The History Wars: Where is the Media?

By Tom Peace | November 26, 2012

Last week the Globe and Mail published an editorial about the video game Assassins Creed III . According to the Globe’s editors, the video game distorts the history of the American War of Independence by suggesting that native people (the protagonist, Ratonhnhaké:ton, is Mohawk) fought alongside the rebelling colonies.  Both gamers and historians quickly and resoundingly condemned the Globe‘s opinion as factually flawed (see herehere, and my own letter to the editor, here, for a sample of the critiques). I don’t want to rehash these critiques here. Instead, I want to ask some more pointed questions about why the Globe decided to run this piece in the first place.

It’s not everyday that a national newspaper decides to pick on an individual business over the quality of its product. Although Assassins Creed III launched with significant fanfare, the game is the fifth in this popular historically based series and it was unveiled more than two weeks before the Globe published its editorial. So why did the Globe attack a video game and its manufacturers?

According to the editorial, the video game marks an assault on our already beleaguered understanding of Canadian history. How can our students withstand the lure of this video game given the poor state of Canadian history instruction in our schools, the editors ask. They lament that Assassins Creed III “might be the only place that Canadian young people are learning about the Revolutionary War.”

As much as I share the editors’ concern for the health of Canadian history, I am skeptical about their motivation. The Globe has routinely failed to cover and comment on the significant cutbacks to the preservation of Canada’s documentary and material heritage.

In October, for example, the Globe covered James Moore’s chastisement of the provinces for not adequately teaching Canadian history.  If ever there was an occasion for a lamentation about the state of Canada’s history, this was it.  Here, the minister presiding over deep cuts to Canada’s national library and archives, and a cabinet minister in a government overseeing equally deep cuts at Parks Canada, had the gall to tell a Globe reporter “Canadian history is not dead. It’s alive and well. It’s just waiting to be told.” Despite this fairly clear-cut contradiction between Moore’s words and behaviour, the editors of the Globe remained silent.

Read the full post here. (Originally posted, November 26, 2012)