This page is
named for the Big Brother [government]
information shredder in George Orwell's dystopian novel,
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Orwell wrote
that "who controls the past controls the future. Who
controls the present controls the past." But rather than focus on government censorship
of the sort depicted in that book or in the photos
on the left from Stalinist Russia, it will examine
self-censorship -- how citizens across the spectrum pick
and choose which parts of history they want to remember
(cherry pick) and which they want leave out (flush down
the memory hole), clouding context in the process. More
often than not, such selective memory is subconscious
and attributed only to one's adversaries. Leftist
historian Howard Zinn, for instance, said that the
"chief problem in historical honesty isn't outright
lying," but rather the "omission or de-emphasis of
important data." Many would argue that his own
work proves that point better than he may have
intended. Such spin-doctoring can take the form of
state censorship or propaganda (even democracies with
Freedom of Information Acts do their share of redacting with
a black magic marker) but, by and large, unlike the
totalitarian regime depicted in Orwell's novel, citizens
in democracies mostly toss things down their own memory
hole and pick their own cherries. Americans pick and
toss in books, articles, blogs, editorials, exhibits,
commemorations and celebrations, campaign speeches,
re-enactments, and arguments at work or around the
dinner table. When Henry Ford
complained that "history was bunk," he didn't mean that it was boring or
unimportant. The problem was that it was "being rewritten every year
from a new point of view...so how can anyone claim to know the truth
about history?" But it could never be otherwise unless we unplugged our brains. Such arguments are inescapable
because, even among people who think they're not
interested in history, their attitudes and beliefs are
shaped subconsciously by what they think has gone
before. After all, what else do we have to go
on? We're here to get to the bottom of how this
selective sampling, cafeteria approach to
history informs narratives used to support various
agendas. The History Hub-Memory Hole is where
cherry-picked history comes to die. The list below
directs you to controversial topics. They are a
springboard students can use for the Contested History
Did Slavery Help Lead
to White Democracy?
How Revolutionary Was the U.S. Revolution?
Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?*
How Justified Was Loyalism During the American Revolution?**
Was Federalism [a Nation w. States] the Best Setup?
Does the 2nd Amendment Refer Only to Militia?***
Should Polygamy Be Protected Under the 1st?
Was Slavery the Primary Cause of Secession? (No)
Who Understood the Civil War Better, Karl Marx or Jefferson Davis?
You can also choose any topic in 1301 or
1302, and compare its
treatment in left-wing & right-wing textbooks. What do each
emphasize and flush down the memory hole?
Was U.S. Foreign Policy Imperialist from 1854-1914? (Annotation #1)****
Was the U.S. Isolationist from 1919-1941? (Department of State)****
Was the Stock Market Crash the Primary Cause of the Great Depression?
Is New Deal-Keynesian Stimulus Spending Worthwhile? (Wiki JMK, Wiki ND)
Were the Atomic Attacks on Japan Justified?
Is Affirmative Action Historically Justified?
Was President Reagan Primarily Responsible for Ending the Cold War?
Should the United States Support Israel?
Did the Media Help Connect Iraq to 9/11? (Brookings Poll & PNAC's Spin, p70)
Is Globalization Good for the U.S. Economy?
U.S. & Rome: Decline & Fall?
public schools and the
impact of Texas on textbook debates nationwide