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Post Historical Objectivity vs Historical Impartiality
Created by John Eipper on 05/13/17 4:00 PM

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Historical Objectivity vs Historical Impartiality (Angel Vinas, Belgium, 05/13/17 4:00 pm)

I would like to respond to José Ignacio Soler (May 12) on historiography and ideology. My use of a binary formula (right-wing vs left-wing historians) is for simplicity's sake. I happen to believe though that as far as the Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War go, it is a valid one. Obviously, another one could be used--i.e. bad vs good historians--but I fear the value judgments therein implied might lead to more acrimony. José Ignacio may rest assured that I don't claim any kind of moral superiority of left over right or vice versa.

Furthermore, one should not confound objectivity (which is an aim to strive for in any historian) and impartiality. Objectivity means striving to write a fact-based history, applying the rules and techniques of the historical method. Impartiality is quite different and implies an explicit value judgement. My history writing is to the extent possible based on facts (documents, testimonies, memories) which are all critically examined and contextualized to the best of my ability but in accordance with a widely accepted methodology.

I´m not impartial. I don´t put on the same level the defense of a democracy (which might have been weak, imperfect, crisis-ridden) and the defense of those who wanted to abolish it altogether.

Would José Ignacio find facts (documents, testimonies, memories) among the insurgents of July 1936 in favour of democratic values? And more importantly, would he prove that those alleged values were in fact adhered to?

As far as ideology is concerned: would José Ignacio prove that the analysis of the Fascist dictatorships of the 20th century which has been carried out by a lot of historians is ideology-free? Would he find respected historians of the Third Reich or Vichy France who are at the same time pro-National Socialist or Pétainist?

On distinguished professor and fellow WAIS Fellow Stanley G. Payne: whenever in any of my books I´ve come across his theses in opposition to my arguments, I´ve never failed to mention him. I may not share his views but I don´t disguise them. This academic procedure isn´t followed by Alvarez Tardio/Villa in their magnus opum.

As far as Hugh Thomas is concerned, perhaps Paul Preston would like to say a few words. I found his recent obituary in The Guardian very instructive.

JE comments:  Ángel Viñas's Pétainist/National Socialist analogy gets one thinking.  Is the only difference from Franco the fact that Pétain, together with Fascist Germany and Italy, was defeated in war?

Earlier today, Paul Preston posted a masterful tribute to his mentor Hugh Thomas.  Don't miss it.

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  • Holding Out an Olive Branch (Enrique Torner, USA 05/14/17 4:13 AM)
    The topic of historical objectivity vs historical impartiality is a hot and controversial one, and I liked and appreciated Ángel Viñas's post about it (May 13th).

    In academia, there is the motto "publish or perish," which puts a great deal of pressure on non-tenured college faculty, at least in the US. I would like to restate the motto in the following way: "If you don't publish, you'll perish; if you do, you will too."

    Academia is a cruel field. After many years of doctoral study and a lot of effort sending out applications, if you are talented, hard-working, lucky and blessed, you land a tenure-track teaching job as an assistant professor. Then, the dean will tell you that, to keep your job ("if you don't want to perish"), not only you have to demonstrate excellence in teaching, but also serve in all kinds of committees, and, above all, publish in peer-refereed journals or publishing companies. So then, in order to survive, we publish journal articles, and, as much as we can, books.

    Aha! You say then, "I did it!" I published, "ergo" I survived! Except that, later, the book reviews come out, and you get curious, so you check them out: most are pretty positive, but it seems that there is always somebody who "kills" your publication. Of course, your first reaction is to focus on this one and despair, and it really hurts, doesn't it? Now, this was only a journal review. Just imagine several "experts" in your field get together and publish a whole book devoted to debunking all your ideas. How would you feel? You have spent a lifetime doing research, published over 20 books in refereed publishing companies, are ready to retire or retired, you have even been the object of a tribute to your publications, all of this, to end with a reprieve like this?

