Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld


Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The PR War Continues: More Bad Press For Counterfactuals

Readers of this blog are well aware that counterfactual history has had a difficult time gaining acceptance and acquiring legitimacy among professional historians. 

By contrast, the general public has been more receptive, with counterfactual novels, films, and television programs appearing with greater frequency.

This may change, however, the more that pundits publish well intentioned, but misleading, articles, such as Steven Goldzweig’s recent post, “When Words Lose their Meaning: Counterfactual Advocacy, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Despotic Populism.”


I’ve posted here before on how counterfactuals do not exactly benefit when they are used by, and come to be associated with, authoritarian minded political leaders, such as President Trump or Vladimir Putin.

Now the claims of academics like Goldzweig (a professor of communications) threaten to reinforce the notion that counterfactuals may lean right.

I agree with the bulk of Goldzweig’s critique of Trump’s public discourse, which he defines as “designed to deny, evade or misdirect its audiences from facts, inferences, or descriptions of events that might provide the kind of transparency we need in a democratic society.”

However, I bristle at his decision to label this discourse “counterfactual advocacy.”

In the field of history, the term counterfactual has long been employed to add academic respectability to the process of speculating about how the past might have been different.

Here the term is also used to lend a kind of social science aura of analytical rigor to Trum’s good-‘ol-fashioned habit of lying through his teeth whenever possible.

The problem is that the phrase “counterfactual advocacy” blurs crucial distinctions and muddies water that is already pretty opaque.

Counterfactual literally means “counter to fact.” And in the present political context, that is a negative designation.  The wanton distortion and negation of facts has too often been used by authoritarian regimes to mislead and confuse the public.

But not all claims that are contrary to fact have ulterior motives. 

As is well known, counterfactual history contemplates alternatives to real history in order to understand it better, not in order to distort it.

The use of counterfactuals is merely one method among many for historians to seek the elusive ideal of “truth.”

We stigmatize the term “counterfactual” at our peril.

But it’s an uphill battle these days.

Consider how stigmatized the term “alternative” is becoming -- what, with “alternative facts,” “alternative reality,” the “alt-right” (alt being a shorthand version for alternative), and so forth all having negative associations, at least among the moderate, center-left wing of the political spectrum.

It’s hard enough battling centuries of bias against counterfactual history without having to contend with the burgeoning backlash against the term “counterfactual” being encouraged by present-day politics.

I humbly suggest finding an alternative term to describe Trump’s preference for alternative facts.

6 comments:

  1. It also doesn't help when well known counterfactual historians, like Niall Ferguson, make bonehead moves like this: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jun/02/niall-ferguson-quits-stanford-free-speech-role-over-leaked-emails

    Seriously, what was he thinking?

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  2. Can't we use different terms other than "counter-factual" and "alternative facts" to convey that history is fragile and contingent, not some boringly inevitable "one damn thing after another"? The most important point is to get students identifying critical decisions in history and points of departure asking themselves and debating what if certain events didn't happen? The past could have been a helluva lot better, and a helluva lot worse. On my blog, http://byaslenderthread.wordpress.com, I rarely use the word "counter-factual."

