Who remembers opening up their history textbook after a lengthy summer vacation hoping for jolly tales about humanity's journey to the present day, only to be bombarded by depressing information about the malevolent Dictators of the 20th century? Who knew that the evil Mao Tse-tung had killed an astronomical amount of people during his dictatorial reign in China!? 70 million people had supposedly been murdered by the revolutionary government of Mao Tse-tsung, with most of those figures being attributed to the Great Leap Forward. The figure of 70 million is so unreal that we have forgotten to see it for what it really is... UNREAL. The official figure released after the death of the Chinese leader was 16.5 million. And even then these numbers lacked sufficient evidence as they were released during a campaign launched by Deng Xiaoping, aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the Great Leap Forward. Never the less, western academics ran with these numbers and managed to inflate it to 30 million by combining unreliable sources and figures. These were then increased again and again throughout the years without citing credible sources, until the writers Jung Chang and Jon Halliday came up with the death toll of 70 million. This figure is presented as a fact in a lot of history textbooks today. With all that being said, Mao Tse Tsung's leadership was far from perfect. There were multiple policy errors made, especially during the Great Leap Forward, which were further exaggerated by bad weather and natural disasters. However, producing unrealistic figures without adhering to the rules of authenticity, is promoting the largest source of misinformation that continue to haunt academic studies today; Historical revisionism.
Historical revisionism is the reinterpretation of historical records and views. Now, this can be suitable for correcting errors and misinterpretations made by professional scholars but it becomes a problem when it questions moral findings without sufficient evidence to back it up. Historical revisionism with little to no basis has been widely used by academics to promote a western interpretation of history. It is largely utilised by the western propaganda machine to undermine revolutionary movements and their achievements. Another direct result of the trend that is historical revisionism is the creation of personality cults. If you've ever attended a history class about revolutionary movements, chances are you only remember certain figures from each one of them. Fidel Castro for Cuba, Ho Chi Minh for Vietnam and the Kims for North Korea. Why not? When All of them are painted as cartoony figures with cultish traits and followings in western media and writings, it is not hard to focus on just these leaders. The creation of larger than life characters aim to trivialise the struggles of the nations they came to lead. Attacking all sides and facets of their struggle by focusing on just one figure, ignoring the mass movements that shape revolutions and the complexities of each nation's situation. The west does not only do this to revolutionary history, it also applies historical revisionism to its own history, attempting to belittle their own savagery and mistakes. How many times are we reminded of the supposed brutalities of socialist leaders in media and literature?. Better yet, how many times are we reminded of the genocide in Indonesia? Or the openly fascists dictators of Latin America that were installed by the US?.
Whether it's the bogus figures of deaths or the ridiculous accusations toward progressive leaders which ranges from sexual abuse to hiring actors to make their countries look "normal", historical revisionism is a problem we have to address in our media and academic studies, especially in the West. Take every information provided to you with a grain of salt. A healthy dose of skepticism, especially in the age of fake news, will help to destroy the culture of Misinformation.