by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
“Darkness isn’t the opposite of light, it is simply its absence.” – Terry Pratchett
As we’ve previously discussed in the Propaganda Series, The Sound of Silence, propaganda is not always language or images. Sometimes it is the lack of words. It is just as important to “listen to what is not said” as it is to “listen to what is said”. Sometimes though, propagandists try to time travel. They employ a tactic in an attempt to change the present by attempting to change the past. I say “attempt” for reasons that will be clear soon enough.
When a propagandist tries to pull off this particular trick, they don’t need a fancy machine or a black hole or a magic potion as is the staple trope of science fiction and fantasy time travel. They need nothing more complicated than a pen or a typewriter. In the present, a word processor and some basic HTML coding skills will serve that purpose. Maybe Photoshop or GIMP. When a propagandist tries to change the present by changing the past, they don’t call it time travel. No. They don’t call it anything, because they really hope you don’t notice what they are doing. Silence will work often, but they are not above a bit of misdirection. Well executed propaganda does, after all, have much in common with stage magic.
When we citizens and media consumers catch their slight of hand, we don’t call it time travel either. We call it historical revisionism. Just this week, the Obama Administration was caught red-handed doing precisely that in relation to the Edward Snowden case.
First, let us consider what exactly is historical revisionism. Is the term itself value loaded language? Is it always a bad thing? Is it always propaganda? The term in common usage certainly has a connotative meaning that is not the same as its denotative meaning. As with the word “propaganda“, the connotative meaning is usually pejorative and implies lies, falsehoods and distortions of past events. Also like the word “propaganda”, the term “historical revisionism” has a larger denotative meaning that may or may not be value loaded.
At one level, historical revisionism is simply a scholarly endeavor to rewrite history based on new research or theories that either modify or contradict earlier historical writings. There is nothing wrong with that. Historical revisionism in that context performs a valuable function in the study of history although it is usually hotly challenged within academia as history is an often soft social science where the status quo holds a lot of sway. That challenging environment is also not a bad process by connotation as the process itself of claim and counterclaim often results in a refinement of both theory and the understanding of new evidence in context as well as eliminating false assertions and whole cloth fabrications from being incorporated into our understanding of history as fact. Even so, the study of history faces certain challenges in addition to access to new data. There is (what I find to be most interesting) the challenge that new information from other fields of science present. Genetics, paleoclimatology, paleontology, archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, chemistry . . . even astronomy – all can, do and have changed our understanding of history. There is also some psychological and intellectual challenges to the study of history that can impact historical revisionism. In fact, there are two logical fallacies that historians often fall prey to: the eponymous Historian’s fallacy – when one assumes that decision makers of the past viewed events from the same perspective and having the same information as those subsequently analyzing the decision – and presentism – where present-day ideas, such as moral standards, are projected into the past. Historians also have to contend with the context of the society in which they live. Contemporaneously popular ideology and culture may skew historical revisionism as can political considerations like nationalism. However, as useful as historical revisionism as an academic endeavor can be, it has a dark side and that dark side can most often be seen in how contemporaneous ideology, culture and politics can make history a lie about the past designed to serve the present.
This kind of historical revisionism is what most think of when they use the term as a pejorative. There is a special word for this kind of manifestly bad historical revisionism – negationism. Derived from the French term négationnisme, which means Holocaust denial, the basic idea applies to more than just Holocaust denial, but to making anything a “never was”. This is basic denial as a propaganda strategy/tactic. Negationism also includes the propaganda strategy/tactics of deception, distortion, relativism and trivialization, very often executed to varying degrees as part of the same campaign. The Nazis engaged in wholesale historical revisionism in the form of book burning, altering history and science texts to provide examples of “Aryan superiority”, distorting their history and the history of the Jews and Roma to provide relativistic rationales for their persecution and to trivialize the true scale and horrific deeds done in the campaign of genocide they called “The Final Solution”. This suite of tactics is not unique to the Germans. The Chinese did the same thing during the Cultural Revolution. The Japanese did (and still do) teach revisionist history about the events leading to World War II. The Soviets made historical revisionism into a propaganda art form. In America, we teach grade school and high school kids a sanitized version of American history that does a great disservice to the truths of the effective genocidal campaigns against the Native American peoples.
Clearly, historical revisionism is a value loaded term and, while it can be a good thing for the academic pursuit of history, it can be as a political practice a very dangerous very damaging form of propaganda.
