Things May Not Be As They Seem


“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”

Plato, Phaedrus

“Knowledge is Power.”

However political power often ignores expertise that contradicts it’s self portrayal and goals.

Knowledge does not automatically leads to power, and power not necessarily command, attracts, or produce knowledge.

And many prominent scholars have little power of their own, if not helped by powerful Institutions, or organizations.

I meant to add some quotes about History, but desisted, not for a lack of quotes about History, regardless of it, few I would choose, since they tend to be heroic, rather than truthful, the History of Mankind, had being a messy affair of wars, lies, deception, fraud, robbery, pillage, and substitution of truth, for epic lore, to aggrandize and make us believe our ancestors were great, and no scoundrels, who behaved not as honorable men do, but as common criminals.

And then they wrote their deeds as History, not what really happened, but what they wanted for us to believe was true.

Different people wrote diverse stories, then we pick sides, and argue who is right.


History a Complex Matter

You will think History to be a simple straightforward affair, just get the data, arrange it in a chronological order, and  just start writing it.

If things will be so easy as that!

At first glance, writing about history can seem like an overwhelming task. History’s subject matter is immense, encompassing all of human affairs in the recorded past — up until the moment, that is, that you started reading this guide. Because no one person can possibly consult all of these records, no work of history can ever pretend to be comprehensive or universal. At the same time, history’s subject matter is partially irretrievable. Barring the invention of time travel, no scholar can experience the past firsthand or recreate its conditions in a laboratory setting. Historians must rely on the fragmentary records that survive from the time period under study, which necessarily reveal just part of the story. For these reasons, the guiding principles behind all historical writing must be selection and interpretation: the thoughtful selection of topics and questions that seem most interesting, and the responsible interpretation of sources in order to construct meaningful arguments. Subjective decisions about what to include, what to exclude, and how to understand it make history writing manageable in the first place. No less importantly, they also make it controversial, because scholars are bound to disagree with the judgments of other scholars. You can think of history writing, then, as an ongoing argument or debate over this unavoidable process of selection and interpretation. Your first challenge as a writer is to find a way to enter this conversation.

And that it’s just a starter, we could rise a hundred more issues!

“Getting history teachers to agree on pretty much anything, is quite difficult. If you ever want to see some ding-dongs between teaching staff, just sit in on a History Department meeting and watch the sparks fly.

Debate ends on fistfight

I cannot imagine my colleagues from the Maths department slogging it out over Pythagoras’ Theorem or chemists disputing the periodic table. But, historians; yes, historians are hard work. Even when we agree on the evidence, we rarely agree on the evaluation or analysis of it.

Depending on the history teacher you had in front of you, Dunkirk was either a triumph or a humiliation. The British Empire was jolly good or rather awful. King John was a nice chap or a nasty piece of work. And, the First World War was either a total disaster in which millions of decent people were led to their slaughter by an “out of touch elite” or a just war that put an end to the imperialist ambitions of an autocrat and an attempt to stand up for the self-determination of the people of Europe.”

Antony Little.

Soldiers victims from a gas attack WWI

After reading History for years, which by the way it’s mainly the story of conflicts, invasions, wars, and the like, well, I am jaded, and disappointed by so much incomprehension, and taking sides from so many people around the World holding grudges, about what happened hundreds of years ago to their people, or Nations, and carrying hatred for perceived affronts towards people of other nations, who have changed through centuries, and may have little in common with their supposed ancestors.

And of course,

There it is Hollywood!

People still read, but seriously, very little, most mainly learn their History watching movies!

I guess this it’s not news to any of you, who seriously study History, to listen to someone who doesn’t, but commenting about this, or that movie, and how they learnt about  a specific place, and moment of history, by watching a Hollywood, or British epic, or wherever the movie was made.

Now, maybe unknown to you, making a movie it’s a total professional business, were even the slightest of details are not left to chance, like using the wrong period lighter, to light a cigarette, or the attire doesn’t match the exact period it means to portray, in other words nothing it’s left to chance, not even the way extras walk in the set, and where they are looking at, in making a movie, many experts on their fields are involved, I used to work in a place where the prop departments of movie studios will come looking for specific items they required to make a movie, stuff that you wouldn’t even notice, in the brief second they would appear in the movie.

