September 27, 2021

A Tale of Two Viruses: Historical Negationism in the Historical Community


I have taken a step back from all things historical, not only because of Covid-19 but also because of the alarming frequency in which history is being used maliciously, especially among the historical community. I thought that they of all people would know the harms of historical negationism and how important it is to prevent the spread of it.







Historical Negationism is a kind of illegitimate historical revisionism (typically done by non-historians) created to support a particular political or ideological agenda. It's has been heavily featured in the past 5 years in fake news, memes, and on social media. 

These might look familiar:


Click Here and Here to read why this is not true. 

Click Here to read why this is not okay.

News Flash:

They are also just the tip of the iceberg of the rampant historical negationism that is occurring.  Holocaust denial, "Lost Cause" Rhetoric, and "Clean Wehrmacht" myths are prevalent examples of historical negationism and how harmful historical negationism is. 

When I first saw these misconstrued historical "facts" I assumed it was a limitation of the medium. Memes can't fit a lot of text, so the whole story would never fit. My first instinct was to try and combat misinformation. Surely people wanted to know the truth and would not want to knowingly share harmful misinformation. I was wrong. 

Throughout the 16 years that I've been blogging, there has been a shift in information pathways. In college, professors would badger us that we, as future historians, would not have the issue of piecing together what happened using scant fragments but would be overloaded with primary sources. We were being trained for an entirely new problem in history: How to sift through and find truth and relevance in the overload of records left behind. This is the way I approach information.
 
What I thought was an information sorting problem is actually part of a much bigger propaganda campaign designed to confuse, cause chaos, and promote malicious causes.  Researchers have dubbed this "The Firehose of Falsehood Propaganda Model". This model uses large amounts of repetitive information to take advantage of the human subconscious, most notably, the Illusory Truth Effect, and the Continued Influence Effect
  
The Illusory Truth Effect - The more times you hear or see something repeated it is easier for your brain to process and thus prefer that information making it seem more credible. 

The Continued Influence Effect- What people hear first has a lasting influence on how people think about a subject, even if the first information they heard has been debunked. 
Memes are a great medium for historical negationism because they are inherently meant to be repeated often. 


"18th-century women caught on fire on a regular basis, due to working around fires in long skirts." "George Washington had wooden teeth." "Quilts helped slaves escape on the Underground Railroad." As historians, we get frustrated that these myths won't die. Historical myths are the Continued Influence Effect and the Illusory Truth Effect at work. Should you repeat myths to debunk them? That is still up for debate. Ultimately, these myths don't hurt people and our time should be focused on stopping history from being used maliciously.   

What Living Historians Can Do To Help

Share Responsibly. 

You do not have time to fact-check everything you share. Make an effort to fact-check things that make you upset and things that can impact people's lives. I don't expect anyone to fact-check cute cat stories but you should fact-check anything that might be using history with a social or political agenda to see if the entirety of the occurrence is present. If you don't have time to check, it's better to just not share it. 

- Share the Real Story. 

If you see historical negationism, take some time to share the real story. Remember, the Illusory Truth effect works both ways. There is evidence that you should not repeat falsehoods unnecessarily but can mention them when debunking.  

-Report to the platform.

If you see something harmful, report it. No, this is not censorship, this is moderation. If you see something harmful at historically themed events, it should be reported to the event organizers.        

-Teach Real History. Many of us get monomaniacal with clothing and small details that we often forget to teach the history and culture part of history. This is where having nonpersonal interpretation can be helpful and necessary. You may not get a chance to tell spectators the whole story but posters, pamphlets, displays, and books can help give the proper context for what people see at historically themed events. Your information can be the information that sticks which allows people the ability to think more critically about new information they encounter about a topic. 

- Teach Critical Thinking in History- Many people have a poor understanding of history and historiography. Be sure to let people see how history is formed and why critical thinking and legitimate revisionism in history are important. These teachings can prevent the Illusory Truth Effect.         

