Dealing with Liberals and History - By John Silveira
Years ago I hated talking politics with liberals. I have a good memory
and a good sense of history, but whenever I mentioned any historical “fact”
that countered their arguments, the favored weapon in their arsenal was to
deny history. They immediately pointed out history’s supposed irrelevance,
explaining it is written by the winners or by people with an axe to grind
and is thereby distorted and inaccurate. At worst, I was told, it is lies;
at best it is unknowable. The corollary to this view is that all views of
history are equally valid. In college this was called an epistemological
argument, epistemology being the study of how we “know” things. The liberal’s
answer, when confronted with historical evidence is, “we can’t know,” so
they excluded my facts from our discussions like a judge not admitting
evidence in a courtroom.
This tactic especially grieved me when I was young. It seemed to be a
denial that there is a real and knowable world out there. It also made
the claim that there are no honest historians. I thought the professors
should know better than this, and I was sure that deep down those who used
the argument didn’t really believe it themselves, but it was such a powerful
tactic, it became a liberal shibboleth in the search for truth in any
Because I had heard the argument so many times, I began to believe it had
some validity. Could there be any doubt if so many--including PhDs--seemed
to believe historical facts didn’t count? Then one day, in a philosophy
class, I changed my mind. I decided they had won. I said history is relative
and unknowable. I said all historical viewpoints must be equally valid.
At the time, I was a student at a university in Boston, Massachusetts. Having
made my admission there, in front of the professor and the other students,
it must have appeared as if I was reborn. I made it sound as if I’d just been
contentious all semester. I let it be known that I now bought into the
argument liberals have used to refute any historical evidence for years.
They were right. In fact, they were so right, that I adopted their belief
right there in that class. And it has served me well.
At first, the professor sat smugly at the head of the class feeling he had
won me over. But I wanted to take it further. I pointed out that, since
historical evidence is unreliable, neo-Nazi arguments, that the Holocaust
never happened, must be as valid as those which claim it did; I suggested
we should seriously consider the arguments of racists who said blacks were
better off under slavery and, in fact, were better off when they didn’t have
to take care of themselves; I said that women have no basis for claiming
they’ve been treated as second class citizens throughout most of history.
I said all these views were valid because any historical evidence demon-
strating they were false, was inadmissable. The smugness that had just
appeared on his face now looked like gravy running down his chin because
this is not what he or any other liberal intends when they say history is
unreliable. They never intend it to be used against them.
But there was no victory for me. He skirted my new revelations in an unkind
sort of way. I would later discover that when I turned this cornerstone of
liberal philosophy against them, liberals usually took one or more of the
* I am told, “I don’t have time to talk about this anymore.”
* I am told I am now making a joke of everything when they were
trying to engage in a serious discussion.
* It is suddenly revealed that some history is reliable
and some historians are truthful and guess who they are? Why,
they’re the people who share the same beliefs as the liberals.
* It is darkly hinted that we should cease this conversation and
discuss my latent racism, misogyny, homophobia, or anything else
that will draw attention from the fact that I am in the process of
exposing their method of reasoning to be a sham.
I later discovered some other things about liberals and history. One is that
the reason they feel so comfortable with their argument is that by citing it
they don’t have to face any unpleasant facts you may present. But mostly it
is that they themselves have been distorting and rewriting history for so
long, they assume everyone else must do it, too.
But the fact is, there are “truths”out there and there are people who
sincerely look for them. There are also genuine tests for political
ideas and philosophies, against the backdrop of history, if we are willing
to look for them. Don’t ever let someone trivialize history as “relative” or
“just your opinion.” Lastly I learned that disarming a liberal will not
convert him to reality.
That effort has a lot in common with the old saw about trying to teach a
pig to whistle.