Making a Movie

However I have to say most film makers, care too much about giving us the ambiance of the period in question, but very little of telling us real History!

They just go along with the script, provided and approved, by whoever created the movie, and it’s responsible for the financial success of the project, that not necessarily reflect the views of the book author, if the movie it’s based in one.

Historians argue about facts, accuracy, reliability, and many other issues, movie directors creates a fantasy to sell, with little regard of Historical accuracy in the tale they make, period.

Recently a fellow blogger complained about how everybody judge Admiral Nelson as a great Historical figure, no doubt, he was, that even a movie of his Lady mistress Lady Hamilton was made, but I dare you to tell me who  Blas de Lezo y Olabarrieta was?

Don Blas de Lezo Naval Museum

Well for that you will have to read History.

Someone wrote:

“If Blas de Lezo were American, or English, his story would have been told hundreds of times in novels, movies and all kinds of media and formats. It would be a David Crockett or a Nelson. But he was a Spaniard or, rather, half Spanish, because he left so many pieces of his body in battle that he was called ‘Half man’. However, he was a complete hero, without cracks or shrinkage.”

Myths of the Old West

We know about William Henry McCarthy known better as Billy the kid, he was an American cowboy originally born in Manhattan, of all places, who ended up creating a legend by becoming an outlaw after shooting eight people and being shot himself at 21 years of age, or Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, a US Marshall assistant, of the famous OK Corral gunfight, little known about him was that he was a professional gambler, a brothel keeper, and bar owner, as well  as a pimp, and himself on many occasions, not so clearly on the side of  law,  Wyatt Earp and few other derelicts, seedy, and criminal characters, were able to make a career as outlaws, moving constantly into marginal towns, in the territories, not yet States, away from populated places, where that type of behavior would not be tolerated, and the reason they moved constantly, in search of new prey, and impunity. The safest way was by being officers of the law, when they could take that kind of job, easier on those days, at those places, or just running away when it was necessary!

Billy the Kid

Cowboys exalted in countless movies, as the spirit of American pioneers, and the legend of the indomitable old West, and the cowboy, a period that lasted no more than 25 years, before the railroad in 1869 took over, and the great cattle drives through the prairies where over, and law, order, and property rights were enforced, from coast to coast, except for isolated, and inhospitable  places like Tombstone Arizona, a miner boom town, whose only existence today, it’s to perpetuate the OK Corral gunfight of yore, it was a 30-second shootout between lawmen and members of a loosely organized group of outlaws called the Cowboys that took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, and many claim it wasn’t at all as portrayed in countless movies, some accuse the Earp clan as low class criminals, and the Earp-Clanton differences as the falling-out of partners in crime, and the whole affair at the OK Corral as an ambush of the Earp, against the Clanton gang.

In all honesty, there’s tons of controversy  about Wyatt Earp, to put all things clear, however I will go with Western historian and author John Boessenecker who in my opinion goes lightly, and benevolent, on the side of being cautious, and fair, when so much dirt has been wrote about Earp, as when he describes Earp as an “enigmatic figure … He always lived on the outer fringe of respectable society, and his closest companions were gamblers and sporting men … Wyatt never set down roots in any one place; when the money stopped coming in or his problems became too great, he would pull up stakes and move on to the next boom town … For his entire life was a gamble, an effort to make money without working hard for it, to succeed quickly without ever settling in for the long haul.”

He omitted as companions, outlaws, prostitutes, pimps, conman, drunks, and rustlers.

Gunfight at the OK Corral

Well, the period in question didn’t last long, the expansion of people Westward, the railroad, and with it law and order,  put an end to the Wild West epic period for good, Wyatt Earp himself ending as a Real State salesman in San Diego County, in Southern California, and dying in Los Angeles in 1929, promoting his image to Hollywood.

