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Treatment of Controversial Historical Figures

For discussion and debate about anything. (Not a roleplay related forum; out-of-character commentary only.)

How to portray those like Washington, who held terrible views, but also contributed greatly?

Portrayed in the negative, with little discussion on their contributions
1
1%
Mostly portrayed on the negative side, with some discussion on their contributions
4
5%
A balanced portrayal that discusses their contributions and terrible actions equally
48
64%
Mostly portrayed on the positive side, with some discussion on their terrible views and actions
20
27%
Portrayed on the positive side, with little discussion of their terrible views and actions
2
3%
 
Total votes : 75

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New Ostrova
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Treatment of Controversial Historical Figures

Postby New Ostrova » Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:08 pm

As we know- and made more clear in part due to various recent events- there are many, many significant historical figures with important decisions or achievements, but are also known to have made rather objectionable or completely morally incorrect decisions elsewhere. Consider the case of Churchill, who is viewed by many as a capable and inspiring politician, but was also directly responsible for the famine of the Indian subcontinent and held racist views. Or perhaps Washington, who although portrayed relatively positively in history for his role in the rebellion of the United States, owned slaves and was noted proponent of slavery among other issues. There is no doubt that these men performed tasks of a large scale, which changed the world. However, these men are associated with behaviors that are repulsive and disgusting, such as slavery, racism, sexism, and so on. The question then becomes: how should we portray them, and view them in the lens of history?

My opinion: a balanced portrayal must be made. The morally abject things they did must be taught alongside their good deeds, and we should not let those good deeds cloud our judgement of them. Churchill had many terrible views, but he was also responsible for some effective leadership. Both the terrible actions he made leading to the Indian famine and his role in defending the UK against the Nazis must be discussed.
Last edited by New Ostrova on Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Punished UMN » Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:35 pm

Any portrayal will involve some bias, and while we should control for that, we do have to judge historical figures in part on the standard of their time, as moral extremes are distinguished by being fringe, so if something is not fringe behavior, it cannot be considered morally extreme. Now, we may say there is objective morality, but our knowledge of morality is socially constructed, so even if there are things objectively right or wrong, that doesn't make us (or figures from the past) culpable for them.
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Postby Luziyca » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:04 pm

I think the root of the problem may be the fact that we tend to elevate people on pedestals: think of our role models we had as children, for example. How many of those turned out to be terrible people?

Probably quite a few. Just because they may have influenced you to do some good in the world does not necessarily mean that the person in question was a decent person.

Likewise, with historical figures, while we should acknowledge their roles in history, we should do our best to not erase them, but not deify them either. There are some whose contributions to humanity are largely negative (e.g. Hitler, Thomas Midgley Jr., etc), and some who are largely positive (e.g. , ), but there are those who are going to have a mixed record, like Churchill: although he did lead Britain to victory in the Second World War, it came at the cost of 2-3 million Bengalis.

So yeah, I don't really think that we should deify him in our history books. However, erasing him from history would not be right either, given his role in shaping history. Thus, I think we need to acknowledge both the good and the bad that he did, and I think it'd be interesting to see a discussion on whether the dead Bengalis are outweighed by the British soldiers.
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Wink Wonk We Like Stonks
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Postby Wink Wonk We Like Stonks » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:09 pm

teach about them if they're important/relevant, just don't sugarcoat it. it's fine to say that andrew jackson did good things for america, just don't say he was a good person or that he didn't do terrible things like borderline genocide.
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Postby La xinga » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:14 pm

"Terrible" is an opinion. What some may consider terrible may be the only right way for others. What terrible views?
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Imperialisium
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Postby Imperialisium » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:14 pm

Balanced and unbiased as possible. Which, there’ll be likely some sort of bias to a degree. Depending on how patriotic a person is of course. But that’s better than sugar coating or removing/destroying/erasing parts of history.
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Wink Wonk We Like Stonks
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Postby Wink Wonk We Like Stonks » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:28 pm

La xinga wrote:"Terrible" is an opinion. What some may consider terrible may be the only right way for others. What terrible views?


racism, sexism, general bigotry, oh, and anything that caused mass, avoidable death
i use ns stats, but when the population starts to look sus, ignore it. factbooks take precedence.
lgbt+ rights, democracy (the more direct the better), gun control, [DATA EXPUNGED], affordable healthcare, calling people comrade, education reform, logic, fake imposters in the vents
the ban on anime, terfs, bigotry, racism, the absence of food in my stomach, school being boring and somewhat ineffective, [REDACTED], logical fallacies, being a true scotsman
they/them pronouns, pan, black
⚧gender and sex aren't the same thing.⚧
9 axes results
political compass
this nationstates represent my irl views pretty well.
For every bad reply, a political opponent will be sent to the capitalist gulags in Alabama. To date, 2 have been sent.

