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 Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 11 Dec 2012, 15:52

A relatively recent TV series on Turkish TV, Magnificent Century, which portrayed its central character, Suleiman I (the Magnificent), as a cross between a sex maniac and JR Ewing has started something of a political storm of teacup proportions in its country of origin. The Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced its blatant misrepresentation of one of the Ottoman Empire's most powerful and intelligent leaders, and a member of his ruling party, AK, has tabled a bill to have a law against TV programmes which "denigrate, insult, pervert or misrepresent historical events and personages."

Putting aside the rather obvious distractionary tactics both men are engaged in politically, their particular casus belli does raise a rather interesting point about history on TV in general and what exactly its function might be. When historical "truth" (a debatable point in itself) is jettisoned in favour of salacious invention does the end justify the means if one of the results is that many people acquire a first - if faulty - appreciation for a particular historical period, person or event?

Of course we all know what particular extremely popular programme in the USA and the UK motivated the Turkish producers to embark on their project in the first place. But there too it could be said that quite a few million people have now at least knowledge of the names of some of the protagonists of the middle Tudor period, if a rather skewed appreciation of their motives, their skin care and their libidos.



Sensationalist misrepresentations of history are obvious distortions. However if Erdogan's thinking was applied in general and only "true" history was deemed fit to broadcast, would that not present an even greater distortion? After all, who is to say what is "true" at any one time, and if an episode or period of history is altered substantially in its perception by revisionist historians with access to more data than before, what happens then to the "truth" already disseminated over the airwaves?

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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 11 Dec 2012, 20:33

@nordmann wrote:
Of course we all know what particular extremely popular programme in the USA and the UK motivated the Turkish producers to embark on their project in the first place. But there too it could be said that quite a few million people have now at least knowledge of the names of some of the protagonists of the middle Tudor period, if a rather skewed appreciation of their motives, their skin care and their libidos.

Such as Catherine Howard's cousin Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey being played by Scottish actor David O'Hara with full Glaswegian accent.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 11 Dec 2012, 21:34

I might (just might) be more inclined to listen to Turkish protests over "misrepresenting history" if they acknowledged the Armenian genocide first.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 11 Dec 2012, 21:39

@Vizzer wrote:

Such as Catherine Howard's cousin Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey being played by Scottish actor David O'Hara with full Glaswegian accent.

Never mind the full Glaswegian, what about Henry VIII's *Irish* accent?

"I'll have no spark o' scandal against her name," bellowed Henry VIII during last week's instalment of The Tudors, fists clenched and monarchical beard a' quiver. "Francis Dereham has spoiled the Queen for me. I will not be bowed. Never. Gnnnyaaahrr!" (Guardian Review - some of the reviews were more fun than the programme, rather like "Downton Abbey".)

Some say Henry was from Cork, others that he was a Dubliner, but who cares?

God, how I miss it.


Last edited by Temperance on Tue 11 Dec 2012, 21:52; edited 1 time in total
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alantomes
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 11 Dec 2012, 21:44

Ian - You just beat me to it.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 11 Dec 2012, 23:02

Oooh, a historical truth commission to decide what can and can't be shown; how I'd love to peek round the door while that's in session.
"And now gentlemen, the next programme is 'Richard lll, hero or villain?'.

Seriously if a group of historians can agree on the accuracy of anything, then what they are discussing must be too boring to merit air time.

And what about poor old WS, would he be banned too?

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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Wed 12 Dec 2012, 00:44

@ferval wrote:

And what about poor old WS, would he be banned too?


Don't see why anything should be banned - as long as it isn't proclaimed as "the truth". I reckon the British Government would have done better over the Spycatcher stuff by saying "H M Government does not comment on works of fiction" rather than seeking to ban it
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Wed 12 Dec 2012, 05:42

Yeah right, Turkey be honest with history? That'd take some miracle, most countries take a biased view toward their own histories at best, but Turkey takes it into the realms of self denial.

Archaeology is booming in Turkey at the moment, the entire country seems to be in the process of being dug up in an effort to promote tourism. Whislt I agree that this is a good thing, and Turkey really does have a long and fascinating history, I can't agree with the slant that they apply to their findings. Heavens Turks can't even bring themselves to mention that much of what they are finding is Greek, little on the rest of it. And in the meantime Agia Sofia is deteriorating badly from neglect.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Wed 12 Dec 2012, 10:58

See, we're up to our necks in disputation already. What do 'Greek' or 'Turkish' mean in the context of these remains?
Dangerous stuff, this history business.

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Wed 12 Dec 2012, 11:24

There is a very distinct divide between Turkish academic appreciation of its heritage and that presented by populist agencies such as politicians and the(ir) media. I have found the same divide in Israel, and for much the same reasons. So I had hoped with my opening post that Turkish revisionism could be taken as a given - the point is not so much that the proposed law would inevitably and signally fail to produce anything even approaching the "truth" anyway, but that the reasoning behind it if applied in every culture raises a common dilemma, namely what exactly is regarded as departure from this "truth" such as it is?

