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Alex Ronan

Mrs. Cramer

Comp Pd. 8

2 February 2019

The Abuse of History through Historical Revisionism

How would you feel if the job you were doing was completely credited to another person,

or your work’s accomplishments where falsified so it fit someone else’s narrative? Now apply

this to history, and ask yourself the same question, but instead it's based on an entire series of

events credited to something or lied about to fit a political or monetary agenda. While this may

be an obvious answer for some, history has shown that it’s several shades of grey, not black and

white. But people aren’t willing to show themselves in a negative light, so certain events and

information is changed to fit one side in a better or worse light. This is what Historical

Revisionism is, when history is changed, or based off something such as one's emotion,

patriotism, or greed, rather than fact. So, without a doubt, there can be no doubt that the

implementation of historical revisionism shouldn’t be allowed, and it’s abuse of it for monetary

and political gains should be more frowned upon.

To start off, Historical Revisionism has often been used in traditional broadcasting and

social media, often being used to help popularize something or make it more tasteful to potential

buyers and investors. This can first be seen with Michael Bay’s movie Pearl Harbor in which
two all-American pilots participate in the events of Pearl Harbor. While the romance aspect of

the story has little to do with the actual events, when it comes to the climax of the story, which is

the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombers were shown attacking American civilian

targets such as hospitals and urban areas. Historically, the Japanese where ordered not to attack

civilian targets, as to not further provoke the United States, and they abided by it. They were

instead ordered to focus on ships, naval sites such as docks and repair sites, and both oil

production and storage sites. These false events are put into the movie to instill a sense of pride

in an American audience, so, when the Americans finally get revenge on the Japanese by

bombing mainland Japan, the audience doesn’t have to feel a sense of pity, but revanchism

(Boggs). A second example of Historical Revisionism in pop culture can be seen in Kingdom of

Heaven. Kingdom of Heaven takes place after a major crusade, and in the city of Jerusalem.

However, when a new Jihad is declared, Christian defenders are tasked with defending the

people of Jerusalem and fending off hordes of Arab invaders. However, in order to make an

underdog story, a dying lord tasks his surrogate and bastard son Baleon, who is also a

blacksmith, manages to not only irrigate the city of Jerusalem but manages to fend off the hordes

of Arabic Jihadists. However, the story then demonizes the Christian defenders, by portraying

them as savages who slaughter innocents, and literally kill the messenger for no reason. The

story then uses this brutality and savagery to give the Arab Jihadists a reason to, well, Jihad*

(Bergstorm). While these may just be movies, they do set a precedent for future blockbuster

movies, acknowledging that promoting lies and deception in a movie is acceptable, which of

course it isn’t.

To continue, some would argue that Historical Revisionism does have a use for the

people, and for the state. After all, why should the villainous side be shown in any good light?
This argument is ridiculous, as its effects can send ripples throughout history, and even affect our

modern era, as seen with the Battle of Wounded Knee, in which American soldiers slaughtered

dozens of Native Americans, which was then covered up by the government, and listed it as a

battle, lying and stating that the Natives started this conflict. And as we know, the Soviets

multiplied this by a thousand, by demonizing and destroying Russian Tsarist history, listing the

Romanov dynasty as nothing but bloodthirsty murderers, who hated and severely despised the

Russian peasantry, while the Socialist government would be the only true and egalitarian union

that the Russian people would ever see. The gulags filled with people would be evidence enough

to show this is a blatant lie. So, in both friendly and hostile environments and states, history

shouldn’t be revised to favor a side. By labeling Wounded Knee as a battle instead of a massacre,

it completely thrusts in the idea that the natives where a savage and violent people, while Soviet

annihilation of historical artifacts to fit an agenda, completely show that no matter what happens,

history shouldn’t be revised to take out or add in evil, but unbiasedly tell the history, no matter

what.