On The other Hand

Of course, we know almost nothing of the previous  350 years, when the Spanish brought without fanfare, or movies, to depict us,  the culture of cattle ranching, and expert horsemanship, that the cowboys learned from the humble vaqueros, mostly half bloods of Indian, and Spaniard, the original cowboys, and  extending all through Northern Mexico, and the South West before America took it over in 1848, in the Mexican war, not to talk about the original Indian people, who lived all through America before the arrival of the white settlers, who almost exterminated them, or confined them to reservations, talk about Genocide, and selective memory to do History!

Californios Ranching

And a force to reckon, were the Mestizo vaqueros, who in California defeated the US Army three times. First lead by Gen José María Flores Californios, (at the time Mexican citizens) retake Los Angeles, Second, defeat and capture of 24 Americans, led by Benjamin D. Wilson, who were hiding in an adobe house in Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, near present-day Chino, California, and the Battle or Rancho Dominguez, Californios, led by José Antonio Carrillo, defeat 203 US Marines led by U.S. Navy Captain William Mervine. Mainly through expert horsemanship, and using long lances, one old brass canon, and a few old muskets.

History is Selective

Well, just recalling a few incidents of History it’s clear that if you want to learn the truth, you cannot be selective, but unfortunately most of History it’s biased, and full of gaps, in actuality it’s more like focusing your attention on a specific place of time, and from a particular point of view, to tell whatever you may find useful to elucidate your main argument, leaving aside what in your judgment may not care to expose.

And I do not care what you may choose to fix your attention, unfortunately most of us, individual humans, we belong to a race, country, are politically inclined, and posses particularly given attributes who define you, possessing a Weltanschauung, a particular Worldview, before we can’t even go into any claim of neutrality to elucidate any argument.


History is Written by the Victors

One of the most unfortunate and widely-accepted ideas about historical thinking is that “history is written by the victors.” This talking point asserts that the truth of the past is not shaped by reasoned interpretive historical scholarship or a factual understanding of the past, but by the might of political and cultural leaders on the “winning” side of history; the “winners” have the power to shape historical narratives through school textbooks, public iconography, movies, and a range of other mediums. To be sure, these mediums are powerful venues for establishing political ideologies and shaping personal assumptions about the way the world works. And it’s definitely true that governmental or “official” entities can and do exploit this power to achieve their own ends. Well to be fair it’s not always the case, there’s exceptions, and of course what we name Revisionist versions, but I would just  say that History it’s not a straightforward affair by any means, and even digging deeper, we may never learn the whole  truth of it.

A Greek Phalanx

About theburningheart

This entry was posted in Billy The Kid, Blas De Lezo, Californios, Cinema & Literature, Criticism, Cultural Attitudes, History, Hollywood, Inspiration, Knowledge, Movies Not History, Plato, Uncategorized, World View, Wyatt Earp and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Pingback: THE COMPLEXITY OF HISTORY, KNOWLEDGE & POWER, A SELECTIVE MEMORY TO REMEMBER HISTORY, THE WAY HOLLYWOOD MAKES MYTHS, A FEW EXAMPLES. — Kone, Krusos, Kronos – „Ingerii sunt spirite inaripate, prietene cu spiritul tau inaripat.“

  2. mistermuse says:

    While there is much truth in Churchill’s “History is written by the victors,” it’s a lot more complicated than that, as this post well reminds us. I’d like to think, btw, that Churchill wouldn’t stop there if he were still alive today.

    • theburningheart says:

      Ah, Churchill! The man of the hour, who evenhandedly saved Britain and the World, from Hitler!

      Well, Chrchill himself an over rated darling of the media today, the fact was people in Britain voted him out of office less than two months after Victory day in 1945!

      Britain and the Allies won the war, however some Historians criticize Churchill overhanded the War, initiating the massive bombing that leveled Germany, and so many civilians lives were lost.His wartime response to the 1943 Bengal famine, which claimed an estimated three million lives, has caused controversy, as well, not to talk about his involvement on the War strategy forcing America to invade Italy, after the victory in North Africa, as a total lost of time, and a waste of allied soldiers lives, when the Mediterranean was practically an allied bathtub, controlling North Africa, the Suez canal, and Gibraltar, what was Hitler to do? Try to re-invade Africa, after he lost an army there?

