[FOUNTAIN]Napoleon and Historical Truth

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[FOUNTAIN]Napoleon and Historical Truth

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was born in Corsica. By 30, he had proclaimed a new regime and became First Consul of France. By 35, he was emperor. There are few historical figures about whom there are so many misunderstandings and conflicts of opinion as the "Little Corporal."

Let us look at the Battle of Waterloo, fought on June 18, 1815. The French corps, 70,000 soldiers led by Napoleon, was defeated by the allied forces of Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany south of Waterloo, near Brussels, Belgium. Right after the battle, Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena island, where he later died. Which general claimed victory?

The British and Americans argue that it was the Duke of Wellington, while the Germans say it was Gebhard Leberecht von Bluecher, who commanded the Prussian army to help Wellington. The Belgian contend they were the driving force of the victory.

There are also many explanations for Napoleon's defeat. Some argue that he was not in the best condition because he was suffering from hemorrhoids and insomnia. One of the more convincing hypotheses is that the rain that fell that day muddied the road, obstructing the movement of his cannons. Another suggests that Napoleon's battle strategy was detected by the British army. As we have seen, even in one of the most famous battles in modern history, there is no agreement on what happened, and most arguments take a self-centered viewpoint.

Can the media unearth the truth? A famous example of the nature of media is reflected in Napoleon's dramatic life. Look at headlines in French newspapers when Napoleon escaped Elba island. Initially they read, for example, "The Cannibal Demon Escapes the Elba," but as he come closer to Paris with a growing number of supporters, they changed in sequence -- "The Throne Usurper Arrives at Grenoble," "Bonaparte Troops Advance into Lyon" --and after Napoleon returned to Paris, they became "Emperor Makes Triumphal Entry to Paris." These headlines are often used to support the argument that the media only turns against power when power declines.

Recently some ruling party leaders said, "The reason why the popularity of the party has been declining lies in its failure to have 'control' over the media," and "It is not the people's sympathy but public opinon which is not favorable to us." If the way the French media reacted to politics in the 19th century is applicable to the 21st-century Korean media, the media should feel unpleasant while the ruling camp should have a feeling of political crisis.

The writer is deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Cho Hyun-wook

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