Historical Revision, in Real Time, is why 2023 is 2020 Part 3

Patrick Koske-McBride
6 min readJan 2, 2023

So, my 95-year-old grandmother has dementia. Before my fellow biomedical enthusiasts chime, I know that dementia isn’t a diagnosis unto itself, but is a sign of deeper disease. My grandmother hates hospitals and doctors, though, and I think everyone’s just glad we were able to confirm that we’re not the ones losing our minds, and, at 95, I think everyone feels she’s had a good run, and we should worry about getting her hip working with physical therapy before we move on to bigger, less-imminently-lethal issues like her neurological problems.

I bring her up, specifically, because a conversation with my grandmother nowadays has the same ebb and flow as the last three years. You have a five minute chat about the weather, then you confirm that today is Sunday, Biden is president, and then you’re back in the weather, and you end up having the exact same conversation over and over, endlessly, like some horrible, verbal version of Groundhog Day, if Bill Murray also could see the seasons changing around him outside the window. It’s a nearly-identical, deja vu sensation that we’ve collectively shared since Donald Trump descended into the public eye on an escalator in 2015 (which was eight years ago). It occurred to me that the particularly maddening part of interacting with my grandmother (apart from the darkly prophetic aspect of seeing another organic brain disease patient go downhill) is how long it takes to establish a shared, objective reality, and how negotiable that reality is, to her. And, by the time the Laws of Physics are established, her focus has moved on, and we have to reiterate the Facts of Life. There’s a real Cheech and Chong “Dave’s Not Here” sensation, except everyone’s sober.

I bring this up because the last eight years are characterized by this weird, “Somebody is going insane, and it might just be me” sensation, which is what happens when we’re subjected to historical revision in real time, to events that literally occurred just last week, and the Youtube clips of which are still around.

Historical revision is the act of rewriting history, and, in more advanced cultures, it’s usually like updating science textbooks to align with new discoveries and developments (usually archeological and historical research). In America, we use it to remove the context of current events so that idiots can say, “Slavery ended 200 years ago, get over it!” without also understanding that, in those 200 years stuff happened that might’ve set African Americans back, a little.

I’m going to pick on regressives a little, because they’re the most-obvious example in mainstream society, but understand that Rachel Maddow also has a stake in angering and appealing to the base. I’m not going to same sides this issue, but I will admit that the Biden Administration hasn’t exactly lived up to my expectations, either, but pretends they have (maybe a 70-30 split in this issue).

Most Millennials are somewhat familiar with the power of rewriting reality to serve a political purpose, because we saw the build-up to the Iraq War, which attempted to shift the blame for 9/11 from Al Qaeda and the Taliban to Saddam Hussein. Which lead to ISIS and a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. However, in those weeks and months leading up to Marines arriving in Baghdad, there was a distinct sensation that the American public were some sort of easily-distracted dog (we sort of are, in our national attention span) and someone was promising to throw the ball, but fake threw it.

In more-recent times, we all got a hefty dose of that sort of, “When I snap my fingers, you will forget about the past 18 months” starting in 2020, when a sitting president initiated what I absolutely believe to be a genocide against those of us with chronic illness; when he lied about the dangers of COVID. Those of us in the cancer community got horrifying calls and messages from friends and our friends families who were in the ER and going downhill, quickly, while CNN reported shit like, “Low death toll.” My own, personal, “This is Aktion T4” moment was when NPR — that leftist bastion of radio — said that only a few thousand people died, “But most of them had underlying conditions.” I’m sorry if I can’t let that one go, but hearing your own humanity questioned on a national media station tends to do that. To all of my abled friends, on September 11, 2001, only a few thousand people died, but most of them were Wall Street traders and bankers. Hurts, doesn’t it?

And that sort of Orwellian denial of reality as it happened in real-time characterized 2020. And then, somehow, things got worse. Remember the Capitol Siege? Remember how it Fox News and the GOP immediately went into full-blown denial and claimed that they were peaceful protesters, who, by an amazing coincidence, killed or seriously maimed a dozen DC cops? You know, as most peaceful protests do?

That was the first draft of a mixed-results attempt to go from “Let’s distract the American Public until they leave us alone” to “National gas-lighting.” Kevin McCarthy, a man with so few principles that even basic self-preservation is beyond him, made a show of appealing to Hilbert Dupft by making frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring. Lindsey Graham stood side-by-side next to Herschel Walker for the better part of a year in the world’s first and only human ventriloquist puppet act, to convince everyone with ears and eyes that Herschel Walker wasn’t as utterly insane and incompetent as he seemed. And, frighteningly, it almost worked.

I bring this up, now, because the same Reich-adjacent groups that brought us The Donald, H. Walker, and a COVID death toll in the low seven digit range (most of whom weren’t, in the strictest sense of the word, “human”), are mobilizing to defend Andrew Tate. When Southerners describe “The Lost Cause,” they may not specifically mean Tate, but “rewriting history to benefit mediocre, insecure white men who like the thought of owning other people” is too long to put on a bumper sticker. Anyway, literally hours after Tate’s arrest by Romanian authorities on human-trafficking and sexual assault charges, the Confederacy of Humanoid Underground Dwellers came to his defense. As I read that particular headline, I got that same queasy sensation that I got when NPR publicly diminished the humanity of COVID victims. That’s when I realized why there’s been a sense of nightmare deja vu these past few years; our collective memory — both what we witnessed, and what’s literally on film — are under assault. Again, from the right, it’s, “We’re totally trustworthy with power, and we won’t return to feudalism in a hot minute if we had a super majority in the House;” from the slightly-left, it’s, “We’ve got inflation under control, and we’ll expand the middle class.”

And, the solution to this, and to our political quagmire, is for more people to become involved in the political process, at every level. Run for Congress. Run for County Sheriff. Hell, get on your HOA board and relax the renovation regulations. If we all have a greater stake in a shared, objective reality, that inures us, somewhat, to the forces currently attempting to change the laws of physics so that climate change magics itself away. That’s across the political spectrum; I want everyone in my neighborhood to run for Senate. Most of my neighbors are Republicans, but they’re more akin to the traditional, “I like low taxes, improved infrastructure, and a peaceful, orderly society” Republicans that Nixon ousted, but, I’ll happily vote for them and support them in any of their political ambitions, because I also know that they aren’t trying to bend reality to fit their views; they tend to update their views based on what’s objectively observable. Until that collective march for reality happens, it’s going to be 2020 all over again, until humanity dies.



Patrick Koske-McBride

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”