“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ― Issac Asimov
And not just America: when applied to attitudes towards the Boer War, Asimov’s words also ring true. Social media is a major issue in all this, with the main problem – other than the bloke you once met on holiday, who bores you to death photos of his dinner or his cat – being that it has given a public forum to people who really are too ignorant to deserve one. Everyone, no matter how unschooled and thick, now gets to hold forth on any subject they want, and there exists a bizarre sub-culture of people who hang about on various Boer War Facebook sites, claiming to ‘know’ about the war, and spewing out rubbish and ghoulish fairy tales. Their ‘qualification’ is usually simply that they are South African… and therefore, for some reason, they feel they never actually need to open a book about subject – and they certainly never feel the need to think critically about the conflict.
Instead, we are treated to the usual recycled nonsense about the British ‘invading to steal our gold’, the Boers ‘winning every battle’, the British fielding ‘a million men’, squeals of ‘genocide’, and all the other utter drivel that these half-witted buffoons blurt out. Once, this rubbish was confined to those of a similar mindset who had attended the same drunken braai. Alas – thanks to the wonders of social media – they now get to display their abject stupidity to the world.
And what is more entertaining still is that such types positively revel in their abject ignorance, with their go-to response when challenged on it either to throw a temper tantrum, or to pathetically play the victim, and pretend that all their grandparents were murdered in the camps when they were babies.
When proven wrong (again, again and again), such types rarely (if ever) acknowledge this, and would never think to take such a conversation as an opportunity to learn; instead, they get ultra defensive, and cling to their self-serving myths as some sort of comfort blanket, screaming that they are ‘entitled to their opinion!’.
Well, we are all entitled to our own opinions of course – but none of us are entitled to our own facts, and such people completely fail to comprehend the difference. Your opinion might be that Sean Connery was the best James Bond, for example, while I might favour Roger Moore. At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, those are merely opinions; not only are they essentially worthless, but as someone once famously said, they are pretty much like arseholes: everybody has one. But when it comes to facts, these are simple and undisputable; an example being that Roger Moore’s first outing as 007 was in 1973’s Live and Let Die, and no amount of squealing, special pleading and twisting oneself in knots can alter this.
Similarly, when it comes to the Boer War, I really couldn’t care less if someone’s pig-ignorant, but passionately-held, opinion is that the Boers were:
a) the innocent victims of British aggression
b) the best warriors in the entire history of warfare
c) only finally defeated by an (entirely mythical) British ‘genocide’
As Asimov said, ‘ignorance is not just as good as knowledge’. Equally, extremist, self-serving opinions – no matter how passionately-spewed out on social media – are certainly not as good as the facts of what actually happened during the Boer War.