The Truth About Columbus – Knowing Better Refuted | BadEmpanada


Hi! Pretty much any time
there’s a discussion about Christopher Columbus,
and especially on Columbus day, there’s always a few people
taking it upon themselves to defend him. Lately I have noticed that a lot
of them cite a certain YouTube video. A video
that purports to tell the supposed “real truth” about Columbus. You know,
he wasn’t a bad guy it’s all just a myth. He was
just like any other normal guy of his time, that sort of thing. And oh my god am I sick
of being linked to this flagrant whitewash. So, it’s time folks,
it’s time for a rebuttal to Knowing Better’s video,
In defense of Columbus: an exaggerated evil. Now Yes, this is a response
video but it’s also gonna be much more than that. This will be
an excellent historical resource on Columbus in general,
since the quest to whitewash his legacy
goes far beyond just a single YouTube video. I’ll provide extensive evidence
of his intentions, the things that he did,
the legacy that he left behind, and talk about something
that’s way more important than all of that:
what Columbus represents. We’ll even go a little bit
into historiography (how history is studied)
and why some very common ways in which many people
think about history are outdated, reductive and sometimes
even racist. I’ll also explain
how to spot subtle historical denialism. Not the sort
where people outright say
x-thing never happened, but rather the kind
where people present themselves as the middle
ground, the rational voice of reason,
while actually just whitewashing everything,
making huge leaps of logic, leaving out context doing
everything they possibly can to cast doubt on the evidence,
and presenting common denialist talking points
as if they were simple objective facts. Because well that’s what Knowing
Better does in this video, for real. Strap
yourselves in it’s gonna be a long one. So,
Knowing Better’s video argues that Columbus
has been given a bad rap. That everyone
exaggerates the evidence against him,
that people intentionally misinterpret
and especially mistranslate sources to make him look bad,
that they just plain fabricate stuff against him,
and that overall he doesn’t deserve the hate that he gets. That by the sentence
of the time he just did what everyone
else did and that it was all inevitable anyway. He emphasizes
that in his conclusion. Was he a bad guy? If we look
at him through the historical lens, not really. He wasn’t any worse than anyone
else. Oh god… But more on that later. So I think that’s a fair summary
of his main arguments. Just for full disclosure
before I begin, this isn’t going
to be in perfect chronological order
with his video, because his video
is very disjointed. He often returned to the same topic
minutes later, so I had to take it out of order,
in order to link my segments
together thematically. If you want the full context
you should watch his video first. So his thesis in the first part
of the video, which argues against the idea
that Columbus was some sort of unique dumbass
who had no idea what he was doing is largely true. I’m
not here to argue against that bit, I don’t particularly care
whether Columbus was a big dum-dum or a very stable genius. Because being some sort of genius
wouldn’t somehow make up for the atrocities
that he’s accused of. I’m here to argue
against the second part in which Knowing
Better argues that Columbus wasn’t a bad person. Like it says in the title:
an exaggerated evil. There are nonetheless big problems
with the way that Knowing Better presents
this first part, and I think it reveals a lot
about how he and a lot of other people
think about history. He very much looks
at things through a colonial lens, and if he has any history
education he definitely did not learn
very much about methodology. Now pay attention
here because Knowing Better is just one example of this. It’s
actually very common among people who have an interest in history,
but don’t have a grounding in the formal study of it. So you might think
like this too and this might be a great opportunity
for you to, well think about how you think. Now here’s Knowing Better:
not because they’re intellectually inferior or anything
like that but because they had a really difficult spawn
point and because of that they hit somewhat of a cap
on their civilization tech tree. [Slowed down] Civilization
tech tree. Oh my god, dude. This isn’t a video game. If you look at history
through the lens of video game systems
you’re gonna have a very skewed view. So you might be thinking
right now that that was just a joke,
but this view of history is actually the basis
of his argument here. You can’t say that it’s just a joke
when he later goes and makes an argument
based off that exact same logic. Human societies in real life,
including in Europe itself, did not follow some binary tech
tree based on a european reference point. and they definitely did
not progress at varying speeds from prescribed milestone
to prescribed milestone. If you judge
indigenous civilizations by how far along you think
they were in a tech tree, based on an idealized european view
on what “achievements” constitute “progress”,
of course they’re going
to look less “progressed.” Just like if you did the same thing,
but the other way around. This also isn’t something
remotely limited to video games. In fact there’s a name
for this sort of thinking in the study of history. Because it’s
an old discredited idea that often carries
racist undertones. The law of environmental limitation
of culture. That takes for granted the idea
that indigenous people were less “developed,”
and that this was due to their supposedly less
fortunate surroundings. The issue
with this is firstly that the idea that they were “less developed,”
even by european standards, isn’t true. Many indigenous peoples
in the Americas had very large and sophisticated
sedentary, agricultural societies
complete with large cities, along with certain things,
and certain habits, that Europe did not have. And 2) what even is developed? Were aboriginal australians,
for example, commonly cited as an example
of a uniquely “underdeveloped people,”
less developed than europeans? Or were
they actually very well adapted to their circumstances,
and didn’t change much over time because they didn’t need to,
rather than because they couldn’t have? These are the kinds of questions
being asked by historians today. Rather than just assuming
that indigenous peoples were less developed
because their societies didn’t look like what were used to. The answer
might not be quite as easy, and might not be
very conducive to helping european descended people
feel superior, but it’s a much much better way
to look at history than by just assuming
that everything is just progressing
along a linear path based only on what we’re
familiar with. Approaching
this like Knowing Better does here is something
that’s common among many western
so-called “history buffs,” who like history in terms of factoids,
and cool stories, but are
not particularly interested in how history itself is studied
and practiced. If you lack this grounding,
it’s very easy to go straight to these sorts
of simplistic, outdated ways of thinking,
and to avoid thinking about how you actually think. And this video is a great example
of this as this lack of grounding underpins
not only the way that Knowing Better
thinks about this topic, but also the way
that he researches and presents it. For example,
he constantly uses a term tribe to refer
to different indigenous people. What’s
true for one tribe isn’t necessarily true for another. If one tribe mapped all the stars
and created an almanac, that doesn’t mean they all did. If one tribe didn’t use the wheel,
that doesn’t mean they all didn’t. A tribe is a subgroup. It’s not a general term. Only very rarely is it used
as a descriptor for an entire people, or a nation. If you wouldn’t use tribe
to describe all the different european peoples,
then why indigenous peoples? This says something
about the way that he’s approaching
this: he’s using the same sort of terminology
that some colonists would off
handily throw out in the 19th century. Not language
that accurately reflects the reality
of the very different types of indigenous social organization,
and that would be indicative of an informed
understanding of the history of the americas. he also constantly says
that europeans “discovered” the americas,
and well, do I really even need to explain
what’s wrong with that? Columbus’s discovery
on the other hand opened up both halves of the world
to each other, and changed world history forever. So I suppose he got kind of lucky
that he accidentally discovered some new land. Okay,
okay… people were already there! Discovery
is also not just a very factually incorrect term to use,
it’s also a very loaded one. We overwhelmingly see
discovery as a positive thing. Scientific discoveries,
like the discovery of penicillin or electricity. Discoveries
of archaeological artifacts, the discovery of hidden treasure,
stuff like that. I mean
the most famous documentary channel ever is the Discovery Channel,
which is all about instilling feelings of wonder
and awe in its audience. Or at least the last time
I watched it, like 20 years ago it was. Please don’t ruin my childhood. So the use of that term,
rather than a more accurate or neutral alternative,
subtly directs us towards seeing
the european arrival in the americas
as a positive thing too. The fact
that Knowing Better constantly expresses this sort
of sentiment in his video, shows us yet again that he sees
history in the sort of binary, progress as I define it-sort
of way, and that he thinks this discovery
was not a negative or even neutral thing. Rather that europeans arriving
in the americas was actually a good thing. There are no draft
animals or work- or pack animals in the Americas. There are no horses,
donkeys or camels. You can’t really have large cities
without animals. Okay,
so the entire premise of his argument here is just wrong. Even just aside from the fact