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  3. CAREFUL TO ^SATA-N-AZIST^ ASSASSIN BITCH MONICA KOWAL FROM UNM, UNIVERSITY OF MEXICO. SHE USED TO DO PORNFILMS DRINKING CUM OF PIGS, DOGS AND DONKEYS! NOW,TO SURVIVE, NOW, SHE ALWS SUCKS FLACCID, HALF DEATH DICK FROM DONALD TRUMP ALIAS DONAZISTRUMP. WHO IS.......NOT FOR NOTHING..... JUST A MIX OF PIG, DOG AND DONKEY! NOTHING CHANGED FIN HER CRIMINAL LIFE!
    1
    CAREFUL TO ASSASSIN NAZIST MONICA KOWAL OF UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO https://gsefordham.wordpress.com/tag/monica-kowal/
    CAREFUL TO MAFIOSA AND MAFIA MONEY LAUNDERER MONICA KOWAL OF UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO https://gsefordham.wordpress.com/tag/monica-kowal/
    CAREFUL TO RACIST KUKLUKLANIST MONICA KOWAL OF UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO https://gsefordham.wordpress.com/tag/monica-kowal/
    CAREFUL TO HITLERIAN KILLER MONICA KOWAL OF UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO https://gsefordham.wordpress.com/tag/monica-kowal/
    ALIAS NEW ILSE KOCK OF WWW: WORLDWIDE WEB!
    THE REALITY IS ONLY THAT YOU, PORN BITCH DRINKER OF CUM OF PIGS, DOGS AND DONKEYS, MONICA KOWAL, ARE A SHITTY MAFIOSA AND NAZIST ASSASSIN! STINKY SHITTY WHORE MONICA KOWAL OF UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO . WHEN YOU WERE MAKING PORN FILMS, YOU USED TO DRINK CUM OF PIGS, DOGS AND DONKEYS. NOW, TO SURVIVE, YOU DRINK THE URINE ( SINCE THERE IS NOT MORE CUM THERE) FROM NAZIST AND MAFIOSO ASSASSIN LIKE YOU: DONALD "DONAZISTRUMP" TRUMP. WHO IS A MIX OF PIG, DOG AND DONKEY! NOTHING REALLY CHANGED AT ALL! I HAVE NEVER BEEN ANTI AMERICAN IN MY LIFE. IF ANYTHING THE OPPOSITE. BUT THIS BASTARD, HITLERIAN, NAZIST, ACTUALLY, DONAZIST USA OF SHITTY PEDOPHILE DONALD TRUMP ( AND HIS BASTARD MURDERERS WITH TIES OF STINKY, BLOODTHISRTY, DICTATORIAL, CONSPIRING ANTI DEMOCRATIC, EXCLUDING, ANTI MERITOCRATIC, PEDOPHILES OF FREEMASONRY, ROTARY, LIONS CLUBS AND ILLUMINATI "WITH ALL LIGHT BURNT OUT BULBS") REMINDS TOO MUCH, KUKLUKLLANIST AND MACCARTIST ONE. SO, FROM NOW ON, AMERICANS LIKE YOU, I WILL CALL THEM AMERI-CANI!!! FUCK OFF DONAZISTRUMP'S USA, FUCK OFF, FUCK YOU. I HATE THIS KIND OF DONAZISTRUMP'S VERY HITLERIAN USA. I HOPE GOD WILL DISINTEGRATE YOU WITH ANOTHER PROPER IMMENSE METEOR, SHITTY FASCIST, MAFIOSI, KILLING COWBOYS OF THIS BIG, ENORMOUS, EFFICIENT, WINNING, MAKING HISTORY DICK OF MINE!

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  4. 2
    FILTHY ^SATA-N-AZIST^ WHORE MONICA KOWAL FROM UNM UNIVERSITY OF MEXICO
    YOU ARE A STINKY SHITTY KILLING PROSTITUTE OF WELL KNOWN
    - PEDOPHILE DONALD TRUMP http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1186857-donald-trump
    - MAFIOSO AND MAFIA MONEY LAUNDERER DONALD TRUMP http://time.com/5109253/trump-organization-money-laundering-russians-russia/
    - MEGA COCAINE TAKER DONALD TRUMP https://bullshit.ist/white-house-sources-say-president-trumps-cocaine-habit-is-out-of-control-e2be4fa4da6d
    - NAZIFASCIST DONALD TRUMP https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/15/the-president-of-the-united-states-is-now-a-neo-nazi-sympathiser
    https://newrepublic.com/minutes/124205/yes-donald-trump-fascist
    - RACIST DONALD TRUMP http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-trump-racism-remarks-20180111-htmlstory.html
    - KU KLUK KLANIST DONALD TRUMP https://www.thenation.com/article/the-trump-familys-history-with-the-kkk/
    - MEGA LIAR DONALD TRUMP http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-white-house-liar-us-president-dishonest-history-richard-nixon-robert-dallek-oval-offic-a8073036.html
    - IMMENSE CHEATER DONALD TRUMP
    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/jan/30/donald-trump-golf-cheat-suzann-pettersen
    - BLOODTHIRSY ASSASSIN DONALD TRUMP https://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/23/politics/donald-trump-shoot-somebody-support/index.html

