Norman Solomon is unable to resist the irony (Huffington Post, 4/11/09) of a lead New York Times article titled “Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Memory,” inverting the futuristic character of news that scientists possibly “could erase certain memories by tinkering with a single substance in the brain” to look back on how “American media outlets have been pulling off such feats for a long time”:
The scientists trying to learn how to wipe out “specific types of memory” are lagging way behind.
Don’t need to remember the vast quantities of napalm, Agent Orange and cluster bombs that the U.S. military dropped on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s? Or the continuing realities of burn victims, dioxin poisoning and unexploded warheads?
Don’t want to consider the many thousands of civilians killed by Salvadoran death squads, Guatemalan troops and Nicaraguan Contra guerillas during the 1980s, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers?
Don’t care to recall the Pentagon’s estimate that the Gulf War in early 1991 killed 100,000 Iraqi people during a six-week period?
Forget about it! That’s what selective memory is for.
The Times‘ ethical concern that people “tempted to erase a severely painful memory” might “in the process [lose] other, personally important memories that were somehow related” prompts Solomon to further his metaphor: “Dominant media have blotted out countless painful memories–national or personal–if only by treating them as irrelevant or incidental.” In other words, “Enough bleach in the spin cycles will do the trick.”