wilson lied, thousands died! 8.03.2005

Today's Politicos Invent the Past
History is evoked more and more these days, even as fewer of us read it.

That apathy explains why when public figures turn to false historical analogies for political purposes, they're often given a free pass to exaggerate or distort. Take, for example, filmmaker Michael Moore, who once compared terrorists in Iraq to our own Minutemen, or Yasser Arafat who implied that the taking of Jenin was as brutal as the battles for Leningrad and Stalingrad. Even Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recently likened the conditions found in Guantanamo Bay to those in Nazi death camps.

So the next time someone quotes philosopher George Santayana for the umpteenth time that "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," just assume that what follows will probably be wrong. Having a Rolodex of cocktail party quotes to beef up an argument is not the same as the hard work of learning about the past.

One of my personal gripes when talking to some of my friends is how badly they mangle history, glibly quoting the politicians whose political pursuasions they agree with--without realizing that their historic references themselves are botched. It irritates me because correcting the historic error is seen as political--as if a recitation of names, dates and events has become in and of itself intrinsically political.

When simple list of names and dates and facts becomes political, and (as I have noted elsewhere) when political disagreement becomes conflated with personal attack, then we have license to utterly eradicate history in one sweeping nilhist moment.
Do you realize that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? If it survives anywhere, it's in a few solid objects with no words attached to them, like that lump of glass there. Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

George Orwell, 1984

posted by William Woody at 9:44 AM

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A moderate conservative living in the left coast, surrounded by the sureal, wonders if there is a sane life living amongst those who have lost touch with reality.

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