Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sister Sarah's Stalinist Supporters

By now you've probably heard about Sarah Palin's recent gaff regarding Paul Revere. During her family trip across the eastern United States, complete with campaign-style bus and media phalanx, Palin alleged that the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere was to warn the British not to try to take away our guns, rather than the actual purpose of warning his fellow rebellious colonists about the landing of British troops. Whether this was a sly attempt to pander to Nativist and Second Amendment advocates within her political base or simply an example of her stunning lack of knowledge of American history, we'll never know; but being Sarah Palin means never having to say you're wrong, in the following days Palin asserted her word salad version of history was the correct one.

So too did her online supporters, and here's where the irony kicks in. Palin supporters went onto the publicly-editable online dictionary Wikipedia and attempted to change the entry on Paul Revere to comport with the facts of Palin's story. It's ironic since Palin is quick to invoke charges of “Socialism” against the Obama administration for practically any policy move she disagrees with, yet the adjustment of history to support the political situation of the present was a hallmark of the one-time leader of the Socialist world, the Soviet Union. And no one practiced this tactic better than Josef Stalin.

Stalin started his own modification of the past early, blending photos to produce an image of him with the Father of the Soviet Revolution, V. I. Lenin as a way to polish his bona fides shortly after taking power. The tactic would continue on for decades: generals, ministers and cosmonauts who fell out of favor would quickly be edited out of official photographs, even ones that had been reproduced many times in the Soviet media. Sergei? Sergei who? There's no Sergei in this photo... Palin's supporters tried the same tactic with Wikipedia, attempting to edit the Paul Revere entry to state that he did ride to tell the Brits to keep their hands off our guns. And in a move that would make today's last Stalinist leader, North Korea's Kim Jong-il blush, they linked back to media reports of Palin making her Paul Revere statement as “proof” of its own historical accuracy.

It's a disturbing story on a few levels: first that Palin has such hubris she can't admit that she misspoke and move on, two that there are people who so value personality above someone who actually knows what their talking about that their willing to overlook any historical gaffes to support this person to be the leader of the nation, and finally that an online resource that has become the go-to site for many for historical reference can be so easily manipulated to fit the political will of the day. Maybe its time to go back to the old-fashioned bound sets of encyclopedias, and actually learning facts...
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