Sunday, August 25, 2019

"Once history becomes a club..."

Wilfred McClay on "The Weaponization of History":
.... The weaponizing of history corresponds invariably with a remarkable hostility to history. Its practitioners are content to slice a single fact out of a web of details, then repeat that fact with the stubbornness of protesters who have memorized a chant.

This aggressive historical simplification is at the core of the cult of intersectionality, which now rules American college campuses. The language of unchallengeable collective grievance relies on history for its authority. Notice how concepts such as “historically underrepresented” and “historically marginalized” are used to certify groups that deserve to be favored automatically in the present.

The condition of any particular person doesn’t have a reliable relationship to that aggregate group victimization. But the key move is to draw on the authority of history to construct unanswerable arguments in every dispute, and always refer individual cases to the invincible aggregate norm.

Why study the past? Today, the point is too often to gain ever better weapons to use in present battles, ever more unanswerable supports for our grievances. This argument from history is potent precisely because it relies on conclusions drawn from data that are no longer ready at hand. It all comes out of a black box called History.

But that cannot last forever. Once history becomes a club, it quickly loses its credibility as history. .... (more)

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