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Memory hole? 遗忘

中国日报网 2021-08-20 12:46

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Reader question:

Please explain “memory hole” in this sentence: Republicans are trying to “memory hole” Trump’s Afghanistan policy.


My comments:

Here, “memory hole” is used as a verb, meaning Republicans are trying to bury Trump’s Afghanistan policy, which has in a large part contributed to the mess the United States finds itself in today.

In other words, Republicans are encouraging people to forget about it.

That is, forget about the fact that it was Trump who negotiated a deal with the Taliban in the first place. That deal effectively gave the Taliban the go-ahead to take over the country because the American troops are going home no matter what happens.

Memory hole that, bury it and forget about it. Just blame it on Joe Biden, who is currently the US President – presiding over this fine mess.

Oh, memory hole. A memory hole is literally a hole that stores memories, memories that are intended to be suppressed. A hole is literally a grave. In colonial times, prisoners were asked to dig a hole for themselves. The hole became their prison cell. In many cases, that translated into literally digging their own grave because many did not survive their prison terms.

So a memory hole is a memory grave, where some memories are buried – to be forgotten.

“Memory hole” was coined by George Orwell, who wrote 1984 (in which “memory hole” appears) and Animal Farm, among others. An article (Memory Hole in 1984) on Study.com explains:

A memory hole in George Orwell's novel 1984 is an opening in a wall connected to a chute, which then connects to an incinerator. The chute is inside the wall, so all that can be seen is the opening. Think of a laundry chute, albeit a laundry chute that would burn your clothes up, and you’ll get the idea. It’s required that people place all refuse paper into these holes, which destroys these materials completely. Since citizens of Oceania, especially government workers, have absolutely no privacy and are constantly watched, this order is followed to a ‘T.’

It further explains:

The primary purpose of the memory hole is to dispose of all unwanted documents. Now, if you're a top-tier member of the ruling Inner Party and you want to keep the masses docile and oppressed without actually realizing they’re oppressed, what's one thing you’ll want to do? That’s right - dispose of any evidence that makes you or Big Brother look less all-knowing than you want people to think you are. And that’s where the memory holes come in.

In the Ministry of Truth, which is basically the ministry of propaganda and straight-up lying, memory holes are used to dispose of evidence that history has been tampered with. Can you believe the nerve of the Party? They actually rewrite history in order to make themselves and Big Brother look absolutely supreme! And how on earth are they supposed to cover this up? Well, that’s where the memory holes come in.

The workers who rewrite historical events (like the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith) receive their daily orders on slips of paper, and they also usually receive the original document they're meant to alter. So, for example, if Winston has to completely rewrite a news article in which now disgraced Party members are given an award, he’ll get his orders and the original news article to work off of. He’ll rewrite the article, probably saying something about how these Party members have always been traitors to Big Brother. But what’s the problem once he’s finished?

Well, read the novel to find out.

Here, we must be satisfied with having come to grips with the meaning of term itself.

Now, read a few media examples “memory hole”:


1. DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE....I know I'm not the first person to mention this, but the House GOP's newly released “American Families Agenda” is a remarkable piece of work. As recently as two years ago, any Republican document with the word “families” in it would have been crammed full of proposals for parental notification laws, constitutional bans on gay marriage, prayer in public schools, promotion of two-parent families, abstinence-only sex ed, and internet porn crackdowns. But this year? Nada.

The 2008 agenda is remarkable for two reasons. First, the old-school social issues haven’t just been deemphasized, they’ve been completely removed. It’s like some old May Day photo from the Soviet archives. There’s a very brief mention of a reward fund for people who turn in porn spammers, but that’s it. Unless my code word radar is on the blink, there aren’t even any oblique references to abortion, gays, sex-ed, prayer, vouchers, or any of the other usual crowd favorites. You wouldn’t know the GOP had ever even considered that stuff part of a family agenda.

Second, look at the stuff that is in the agenda. Comp time for workers! Business training for underprivileged women! Health care portability! Anti-obesity programs! SCHIP expansion! If you read the fine print most of these items turn out to be pretty weak tea, but that’s not the point. The public face of the party’s family agenda is almost pure Democratic-lite technocracy.

And it’s not just the House GOP caucus, either. As David Corn points out, John McCain’s big fantasy speech about what the country would look like in 2013 after four years of a McCain presidency doesn’t make so much as a pro forma nod in the direction of abortion, gay marriage, or any other hot button social issue. They’re just gone:

The closest he comes to addressing the priorities of the fundamentalist right is to note the appointment (and confirmation!) of federal judges “who understand that they were not sent there to write our laws but to enforce them.”....Any self-respecting social conservative should be enraged. On a day when the California Supreme Court has overturned the gay marriage ban, McCain’s speech is insult added to injury.

