The Boer War bell curve…

Defenders of the Myth can always be relied upon to provide entertainment, especially as it is becoming more and more obvious that they realise they are on the run. Desperate to keep their much-loved National Party fairy tales staggering on a bit longer, one amusing online warrior is now reduced to squealing about a mythical bell curve:

This gives one an insight into the entertainingly deluded mindset of a True Believer; Mr Heunis has confirmed that he isn’t at all interested in truth, facts or historical reality – apparently his concern is being ‘in the middle at the top of the bell curve’.

Firstly, in all my discussions and debates on the Boer War over the years, I have ever encountered a ‘left wing Imperialist looney’. Presumably Mr Heunis just made that bit up as he hopes it helps his silly little ‘bell curve’ fiction. Inconveniently for Mr Heunis, the left wing in the UK were / are distinctly anti-Imperial in outlook. Indeed, it is always entertaining to watch British left-wingers tie themselves in knots to defend Kruger’s violently racist, reactionary and expansionist republic – which, let us never forget, was in every way worse than the later Apartheid regime – and instead frantically pretend that the British Empire was to blame for absolutely everything ever.

Such mental gymnastics are commonplace, however, as it has been long noted that those of the British Left will instantly, and instinctively, support absolutely anyone – no matter how ghastly, warlike or violent – rather than take the side of their own nation. This farcical, self-loathing, ‘My Country: always wrong’ outlook sees British lefties unthinkingly leap to the defence not only of a God-awful, antediluvian racist fanatic like Kruger, but also a rogues’ gallery of dictators and terrorists such as Galtieri, Gerry Adams and Saddam Hussein.

Perhaps George Orwell[i] described this unique and unpatriotic trait best:

England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British.[ii]

And if the notion of these made-up ‘left wing Imperialists’ being on one end of Mr Heunis’ bell curve is ridiculous, the very idea that one should be desirous of being ‘in the middle and at the top’ of such a curve is even more so.

For a start, Mr Heunis is clearly just as ignorant about statistics as he is about the causes of the Boer War. A bell curve is simply used to visualise the distribution of a set of chosen values that tend to have a peak of normal / expected / average values, and with low and high extremes tapering off relatively symmetrically on either side. It doesn’t mean that those values in the ‘middle and at the top’ are more desirable: all such a curve would demonstrate is that those results are the most common. One often sees IQ ranges illustrated in this way, for example, but having an average IQ (ie. being ‘in the middle and the top’ of the curve) is obviously less desirable than being further toward the higher (less common) end.  

More importantly, being ‘in the middle and the top’ of a bell curve in no way equates to being right / correct / accurate. If we made a graph after asking 100 men to guess the age of a lady in a bar, for example, and the most common answer was 25, clearly that doesn’t mean that is automatically the correct answer. In this example, if she is actually 30, then obviously 30 is the right answer, no matter what the most common (in this case, wrong) guess was.  

Though bell curves might be useful to a financial analyst or a statistician, they are utterly irrelevant in determining historical truth – and even if we cheerfully ignore truth, and only consider ‘opinions’ (and why on earth would we?) it is ridiculously far-fetched to presume that opinions on a historical event would form a bell curve in any case. Few historical events would yield a range of opinions giving a central ‘normal’ peak with low and high extremes tapering off with relative symmetry on either side – and without that, there is no bell curve to begin with.

More importantly, and as mentioned above, any such bell curve of opinions would not ‘prove’ anything in any case. Historical reality is not ‘proven’ by pretending to be in the middle of a fictional bell curve of presumed opinions; it is proven by research, references and studying with an open-mind.

The resolutely closed-minded Mr Heunis might protest he is not quite as fanatical as some other True Believers (though judging by his outbursts, this seems unlikely, and even if true, is hardly something to be proud of), but his pretence that he sits ‘in the middle’ is as ludicrous as it is irrelevant. Historical truth is historical truth, no matter what silly, and completely made-up, bell curve Mr Heunis wants to pull out of the air.

And in terms of ‘where I stand’, as the increasingly frazzled Mr Heunis demanded of his interlocutor, the simple answer to that is I am only interested in historical reality, and I imagine his correspondent is too. Perhaps Mr Heunis should try it some time.


[i] Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950), but much better known by his pen-name George Orwell. Born in India and educated in England, Orwell served in the Colonial police in Burma, and later fought in the Spanish Civil War. He is most famous for his books 1984 and Animal Farm.

[ii] From England, Your England


  • CGF Posted October 24, 2022 6:34 am

    Forget his comments about a bell curve: Heunis is obviously a bell end.

  • Tim Harford Posted October 24, 2022 10:33 am

    Dear Mr Ash,
    I wanted to contact you about a podcast I’m working on, but I couldn’t get your contact form to work. If you have time, please drop me a note via
    Yours sincerely,
    Tim Harford

    • Bulldog Posted October 24, 2022 3:07 pm

      Afternoon, Mr Harford,

      I’ve dropped you a line.

      All the best,

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