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New Ostrova
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Postby New Ostrova » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:30 pm

Luziyca wrote:I think the root of the problem may be the fact that we tend to elevate people on pedestals: think of our role models we had as children, for example. How many of those turned out to be terrible people?

Probably quite a few. Just because they may have influenced you to do some good in the world does not necessarily mean that the person in question was a decent person.

----

So yeah, I don't really think that we should deify him in our history books. However, erasing him from history would not be right either, given his role in shaping history. Thus, I think we need to acknowledge both the good and the bad that he did, and I think it'd be interesting to see a discussion on whether the dead Bengalis are outweighed by the British soldiers.


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Postby La xinga » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:32 pm

Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
La xinga wrote:"Terrible" is an opinion. What some may consider terrible may be the only right way for others. What terrible views?


racism, sexism, general bigotry, oh, and anything that caused mass, avoidable death

Elaborate?
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Exalted Inquellian State
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Postby Exalted Inquellian State » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:37 pm

In fictional content, we should probably show other people's views alongside their. If portraying Washington, probably show a few characters with slaves, and then the one guy who is an abolitionist form that one movement that as created in the 18th century. These beliefs should probably take up a few sentences at most in books or a minute at most in film. In portrayal in educational content, likely show the people that agreed and disagreed with them
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Postby Imperialisium » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:40 pm

Exalted Inquellian State wrote:In fictional content, we should probably show other people's views alongside their. If portraying Washington, probably show a few characters with slaves, and then the one guy who is an abolitionist form that one movement that as created in the 18th century. These beliefs should probably take up a few sentences at most in books or a minute at most in film. In portrayal in educational content, likely show the people that agreed and disagreed with them


So basically try to give a fair shake to various sides and aspects a la the great historical film: Gettysburg. Which shows both sides as Humans with various views, feelings, reasons for doing things, and ultimately the ramifications of events.
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Postby Major-Tom » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:42 pm

I think the answer is pretty simple, and it involves equal parts nuance and context. Luz alluded to this as well, in the case of Washington. He had some abhorrent viewpoints, but viewpoints that were commonplace during his time period. That doesn't mean we excuse those completely and not talk about it, we should be exposed to the negatives and the positives. In other words, for controversial yet impactful figures such as him, you have to really teach people objectively about it; IE, "this individual did some amazing things for the birth of our nation, but here is why he is someone we shouldn't put on a pedestal nor vilify."
Last edited by Major-Tom on Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Wink Wonk We Like Stonks
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Postby Wink Wonk We Like Stonks » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:50 pm

La xinga wrote:
Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
racism, sexism, general bigotry, oh, and anything that caused mass, avoidable death

Elaborate?


anyone pro segregation, slavery, genocide, homophobia, transphobia, mass deportation of citizens, and dictators.

please don't say not to judge people by modern standards, it only makes sense to, and it's an overused talking point for defending slave owners. wrong is wrong, regardless of time period.
i use ns stats, but when the population starts to look sus, ignore it. factbooks take precedence.
lgbt+ rights, democracy (the more direct the better), gun control, [DATA EXPUNGED], affordable healthcare, calling people comrade, education reform, logic, fake imposters in the vents
the ban on anime, terfs, bigotry, racism, the absence of food in my stomach, school being boring and somewhat ineffective, [REDACTED], logical fallacies, being a true scotsman
they/them pronouns, pan, black
⚧gender and sex aren't the same thing.⚧
9 axes results
political compass
this nationstates represent my irl views pretty well.
For every bad reply, a political opponent will be sent to the capitalist gulags in Alabama. To date, 2 have been sent.

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La xinga
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Postby La xinga » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:55 pm

Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
La xinga wrote:Elaborate?


anyone pro segregation, slavery, genocide, homophobia, transphobia, mass deportation of citizens, and dictators.

please don't say not to judge people by modern standards, it only makes sense to, and it's an overused talking point for defending slave owners. wrong is wrong, regardless of time period.

Washington was a dictator?
He created everything, and he was forever and will always be. He is perfect and his word is always true. He will never change his word, and YOU would not be reading this signature if it was not for him to allow your eyes to see!
Average religious person. Nothing collided with nothing, the Almighty did everything, and the world is 5781 years old. Deal with it.
No, please don't argue! I'm innocent!

Yes, we may too, may all of us be innocent.

Unless you're not...

