A discussion of Orwell’s quote (9 minutes):
You would think in this day and age that politicians and others in the public eye would learn that lying about something that happened especially when there is a digital record should be a fool’s errand. Yet we continue to see it multiple times daily. You just have to wonder why.
And the reason is very simple. Even when presented with nearly indisputable facts backed up with video or audio record, many people will still deny reality and only accept something that supports their prejudices and their preconceived notions or the concepts that some trusted friend or group has instilled in a person’s mind.
Many of us will recognize this as one of the tools used by The Party in George Orwell’s classic “1984.” The crux of this technique is to control people’s memories so that when people are presented with new ideas these ideas are filtered through their filters that have been restructured:
O’Brien was looking down at him speculatively. More than ever he had the air of a teacher taking pains with a wayward but promising child.
‘There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past,’ he said. ‘Repeat it, if you please.’
“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” repeated Winston obediently.
“Who controls the present controls the past,” said O’Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. ‘Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?’
O’Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’
‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’
‘In records. It is written down.’
‘In records. And- ?’
‘In the mind. In human memories.
‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’
Thus we see that those who control people’s memories, even for things such as an election that happened only a few days before (in November of 2020) in which the outcome was indisputable became very disputable for those who want to control the past in order to control the future.
Thus we also see the continual fights over what books our children can have access to in school, what words can be used in a classroom and of course what subjects can be taught and how they can be taught. Our children are being used to instill an orthodoxy of the past as seen by those currently in power. Clearly learning about slavery, racial attacks and discrimination of people due to a person’s skin color or sexual orientation is not in the interest of those in power.
That is also why it is very important that we become very critical consumers of what is disseminated as news. Written and spoken words convey a message that imprints an image in our minds. News coming from a right wing source often conveys such a different image that news from a more neutral source. Think of the reporting on the election. Even though the evidence showed little discrepancies, right wing media continued to flat out lie.
Now that far right Republicans are in power in many states, one of their main missions is to change the narrative of the past so their version of the future will seem realistic and palatable. Today’s college and K-12 students will be given a sanitized version of history. They will not be told of all consequences of governmental actions. For instance as disruptive climate change causes havoc in their lives, they will have had little background to deal with it.
And of course, controlling the media is integral to controlling the past. Making the media compliant keeps them from asking nettlesome questions or disputing authoritarian versions of stories.
Control the past and you can control the future. That is why for authoritarians once they get control of government their first task is to control the memories of the past.