that it’s based on the video game tech tree-view of history. Across the american continent
animals were domesticated. Notably dogs,
wolves, llamas and alpacas. And there were more animals
that weren’t domesticated, but that could have been
eventually, such as buffalos. But either way
it’s not as important as he says. Because there were plenty
of large settlements in the Americas,
which shows that you don’t actually need
domesticated animals to form them. Here’s some of them:
Tenochtitlan in Mexico, Cahokia and the Pueblo
cities in the USA, and Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru. Some of these cities
rivaled or eclipsed the biggest in contemporary Europe. And they had
some very very efficient crops unique to the Americas,
Such as the potato and corn, on some very fertile ground,
or spawn points in the gamer vernacular. Why is it that Europeans
are framed as having all the advantages here? You can’t easily judge the value
of say the potato versus the chicken,
but I think it’s pretty high up there. Just ask an Irishman:
diddly diddly dees, sure they’re only feckin great. What’s that? That was a harmful stereotype
of irish people which was popularized
at the peak anti-irish discrimination in the UK and US? Ah sh*t… The fact
that he doesn’t know these things, yet still went and made a video
where he confidently speaks about the history of the Americas,
is indefensible. These are the basics. It’s also yet another example
of the tech tree mentality since he just presumes
that domesticated animals would be an absolute prerequisite
for having a large settlement, without checking to see if he was
wrong. It takes
five seconds to google my dude. Since europeans
and asians had been living in close proximity
with animals for centuries, they had built
up somewhat of an immunity to animal diseases,
like cow pox chicken pox and the various swine
and avian flus. So on Columbus’s second voyage
when smallpox was introduced to the new world
it burned through the entire continent
killing 90% of the native american population,
before they had even heard of a european. The idea
that smallpox was introduced to the new world
during Columbus’s lifetime has actually been reassessed
by modern historians. The demographic historian Massimo
Livi Bacci has written two recent papers
on disease in the new world that assess the historiography
on the topic. One of which deals
specifically with disease in Hispaniola,
the island that Columbus governed. he states
after extensive examinations of secondary and primary sources,
that there are no historical proofs of major epidemics
before the smallpox of 1518-19. Columbus died in 1506. The idea
that there were outbreaks before that is
because earlier historians were trying to find explanations
for why the population of Hispaniola
collapsed so long beforehand. It’s a hypothesis
an attempt to fill in the gaps. One that there’s
absolutely no evidence for. And that’s why it’s a theory
that’s become quite unpopular in the last couple
of decades. Coincidentally,
this hypothesis also serves to absolve Columbus. If there was a disease outbreak,
then the mass deaths of indigenous slaves,
which we know happened, are magically not his fault,
which why Knowing Better brought it up. The fact that the population
were sharply declining, and the disease
was not the principal cause for this,
means that something else was happening. and what exactly do you think
it was? Okay,
and this might sound crazy, but maybe it had something
to do with all the massacres, or with Columbus
dislocating the indigenous people from their traditional society
and economy, forcing them to instead serve
the needs of the colonists through slavery. You know, stuff like that. Sure maybe,
or maybe it was all just a big oopsie. Wouldn’t that be
convenient for this defense of Columbus? This was inevitable,
and unavoidable. It’s
interesting that the inevitable and unavoidable thing
didn’t happen. sure disease
did kill a large portion of the population of the Americas,
but that came later and it was a gradual process. Not one that just happened
in a big oopsie, before europeans
ever even got to the mainland of the Americas. Hernan Cortes for example,
landed in a very, very well populated Mexico. and that was in 1519,
13 years after Columbus died. [Distorted voice]
Before they had even heard
of a european. Disease
did have a huge effect later on, but it was not immediate. Hand-waving everything
away as just some unfortunate accident that happened
due to disease, is a classic denialist
talking point. If disease was inevitable,
then the deaths of indigenous people
were just mere unfortunate accidents,
on the long path towards european induced “progress,”
rather than actually related to it. Here’s another example
of it from far-right agitator Tucker Carlson:
The left speaks only of Columbus’s genocide,
mostly because his ships brought old-world diseases
to the new world. Knowing Better is in good company
isn’t he? Historian David Stannard
summarizes this mentality: by focusing
almost entirely on disease, contemporary authors
increasingly have created the impression
that the eradication of those tens of millions
of people was inadvertent, a sad but both inevitable
and unintended consequence of human migration and progress. He also states that the destruction
was: neither inadvertent nor inevitable,
but the result of microbial pestilence
and purposeful genocide working in tandem. So yes disease
absolutely was a factor, but not a big
one during Columbus’s lifetime. But it wasn’t anywhere
near the only factor. And things that the europeans
did to the indigenous people also greatly increase
susceptibility to disease. They removed
them from their traditional ways of living,
and forced them to work in cramped and terrible conditions,
which made outbreaks much more devastating
when the diseases did finally arrive. Sure
eventually contact would have been made,
diseases would have been transmitted but that doesn’t mean
they would have spread exactly as they did,
since that transmission was facilitated by the upheaval
that conquest had on indigenous societies. It also doesn’t mean
that these hypothetical other people
would have done everything as Columbus and the spanish did. Whether it was Columbus,
any of the people who followed
him or even a chinese explorer coming the other way. Maybe they wouldn’t have
even colonized the continent. Maybe they would have
instead set up trade routes and then gone home. But we can’t answer these questions
because it’s all just hypothetical
alternate history. Just like the notion
of inevitability. You can’t simply present
all of this as inevitable. You have no idea
what would have happened otherwise. Knowing Better
is presenting an unfalsifiable alternate
history hypothesis as if it was simple fact. This primarily serves to frame
Columbus and other colonists as people without agency,
just along for the ride, and thus magically not responsible
for their actions. ABSOLVED! And that’s exactly why Knowing
Better does it. Okay,
so that’s the first half finally done with. God,
This is gonna be a long video, isn’t it? At least now we’re
at the actual fun part, Knowing Better
attempting to refute more specific accusations
against Columbus. It starts out with attempts
to “debunk” supposedly “mistranslated”
or “out of context” quotes. For this part
I’m going to swap to voice over because I’m
going to be putting a whole lot of sources on the screen. Don’t worry though,
you’ll see my beautiful face again in the conclusion. Okay,
over to Knowing Better: But this is something that people
bring up all the time. That in his own words
and in his own journals, he says this or that. The most common quotes are the ones
he shows. So let’s start
with this one about them making good servants. What do you notice
about this quote? How about the fact
that it’s neither the beginning nor the end of the sentence,
there’s clearly more to it. So we’re gonna have to look it up. And here it is. It appears to me that the people
are ingenious and would be good servants
and I am of the opinion that they would
very readily become christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words
as are spoken to them. In full context
the word servant could mean slave or servant of god
or subject of the crown. When they just cut
out the ingenious good servant part, it only means slave. They remove any context
and any doubt. But these are Columbus’s own words
we have to take them at face value since we can’t figure
out what he really meant, right? Do you see where I’m going
with this yet? These aren’t his own words,
because his real name wasn’t Christopher Columbus
It was Christoforo Colombo. Oh, look, what do we have here? Yes, I really do have that kind
of time on my hands. Here’s what we’re looking
for from October 11, 1492. Now we have to translate it. Let’s just shove
it into google translate and see what we get. They must be good servants
and of good wit that I see
that very quickly he says everything he told them, blah blah. Obviously google
isn’t the best translator since it doesn’t carry meaning
very well, but it takes
some linguistic gymnastics to get from,
they must be good servants and of good wit,
to the people are ingenious and would be
good servants. He says it takes
linguistic gymnastics to get from A to B,
because google translate said something else. Yet apparently it didn’t occur
to him that google translate might be wrong,
or might be using a synonym. The thing is,
the translation that he’s deriding
here is already a literal one. Ellos
deben ser buenos servidores y de buen ingenio — literally,
they must be good servants, and of good ingenuity. The main difference
is that the english version is just swapped around,
but the meaning is the same. Google
translated ingenuity to a synonym, wit,
but that doesn’t mean that the translation is wrong,
it just means that google chose a different word. Though the original translation
that he disliked so much is actually more accurate
than google’s, because it translates
