I read somewhere that the Wild West wasn’t so wild after all. Is that true? Have we been fed garbage all these years?
This is a very interesting question, not merely for the sake of knowing the REAL history, but also because the “Wild West” meme has morphed into a kind of “proof” that an unfettered free market or an anarchist society can not possibly work, and if left to their own devices people will invariably turn into lawless savages. In other words, the “Wild West” as we all know it, is a powerful propaganda tool for the State. So the question we all want answered is: how true-to-life and historically accurate is this picture?
1. The first reaction you’ll have, once you start delving into the available historical documents from that time is one of increasing disbelief. Try as you may, you’ll be extremely hard put to find any kind of corroboration of the modern Wild West myths in the published press of the time. And the more you dig, the more boring and disappointing the Wild West begins to look.
2. When you start researching gunfights – using original published sources and available letters from that time, here too you will find very little to get excited about. It would appear that the amount of violence in the ENTIRE “Wild West”, over the ENTIRE period, has a mere few dozen murderous incidents recorded. In fact, fewer crimes of ANY kind than in any SMALL city in the Western World over a period of one year! Incredible? Unbelievable? Well, YOU look at the documents and you tell me!
3. The Wild West myth is largely a concoction of Hollywood as well as earlier story-tellers, side-shows and propaganda of the time. A boring new frontier wasn’t something that would excite people, so a better story was needed, to entertain, excite and invite people to keep moving West. It wasn’t any kind of a coordinated conspiracy, to be sure. It’s just people being people. We all love a good story!
The answer to the above question, based on the latest evidence which I have independently been able to confirm at least to some degree, seems to indicate quite strongly that far from being “wild” the Wild West was a model of community spirit, mutual support among the settlers, and natural laws emerging and being defended by all those concerned. In other words: the Wild West wasn’t very wild at all.
- The Not So Wild Wild West