Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Pity Of Deceit

A publisher kills its credibility if it tells just one obvious lie - readers can't trust a tainted source. The MSM is discovering this law to its cost, but it also applies to writers and the blogosphere. Here's an example of a spectacular suicide.

I bought The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History because it's recommended by the Conservative Book Club and published by the reputable Regnery Press.

The book starts well, apparently debunking myths about the first settlers, the War of Independence, the Civil War and the men who built the American economy. However when it got to WW1, I was surprised by this:

Immediately following the war, revisionist historians in America began to challenge wartime propaganda throughout the allied countries that had placed the blame for the wear squarely on on Germany.

I've read a fair amount of about WW1 but have never come across a claim that the Germans didn't start it! After 10 years of careful preparation by Kaiser Wilhelm, they did actually invade Belgium, France and Russia. Still, expecting some contrarian truth, I read on.

In the early 1960s the pendulum began to swing back to German guilt with the work of historian Fritz Fischer.

Looking better, but then it gets really bad (my emphasis):

Not all scholars were persuaded by Fischer, and by the early twenty-first century, historian Niall Ferguson would argue in the Pity of War that the lion's share of the blame belonged to Britain.

Britain! Which started the war with a tiny army and only got dragged in because it honored its alliance with France when the Germans invaded it! Now thoroughly suspicious, I checked out the book on Amazon - here's their review (my emphasis):

If someone less distinguished than Jesus College, Oxford, fellow Niall Ferguson had written The Pity of War, you could be forgiven for thinking the book was out for a few cheap headlines by contradicting almost every accepted orthodoxy about the First World War. Ferguson argues that Britain was as much to blame for the start of the war as Germany, and that, had Britain sacrificed Belgium to Germany, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution would never have happened. Germany, he continues, would have created a united European state, and Britain could have remained a superpower.

So Ferguson did not say that the "lion's share of the blame" lay with the Brits - but that it was as much to blame for the war as the Germans, for the highly dubious reason that the war would have been shorter if the Brits had decided not to defend Belgium and honor their alliance with the French.

Of course, the Amazon reviewer may be wrong, but none of the comments there or on their UK site remotely suggests that.

So the author is telling a lie.

The rest of the book seems to be full of interesting facts about the out-of-control SCOTUS. But if I can't trust the book on things I know about, I certainly won't trust it on things I don't.

Worse, this makes me distrustful of Regnery and the Conservative Book Club, so I won't be using either to provide primary sources.

A reminder to us all - check your facts!