In the Empire of Lies

Our own Rudolph Harrier reports search results slants. For example, on a search for the terms “Sad Puppies Hugo Awards” he got:

Google: Wikipedia page, followed by many pages lamenting about a right wing hate campaign taking over the Hugos.
Bing: Similar to google, but with more pages talking about later Hugo awards rather than 2015 and 2016.
Brave: Similar to the last two, but with more fansites showing up (all left leaning, including file770.)

He remarks: “Notably on this one, not a single search engine pulled up anything from Larry Correia or Brad Torgersen.”

The persistence of malignant untruth is disheartening, but not surprising.

One would like to think that truth eventually will prevail, but, alas, not in this life. As an unrelated example, just this day on the radio, I heard an astronomer talking to a conservative pundit, and both wondered why Columbus had set sail in a day when Europeans thought the world was flat.

In reality, as I thought all educated men knew well, Europeans have known the world was a globe since earliest antiquity, and, indeed, knew the diameter of the globe since the Second Century, thanks to Eratosthenes of Cyrene. Columbus’ dispute with his contemporaries was not over the shape of the earth, but over the size: and he was wrong. He thought the globe half its size, and so thought a sea route to the Far East was feasible. By sheer blind luck, there happened to be a New World at roughly the distance his reckoning said India would be.

So how is this fable so persistent? It was invented by Washington Irving of ‘Rip Van Winkle’ and ‘Sleepy Hollow’ fame as a jest at the expense of the Catholics, a hated minority in the colonies in his day, for being so ignorant that only one man among them knew the shape of the Earth.

Similar falsehoods passed into public lore and were and are taught by generations of schoolmasters, particularly in the English speaking world about the history of the Middle Ages, and the doings of the Catholic Church, the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish treatment of the Indians in South America and Mexico, and on and on. Even the names given to historical periods in the Anglosphere, such as Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, betray a rather dishonest partisan slant to them, not to mention calling certain books of the Bible “Deuterocanonical”.

Why is the period when Europe abolished public practices of slavery, pederasty, polygamy, divorce,  when the use of witchcraft and pagan superstition was suborned, and the scientific method was first regularized, the University system invented, called the Dark, or the Middle Age, rather than an Age of Enlightenment? Why is the period when superstitions again prevailed, corruption triumphed, and science was retarded called a Renaissance or Rebirth?

I am one of the few men I know who had the pleasure to read Gibbons’ magisterial DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE cover to cover. I was an atheist at the time, and I smiled at every dig and sleight and slander he penned against the tomfoolery of the Christians, and doffed my cap in reverence at every word of praise he heaped on figures such as Julian the Apostate.

I was convinced the man was an atheist — more fool I. I was too young to realize what I was reading was secular bigotry, one denomination demonizing another, a hatred as uncouth as that of Shiite and Sunni. How many of the exaggerations and outright lies and defamations of Gibbon became the core of accepted wisdom in the English speaking world is woeful to contemplate.

A similar thing happened during my life, before my very eyes, at is were, when the Crusades, which had been glorified as holy and righteous wars of valiant men, suddenly became the same as the Jihad, a vicious attempt to impose faith by the sword, wars of racism against (apparently) the Muslim race, and a shameful inhumanity. The four campaigns to free the Holy Land had suddenly become hateful, but not worthy of any mention are the hundred Muslim conquests in a thousand campaigns to conquer Africa, Spain, the Middle East, Lydia, Ionia, Phrygia, Thrace, Byzantium, Greece, Macedonia, Rhodes, France … one could continue the list until the inkwell is dry.

The hatred and contempt now heaped on the Civil War Heroes, their statues and monuments and names, is a similar tide of falsehood covering up an entire Holland of historical reality. A time was when Americans, for the sake of unity, were willing to treat the opposite sides of the Civil War with a degree of courtesy and dignity, acknowledging the valor and skill and sacrifice of generals and soldiers regardless of the cause for which they fought.

And, I would venture to say, even the most ardent partisan of the Union or of the Confederacy, if he had a particle of honesty beneath his zeal, would acknowledge that what the other side at least said was their cause — Union, and the liberation of slaves on the one hand, Liberty, and the preservation of their way of life on the other — was certainly more real and noble than what the zealots of the modern day take as their causes — the hatred of the white man and the vapid vanity of virtue signaling — when they pull down statues of Robert E Lee and Abraham Lincoln alike.

Other falsehoods come by omission: It was not until recently that I learned the slavery had been all but utterly abolished in the Middle Ages in Europe, due, in part to economic factors after the breakup of large Roman landed estates, and in part to moral factors, namely, to Christians freeing their slaves; likewise, the Papal Bull excommunicating slave owners in the New World was unknown to me. Not a single history text assigned in school saw fit to mention it.

One can see why historical revisionism is so popular these days; learning how much of accepted mainstream history is merely yesterday’s slanders hallowed as truth would make even the most fair-minded of men open to suspicion about well attested historical events.

So, despite what one might hope, truth does not always prevail.

But there are rays of sunshine from time to time. The page devoted to me on TV Tropes ( used to be a short note of some biographic information, and then a scurrilous sneer saying that I was known in fandom solely for wishing bodily harm on Terry Pratchett.

I asked politely the anonymous editors of TV Tropes to remove the sneer, and was entirely surprised and pleased to find, when I looked this morning in preparation for this column, to find that they had.

So I am comforted for any small victories for truth and courtesy. My thanks go out to the anonymous editors of TV Tropes.

For the record, my only beef with the magnificent Terry Pratchett was that he would support suicide for the ill and depressed, and use his considerable fame and well-deserved public goodwill to promote the damned practice, and would waste his last few days on Earth advertising such a selfish horror. To be blunt, as an adoring fan, I felt betrayed. I have been unable to read his amusing and witty works with pleasure thereafter.

It is a sad case showing why fans should not inquire too closely into the religious and political views of their idols.