How History and Myth are created: An Example

Lalkar 1

As we all know, 1989 saw the collapse of the socialist states in eastern Europe, as well as the Chinese state not collapsing but employing military force against a challenge to its authority. These events are popularly know as the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the memory in the west, based on reporting at the time, is of tanks rolling over and shooting students in the Square. The image above, taken from Lalkar for May/June 2009 (the paper has its own website if anyone wants to follow it up and read the whole thing), is of an article from its August/September 1989 edition that challenged this narrative, accusing the western media of fabrication, and which unambiguously supported the Chinese government. It comes, effectively, from the CPGB (M-L), whose main figure is Harpal Brar, formerly resident in Dublin and of whom more can be read in the Left Archive.

I have posted the above image only because of this story from the BBC’s Beijing correspondent of the time, James Miles. Miles openly states that he and the other western journalists are responsible for the creation of a myth of a massacre in the Square, based on false testimony from locals. He does however state that they got the story generally right. This is on the grounds that violence did take place elsewhere in the city, and that their description of the aims of the protestors were correct.

The whole thing is an interesting insight into the nature of journalism, political progaganda, and the formation of public opinion and memory. Worth thinking about for our own island when we see so much history being falsified and adjusted to current political concerns, especially in the north. At one level, this is fairly harmless, such as when Gerry Adams mistakenly recollects singing a song in gaol that had not yet been released while he was there. At another level, it is a lot more harmful, such as when the discriminatory practices of the unionist regime are whitewashed or when state brutality is covered up or the sectarian realities of many murders and bombings are denied, either by politicians or academics. Competing versions of Irish history will always exist, but they don’t have to be a poison sickening the body politic.

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2 Responses to “How History and Myth are created: An Example”

  1. nikolaykotev Says:

    Dear Friend!
    I have a new blog for modern and contemporary world history – “Nikolaykotev’s Blog” with URL: http://nikolaykotev.wordpress.com/ .If you want, you can see it on this adress!
    Best wishes
    Nikolay Kotev
    NEWS: approximately 1000 photos from the Second World War

  2. Garibaldy Says:

    Hi Nikolay,

    Great blog, and brilliant photos. Thanks for letting me know about it.

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