    I don't know about you, Dear WAISers, but something is rotten in Denmark! I consider Stanley Payne a kind friend and a great, prestigious, honest scholar. I also have great admiration for Ángel Viñas and Paul Preston. Why can't the Spanish Civil War historians end their war? How on earth are students going to learn what's right and wrong, what's truth and falsehood, if prestigious historians disagree to such an extreme? Why can't we all get along? Who would want to publish anything, if somebody is going to criticize it, demonize it, and demolish it? From what I have seen online, our three "monstruos de la naturaleza" on the Spanish Civil War are loved by some, and hated by others. D'Artagnan (my friend David Pike) is another "monstruo de la naturaleza," but he seems to be more on the safe side. At least, I haven't seen any "ideological" attacks on him.

    JE comments:  Blessed are the peacemakers, so bless you, Enrique!  For those just joining us, the present SCW battle is being waged over the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book on Spain's February '36 elections.  José Ignacio Soler (23 March) was the first to mention it.


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    • Pitfalls of Academic Life (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/15/17 3:56 AM)
      Enrique Torner (May 14th) has my fullest sympathy regarding his concerns about the cruelty of academic life.

      I became a full professor in 1975, but went into Government service as a director general in charge of university policy in 1981. All my efforts (sustained by the Education Minister of the time, Juan Antonio Ortega y Díaz-Ambrona) to reform the legal cadre of Spanish Universities met with a resounding failure. I know by bitter experience what an academic career involves. I also know from first-hand experience other professional domains. I can assure Enrique that academia isn't the only awful one.

      As far as I understand it, in order to explain many of the acerbic polemics concerning the Spanish Civil War, one has to keep in mind that there are two kinds of historians. Those who write about the past from the point of view of the political and ideological struggles of the present, and those who try to escape them. This is, of course, difficult but, in my view, it can be achieved.

      I try to keep in the perspective of the past the political, social, economic, and international of their time. To the extent possible I look for documentary evidence which can illuminate that same past. Many other colleagues do the same. Others don´t. One could write an essay about these different approaches, but at the end of the day the relevant issue remains the same. Was the military and right-wing coup in July 1936 justified? In the wake of Herbert Southworth, much of my writing is now being directed to demonstrate that the justifications alleged by the victors were self-serving. If the coup wasn´t justified, how can a hideous dictatorship be? And what happens to the beliefs of that great part of the Spanish population which is impervious to a critical review of the past?

      In Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway similar issues have arisen in connection with WWII and their own domestic Nazi-Fascist movements. They have been more or less solved. The same applies to neutral Portugal. Not so in Spain. Why?

      I´m going to Valencia to give a speech on the 80th anniversary of the coming to the prime ministership of Juan Negrín, one of the bêtes noires. I won´t be able to read emails. So long.

      JE comments: Ángel Viñas has also sent a reply to Anthony Candil, which I'll post later today. Finally, probably tomorrow, look for a report on the 80th anniversary observation of the Guernica/Gernika bombing, which Ángel attended on April 26th.  WAISer Paul Preston was there, too.

      Do I understand correctly from the above that very few Salazar apologists remain in Portugal?  Why would Spain's situation with Franco be different?  Perhaps, paradoxically, because Salazar's coming to power was comparatively benign?

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      • Joys of Academic Life (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/16/17 5:48 AM)
        After I got my Bachelor's and MBA from CalState Los Angeles, I had a choice to make: go into industry, which at the time seemed to have a large number of positions for MBA students with background from South America, or become a professor in the USA. Given that I was born to be a perpetual student and teacher, it was an easy choice. I realized that I would be paid less money but would be paid twice (money and knowledge with freedom to learn); also the more I learned the greater my value to society, theoretically speaking.

        One day the Dean jokingly showed me an instructor's position in St. Cloud, Minnesota, saying why don't you go there and freeze your arse? The position needed someone to teach introduction to computers and basic statistics. The salary range seemed reasonable and I had a good feeling about it. I applied, and got the position. After a few years, the Dean told me all about AACSB accreditation and that I would have to get a PhD or be a second-class citizen.

        By coincidence, the first and absolutely best PhD program in MIS in the world had been started at the University of Minnesota a few years earlier. I applied and was turned down. Later found out that one of the professors rejected me for coming from a "lesser" university. And so started a long and challenging process of transformation from a Brazilian happy seat-of-the-pants intellectual to an obsessive-compulsive researcher. I went to the most senior widely respected professor and struck a deal: I would take the first few required courses and if my grades were mostly A's with nothing below a B, they would accept me. Otherwise I would walk away quietly. Once in, I learned a great deal about academia: the students are the raw material, the professors are the manufacturing equipment; most of this equipment is very competent but some are not, some are dumb, some are lazy, just like people in general. The most important lesson was that they can get you started with some knowledge and tools, but ultimate success depends on your own ability to grow yourself in the areas and activities that you want to be good at. You are free to choose.