      Before studying History more seriously, I wondered why Churchill was voted out of office less than two months after Victory day? It was the first general election since 1935, as general elections had been suspended during the Second World War. Clement Attlee, Leader of the Labour Party, refused Winston Churchill’s offer of continuing the wartime coalition until the Allied defeat of Japan. Parliament was dissolved on 15 June.

      The caretaker government led by Churchill was heavily defeated; the Labour Party under Attlee’s leadership won a landslide victory, gaining a majority of 145 seats.

      The result of the election came as a major shock to the Conservatives, given the heroic status of Winston Churchill, but reflected the voters’ belief that the Labour Party were better able to rebuild the country following the war than the Conservatives. And no doubt tired as well of the many sacrifices made during the war, and the lost of status as a first rate political power, to a new era of a terrible economy, and many restrictions because the war, a sort of Pyrrhic victory for Britain, and the new emergence of the USA, and the Soviet Unions as the real victors. and subsequently the almost total lost of the British Empire.

      These an many other questions about Churchill are passed over by many Historians promoting an over inflated image of Churchill, I guess it sales books promoting the general idea of Churchill as a great hero, after all few people prefer the myth, over prosaic details that may cast a shade over an icon, another well known fact but glossed over mainly, was during the First World War. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Churchill was serving as First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1915 he helped orchestrate the disastrous Dardanelles naval campaign and was also involved in the planning of the military landings on Gallipoli, both of which saw large losses.

      Following the failure of these campaigns, Churchill was demoted and resigned from government. He became an officer in the Army and served on the Western Front until early 1916.

      As you see, most historians prefer not to deal with hard questions and just go with the general opinion, it may hurt sales of their books, plus giving you an undesirable aura that may affect your image as a controversial Historian, that likes going against the grain.

      Thank you for your comment, it’s appreciated. 🙂

  3. broodjejaap says:

    Brilliant, and a reminder that in any story told there is “more to it” if you care to dig a bit deeper. That ‘more’ was filtered and left out in order not to make the story too complicated. The reader or listener or viewer must be able to see the pattern you present and put him/herself in the position of one of the heros (that is what Hollywood – and advertisements do, to let you dream to be part of the film). Hi-STORY is a bunch of stories, which are presented as Patterns & Sound.

    Scientists work that way too. If they are lucky they find in the complex world a Pattern which can be expressed rather simply as a Law. If it is true does not matter as long as it matches in many places and times so it is helpful to grasp reality and operate on it. The monk Mendel was such a scientist. He extracted Mendel’s Law about cross breeding of plants. Dominant and recessive strains if I remember well. Years and years later his notebooks were found in which he recorded his experiments. What Mendel did was simply cross out the peas that did not confirm his Law. Confirmation is what most people want and like. History stories have that role too, to confirm.

    • theburningheart says:

      Well thank you, for being one of those who recognize the pattern, most people accept unquestionably every story presented to them, no matter how untruthful prove to be, sort like the relatively not so long ago story of ‘Weapons of Mass destruction’ from a two bits dictator as Saddam Hussein, regardless if he deserved to be kicked out of Iraq, it was sold to the media and they went with it.

      The more I read History the more the pattern emerges, World leaders decide to take an action, and try to justify it, with all kinds of lies to protect themselves from blame, and even if caught red handed, nothing is done to bring them to justice, then in a few days nobody cares to remember.

      And as the World turns, and the same abuses, crimes, and lies are done over, and over.

      Thanks for your valuable contribution, and pointing to the facts. 🙂

      • broodjejaap says:

        If you took the red pill you will experience that reality is imperfect and incompletely matching with yiur expectations. So…. update your expectations instead of streamline/ cleanse Reality.

      • theburningheart says:

        To be truthful, I wish justice, concordance, peace, and harmony, the best for everyone, but do not believe my expectations, are so high, I am too old to be so naive, and know most men are weak, ignorant, full of passions, and short on virtues, so I got no expectations, however see my duty as to encourage people to be better, and give the best of themselves, and try to be high minded.

        But rest assured, I do not lose sleep over it, or have any expectations about it, in fact a little bit of a cynic, a great teacher of mine used to tell me:

        Dream big, have your face, and eyes towards heaven, but keep your feet well grounded.

