Monday, February 9, 2009

Tearing down the myth

If you have any wonders about how social memory works, and how it can even be a conscious project, I invite you to listen to a recent Fresh Air interview with author Will Bunch who has just written a book about how Ronald Reagan's legacy is being created by the Washington conservatives in order for the Republicans to have a hero. Wade heard it this week and told me, "This is what you have been talking about on your blog." When I listened to it, I smiled.

Regardless of one's politics, it is a fascinating interview because it shows the process of the construction of a hero-myth in the modern day, which can be documented. Bunch argues that certain aspects of Reagan's career have been marginalized and eliminated, others twisted, in order to construct a hero-myth of a popular republican president whose conservative policies worked. This myth is simply taken to be truth by the generations that weren't around at the time - the second generation and beyond - while those of us who lived through it remember, if nothing else, the Iran-Contra scandal, an arms scandal so big that it almost brought the White House down and nearly impeached Reagan. As for those tax cuts, well, yes we got them the first year. And when it turned out to be too much of a cut, we got taxed again.

Will Bunch's book is called Tear Down this Myth.

11 comments:

Geoff Hudson said...

We know Reagan existed. Jesus did not. But if 2000 years ago, someone started to fabricate some myths about a miracle worker Jesus, then the myths could have been grown in a relatively short space of time, particularly myths deliberately promoted by the state for political ends. Myths were more easily believed. The powerful could get away with whatever myth they so desired. And woe betide anyone who stood in the way.

But myth was not the primary mechanism by which the "earliest christianity" came about. The myth of Jesus was deliberately imposed one existing real Jewish prophetic literary forms. That much is particularly evident from the Gospel of Mark, Acts, and the paulinised letters.

The myth creation of Jesus was entirely in keeping with the propagandist inversion of historical facts by the Flavian historians of the day.

The war against the Jews supposedly under Vespasian was, in reality, led by Nero and was completed in less than six months. Masada was the first fortress to be taken not the last.

We see propagandist inversions employed extensively in the writings attributed to Josephus. And we see the same device used in the NT.

That the editors of the writings attributed to Josephus were working with the editors of the NT is evident. The myth of John the Baptist and his execution apparently by Herod Antipas is one classic example. There was no John. Herodias always was married to Antipas. Salome did not dance for the head of John. It wasn't John who was imprisoned in Machaerus by Antipas, it was the high priest Jonathan who was imprisoned in the Antonia by Agrippa I to protect his back while he went off to fight his uncles Philip and Antipas who had been plotting together against him. Herodias had spilt the beans to her brother Agrippa I and had travelled to Jerusalem (not Machaerus) with the pretence of worship.

Geoff Hudson said...

The problem lies not so much with US polititians creating their own myths, but with gullible US citizens believing them. No wonder Americans need someone to write a book to tell them that politians create their own myths? For us in the UK, its all old hat. Most of us have been cynical about polititians for as long as I can remember. But in presidential elections, Americans are there falling over themselves cheering their next potential leader as though they are Jesus Christ who is going to save them from disaster.

For years Gordon Brown has portrayed himself as an economic guru and builder of a stable economy that can survive any economic storms. But he had no idea that the bankers had been slowly undermining the economy under his very nose.

And we have been led to believe a myth and a half about bankers, that they are the brightest of folk who we just cannot do without, and to whom we must pay vast bonuses, otherwise we will lose them to industry, never mind that these oxbridge types have taken us all to the cleaners, and almost destroyed the western economies with their greed. It seems that pretty ordinary hard-working folk content with their salaries would have served us much better.

bulbul said...

