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You can't trust your own eyes!Posted Monday, April 12, 2010, at 7:39 AM
So what's wrong with this famous photo??
For a minute, my mind was completely disoriented, and then I brought myself up to the 21st Century. The photo was of Richard Nixon and Elvis, and Jarret had photo-shopped his own head into the picture!
Whenever I see this kind of thing, I can't help thinking of a Newsweek story I saw in the dim past: The story was a review of a "new" book called, "The Commissar Vanishes," and it treated the reader to a delightfully morbid gallery of old photos from Josef Stalin's era in the old Soviet Union.
Stalin, whose brutality after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 resulted in his gradual rise to supreme power, is reported to have been responsible for the death of 20 to 25 million people before his own peaceful death in 1953. Many of the 25 million were former friends and fellow revolutionaries of the Soviet dictator. No one was safe from his delusional hunger for absolute power.
A few years ago, I searched for and found the book on Amazon.com and ordered it, for no other reason than to page through the laughable attempts by this horrific dictator to cover his murderous tracks by doing his own primitive "photo-shopping." Back in those early days, the pictures had to be cut apart with scissors and pasted back together to eliminate the presence of party members whom Stalin had ordered shot. They were turned into "unpersons," as if they had never existed. The backgrounds were always problematic for Stalin and his henchmen, as there would be pictures on the walls, furnishings, and other items that had to be fit into the new picture.
One photo showed a group of about ten men standing in front of a desk. As the months and years progressed, one after another was cut from the photo - until only Stalin remained, standing alone, a grisly reminder of how dangerous it was to be friends with the paranoid "Man of Steel."
The whole idea was to change history, to make it mutable, changeable. Nothing was as it seemed, and a good memory was considered a personal flaw. George Orwell's haunting novel "1984" put the era into fictional form, making it vivid and immediate for the reader. Winston Smith, the main character, struggles to develop the technique of "Double-Think" and to make his mind accept what he knows isn't true -- but he's too intelligent: He fails and is crushed by the system.
In our current era of amazing technology, Stalin's primitive attempts to change history are laughable, but there are those in our society who wonder if the same process is not at work today.
The question haunts us: Can we trust our own eyes?
April 12, 2010 postscript:
This morning's CBS morning news contained some eerie revelations from the year 1941: It seems that a massacre arranged by Stalin is back in the news today. (I wish I had un-muted my tv sooner.) Here's the relevant report from the past:
"Stanley Majcher still remembers the epitaphs Polish soldiers scrawled in blood on prison walls before they were massacred in the Katyn Forest.''They knew they were going to die. They cut their hands and fingers and used their bleeding fingers to write their names on jail cell walls at Starobielsk,'' said Majcher, a former fighter pilot and one of the few Polish prisoners of war who escaped the slaughter.Majcher, who lives in Cocoa, has known since 1940 what Mikhail Gorbachev admitted to the world only last month: that it was Josef Stalin's secret police - and not the Germans - who slaughtered as many as 15,000 Polish officers."
History never really dies!
From the innocent, green hills of suburban Tillman, Missouri, this is your rural reporter Madeline, taking a chilling journey into the past...and praying for a brighter future.
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.