He Who Controls the Narrative Controls the People

Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. — Geo. Orwell, 1984

Ed Newman
6 min readApr 8, 2020


Photo by Robinson Recalde on Unsplash

When future historians write about the 20th Century, it would not surprise me to find it had been nicknamed The Century of Spin. Today more than ever we see that the battle for the minds of the people revolves around the manner in which events get interpreted, not necessarily the events themselves.

Social observers have long noted this trafficking in interpretations. Who decides what is good and what is bad? Who decides who the good guys and bad guys are in this battle for control of the narrative?

We live in a mediated world. Before entering World War One, very few Americans knew much about Germany, its history and its aims. But as the drums of war began to sound, there were plenty of messages being piped into our brains through the news media, striving to form a national will to take up arms against Kaiser Bill and those German brutes.

But who were these brutes, really? Stories of German aggression were circulated as if Otto Bismarck and later Kaiser Wilhelm were out to take over the world. In point of fact, history didn’t bear this out at all. It was the British Empire that had had a 300 year hold on the world, famously declaring with pride, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”

If one were to look at the century previous to that first Great War to see what countries were the most aggressive, one might be surprised at what the facts revealed. Great Britain had been in 10 wars, Russia 7, France 5. Among the least warlike of the European powers had been Austria 3 and Germany only 3. What’s more, under Bismarck and the Kaiser Germany never engaged in a single armed conflict.

When a German U-Boat blew up the Lusitania, it was not a surprise attack on innocent victims. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica the ship was carrying, in addition to passengers, a cargo of 173 tons of rifle ammunition and shells. For this reason “the Germans, who had circulated warnings that the ship would be sunk, felt themselves fully justified in attacking a vessel that was furthering the war aims of their enemy.”



Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon