The Speed of Forgetting — Gruder’s Law of Political & Social Amnesia

by Dr. David Gruder

You may be aware that the speed at which human knowledge doubles has been getting faster and faster. Not that terribly long ago it took hundreds of years for our humanity’s collective knowledge to double. In most of our lifetimes the doubling rate has been estimated to hav gone from every 20 years to ever 10 to every 5. And today the doubling rate is perhaps even faster than that.

But, here’s the less talked-about flip side of our knowledge-doubling rate: the rate at which our forgetting doubles. When I was a young man it seemed to me that people had much longer memories than they do now. Especially about politics and social issues.

Over my lifetime I have watched the FORGETTING doubling rate increase right alongside our knowledge doubling rate. I am absolutely appalled at today’s forgetting speed. Vast numbers of people, it seems to me, have already forgotten crucial details from politics and society that occurred 10, 5, and even 1 year ago!

This leads me to my somewhat tongue-in-cheek Gruder’s Law of Political & Social Amnesia: the speed of forgetting increases at the same rate that knowledge doubles.

I only have time as I write this post to give you a couple of examples of this. I invite and encourage you to post your examples in the comment box below this post (to prevent spam posts you will be asked to set up an account in order to complete your comment — setting one up takes only a minute).

Here’s the example:

  • Current Fact: Many Republicans attacked Democratic President Obama for taking 72 hours to respond publicly to the terrorist attempt to blow up a plan as it was preparing to land in Detroit. He was on vacation at the time.
  • Political Amnesia Forgotten Fact: When infamous "Shoe Bomber" terrorist Richard Reid tried to blow up a plan in a similar way in 2001, then-President Bush, a Republican, did not respond publicly for seven days. He was on vacation at the time.

This is a classic case of the speed of forgetting. These politicians and pundits were depending on Gruder’s Law of Political & Social Amnesia to enable them to succeed at manipulating the public into adopting the opinion of President Obama that they want the public to have (i.e., that he supposedly doesn’t take the terrorism threat seriously). This is also an example of Manufacturing Consent. Political & Social Amnesia destroys countries. It does not make them stronger.

You can read another example here: www.factcheck.org/2010/01/a-trifecta-of-nonsense

Again, I look forward to your examples of the speed of forgetting that "Gruder’s Law of Political & Social Amnesia" describes.

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