        With PhD in hand (1981), my first job was at Case Western, with strong faculty from many prestigious universities and tremendous business community and government support. Working with industry was a great experience, which enabled a higher-level performance in teaching and research. After 4 years my wife missed her family so we moved back to St. Cloud State University in her home town. Some of my U of Minnesota professors thought I was destroying my research career but I knew they were wrong and managed to find partners and complete many research projects.

        In 1991 I saw the add for the Jesse E. Owen Chair at Tennessee Tech and was very interested. I got the job, which called for my transformation from a very competitive professional, perfectly willing to run over obstacles and people, to being a research faculty mentor, putting junior faculty names as first co-authors, while also providing some free consulting to the community on request.

        I am still here, and at the risk of sounding sappy, it has been like a good marriage. Thus, while mildly sympathizing with Enrique Torner regarding the cruelty of academic life, I don't really share his feelings. It has been a bumpy but wonderful ride for me. I thank God the Universe.

        JE comments:  I've always been curious, Tor:  Who was Jesse E. Owen?  He must get confused a lot with Jesse Owens, the legendary Olympian.

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        • Jesse E. Owen (not Jesse Owens) (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/18/17 3:21 AM)
          In response to John Eipper's question about the Jesse E. Owen name, it is not related to the great athlete. Our Mr. Owen's family/estate was the largest contributor ($250K) to the Chair's endowment (total $1.2 million). He was a local entrepreneur, the owner and manager of the local Pepsi-Cola company. The total Chair endowment is quite small for the grandiose ideas that I had in mind. To enable all the research projects that we planned and executed over the years since 1991, I had to implement a virtual organization which existed only in terms of specific research projects supported by their corresponding research partners. Thus, in most cases, each project drew on the resources of the participating partners, including the Owen Chair, the only common denominator.

          In total, the virtual organization was quite impressive because it encompassed a potentially very long list (dozens) of partners interested in participating in a particular project. Once a research study was initiated, the potential partners likely to be the most knowledgeable and/or able to ensure project success were invited to participate. These partners were/have been the best in the world on specific areas of knowledge, have access to essential information or other special resources, for some projects their organizations were keenly interested in answering the specific research question, etc. The partners have come from academia and/or industry, from anywhere in the world. Correspondingly, one cannot overemphasize their contribution to specific project success. Overall, they have been literally instrumental in accomplishing the total results we have today: over 150 research reports published, dozens of national and international presentations, all focused on the management of technology for more successful business innovation.

          According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, "the Chairs of Excellence program began in the midst of the education reform and improvement measures passed by the General Assembly in the mid-1980s. This program brings eminent scholars to Tennessee public institutions and attracts research initiatives and private funding to our state. The program has resulted in an unprecedented level of donations to higher education from private and corporate sources."

          Finally, our web page summarizes: "The J.E. Owen Chair is dedicated to the discovery and validation of new knowledge regarding the use and management of new technology, particularly information technology, in a wide variety of areas including manufacturing, health care, and financial services. The many research projects the Owen Chair has undertaken in the past and present are in partnership with many leading companies, universities, and research centers throughout the world. The research reports since 1991 have been categorized into four not mutually exclusive categories: Emerging Technologies, System Management, IT Human Resources and Strategic Management."

          JE comments:  Most impressive.  You must have to answer the Jesse Owens question a lot, Tor.  I have a question of my own:  What percentage of your time, more or less, do you devote to fundraising?  Another question:  What is the most surprising (or unexpected) source of research support you've encountered?

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          • Reflections on Fundraising and Project Teams (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/19/17 8:11 AM)
            Our distinguished editor's commentary on my last post about the Jesse E. Owen Chair included two questions: "What percentage of your time, more or less, do you devote to fundraising?" The answer: zero time. The second question: "what is the most surprising (or unexpected) source of research support you've encountered?"

            Regarding research support, the enormous team effort required by some research projects created some very big surprises, which taught me firsthand about four important things:  1. The power of personal trust. 2. Managers can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers. 3. Don't try to do everything yourself; pick the right partners and you can move mountains. 4. Students can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers.

