Distorting History

From civicintelligence
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The story of the first Thanksgiving is typical of whitewashed depictions of the relationship between native North Americans and European settlers.

Description of the pattern

Altering history by teaching manipulated stories, facts, and data is a means of promoting specific ideologies and agendas. This can be achieved by creating events that did not happen, altering events that did happen, or omitting events altogether. Over time knowledge of the truth will die with those who lived or witnessed it, and the alternate version will be universally accepted as true.

How it Works

Distorting history is an effective method of erasing events from the minds of the population, of glorifying events and people in support of state ideals, and vilifying events and people in conflict with state ideals. Presenting history in a way that supports the agenda of the state, and reinforcing it through public education and the media can be used to control the perceptions of the populace in ways that prevent dissent and promote nationalism.


Early American history as taught in the public school system contains many examples of myths and exaggerated heroism. The early European settlers are depicted as good Christians fleeing oppressive British rule and settling peacefully in the New World with the good Indians while having to defend themselves against the bad Indians. Little is said about the native population plummeting by an estimated 80% between 1492-1650 due to disease carried from the Old World settlers, outright massacres, and forced labor.

The Vietnam War seems to barely be mentioned in public school history lessons. Most Americans have a perception of it being unpopular, and even bad, but have no knowledge of the war crimes committed by Americans, and the extent to which even soldiers protested the war.

Links (to other anti-patterns)

Semantic Manipulation, Denialism, Cultural imperialism, Ultra-nationalism, Dumbing Down, Xenophobia

Notes and Suggestions