Bias in Academic History?

I got my latest copy of the SMH Journal of Military History a few weeks ago and am working my way through the articles.   The Journal always provides grist for at least one post, most of the time it is a thought provoking article that prompts me to post.   This time it is different.   There is a phrase in one of the articles that caused me to raise my eyebrows.   The article is:  Candice Shy Hooper, “The War That Made Hollywood: How the Spanish-American War Saved the U.S. Film Industry,” The Journal of Military History76 #1 (January 2012): 69-97.   The phrase is:

“The newest form of mass entertainment in the United States was, virtually from the outset, held hostage by a very small, primarily mechanically minded monopoly of urban white males.” Emphasis mine

The sentence is at the end of a paragraph discussing the stagnation of film as an industry after it’s introduction.   What got me thinking was what the point of the sentence, especially the last three words was.   I cannot figure out the implication of the whole urban white male piece except that the author is somehow implying that any other group of people would have done a much better job of developing the nascent film industry.   I good go into an orgy of being offended but I will not, instead I will simply point out that the author does not expand on why this was a bad thing other than to claim lack of imagination.

I cite this as an example of why current academia is losing it’s popular appeal.   Knowledge is no longer for the masses, it is restricted to an elite group of people who let their own prejudices guide them as they delude themselves into thinking ow open-minded they are.   I guarantee that if she had made the same remark but substituted black males or females, the comment would not have made it past the peer-review process.   In many ways, those that claim to be open-minded or objective are just as much, if not more prejudiced tha thse they are writing about.

Mostly, I am just shocked that this comment and its tone made it into the Journal. Apparently the reviewers agree with her implication that urban white males are somehow bad.   Never mind the fact that most of the scientific advances of the last 400-500 years have come from that group.   They have bought the white man is an oppressor meme hook, line, and sinker.   How sad.


Comments please, I would love to get a discussion going on this.

2 thoughts on “Bias in Academic History?”

  1. Here’s the author’s website:

    Nothing indicative of why she would display this kind of bias.

    It seems to me that the film industry’s origins were no different from those of any other new technology or medium. It sounds as if those who invented it were into the nuts and bolts, but had no sense of how to make it sell. The fact that they were white and male shouldn’t be remarkable, considering that the United States in 1896 was overwhelmingly white and inventors were overwhelmingly male. The author’s comment, therefore, is gratuitous.

    • I agree that given socio-economic conditions at the end of the 19th century the fact that the main movers behind the nascent film industry were white males is less than unremarkable. It is no more remarkable than the fact that Black people were behind the founding an organization of the NAACP The whole comment is gratuitous, that is what bothers me. What I see in academia but history especially in the last 30 or so years is almost a process of Balkanization. The plethora of new “studies” is unreal. Who knew you could get a degree in cultural or ethnic history? Are Black, Women’s, insert ethnic/minority group studies really even separate disciplines? It seems to me that history should look to provide a holistic overview rather than privilege one group over the other.

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