Onto the next idea, those arguing for Historical revisionism believe that it can allow

history to be better presented to the public, making history show the off its more digestible

aspects, rather than the greyer areas. It is an argument for simplification, and deification, rather

than a tedious explanation. Yet, this simplification of history is like simplifying a recipe for a

gourmet meal, but by simplifying the creation of the meal, it could become completely bland,

tasteless, or completely ruined*. An American example of this sort of simplification can be seen

with Thanksgiving. When the Pilgrims settled the land, their crops were failing and starvation

was rampant, and then Squanto came to save the Pilgrims and taught them proper farming

methods, and Thanksgiving occurred as a celebration. However, Thanksgiving was only a once
in a lifetime event, as, not long after the 1st Thanksgiving, Squanto attempted to overthrow the

local native tribe, failed, then fled to the Pilgrims, and had them march in and slaughtered the

natives. But Thanksgiving is still celebrated as a national holiday, with all its perks and benefits,

all done in the name of national unity during a time of crisis, that crisis being the Civil War. But,

even in the name of national unity, Revised History shouldn’t be presented to the people, and

then further pushed into the modern age as some sort of heroic or passionate story on American

diversity and unity, while pushing out that bad part of American history, especially an act that

caused the death of most natives.

Finally, Historical Revisionism has been most commonly used to fit the personal agenda

of a person, or of a state. This has been seen in both democratic and authoritarian states, with the

Third French Republic painting the narrative of the Germans being the first to use chemical

warfare in the Great War (when it's been shown that the first use of chemical warfare is more

unknown, and assumed, with it being suspected that the French were the first to use phosphine

gas). Even during the time of the German Third Reich, figures such as Adolf Hitler and other

members of the NSDAP promoted the words of Erich Von Ludendorff, and lied to the public that

that Imperial Germany could’ve won the Great War but failed due to the collapse of their allies

(when in reality, Field Marshal Erich Von Ludendorff overstretched their army in the east, failed

to adapt to armored warfare, and asked Kaiser Wilhelm II to honorably kill himself by walking

out into the middle of a battlefield) (Historyplex). It was these sorts of lies that stirred the

German people and formed anti Entente sentiments in the former Central Powers and stirred up

radicals in those nations. Because the people felt betrayed by both the Democratic and

Aristocratic powers in the German government, it caused a rise in extremist nationalist views,

and allowed for figures such as Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering to rise to power. Now, in
reality, one of the most humorous and popular examples being Joseph “Man of Steel” Stalin

(known as the Man of Steel as this is what his last name translates to, and due to the millions of

people he’s killed) *. Stalin would famously “photoshop” purged officials out of images, with a

famous example being of when the Commissar of the Navy was purged, and Stalin had someone

white out the Commissar in the photo, the draw over the missing portions of the image

(Fitzpatrick). What this showed was that the Soviet Union not only had a trigger finger to purge,

but they also had the ability to remove people from history itself, by removing all aspects of

them from public, private, and photographed life. The ability to remove someone from history is

scary, and if a state is willing to purge a person from history, imagine what that nation would be

willing to do to dissidents, or its distasteful past. So, in both former and active authoritarian

states (I.E. The German Empire and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), evidence has

shown that influential and powerful figures in these nations are willing to violate the very fabric

of history, and either remove people from history, or present a false history for their own agenda,

which can have far reaching effects, and show the absolute worst of Historical Revisionism.

So, to conclude, it can be decisively determined that Historical Revisionism is absurd and

has a blatant disregard for actual history, which has been chosen by certain group of people to

alter history itself. And what makes this worse is that these people/organizations are revising

history either for personal gain, or to change history to better fit a personal agenda. However, as

the reader as seen, revisionism is within itself selfish in nature as it only benefits one people, one

group, one state, or one ideology. Historical revisionism is nothing but a primal and dangerous

greed, being abused so that way one side can make a profit, or gain, from an oversaturated lie.
Historical Revisionism - Work Cited

Bergstorm, Aren. “Medieval as Modern: The Historical Accuracy of Kingdom of Heaven.” 3

Brothers Film, 20 Feb. 2012

Boggs, Carl. “Pearl Harbor: How Film Conquers History.” New Political Science, Taylor and

Francis Online, 19 Jan. 2011

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. “Revisionism in Soviet History.” History and Theory, Wiely Online Library,

26 Nov. 2007

Historyplex Staff. “What Is Historical Revisionism and How Does It Influence History?”

Historyplex, Historyplex, 2 Mar. 2018

McPherson, James M. “Revisionist Historians | Perspectives on History | AHA.” Palette of King

Narmer | AHA, American Historical Association , 1 Sept

Smith, Roger W, et al. “Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide | Holocaust

and Genocide Studies | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Mar.

1995