Comedian Ben Turin examines the Guatemalan Coup of 1954

On January 16, in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Auditorium, historical comedian Ben Turin presented “1954,” a comedic examination of whether the United States is living in a post-truth era. Turin began by discussing the Guatemalan coup of 1954, which was driven by American banana industries and yet, occurring unbeknown to American consumers at the time. “The American public supported a coup that they had no idea even occurred,” Turin remarked. Senior Sydney Singleton, majoring in Sustainable Food Systems, believed that the comedic delivery of Turin’s presentation suited the topic well. “Often, topics of war and turmoil can be hard to listen to and read, but he brought a new way of understanding and bringing the message of what happened in Guatemala.”

Turin also reviewed how textbook standards in the United States affected history education, describing how Texas state standards required that the Civil War be described as a war fought regarding states’ rights, instead of a war fought to determine the legitimacy of slavery. Turin explained, “Textbooks are a heavily politicized part of developing a national identity for a country. Senior Margaret Brown, majoring in Spanish, had the opportunity to understand more about the United States’ educational biases in teaching history. “I knew that the U.S education system definitely has a bias in how it teaches its history, from personal experience and from what I’ve learned at Guilford, but I didn’t realize the extent of it.” Brown newly learned about the Guatemalan coup and Turin’s presentation inspired her to do more research about the history she was learning about. “I was glad to learn how that event and its representation affected Latin America and how we treat immigrants politically and socially in the US. It has made me want to do my own research on the biases in what I’m learning.” Brown said. Turin concluded his presentation asking the audience to consider the ramifications of living in a post-truth society. “I would leave you with a question: what does truth really mean when it’s been evasive for so long?”

The presentation was sponsored by Every Campus A Refuge, Guilford’s Center for Principled Problem Solving, Elon University and the Center for New North Carolinians at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 9 of The Guilfordian on Jan. 24, 2020.