However, what is the historian's role in shedding light on egregiously wrong ideas in the present?
In his brief post, Ben provides three things to think about as historians work to identify or otherwise confront wrong ideas in the present:
- 1) "People do express opinions about the past that are simply wrong. And as historians, we have a responsibility, perhaps even a duty, to point out when people use bad history to bolster their arguments in public debate."
- 2) "significant ideas that we happen to believe are wrong, inane, or even deeply evil should still be taken seriously."
- 3) "Of course how we do this . . . is a more complicated question."
I also have a long list of posts-in-process that I may never finish but that share the theme of "what the f#*k?!?!?! Do (Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin/Newt Gingrich/insert your favorite blowhard here) actually believe what they're spewing, or are they blatantly & cynically manipulating the historical record on purpose?"
I like what Tim Lacy has to say in response to Ben's post, as it's relevant to the question I continue to reflect upon -- namely "what is history?":
- Our job is to help tease through the hierarchy of causes and sort out the probability of relevance. We're experts on the probability of relevance.
 By "wrong" Ben seems to be suggesting both ideas that are "deeply incorrect" in an objective sense (an example from my own area of study would be the miasmatic theory of disease etiology) and ideas that are wrong in a moral sense (i.e., slavery).