Monday 21 June 2010

Malleability of Memory: Update

I'd last week posted a rather nice piece by Saletan talking about the ease with which false memories can be implanted if accompanied by a doctored picture. He noted that the Chinese seemed to be trying this to adjust folks' recollections of Tiananmen.

And here's the variant used during the Cultural Revolution, thanks to Robert Fulford:
Mao advocated making the past serve the present, which meant rewriting the past to improve his image. Where Stalin elevated his own role with doctored photographs, Mao relied on falsified paintings.

Two pictures discussed in Art in Turmoil make the point. Liu Shaoqi and the Anyuan Coal Miners depicted Liu, who was considered a potential successor to Mao, leading a 1922 miners’ strike that in legend began the overthrow of capitalism. Liu apparently made the mistake of criticizing his master and in 1967 a government-backed magazine, Art Storm, devoted much of its first issue to denouncing Liu’s portraits. Art Storm said that 172,077 poster-size copies of the Anyuan painting had been published. The original was demolished and another painting appeared, Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan, showing that it was young Mao who led the miners.
Note also how celebrity tobacco use seems to be falling through the memory hole. How long until nobody ever smoked, or until they start taking the cigars from the Churchill pictures and adding them into the Hitler pictures?


  1. They are already taking the cigars from Churchil pictures.’s-cigar-erased-from-poster-at-war-museum/

    And Hitler was an anti-smoking advocate.

    This movie has hitler using a cigar. Despite history saying that he banned tobacco use in the bunker.

    As usual, the slippery slopists (yourself in this case), are not alarmist but behind the times.

  2. Hrm, should have followed your link, seems you already knew about the Churchill airbrushing. The Hitler stuff stands though.

  3. @Doc: Does the movie really have Hitler smoking? The link says everyone lights up after they find out Hitler's dead.

  4. I distinctly remember him with a cigar. Again memory is malleable, and I could be misremembering.