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Imperialisium
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Postby Imperialisium » Tue Sep 29, 2020 4:04 pm

Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
La xinga wrote:Elaborate?


anyone pro segregation, slavery, genocide, homophobia, transphobia, mass deportation of citizens, and dictators.

please don't say not to judge people by modern standards, it only makes sense to, and it's an overused talking point for defending slave owners. wrong is wrong, regardless of time period.


Well the “judging by modern standards,” should be done in context to provide the full historical narrative. As often what error can be made is slap the “they did something we find bad today,” sticker on it then move on without detailing the who, what, when, where, why, and how...?
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Postby Costa Fierro » Tue Sep 29, 2020 4:06 pm

Really needs to be a balancing act in that it's equally wrong to measure the morality of someone by the context of our modern time and also to downplay or whitewash their moral failings and contributions to human suffering. Examining the context of their beliefs in the time period in which these people lived would be the best way forwards; certainly it would be wrong to deny their achievements and their failings.
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Exalted Inquellian State
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Postby Exalted Inquellian State » Tue Sep 29, 2020 4:22 pm

Imperialisium wrote:
Exalted Inquellian State wrote:In fictional content, we should probably show other people's views alongside their. If portraying Washington, probably show a few characters with slaves, and then the one guy who is an abolitionist form that one movement that as created in the 18th century. These beliefs should probably take up a few sentences at most in books or a minute at most in film. In portrayal in educational content, likely show the people that agreed and disagreed with them


So basically try to give a fair shake to various sides and aspects a la the great historical film: Gettysburg. Which shows both sides as Humans with various views, feelings, reasons for doing things, and ultimately the ramifications of events.

Basically. Also showing the standards of the time, so the audience can judge (hopefully) judge it themselves.
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Postby Exalted Inquellian State » Tue Sep 29, 2020 4:24 pm

Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
La xinga wrote:Elaborate?


anyone pro segregation, slavery, genocide, homophobia, transphobia, mass deportation of citizens, and dictators.

please don't say not to judge people by modern standards, it only makes sense to, and it's an overused talking point for defending slave owners. wrong is wrong, regardless of time period.

Do you think Jefferson Davis would be a slaveowning racist semi-terroristic secessionist if raised today? No. At worst he'd be a transphobe, and maybe not even that.
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Postby Andsed » Tue Sep 29, 2020 4:24 pm

Needs to be a balancing act. Talk about what they did and how they were relevant in history, but don't shy away from the bad or fall into the trap of thinking just because times were different said acts can simply be dismissed. Make it clear that for all the great things they did one must take into account what kind of person they were and the bad involved with their actions before they get put on any pedestal.
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Wink Wonk We Like Stonks
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Postby Wink Wonk We Like Stonks » Tue Sep 29, 2020 5:05 pm

La xinga wrote:
Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
anyone pro segregation, slavery, genocide, homophobia, transphobia, mass deportation of citizens, and dictators.

please don't say not to judge people by modern standards, it only makes sense to, and it's an overused talking point for defending slave owners. wrong is wrong, regardless of time period.

Washington was a dictator?


no, he was a racist.
i use ns stats, but when the population starts to look sus, ignore it. factbooks take precedence.
lgbt+ rights, democracy (the more direct the better), gun control, [DATA EXPUNGED], affordable healthcare, calling people comrade, education reform, logic, fake imposters in the vents
the ban on anime, terfs, bigotry, racism, the absence of food in my stomach, school being boring and somewhat ineffective, [REDACTED], logical fallacies, being a true scotsman
they/them pronouns, pan, black
⚧gender and sex aren't the same thing.⚧
9 axes results
political compass
this nationstates represent my irl views pretty well.
For every bad reply, a political opponent will be sent to the capitalist gulags in Alabama. To date, 2 have been sent.

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Wink Wonk We Like Stonks
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Postby Wink Wonk We Like Stonks » Tue Sep 29, 2020 5:06 pm

Exalted Inquellian State wrote:
Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
anyone pro segregation, slavery, genocide, homophobia, transphobia, mass deportation of citizens, and dictators.

please don't say not to judge people by modern standards, it only makes sense to, and it's an overused talking point for defending slave owners. wrong is wrong, regardless of time period.

Do you think Jefferson Davis would be a slave owning racist semi-terroristic secessionist if raised today? No. At worst he'd be a transphobe, and maybe not even that.


depends on who raised him. he's probably be a racist either way, and most likely a secessionist, but that's not as bad.
i use ns stats, but when the population starts to look sus, ignore it. factbooks take precedence.
lgbt+ rights, democracy (the more direct the better), gun control, [DATA EXPUNGED], affordable healthcare, calling people comrade, education reform, logic, fake imposters in the vents
the ban on anime, terfs, bigotry, racism, the absence of food in my stomach, school being boring and somewhat ineffective, [REDACTED], logical fallacies, being a true scotsman
they/them pronouns, pan, black
⚧gender and sex aren't the same thing.⚧
9 axes results
political compass
this nationstates represent my irl views pretty well.
For every bad reply, a political opponent will be sent to the capitalist gulags in Alabama. To date, 2 have been sent.