ingenio literally. How is that the absolute worst? It carries the same meaning
no matter how you slice it, even in the translation
that google gave him. I can’t believe what I’m watching. How could
he possibly frame this as a dishonest translation. Did 80,000 people really buy this? My head hurts. But there is another one people
like to refer to: I could conquer the whole
of them with 50 men and govern them as I please. Here’s the spanish and here’s
what google translate says, because with 50 men
they are all subjugated and it will make them do everything
they want. Ok,
that ending doesn’t really make all that much sense,
but I can tell you what it doesn’t say:
conquer them and govern them as I please. Ok, this one is especially bad. The original spanish
here literally translates as: because with 50 men,
they would all be subjugated, and I will do
with them whatever I want. Versus:
I could conquer them with 50 men
and govern them as I please. The meaning
carried there is pretty much exactly the same. The second one is just a bit
stylized because, you know literal translations
are really boring. You can take stylistic liberties
as long as the overall meaning is the same, which it is here. Because subjugate
means to bring under domination especially by conquest. So the original is,
funnily enough, actually worse than just conquer
on its own, as subjugation
implies not just conquest, but an intention
to dominate afterwards. And govern them as I please means
pretty much the same thing as make them do whatever I want. So both sentences
mean the same damn thing. This is someone
wholly unfamiliar with the practice of translation
trying to frame people as dishonestly smearing Columbus
with intentionally maliced translations,
when the translations clearly carry the same meaning
as the original. Even google translate
is giving him translations that say
more or less the same thing, which he seems not to notice. But I can tell
you what it doesn’t say: conquer them and govern them as I please. When I first watched
this I couldn’t believe that he was trying
to present these translations as dishonest,
because it’s really obvious that they’re
just saying the same thing even if you don’t speak spanish. But now I get it, he does
it because this video is based on the premise
that Columbus was just a poor regular everyday
normal guy who’s being unfairly derided,
so he has to pretend that translations
that are actually very accurate
were manipulated to make him look bad. If the smear-campaign
that he invented never existed, because you know,
Columbus has actually been presented as some sort
of superhuman hero of european civilization,
the whole premise sort of falls apart. Again in full context
in this section Columbus is asking the king
and queen what they want done with the natives. He’s not so much asking there,
he’s suggesting. He’s just writing in the way
that you write to a king and queen. You know
he can’t directly tell them what to do because they’re
a king and a queen. He has to write
in a submissive manner. In those days
that’s just how you spoke to people who had authority
over you, and especially literal monarchs. But he really has all the power
to get what he wants here. He’s their eyes. Their most important representative
in the Americas. They don’t see what he sees. They interpret
all of this through him. He has the power
to present them with whatever view he wishes of the places
and the people that he sees, so he’s
consciously trying to direct them into doing what he wants. No one
forced him to immediately jump to: Hey,
these guys are so weak I could
totally conquer them and enslave them, haha,
you know, if you wanted me to, that is. Wink-wink nudge-nudge. He did it because he wants
them to give him permission to do so. Suggesting that 50 men would be all that’s required
to hold the island. I’m
not sure where he got to hold the island from. There’s nothing
there about holding the island. In the previous sentence
he’s talking about keeping them captive
on the island, then immediately jumps to talking
about how easy it would be to subjugate them. It’s clear what he’s suggesting. Historian Jalil Sued-Badillo
also analyzed these exact passages. He says:
The first recommendation of Columbus
reflects his predisposition to the portuguese practice
of plunder and enslavement of the natives
along the coast of Africa. And: All arguments,
specific and symbolic, marshaled by Columbus
led to the conclusion that natives must be enslaved. It’s generally a good idea
to take a look at what modern historians
have to say, rather than just interpreting
things ourselves in the most biased way we possibly can. Encomienda
was the Spanish feudal system of lords and peasants. And that’s what the natives were,
peasants not slaves. They were forced
to work against their will, but nobody owned them. Nobody could buy or sell them. The encomienda
in the new world was not the same as the encomienda
in the spanish feudal system, and saying that it was is
very much another whitewash. This is
actually an extremely important thing to discuss in relation
to Columbus’s legacy, because the encomienda system,
which under Columbus was called the repartimiento,
was implemented by Columbus, and established the basis
of socio-economic relations between indigenous people
and the spanish for centuries afterwards. Of the many things
that he did this probably had
the most long-lasting negative effects. Historians
Ronald Batchelder and Nicolas Sanchez state that:
The American version of the encomienda
originated in Hispaniola, when Columbus
assigned repartimientos, or distributions of indians,
to the original settlers to provide labor services for them. So Columbus,
as governor, introduced this system. He was the authority
who awarded people encomiendas and who oversaw them. What was an encomienda? Well,
it was an entitlement to forced labor
by indigenous people. The encomendero,
the holder of the encomienda, did not technically own
the workers, but they were forced
to work for them nonetheless. During Columbus’s time as governor
encomenderos had no official obligations
towards their indian workers. Such laws
were only implemented after Columbus was gone. For the welfare
of the indigenous people this was
actually worse than traditional models of slavery,
because the encomienda slaves were not an investment
of the encomendero, they lost nothing if the slaves
died. They’d just be replaced with others
at no cost. Economic historian
Timothy Yeager puts this rather coldly,
saying that the encomienda depleted more quickly the stock
of native labor than regular slavery would have. That’s a euphemism for:
more natives died. And Justo L. Gonzales,
another historian, because that’s who we cite
in videos on history, summarizes it like so:
The encomienda was even worse
than outright slavery. That is not just the system
of feudal subjects being given the protection
of a lord, as Knowing
Better tried to frame it. It’s
absolutely slavery by any reasonable measure. And I don’t think the people
being forced to work literally to death
really care about the distinction of whether or not they’re
directly owned by the person subjugating them or not. And quite frankly, neither do I. Going for a gotcha
on the technical meaning of a word, doesn’t change the fact
that this institution, implemented by Columbus himself,
was one of the most brutal and callous forms
of forced labor that the world had ever seen. At the very least
as bad as the worst examples of slavery. This system
was formalized under his successor, because by then it had
already been entrenched by Columbus. After that,
it was exported to other spanish colonies
in the Americas and adopted by the crown
as its official economic policy. Columbus
was the root of all of this. And guess what? The implementation
under Columbus specifically, which he made no efforts
to regulate, was so brutal
that even his contemporaries noticed. but Bartolome de
las Casas, mentioned in the video, is only one of them. Even the spanish monarchs
themselves noticed, and in 1512 they implemented
the laws of Burgos, which regulated the treatment
of natives under the encomienda system. Now these laws were mostly ignored,
but the fact that they were implemented shows
that the system implemented by Columbus
was hardly normal. In reality,
it was actually seen as especially cruel and in need
of reform. So now we’re about to see the part
of the video where the burning
desire to reach as far as possible to frame
Columbus as positively as possible, is most evident. The whitewashing
is pretty damn extreme in these next sentences. Get your goggles on! Columbus
wanted to subjugate them which means turn
them into subjects of the crown, not enslave them. What?! Who here has ever in their life
seen the word subjugate used to literally mean “Make
someone my subject,” that is
some impressive linguistic gymnastics. But okay, let’s entertain this. Let’s look at some context
and then we can decide what Columbus meant. Here’s some facts for you:
Columbus negotiated a deal with the spanish crown,
whereby he would be given 10% of the profits
from the lands he “discovered,” forever. About a decade
before his voyage to the Americas, Columbus made a living
in the early portuguese triangle trade,
one-third of which was a slave trade. He became accustomed to the slave
markets of Genoa, and had visited the slave trading
ports of portuguese Guinea, such as Elmina
in present-day Ghana, where he saw the portuguese model
of African slavery firsthand. This inspired him in his ventures
in the Americas. From the very beginning,
the slave trade was a crucial part
of his economic plans. In 1493,
in the very first letter Columbus wrote
after returning from his first voyage,
he wrote to the royal comptroller, promising them as many slaves
as their majesties ordered to make. Unprompted by the way. No one had asked him for slaves. He brought it up by himself. And yes he used the word
slaves directly, not subjects
or anything else that could be twisted
in any other way. Not enslave them. Early in his second voyage,