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  5. 3
    WHO IS JUST A CHOLERIC SUPER CRIMINAL PHOTOCOPY OF NAZIST ASSASSIN SILVIO BERLUSCONI (PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)
    http://deverdaddigital.com/articulo/7295/la-ley-fascista-de-berlusconi
    MAFIOSO SILVIO BERLUSCONI (PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)
    http://www.abc.es/internacional/20140724/abci-berlusconi-sexo-dinero-201407231647.html
    MAFIA MONEY LAUNDERER SILVIO BERLUSCONI (PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)
    http://www.agoravox.it/PROCESSO-DELL-UTRI-Mio-fratello.html
    MEGA PRINCIPAL OF HOMICIDES AND SLAUGHTERS, MASS MURDERER OF MAGISTRATES, SILVIO BERLUSCONI (PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)
    https://it-it.facebook.com/FALCONE-E-BORSELLINO-UCCISI-DA-BERLUSCONI-134602469910010/
    BASTARD ALWAYS LIAR SILVIO BERLUSCONI (PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)
    http://www.romanoprodi.it/comunicati/berlusconi-ancora-una-volta-bugiardo_819.html
    IMMENSE PIECE OF SHIT, MEGA MEGA CHEATER SILVIO BERLUSCONI (PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)
    http://www.askanews.it/politica/2018/01/19/di-maio-berlusconi-truffatore-politico-fa-stesse-promesse-94-pn_20180119_00060/
    WORST CRIMINAL OF THE WORLD AND OF ALL THE TIMES " WHILE WEARING A TIE", SILVIO BERLUSCONI (PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)
    http://www.repubblica.it/politica/1998/07/18/news/berlusconi_criminale_un_peso_per_l_italia-24583668/
    PERVERT, DEPRAVED PEDOPHILE SILVIO BERLUSCONI (PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)
    https://www.huffingtonpost.it/2015/03/26/intervista-gianni-boncompagni_n_6945522.html
    ( WHO IS BRIBING YOU TO TRY TO SCARE US, AS YOU AND "IT", WILL NEVER, NEVER, SUPER STRSA NEVER MANAGE TO... ACTUALLY, THE MORE YOU'LL TRY THAT, THE MORE YOU'LL SEE WHAT KIND OF REACTING METEORS FULL OF EXTREME HOT MEDIATIC FIRE WE WILL BE)
    ARE YOU A NAZIST, MAFIOSA LESBIAN WHO LEAKS THE PUSSY TO THE HITLERIAN GINA HASPEL, NEW ADOLPHINA HITLER OF CIA? I DONT' KNOW BOUT THAT ( BUT I THINK SO, AT.. LETS' SAY... 99,999999999999999999 %). CERTAINLY YOU ARE A STOMACH-TURNING NAZIFASCIST BITCH, SHITTY MONICA KOWAL ( WHO WE WILL MAKE VERY FAMOUS TO BE NEW ILSE KOCK OF THE WEB https://gsefordham.wordpress.com/tag/monica-kowal/ = https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilse_Koch ). GO TO SUCK POWERLESS DONAZISTRUMP'S COCK, NOW, SHITTY ILSE KOCK OF THE WEB. AND FUCK OFF FOREVER. COME AND KILL US, BASTARD NAZIST NEW ILSE KOCK, ALIAS MONICA KOWAL, BUT NEVER AND EVER THINK TO KILL DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSIONS, FIGHTS TO FREE OUR COUNTRY FROM YOUR BASTARD CORRUPTOR: MAFIOSO, MAFIA MONEY LAUNDERER, NAZIFASCIST DICTATOR, LIAR, CHEATER, PEDOPHILE, MEGA MEGA MEGA ASSASSIN SILVIO BERLUSCONI ( PER SEMPRE FUORI DAI COGLIONI)! ALSO ASSASSIN OF OUR RELATIVES AND NEARLY OF OURSELVES TOO ( ANYWAY ASSASSIN OF BIG PART OF OUR LIFES AND JUST CAUSE WE HAVE NEVER ACCEPTED TO BE HIS BRAINLESS SLAVES, LIKE HIS BITCHES, VERY OFTEN UNDER AGE BITCHES, WHO ARE JUST PHOTOCOPY OF YOU, STINKY SHITTY WHORE MONICA KOWAL OF UNM). COME AND KILL US, BASTARD NAZIST NEW ILSE KOCK, ALIAS MONICA KOWAL, BUT NEVER AND EVER THINK TO KILL DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSIONS, FIGHTS TO FREE OUR COUNTRY FROM YOUR BASTARD PRINCIPAL OF MURDERS AND SLAUGHTERS SILVIO BERLUSCONI. COME AND KILL US, BASTARD NAZIST NEW ILSE KOCK, ALIAS MONICA KOWAL, BUT NEVER AND EVER THINK TO KILL DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSIONS, FIGHTS TO FREE OUR COUNTRY FROM YOUR NAZIST, MAFIOSO, MAFIA MONEY LAUNDERER SILVIO BERLUSCONI! HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE, STINKY NAZIST AND KILLER MONICA KOWAL. NEW ILSE KOCK OF UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO.

