I’ve recently been made aware of a story that’s been making the rounds on Facebook. A version of it from 2011 is here. Another version, almost the same, is here from 2018. The general gist of the story runs like many Internet memes promoting divine intervention on behalf of the United States. A contemporary, in this case Admiral Nimitz, goes and explains why a disaster was a blessing in disguise. Specifically, the story makes claims that the Japanese made three mistakes: (1) attacking on Sunday; (2) not bombing the drydocks; and (3) not destroying all of the fuel silos.
Here is an article which politely explains why the story can’t be true. Unlike the story itself, the article actually cites Nimitz’s thoughts. As it turns out, attacking on Sunday wasn’t a mistake. The drydocks were bombed. And yeah, the Japanese did manage to hit a good deal of the fuel supply at Pearl.
Why does such a transparently false story exist?
The obvious answer is that it promotes some sort of revisionist notion that a divine being saved its pet country from something really awful. This story acts as evidence of a benevolent force guiding my country’s affairs. From there, the faithful can take it in any direction.
There’s no shortage of these kinds of stories among the radically religious here in the United States. I’ve written in the past about people like David Barton who are working to revise history in an effort to justify a theocratic America. These stories and memes and ideas exist because the faithful are encouraged to believe them. They’re also not discouraged by moderate and liberal members of the faith.
What this does is create fertile ground for ideas like Christian nationalism. While the movement has gotten more attention since the 6 January putsch by Trump supporters, it’s not exactly new. I remember being told to vote for Christian leaders since the 90’s. At any rate, people in the mainstream are now more aware of the scarier side of American zealotry that’s been brewing for decades.
Why it’s hard to stop such misinformation.
Like other biblical myths, these revisionist tales take shelter behind apologetic arguments. It’s hard to convince someone Nimitz didn’t say something, that he didn’t thank an invisible friend for “only” slaughtering almost 4,000 people. Lack of evidence is no grounds for disbelieving the righteous.
In the end, all I can do is spread the word that one such story of many isn’t factual at all. Moreover, I have to question the spread of any ideas that require such falsehoods as support. If the forces of good really belong to the divine, why are there so many lies in support of it?