in 1494, Columbus captured, imprisoned and then shipped dozens
of indigenous Carib people back to Spain,
with a letter to the queen. In it he wrote:
May your highness judge whether they ought to be captured,
for I believe we could take many of the males
every year, and an infinite number of women. Quite clearly he was sending
them back as examples of slaves, and offering the king
and queen the opportunity to ask for more. Again, unprompted. Columbus
almost obsessively tried to push the spanish crown
towards the slave trade in these very early days
of spanish colonization. We’re not talking
him just following orders, we’re talking
him constantly suggesting it, and trying to sell
them on it because he wanted his 10% cut. We also have further evidence
that he was familiar with the african slave
trade from earlier in his life, because in that same letter
he makes direct comparisons to african slaves. He wrote that:
one of them would be worth more than three black slaves
from Guinea in strength and ingenuity,
as you will gather from those I am shipping out now. Want another example? Well,
here’s another quote from a letter he wrote ten days later,
suggesting that the crown pay for provisions
with slaves that he would send them. We could pay
for all of that with slaves from among these cannibals. A people
very savage and suitable for the purpose,
and well made, and of very good intelligence. And yes,
he specifically uses the word slave, again. He does that a lot
actually just not in the couple of quotes
that Knowing Better cherry picked. This is the context
in which we have to read Columbus’s earlier comments
on the ingenuity of the indigenous people
who he met. He saw them as commodities. He was not just complimenting
them for the sake of it, he was assessing their worth
as forced laborers. Knowing Better
is really big on intent. He lets us know that in a bizarre,
incredibly out-of-place rant about how George Zimmerman
was innocent of murdering Trayvon Martin. No,
no, not in another video,
in THIS video. In 2012 George Zimmerman
shot and killed Trayvon Martin, that fact is beyond dispute. But he was found innocent,
how is that possible? Because he was tried for murder,
not manslaughter. Murder requires an intent to kill. Zimmerman
didn’t leave his house that morning saying I’m gonna kill a black kid
today. Yep,
in this video about Columbus, there is a random tangent
justifying the murder of Trayvon Martin. So,
in light of all this context, with Columbus establishing a system
of slavery somehow more brutal
than the chattel system, and his evident enthusiasm
for establishing the slave trade in the Americas,
did Columbus intend to make indigenous people
his subjects, as in the spanish feudal system? No, he intended to subjugate them. You know,
the literal meaning of his words. Now you might be thinking:
Damn, that’s some good research. Putting
all of those primary sources together to form a clear path
of progression from Columbus
being inspired by the portuguese slave trade
that he saw earlier in his life, to him later trying to push
it incessantly in his capacity as governor. Thanks, but it’s not my work. I paraphrased
all of that from a few pages of the book “The other slavery:
the uncovered story of indian enslavement
in America” by Mexican
historian Dr. Andres Resendez. I used the footnotes
that he provided, to track down the primary sources
in the original spanish, just to make
sure that he and I couldn’t be accused of taking part
in the non-existent conspiracy to mistranslate Columbus. You see there’s no reason
for me to go and do my own extensive primary
source research just for a YouTube video. Because people
who are experts in the historical method,
and also in this specific subject, have already gone
through the painstaking work of doing that. They’ve pieced
them all together to provide tons of context,
to explain not just what Columbus did but why he did it. Ignoring the work
of modern historians to instead make
baseless speculations is indicative of something:
that these secondary sources make Columbus look very, very bad. And well,
Knowing Better was trying to make Columbus
look as not bad as possible, so he avoided them entirely. Instead he just found a couple
of quotes and then lied about what they say,
while hoping the viewer wouldn’t notice. Well, I noticed. All we have are transcriptions
of his journal written by someone who’s probably already been
mentioned in the comments below: Bartolome de las Casas. Bartolome
de las Casas was a noble who was given an encomienda
in the new world. In 1515 las Casas
gave up his encomienda and advocated instead for the use
of african slaves. That’s right the protector
of the natives as he would later be called
advocated for the transatlantic slave trade,
which then started under Nicolas de Ovando, not Columbus. The Columbus apologism is really,
really evident in the fact that Knowing Better feels a need
to attack Bartoleme de las Casas, whom he seems
to perceive as someone who gets too much praise,
while poor ol’ Columbus just gets hate. So old Bart
here needs to be brought down a notch. And that’s because the existence
of people like de las Casas,
who spoke up against the treatment of indigenous people,
is very, very inconvenient to the narrative
of Columbus is just a guy
who is doing what anyone else also would have done. Clearly there were people
who weren’t like Columbus, who spoke out against the system,
who might have done things very differently if they had been
the ones in power, showing us that his idea
of Columbus as merely the guy
who happened to be in charge doing the stuff
that everyone else surely would have done
in his position, is absolute garbage. And de las Casas was
not alone by any means. He was not the first to voice
such opinions nor was he the last. Many people
agreed with him and many others were swayed by voices such as his. In his attempt
to smear de las Casas for the sake
of whitewashing Columbus, Knowing Better,
of course doesn’t mention
that later on he came to see all slavery as immoral,
and advocated against it. Again,
because the fact that in the early 16th century,
abolitionism of both native american and african slavery
already existed in the spanish empire,
is very, very inconvenient when you’re
trying to paint a monster as just a normal everyday guy. Anyway,
while we’re on the theme of the transatlantic slave trade,
which Knowing Better graciously brought
up for us, do you know who was the first guy
to ever transport shipments of slaves across the Atlantic? It was Christopher Columbus. He wasn’t just the first either,
he was also the second, and the third and the fourth
and the fifth. He shipped indigenous slaves
from the Caribbean to Spain five times in six years. Which
is just about as much as he possibly could have
in such a short period of time, considering the length
and difficulty of the journey. So that further demonstrates
his enthusiasm for the slave trade. The first as mentioned
earlier was a shipment of a few dozen slaves that he sent,
unprompted, with a letter offering more. The second
in 1495, was a much larger shipment,
the first ever large-scale movement of slaves across the Atlantic. He had intended
to ship 1,600 but he could only manage
to cram 550 into the four ships that he had
available. Many of those who couldn’t be
loaded were instead given to the europeans
in the colony as slaves, showing that there was
actually regular ownership style of slavery in the colony,
alongside the encomienda system. 200 them died during the trip. Resendez writes that:
With this voyage, Columbus inaugurated
the middle passage, complete with the overcrowding
and high mortality rates commonly associated
with african slavery. The third,
in 1496, was a shipment of 300 slaves. The fourth,
in 1498, was a shipment of 800 slaves. The fifth,
in 1499, was a shipment of 300 slaves again. That’s
about 2,000 slaves in five years. He did not simply “suggest”
a brutal system of forced labor
that was worse than slavery. He did not just try
very hard to push the slave trade. He put it all into practice
of his own accord. He not only established
the encomienda system of slavery in the Americas,
But he was also the first-ever
transatlantic slave trader. He laid the groundwork
for the african slave trade. He showed that large amounts
of people could be crammed in the ship
hulls and hauled across the ocean. Is that enough intent for you? Sued-Badillo
summarizes it in better words than mine:
in the bill of indictment of that long and terrible history
of civility and slavery in the capitalist
world system, Columbus has the distinction
of being the first to introduce that new order to the Americas. Columbus
was not some guy in the gray area just doing
what was normal for his time. He came up with the idea,
and implemented it. He MADE it normal. But even still,
it took a while to catch on. Because even Columbus’s
contemporaries were a bit squeamish about his obsessive
promotion of the indigenous slave trade. Catholic
lore dictated that only prisoners from “just wars” could be enslaved. Columbus was breaking this law,
meaning that quite literally it was not a norm. Even his contemporaries
noticed this. In 1500,
shortly after the arrival of Columbus’s last shipment
of slaves a decree from the king
and queen freed all indian slaves, prohibited anymore from being
taken, and mandated that any who wanted
to return to the Caribbean be given passage back. So even the king
and queen of Spain who were undoubtedly pretty damn
awful people themselves, seem to not have been
quite as comfortable with the indigenous slave
trade as Columbus was. So even by the standards
of his time, he was considered extreme. But it was while he was arrested
that he wrote an important letter: Girls as young as nine years
old were sold into sexual slavery. My customers wanted new world
sex slaves, and I heard them. Actual Christopher Columbus quote. That actual Christopher
Columbus quote comes from that important letter
I just mentioned, where he complains
about the robbing and sexual slavery of natives. Which is why he cut