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  6. 4
    SUCKING LOT OF FASCIST AND MAFIOSI COCKS: MONICA KOWAL, BASTARD PINOCHETTIAN HOMICIDE, BITCH, KILLER OF DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM. FUCK YOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!
    AND I HAVE NEVER VOTED LEFT. I AM NOT COMMUNIST. BUT WHEN I SEE BASTARD RACIST, HITLERIAN, MANIPULATIVE, DISHONEST, ANTIDEMOCRATIC TONGUES CUTTER LIKE YOU, BE SURE, I USUALLY BRING OUT THE VERY VERY BERY BEST OF ME ALL THE TIMES! AND YOU'LL SEE IT REAL SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCK OF DONAZISTRUM'S USA, FUCK YOU, FUCK OFF, LAND OF NAZISM, I HOPE GOD WILL CANCEL YOU WITH AN ENORMOUS METEOR, FUCK YOUUUUU!
    PS
    YOU BRAY, YOU GRUNT, YOU SQUAWK THAT DONALD TRUMP IS THE NEW DUX OF THE WORLD, IS NEW ADOLPH HITLER ON EARTH, SO CAN USE FBI LIKE A COVEN OF MUPPETS. MANIPULATING EVTG, GTG KILLED WHO DOES NOT STAY UNDER HIS NAZIST AND MAFIOSE SOLES, PROMOTING, INSTEAD, HIS BRAINLESS AND INVERTEBRATE SLAVES AND BITCHES (LIKE YA). YOU DID NOT NEED TO BRAY, GRUNT, SQUAWK THAT AT ALL. NOTHING IS MORE EVIDENT THAN THAT IN THIS WORLD. ALL YOU STINKY NAZIRACIST KUKLUKKLANIST, EITHER HAVE CHIEFS OF FBI, CIA, SEC, WTVR YOU WANT, UNDER YOUR ASSASSIN SHOES, EITHER YOU FIRE THEM.
    https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-control-us-justice-system-hillary-clinton-fair-trial-reminds-me-of-adolf-hitler-nazi-a8059031.html
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/this_week_in_trump/2017/05/under_investigation_trump_fired_fbi_chief_james_comey.html
    https://news.sky.com/story/did-trump-fire-fbi-chief-to-cover-up-russia-10870950
    https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/5/23/15680508/firing-fbi-directors-comey-trump-hoover-sessions
