Statistically speaking people with below average intelligences are more prone to be violent criminals, serial killers, and whatnot, but there have certainly been some remarkably intelligent people who were also evil.
When I was a kid you never heard about how shitty famous people were. Even now unless you dig a little you rarely find out about the dark side of people who are considered important. History isn’t made by gods, it’s hammered out, often in a way that isn’t pretty, by flawed humans. Christopher Columbus was actually kind of a stubborn asshole, to say nothing of his kid. The story of how he discovered America is so twisted from the reality of how it went down it’s disgusting. In fact, in his own time people were disgusted by his actions. He’s often painted as a victim, but that’s far from true. History is often written by people with an agenda. It’s difficult to find unbiased sources. Columbus is just an easy example. Henry Ford is now pretty well documented as being an anti-Semite. I don’t even remember when I learned that. Certainly not in school. Even his museum acknowledges it now. A life sized portrait of Ford hung in Adolf Hitler’s office.
Roald Dahl probably wasn’t a raging anti-Semite, but he certainly was critical of them, and was prone to the level of racism that was common in his day. Ompah Loompahs, for example, were originally written as African pygmies. Later on he changed them into a white skinned race with gold hair, and then the movie made them into tiny Donald Trumps.
Walt Disney probably wasn’t nearly as racist as the world would like him to be these days, but he certainly wasn’t abnormal in that respect for his day. He was hardly a monster to be sure, and generally wanted to improve the world. Arguably he wanted to improve it for his own family the most, but still…
Nuance is not something that is welcomed in a classroom setting. People tend to want to see history in black and white but, as with most things, the reality is muddy with many gray shades. I recently found out that respectable historians actually look down on people who write history text books. They see them as money motivated and not to be trusted. I’d never really given it a lot of thought, but it makes sense. When you’re being paid to write a book that has to please the average American parent you’re gonna get fucked over in the reputation department.
Movies based on historical events are also problematic a lot of the time. Some more so than others. There are actually some really comprehensive breakdowns of the historical accuracy of various movies online. One of my favorite movies, Amadeus, is woefully inaccurate. They made it a great story, but Mozart and Salieri were hardly enemies. In fact, in his last days Salieri lamented the fact that the rumor of their rivalry would live on after his death and implored a friend to tell people the truth. I have to admit, for most of my life I assumed that the film was accurate and thought the two were bitter rivals.
Sadly, it’s impossible to check every source. Sometimes you have to accept that you’ve been wrong your whole life, admit it, and move on. That is not always easy to do.
Here’s something completely unrelated that I was thinking about. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are white and male. You’ve never seen an Japanese woman before. You would judge them based on the standard of beauty you’ve been raised with and your own internal preferences. So, potentially, you might think a woman was beautiful who might be considered ugly in her own culture, right? That strikes me as interesting. Cultural bias like that is something that is getting less and less prominent as the world gets more and more connected, but it still exists. I think that’s interesting to think about.