The Murder of History

Orwell grasped the vital need for real history and he saw how those who lust for power will murder history as their first victim.  Winston Smith, the protagonist in 1984, works in the Ministry of Truth and systematically destroys history so that no clues of its death can even be found.  The virtual elimination of any parts of authentic history that might conflict with the prevailing and politically correct history warps our thinking, usually without us even being aware of our ignorance.   

As one example, Turner Classic Movies on January 4, 2016 has a night of films about the Spanish Civil War.  Virtually all the films are propaganda for the Popular Front; they portray the Nationalist side as illegitimate, brutal, and corrupt.  Try to find a film that presents the Spanish Civil War in any other way.

History books, especially textbooks, are monolithic in describing that civil war.  Any facts, any scraps of history that might make the case for the Nationalist side or might condemn the Popular Front have been relegated to the Memory Hole in the Ministry of Truth.  Almost no one, if asked today, could even propose any arguments in support of Franco in that war, because most of us go our entire adult lives without ever having heard anything but the propaganda of one side in that war.

Yet the true history of that civil war, as reason might suggest in any civil war, presents a complex and morally ambiguous event.  The Nationalists, for example, are routinely accused of overthrowing the legitimate "Republican" government of Spain, but the first free election in Spain with universal suffrage in November 1933 was a decisive defeat for the Popular Front. 

That electoral defeat led to the February 1936 elections, the last elections before the civil war.  The Nationalist side won the votes of 4.9 million Spaniards in the Cortes, while only 4.3 million cast votes for the Popular Front.  Extreme gerrymandering gave the Popular Front a plurality, not a majority, of the actual seats in the Cortes.  The Popular Front used its plurality to re-certify the election results (often before the election results had even been announced) to give the Popular Front eighty more seats, and a majority in the Cortes, that it had not won in the election.

As another example, the April 1937 attack on Guernica, made famous by Picasso's painting, is an icon of Nationalist malice, but there may well have not have been a massacre at all.  Dorothy Thompson, perhaps the most important journalist in the world at the time and an honest opponent of the Nationalists, first reported Guernica as a massacre, but by June 2, 1937, she was cautioning in the New York Herald Tribune that much had been invented or exaggerated and that "[e]ven the question of the bombing or Guernica is not established to anything approaching general satisfaction."

Moreover, Spanish towns in Nationalist hands that were destroyed by the Popular Front field artillery or naval guns, and atrocities committed against women and children by the Popular Front, were accepted by almost everyone covering the Spanish Civil War, with some estimates of innocent Spaniards killed by the Popular Front as high as 500,000, or about six percent of the population of Spain.

The imaginary history of the Spanish Civil War routinely describes the Nationalists as "Fascist," though almost no Spaniards called themselves "Fascists" at all, which writers noted at the time.  When the Second World War began, Franco allowed the French to inspect France's border with Spain, where there were no Spanish troops, so that France could concentrate on stopping Hitler.  After France fell, Franco stayed out of the conflict when joining Hitler would have cost the British Gibraltar and the war.  During the war, Franco intervened to save at least 40,000 European Jews from the Holocaust, according to three different books on the subject by Jewish scholars.

Franco's authoritarian, rather than totalitarian, rule accounted for the painless transition of Spain into a healthy democracy after his death.  Spain was not free then, like Italy, but it was much freer than Poland.  Franco, the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, and his reign after the war were composites of good and bad.

All history, though, has been purged of any details that conflict with politically correct opinions.  This means that the cadres of the left who seem so unhinged from reality can dwell in their universe of utter fantasy, because this contrived pseudo-history guides their hearts and minds.

Murdered history matters.

Orwell grasped the vital need for real history and he saw how those who lust for power will murder history as their first victim.  Winston Smith, the protagonist in 1984, works in the Ministry of Truth and systematically destroys history so that no clues of its death can even be found.  The virtual elimination of any parts of authentic history that might conflict with the prevailing and politically correct history warps our thinking, usually without us even being aware of our ignorance.   

As one example, Turner Classic Movies on January 4, 2016 has a night of films about the Spanish Civil War.  Virtually all the films are propaganda for the Popular Front; they portray the Nationalist side as illegitimate, brutal, and corrupt.  Try to find a film that presents the Spanish Civil War in any other way.

History books, especially textbooks, are monolithic in describing that civil war.  Any facts, any scraps of history that might make the case for the Nationalist side or might condemn the Popular Front have been relegated to the Memory Hole in the Ministry of Truth.  Almost no one, if asked today, could even propose any arguments in support of Franco in that war, because most of us go our entire adult lives without ever having heard anything but the propaganda of one side in that war.

Yet the true history of that civil war, as reason might suggest in any civil war, presents a complex and morally ambiguous event.  The Nationalists, for example, are routinely accused of overthrowing the legitimate "Republican" government of Spain, but the first free election in Spain with universal suffrage in November 1933 was a decisive defeat for the Popular Front. 

That electoral defeat led to the February 1936 elections, the last elections before the civil war.  The Nationalist side won the votes of 4.9 million Spaniards in the Cortes, while only 4.3 million cast votes for the Popular Front.  Extreme gerrymandering gave the Popular Front a plurality, not a majority, of the actual seats in the Cortes.  The Popular Front used its plurality to re-certify the election results (often before the election results had even been announced) to give the Popular Front eighty more seats, and a majority in the Cortes, that it had not won in the election.

As another example, the April 1937 attack on Guernica, made famous by Picasso's painting, is an icon of Nationalist malice, but there may well have not have been a massacre at all.  Dorothy Thompson, perhaps the most important journalist in the world at the time and an honest opponent of the Nationalists, first reported Guernica as a massacre, but by June 2, 1937, she was cautioning in the New York Herald Tribune that much had been invented or exaggerated and that "[e]ven the question of the bombing or Guernica is not established to anything approaching general satisfaction."

Moreover, Spanish towns in Nationalist hands that were destroyed by the Popular Front field artillery or naval guns, and atrocities committed against women and children by the Popular Front, were accepted by almost everyone covering the Spanish Civil War, with some estimates of innocent Spaniards killed by the Popular Front as high as 500,000, or about six percent of the population of Spain.

The imaginary history of the Spanish Civil War routinely describes the Nationalists as "Fascist," though almost no Spaniards called themselves "Fascists" at all, which writers noted at the time.  When the Second World War began, Franco allowed the French to inspect France's border with Spain, where there were no Spanish troops, so that France could concentrate on stopping Hitler.  After France fell, Franco stayed out of the conflict when joining Hitler would have cost the British Gibraltar and the war.  During the war, Franco intervened to save at least 40,000 European Jews from the Holocaust, according to three different books on the subject by Jewish scholars.

Franco's authoritarian, rather than totalitarian, rule accounted for the painless transition of Spain into a healthy democracy after his death.  Spain was not free then, like Italy, but it was much freer than Poland.  Franco, the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, and his reign after the war were composites of good and bad.

All history, though, has been purged of any details that conflict with politically correct opinions.  This means that the cadres of the left who seem so unhinged from reality can dwell in their universe of utter fantasy, because this contrived pseudo-history guides their hearts and minds.

Murdered history matters.