        So, I do so.

        Thank you anyway for the advise. 🙂

  4. selizabryangmailcom says:

    This is so timely, for me personally. I was just talking to my husband this week about the U.S Constitution and how we’re taught it school that it was based on democracy in Europe, specifically Greece (even though democracy, as we know it, didn’t even exist in Europe at that time) but was actually based on the Great Law and Peace of the Iroquois. And the U.S. Government acknowledged this fact in 1987! This on the heels of some newscast I was watching where a white supremacist here where I live in the U.S. stated, “This country was white before. They’re not taking that away from us!” I mean, there’s no words to even approach that comment or that mindset. It’s so far from reality and so embedded in fantasy and delusion, there almost seems to be no resolution available. I mean, even telling kids to stay in school–who cares, right? When we’re still being taught that the Constitution was based on some mythical democratic Greece, not adopted from our brown brothers here in the U.S.–people, as you said above, who were almost wiped off the face of the planet by the Europeans who settled here. One feels overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, and ultimately resigned.

    • theburningheart says:

      Unfortunately History it’s used in every country to indoctrinate young people with the idea of making them proud of their origins, and the civic, or military leaders of the past, therefore the necessity to transform ordinary people into heroes, regardless of their factual deeds in History.

      On a past post: Mythology VS History, Sept. 2011 explain it’s a rationale of being, I wrote:

      “But what is not explained is why men needs a Rationale? And therefore History as a discipline, and Mythology as it’s result?

      This may seem Obvious, but in fact most human beings never question their Rationale, and it is taken for granted, since our motivations form part of who we are, given previously to us by the context, and our roots that compose our own Mythos, our own legend.

      And in our own legend we can’t be the bad guy, or our motives can’t be questioned as the product of greed, pride, lies, naked ambition, stupidity, ignorance, etc. In other words the sum of our failures, and wickedness as foible individuals susceptible to corruption, it is what form our rationale, our myth. This Myth of course goes beyond the individuals, to the story of families, clans, towns, states, nations. Who form their own interpretation of events, not only to explain motives, but to sustain the existential rationale of Being.”

      After all who wants to be remembered in History as the despicable, bad guy?

      And even those white supremacist, consider themselves to be safeguarding righteously, what mistakenly, and deludedly they consider it’s their right.

      Thank you for your interesting comment. 🙂

  5. Ladegis says:

    Reblogged this on Szwedzka Polka and commented:
    Bardzo interesujący wpis! Polecam!

  6. History telling is complex whether in history books or as translated by Hollywood. Unfortunately, more and more I find that the media gives a rather superficial and often not correct presentation of history, whether contemporary or from different times. And I won’t get into politicians dealings with history…

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, Otto, too many interests are at play to keep people by the media, and politicians looking at things in a certain way, not to say people have their own ideas, brought by who they are, as a legacy of the past, with particular stories of their own, always different, and conflicting with each, other according to their own interest.

      Thank you for your comment, Otto. 🙂

  7. I agree that reality — and consequently history — is layered and complex. We grasp only some aspects of it, even with great effort. That should teach us humility. As a Christian, I must add to your analysis that the endless wars in which mankind engages are examples of the “sin nature” of mankind. We cannot, despite the best efforts of good men, manage to save ourselves. We need a Savior in the Person of Jesus Christ. Blessings, A.

    • theburningheart says:

      I am not a Christian, in what most people understand the term, however I share your faith on a Higher Power, that’s is manifested everywhere, and within Ourselves, and His Wisdom, and Ways run very deep, and are mysterious.

      And it’s not for us to understand , but to surrender, and accept, after we tried to do our best, in changing wrong, for good.

      But did we try?

      The affair will be settled by Him.

      Thank you Anna, for sharing with me. 🙂

  8. Lwbut says:

    “History is Bunk.” – Henry Ford.