off colonists’ hands and noses. So Columbus
cut off colonists’ hands and noses for taking sex slaves. What’s the source for this? Nothing? You made it up? Unsurprisingly, yup, he did. He invented a justification
out of thin air, that’s how strong his desire
to absolve Columbus is. What did Columbus
actually do and why, according to contemporary primary
sources? Luckily,
we have an authoritative one. A document
by Francisco de Bobadilla, who had been tasked by the crown
to investigate allegations that Columbus
was running the colony as a tyrant. He interviewed both people
sympathetic to and opposed to Columbus
and wrote a 46 page report. This document
is not available online, but historians
who’ve seen the original have given
us a nice summary: One man caught stealing corn
had his nose and ears cut off, was placed in shackles
and was then auctioned off as a slave. A woman
who dared to suggest that Columbus was of lowly birth was punished
by his brother, who had also traveled
to the Caribbean. She was stripped
naked and paraded around the colony on the back of a mule. His brother
ordered that her tongue be cut out, and Christopher
congratulated him for defending the family. And just in case anyone
wants to do the whole thing of “Oh that’s everyone
being unfair to poor old Christopher
Columbus”-thing again, the historian
who assessed the document, Consuelo Varela,
who is an expert on Christopher
Columbus in particular, said:
Even those who loved him had to admit the atrocities
that had taken place. Columbus
and his brothers come across in the text as tyrants. Now one can understand
why he was sacked and we can see
that there were good reasons for doing so. So that’s why he was removed
from his governorship and imprisoned. That’s why he cut
off people’s hands. He was not defending girls
from sex slavery. Knowing Better
literally made that up. And what this also reveals is
that Columbus was not just a normal authority
of his time. Because even by the standards
of 15th century Spanish colonists, he was a tyrant. And if he treated the colonists
that badly, we can be sure that he was much,
much worse to the indigenous people,
because we know that he saw them as nothing
more than commodities. And that the violence
of the calumny of turbulent persons
has injured me more than my services
have profited me, which is a bad example
for the present and the future. Am
I saying that Columbus was a good person? No,
but am I saying that he was against the very thing
that people say he was for? Yes,
that’s exactly what I’m saying, Yes. They’re quoting his complaint
about something happening and saying he was doing it,
that’s… Talk about taking something
out of context. So Knowing Better
is once again taking a giant leap to misconstrue what this quote
is saying, while claiming
again to actually be the one giving it context. Let’s look at it. It’s a letter
that Columbus wrote to defend himself in 1500,
after he was arrested and stripped of his governorship. He says:
the violence of the calumny
of turbulent persons has injured
me more than my services have profited me. The violence
of the calumny means the violence of the slander,
that’s what calumny means. The turbulent persons
refers to those denouncing his governorship in the colony,
and the last bit is him saying
that the negative effects of this alleged slander on him,
outweighs the profits that he gained in his time
as governor. This quote is a general statement. It has
little to do with the previous passage. She’s not even remotely denouncing
the slavery of young girls. He’s complaining
about what people said about him and claiming
that this made his work as governor not worthwhile. So what about the prior passage? Well in this passage
Columbus is making dry observations about the island’s economy
under his authority. He complains that the extension
of justice, meaning,
you know, those pesky laws
and the monarch’s increasing authority over the colony
has kept him down. Basically complaining
that he wasn’t allowed to be even more of a tyrant
than we already know that he was. Then he talks
about the island’s economy in dry descriptive terms. They’ve found a lot of gold. So much so that within the
island’s economy people have started debating
whether robbery is more profitable than gold
mining. He then illustrates this inflation
by choosing two “commodities” as examples:
farmland and little girls, aged nine to ten,
saying that they basically fit the same price. Yes, he listed little girls
in dry economic terms. This is something
that was happening under his governorship,
under what we’ve established was his tyrannical control. If he cared about the practice
he could have stopped it, but he did far from that,
he instead used little girls as a point of economic reference. Quite clearly,
for him this was, at best,
something that he had no issue with. How on earth
do you possibly construe that as Columbus
denouncing the practice? He does nothing
even close to the sort. The lengths
that Knowing Better goes to pull something
positive about Columbus out of nowhere are
seriously extreme. But hey why don’t we look
for some of that context and see if maybe there’s anything
else out there about Columbus and indigenous females. Well,
good thing I went and found some. In 1493 Columbus
took 10 indigenous women from Puerto Rico. Soon after his men
also kidnapped more women from the island of Santa Cruz. Columbus
didn’t seem to mind that at all. In 1495 his friend,
Michele da Cuneo, who was in charge
of transporting Columbus’s first large-scale slave
shipment, received from him a gift. A beautiful Carib girl. Do you think that Columbus
gave his friend this girl to take nice and good care of,
as I imagine Knowing Better would probably try to say
if he read this passage, or maybe for other reasons? In 1496,
he stopped on the island of Guadalupe,
where he kidnapped two indigenous women. In 1498,
he stopped in the coast of Paria
and did the same thing once more. And that’s just what we know about. The sources
that we have hardly paint a complete picture
of everything that Columbus did. Considering
that he made quite a habit of kidnapping females specifically,
it’s likely that he did it much more than just
the five times that were written about. So what’s more likely here in light
of all of that context? That Columbus
gave a damn about the trade
in little girls that he mentioned in that quote,
which there’s no evidence for? Or that Columbus
partook in it himself, which there’s quite a bit
of evidence for. Knowing
Better’s standard of evidence for his own statements is,
literally nothing. Knowing
Better’s video is an excellent example
of how easy it is to do passive viewers. It has so many glaring issues
where he just says that things mean what they obviously don’t,
but not many people picked up on them because they’re
just accepting what he says, rather than thinking
critically about it. It’s
important to be an active viewer. If someone
says that two translations mean different things,
pause the video for a second and think
about whether they’re really that different. If there’s a webpage
or a quote being cited, pause and check
that it actually says what they say it does,
and then it doesn’t contradict them. If there’s a sentence
or some words that you don’t quite grasp
the meaning of, and you’re being
told what they mean with no citation,
pause the video and take some time
to absorb it all yourself. And if you’re still having trouble
open another tab and do some googling. The issue
here is that Knowing Better is flagrantly lying,
but most viewers simply aren’t paying
enough attention to realize it. It’s understandable since you know,
it’s just a YouTube video, people don’t really want to give
those their full attention. Just some suggestions. In 1530 he transcribed
Columbus’s journals and then in 1542,
he wrote a short account of the destruction of the Indies,
which is the thing that a lot of people
point to as las Casas saying Columbus was evil. He only mentions Columbus once,
and it’s rather neutral really. Brah…
Las Casas mentions Columbus hundreds of times. He wrote more than just one book,
and he also used more than one name for Columbus. He often also calls
him the admiral. Apparently Knowing Better
didn’t think to check his other works. Is that too much to ask from a guy
who presents himself as an authority
on the topic? Who’s presenting the “real truth,”
“the red pill” on Columbus? Here’s an example from the book,
history of the Indies, where de las Casas calls Columbus
the admiral. Considering the justification
and counsel that the admiral had given
to the monarchs for war
against these peaceful people who lived in these lands
without offending anyone, at the very least it seems
that we should question that justice or injustice. But only the admiral
was believed and since nobody spoke for the indians
their side of the justice or injustice was not considered. They remained judged as criminals
from the beginning and they were destroyed
until they were all gone without anyone feeling
for their deaths or taking it as a crime. So there you have de
las Casas explicitly linking the destruction
of the indigenous population of Hispaniola to Columbus. For him Columbus
was the first authority to try to justify war against them,
which set a precedent which remained until they were
all gone. Hardly “rather neutral, really.” De las Casas wrote a whole,
whole, whole more on Columbus,
But I think that quote already says
enough really. And there’s yet another aspect
to this that I want to bring up. None
of Columbus’s original journals survive. All we have are transcriptions
of his journal written by someone who’s probably already been
mentioned in the comments below, Bartolome de las Casas. Las
Casas had already given up his encomienda
and started the slave trade by the time
he transcribed Columbus’s journals. So at this point
he has every incentive to make Columbus
look as bad as possible. In fact,
it’s common knowledge that he paraphrased
and exaggerated. So this part is absolutely bizarre. It’s conspiracy theory territory. The idea
