Historical Truthiness

Stephen Colbert’s notion of truthiness, coined 6 or so years ago, still effectively describes the rhetoric of the current crop of Republicans. The phenomena may have grown much deeper roots than I thought, too. It’s bad enough when a publicity seeking television star, having taken on the false trappings of a presidential campaign, first fabricated and then defended a profoundly “truthy” version of Paul Revere’s famous ride. The ring wing lack of respect for history, to put it mildly, is reflected in their public education policies as much in their public pronouncements.

That’s fairly superficial, and not too unlike what salespeople of all sorts have always done when speaking extemporaneously. It’s also an important characteristic of Reagan-era Republican practice. The Gipper was known to mix up movie plots and reality. It might be a mistake or it might be more purposeful. It’s probably impossible to tell, particularly when the speaker is Sarah Palin, who seems unable to admit to her own mistakes, no matter how obvious.

What is clear is that the practice is becoming more acceptable. Palin’s supporters did not simply argue, as they always do, that she was being quoted “out of context” or maligned in some way. This time they decided to take history into their own hands and alter Wikipedia, in hopes of showing that, well, Sarah Palin was being maligned. More disturbingly, a recent survey shows that the ongoing Republican attacks on the public schools have undermined the teaching of history. That’s the fertile ground for Republican truthiness.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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