McCain and the Republican Party obviously have big problems this year. McCain in particular is caught between a rock and a hard place: the core of his appeal is to crossover moderates, which means he can’t afford to play culture war games, but if he abandons culture issues entirely he’ll forfeit the support of a religious right base that’s already suspicious of him.

- Down The Memory Hole, by Political Animal, CBSNews.com, May 18, 2008.


2. The Trump administration seems intent on tossing recent history down the memory hole. Admittedly, Americans have never been known for their strong grasp of facts about their past. Still, as we struggle to keep up with the constantly shifting explanations and pronouncements of the new administration, it becomes ever harder to remember the events of yesterday, let alone last week, or last month.

Trump and his spokespeople routinely substitute “alternative facts” for what a friend of mine calls consensus reality, the world that most of us recognize. Whose inaugural crowd was bigger, Barack Obama’s or Donald Trump’s? It doesn’t matter what you remember, or even what’s in the written accounts or photographic record. What matters is what the administration now says happened then. In other words, for Trump and his people, history in any normal sense simply doesn’t exist, and that’s a danger for the rest of us. Think of the Trumpian past as a website that can be constantly updated to fit the needs of the present. You may believe you still remember something that used to be there, but it’s not there now. As it becomes increasingly harder to find, can you really trust your own memory?

In recent months, revisions of that past have sometimes come so blindingly fast that the present has simply been overrun, as was true with the firing of FBI Director James Comey. First, the president ordered up some brand new supporting documents from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. These were designed to underpin his line that Comey was fired on their recommendation — for being “unfair” to Hillary Clinton. Then, even as his surrogates were out peddling that very story, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that, “regardless of [Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.” And he explained why:

“And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Which rationale for Comey’s departure is true? Both? Neither? What is “truth” after all?

When the need to ask such questions occurs once in a while, it’s anomalous enough that we notice. We have time to remark that someone or various people in this story — Sessions, Rosenstein, the surrogates, Trump himself — are mistaken or even lying. Fortunately, in the case of Comey’s firing, journalists are still reporting the lies, but what happens if the rewrites of our recent history begin to come so fast that we stop keeping up?

- Down the memory hole: Establishing "1984" for today's Trump-filled world, Salon.com, May 20, 2017.


3. CNN’s Jake Tapper tore into former President Donald Trump’s administration for criticizing President Joe Biden’s handling of Afghanistan while deflecting from their own involvement in the chain of events behind the current chaos.

Tapper joined colleagues John Berman and Brianna Keilar on Thursday to talk about how the U.S. government is being forced to negotiate with the Taliban amid frantic efforts to evacuate people from Afghanistan. Berman brought up a tweet from Nikki Haley where she said that diplomatically engaging with the Taliban is “an unbelievable scenario” akin to “dealing with the devil.”

To have our Generals say that they are depending on diplomacy with the Taliban is an unbelievable scenario. Negotiating with the Taliban is like dealing with the devil.

— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) August 18, 2021

Berman found the tweet ironic in that “She was U.N. Ambassador when the Trump Administration began dealing with the Taliban.” Tapper followed up by noting that Haley touted the Trump Administration in 2018 because “We’re seeing that we are closer to talks with the Taliban in the peace process than we’ve seen before.”

“There is this attempt to memory hole the last four years under President Trump of an attempt to have a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban,” said Tapper. He also noted that the Trump administration decided to exclude the Afghan government when those talks with the Taliban were happening.

“I’m not faulting the Trump administration for attempting to achieve some sort of peace deal with the Taliban. You don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies. That’s how peace deals work,” Tapper said. “But there is this attempt by former Secretary [Mike] Pompeo, Vice President [Mike] Pence, Trump is all over the map on this, Nikki Haley, and their supporters in Congress to pretend that there is something demonstrably different about what Biden did than what Trump would have done.”

After CNN’s New Day rolled footage of Haley’s old comments, Tapper reiterated that “the issue is not that they were trying to make peace with the Taliban” despite their questionable methods.

“The issue is they are now pretending that the previous effort did not happen,” Tapper said. He then turned to Trump’s last acting defense secretary, Chris Miller, claiming in a new interview that Trump merely wanted to trick the Taliban into thinking the U.S. would withdraw from Afghanistan.

“That’s just crap. Of course he had every intention of leaving Afghanistan,” Tapper continued. “There is an attempted memory hole that is just insulting to everyone, including people in the MAGA world who liked that about Trump.”

- Jake Tapper Calls Out Nikki Haley, Trump Administration Over ‘Attempted Memory Hole’ On Afghanistan, MediaIte.com, August 19, 2021.

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About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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