By VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, April 14, 2012, VDH Private Papers
In ancient Rome, when the emperor or an especially distasteful elite died, his image on stone and in bronze was removed. And by decree there arose a damnatio memoriae, a holistic effort to erase away his entire prior existence. When Tiberius got through with the dead Sejanus, few knew that he had ever existed, such were the powers of the Roman state to create alternate realities. Orwell’s Animal Farm  and 1984  explored the communist state’s efforts to airbrush away history. Orwell perhaps was most notably influenced by the removal of Leon Trotsky from the collective Russian memory to the point that he never existed. That force was used in these instances does not mean that something like them could not happen  through collective volition; indeed, I think we are starting to see dangerous signs that a sort of groupthink is already beginning.
That Was Then, But This Is What . . . ?
In our own time there are certain growing trends, most of them media-induced, that conspire to rework our collective memory, in pursuit of a supposedly noble and just cause. In the fashion of no other recent figure, President Barack Obama has brought those forces of establishing an official truth to the fore. Last week he lectured the media  that things are not just equal with two sides to a story. Instead, they have a responsibility not to fall into the trap of equivalence — the subtext being that he is not subject to the same laws of inquiry as are his earthly opponents.
Suddenly, the Supreme Court is a suspicious organization run by unelected politicos that uses capricious judicial fiat to overturn widely popular laws. The president denigrated it in a State of the Union address and now suggests that such “unelected” jurists (as opposed to electing them?) should act responsibly and thus “must” not find a popularly enacted law unconstitutional.
I am confused: I thought we were supposed to welcome such judicial audit. Was not that the charm of the Warren Court? Did not the Obama administration go to federal court to ask justices to set aside the Defense of Marriage Act that it was entrusted to enforce — seeking judicial help not to follow a law that it chose not to seek to overturn in Congress?
I also thought that a younger Barack Obama once had regretted that the Supreme Court had never addressed “redistributive change”  and, per the US Constitution, had confined itself only to defining negative liberties rather than demanding positive “rights” that legislatures were supposed to ensure — or else. And did ObamaCare really pass with broad majorities? I thought that it received no Republican votes in the House and only squeaked by. And it would have been filibustered in the Senate without the Ted Stevens pseudo-scandal and various sweetheart deals to swing senators. Or is that now inaccurate?