User avatar
Wink Wonk We Like Stonks
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Posts: 464
Founded: May 20, 2020
New York Times Democracy

Postby Wink Wonk We Like Stonks » Tue Sep 29, 2020 5:09 pm

Imperialisium wrote:
Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
anyone pro segregation, slavery, genocide, homophobia, transphobia, mass deportation of citizens, and dictators.

please don't say not to judge people by modern standards, it only makes sense to, and it's an overused talking point for defending slave owners. wrong is wrong, regardless of time period.


Well the “judging by modern standards,” should be done in context to provide the full historical narrative. As often what error can be made is slap the “they did something we find bad today,” sticker on it then move on without detailing the who, what, when, where, why, and how...?


some just say,"everyone owned slaves back then, so what?" which neglects to mention that slaves were also human beings and a part of everyone, and it's just blatantly false, but you're right about you said, cancel culture is especially dangerous in history, please don't cancel me
i use ns stats, but when the population starts to look sus, ignore it. factbooks take precedence.
lgbt+ rights, democracy (the more direct the better), gun control, [DATA EXPUNGED], affordable healthcare, calling people comrade, education reform, logic, fake imposters in the vents
the ban on anime, terfs, bigotry, racism, the absence of food in my stomach, school being boring and somewhat ineffective, [REDACTED], logical fallacies, being a true scotsman
they/them pronouns, pan, black
⚧gender and sex aren't the same thing.⚧
9 axes results
political compass
this nationstates represent my irl views pretty well.
For every bad reply, a political opponent will be sent to the capitalist gulags in Alabama. To date, 2 have been sent.

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La xinga
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Postby La xinga » Tue Sep 29, 2020 5:09 pm

Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
La xinga wrote:Washington was a dictator?


no, he was a racist.

Pretty much EVERYONE was a racist then. Saying WA was a racist will require us to add in for everyone living before the 1800s:

Oh, he was a racist, sexist, this, that, and this.
He created everything, and he was forever and will always be. He is perfect and his word is always true. He will never change his word, and YOU would not be reading this signature if it was not for him to allow your eyes to see!
Average religious person. Nothing collided with nothing, the Almighty did everything, and the world is 5781 years old. Deal with it.
No, please don't argue! I'm innocent!

Yes, we may too, may all of us be innocent.

Unless you're not...

WAMP WAMP!
#KAG2020

If you support capitalism, put this in your signature.
Hi, The east pacific!
GLORIOUS AMERICANIUM IMPERIUM!
Creationist, pro-life, straight.
ALL LIVES MATTER!

Nation in TEP. Don't endorse me if I am over 400 endos. Still a long way to go!

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Necroghastia
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Postby Necroghastia » Tue Sep 29, 2020 5:10 pm

La xinga wrote:
Wink Wonk We Like Stonks wrote:
no, he was a racist.

Pretty much EVERYONE was a racist then. Saying WA was a racist will require us to add in for everyone living before the 1800s:

Oh, he was a racist, sexist, this, that, and this.

No, because there were several abolitionists in his day. It was by no means a new idea.
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La xinga
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Postby La xinga » Tue Sep 29, 2020 5:11 pm

Necroghastia wrote:
La xinga wrote:Pretty much EVERYONE was a racist then. Saying WA was a racist will require us to add in for everyone living before the 1800s:

Oh, he was a racist, sexist, this, that, and this.

No, because there were several abolitionists in his day. It was by no means a new idea.

They were like, tiny.
He created everything, and he was forever and will always be. He is perfect and his word is always true. He will never change his word, and YOU would not be reading this signature if it was not for him to allow your eyes to see!
Average religious person. Nothing collided with nothing, the Almighty did everything, and the world is 5781 years old. Deal with it.
No, please don't argue! I'm innocent!

Yes, we may too, may all of us be innocent.

Unless you're not...

WAMP WAMP!
#KAG2020

If you support capitalism, put this in your signature.
Hi, The east pacific!
GLORIOUS AMERICANIUM IMPERIUM!
Creationist, pro-life, straight.
ALL LIVES MATTER!

Nation in TEP. Don't endorse me if I am over 400 endos. Still a long way to go!

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