One of the most e-mailed articles on the New York Times website this weekend is an op-ed by novelist Robert Harris titled “Pirates of the Mediterranean”. In this essay Mr. Harris claims that history is mutable.
But there are some troubling aspects that arise when one treats history as a mutable entity. It allows people to rewrite history through a new lens; picking and choosing certain events to draw conclusions from within the vacuum of new or limited contexts. Thus, what was once considered immutable may take on new meaning depending on your point of view.
The New York Times allows Mr. Harris to use this mutability of context as a device to draw parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and that of the United States under the dictatorial rule of President Bush.
For instance, the comparison of al-Qaeda to a loosely unorganized group of disaffected pirates from 68 BC is a prime example of mutating modern day history for the purpose of editorial validity. While al-Qaeda may not have a traditional hierarchical chain of command we know for certain that the al-Qaeda leadership operates within the framework of coordinated planning, funding, training and material support. The fact that these operations are carried out by clandestine sleeper cells in no way should be read as being unorganized.
Likewise, comparing last Thursday’s Senate vote that clarified the President’s powers over terrorism detainees with the passage of the Lex Gabinia in 67 BC is not only an invalid comparison but it is applied in the wrong context altogether. For the comparison to be valid President Bush would have to yield absolute powers and declare all citizens of the United States as enemy combatants to become the left’s version of an American dictator.
Time and time again we are reminded that the New York Times is willing to allow the mutability of historical context to be used as a tool to further the activist agenda of its editorial staff. This, in my opinion, is one of those immutable facts that history will prove to be true.