The Distortionists

dis•tor•tion•ist (di stôr´ shə nist), n. 1. One who twists and bends reality into strange and unnatural positions.  2. One who twists or denies facts to fit their preferred political ideology, religious beliefs, or opinions.

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A dear friend of mine, whom I shall call Vicki in order to preserve her anonymity, endured repeated sexual abuse during childhood.  She was one of three children raised in a churchgoing, upper-middle-class family.  At night, her father, the man who should have been her protector, would quietly enter her room and molest her.  Then, like a wraith, he would slip out and return to his wife’s side.  When day dawned and the family gathered together for breakfast, it was as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.  No one spoke of the abuse.  Not Vicki, not the father who was her tormentor, and not the mother who preferred to turn away.

Many years later, well into adulthood, Vicki abandoned her silence and confronted her parents.  She decried her father’s actions and gave voice to long-suppressed feelings of hurt and anger and betrayal.  In response, her parents expressed shock and offered denials.  They insisted that nothing of the sort had occurred and suggested that Vicki was deluded or disturbed.  They accused her of being malicious and ungrateful.  They refused to acknowledge the incest.  They were so adamant and still had enough psychological power over her that she soon began to question what was real and what was not.  She felt confused and crazy.  Worse, Vicki started to doubt herself and what her memories and heart knew to be true.

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In 1610, Galileo published a short scientific treatise in which he detailed and expounded upon his observations through a telescope.  In so doing, he gave new life to the teachings of Copernicus, who first proposed the theory that the Earth revolved around the sun.  In 1616, for his advocacy of such beliefs, Galileo was subject to an Inquisition by the powerful Catholic Church.  He was ultimately rebuked, and the theory of heliocentrism was denounced.  A commission of theologians known as the Qualifiers declared that “this proposition is foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts many places the sense of Holy Scripture.”

In 1632, after publishing a book which further challenged the geocentric view of the universe, Galileo was accused of heresy and ordered to stand trial “for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the sun is the center of the world.” The Church found him guilty, and he spent the remainder of his life under house arrest.  It was not until 1835, more than two centuries later, that Galileo’s writings were removed from the Church’s Index of Forbidden Books.

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According to the Institute for Historical Review, “an awareness of factual history is essential to an understanding of the great issues of our age.” This organization was founded in 1978 and describes itself as “an educational research and publishing center that works to promote peace, understanding and justice through greater public awareness of the past.” In particular, the Institute “informs the public about the Jewish-Zionist grip on America’s cultural and political life, World War II lies, distortions of Middle East history, myths about the Israel-Palestine conflict, the corrosive impact of “Holocaust” propaganda, and much more.” The IHR cites the work of many “revisionist scholars” who have “presented considerable evidence to show that there was no German program to exterminate Europe’s Jews, that numerous claims of mass killings in ‘gas chambers’ are false, and that the estimate of six million Jewish wartime dead is an irresponsible exaggeration.”

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One week ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told intelligence officials in his country that “the September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan.”

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From today’s New York Times:

AUSTIN, Tex. — After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it.

The board, whose members are elected, has influence beyond Texas because the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks. In the digital age, however, that influence has diminished as technological advances have made it possible for publishers to tailor books to individual states.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state. [full article]

In the Huffington Post, Jeff Schneider writes “An Open Letter to the Texas Board of Education: Stop Rewriting History.”

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Vicki knows what happened to her—just as Galileo knew what he saw in the telescope and the Jews at Auschwitz and Buchenwald knew what was being done to them.  The refutations of others cannot alter the truth.  Yet the distortionists persist in their efforts to twist whatever facts they find inconvenient or discomfiting to fit their parochial values or beliefs.  And they seek to impose their views on the rest of us.  That is contrary to the best interests of a diverse and democratic society.  When will we learn?

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