In 2008, Obama had a website that detailed his vision for reform. Until very recently, this website was linked to on the White House official website and provided a valuable tool for comparing Obama’s promises to his performance. According to the Sunlight Foundation, that website in that form could last be viewed on June 8, 2013. Remember that date. It’s about to be relevant. That link to Obama’s agenda and promises is no longer on the White House website and the Change.gov of today is this non-comment of a splash page with a link to http://change.gov/content/home that returns a blank page reading :
Sorry, File Not Found: 404
Invalid URL /content/home
All of the website’s pages are now and have only recently become inaccessible from the site. What was the Obama Administration so interested in making disappear? What needed to be never was? Perhaps they wanted to remove all record of Obama’s campaign promise to strengthen protections for whistleblowers. In case you don’t recall, his promise, once found in the Agenda/Ethics section of Change.gov, went like this:
Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.”
June 8, 2013 was two days after the first revelations were made about the NSA’s phone surveillance program by the then unrevealed Edward Snowden.
Apparently the Obama Administration and their flunkies have no idea how technology really works, but you can’t be held accountable for a promise you made if you (try to) erase all record of it, can you? That’s the whole point of making something never was. Unfortunately for them and their propagandist historical revisionist tactic but fortunately for actual history, memory in the digital age is persistent. The original home page for Change.gov can be seen here and the original content of the Agenda/Ethics page (quoted above) can be seen here.
As noted by Luke Johnson at the Huffington Post, “Prior to the Snowden leaks but after Pfc. Bradley Manning gave classified information to WikiLeaks, the Obama administration launched the Insider Threat program to combat leaks, in part by asking coworkers to keep a close eye on their fellow employees. The program also ordered more protections for those who use proper channels, but four national security whistleblowers have said that they became targets of Justice Department investigations after bringing concerns to the Department of Defense Inspector General.”
I think historical revisionism as a political propaganda methodology is in many ways worse than a simple lie.
Was this an attempt at historical revisionism in the most pejorative sense?
Is there another explanation that defies the timeline of removal?
Could there be other promises made they wish to “never was” in addition to the promised protection for whistleblowers?
What do you think?
Source(s): Huffington Post, Wikipedia, Change.gov, The Wayback Machine Web Archive (1, 2), Sunlight Foundation, http://www.mcclatchydc.com, Firedoglake
The Propaganda Series;
Propaganda 105: How to Spot a Liar
Propaganda 104 Supplemental: The Streisand Effect and the Political Question
Propaganda 104 Supplemental: The Sound of Silence
Propaganda 104: Magica Verba Est Scientia Et Ars Es
Propaganda 103: The Word Changes, The Word Remains The Same
Propaganda 102 Supplemental: Get ‘Em Young
Propaganda 102 Supplemental: Holly Would “Zero Dark Thirty”
Propaganda 102: Holly Would and the Power of Images
Propaganda 101 Supplemental: Child’s Play
Propaganda 101 Supplemental: Build It And They Will Come (Around)
Propaganda 101: What You Need to Know and Why or . . .
Related articles of interest;
Mythology and the New Feudalism by Mike Spindell
How about Some Government Propaganda for the People Paid for by the People Being Propagandized? by Elaine Magliaro
Is Freedom of the Press Dead? by Lawrence E. Rafferty
~submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
105 thoughts on “Propaganda 104 Supplemental: Just Because You’ve Forgotten Doesn’t Mean You’re Forgiven”
Most of us but, for example by placing strain on the skin and harness your” ‘Chi’ energies. For the chinese culture study, 15 percent of people say they have difficulty conceiving at some time. Acupuncture works to hinder the treatment of osteoarthritis wearing down of cartilage degeneration but it won’t have any number of well-supported psychological treatments for humans would do well with. The elbows and backs of defensive linemen, and really helps to promote blood circulation, improve egg quality, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder.
Exposes more BS propaganda from SPLC & others.
Reblogged this on News-Press.
Reblogged this on euzicasa.
sonofthunderboanerges seems to indicate that “Satan” did some propaganda, in the form of revisionist history.
Since that is what Gene H is talking about in this post, I took a gander.
The early church fathers address the propaganda in the form of revisionist history issue as a major concern:
(Early Church Fathers address Mithraism). It is important that they note Mithra mythology is very ancient, preceding Christianity by centuries.
Their basic argument is that prophecy is history written in advance, so the Mithra followers made up things way, way back in time so as to make historical events happen before the prophecies came to pass, and thereby revised history in some way via religious propaganda of sorts.
In other words, if they were active today they would be altering websites, blogs, and the like to cover up or alter historical events.
Just sayin’ …
In this series on propaganda, Gene H has covered a lot of ground.
For the current post he declares and asks:
Historical revisionism, especially recent types of it like the Obama Administration website scrubbing, is in our national DNA if you will.
The military actually thinks it is a spiritually mature Christian organization spreading godly ideals throughout the world as it gives birth to our freedoms at home.
Likewise our science at its core is attached to unproven and unprovable attachments to ancient religion concepts (Weekend Rebel Science).