    “Hollywood, doubly so!” – Lovewillbringustogether 2018. 🙂

  9. It is clear about Hollywood: they create what sells and attracts. As somebody who was living in the old USSR, I can say that history was interpreted whatever way that pleased more the government. When Latvia, for instance, became independent again, all history books were re-written. After I relocated to Canada, I could see that they had interpreted the same things absolutely differently. Watching historical documentaries, sometimes makes me feel they totally misinterpreted some facts. When it comes to history and historical events there will be always numerous interpretations because history is somewhat personal. More or less we are touched by it in our lifetime. While we are seeing everything in a unique way and there is no other person on the earth who can see everything 100% our way, I think it’s ok to have a personal most trusted interpretation. The most disgusting part is profit taking from presentation of historical events in some distorted way, as well the lies which governments distribute via mass media and internet to turn people to something that fits their goals.

    • theburningheart says:

      Unfortunately History it’s used by people, organizations, and governments around the World like a propaganda tool to further their claim to legitimacy, or just to advance their agenda.
      One of my themes through my blog, it’s that Myths, are more important to the human psyche, than Historical truths, because they provide us with a simple, and understandable answers, and a rationale of being, unlike History that can be so complex, and may lack what ultimately most humans search for, meaning.

      The powers that be, aware of this fact, try to rally behind this tendency on most people psyche.

      “if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

      This famous phrase attributed to Joseph Goebbels, there’s no reliable source has been located, and this is probably simply a further variation of the Big Lie idea
      If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.
      If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.
      If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
      If you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes truth.
      If you repeat a lie many times, people are bound to start believing it.
      Attributed in The Sack of Rome (2006) by Alexander Stille, p. 14, and also attributed in A World Without Walls: Freedom, Development, Free Trade and Global Governance (2003) by Mike Moore, p. 63

      And all that, just to show you how since ancient times it’s well known, and used by every power on Earth to advance their ideology.

      A powerful tool today, used by marketing, and by Madison Ave. A metonymy with the American advertising industry, to sale us whatever they want us to buy a bar of soap, or a cereal, that they want you to believe it’s better for you.

      History has not escaped the “Madison Avenue techniques” refers, according to William Safire, to the “gimmicky, slick use of the communications media to play on emotions.”

      But of course, it’s as old as time.

      Basically it’s the responsibility of each individual to be well informed, or become easy prey from those who want to abuse of his/her credibility.

      Thank you Inese, for your valuable, and insightful comment. 🙂

  10. To me the human being seems to be unable to learn how to live more ore less in peace and even if he understood theoretically he is absolutely uncapable to put it into practice, because it’s to difficult not to be driven by forces out of controll. I know there is much more to read here and I will do my best. Best regards. Martina

  11. As you write so well in this post, history is an incredibly complex and fluid matter never completely known to us. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult for future generations to learn from this subject.

    • theburningheart says:

      What you say it’s true, and I could add most people do not have the time, or willingness to dig deep in the study of Historical issues.

      Thank you, we appreciate your comment. 🙂

  12. Religion is certainly in the same vein… To a large degree, many religions are historical, and it does depend on your worldview in how you perceive it. In even the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, we were specifically warned against false traditions (embellishments not found in the Bible), precepts of men (manufactured theology), and doctrines of demons (assimilated paganism)! Yet, here we are…

    Quoting my Welcome page: “While I consider myself a Judeo-Christian, I am not a proponent of the Hebraic Roots movement. It is no different from all the rest. In modern Judaism, there are primarily Orthodox, Conservative, Reform/Progressive, and Karaite movements; in Catholicism, there is Roman as well as Greek Orthodoxy with numerous orders and rites; in Protestantism, there are movements such as evangelical, charismatic, and fundamentalist with denominations such as Episcopalians, Lutherans, Mennonites, Anglicans, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Amish, Quakers, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Church of God, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and many others of varying flavors; and finally there are Latter Day Saints/Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and numerous non-denominational churches. All of these are proclaiming that they are the TRUE church and only they teach the truth.”

    It is said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That certainly applies to “truth” as well — whether history, religion, politics, media, and some sciences. I enjoyed your article. Thank you!

    • theburningheart says:

      Or “so be it”
      Even if some dispute the origin of this word, as you may know.

      Thank you for such a fine comment, we appreciate it. 🙂

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