Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Re-writing history

What happened in the past really doesn't matter if people have short memories and you can re-write the narrative according to how you would wish things to have been, rather than as they actually were.

It is no surprise that Winston Smith, Orwell's hero in 1984, was charged with re-writing the London Times, to ensure the "facts" matched the prevailing narrative. Personally, I don't think it was an accident that he was named Winston, after the great wartime leader – a man who was also not ill-disposed to re-writing his own part in history. But that is another story.

However, one of the more egregious examples of a history re-write (apart from Churchill's Second World War) is the story of the origins of the European Union but, having thus distorted the early history, the "colleagues" clearly think that this is a process that should continue.

So we have The Guardian teaming up with five leading European newspapers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland "to explore the benefits and drawbacks of the European project".

Under the (highly original) brand of "Europa", in a series of articles over two days, journalists from the EU's six biggest countries "will delve into the biggest crisis in the European Union's history and seek answers to two critical questions: what is the EU for? And where does it go from here?"

Completely in tune with this searching objective, you might think, we then see a story in today's, written by Raul Limon of El Pais, extolling the outfit building the A-400M transport as "a very European success story" (above).

One is tempted to ask that, if the A-400M is a "success story", then what on earth is a failure? But the claim, to be precise, is of a "European success story" which, like the euro, is a very different kind of success. Clearly, the definition of a "European success" is not the same as the ordinary, common and garden variety.

This is perhaps just as well for, as The Guardian well knows, the A-400M is years late, massively over-budget and has failed to meet its design specifications. The construction of the A-400M also raises very serious questions as to whether the use of advanced composites, of which it is built, is at all suitable for military transport aircraft and the rugged conditions they must endure.

By any normal measure, therefore, the aircraft – and its production company, which should have crashed and burned but is only being kept alive for political reasons - is an abysmal failure.

But, as long as you can then re-write history in the manner of Winston – Smith or Churchill - and reclassify failure as a "success", that is all that matters. Better still, it is a "very European success", and everything is now right with the world. Nobody will ever remember otherwise, or be given a chance to argue the toss ... not in The Guardian at least.