Sunday, April 04, 2010

Info Nation


A few weeks ago Ken and then Tom Tomorrow tried putting into context and perspective the latest right-wing obsession with re-writing history to fit their demented, even pathological, ideology. I can't imagine we're the only ones to recall Winston Smith's old job at George Orwell's drafty Ministry of Truth. In fact, last week McClatchy posted a video and feature that reminded me of Winston's former employee again-- with a jowlly Dick Armey in the role of O'Brien! [Armey, a former Texas congressman, now a lobbyist directing the Tea Party movement on behalf of the GOP, has decided that the Jamestown colony in Virginia was nothing but a bunch of doomed socialists.] Rightists from Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck to Armey think history should be a vehicle for their harebrained schemes and bizarre ideologies.
The right is rewriting history.

The most ballyhooed effort is under way in Texas, where conservatives have pushed the state school board to rewrite guidelines, downplaying Thomas Jefferson in one high school course, playing up such conservatives as Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation and challenging the idea that the Founding Fathers wanted to separate church and state.

The effort reaches far beyond one state, however.

In articles and speeches, on radio and TV, conservatives are working to redefine major turning points and influential figures in American history, often to slam liberals, promote Republicans and reinforce their positions in today's politics.

...Theodore Roosevelt was long an icon of the Republican Party, a dynamic leader who ushered in the Progressive era, busting trusts, regulating robber barons, building the Panama Canal and sending the U.S. fleet around the world announcing ascendant American power.

Fox TV commentator Glenn Beck, however, says that Roosevelt was a socialist whose legacy is destroying America. It started, Beck said, with Roosevelt's admonition to the wealthy of his day to spend their riches for the good of society.

"We judge no man a fortune in civil life if it's honorably obtained and well spent," Roosevelt said, according to Beck. "It's not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it only to be gained so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community."

Actually, Roosevelt said, "We GRUDGE no man a fortune ... if it's honorably obtained and well USED." But either way, Beck saw the threat.

"Oh? Well, thank you," Beck said with scorn during his keynote speech to the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. The presidential suggestion that the wealthy of the Gilded Age should contribute to the good of society was a clear danger that must be condemned, Beck said.

"Is this what the Republican Party stands for? Well, you should ask members of the Republican Party, because this is not our founders' idea of America. And this is the cancer that's eating at America. It is big government; it's a socialist utopia," Beck said.

"And we need to address it as if it is a cancer. It must be cut out of the system because they cannot coexist. ... You must eradicate it. It cannot coexist."

There's no doubt that Roosevelt was a domestic policy liberal by today's standards. In a 1910 speech in Kansas, he acknowledged that his "New Nationalism" meant "far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had."

The 26th president insisted, however, that he wanted the government to guarantee opportunity, not a handout.

"The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare," he said.

"Give him a chance, not push him up if he will not be pushed. ... Help any man who stumbles; if he lies down, it is a poor job to try to carry him; but if he is a worthy man, try your best to see that he gets a chance to show the worth that is in him."

In his autobiography three years later, Roosevelt went on to dismiss the tenets of socialism as taught by Karl Marx as "an exploded theory."

"Too many thoroughly well-meaning men and women in the America of today glibly repeat and accept," he wrote, "various assumptions and speculations by Marx and others which by the lapse of time and by actual experiment have been shown to possess not one shred of value."

In addition, Roosevelt didn't advocate government ownership of the means of production, the definition of socialism.

Orwell was an ardent socialist and was appalled when right-wingers tried interpreting-- as they still do-- his own attack on fascism as an attack against socialism. Now, back to poor Winston struggling away as an apparatchik of the authoritarian regime, rewriting history (old newspapers, if memory serves) in much the same way as Dick Armey and the Texan book revisers are attempting to do now-- to change solid facts to fit party doctrine, pushing ideology and the propaganda du jour. And since the right has worked incessantly to destroy public education and dumb down the population, particularly concentrating on the discouragement of critical thinking, they have quite the receptive audience. The teabaggers are the tip of the arrow of ignorance. See if any of this looks vaguely familiar to you:

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At 12:01 PM, Anonymous mediabob said...

Geez, Howie, that photo at the top is chilling. Love the inflatable doll - do you get reimbursed for that expense or is it "office supplies?"

At 1:22 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Bob, we never ask for reimbursements at DWT. Everything is for the cause.

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous jack said...

I do not understand :)


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