Monday Aphorism: Revisionism

The news this time is that, as Orwell depicted, the thinkers of the right have learned about the power of the idea of history, especially in its rewriting. It is, deeply in our psyches, the idea of how we got here which informs our thinking about each present moment. More importantly, it is the idea of how we got here which virtually makes the reality of experience continuous. Thus the notion of revision of history, its rewriting and recasting, has a powerful effect on how we consider where we are…that we are. The notion of history is of course, rewritten or recast often in various senses.

We effectively lose time in some aspects of our lives, concentrate on particular facts to the detriment of others, forget in some ways and cannot in certain others. But we rely on the belief that it did happen and is theoretically recapturable with the right witness or upon deep reflection or study. When the belief in history is lost, when we are not certain that we were, then the present becomes very negotiable, and charisma or some “fall into belief” becomes powerfully persuasive.

We use history, rather the belief in history, to tell ourselves where we are, who we are and are not, and what meaning is. The “right” whatever else may be, is conservative, is particularly invested in history psychologically, because the conservative mind decides early in life what it is, essentially, and compares each next day with that vision of who one is. When the conservative mind learns revisionism, what measure is there to judge, to measure, to decide?

  • Karl Rogers

    Harvey,

    Interesting aphorism!

    It is quite ironic how the (neo-)conservative right seem to have taken books like Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as manifestos rather than political satires.

    We need to take a close look at the way that the spin doctors of the contemporary political parties, directed by the twin motivations of winning and seeing the other guy lose, spoon fed on the skills of media manipulation and counter-spin, have learnt the poststructuralist lessons of foundationless interpretaion and historical reconstruction, as well as those of the sociology and psychology of science, with its constructionist interpretation of the (re-)production of facts through consensus, authority, and the closure of controversy. Revisionism and counter-revisionism have become the means of settingly historical and scientific questions. Indeed, under such circumstances, the truth is whatever falls out as the outcome of a power struggle.

    However, the truly pernicious aspect of this kind of revisionism is what kind of citizenry needs to be (re-)produced to appropriately respond to revisionism and counter-revisionism, without seeing it as such. What we are increasingly witnessing is the outcome of twentieth century political science, the child of the Committee on Public Information and
    Maddison Avenue public relations, which has in the (dis)guise of neutral fact gathering positivistic science has created the means of mass media manipulation and control, advancing the propaganda techniques of the Western war efforts, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. This has resulted in a highly passive population that holds to partisan thinling, if it can be called that, which chooses its sources to be those that already presented an agreed upon and packaged opinion and set of supporting arguments (or metaphors). The media debate is framed in such a way that only acceptable opinions can be heard and discussed. All others are marginalised (ridiculed) or suppressed. Under these conditions both sides can wheel out their media “experts” to present the truth that is presupposed to be that most acceptable to the party ideology to an audience that chooses its channel of truth-speaking on the basis of party alliegance. This has become true of all the sides of the mainstream political spectrum. This has resulted in a loss of the general capacity and potential for critical thinking among intellectuals, as well as the general population.

    This has disastrous consequences for the human ability to deal with unforeseen events and phenomena in an open ended, changing, and complex world, which does not conform to human intentions. This should have been the lesson of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. While the spin doctors focussed their administrative efforts upon convincincing the population that their measures and strategy was a success, which was a continuation of their standard policy during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while reality unfolded independently of the media representation of it. But, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, the city of New Orleans was not in some “far away” land, but was at home. Here, for a brief moment, truth contradicted its media representation. The media fell apart, just like poorly developed transport and emergenct social infrastructure in New Orleans had fallen apart, in the face of this unfolding contradiction. The reality of a hurricane simply was too powerful to spin. Nature appeared in the cracks of the constructed reality and tore a gapping hole in that reality. That hole was where the light should have got in. But, as the winds of the hurricane subsided and the flood waters subsided, the media game of revisonism and counter-revision soon covered that gapping whole from the view of a mass media fed population that, in the main, was unwilling to see the failure of its “society” and was grateful for the opportunity to forget the questions that Hurricane Katrina forced upon the people of New Orleans, whether they wanted to ask them or not.

    As Harvey has (repeatedly) pointed out, underscoring all of this is an unquestioned view of human nature. In the case of positivistic political science, that view is of the passive and irrational animal that has been taught to call itself a human being.

  • Karl Rogers

    Harvey,

    Interesting aphorism!

    It is quite ironic how the (neo-)conservative right seem to have taken books like Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as manifestos rather than political satires.

    We need to take a close look at the way that the spin doctors of the contemporary political parties, directed by the twin motivations of winning and seeing the other guy lose, spoon fed on the skills of media manipulation and counter-spin, have learnt the poststructuralist lessons of foundationless interpretaion and historical reconstruction, as well as those of the sociology and psychology of science, with its constructionist interpretation of the (re-)production of facts through consensus, authority, and the closure of controversy. Revisionism and counter-revisionism have become the means of settingly historical and scientific questions. Indeed, under such circumstances, the truth is whatever falls out as the outcome of a power struggle.

    However, the truly pernicious aspect of this kind of revisionism is what kind of citizenry needs to be (re-)produced to appropriately respond to revisionism and counter-revisionism, without seeing it as such. What we are increasingly witnessing is the outcome of twentieth century political science, the child of the Committee on Public Information and
    Maddison Avenue public relations, which has in the (dis)guise of neutral fact gathering positivistic science has created the means of mass media manipulation and control, advancing the propaganda techniques of the Western war efforts, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. This has resulted in a highly passive population that holds to partisan thinling, if it can be called that, which chooses its sources to be those that already presented an agreed upon and packaged opinion and set of supporting arguments (or metaphors). The media debate is framed in such a way that only acceptable opinions can be heard and discussed. All others are marginalised (ridiculed) or suppressed. Under these conditions both sides can wheel out their media “experts” to present the truth that is presupposed to be that most acceptable to the party ideology to an audience that chooses its channel of truth-speaking on the basis of party alliegance. This has become true of all the sides of the mainstream political spectrum. This has resulted in a loss of the general capacity and potential for critical thinking among intellectuals, as well as the general population.

    This has disastrous consequences for the human ability to deal with unforeseen events and phenomena in an open ended, changing, and complex world, which does not conform to human intentions. This should have been the lesson of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. While the spin doctors focussed their administrative efforts upon convincincing the population that their measures and strategy was a success, which was a continuation of their standard policy during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while reality unfolded independently of the media representation of it. But, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, the city of New Orleans was not in some “far away” land, but was at home. Here, for a brief moment, truth contradicted its media representation. The media fell apart, just like poorly developed transport and emergenct social infrastructure in New Orleans had fallen apart, in the face of this unfolding contradiction. The reality of a hurricane simply was too powerful to spin. Nature appeared in the cracks of the constructed reality and tore a gapping hole in that reality. That hole was where the light should have got in. But, as the winds of the hurricane subsided and the flood waters subsided, the media game of revisonism and counter-revision soon covered that gapping whole from the view of a mass media fed population that, in the main, was unwilling to see the failure of its “society” and was grateful for the opportunity to forget the questions that Hurricane Katrina forced upon the people of New Orleans, whether they wanted to ask them or not.

    As Harvey has (repeatedly) pointed out, underscoring all of this is an unquestioned view of human nature. In the case of positivistic political science, that view is of the passive and irrational animal that has been taught to call itself a human being.