A little while back somebody began sending me links to some very weird ‘history’ videos and pages on the web, and asking me what I thought.
All of it was about an alternative kind of history in which The Truth had allegedly been Hidden by the Establishment (including by Historians) to Intentionally Deceive the Public. All were variations on a baseless fantasy which denied that Maori were the first indigenous people of New Zealand. Instead, the videos claimed that New Zealand was first settled by white-skinned people (naturally) – usually Celts, who were then (again, naturally) killed and eaten by Maori arriving from Polynesia. This alleged ‘secret past’ is, according to the conspiracists, well known to professional historians, Maori and The Authorities. But, the conspiracists believe, it’s been intentionally ‘suppressed’ by these groups. Well, quite. So where’s my bloody hush money then? Well?
Of course the entire conspiracy/pseudo-historical idea is really a facile repeat of discredited, deeply racist, 1890s replacement theory, wrapped in a current agenda. Yah – we’re talking white supremacy here. These same people are also trying to offer other junk history in an effort to discredit the current place of the Treaty of Waitangi, the instrument that defines the relationship between Maori and Crown.
I can’t see the point in engaging such rubbish about New Zealand’s past; it’s trivial to give the lie to what they allege, and the overtones – well, one hesitates to engage with such a blatant moral void. In any case, you can’t reason with extremists. These ones, it seems, regard conventional history as a deliberate lie and personally blame historians for current social trends. In revenge they dump all the hate and anger they can muster, personally, on historians, museum staff, librarians and public employees, and then deny that their targets have any valid right of response.
The relentless flow of links to this rubbish stopped when I finally pointed out that the guy featuring in many of them is publicly reported to be a Holocaust denier and a white supremacist. Curiously, my correspondent didn’t express surprise – ‘oh wow, I didn’t know they were behind it, oops, my bad’. Oh no. I also have no idea what they thought they might achieve by getting me to look at it. I don’t buy that my correspondent was flat ignorant of real history – the material I was sent was too closely themed. Maybe it was an effort to get the pseudo-junk validated by a real historian. Maybe it was soft recruitment. I’ll never know, as I never heard from my correspondent again.
What does puzzle me is why ordinary and normal people (such as my correspondent) get attracted to rubbish history. One can speculate: those who latch on to the ideas might not, themselves, be active extremists. But perhaps they still feel threatened by where society has moved. Maybe they feel more comfortable believing the stuff peddled by extremists, without actually advocating that extremism themselves. I don’t know. People are complex.
Any thoughts on why people find ‘alternative’ theories appealing, for whatever reason? Is the excitement and interest of the real thing not enough? I don’t know. Any ideas?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2019