In one sense the general tenet behind the thought is actually admirable - bad history, like bad science, at its best is still a huge impediment to progress. False assertions in either field lead to huge amounts of resources being devoted simply to refuting the spurious which otherwise could have been employed much more productively. And in that sense these popular mass-marketed melodramas are fertile ground for the dissemination of much that is blatantly false and therefore enemies of history, not its friends.

However in another sense the same thinking raises the rather prickly question of who controls the dissemination of historical data, spurious or solid, in any case? Is it - as the Turkish initiative implies - that there is presently no control at all? I have reservations about that and find it a little too simplistic an analysis. As anyone can affirm who, through valid research which has led to conclusions different from the mainstream (academic or populist), then encounters in the act of attempting to get these findings to a peer-review level that they end up face to face with quite a bit of control working against them. The people or organisations behind the exercise of this control are so nebulous that it is difficult to see how they could be consciously coordinated in their efforts, so quite often one hears about "zeitgeists" and "common world views" as applicable definitions for the source of this quite tangible opposition to revision.

The issue extends well beyond simple propagandistic societies (and I would lump Turkey into that group in this context, just as I would Greece too) and into much more fundamental and little considered aspects to how history is understood as a topic in itself. Note, for example, the use of language in historical books - few if any can avoid the trap of using a reportage-style conveyance of fact which by its nature has been deduced, not observed or even testable in many instances. This applies to the most conjectural and the most erudite of this material just as much as it does to that of the Gregory footnote genre. History is almost impossible to relate or even to consider without employing the langauge of factual reporting, if only to establsih a framework of context in which it can be further explored. Blatantly dud data asserted factually is obvious, but how obvious is the subterfuge when other theoretical assumptions are stated thus?

Which brings us back to the Turkish prime minister's dilemma - not the one he thinks he has but the one which underlies it. Who, in the end of the day, actually owns Suleiman? And if such a question has no answer then who is even authorised to protect any "truth" about him?
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Mon 05 Jan 2015, 06:39

There's a new front runner in the race to ban bad history.

Now we have Egypt protecting historical accuracy by proactively protecting its citizenry from dodgy stories masqeurading as historical fact, in this case Ridley Scott's "Exodus: Gods and Kings" which has been banned by the culture minister due to its portrayal of that country during the Nineteenth Dynasty. They do have a point - even if the biblical pharaoh was Rameses II (biblical scholars have identified at least five alternatives) it is extremely doubtful that he actually had an Australian accent as depicted in the movie - but is there a danger, I wonder, that by taking the story to task on the basis of the historical accuracy of some of its details they might actually inadvertently imply on that basis that the story itself therefore deserves to be regarded as an historical narrative on the whole?

The Turkish prime minister Erdogan (see above) never followed through with his bill to protect historical personages' integrity and honour by banning inventive portrayals of them in movies and TV mini-series, and common sense would suggest that this was no bad thing. But maybe a qualification along the lines of the standard "any resemblance to persons living or dead ..." should become a cinematic standard from now on whenever any particular interpretation of an historical person is attempted?
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Mon 05 Jan 2015, 17:15

I already apply just such a mantra without external prompting and feel that unless and until people do so, "bad history" or rather "unhistory" will continue to triumph.
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 06 Jan 2015, 08:03

Apparently Morocco has also joined the international effort to forcibly spare cinema-goers from witnessing Batman leading what they refer to as "the Zionists" across the seabed.

Maybe instead of having a warning along the lines of "Any resemblance to persons etc ..." what is required for these cases is a new classification to be shown before the film starts in addition to the normal PG, U, 18+ etc. Perhaps one called PISH (Please Invoke a Sense of Humour).
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 06 Jan 2015, 09:19

Hmmm, would the Moroccans have been quite so incensed if the film had been made in their studios in Ouarzazate and in Ait Benhaddou like goodness knows how many other historical/biblical epics of variable quality?
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Tue 06 Jan 2015, 09:40

The Red Sea in Quarzazate parts on cue only for gentiles and Jedi (as prescribed in the Quran, sura #111, ayat #25)
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Wed 07 Jan 2015, 09:35

A close friend protested when a film he had helped a bit with about a famous personage, depicted his own (assasinated) father wrongly - he had assumed with innocent trust that it would be a truthful account and not tweaked to enhance another effect. Of course protest after the film was aired could achieve nothing and one has to accept that biased misrepresentation is probably inevitable when art and history come together. Shakespeare did all the time.  
In the context of this thread, my take  is that how a country reacts to unsavoury truths about itself is a telling litmus test that reveals how far down the road to true democracy it has really reached.
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PostSubject: Re: Banning Bad History - will Turkey lead the way?   Thu 08 Jan 2015, 02:33

In Denmark there was - is? - a similar discussion regarding a series made for our national tv called "1864", about the times leading from the First Schleswig War up to and following the Second one - which took part 1863-64.
This leading to a national trauma regarding History which - so far - has lasted for a 150 years, with anybody, bar the politicians who created those wars, and afterwards commissioned the History Books, from which Danish children have since been taught, being cast as villains against the goody-goody Danish Cause.

Following and during the screening of this series there recently was - is? - some traditionalist politicians, who have - imho somewhat shrilly - espoused the cause of depicting  such events as having too little truth in them - verifyable Danish Truth that is.



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