that even Columbus’s journals themselves have been altered
to make him look bad. This comes out of nowhere. It doesn’t even make sense
because in his own writing, de las Casas makes
it clear that he admired Columbus and writes that he was sent by god
to discover the Americas. I mean, it’s
ridiculous actually Just listen. The time
of the marvelous and merciful wonders
of god had arrived. When god chose the divine
and high master among the sons of Adam,
who at that time was still on earth,
the illustrious and great Columbus, who should be known
primarily for his name and his work in the colony,
and for his work, his virtue,
his ingenuity, his industriousness. It was
one of the most divine blessings that,
in the present century, he wanted to do this, in his world. So yeah,
you trying to tell me that guy was biased AGAINST Columbus,
and purposefully doctored his diaries to make him look bad? I don’t think so. The opposite
is much more likely actually. I’m
not the only one to have noticed that de las Casas was biased
towards Columbus either. Sued-Badillo said that:
las Casas used Columbus’s poor education
and intelligence many times in attempting to exonerate
him of his misdeeds, and shifted the responsibility
to others. So yeah,
I think I’ve made my point there. Anyway,
we often don’t have the original copy
of such documents, so we do work with a lot
of transcriptions. This is very common,
it’s nothing unusual. Compared
to many other transcriptions the transcriptions
that we have of Columbus’s journals
are actually very contemporaneous. And they’re
completely consistent with the things
that he says in other stuff that he wrote,
such as the many letters I referenced earlier. You know this journal
only covers August 1492 to March 1493, a whole lot
of stuff happened after that, and most of the worst things
that Columbus wrote aren’t from his journal. But if you only watch Knowing
Better’s video you’d think the diary was the only document
we have that Columbus himself wrote,
and it really seems like he was intentionally trying to paint
that picture. He conveniently ignores the dozens
of others that came later, that show that no one
needed to make Columbus look worse when he made
himself look. And anyway,
you know what makes his journals a credible source? They have been cited by thousands
of historians. Historians
who of course already had this whole debate
over the veracity of Columbus’s journals. Eighty years ago,
in 1939 Historian Samuel Eliot Morrison
definitively proved that it was
a faithful transcription. He concluded that the few people
saying otherwise we’re doing so dishonestly,
just because some of the things that it says were inconvenient
for their arguments. Sounds
kind of similar to someone, can’t quite put my finger on it… So do we trust the thousands
of historians who have no qualms
at all quoting the diaries as Columbus’s own words,
who clearly think they meet the standards
of historical evidence, or do we trust the YouTube
man trying his hardest to instill doubt
in his quest to whitewash Columbus. I think I’ll go with the former. So Knowing Better
conjured his own conspiracy theory, to try and manipulate the viewer
into doubting whether what he presents
as the only credible evidence against Columbus
can even be trusted or not. That’s going in very, very deep. This is made
even worse by black legend which is a propaganda
campaign by english historians to make the spanish look
much worse than they really were. So what is the black legend? Well as the Wikipedia
page that he put on the screen says,
it is an alleged bias against Spain. He seems to miss the bit
where it’s not actually accepted as fact, as he presented it. The black legend
alleges that Spain’s history is painted
as worse than it really was, while the accusers
themselves ignore similar atrocities
in their own history. It is not a propaganda
campaign by english historians. That makes
it sound like some organized ongoing effort
of pompous tea-sipping Oxbridge historians to make Spain
and Columbus look bad. The alleged black legend
is about the british historically focusing
on spanish colonial atrocities, while conveniently ignoring
their own. Keyword historically,
it’s not a thing today. This was in the context
of a time when the spanish
and british empires still actually existed,
and were rivals. And so there were
supposedly geopolitical motivations behind it. That hasn’t been the case
for quite a while to say the least. Historians have long,
long moved past this sort of thinking,
and guess what, the claims
that were once derided as the black legend hold true,
the spanish colonization still looks
absolutely incredibly awful, and with every new primary source
document that historians discover, Columbus himself actually looks
even worse than he did before, as I think I’ve
thoroughly demonstrated in this video
by citing a whole lot of them. The only true part
of the black legend is the bit
about how the british focus on Spain as a way
to avoid discussing their own colonial atrocities. But that doesn’t mean
the spanish atrocities never happened,
or are less worthy of condemnation. It just means that the brits
were misdirecting, something that Knowing Better
seems to enjoy doing too. And just for good measure
the two principal works that I’ve cited up until this point
were written by a Mexican historian and the Puerto
Rican one, so much for the british propaganda
campaign. There’s only one type of person
left who seriously complains about these so-called black legend
today. Well other than Knowing Better
that is– these guys. Know who they are? Far-right Spanish nationalists. That flag they have there,
it’s the flag of Franco’s Spain. The only people
who seriously believe that the black legend
is a thing today, are far-right spanish empire
apologists. Great company to be in, huh? They’ve got their own version
of it too, called the white legend, where they ignore
inconvenient sources and take things out of context
to try and paint the spanish empire in as positive a light as possible. Which is what Knowing Better
has done for this entire video with Columbus. How fitting
that he ends up complaining
about the supposed black legend too. And guess what,
in the Wikipedia article that Knowing Better cites,
it says all of this already, it says as part
of what spanish nationalists have called the black legend. So he knew exactly who’s talking
points he was parroting, and did it anyway. So at this point
it’s fair to say that Knowing Better
is engaging in historical denialism. Because historical denialism
is more than just people outright saying
x-thing never happened. It has
more insidious and common forms, where denialists do everything
possible to cast doubt on the established facts,
while feigning an aura of objectivity. He does this in this video many,
many times. He does it in presenting
the black legend as if it was some sort
of established ongoing propaganda campaign,
something that only hardcore historical denialists do today. He does it with his baseless
conspiracy theory that casts doubt on the veracity
of Columbus’s journal, presenting it as if it were
the only primary source there is that Columbus
himself wrote, and implying that it was
probably altered to smear him, without presenting the viewer
with the fact that de las Casas was in reality
biased in FAVOR of Columbus. He does it by inventing instances
of other people mistranslating Columbus
while making the most ridiculous leaps
of translation and logic
to get to his own interpretations. I mean he attempts
to present Columbus, a man
who transported 2,000 people across the Atlantic
to be sold into slavery, and who implemented a system
of slavery in the Americas that was even worse than chattel
slavery, as not guilty of being a slaver
with nothing but semantics. He does it by accusing others
of taking Columbus out of context, when in a video titled a defense
of Columbus he somehow manages
to avoid presenting the viewer with any modern
academic secondary source, Focusing instead on easy targets
like a dumb Adam ruins everything cartoon,
and a guy in cosplay giving a TED talk or something,
rather than looking at the work of academic historians. This gives his viewer
the impression that if he can just refute
those videos, which he doesn’t really do
a very good job of by the way, that means Columbus is absolved. No mention
of the mass slavery under his governorship,
of the slave trade, of his view of people
as commodities, of how many people he killed,
of his kidnapping of women, and he also did it in his random
pause to attack de las Casas, something that he did
not just because de las Casas, even with his bias towards
Columbus, is a damning primary source
on how Columbus treated indigenous Americans,
but also because his vocal advocacy for indigenous rights
is proof that even among rich
and powerful people of the time, the way that Columbus
treated the native people was hardly a given. Very Inconvenient when you’re
trying to paint Columbus as someone
who just said what anyone else would have done. Between all of this and the general
vibe of the earlier parts of his video,
where he frames the “discovery” as some sort
of inevitable positive leap forward for humanity,
he’s pulling out all the most common talking
points of pro-spanish empire far-right nationalists,
and shamelessly so. Even the Wikipedia
articles that he cites note that these are their talking
points. I mean just look at this,
when he tries to delegitimize las Casas,
he puts a Wikipedia article on screen
that clearly says: opposition to de
las Casas reached its climax with spanish right-wing nationalist
historians constructing a pro-spanish white legend,
arguing that the spanish empire was benevolent and just,
and denying any adverse effects of spanish colonialism. Spanish pro-imperial historians
depicted de las Casas as a madman, describing him as a paranoiac
and a monomaniac given to exaggeration,
and as a traitor to his own nation. Knowing Better
even saw fit to highlight the talking points
