Dementia Americana: The Persistence of Forgetting
Historical memory is a tricky thing. Slight alterations of facts or context can greatly effect the perspective from which events are understood. The process of nation building requires the construction of national myths, but that also means a rewriting of history to fit contemporary needs.
As the world seems to veer to the political right and is awash in Fake News, Orwell’s dictum about control over history is terrifyingly prophetic. This Olio examines the process of the creation, annihilation, and resurrection of different elements of American history.
“The process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound tracks, cartoons, photographs—to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every predication made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.” George Orwell, 1984
Teacher: Ward Regan
Ward Regan has a Ph.D. in Labor and Cultural History from Stony Brook University, State University of New York (SUNY). He most recently was on the faculty of SUNY, Empire State College, Harry Van Ardsale Jr. Center for Labor Studies.