    WOW, WHAT A COINDICENCE: MEGA ASSASSIN DICTATORS LIKE YOU, ALIAS ADOLPH HITER, BENITO MUSSOLINI, ALFREDO STROESSNER, FRANCISCO FRANCO, AUGUSTO PINOCHET, POL POT, NICOLAE CEAUSESCU USED TO DO EXACTLY THE SAME. WOW, WHAT AN INTERESTING COINCIDENCE, WOOOOOOW! FUCK YOU, NAZIST ASSASSIN MONICA KOWAL FROM UNM UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO, YOU ARE NEW ILSE KOCK OF THE WEB. GO TO SUCK DONALD "DONAZISTRUMP" POWERLESS COCK, NEW ILSE COCK OF WEB: MONICA KOWAL FROM UNM, UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO! AND FUCK YOURSLF MUCH MORE TOO, SO YOU MAY RELAX A BIT, KILLING, HITLERIAN, MAFIOSA BITCH OF NEW COSA NOSTRA'S AND NEW GHESTAPO'S OF WEB. WHO DREAMS TO INTIMIDATE US ( YOU MAY INTIMIDATE MEGA BITCH OF YOUR MOTHER, YOU MAY INTIMIDATE MEGA PEDOPHILE OF YOUR FATHER, YOU MAY INTIMIDATE MEGA BITCH OF YOUR DAUGHTER, YOU MAY INTIMIDATE MEGA PEDERAST OF YOUR SON, BUT BE SUPER SUPER SUPER EXTRA SURE: NEVER US AT ALL... AND YOU'LL SEE THAT IMMEDIATELY)!
    PS
    WE DID NOT WANT TO WRITE ANYTHING ANYMORE ABOYT YOU, HAVING ALREADY HEAVILY BEATEN YOU, WON YOU, GIVEN YOU A VERY DUE LESSON OF DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSING AND SHOWING TALENTS. BUT SINCE YOU MOVE YOUR GHESTAPO'S, OVRA'S, DINA'S VICIOUS AGENTS TO PROVOKE US AND TO (TRY TO) INTIMIDATE US ON THE STREETS OF MANY COUNTRIES OF DIFFERENT CONTINENTS OF THE WORLD, NOW YES, WE'LL WRITE BOUTCHAAA DAYS AND NIGHTS, NIGHTS AND DAYS DAYS AND NIGHTS, NIGHTS AND DAYS. " 422 DAYS A YEAR, 35 DAYS A MONTH, 26 HOURS A DAY". WAIT AND SEE, STINKY COCKSUCKER OF MEGA COCAINE TAKER, NAZIST, MAFIOSO, ASSASSIN, PEDOPHILE DONALD TRUMP ALIAS DONAZISTRUMP. STINKY COCKSUCKER OF MEGA COCAINE TAKER, NAZIST, MAFIOSO, ASSASSIN, PEDOPHILE SILVIO BERLUSCONI. COCKSUCKER OF OF MEGA COCAINE TAKER, NAZIST, MAFIOSO, ASSASSIN, PEDERAST, WELL KNOWN CRIMINAL PAOLO BARRAI BORN IN MILAN ON 28.6.1965, FAMOUS ALL OVER THE WORLD AS "THE HOMOSEXUAL PEDOPHILE OF BITCOIN" ( OR COCKSUCKER OF OF MEGA COCAINE TAKER, NAZIST, MAFIOSO, ASSASSIN, PEDERAST, WELL KNOWN CRIMINAL PAOLO PIETRO BARRAI BORN IN MILAN ON 28.6.1965, FAMOUS ALL OVER THE WORLD AS "THE HOMOSEXUAL PEDOPHILE OF BITCOIN")!

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