March 26, 2014
Present-day conservatives behave as if they were determined to validate a number of familiar aphorisms, chief among them Santayana’s dictum: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Often they illustrate a variation on the theme: "We don't simply forget; we re-remember. Memory is a rewritable CD that is constantly being rewritten. And rewritten in a particular way: one that both makes sense of the story to us and makes it more comfortable for us." That observation was made in an entirely different context, but it aptly describes the way conservatives view history. They conjure up a past (and a present, for that matter) which supports their fixed ideas.
For example, they re-remember that New Deal economic policies didn’t work (and that austerity did), that Great Society poverty programs made poverty worse, that unregulated business operates in the public interest. A new history of the Reagan administration is created. Tony Judt offered this critique of that mindset: "Those who cheer the triumph of the market and the retreat of the state, who would have us celebrate the unregulated scope for economic initiative in today's ‘flat’ world, have forgotten what happened the last time we passed this way. They are in for a rude shock (though, if the past is a reliable guide, probably at someone else's expense)."
Obamacare is Marxist tyranny or, for a switch in historical malpractice, anything the administration does or liberals propose (such as taxing the rich) is an echo of Nazism. The conservative Supreme Court re-remembers what its prior decisions held. Nullifiers re-remember constitutional history.
Mental aberrations such as these seem to be immune to correction by facts. A recent study found that providing accurate facts which debunked a mistaken view only made conservatives more likely to believe the false information. For example, two groups of people were shown a quote from G. W. Bush stating that cutting taxes increases revenue. One group also was shown statistics that disproved his claim. That group was more likely to believe Bush’s claim than those not shown the correction. We’ve known for some time that conservatives are able to ignore or deny inconvenient facts, but when facts increase belief in misinformation, argument seems hopeless. That aberration is one of several pushing us toward the collapse of democracy: an uninformed or deluded electorate cannot govern itself wisely or protect itself from political predators.
We’ve operated on the Jeffersonian assumption that free exchange of information will lead to good decisions. Fox and its clones have made any such view obsolete, and they seem determined to aid the predators.__________________
19. Timothy Garton Ash, http://www.theguardian.com/books/ 2002/ nov/ 16/fiction.society
20. Reappraisals, p. 143. He made the same observation as to attempts to resurrect Marxism.