Historical revisionism (negationism)

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Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about an historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light. For the former, i.e. the academic pursuit, see historical revisionism.[1] This article deals solely with the latter, the distortion of history, which—if it constitutes the denial of historical crimes—is also sometimes (but not commonly) called negationism.[2][3]

In attempting to revise the past, illegitimate historical revisionism appeals to the intellect—via techniques illegitimate to historical discourse—to advance a given interpretive historical view, typically involving war crimes or crimes against humanity. The techniques include presenting known forged documents as genuine; inventing ingenious, but implausible, reasons for distrusting genuine documents; attributing his or her own conclusions to books and sources reporting the opposite; manipulating statistical series to support the given point of view; and deliberately mis-translating texts (in languages other than the revisionist's).[4] Practical examples of negationism (illegitimate historical revisionism) include Holocaust denial and some Soviet historiography.[5][6] Contemporarily, hate groups practice negationism on the Internet. In literature, the effects of historical revisionism are usually described in science fiction novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), by George Orwell. Moreover, some countries have criminalised the negationist revision of certain historical events.

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