Reenactment and Wikipedia

Reenactment

Kowalczyk offers his readers a personal experience with reenactors and reenacting.  By posing as a scribe, Kowalczyk was able to act as a journalist in the midst of a reenactment of the French and Indian War.  His insights into the world of reenacting are both big and small.  Not being able to shower, he comments that “war really is hell.”  His more lofty insights include “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it.”  He also states that being on the battlefield exactly 250 years later, he couldn’t help but imagine the people who were injured and killed there during the actual battle.  Kowalczyk explains how reenacters are able to explain, in this case, the significance of the French and Indian War.  Reenacters are self-ascribed “people with an appreciation for history.”  He concedes that the reenacters are a fringe group of mostly white, overweight, uncoordinated men who take historical fashion to the extreme; however, he does not allow this reality to cloud his study of reenacting.  For Old Hickory, reenacting is a way to step out of his shell, engage with the history he so loves, and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with it.  These reenacters take their jobs (hobbies) seriously; for example, they never smile for pictures, striving to become a part of the history they identify with.  These individuals are public historians, they offer real-life engagements with historical events that allow others to learn about, engage with, and witness history.  These public historians are bringing history to life, what more can people ask for?

Little’s article denigrates Kowalczyk’s article for being too shallow, too journalistic in nature, and failing to ask questions about relevance, queerness, race, and gender.  Little views reenacters as queer, white men trying to regain the glory days of the republic where the world was a better place.  Little seems rather stuck on the point of race, explaining that blacks don’t want to reenact because they would have been slaves before the Civil War.  Little states that “romanticizing the past, like reenacting, is a White thing,” and Little might as well have added that it is a male thing, seeing as he mentions the lack of female involvement later in his article.  This article ends by explaining that only imperialistic, racist, sexist, horrific events are reenacted.  This is simply not true.  Vice President Joe Biden, politicized Reverend Al Sharpton, and politicized Jesse Jackson recently led a Reenactment of the Voting Rights March to commemorate a famous civil rights march.  Universities and cities reenact Martin Luther King’s Marches with his speeches annually.  People might not dress up for the event, but they certainly follow in MLK’s footsteps, read his speech, and convene on a historically accurate date.  As for women’s rights, there are reenactments of the beginning of the Women’s Movement in Seneca Falls, New York.  Many states and cities have reenactments commemorating women’s suffrage, even if they are only on seemingly important anniversaries (10, 20, 25, 50 years…).  I found these events through a simple Google search, and I am sure individuals searching for events to reenact will be able to find them just as easily.

Levin discussed the lack of growth and following currently being experienced by the Sons of the Confederacy.  Levin discussed the cultural transformations that have occurred in the past fifty or so years, explaining that American culture has become “tired” of “Civil War narratives.”  Levin explains that reenacters must “revise” their “expectations” and/or their “audience” in order to remain culturally, socially, or politically relevant.  He states that “making the Civil War relevant today is a formidable task;” but, I feel that the Civil War, having defined so much of our nation’s history, will remain relevant for years to come.  The mere fact that the Civil War boasts the most reenacters as well as a huge fan base both academically and non-academically disproves this statement.  As for Confederates, their beliefs, their culture, and their history, I wish Levin would have delved deeper.  Confederates, most easily symbolized by the Sons [and Daughters] of the Confederacy, are striving to maintain cultural ties to their ancestors.  These individuals have the right to celebrate their culture just as the rest of America has the right to celebrate their culture.  While I understand that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church does not want to be identified with a fringe group in society, I am rather disgusted that they have stopped a historic reenactment from occurring.  Some of the founding and leading members of the Confederacy attending this church before, during, and after the Civil War; as such, the historic and cultural descendants of the Confederacy deserve to follow their ancestors footsteps and celebrate their culture.

Wikipedia

Cohen writes about the disparity that exists between male and female contributors to Wikipedia.  According to recent surveys, men account for 85% of Wikipedia entries and women account for a mere 15%.  Wikipedia allows anyone to [try to] publish and edit articles.  Wikipedia has not sought out male contributors; rather, the “current Wikipedia community is what came about by letting things develop naturally.”  In order to change current male-dominated trends, “conscious effort[s] to change” must be engaged.  While reading the section of the article about Ms. Gardner’s shocking discovery that a female author near and dear to her heart has a “mere three paragraphs,” while a video game character had numerous paragraphs, I thought to myself “Why doesn’t Ms. Gardner go in and remedy this?  She need only contribute to the entry on her beloved female author.”  I was relieved that this indeed occurred, as I read precisely that in the last paragraph.  Women are just as intelligent as men, and Wikipedia is all about general consensus of knowledge.  If Wikipedia has such a problem with having a male-dominated entry force, they should actively seek out female entries.  While this does not seem like a world changing problem to me, I am sure that there are many women with plenty to say, they just haven’t been asked yet.

Dr. Messer-Kruse, renowned Haymarket Riot historian, had a falling-out with Wikipedia.  His interactions with Wikipedia reinforced my distaste for the website Wikipedia.  Messer-Kruse had verifiable proof that Wikipedia was promoting incorrect understandings regarding the Haymarket Riot; and he would know, he is one of the foremost experts on the Haymarket Riot.  After trying to correct some of the wrongs on Wikipedia’s Haymarket Riot webpage, Messer-Kruse was informed that “Wikipedia is not ‘truth,’ Wikipedia is ‘verifiability’ of reliable sources.”  The Wikipedia editors continued to explain that “if most secondary sources which are taken as reliable happen to repeat a flawed account or description of something, Wikipedia will echo that.”  After publishing a historically accurate book, peer reviewed articles, and giving numerous lectures, Messer-Kruse tried yet again to fix the Wikipedia entry on the Haymarket Riot.  He was chastised for using his own work that promoted a fringe belief to back up his narrow view of the event.  The nail in the coffin came with another Wikipedia editor’s comments, “If all historians save one say that the sky was green in 1888, our policies require that we write ‘Most historians write the sky was green, but one says the sky was blue.’”  How ridiculous!  Famiglietti might believe that “Wikipedia holds a deep respect for a collaborative…process that is collectively more capable of producing ‘truth’ than any individual scholar,” but a general consensus does not equate with truth.  The general consensus in Nazi Germany was that Jews were disgusting, inferior creatures; but that does not mean that Jews are inferior or disgusting, nor does that mean that every person in Nazi Germany viewed Jews as disgusting and inferior.  It was however, the general consensus.  Does this mean that it was “truth?” Obviously not!  Just because a lot of people agree with you, does NOT make you write.  Wikipedia should rethink their policies instead of simply furthering falsehoods.   Consensus and truth are not the same thing.

 

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