of these right-wing Nationalist denialists. He knew exactly what he was doing. So yeah,
this is historical denialism, plain and simple. Quite funny that the guy
has his own videos on historical denialism. Columbus’s regime
was so senselessly brutal, that by 1542,
the tiny population on the island had fallen to 200. As we’ve already established
Columbus’s regime only lasted until 1500. Adam
is attributing an entire 50-year span
to one person. 42 of which weren’t even
under Columbus. Do you even remember
who the president was 42 years ago? Why focus so much on it being
a 50-year time span? Why not ask the question
of how many of those dead did Columbus kill? You can’t just refute
one dumb argument and then act like Columbus
is absolved. You have
to actually look at the evidence yourself. So let’s do it. It’s
obvious even though we don’t have exact population
figures from when Columbus was governor
that his extremely brutal practices that I discussed earlier,
would have resulted in a sharp population decline. Again,
we don’t quite have exact figures from Columbus’s time,
but we do have one official census from 1514,
which allows us to calculate how fast the population
had declined, even before the first major disease
outbreak in 1518. It says that 25,000 native people
were alive in 1514. So let’s be
generous and take a very, very low-end estimate
of the pre-Columbus population of Hispaniola. Now I could easily go with figures
of more than a million or even
up to eight million, But I’ll go with the lowball
from the video. Here Adam says that the Taino
population in 1492 was 250,000 which is pretty accurate
to what most everyone else says. 250,000 —
from 250,000 to 25,000 that’s a decline of 90% in 22 years. 7 of them with Columbus in charge. So how about we be
fair and split the 225,000 missing indigenous
people in proportion to his years of governance. So that would mean that we could
reasonably claim, from the best statistics
that we have that Columbus was responsible
for about 70,000 deaths on Hispaniola alone. That’s about as nice as I could
possibly be to Columbus: I’m using a low estimate,
I’m assuming that it was
only responsible for a nice, even portion of deaths,
and that he bears zero responsibility for anyone
who dies as a result of the groundwork he laid,
after he was sacked as governor. And he STILL killed 70,000 people. And just for good measure
a little fragment he wrote
that shows how little he valued the lives of indigenous people:
while they die now, it won’t always be this way. The blacks
and the Canary islanders also died at first. That’s in a letter to the queen,
trying once again to sell her on the slave trade. He’s saying,
okay sure, so the slaves
might die in mass during the journey and in Spain,
but that’s ok, because eventually they’ll survive. But for now, let’s keep at it. Let ’em keep dying. [Sigh] Knowing
Better later goes on another long rant
trying to absolve Columbus on a technicality. It wasn’t genocide ok? Look
at this technical definition in the UN Genocide Convention. Columbus wasn’t so bad after all. But when trying to label the crime
as genocide we have to look at the intent. Genocide
as defined by the UN is an act committed with intent
to destroy in whole or in part a national ethnical racial
or religious group. Columbus’s intent
was not to “wipe them out… all of them.” Dude, who cares? If you kill 10,000,
20,000 or 70,000 people, not even considering what guilt
he might also bear for the legacy of the systems that he implemented,
that’s well past the point where whatever label
you put on it ceases to matter. There’s so many ways
in which I could more directly deal
with his attempted trap, but why bother? It’s another attempt
to absolve Columbus through semantics. The guy’s fixated
on these worthless technicalities. Knowing Better Does
this all the time. From his bizarre George Zimmerman
interjection, to his technical definition
of slavery and now his technical definition
of genocide, while leaving out crucial evidence
against Columbus. It’s a manipulative word game. If we’re busy debating semantics
then we’re less likely to ask questions
about what Columbus actually did. And just to address
one thing that I’m sure will come
up in the comments. Yes Columbus is
responsible for those deaths. He was the highest authority
in the spanish Americas for its first seven years. He ruled as a tyrant
and did basically whatever he wanted
until 1500. Whatever resulted in these deaths, was his fault. Because they,
at the very least, stem from systems
and practices that he both implemented
and oversaw. And especially considering
his callous disregard for the lives of indigenous people. Like any other tyrant
what happened under his rule is directly attributable to him. All the big bad guys in history
didn’t personally kill all their victims
or individually order their deaths themselves. But they still bear
the responsibility. So I’m not being
unfair to Columbus here at all, I’m merely applying
the same standard of responsibility to him as we do
to every other leader in history. Was Columbus a good guy? No Was he a bad guy? If we look
at him through the historical lens, not really. The idea of Columbus
as a normal dude of his time is thorough garbage. It’s a common refrain
that’s uses pervasive far beyond just Columbus,
used when people want to just turn their brains
off and absolve anyone of anything ever. Like,
okay if you want to say that say someone
who held prejudiced views without acting on them was
a product of their time, sure. But a murderer
of 70,000 and a mass slaver goes well beyond that point. Not really,
he wasn’t any worse than anyone else. He wasn’t worse than anyone else? Really? Okay,
so during early contact Columbus himself notes
that the indigenous peoples themselves were incredibly open,
welcoming, generous,
sharing and practically ignorant of war,
yet he still immediately saw them as little more
than commodities. They approached contact
in the exact opposite way than how Columbus chose to. What he did was a choice. People like de las Casas existed. And they had
the complete opposite mentality advocating for the very people
that Columbus saw is
little more than expendable commodities. The spanish monarchs
issued a decree, specifically directed
against Columbus, that outlawed
the native american slave trade that he was
hell-bent on spreading, showing that even other evil people
considered Columbus to be extreme. They also soon passed laws
against the mistreatment of indigenous people
showing that they were more than enough influential people
that did not actually consider his brutal slave driving
and trading normal, since the empire
had to at least pay lip service to changing its approach. And worst of all this idiotic
statement ignores that the vast majority
of people were commoners, who I’m
sure never killed or enslaved anyone. And for that matter,
I am sure that most other people never did either. You can’t just ignore
the vast majority of people
who ever lived while trying to claim
that a mass-murdering slaver was just like anyone else. This is
just another in the long list of Knowing
Better’s attempts to reduce the severity
of Columbus’s atrocities in the mind of the viewer,
while continuing to present himself as a “Neutral voice
of reason.” Because the only possible way
to defend what Columbus did, is the baseless assertion
taken entirely for granted, that it was all just normal. Columbus
was not just a normal of his time. He was not just a normal guy
of any time. It was not normal to invade
foreign lands, to subjugate the people
you find there, to deprive them of that culture,
to force them into slavery in a system
that was worse than chattel, force them to give you tribute,
try your hardest to start a new slave trade,
kidnap women to be sex slaves, to kill 70,000 people,
or to rule as a brutal tyrant who tortured people
seemingly for fun. De Ovando was objectively worse,
Cortez and the other conquistadors were objectively worse,
and the US government, most of the time anyway,
was objectively worse. Were the two other names
that he mentioned here worse? Maybe,
I mean he presented no evidence… Cortez at least imported Columbus’s
encomienda slavery system to Mexico
so it’s very easy to tie the two together. Columbus
directly influenced how the native people
were treated for centuries, and that’s just one example of how. But regardless,
it really doesn’t matter who is
worse because it wouldn’t prove anything. Was the US government worse? I mean,
yeah sure, But it’s
not exactly fair to compare an entire government
to one guy anyway. Still doesn’t change a thing
though. If a few other individuals
also killed more than the 70,000 that Columbus
did, or enslaved more than the hundreds
of thousands that Columbus did, that changes nothing. They wouldn’t be anything
close to the “normal people of their times” either. All of them would be
ridiculously evil, none of that absolves Columbus. This part though
is kind of ridiculous: But even more than that,
all of the unnamed soldiers under these people
were the absolute worst. I mean,
I somehow doubt that a rank-and-file soldier,
even the worst one ever, being as evil
as they possibly could, could do
near as much evil during their entire lives
as Columbus did in a mere seven years. That’s some big shoes
to fill there. They’d need
to kill about two people a day for a hundred years,
and that’s not even mentioning the slavery. So was Columbus a unique evil? No,
but he’s certainly high up there, as an incredibly evil person
by the standards of any time. Why does he need to be some sort
of unique level of evil, the absolute worst ever? Before Knowing Better
thinks it’s okay for us to deride him. Why should he be given credit
for being the first european to happen
across the Americas, as Knowing Better says:
To many people Columbus deserves none
of the credit for discovering America,
but all of the blame for what happened to it. But not be equally derided
for being the first European to mass oppress,
enslave and murder American peoples. We celebrate firsts all the time,
