is "unbiased" "accurate" "impartial", anything pro-Israel is "propaganda" "Israeli government lies" "spin", and objecting to blatant Jewhatred is something which clearly marks you out as a Zionist trying to suppress criticism of Israel by "playing the antisemitism card".

One ex-friend is a woman about to go on (or maybe has already returned, I haven't spoken to her for about six weeks) a Birthright trip, and she was tweeting gleefully about how she planned to make everyone uncomfortable by being outspokenly pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist. She also said she wanted to learn about the area and history "from both sides", but when I offered to send her a list of useful links, said "No, I don't want that stuff pushed on me. You have to respect my feelings on Israel as I respect yours." This is typical IME - people claim to be even-handed but they seem to have redefined the term as meaning "incessantly critical of Israel".

It just seems so much worse this time. It's always bad, but this is beyond that; we've got to a point where the atmosphere towards Israel and people who support Israel (thus, any Jew who doesn't vocally speak against Israel) is downright abusive and hostile. I say this because it reminds me strongly of my upbringing; the truth never mattered unless it could be used against me. My ex-stepfather was simply looking for excuses to punish me and so I was accused of lying even when he knew I was not, any infraction was magnified, any praiseworthy behaviour downplayed or erased, and outrageous assumptions/lies about me were manufactured and readily believed. This is now the prevailing attitude coming from a shocking number of people I honestly didn't expect to see displaying it, and recognising it for what it is made me feel there was no longer any point trying to engage with them or persuade them of facts.

I got sick of feeling personally attacked; I can't help but see it as "these people at base do not believe I and my people have a right to live". I've wondered for many years if I might be paranoid by thinking that, but the vitriol of the reaction this time round has convinced me I'm not.

Posted by: Shira S B | Aug 4, 2014 2:13:04 AM

At some point, somewhere in the 60's or 70's, Liberals exchanged "facts" for "narratives." Morality thus thus stops being about who has the facts on their side and becomes rather about who has the most compelling narrative. Arafat י"ש was a master at playing to this impulse.

I'm going to recommend a book to you. It is called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." It is a dreadfully written thing to plod through, but its history is that it was distilled from the work of Machiavelli and Montesquieu into a satirical critique of Napoleonic rule called "The dialogues of Machiavelli and Montesquieu in hell." That book never took off, but a Russian ambassador to France found a copy of it, reframed it as the "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and gave it to the czar to ingratiate himself.

Why am I rambling about this? Because, the book's pedigree means that what it lays out is a viable path to seizing power and duping people. Think Machiavelli's "The Prince." Anti Semitic screeds I have read have said of it "we now have the Jews' playboook, and we are following it." Which means that you will find much of the mechanics of the Arab strategies for eliciting sympathy and acquiring followers outlined within it.

I have only read excerpts. But the propaganda techniques suggested in those excerpts are not unfamiliar to anyone who has heard our enemies speak, and deconstruction of history is a part of it.

Posted by: Rich | Aug 4, 2014 2:51:41 AM


Posted by: Drew | Aug 4, 2014 4:24:42 AM

The cliff note idea sounds like a winner.
Definitely will be an educational tool to all the novices coming aboard when the action is serious.

Posted by: Yitzy B | Aug 4, 2014 5:58:00 AM

The cliff note idea sounds like a winner.
Definitely will be an educational tool to all the novices coming aboard when the action is serious.

Posted by: Yitzy B | Aug 4, 2014 5:58:01 AM

I would love to see the cliff notes! I think you should do it.

Posted by: Craig | Aug 4, 2014 7:59:22 PM

I went "12 rounds" with a group of people on Facebook who I know to be educated but who refused to have a discussion about what was going on. When I suggested that we look at the historical context I was told that didn't matter.

When I suggested we talk about cause and effect I was told that didn't matter either. All that mattered was that I 'admit' one side was a brutal, war mongering bully and the other was entitled to fight back.

The net result is I have been blocked by people who are unwilling to have a discussion about why things are as they are and I am now considered to be another Angry and unreasonable Zionist.

Not sure that I really care all that much, but it is disappointing to see people who I thought were reasonable unable to have a real discussion.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 4, 2014 8:57:34 PM

I have been on FB a relatively short time, but I've learned two valuable lessons:

1) Don't "friend" idiots.

2) If you accidentally violate Rule 1, "unfriend" said idiots posthaste.

Life is just too short.

Posted by: psachya | Aug 4, 2014 10:58:19 PM

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