            1. The power of personal trust: I started to learn about this phenomenon when I noticed that my first meetings with prospective partners had to be face to face for me to feel the "chemistry" between us. If the chemistry was good, we were immediately in business and in every case, after a few projects, we became close personal friends. If the chemistry was not good, no matter how famous, clever, or wealthy the person, I learned that we should not work together. It would not be very productive in the long run. In summary, I learned that good chemistry turns into trust, and hearts and minds really come together to get the job done. More than once, partners who were the best in the world at something but were not involved in a particular project, dropped what they were doing to help. They had faith (trusted) that sooner or later they would also benefit from their generosity.

            2. Managers can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers: We have completed projects that without the active participation of top managers from major companies could not have been carried out. For example, they provided mailing lists, or sometimes used corporate email systems to collect company data for projects directly from employees. On one occasion after project completion we had a meeting to get permission to publish the research results from a study based on DuPont's Expert Systems portfolio. To my great surprise, at the end of the meeting a manager and co-author said "what project are we going to do next?" I was embarrassed not to be prepared with a good answer.

            3. Don't try to do everything yourself.  Pick the right partners and you can move mountains much easier: Many if not most research projects can be quite complex when done properly. Many unrelated skills are involved in following the necessary research steps: Defining relevant questions important in practice and literature-supported hypotheses to be tested, choosing the research design and experiments set up, choose appropriate construct measures, questionnaire construction, data collection, data analysis, writing reports. The likelihood that anyone is world class in all the skills is rather low. Different studies require deeper expertise in different areas and partners need to be picked from the best available.

            4. Students can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers: Academics have used students as subjects for a long time. I have used students for collecting data from companies, whereby the students are reasonably prepared to show how smart, competent, well-groomed they are, hoping that the experience will turn into an internship or a real job. The students provide useful and reasonably good research support. However, only lately because our university is promoting student inquiry as a means for learning, I have noticed student enthusiasm about actually trying to follow the required research steps listed above under item 3. Unbelievably, under appropriate instructor guidance, they seem to actually like "doing research" better that the more traditional lecture/discussion format.

            It would be right for me to say that because of my meager budget for research support, I was forced into creating the virtual organization mentioned earlier. Perhaps I have been fortunate to become independent from external sources of funds, which in return define the issues to be studied and the research questions.

            JE comments:  Personal trust is Tor Guimaraes's #1 factor, and WAIS is an excellent example.  We can be adversarial in our on-line discussions, but after the face-to-face time of a conference, ideological squabbles go out the window.

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      • Memories of a Historian (Robert Whealey, USA 05/16/17 6:51 AM)

        As an American historian on Spanish Civil War, I have met Ángel Viñas and his friend Herbert Southworth many times. As a historian who became anti-Franco through research, I agree with their major thrust.

        I first heard of the Spanish Civil War in May 1938, when I was eight years old. At that time, as a kid I began flipping "war cards" rather than saving the popular baseball cards.

        Card# 1 in the set began when General Tojo invaded the Marco Polo bridge in Beijing in July 1937. Most of the cards dealt with combat between the Japanese and Chinese. One of these cards showed the Rape of Nanking (Nanjing).

        Card# 19 launched a series on the Spanish Civil War and that showed the assassination of Calvo Sotelo. The series ended in September 1938 and the last 10 cards dealt with Hitler's Germany. I think it was Card #286 which showed Neville Chamberlain meeting Adolf Hitler, Prime Minister Daladier, and Benito Mussolini at the Munich Conference. There were about 20 cards dealing with the SCW and 12 showed Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-1936.

        In 1938, all of the kids agreed that Hitler was a bad man. My Italian-American friends had fathers who did not like Mussolini and they were first-generation Americans. The comments on the SCW were confused and vague. Most of my friends were Catholic and leaned towards the Rebels. A minority supported the Loyalists, but 90% could not tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. One day, I asked my great uncle Robert A. Whealey, a professional carpenter, whose side he was on and he answered neither. He was an isolationist like my father, who did not want FDR to inch into another war.

