"Historically accurate": I do not think that phrase means what you think it means

I’ve been wondering why we haven’t heard from the writers and producers of the Tommy Douglas miniseries recently pulled by CBC for being historically inaccurate. Well, now we have (the “Smith” in the quote below is writer Bruce Smith):

“‘I stand by my portrayal of Jimmy Gardiner without reservation,’ Smith said in a written statement released by the Writers Guild of Canada. ‘It is historically accurate and based on extensive research.'”

But I’m still puzzled. He says he can answer every one of the CBC-hired historical consultant’s problems with the script, so why doesn’t he just do so, instead of saying he can do so without actually doing so? I’d be fascinated and I’m sure many other CBC listeners/viewers would be, too.

For example, I’d love to hear how the script could possibly be “historically accurate” in light of this:

In one scene, Gardiner berates miners in the 1931 Estevan coal strike in a broadcast to the province. However, historians say the speech never happened and Gardiner wasn’t premier during the strike.

From the Saskatchewan archives:

Hon. James Garfield Gardiner 1883-1962 – Lib., Feb. 26, 1926-Sept. 9, 1929
Hon. James Thomas Milton Anderson 1878-1946 – Cons., Sept. 9, 1929-July 19, 1934
Hon. James Garfield Gardiner 1883-1962 – Lib., July 19, 1934-Nov. 1, 1935

Sure enough, James Anderson, not James Gardiner, was premier in 1931.

Hard to imagine a meaning of the phrase “historically accurate” that allows for such a discrepancy, unless it’s in some special TV-writer’s dictionary (quite likely, now I come to think about it).

Over to you, Mr. Smith.

Permanent link to this article: https://edwardwillett.com/2006/06/historically-accurate-i-do-not-think-that-phrase-means-what-you-think-it-means/


    • Edward Willett on June 30, 2006 at 12:06 am
    • Reply

    Well, he obviously knows this and must have known it all along. I’m sure he’d say he had Gardiner deliever that imaginary speech because it simplified things and streamlined the narrative. Dramatic license and all that.

    I understand that, but you can’t then turn around and say you were being historically accurate when, obviously, you were not in at least one unequivocal instance.

    • John Murney on June 29, 2006 at 11:24 pm
    • Reply

    Bruce Smith is going to look awfully stupid when he is proven wrong.

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