Spot on, Atlantic mag, on the ‘MAGA memory hole’

Rashmee Roshan Lall
3 min readMay 21, 2024

Here’s an interesting take on the way Republican politicians in the US are behaving towards Donald Trump.

They’re affecting amnesia about their past attitude to him and trying to pretend this was always how they thought and talked about the Republican standard-bearer.

They do this, as Tom Nichols of The Atlantic recently pointed out, by using something that might be called the “MAGA memory hole”. It’s a reference to the chute into which Winston Smith, protagonist of George Orwell’ s novel 1984, used to chuck statements that contradict those of today.

Smith worked for his totalitarian country’s Ministry of Truth and his job was to constantly rewrite history. Every statement — put out yesterday or in yesteryears — had to be faithful to the regime’s pronouncements today. It was Smith’s job to fix old statements and reports, after which he would drop the contradictory material into “the memory hole”.

Though the MAGA memory hole doesn’t physically exist, it’s there in practice, Mr Nichols writes: “Republicans who once claimed to be against Donald Trump, and ridiculed him, are now expending kilocalories of political energy to convince their constituents and the rest of the American public that they have always been faithful to Trump”.

He quotes tweets from senators and representatives. Lindsey Graham, for instance, tweeted in May 2016: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…….and we will deserve it”. After the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots, he said he was done with Mr Trump: “Count me out.” But soon after, he was back in the Trump fold. Now, he appears to have consigned all past reservations to the memory hole.

So too the newbie Republican senator J. D. Vance. Once, he used the not insignificant platform provided by The Atlantic to smear Mr Trump as “cultural heroin”. Having recanted (and won Mr Trump’s support for his senatorial run and victory), Mr Vance seems to have dropped all unflattering commentary on the strongman down the memory hole.

The piece also mentions New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s 360-degree turn from Trump-doubter to acolyte.

The point, of course, is what this MAGA memory-holing represents.

Mr Nichols makes a fair point in acknowledging that politics is often about hypocrisy and that people can — and do — change their minds. But there has to be a reason to do so. The facts may have changed. Or something else that provides a real (and rational) reason to change your mind. Nothing, he writes, has changed about Mr Trump. “The defense of Trump and the memory-holing of any vestige of past adherence to principle is, of course, rooted in expediency and fear”.

And then there is the threatening background hum of political violence. Republican politicians are concerned about their personal security, the piece points out. It quotes from McKay Coppins’ biography of Mitt Romney: “One Republican congressman confided to Romney that he wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, but chose not to out of fear for his family’s safety”.

This last point is probably the most troubling sign of the rotting heart of one of America’s two main political parties.

I would love to quote Julian of Norwich and say “all will be well, and all will be well and all manner of things will be well”.

But what if it’s not? And what if recollections of our fears that all won’t be well are consigned to the memory hole one day?

Originally published at



Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London