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The Guardian

Republicans are trying to rewrite the history of the attack on Capitol Hill. Don’t let them

By blocking a Congressional inquiry into what happened, the Republican Party has proven itself beyond shame or dignity “ The ridiculous claims that the election was stolen or that the coronavirus was a minor event seek to recast recent American history in a way that legitimizes the Republican Party’s relentless war on expertise, factual media, and political opposition. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso / AFP / Getty Images Do you remember how, just a few months ago, supporters of Donald Trump staged a violent insurgency? How did they storm Capitol Hill in an attempt to overturn the results of last November’s presidential election, looting and vandalizing the seat of American democracy? The fact that they carried guns, explosives and handcuffs, some wanting to kill Vice President Mike Pence and others to lead House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a car? And how was it all instigated by former President Donald Trump who told the crowd in advance to “fight like hell”? If you are willing to admit that you remember these things, you are in a smaller minority than you might think. In recent months, Republicans have done more than block the creation of a congressional committee to uncover new facts about the insurgency. They have also set out to rewrite the history of the facts that we already know. Republican lawmakers and right-wing media have suggested either that nothing in particular happened that day, or that if it did, it was the fault of left-wing agitators like “antifa” and Black. Lives Matter. Completely detached from reality, as they can be, Republican voters seem split between the two explanations, with 48% saying the people on Capitol Hill were “mostly peaceful and law-abiding Americans” and 54% saying that they were a leftist crowd. Often times, lies like this are designed to obscure what the party itself is doing. As Republicans move more and more openly toward rejection of the democratic process, they must all the more furiously try to cover up their tracks. If the party were forced to admit that the man it twice nominated for president – and could still run again – had sparked a violent insurgency, it would be difficult for it to continue to function as a political party. democratic. Rather than admit what they really are, they prefer to deny what they have done. But the Republicans’ attempt to rewrite history goes beyond lying about their own behavior. Like pathological liars everywhere, Republicans tell vast conspiratorial stories in which they always emerge as either the hero or the victim. The ridiculous claims that the election was stolen or that the coronavirus was a minor event that the media overestimated to harm Trump aim to recast America’s recent history in a way that legitimizes the party’s relentless war on expertise, factual media and political opposition. . The failure to come to a common understanding of recent history poses a serious danger. What makes Republican lies so insidious is that they have many purposes beyond being literally believed. As Russel Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum have argued, this is often a “conspiracy without theory”. No evidence or explanation to support them is offered because factual belief is not the issue. Instead, they serve to make believers demonstrate their loyalty. To repeat something clearly wrong is a sign of demeaning but also of dedication, which reaffirms one’s identity as a staunch member of the movement. Lies also draw a clear line between believers on the inside and those on the outside who react with fury to blatant lies. This only heightens the perception among Republicans that they are relentlessly besieged by hostile forces, making the lies even easier to repeat. The failure to come to a common understanding of recent history is a serious danger. While political parties and factions will always disagree on how to interpret the world and its history, the give and take and trust that are vital to the functioning of democratic politics depend on a common basic understanding of the reality. Decades ago, political theorist Hannah Arendt wrote that factual truth is “the ground on which we stand and the sky that stretches above us,” which means it sets the parameters and the limits of political struggle. If a party refuses to accept these limits, it indicates that they are capable of doing almost anything to gain the power necessary to remake the world in the shadow of their lies. Another observation from Arendt was that once a common understanding of the world has been lost, it is incredibly difficult to rebuild. The sheer scale of the device working to rewrite history – from television and radio to social media posts to online propaganda media – creates a cocoon of validation that is difficult to penetrate, by especially when shared with others. Psychologists have shown that human beings are wired to reject information that contradicts their worldview and threatens their social relationships. If everyone in your circle – at home, at the bar, on social media – accepts the historical rewrite, the easiest way is to accept it. Failure to do so could mean losing friends, falling out with family, and questioning the fundamentals of your own identity. All of these forces create powerful incentives that will remain in place as long as the party remains engaged in its assault on American democracy. It has been said that the truth is the first victim of war, but it is also the first victim of the so-called autocrats and revolutionaries. Today’s Republican Party has a lot of both. As long as she and her followers continue to follow their current path, they will remain dependent on the constant rewriting of history. There is no other way for them to continue. As to where exactly they are going, that is a question we all should be concerned about. Andrew Gawthorpe is a United States Historian at Leiden University and host of the America Explained podcast


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