        In October 1940, when Mussolini and Hitler invaded Greece, Greek children were starving and their pictures in the newspaper showed bloated bellies. My father showed the pictures to me and told me how bad war is. I have previously mentioned that my father served on the French front in World War I with the rank of Private. In April 1941, as we drove from Florida to New York in an orange truck, we stopped at a gasoline station in South Carolina and my father asked, what is the latest news? The gas station attendant relied it's the same old story about Hitler winning in Yugoslavia. My father made no comment because it didn't fit in with his isolationist faith.

        In 1951, in the second half of my junior year, I was thinking of majoring in Political Science or History. I finally decided my BA would be in History. In 1951-1952, I thought that "Communism" was the major threat to the United States, as did 90% of the American people.

        In my high school Social Studies classes, I was an A+ student and understood that the balance of power led to the outbreak of World War I.

        Back in 1938 when I was still flipping the war cards, my Italian classmate, who was anti-Mussolini, made the comment, "there is one good thing about the Russians, they are helping the Chinese." (I later discovered this was an undeclared Russo-Japanese war in Mongolia and Manchurian frontier.)

        After Pearl Harbor, my father became an anti-German patriot and gave up any political comments. He was confident that the Americans and Winston Churchill would win World War II. My father was a fan of Winston Churchill and the slogan "Blood, Sweat and Tears." Of course, my father was a great fan of conservatism. He also backed Democratic Governor of New York Al Smith, who repudiated the New Deal in 1936.

        At the University of Michigan, I began to research the SCW from State Department archives published in FRUS (Foreign Relations of the US). There were many books published in US on "Communism and the SCW," including those of Stanley Payne. I published my PhD rather late in 1989 on Hitler in the SCW.

        JE comments:  Robert, I know you were just ten, but what do you recall from the trip in the orange truck?  I presume it was a truck loaded with Florida oranges, not an orange-colored truck.  Do you have any memories of the Old South in the early 1940s?  For a young Long Islander, it must have felt like a different planet.

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        • My Father's Orange Truck (Robert Whealey, USA 05/17/17 4:19 AM)

          John E asked about my father's orange truck.

          My parents were married in 1923, and my father, a Republican, worked for the Harding, Coolidge and
          Hoover administrations as a patronage Postmaster in Baldwin, Long Island, NY, from
          1923 until September 1935. It took Jim Farley, Roosevelt's Postmaster
          General, to fire my father.

          So my father bought a 1935 Ford truck and hauled oranges, pecans, cantaloupes,
          watermelons, and trotting horses, following the seasons. Hauling oranges from Florida to Baldwin
          was the most profitable. He sold them by the crate, half-crate and quarter-crate to his
          friends in Baldwin.

          From 1936 to 1941, every Christmas and every Easter, my mother, brother and I had about 10 or 11 trips to Florida.  My father bought wholesale melons from Laurel, Delaware in the summer. The orange business is good from Christmas to Easter.  It was a cheap vacation.

          JE comments:  I found this image of a '35 Ford one-ton.  With an entire family in the cramped cab, it must have been a bonding experience!  How many days did the NYC-Florida trip take?  Around three?  I presume the destination was the orange country of Central Florida.  Orlando was an orange town before it embraced Mickey Mouse.

          I have to keep peppering you with questions, Robert.  What did your father do when fuel rationing kicked in during WWII?

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          • More on My Father's Trucking Business, pre-WWII (Robert Whealey, USA 05/19/17 4:40 AM)
            The photograph John E posted on May 17th shows the 1935 truck as it was produced by the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Most of the truck drivers bought only a chassis, and they built a bigger body to suit the weight of their loads. My father had one truck from 1935, two 1937s, and his last truck was a 1939 model which he sold in 1942. So the trucks going to Florida were taller to hold the oranges.

            In the summer my father put on taller stilts and raised the body even higher for hauling horses. A driver could also extend the length of the trucks another three feet, with planks on the tailboard. With two canvases one could carry a load of light furniture.

            Most of the ton-and-a-half trucks were built in the Seaford Body Shop, Delaware, for the Ford and the Chevrolet trucks which were driving from Boston to Florida. These trucks were good only from New York to Chicago. The tractor-trailer business from Chicago to San Francisco was redesigned for the Rocky Mountains. The East Coast Ford-Chevrolet trucks had 70 hp.

