Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thompson Twins Hit Song and the New History

Thompson Twins Hit Song and the New History

Gertrude Himmelfarb cracks a ruler across the knuckles of the new Historians, "The New History and the Old: Critical Essays and Reappraisals"

The simple act of stating a thesis and providing evidence to support the thesis has gone astray. Author motive and author bias and sometimes author ignorance undermine the New History. The smallest of fact, a string of semi-related facts, a collection of well-know semi-truths and can drive acclaim. Evidence and interpretation take a back seat to feelings and guesses. Himmelfarb applies pressure to these poorly constructed thesis to shine the light on their (significant) blunders.

Confirmation bias, theory tenacity, and just plain personal agenda are rampant. The task of selecting and honing a thesis, curating appropriate facts, and presenting evidence (both supporting evidence and non-supporting) appears to be lost on the new historian.

Himmelfarb demonstrates the long fall from Master to Disciple to Epigones and cautions the reader to take up the burden of critical reading. 

A similar exercise to evaluate and criticize the current media (mass media, social media, or otherwise), the modern politician, and the polarizing TV/Radio figures  would prove interesting.


  • How can any moderate voice (politician, radio or TV personality, author) become famous without being controversial, confrontational and demi-religious about their point of view?
  • Does "passion" drive theory tenacity (the need to prove your theory to the point that you ignore possible fault)?
  • If "the Spin Stops Here..." why is it still spinning?
  • If Edmund Burke (1729-1797) is correct, "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it", how can those who do know history make the same mistakes over and over again?
  • Do guns kill people, or do people with guns kill people? Do SUVs kill people, or do people driving SUVs kill people? Do hoodies kill people... 

So, how did this even come up as a subject?

Over the last week I heard statements from several politicians, a religious leader, a comedian, and a news anchor that forced my gag reflex. The ability to believe in something so deeply as to ignore reality (almost the ability to see only one reality) was striking.

  If it is difficult to write about history, is it difficult to write about current events?

If it is difficult to present facts as facts the consumer of media is forced to step up and provide critical judgement. Do I believe our country is polarized? No, but polarization sells audience and audience drive revenues. If revenues are the deeply held value, then polarization is the fashionable format to drive revenue (bad behavior is rewarded).  

A Couple More Questions:

How many college papers are being written based on information from the internet...
By authors with significant issues... 

Bottom line: 

We're all big boys and big girls, we need to stop the posing, positioning, posturing, and PC bologna and get on with life. A dose of truth and honesty, like "The New History and the Old" is appreciated.


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