Winston Churchill once observed that the history books are written by the victors in a conflict, but I sometimes wonder if even he appreciated the extent to which the causality can run both ways. Conservapedia has edited the Treaty of Tripoli to make it appear that the United States was founded as a Christian theocracy.
Why bother even to note this? Surely everyone knows that Conservapedia is a biased unreliable source. The bias is proudly heralded even in its very name. It would be easier to be blase about this if not for the fact that Conservapedia is just the tip of the iceberg. It is not out of the question, if current trends continue, that factual objective history will become more and more inaccessible. After all, I have never seen the original Treaty of Tripoli. The only reason I have to believe that it even exists, let alone that it says what it says is that I have never seen the claims of its existence and its content challenged.
I can dismiss this challenge because I can remember a world where there was historical consensus about the Treaty of Tripoli. But imagine what it might be like for someone born today. They might well grow up in a world where half -- maybe even more than half -- of the sources available to them say that the Treaty of Tripoli says what Conservapedia says it says, and that any claims to the contrary are a liberal plot to undermine the foundations of the nation. How would a person growing up in such a world be expected to sort out the truth? (For that matter, how can we be sure that we ourselves are not growing up in such a world?)
Farfetched? Consider that the Texas State Board of Education recently decided to make some changes to the curriculum, including removing Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment from history classes, and placing more emphasis on "The strong Judeo-Christian influences on the nation’s Founding Fathers."
This is not some random right-wing web site. This is the State of Texas.
I fear that George Orwell may have been more prescient than anyone ever imagined.