            John also asked what my father did once gasoline rationing was enacted during WWIU. On New Year's day 1942, he sold his 1939 Ford truck to a potato farmer in Riverhead, Long Island, NY, the county seat of Suffolk County. The Office of Defense Transportation to ration gasoline was set up in the spring of 1942, so the trip to Florida and South Carolina was the last un-rationed trip possible. The orange season in October was closed for long-distance trucks. Freighters could carry more boxes of oranges from Jacksonville to NY Harbor, cheaper.

            In June 1941 my father took a racehorse to Chatham NY, near the Massachusetts border. I was his passenger and it was my first ride to upstate New York.

            JE comments:  Racehorses are a delicate cargo, and must have required special care in shipment (watering, periodic stops, and the like).  What are your memories of that process, Robert?

            I'm enjoying this series on Truckin' through the '30s.

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    • Academic Collaboration and Academic Competition (Marga Jann, UK 05/16/17 11:28 AM)

      Enrique Torner (14 May) describes an academic culture of competitiveness rather than collaboration. This is typical, and sad.

      JE comments:  Does this situation depend on the discipline?  Scholarship in the Humanities, the name notwithstanding, largely involves isolating yourself from other humans.

      Greetings, Marga!  Where are your travels taking you this summer?

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  • Historical Objectivity vs Historical Impartiality (Robert Whealey, USA 05/14/17 2:12 PM)

    Objectivity is the great ideal of honest historians. But in real life, the
    Truth is hard to find. Remember the ancient Hindu parable of the three blind men trying to describe
    the elephant.

    Since the 1st century, millions of people have read the Bible, and no two people have remembered
    the text the same way.

    JE comments:  A curiosity:  did millions of people, or more like tens of thousands, read the Bible prior to the Reformation?  The overwhelming majority of medieval Christians could not read, and in any case, Biblical exegesis was left in the hands of the clergy.

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    • on Writing History (Timothy Brown, USA 05/15/17 4:33 AM)
      History is lived by all, but written by few. No matter how impartial or objective an historian tries to be, they rarely can write about things they saw, heard or lived. And even when they did, they need to remember that what they only saw, heard or experienced was just a sliver of all that happened around them.

      All historians can do is their best and all their readers can do is disbelieve or believe what they write. Readers should always respect what they've written. But they should always read it with at least some skepticism--and then read on, just in case they're right.

      JE comments:  "History is written by few," but far more than a few WAISers write it.  What is it that drives them to do so?  Maybe Tim Brown can get the ball rolling on this question.

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      • Why Do Historians Write? Toynbee's "Ethereality"; From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 05/15/17 3:07 PM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        JE asked a a great question (Tim Brown, 15 May), with maybe a key to the future:
        What drives WAISers to contribute our small bits to discussion--and hence to history (the outside world does read it: I was recently
        found by a documentary project that saw me on WAIS, and
        I originally found WAIS in a similar way).

        The profundity in John's question is not in any answer, but in the mere
        presence of the phenomenon. In the 1940s, historian Arnold Toynbee
        noted something that the science fiction writers and futurists massively
        missed--the implication that technological progress does not tend toward
        more and better of the same (like bigger Jetson flying Super-Cars with fins,
        or Flash Gordon ray guns that are only better versions of the Colt 45).
        Instead, Toynbee pointed out "ethereality." The more the technology
        boom snowballs, the smaller and more invisible become the advances.
        And he was writing this before the computer, or even the transistor--the biggest proofs of all.

        There is indeed a mystical-seeming element
        in the human journey that would seem to both confirm and refute religion,
        a forward-moving synergy between the devices we create and that
        inexplicable x-factor called self-expression. As the Information Age caught fire,
        who would ever have predicted advances like... karaoke, where the machine
        sophistication is wedded to that old x-factor, the human desire to express,
        to embody some idea of the beautiful or to feel the swelling importance of
        communication--however one phrases it. And who would have predicted,
        as the Information Superhighway went into overdrive, the incredible potency
        of....YouTube, where the sheer force of millions of individual wills enshrines
        a historical archive of video images--not for material profit, often not even
        for personal fame, but because the essence drives the contributors to contribute, an essence that pulses at the interface where our individual selves spark with the
        great collective. This synergy is outside our knowledge constructs, something
        we can only marvel at as it unfolds, like watching the blooming of a rose.  Toynbee's "ethereality" implies (and the cyber-age has proved his prescience)
        that the eventual direction might lead to the final, "smallest" leap--beyond any
        kind of gadgets and into real understanding of the workings of the mind.

