Ed Driscoll

PRAGER WAS RIGHT

The more I think about it, the more this quote by Dennis Prager hits home:

As a famous Soviet dissident joke put it: “In the Soviet Union, the future is known; it’s the past which is always changing.”

In the 1990s, President Clinton and his administration released numerous bits of intel and information on Bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein to the press. As a result, The New York Times, as well as Newsweek, and NPR each ran stories documenting his ties to Bin Ladin. Yesterday, the 9/11 commission confirmed those ties, and admonished the press for ignoring them. Was Saddam directly tied to 9/11? President Bush never said he was. But clearly, Iraq and Al Qaeda were quite cozy with each other. Something the press spent the past decade documenting when it benefited one administration, and the past three years chucking down the memory hole when it hindered another.

UPDATE: Steve Den Beste has a new post which shows how Prager’s line applies to academia:

In the “new” “enlightened” approach to history, you don’t study historical events in order to learn the consequences and results of certain kinds of decisions and policies. History is a source of lessons, but you don’t study history and derive lessons from past events. The lesson comes first. The conclusion is already known. You study history to find justifications for that lesson, but you already know the lesson is right before you begin that study.

If history doesn’t actually give you the justification you require, then you modify it as needed so that it does. That may mean you ignore some of it and emphasize other parts, or it may require you to rewrite it so that it happens the way it should have happened. This is a fundamentally teleological approach to history, in which the esthetic beauty of a conclusion, and the fact that we strongly want it to be true, are more important than whether it is empirically correct. If not, then the universe must change, because the mind and the concept are the most fundamental realities of all.

Needless to say, RTWT.

UPDATE: The Gipper’s farewell from the White House warned of such revisionism.

Speaking of President Reagan, here are some thoughts on how his legacy should be tought in school, by Robert Mandel, that rarest of breeds these days: a conservative teacher.