I have read that book. I think it is a VERY convincing book. On a side note, I just saw a show today on how advertisers are now trying to tap into the subconscious minds of consumers. What's next, eh?
Brad and all:
As far as history being fiction, I think that history teaches that, fiction or not, nobody really learns anything from history.
I know the experience you've described all too well. I remember discussing quantum mechanics with someone while training to counsel at a Bible camp. While we were talking, I could hear the rumblings of various simple-minded right wingers saying "That's all crap", and so on. The same thing happened when I decided to refer to Isaac Asimov when discussing something. I can't quite remember what it was, but someone interjected "Isaac Asimov was an atheist!" as though that gave him less weight in the world.
So, I believe that to tie this all up:
Believe whatever you want to believe, but don't believe in it too much. If you do people will take advantage of you and brainwash you as they did to my unfortunate interjectors, who will likely never broaden their horizons due to so much conditioning.
As far as fiction being subjective and history objective, I would like to refer to something my english teacher once told me. She said that when studying history, one must be careful to watch for propoganda. Take recent history for example:
In the Gulf War, the Americans claim to have defeated Sadam Hussein. But did they really defeat him? I have seen the news stories pertaining to the recent tenth aniversary of that conflict. Sadam is still in power, smuggling supplies into his country, European companies are taking the American/UN sanctions less and less seriously, and the sanctions themselves are defeating none other than the poor innocent children of the Iraqi people. What a hell of a victory!
Now, I know that the issue I've just discussed is not as simple as I've made it out to be. However, I feel that it is a good example of propaganda in the history textbooks. So, Brad, your friend was likely partially right. However, I do not agree with his rather extreme way of stating his ideas.
As far as fiction being subjective:
We'll use 1984 as an example. In our society, there is no Big Brother. There is no intoxicating chemical used to keep the masses happy. There is no Thought Police.
However, in my country[Canada] we have privacy dissipating and people's personal lives regularly appearing as headlines on the news papers. We have assemblies in our schools praising our country's peace and justice, even though there are poor drunkards on every street corner in our big cities. Big corporations from all over the globe are regularly getting in bed with our government. To those who would oppose such things, pepper spray is the only answer from the mouth of the government.
Now, I'm not saying that Canada is as extreme as the example put forward in Orwell's book. However, we need to understand the reasoning behind his book in the first place. It was a satire of the utopian views of the future put forward in such works as H.G. Wells' Modern Utopia. Although I have not read that book, I still appreciate Nineteen Eighty-Four's satirical value when it comes to critiquing our own society. We have all the technology available to watch people and probe their minds. But guess who's doing the probing! The corporations! They want to get rich quick off of our privacy. My government is in bed with just about major corporation!
So, Brad, as far as history and fiction's being able to be placed as objective or subjective, I don't like to think that there are clear distinctions. Just like works of fiction, actual historical accounts can be used for the purposes of good or those of evil.