Philosophers and theologians have been grappling with the truth, the concept of some ultimate truth for centuries. Aristotle ( 384- 322 BCE) thought the truth was composed of certain properties inherent to certain things. Knowledge was thus formed on a foundation of properties. Acquire enough knowledge about something – a physical entity or a system of thinking ( trigonometry, chemistry,etc) and one could form a concept of reality. Up to a point this concept works well enough. Based on the truth we know about stress, friction, gravity and the properties of substances you drove safely enough to work. Walked out on your baloney to watch the sun rise without falling fifteen stories or gave your child the medication they need to keep a disease from killing them. Events are not so easy. Even though the social sciences – economics, sociology and psychology have adopted much of the scientific method – their truths are frequently debated and are debatable. Though it is important to remember that debatable does not mean everything – all knowledge about events and behavior are relative. Ever had a debate with someone and having reached the point at which the facts have forced your opponent into a corner. At which time they don’t cry uncle, but reach back to the Sophists ( whether they realize it or not a favorite philosophical school of conservatives and most extremists political ideologues) and declare it’s all relative. If all things are relative, then relativism itself is relative. Let’s start with an affirmative. Everything is relative, thus all truths are relative. A dangerous circular argument in which the proponent is willing to sacrifice their own version of the truth just to prove yours either wrong or simply a matter of personal perspective. Should an entire society ever manage to evolve out of such a point of view, in which nothing is said or done has some core fundamental truths would quickly deteriorate into a nightmarish dystopia. As obvious as all that might seem to the reader there are those who, out of ignorance or malice, would push their respective societies in that direction. Science fiction on the subject of relative truths is scary enough, even more so is the documentation of some very successful attempts at the manipulation and manufacture of memories, The Memory Doctor
We took the Ministry of Truth as our model. Here’s how Orwell described its work:
As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of The Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This 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 prediction 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.
Slate can’t erase all records the way Orwell’s ministry did. But with digital technology, we can doctor photographs more effectively than ever. And that’s what we did in last week’s experiment. We altered four images from recent political history, took a fifth out of context, and mixed them with three unadulterated scenes. We wanted to test the power of photographic editing to warp people’s memories.
We aren’t the first to try Orwell’s idea on real people. Elizabeth Loftus, an experimental psychologist, has been tampering with memories in her laboratory for nearly 40 years. Photo doctoring is just one of many techniques she has tested. In an experiment published three years ago, she and two colleagues demonstrated that altered images of political protests in Italy and China influenced Italian students’ descriptions of those incidents.
Of course it worked. They do not always use photos, but the implantation of memories – new truths – are decimated all the time. Some people honestly believe that Al Gore once claimed to have invented the internet. Even though no un-doctored photograph of it exists some people insist there was a mysterious pod attached to the bottom of one of the planes that flew into the Trade Towers on 9-11-01. Some people think Mary Todd Lincoln was ushered off to an insane asylum after Lincoln was shot. Why or how do these stories survive. They are memories of stories told so often, for so long, often by trusted friends and relatives, they become a “real” memory – a kind of implanted knowledge – for the people that believe them.
From this experiment, Loftus began to sketch what she called a “recipe” for planting memories. First, you needed the subject’s trust. A therapist had that; so did a family member. Then, by suggesting that the incident might have happened, you planted a seed. The subject would think about it, and the idea, if not the scene, would start to become familiar. The people and places mentioned—Tien, blueberry Icees, the Bremerton K-Mart—would evoke real memories, and these would begin to blur with the suggested scenario. By coaxing the subject to imagine the scene, you could accelerate this confabulation. Gradually, she would add details, seizing authorship of the story and securing its authenticity. The fabrication was out of your hands now. The memory was hers.
This phenomenon works in reverse as well. Voted twice for Bush 43. There must have been WMD so the story about Russians trucking them off by moonlight to Syria must be the true story. Admitting otherwise means the believer is not only wrong, but an enabler of unjustified death and suffering. My great grand parents, grandparents and parents were all nice enough and they were conservatives so the economic failures of Nixon, Reagan and Bush 43 did not happen. Conservatism is always correct even though my memories conflict with all those damn charts and studies. Crony capitalism is thus glorious perfect free enterprise and any alterations to that nirvana of economics must be evil socialism, not an attempt to create the kind of capitalism that works for the common good.
This is a new truth. A memory transplant in its infancy. In the future you can expect to hear it often. It will be repeated with genuine conviction and any facts to the contrary will be dismissed. Environmentalists are responsible for Gulf oil spill
Krauthammer: We’re drilling deep because “environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coasts off-limits to oil production.” In a May 28 National Review Online article, Charles Krauthammer blasted environmentalists for driving oil companies into deeper waters. Krauthammer concluded that “we [are] drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place” in part because “environmental chic has driven us out there.”
Limbaugh: “What the environmentalist wackos are making us do is drill down 35,000 feet.” Rush Limbaugh claimed on his May 17 broadcast: “What the environmentalist wackos are making us do is drill down 35,000 feet, 6.6 miles, when there’s oil practically begging to be taken out of the ground in areas that are now off-limits because of U.S. regime regulations.”
Doocy: “Back in the day, they used to just drill pretty close to shore,” but environmentalists “pushed them out further and further.” (Fox News)
These are three among many. Do an internet search and you’ll find the same scenario repeated in thousands of blogs, forums and comment sections at news sites. At this point some are probably repeating it out of malicious partisan zeal. Though it has already acquired all the flavor of a staple of far Right orthodoxy; an edict from the Ministry of Truth swallowed, thoroughly digested and regurgitated by other cons. The facts will disappear into the mental ether,
MMS report: “Best source of new domestic energy resources lies in the deep water Gulf of Mexico.” In a 2004 report — titled Deep Water: Where the Energy Is — the MMS stated that “our best source of new domestic energy resources lies in the deep water Gulf of Mexico and other frontier areas.” MMS reported that due to “declining production” in “near-shore, shallow waters” in the Gulf of Mexico, “energy companies have focused their attention on oil and gas resources in water depths of 1,000 feet and beyond.” MMS estimated that “the deep water regions of the Gulf of Mexico may contain 56 billion barrels of oil equivalent, or enough to meet U.S. demand for 7-1/2 years at current rates.” (Minerals Management Service – Department of the Interior)
MMS report: Deepwater drilling is “America’s Offshore Energy Future,” “significant proved reserves” discovered in recent years. In a 2008 report titled “Deepwater Gulf of Mexico 2008: America’s Offshore Energy Future, MMS reported:
The deepwater GOM has contributed major additions to the total reserves in the GOM. Figure 40 shows the proved reserves added each year by water-depth category. Additions from the shallow waters of the GOM declined in recent years but, beginning in 1975, the deepwater area started contributing significant new reserves. Between 1975 and 1983, the majority of these additions were from discoveries in slightly more than 1,000 ft (305 m) of water. It was not until 1985 that major additions came from water depths greater than 1,500 ft (457 m). From 1998 to 2001, significant proved reserves were added in the 5,000- to 7,499-ft (1,524- to 2,286-m) water depth range. The year 2002 saw the first substantial addition from water depths greater than 7,500 ft (2,286 m).
To sum up the soon be forgotten facts, environmentalists forced BP to invest millions in a place that as luck would have it, had quite a bit of oil reserves and contributed no small amount to the $66 million dollar profit that BP makes per day.