        But then, euphoric futurists have been wrong a thousand times before.
        There is the suggestion in this explosion we are undergoing, as outwardly
        invisible and unruffled as an individual face lost in thought--that human evolution
        is something beyond the simplistic mechanisms of the most doctrinaire Darwinism.
        How is it that, as if by pre-arranged signal (or by the meeting of maturational
        milestones), we are creating all these things for the benefit of powers in ourselves
        that we don't even comprehend?

        Within this great flood of questions lies the thrill
        of participating in WAIS.

        JE comments: Yes!  I'm going to crib some of Gary Moore's thoughts for a Why WAIS? section on our homepage.

        Personal fame does come to some YouTubers (Justin Bieber), but Wikipedia illustrates Gary Moore's point even more clearly.  How many famous Wikipedians can you name?  Exactly.  I've made the point before that Wikipedia is as close to a Utopian project as humanity has ever seen:  that people will catalog all human knowledge not for personal gain, but for the enrichment of all.

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  • Historical Objectivity and Historical Impartiality; Prof. Roberto Villa (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 05/15/17 5:31 AM)
    I am grateful to Ángel Viñas (13 May) for explaining some concepts he used to clarify the differences between objectivity, impartiality or Right vs Left viewpoints in his posts, but with apologies, I am still confused by Ángel's distinctions.

    If I understand correctly, objectivity implies addressing, studying, and analyzing topics in a way not distorted by emotions or biased ideas, thereby judging the quality of the topic independently of individual prejudices and values. Impartial means not to be prejudiced towards or against any particular side or party. Please correct me if I understand this wrong, but It seems to me then that to be objective and impartial are practically equivalents. I just wonder how it is possible to be objective and not impartial at the same time, unless of course these concepts are used in a particularly biased way.

    Ángel also explained "My use of a binary formula (right-wing vs left-wing historians) is for simplicity's sake. I happen to believe though that as far as the Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War go, it is a valid one. Obviously, another one could be used--i.e. bad vs good historians." Angel's binary formula would be acceptable for the sake of simplicity, if it were not for the fact that in all his statements so far he seems to imply or even accuse the right-wing historians of being the "bad historians." Of course this is explainable just as a sample of Angel's declared partiality.

    Ángel asked me, "As far as ideology is concerned: would José Ignacio prove that the analysis of the Fascist dictatorships of the 20th century which has been carried out by a lot of historians is ideology-free?" Of course I cannot, as much as I can't prove that the analysis of the radical left-wing dictatorships of the 20th century carried out by historians is ideology-free. That is precisely the point. When you are a professional historian you have the ethical obligation to admit in your work that you are not impartial and therefore your judgments and interpretations of the historical facts might not be completely objective or unbiased. You should not try to disguise biased historical interpretations behind a supposedly objective scientific historical methodology.

    He further asked me, "Would José Ignacio find facts (documents, testimonies, memories) among the insurgents of July 1936 in favor of democratic values? And more importantly, would he prove that those alleged values were in fact adhered to?" To answer this question in a rigorous way would demand from me more historical knowledge than what I have, and of course I would need to begin with the definition of democracy currently in use at the time. However, from an intuitive point of view I believe that it would also be very difficult to find clear modern democratic values in Spain's left-wing parties, very much inspired and supported by extremist socialist, trade unions, anarchist or communist ideologies and Stalin's autocratic and corrupt communist regime, which attempted to export by all means possible its revolution and to reach political power over Spain's still immature democratic institutions at the time.

    Finally regarding Ángel's quotes on fellow WAISer Stanley Payne, I regret he did not mention Stanley's respected opinion on the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book. It would have been a more objective way of presenting contrasting opinions on the subject.

    With this discussion now I fell very much obliged to read this book as soon as possible.

    JE comments:  Me, too--although I almost feel I've already read it!

    José Ignacio Soler forwarded an e-mail he received from one of the book's authors, Prof. Roberto Villa García, who has been following our discussion of his book.  While I do not (yet) have permission to publish Prof. Villa's letter, I will contact him and ask for a comment.

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