Hijacking History

January 14, 2009 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: history.

Working in the Internet industry fosters a sense of exactness, or at least I would hope it does. Whether it’s coding HTML or PHP, designing a template for a content management system or publishing articles on business or legal issues, everything should be correct.

Why? Well, a mistake in your HTML code could end up with you presenting users with dead link; a simple mistake, but if you don’t spot it on a popular web page that you’re driving traffic to and the link could earn you good money then it becomes a problem, maybe an expensive problem. The same can be said for all of those other examples.

In other industries too, “getting it right” is vitally important. When I worked in engineering many years ago I was involved in the Quality Assurance of many manufactured items that, were they to fail, they *might* have catastrophic consequences. In order to protect everyone, from the company to the end users, and to prevent mishaps & potential law suits very strict quality guidelines were a necessity; they are “the norm” in engineering. From safety equipment for military personnel in combat zones, engine components on passenger aircraft to circuitry in devices that would sit on the ocean floor – all these items went through exacting processes to ensure that they were of the utmost quality.

To err is human, of course, and we’re not perfect, nobody is. Some people make a lot of mistakes, others so very few. Most mistakes are probably “no big deal” whilst others could land you in court. The only way to avoid errors is have standards, to be aware, to perform to the best of your abilities, to have procedures in place that will help avoid those pitfalls. Of course it’s all relative, horses for courses, as they say; It’s not necessary to butter your bread with the same delicate precision that you would utilise to conduct a heart bypass operation is it?

So when it comes to the explosive rate in the dissemination of “information” on the Internet over the last few years there’s obviously a different standard applied to the personal blog than there is to financial data. Whilst you can get into a lot of hot water for publishing incorrect financial information it’s quite alright to say “I think Celebrity Big Brother is crap”. The difference is, of course, that there are regulations for the publication of financial figures whilst smalltalk is just that.

That’s not to say that there aren’t repercussions for blogging and somebody taking affront to your comments. Take the story of biologist P.Z. Myers who wrote a negative review about a book called Lifecode: The Theory of Biological Self Organization. Author Stuart Pivar decided to sue Myers for calling him a “classic crackpot”. There’s a good overview with all the links at Overlawyered.

So why did I open this piece with the title “Hijacking History” before drifting off into engineering and biology? Well, I had a conversation the other evening with my better half about how certain subjects get hijacked and, when presented in a populist way to a wide audience, the new version of the story has a very distinct possibility of becoming the accepted norm. Rewriting history, as it is known.

In the Jon Bon Jovi film U-571, Tom Cruise’s Battle of Britain film (which, to my knowledge, has never been released), Spielberg-directed War of the Worlds, or H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine; Hollywood has written the Brits out of their own stories, replacing them with Americans instead.

And that leads me nicely to the source of tonight’s desire to write… I was sent a link to a blog post regarding Hugo Chavez and the threat he poses to America. The Venezuelan President apparently expelled US Diplomats from the American Embassy in Venezuela last year on September 11th. The piece quite rightly picks up the fact that it was a well-timed insult to America, that Chavez was making his contempt for the USA known by the significance of the date of the expulsion.

The blog author went on to remind the reader of the pain of 9/11 by pointing out…

Over 3,000 innocent American men, women and children were killed that day

…and that Chavez’ timing was totally disrespectful in light of the date.

Unable to comment on the blog and correct that statement (because there was no comment facility) I’d like to set things straight here;

2974 people were killed in the 911 attacks (not including the 19 perpetrators and the 24 missing persons).

329 of those killed on 9/11 were NOT American. 67 of those killed were from MY country. 90 other countries also lost innocent men & women when the twin towers came down.

As for mentioning children dying when the twin towers came down, I’ve not heard that one before. So if there’s any data, someone please show me, otherwise I feel that’s just sensationalist rubbish.

So before someone complains about such a “slap in the face” to their country and their country alone they should make sure they’re not insulting 90 other countries. “Getting it right” is important otherwise, as in this case, it is either a lie, blatant propaganda or just sheer stupidity, and not one of those traits adds credibility to anybody who wishes to be taken seriously (unless lies, propaganda & stupidity are acceptable forms of human behaviour).

Looking further into the details of the Tom Cruise film about the Battle of Britain, many Brits are familiar with the famous line of Sir Winston Churchill after that victory:

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few

That Battle of Britain film, about TC’s character single-handedly keeping the Luftwaffe out of British skies, was to be called The Few. We know who The Few were, far better than Hollywood ever can and ever will.


2 comments on “Hijacking History

  1. beckNo Gravatar says:

    It’s so easy for me to hate Tom Cruise (not that he was the foolish bloke who made the casting and scripting errors, but he is the frontman.)

    You, on the other hand, are very much appreciated for getting the content and the connections right.

  2. Thanks Beck 🙂 The Tom Cruise film is about US pilot Billy Fiske who was, apparently, a really interesting guy who had the privilege of doing many dashing activities in his life but flying for the RAF was the sad episode that brought him to an untimely end and without even a single ‘kill’ to his name.

    The travesty of the film is that he wins the Battle of Britain when it was actually all the other souls who did so. To steal other nations’ thunder is disrespectful and to ‘spin’ the story of a brave man is quite simply untrue.

    Fantasists are welcome to create whatever wild stories they like just as long as they’re not telling lies.

    Thanks for the appreciation. Appreciated and reciprocated 🙂

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