Churchill’s Legacy Today: Undented in the Digital Age

Churchill’s Legacy Today: Undented in the Digital Age

“This truth is incon­tro­vert­ible. Pan­ic may resent it, igno­rance may deride it, mal­ice may dis­tort it, but there it is.” —Win­ston S. Churchill, House of Com­mons, 17 May 1916

Q: His legacy today?

Peter Bak­er of The New York Times recent­ly reviewed a new book which deliv­ers some sharp arrows toward Win­ston Churchill and his lega­cy. Bak­er writes that the text labels Churchill  “not just a racist but a hyp­ocrite, a dis­sem­bler, a nar­cis­sist, an oppor­tunist, an impe­ri­al­ist, a drunk, a strate­gic bun­gler, a tax dodger, a neglect­ful father, a cred­it-hog­ging author, a ter­ri­ble judge of char­ac­ter and, most of all, a mas­ter­ful myth-mak­er.” [They for­got white suprema­cist and Cossack-killer—see com­ment below. RML]

In addi­tion, dur­ing a protest over the killing of George Floyd last year, demon­stra­tors in Lon­don tar­get­ed the icon­ic stat­ue of Win­ston Churchill in Par­lia­ment Square. Under­neath his name some­one had spray-paint­ed the words “was a racist.”

This seems to be an ongo­ing theme: to demol­ish a great fig­ure in his­to­ry look­ing through a 21st cen­tu­ry pro­gres­sive lens. Despite this harsh treat­ment, does Churchill’s lega­cy today remain intact? —B.L., via email

A: Hardly dented

Thanks for your mes­sage. I think there is scarce­ly a dent in Churchill’s lega­cy today: First because most of the charges are false. Sec­ond because they ignore what real­ly mat­ters. Only a small frac­tion of peo­ple believe this stuff. For exam­ple, a 2020 Facebook page sim­ply enti­tled “Win­ston Churchill” acquired over 20,000 fol­low­ers in nine months, and almost all the posts are supportive.

I thought Mr. Baker’s review in The New York Times was rather good. Though not ter­ri­bly learned, it per­cep­tive­ly grasps the essen­tial point:

None of our his­tor­i­cal idols were as unvar­nished as the memo­ri­als we build to them. The ques­tion is: What are they being hon­ored for? Which con­tri­bu­tions to his­to­ry do we cel­e­brate?…. Churchill has been ven­er­at­ed despite his man­i­fest flaws, not because of them. Stat­ues in Par­lia­ment Square and else­where are meant to remind us of his finest hour, not his dark­est ones.

A jail cell for that war­mon­ger­ing “Naval Per­son” was Dr. Goebbels’ pre­scrip­tion for the First Lord of the Admi­ral­ty in 1940. (Lustige Blät­ter [Fun­ny Papers], Berlin, Jan­u­ary 1940.)
In oth­er words, the stat­ues do not hon­or the Churchill of the Dar­d­anelles, the Black and Tans, the Gold Stan­dard, the India Bill or the Abdi­ca­tion. (See “Fatal Flaws: Churchill Wasn’t Per­fect.”) They hon­or some­thing more important.

Anoth­er review­er, Richard Aldous in the Wall Street Jour­nal, is more com­pre­hen­sive than Bak­er. (Tran­script available.)

But to deal with this bar­rage of dis­tor­tion real­ly takes a spe­cial­ist, like Andrew Roberts, for the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project. (The accom­pa­ny­ing car­toon, inci­den­tal­ly, was first pub­lished by the Third Reich. It is amus­ing that the Can­cel Cul­ture now views Churchill more or less as the Nazis did.)

Cases for the defense

“There is an implic­it con­flict of inter­est between that which is high­ly view­able, and that which is high­ly illu­mi­nat­ing.” —William F. Buck­ley, Jr.

The Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project has been mak­ing “the case for the defense” against the fan­ci­ful decon­struc­tion of Win­ston Churchill for years. For over fifty refu­ta­tions of com­mon charges by high­ly qual­i­fied schol­ars, explore our “Truths and Here­sies” depart­ment:

Specif­i­cal­ly you may find these arti­cles of interest:

Cam­bridge: The Racial Con­se­quences of Mr. Churchill: A Review

Hearsay Doesn’t Count: The Truth about Churchill’s ‘Racist’ Epi­thets

Stop this Trash­ing of Our Monuments—and Our Past

2 thoughts on “Churchill’s Legacy Today: Undented in the Digital Age

  1. I’m thrilled to see you work­ing to refute the non­sense we’re see­ing about WSC. He would have pro­tect­ed to the death the rights of these igno­ra­mus­es; they would have per­ished quick­ly at the hands of those against whom WSC fought. I’m dis­ap­point­ed, though, that pre­serv­ing WSC’s lega­cy is falling to an ide­o­log­i­cal­ly skewed insti­tu­tion, whose every course syl­labus seems to be “how the lib­er­als ruined this, that, and every­thing else.”

    Thanks, but that’s not true about “every course syl­labus” (far from it), and per­son­al­ly I am a great fan of the Clean Water Act. How­ev­er, as WSC said, “In work­ing with allies it some­times hap­pens that they devel­op opin­ions of their own.” And: “There is only one thing worse than fight­ing with allies, and that is fight­ing with­out them.” RML

  2. Churchill caused the Holo­caust and the Ben­gal Famine. He also mas­sa­cred the Cos­sacks. Destroy­ing Europe and the British Empire in order to save Com­mu­nism was a mistake.

    The Cos­sacks is a new one. Please sup­ply ref­er­ences, thanks. RML

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