This blog will combine some of my previous writings from defunct sites and continue on with new material. The name was inspired by a piece I read in the New York Times, “China Took Her Husband. She Was Left to Uncover His Secret Cause,” from July of 2023. It told the story of Bei Zhenying, who’s husband, Ruan Xiaohuan, went around China’s firewall and started an illegal blog, Program Think, focusing originally on computer programming issues. As time progressed Ruan increasingly talked about things you don’t talk about in China, like the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and the ways in which Chinese Communist officials have altered the public’s understanding of history. For this treasonous behavior, by Chinese standards, Ruan was arrested and his fate remains unclear. His wife spoke out, for a time, and tried to get some answers, but then she went silent, presumably after the police made it clear that she too might disappear.
The story of this couple is a good reminder of the threat that free thinking and provable facts pose to authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. The people who complain the loudest about “the media” and the need to ban “inappropriate” books, etc., know what they are doing. They know their ideas and their rule cannot survive without repression. I greatly admire those who stand up against such bullying tactics and I am so grateful not to live in a place where I would be forced to make that choice. But, on another level, I also respect how the title of Ruan’s blog was so deceptively complex. It suggests that it is a forum for thoughts about computer programing, but also how we are all programed to think in various ways, by various forces. And it goes deeper still, thinking about the programing we have received and what to do about it.
Unfortunately, there are so many stories like Ruan’s, which we will never even learn about, but at least we can hold on to this one story and help it to not be forgotten. I decided to call this blog, History Think, because it suggests my passion for history and the many different ways we can think about history; as a concept and as a web of people and events. It also pays homage to Ruan’s work, and the bravery demonstrated by him and his wife, and countless others. The Chinese characters above translate to, “Historical Thoughts Blog,” if Google Translate is to be believed. This is similar to the Chinese characters in the header of Ruan’s site, which translate as, “Blog of Programing Thoughts.”
At present, I plan to only make posts in two categories:
There are no good conspiracy theories, because the basic understanding of reality that conspiracy theorists take for granted simply isn’t true. No one, “rules the world.” There are no “puppet masters” who can pull the strings and make everyone in positions of power and influence jump to their tune like puppets. The real world is much more complicated than that.
This section will expose the flawed logic and misinformation behind conspiracy theories, as well as the harm they cause.
Print the Legend
The meaning of people and events is often lost in the retelling of stories, or commonly accepted “facts.” Such distortions are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean they need to be passively accepted. This section will explore some of the myths and misconceptions that have overshadowed the truth and ask questions about how we perceive the human condition. In short, it’s everything that doesn’t fit clearly into category number one.
The title of this section comes from a line at the end of John Ford’s great Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962): “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
In addition to blog post, this site also features a chatbot, HT Bot or History Think Bot, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. HT Bot will help you learn about and explore past. Give it a try and let us know what you think!