The propaganda dynamic is so deeply ingrained in us that we would not resemble ourselves without it.
Oky1:”One look at the Oil/Nat Gas & pipeline routes of the M East & you’ll instantly understand everything to need to know about the M East!”
There is something more.
Saddam was moving to sell oil in Euro or other currency.
If producers stopped trading oil in US$, that would have had a huge impact.
The US would not be in the position of being able to “print” oil.
More about this in (from 2005)
“Unlike various other rock- or cave-born gods, Mithra is not depicted in the Roman cultus as having been given birth by a mortal woman or a goddess; hence, it is claimed that he was not “born of a virgin.” However, a number of writers over the centuries have asserted otherwise, including several modern Persian and Armenian scholars who are apparently reflecting an ancient tradition from Near Eastern Mithraism.
For example, Dr. Badi Badiozamani says that a “person” named “Mehr” or Mithra was “born of a virgin named Nahid Anahita (‘immaculate’)” and that “the worship of Mithra and Anahita, the virgin mother of Mithra, was well-known in the Achaemenian period [558-330 BCE]…” (Badiozamani, 96) Philosophy professor Dr. Mohammed Ali Amir-Moezzi states: “Dans le mithraïsme, ainsi que le mazdéisme populaire, (A)Nāhīd, mère de Mithra/Mehr, est vierge”—”In Mithraism, as in popular Mazdaism, Anahid, the mother of Mithra, is a virgin.” (Amir-Moezzi, 78-79) Comparing the rock birth with that of the virgin mother, Dr. Amir-Moezzi also says:
In Mithraic Iconography and Ideology (78), Dr. Leroy A. Campbell calls Anahita the “great goddess of virgin purity,” and Religious History professor Dr. Claas J. Bleeker says, “In the Avestan religion she is the typical virgin.” (Bleeker (1963), 100)
One modern writer (“Mithraism and Christianity”) portrays the Mithra myth thus:
Artemis the Huntress holding two animals (lions?), Francois Vase, 6th century BCE; LouvreAnahita, also known as “Anaitis”—whose very name means “Pure” and “Untainted” and who was equated in antiquity with the virgin goddess Artemis—is certainly an Indo-Iranian goddess of some antiquity, dating back at least to the first half of the first millennium prior to the common era …” (Mithra: The Pagan Christ).
Tesla was trying to use atmospheric electricity to power motors and in Atlas Shrugged that was what the mysterious motor was doing.
If Tesla was working on it, it is possible. It isnt the oil companies who would lose, oil can be used for all types of things.
Soon we are all going to pay…. Exxons profits dropped 57% this second quarter…. It won’t stay like that for the next quarter I tell you..
I am glad you put that qualifier at the end. “Almost” everyone loses. that means those of us in the 99%. The super rich just keep acquiring more money and more power. But, they seem to be fearful little creatures cowering behind the walls and gates of their manicured communities. Money and power come at a moral and psychological cost.
I have written this before. One of these days, some guy in a small lab somewhere is going to notice an anomaly on the electrical output meter of a homemade gadget, and the world will never be the same again. Remember all those buggy whip companies? How many obscenely rich railroad magnates can you think of, despite the fact a hundred years ago they owned most of the civilized countries of the world.
Two undergraduate students at MIT were fiddling with ways to send information to one dorm room to another over the telephone digitally. One of the two, Larry Roberts, got a flash that the information would work best if it were sent in in a form he called “packets.” The other roommate, James D. Simpson, was busy teaching himself how to do glassblowing so he could make cloud chambers, since those were not exactly something you could order from Edmund Scientific or Radio Shack. The rest is history. You can Google both those names for the latest on them. The real back story is the Internet as we know it today was created in an MIT dorm room by a couple of teenagers. How do I know all this? Jimmy Simpson was one of my best friends in high school, living right around the corner from me.
Gene, I haven’t commented on any of the propaganda columns, but I have read all of them and it has been a superb series, And for someone like me, for whom much of communication technology remains mysterious, some of this stuff has been chilling.
One look at the Oil/Nat Gas & pipeline routes of the M East & you’ll instantly understand everything to need to know about the M East!
Saddam,$ 0.99 gasoline in Tulsa Oklahoma on top of an Ph’ing oil well, post Saddam $3.50 gasoline.
It’s a simple math quiz, almost everyone looses.
Saddam’s WMD are probably buried in the sand or in Asad’s bunkers. He definitely had chemical weapons and I roomed with an Iraqi national in college in the mid 80’s who was studying anthrax at the veterinary college. He was doing post graduate work.
It doesnt take much imagination, after all that has happened, to wonder why he was studying anthrax. It could have been for sheep and goats but who knows.
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