Getting a Death Grip on Memory

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Hate that particular gray? Then wash it away!

Enough bleach in the spin cycles will do the trick. There’s more than one way to be “editing memory.”

“So far, the research has been done only on animals,” the Times reported in its April 6 story. “But scientists say this memory system is likely to work almost identically in people.”

The Times account managed to balance enthusiasm for the advances of scientific research with some potential downsides: “Millions of people might be tempted to erase a severely painful memory, for instance -- but what if, in the process, they lost other, personally important memories that were somehow related?”

Dominant media have blotted out countless painful memories -- national or personal -- if only by treating them as irrelevant or incidental to news and concerns that really count. All in a day’s work: part of the mix of organized forgetting.

“The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing,” Aldous Huxley observed. “Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.” And, of equal relevance to the brave new world of U.S. mass media in 2009: “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”

With constant media prompts, the widely replicated screens end up screening us, from ourselves and from each other.

Now we know the names of the Pentagon’s drones -- Predators and Reapers -- but not the names of the people they’re killing.

Easy enough to approve of bombing people when they’ve been rendered unreal. Forgetting becomes a simple matter.

Is some memory not worth remembering? Of course, we could always let the market decide.


Norman Solomon’s latest books are “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.” For information, go to: www.normansolomon.com 

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