Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Historiography


A short but splendid article in this morning’s Washington Post, written by a genuine historian (Harold Holzer), rather than the Gingrich ersatz (he’s not a historian, but he plays one on TV) deserves your attention.   It concerns the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which everyone cites as a pinnacle and paradigm, but which very few actually know the least thing about.   The truth is very different from what is conventionally peddled.  The stereotype of that debate, thus, functions as a meme or mythogen in our Société du Spectacle.   Read the real dope here:


Meanwhile, in the increasingly mano-a-mano knifefight known as the Republican Presidential Primary, the Romney camp has put out an ad  that some are depicting as an inadmissible escalation, but which, calmly considered, is more like a return to a bit of fact.  Instead of hiring some announcer paid by themselves, to utter -- who knows -- half-truths or some more exiguous fraction of same,  they simply reproduce a segment of an actual NBC broadcast from 1997, reporting on the Gingrich ethics scandal.
Predictably, the Gingroids call foul.  Remarkably, NBC has demanded that the ad be pulled.  Apparently Tom Brokaw, like the prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) is too sacred to admit of depiction.  (Would the New York Times, or the 9/11 Commission Report, holler objections if they were ever quoted?)

The NBC position is craven and absurd, a brain-belch of their lawyers.   For the rest of us:  Isn’t it nice to have some pre-spin testimony?  However adequate or inadequate NBC news may be or have been, they did not know in 1997 -- not in our more agonized nightmares did any of us then imagine -- that this creature would, years later, actually be front-running for the Presidency.

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