- Include Reminders- Studies show that a simple reminder that all of the information that a person will be encountering should be taken with a grain of salt is effective at minimizing the Illusory Truth Effect, even if the reminder is given a few days in advance. Historically themed events should come with a disclaimer that contextualizes who the people are that are presenting information to the public and where this information comes from. 

As a living historian, it's your job to tell spectators about yourself. Are you a trained historian, public historian, research assistant, or someone who is very interested in history? All are welcome and valuable but that information should be offered upfront.  


Thank you for reading to the end. If you think this post is useful, please share! 

January 24, 2021

World War 1 Turkish Bazlama

Turkish World War 1 Recipes


Concealment was impossible; besides, we were in our usual trouble for water. The only inhabitant seemed to be an old woman, who came out of the tent to find out why the children had run back...
 For some minutes the Circassian (for we thought she must be one) stood talking to the two envoys at the door of her tent. Then she signaled us to approach, and invited the whole party inside her abode. Here she offered the equivalent in the East of a chair — namely, a seat on the mats which covered the earthen floor. The amiable old dame next produced a large circular tray, which she set in our midst, and on which she placed some wafer-like chupatties and a couple of bowls of the inevitable " yourt." 

Never did simple meal taste so sweet, but the amount provided served only to whet the appetite of the eight hungry travellers. It was gently suggested that we should like a little more ; we told her we would pay for everything we had. At the same time we produced some of our mugs as likely to provide a method of eating the " yourt " more in keeping with our hunger...Not a thing, however, would our hostess sell : neither flour, wheat, cheese, goat, nor fowls. We asked her to make us some more chupatties, but without avail. No money would tempt her — she was evidently not a Turk, — even the offer of a little tea could not work the oracle. Her hospitality — and it was true hospitality that she had shown to us — was limited to what we might eat on the premises. From what we could gather from her rather peculiar Turkish, the old lady seemed afraid to sell us anything without her husband's consent. It was impossible not to admire her steadfast- ness, and as we left we presented her with three silver medjidies (worth altogether about twelve shillings). On this she relaxed to the extent of allowing us to take three eggs that she had. 

 We tried to find out how far we were from the sea ; but she seemed hardly to know of its existence, so cut off had she been all her life in her mountain fastness. She directed us, however, to some other tents farther down one of the valleys, and said we might be able to buy some food there; so thither we now wended our way. There was a well outside the tent, but it was dry at the time and was being deepened. A few drops of water which she had given us within had come from some distant stream, she said. "Yourt," however, is a wonderful thirst - quencher, so lack of water did not cause any worry for the time being.  

-Maurice Andrew Brackereid Johnston, 1919  

I was inspired to make this after reading 450 Miles to Freedom by Maurice Andrew Brackenreed Johnston, an Indian born soldier in the British army during WWI. In the book, Johnston details his account of his escape from a Turkish POW camp along with 7 other officers. He details eating Chupattis as part of their foraged food but he was likely eating Bazlama, a Turkish version of pita that includes yogurt. It is pronounced "baz-luh-ma." 

This recipe is really good. We ended up eating some of it fresh and the next day we ate it with falafel and tzatziki. Next time I make it, I might add some garlic and herbs. You can store them overnight in ziplock bags at room temperature or freeze them. 


Turkish Bazlama

Ingredients:

- 4 Cups Flour
- 3/4 Cup Water
- 3/4 Cup Plain Yogurt
- 1 Tablespoon Dry Yeast
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Oil

- Butter for coating
- Parsley for garnishing 

Instructions:

Mix the yeast with the lukewarm water. Combine flour, yogurt, salt, sugar, oil, and yeast water until a soft ball of dough is formed. Coat the dough in oil and cover the bowl with a warm cloth for about an hour.

Cut into 4-6 pieces and roll into balls. Let the balls sit, covered with a cloth for 10-15 mins. 

Roll the balls out on a lightly floured surface.

Preheat in a cast iron pan on medium to high heat until you see bubbles forming, flip and cook for about 30 more seconds. (Don't grease the pan.) 

Rub with a bit of butter and top with parsley. Eat fresh with some yogurt.    

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