first man on the moon, first US President,
first to invent something, first to achieve some feat,
first european to land in the Americas,
yet denouncing Columbus for being the first to do
many terrible things and thus being representative
of those things, is somehow super dumb
and worthy of an epic YouTube debunk. There’s no answer
to those questions that isn’t just an exercise
in mental gymnastics. For Knowing
Better unless you can prove that Columbus
is literally the worst person to ever have lived,
it’s somehow irrational to hate on him. But obviously that’s
not how things work we’re allowed to hate incredibly evil people
even if they’re not quite number one,
and especially if they set the precedent for what came later. But odds are you probably think:
He got lost coming here, and he’s the one
that named us Indians ’cause he thought he was in India. But conversely I also disagree
with just renaming it indigenous peoples’ day,
because what is it really? Ah f**k him. Yeah f**k Columbus. F**k Christopher Columbus. That’s a big f**k you. It’s just anti-Columbus day. Think about it,
what do people do on indigenous peoples day. If we can pin
400 years of awful history onto one guy,
it shifts all of the guilt for what happened
to the native americans away from the rest of us. Well the rest of you,
because my relatives didn’t come
over until after the close of the indian wars, so not me. So these people
in the clip that he plays as an example
in this video, are native americans. Are THEY
attacking Columbus to absolve
themselves of their own guilt? What about say,
all the other indigenous people leading the charge
against an absolutely abominable human being,
who is symbolic of every terrible atrocity
that happened to their people. Just why might they be saying
such terrible mean words about poor ol’ Christobal
Colon. Hmm,
question for the ages, big head scratcher there. Columbus
is just one part, the first part,
but a relatively small part in what happened
to the native americans. So why do people hate Columbus,
or rather, why do people
WANT to hate Columbus? Took the words
right out of my mouth. It’s time to talk about symbolism,
Which is incredibly important
to the position of the people
that Knowing Better is arguing against,
and which he totally ignores. Except at one point
when it was convenient for him. He went on a long tirade
about how important Columbus is a symbol of colonialism. Truth
is at Columbus and his imagined female goddess
form Columbia have been part of the American
story since the beginning. Here she is telling
you to ration food during world war 1,
and here she is in the painting that you all know,
even if you’re not american, as the depiction
of manifest destiny. Do you see all of that? Columbus as the personification
of the genocidal manifest destiny ideology,
the personification of US patriotism
itself in those propaganda posters, and thousands of places,
including an entire country, bearing his name. How do you go down that list
and still somehow miss the point? There’s way more than that even. There’s statues of Columbus
literally everywhere in the Americas and Europe. Spain,
the colonizer itself, holds its national day on the day
that Columbus landed in the Americas. I mean its name
literally translates as the national celebration
of Spain. The day
is also a national holiday across much of the Americas,
not just the USA. His face has been on plenty
of historical spanish banknotes. Kids
participate in plays acting out the glory of his deeds. Look I could
go on but you get the point. All of this serves to perpetuate
the incredibly pervasive myth of Columbus
as an incredible navigator, a noble explorer
who brought out superior european civilization,
to the savage barbaric Americas. So not only is Columbus the symbol
of colonialism in the Americas, who has been promoted
as such for centuries. Seriously,
nothing else even comes close. But he’s
also one of the greatest symbols of white supremacy,
of the idea that european subjugation
of indigenous american peoples was a “good thing”
that brought “progress,” or in Knowing Better terms,
Columbus “discovered” America Which
finally allow the natives to progress along the tech tree,
rather than being limited by their spawn point. Which
in turn justifies the continued status quo
of anglo-european socio-cultural dominance. It’s the “primary school”
view of Columbus that he references
earlier in his video. You might think
that he was a brave explorer who proved the world
was round and by doing so discovered
the United States, and if that’s the case,
congratulations on graduating from elementary school. But the thing
is that’s not just the elementary school
view. It’s been
instilled not just in every single education system
across the Americas, but also through much much
wider efforts to promote the myth of Columbus. You know like all that stuff
that we just went over. I mean here is a statement
from the president of the United States of America,
perpetuating it. After a perilous two-month journey
across the treacherous Atlantic Ocean,
Christopher Columbus landed in what is
today The Bahamas. This watershed voyage
ushered in the age of exploration, changing the course of history,
and setting the foundation for development of our nation. Today we commemorate
this great explorer, whose courage,
skill, and drive for DISCOVERY
are at the core of the american spirit. And this isn’t just a thing
in the USA at all. Narratives
about Columbus like this have been used to instill
the colonial ideology across the Americas. And they’ve
had the exact same debates about Columbus too. For example
in 2010 Argentina renamed their version of Columbus
day, the extremely on the nose “day
of the race.” Hey, at least they didn’t lie
about what it’s really about, unlike certain other countries,
and in 2013 they had their very own controversy
over a Columbus statue being replaced. It was located
right outside their version of the white house. Just to give you an idea
of how symbolically important Columbus has always been
to colonialism, even way down south. All of this,
the reassessment of Columbus across the Americas,
as well as the people insulting Columbus
that Knowing Better strawmans in his video,
is not just pushback against Columbus the man. It’s most importantly pushback
against Columbus as the most important symbol
of white supremacy and colonialism in the Americas. By pushing back against this,
they’re pushing back against what he represents. The colonial social order
that upheld his image for centuries,
and that his image has in turn helped to uphold. Yet instead of stopping to think
about this for a second, Knowing Better just goes full,
“Heh, actually…” and treats his opponents, even indigenous people themselves,
as moronic simpletons, irrationally attacking Columbus
due to their ignorance of historical facts,
rather than because he is the most important symbol
of colonial ideology. Again sounding eerily like Tucker
Carlson. Ignorance
of the past isn’t simply tolerated, it’s required. Does your average protester
know anything about Christopher Columbus? Yes, some people in this pushback
against Columbus as a positive symbol of colonialism
might exaggerate what he did personally. So what, he was still 100%
terribly evil himself, far beyond the point
where anyone trying to correct
whatever minor inaccuracies there may be,
and failing miserably, could possibly have
sincere motivations. Not Columbus himself,
nor what he represents, merit any defense. So here is a better question
than Knowing Better’s “Why do people
hate Columbus so much?” Why do people
feel the need to react
so strongly to the very recent reassessment of Columbus
and his incredibly pervasive legacy. Why make a 28-minute video
where you whitewash history– Columbus wanted to subjugate them,
which means turn them into subjects of the crown, not enslave them. So on Columbus’s second voyage
when smallpox was introduced to the new world,
it burned through the entire continent
killing 90% of the native american population. –Use historical denialist
talking points– This is made
even worse by black legend which is a propaganda
campaign by english historians to make the spanish look
much worse than they really were. –and do everything
possible to obfuscate and sow doubt in the evidence–
They picked the absolute worst most biased translation
to quote as journal entries literally from him. So at this point
he has every incentive to make Columbus
look as bad as possible. In fact,
it’s common knowledge that he paraphrased
and exaggerated. Why push back against the push
back? There’s only one answer to that. For the first time
since colonization, anglo-european perspectives,
culture, and domination
are beginning to make room for others. The Americas
are finally being americanized. Europeanness,
which for centuries has dominated the continent,
is being slowly absorbed into a greater whole,
in which it will one day be a mere part,
equal rather than hegemonic. The rapid surge in popularity
of these relatively new indigenous reassessments of the legend
of Columbus, the most sacred of the colonial
sacred cows, settler colonialism made man,
is most emblematic of these changes. Knowing Better and those like him,
regardless of how much they might try to hide it behind “Oh Columbus
wasn’t even that important, I don’t care about him. Even though I made
a 28-minute video defending him.” Regardless
of whether they’re even conscious of it,
they see it, and it scares them. But there’s no need to be afraid,
my friends. Embrace it,
you’re a part of it after all. Oh my god that was looong. So I basically worked on this video
for like 10 hours a day for the last 2 weeks,
because unfortunately, it takes
about 10 times more effort to debunk this stuff
than it does to just make it up. So anyway,
if you somehow got this far, and you like this video
why not subscribe and check out some of the rest
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you so much for watching guys. Bye!

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