History is Written by the Victors

“History is written by the victors” – so said Winston Churchill. And interestingly, wag that he often was, Churchill always said that he would write it – and indeed he did.

Truth is I use to believe that too. But in our day the lines are getting blurred and history is constantly being re-written; re-interpreted and re-construed as social mores shift and change and frankly as technology or better its applications influence and impact our ability to both record and change and share.

And it’s the record and change and share that I am focused on. Never in the history of the world have we had the ability to do all three with such efficiency and effectiveness not to mention speed and sheer capacity to store data and information.

Yet it’s the confluence of the three that concerns me.

Any recorded history was always colored by the author – victor or vanquished. And it was up to us – the reader or analyst or whatever to form opinions based on our own biases and color skew. Ergo – history is rarely if ever objective.

Ask the Israelis and the Palestinians; The British and the Irish; The Vietnamese and the Americans; The Turks and the Armenians and on and on and on.

 And no doubt –within all of the conflicting accounts sometimes clearly and sometimes buried deeply are common “facts” that while interpreted differently by the protagonists allow us as third party observers to glean some semblance of “truth” – whatever that might mean.

But here is the thing – I see two disturbing trends – one is the ability to go into records and change them to fit a particular personal view. While that has always been possible and was no doubt prevalent even in the age of parchment technology has given the perverter of history an edge. With a key stroke or two empires could disappear; despots become benign and famous events can take on new meaning.

Read this article from the New Yorker:

To me the point is not the ignorance – that isn’t new – what’s troubling is the attempt to change what was to fit a view of what someone wishes is in order to become what will be.


The second issue is the speed with which we globally share information or misinformation and as we all know what we share must be true…No?

Innocent until proven guilty has lost its meaning; Faked news is an everyday occurrence. We have lost the ability to distinguish between PR and fact – and the stuff that was once relegated to the fringe lunatics of conspiracy and craziness has gone mainstream.

I am seriously concerned. For us and for the next generation – what hope do they have if we can’t even begin to trust our sources of information ; enlightenment and education.

How will we form opinions? Learn? Not repeat our worst mistakes?

Once we could look ahead fairly secure in the knowledge that we had a past to fall back on – yet as we re-invent our present by changing the past – how will we ever correct the mistakes?

So I am worried.


The future ain’t what it used to be.

Yogi Berra

What do you think?

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