Geoff,
the thing is, no quasi-central authority is required. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three examples of myth-making here in Central Europe. You may remember the 1991 coup attempt in Russia and the iconic picture of Yeltsin standing on a tank speaking through a megaphone. Then there's the winter of 1989 in Romania and the myth of Securitate forces fanatically devoted to Ceausescu who were heroically fought by the army and the police. And, most interestingly, there's the rocket-like rise of Vladimír Mečiar in early 1990 Czechoslovakia. Now there's one I'd like to see a serious study of - from a humble company lawyer to the Secretary of the Interior within a few weeks and then all the way to the top of the government with unprecedented public support (as high as 80% at one time). An almost messianic figure to some, he carefully clad himself in a shroud of myths which played to the core beliefs and traditions of our people and did so by masterfully exploiting the conditions brought about by the fall of communism and its authorities. There is one excellent analysis of his early years, but so far, no one has taken a good look at how he exploited the media and the reemerging nationalist movement with its mythology. I would certainly love to see one.

Geoff Hudson said...

Hey Bulbul, if thats what they could do in Russia, Romania and Czechoslovakia, just think what Vespasian could have got away with 2000 years ago, especially after ransacking the sanctuary (left standing by Nero) for its wealth. One of the projects he put the money to was the Colosseum. Now this wasn't taxpayers money, it was money stolen from a small state that had been pacified four years previously by Neronian forces. Judea was peaceful when Vespasian destroyed the sanctuary. These guys would have made the Mafia look like two-bit petty criminals.

Of course these days the bankers have found a way of stealing just as much money with just a few keystrokes at their computer terminals. Now they are the big players who should be in the prisons.

Steven Carr said...

A much closer parallel surely is between Benjamin Creme and the Maitreya - a non-existent person who is alleged to be living anonymously in the East End of London.

This 'Maitreya' is described as an 'elder brother'

The Maitreya

'While the name Maitreya is used by others, their understanding of the World Teacher may not correspond to that presented on this site. Anyone presently promoting him- or herself as Maitreya or the World Teacher is definitely not the same individual we refer to.'

How does this differ from Paul's writings?

2 Corinthians 11
For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

How does it differ from Paul's writings?

It seems that historicists will never address the question.

Geoff Hudson said...

2 Cor. 11:4

"For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or" - a later pauline interpolation

"if you receive a different spirit from the one you received," - original prophetic text. The Spirit they had received was the Spirit of God.

"or a different gospel from the one you accepted," - a later pauline interpolation

"you put up with it easily enough." - was probably the prophetic "you receive it easily enough" referring to receiving an impure spirit.

Thus I see much of the NT as being originally prophetic, and not mythical.

José Solano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

Richard B here. I am horrified by the misuse of the word "myth". A myth is a story that explains why things are the way they are. It is not a story that is too silly to be believed although I can see how people can make that mistake. As an example look at Mr. Hudson's myth about the creation of Jesus out of nothing. Mr. Hudson's myth is so full of holes, mistaken assumptions, wild speculation, prejudice and so on, that it makes the point that myths are fairy tales for adults. "Jesus never existed" is certainly such a fairy tale. Mr. Hudson's fine argument convinced me of that.

Geoff Hudson said...

Richard, whoever, I have never said that the myth of Jesus was created out of nothing. I have said, to the effect, that the myth of Jesus was a post 70 creation of Flavian historians (probably aided by ex Jewish priests) who adapted existing prophetic documents such as the original 'Mark's' gospel, original Acts (an almost completely propagandist inversion in its extant form), and the original epistles all sent from Rome to prophets in Judea. Those prophets were more than likely Levites or Essenes who derived their authority from Moses who established the tabernacle. That was in contrast to the priests who claimed their authority from Abraham who practiced animal sacrifice at an altar for burnt offerings long before Moses, at least as they understood things.

Geoff Hudson said...

The first century prophetic movement of Judas saw the altar for burnt offerings as completely redundant, and the sanctuary (in effect the tabernacle) as the only way to God, by his Spirit, the presence of God that came down in the sanctuary. This is why you see the happenings of the Spirit recorded early in Acts. But these recorded happenings were in Rome, not Jerusalem.

Geoff Hudson said...

What some have not yet admitted to is the unmistakeable sanctuary imagery in relation to where Judas is at the end of the Gospel of Judas, never mind that he went from a place where perfume had been poured in the tradition of Ex. 30:36 apparently to betray Jesus. (Mk.14:10)