Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson, the Devil, Haiti, and an Alternate Reality?

How am I supposed to compete with this?"
Oddly Enough, Reuters blog (January 14, 2010)

"Jeez Blog Guy, what's the matter with you? I've never seen you looking so upset.

"Oh, it's just this Pat Robertson thing. You know, where he said Haiti has been cursed because they made a deal with the devil 200 years ago.

"Yeah, I saw that. It was a pretty stupid thing to say.

"Whatever. It's not what he said, it's where he said it. I had to go and read about it in the Reuters FaithWorld Blog!

"I mean, when somebody says something THAT looney, I should have it first in my blog. How am I supposed to compete with imbecility on that magnitude?..."

The rest of that Oddly Enough post is worth reading, I think: if nothing else, as an anodyne to the world-class nitwittery displayed by pastor Robertson.

I mean to say, in context, what O.E. has to say about Lady Gaga practically makes sense.

In case you missed it, here's what pastor Pat Robertson, that perennially preposterous purveyor of piety, said, as quoted in a CNN article:

"The Haitians 'were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever,' Robertson said on his broadcast Wednesday. 'And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you will get us free from the French." True story. And so, the devil said, "OK, it's a deal." ' "

Oh, wow.

If some of what pastor Pat Robertson said sounded - odd - you probably didn't sleep through history class.

Pastor Pat, A Reality Check, and Alternate Histories

Never mind that 'pact with Satan' stuff. Let's look at Haiti's history. And France's.
Haiti in the Real World
Haitians were none too happy with their French rulers. Understandably, I think. The point is, in 1791 they revolted. And lost. It's called a "slave revolt," which gives you an idea why I think the Haitians had a point.

Haitians tried again in 1802. It gets a little complicated at that point, but bottom line: The revolution went ahead anyway.

In 1804, Haiti declared independence. And the French Senate proclaimed Napoleon Bonaparte emperor.

In 1838, France recognized Haitian independence.

In 1848, Napoleon III was elected president of France. Mexico and France went to war after that. Not Haiti. Mexico.

Oh, dear: that doesn't sound much like the Haiti Pat Robertson described.
Alternate Histories, Parallel Universes, and All That
'Alternate history' stories are a sort of subgenre of science fiction/speculative fiction and historical fiction. Alternate history stories are set in an imaginary world which was just like the real world, up to some point: quite often in the 20th century.

There's no reason why someone couldn't write a story about a world where China didn't lose the edge it had when Marco Polo visited, a few centuries back; or where Ancient Egypt didn't fall in the Greco-Roman era. Or Columbus landed in a Viking kingdom. Or Nazi Germany won World War II. I'm getting off-topic.

Alternate history stories are fun, and working out what might have happened, if key events had been different can be a sort of intellectual parlor game.

No harm in that.

When you make it look like you really believe that an alternate history is real: That's not so good.

What bothers me more than a bit is the possibility that folks will look at pastor Pat and feel that all Christians are whack jobs.

Which is another topic.

Related posts: In the news: Background:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Excuse me, just have to bang my head against a wall for a bit.

Okay, I'm back, ready to proofread.

Given the nuttery you were covering, it's understandable that you might stutter a bit. "which is gives you"

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

Ah, so.

Yeah, that was the typographical equivalent of a stutter. The sentence started out going in one direction, and made a sharp turn at "which is gives you."

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