‘”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Some believe that this quote came from George Santayana. We are more familiar with: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it;” — or become bamboozled by it.
Repeating history is a great device for storytelling. For those that were around in the 1980s, and somewhat sentient, may remember a wacky professor turning a 1982 model DeLorean into a time machine.
Director Robert Zemeckis took movie goers Back to the Future, which started at present day in 1985 and then jumped back in time to the 1950’s, all the while Marty McFly and Doc Brown were desperately trying to keep the space time continuum from unraveling. In later squeals they leap into the future and then follow it bounding all the way back to the Wild West.
In 2004 J.J. Abrams confounded TV viewers with dueling, multiple realities in the series LOST. This show left viewers bouncing around the globe in variety of individual realities crisscrossing and spinning out of control like the pattern on a dye-tied tee shirt.
In 2009 Abrams went to the big screen with Star Trek movies. He took the original Star Trek series’ timeline and wrapped it around like the strips on a candy cane in such a way that there are now two Spocks inhabiting the universe. This was not the first time the Star Trek crew found themselves in a different time or alternative universes. It is easy to beguile a movie goer who is looking to be entertained. History, however is a different matter.
History has all the dramatic characteristics of a good novel without a DeLorean time machine or movable island that turns time and space into Helter Skelter. History does this naturally. It is like a sidewinder snake moving forward in a zigzagging way, pushing and pulling its way through time.
It was a turbulent time after World War II. The war ended in a mushroom cloud. The United States was the only atomic power. But, in August of 1949 the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb. The proliferation of this weapon of mass destruction created a real sense of Armageddon. For the United States the big question was how did the Soviets get atomic bomb making technology so soon? A hint; it was not from the Internet or Facebook.
The Soviets got it the old fashion way. The bomb secrets came from Communist infiltrators and spies in sensitive position in the United States government. Senator Joseph McCarthy made his mark hunting down communists inside and outside of government. Eventually, two former communist party members, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were rooted out, convicted of espionage, and later executed for being spies.
Currently there is no “Red Menace” threatening the United States. But, all through 1950’s the United States was fully immersed in the “Red Scare” and fully immersed into what would become a the Cold War. President Harry Truman was faced with charges that his government was infested with communist spies and sympathizers while he was dealing with a what some called a communist monolith intent on engulfing the Free World. President Dwight Eisenhower dealt with the Soviets orbiting satellites; and President John Kennedy went about as far as the two countries could go without actually launching an all out nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Soviets came into being overthrowing 500 years of entrenched, albeit inept, Romanov’s rule quickly and efficiently. They pushed this empire out of the way to create what President Ronald Reagan would call the “Evil Empire.” Starting with storming the Czar’s Palace in 1918, they have become experts at toppling governments.
After World War II the Soviets were determined to spread communism and control as much of Europe as they could grab using the Red Army to stuff ballots and police voter fraud. One by one the Soviets toppled one Eastern European government after another creating a block of communist countries later known as the Warsaw Pact. And it was deja vu ever since with tanks rolling into Hungry in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1969, and Afghanistan in 1979.
Today, it would be hard to argue that Russian motives have changed. It appears as if we are “back to the future.” The difference now is there is no Berlin Wall. There is no overt threat of the Russian Army marching in with tanks to back up the ballot box. Unless it is in the Ukraine or Syria.
What was once done straight forward with T-72 tanks is done so much easier and quicker and stealthier with social media. An over zealous, miscreant hacker on social media cannot launch an errant missile “accidentally” shooting down a civilian airliner. Instead he can post all the needed propaganda aimed at unsettling an election and sowing general discord.
The interesting twist to this is the invaded country does all the heavy lifting. It provides the internet and social platforms and most of the personell in which the Russians can launch their hacking and fake news attacks from. Once the fake news is posted, the likes pass it along. Eventually talk radio and TV talking heads start bloviating, arguing and agreeing on what set of misinformation is “true. ” They give the phoney news legs that it can run with.
Eventually, certain less alert, partisan-elected officials begin pontificating the one-sided merits of the fabricated information completely unaware they are defending the Russian motives in around-about way. People are easily duped. Even the Bible tells us “there is no new thing under the sun.” Meanwhile, the snake slithers on..
There is a debate if it was Mark Twain or Winston Churchill who said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants (boots) on.” It really does not matter who gets attribution. With instant messaging a lie, or fake news can move about the globe almost instantaneously and with exponential speed.
What is interesting to witness is how easy it is to see the people duped into the misinformation, misconceptions and misinterpretations of Russian intentions. This, despite 100 years of historical evidence of Russian meddling into foreign governments. A snake does not change despite shedding its skin. It stays a snake.
Recently a Justice Department Special Prosecutor looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, has arrested four Americans and interviewed many others for not being forthright with what appears ill-advised negotions with Russian officials during the 2016 election. Mere snake-bitten novices playing with experts.
Carl Sagan wrote that “One of the saddest lessons of history is, “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
― Carl Sagan,