OPINION

The Left’s Retconned Republic: Revising the Past to Mold the Future


For many, the term “retcon” is unfamiliar; but in practice, its effects are readily recognized—especially since the Left began trying to retcon our American republic.

According to Merriam-Webster, which features “retcon” in its “Words We’re Watching” series (​​a word increasingly seen in use, but that is yet to meet their criteria for entry), the term had its genesis in E. Frank Tupper’s 1973 book, The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg: “Pannenberg’s conception of retroactive continuity ultimately means that history flows fundamentally from the future into the past.” Gaining currency in the early 1980’s from comic writers and readers and, ultimately, the film industry, the concept was embraced, refined, and implemented:

“Retcon is a shortened form of retroactive continuity, and refers to a literary device in which the form or content of a previously established narrative is changed … [T]hey serve as a means of allowing the work’s creators to create a parallel universe, reintroduce a character, or explore plot lines that would otherwise be in conflict with the work.”  

Often employing the deconstruction of existing characters to further its aim, retconning in literary and cinematic works utilizes a host of tropes. One widely known retcon trope occurs when a character is killed off, but then is somehow written back into the storyline. (A classic example is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes being resurrected after his fatal trip down Reichenbach Falls.) In some instances, an entire comic publisher’s universe can be retconned, with a multitude—or is it multiverse?—of books and characters altered and/or eliminated. This famously occurred with DC Comics’ Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was the publishing company’s attempt to clean up and streamline character and continuity issues that had occurred over the decades.

Retcons are not always well received by fans. When not initially done with respect for the existing fan base and their emotional investment in these characters and stories, retcons with their deconstruction of heroes and deeds can be disastrous, with audiences recoiling and industry revenues plummeting to all-time lows. Sometimes, this can spur “soft retcons,” such as was attempted with Supergirl’s return from the dead, to ameliorate fans’ anger, though they also have the potential to exacerbate the problem.

Yet, at least such attempts show the publisher’s concern for fans’ expectations and loyalty. Unfortunately, many publishers and filmmakers (in franchises ranging from James Bond to Star Wars to the Marvel Universe and beyond) respond to a fan base’s disappointment and defection from a once beloved franchise by doubling down on the retcon. The regrettable results surprise no one, except those who, for their own motives, are already invested in the retcon. What motive could possibly explain why today’s comic publishers and movie makers insist upon deconstructing beloved characters and retconning storied and successful franchises, even though it alienates fan bases and, put more coldly, jeopardizes their revenue streams?

The Woke ideology.  

The “woke” believe everything is political. Stories—indeed, words alone—are part of a political battlefield within a morally relative world of competing narratives vying to overthrow or uphold dominant power relationships. Small wonder they’re so miserable. Feeling everything is political, the Woke are compelled to coerce every facet of life into subordinate conformity with the dictates of their ideology. In the arts, consequently, heroes and villains are deconstructed and stories are retconned to proselytize the D.I.E. cult’s three commandments of diversity, inclusion, and equity—or else. If you feel this is a bit overwrought, ask the next Thor what she thinks.

The host of the Political Punks Podcast, Brett Smith, has been a professional comic book creator for nearly three decades. He has witnessed the pervasiveness of woke propaganda within the industry:

“For 80 years, comic books have been a form of entertainment within pop culture, providing pure escapism through stories of good and evil and high adventure—they have always been, essentially, American mythology. However, over the last 15 years, they were hijacked by Cultural Marxists and subverted to become vehicles to push social justice, wokeism, and communism. American comic books are just another cultural institution which the left have taken over, like Hollywood, because they understand how powerful the medium of visual storytelling is.”

Of course, today’s woke culture crafters accrue a more worldly benefit from retconning: it lowers the bar by which their own insipid efforts can be judged. By serving as a prophylactic that shields criticism of their own dull, derivative, politicized works; these woke hacks’ retcons are worth their weight in gold. Given the publishers and studios are chocked up with the woke, they all have a vested interest in continuing the retcon revolution—the fans and revenues be damned. To the woke, other people’s accomplishments and money are the preferred burnt offerings on the altar of the D.I.E. cult.

As Smith underscores, retconning is the perfect tool for the woke to transmogrify long-loved heroes into haters, and their storied deeds into exploitative excesses of [fill-in-the-blank]ism, worthy only of contempt.

While such is all unwell and (no) good for the arts, we well know it doesn’t end there. The woke are not merely retconning comic books; they are actively retconning our understanding of our republic and its history.

Ponder the fate of the ultimate iconic American hero, George Washington. By virtue of being human, Washington cannot be perfect. But, in their Manichean minds, the woke have endeavored to deconstruct him by focusing on the historical fact that he owned slaves. Everything else Washington may have done throughout his life to lead the revolutionary fight for human freedom and guide our nascent republic are rendered meaningless. The left can’t deface or destroy his statues fast enough.

As the woke deconstruct Washington into a stock white supremacist villain, he joins other American icons being denigrated, such as Jefferson, and even Lincoln and Grant who led the bloody struggle to emancipate the slaves.  Since the founding generation is fatally flawed, so too is America. Just like Washington, for America, no deed, however valiant, can overcome the “systemic failure” that is our hateful nation in the jaundiced eyes of the projecting left. 

The woke’s retconned republic narrative’s messaging strategy to the citizenry is elementary in its insidiousness: ‘when you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.’ As with Mao’s Cultural Revolution, wherein the “four olds” – old ideas, old culture, old habits, old customs – had to be eradicated, the left’s current leitmotif is to revise and eradicate the past to mold the future. If one’s past is shameful and filled with suffering, it makes it easier to embrace the future – regardless of what it may hold. 

Thus, by denigrating beloved figures and America, the woke left has not only lowered the bar on the failed policies it has implemented to date, it has lowered the resistance to future implementations of its cultural Marxism and socialist agenda. As more and more segments of the citizenry prove susceptible to believing in the retconned republic, they are made to feel they have nothing to left to lose by going Left. 

In this light, the 1619 Project is nothing less than a woke retcon of our American republic. After all, as Merriam-Webster notes: “Essentially, a retcon allows an author to have his or her cake and eat it too, as it enables the return of dead characters, the revision of unpopular elements of a work, and a general disregard for reality” [emphasis mine]. 

It is the only way the woke left can aim to fundamentally transform the most free, prosperous, and powerful nation in human history. They must propagate the big lie that America is evil to con the citizenry into buying into a socialist, authoritarian agenda that has miserably and murderously failed throughout human history. Talk about “a general disregard for reality.”

Take a tip from the country’s fan base: Americans will not be retconned into believing our free republic is anything less than what one flawed, heroic human being proclaimed her to be: “the last best hope of earth.”

The product of a misspent youth, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) is a guitarist, author, occasional radio co-host, and recovering politician.