Rewriting History Is Easier Than You Thought

11Slate just conducted an interesting experiment in Orwellian-style rewriting of history. Readers were asked to share their their recollections of recent historical events, many of which never actually happened. That didn’t matter though; a large percentage recalled, for instance, how angry they were when Obama infamously shook hands with Ahmadinejad (which he didn’t). The lesson being, if you ask someone to remember something, they will:

In the first three days the experiment was posted, 5,279 subjects participated. All of the true incidents outscored the false ones. But the fake images were effective. Through random distribution, each fabricated scene was viewed by a subsample of more than 1,000 people. For Obama meeting Ahmadinejad, the number who remembered seeing it was 26 percent. For the Hillary Clinton ad, the number was 36 percent. For the Edwards-Cheney confrontation, it was 42 percent, just seven points shy of the percentage who remembered seeing the DeLay/Schiavo episode.

21 Comments on "Rewriting History Is Easier Than You Thought"

  1. Cerebralcaustic | Jun 4, 2010 at 12:36 pm |

    Remember when Disinfo wasn't devoted to radical left-wing nonsense?

    Good times, good times…

    • Wouldn't say “devoted” … the site is intended to be a blend of voices and news sources that are very unlikely to be found holding a conversation with each other.

      It's a continually dynamic process, so at times this may seem “left” to some and “right” to others.

      Cerebral you are welcome to request an account to express your viewpoints:

      Or keep on visiting and commenting to let us know how we are doing. Thanks for that.

    • emperorreagan | Jun 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm |

      I remember a time when Disinfo had more variety than the political thrust of late (not complaining, just noting), with more focus given to occult/drugs/religion/conspiracy/etc. sort of topics. It doesn't seem to be quite as heavily oriented towards subculture as it was 10 years ago.

      I can also remember reading tons of left-leaning articles on Disinfo over the years. And if you look in the web archives, you can see them linking many of the same sources – Alternet, Slate, etc. “Left-wing nonsense” has been represented here for years.

      • dumbsaint | Jun 5, 2010 at 5:15 am |

        American politics has increasingly seeped it's way into all all corners of the net to the point of saturation. That's why, for example, a comics blog like robot6 being torn apart by conservatives on twitter over a Captain America story.

        It's tiresome watching everything be boiled down to a left/right argument. Whatever happened to the time when we agreed that all politicians are lying scumbags.

        • emperorreagan | Jun 6, 2010 at 5:22 pm |

          I agree. I'm pretty firmly in the camp of believing there is essentially no difference between “left/right” when it comes to most politicians elected in the US. Obama versus Bush seems to largely be a question of aesthetics to me, for example, and neither are to be trusted.

          I sometimes find myself subscribing to the cynical viewpoint that trivial or completely unimportant issues are politicized in order to distract people from the complete lack of movement on important issues, or alternately to divide public opinion so no one has to act on an issue in any substantive way (for instance, the impotent legislation in the wake of massive bank fraud).

    • E.B. Wolf | Jun 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm |

      How is a link about experimenting with implanting false memories of non-existent events “radical left wing nonsense?

    • Funny, I've seen it present left and right-wing views on disinfo. I know, because I am most assuredly left wing, and there's been plenty I've disagreed with that's been posted.

      I think the difference between left and right is, a left-winger doesn't whine about the mere fact of a right-wing view being presented, but rather focuses on disputing the merits of that right-wing viewpoint. Whereas cons typically do as you did Caustic, and display perpetual victimhood, even when nobody's victimizing you.

    • Remember when right-wingers didn't deny facts by smearing them with political labels?

  2. malatesting123 | Jun 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm |

    Wow, I am in shock. Americans dont know history/current events. This totally blows my mind.
    Radical left wing nonsense? Ill take that over your right wing extremism anyday. At least left wingers give a shit about people.

    • It's not about politics, it's about memory manipulation. This study has been done before many times. Forget politics, they can have you remember events in your OWN LIFE that in reality you never did. Given the right leads, you can remember that party you never went to, the fun you never had, and the people you never met.

  3. Wouldn’t say “devoted” … the site is intended to be a blend of voices and news sources that are very unlikely to be found holding a conversation with each other.

    It’s a continually dynamic process, so at times this may seem “left” to some and “right” to others.

    Cerebral you are welcome to request an account to express your viewpoints:

    Or keep on visiting and commenting to let us know how we are doing. Thanks for that.

  4. how is

  5. As Charles Manson said: “Left wing? Right wing? You need both wings to fly, baby.” However, I disagree with your notion that radical progressive people *truly care* more for others than they care about feeling good about themselves – while at the same time totally disregarding the consequences for society at large and even the world. Politics is about agendas and power, shallow sentimentalism never was the thriving force – sentimentalism only results in the tyranny of political correctness. The so-called philanthropic radical left knows all about it as they help enforce cult like behaviour on entire Western nations, in the best Trotskyite traditions. The radical left rather acts as the vangguard of the establishment than as a genuine counter force on so many issues. Once the sentimentalism is unmasked, one notices a particular political agenda, and a political agenda is always about favoring some people, while disfavoring others. Your avarage American or European has nothing to gain from it, on the contrary, so why support an anti-me-and-you-movement, that is controlled by the establishment anyway?

    • “Sentimentalism?”

      You wouldn't be under 35 years old, would you? Because that response is giving credence to that recent study that found that young people today are 40% less compassionate than the GenXer's who preceded them.

      Of course, then again, you could also just be a self-absorbed sell-out at any age….

      I fail to see how caring about your fellow man somehow endangers the society at large. The Left seeks to lift all boats. the right tends to want to get in the boat, drag the ladder up after them, and let everybody else just drown. How exactly does that “help society” beyond making the society smaller?

  6. Word Eater | Jun 4, 2010 at 6:10 pm |

    Read the whole God-forsaken article before throwing out judgment. Most of it is about the art and science of manipulating memories for good and evil.

    And what can be done to a human mind is truly scary.

    The reason Slate keeps harping on this particular photo is that, out of the situations they invented, this one has the least basis in fact.

  7. rarianrakista | Jun 4, 2010 at 7:29 pm |

    Do the same thing in real life at bars, school or the office. It is best to approach someone with an unwarranted ego and a disdain for others. Gather people around and stroke his ego for a bit as you feign amazement at his recall and opinion of events and than slip him up with some fake stuff. Pull carpet out, laugh/point/shame.

  8. Venusfly2012 | Jun 6, 2010 at 6:38 pm |

    And the Lame stream media is guilty of planting most of those memories!

  9. E.B. Wolf | Jun 7, 2010 at 9:40 pm |


  10. And the aliens that never abducted you.

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