Saturday, February 25, 2006

Archiving Edits; Rewriting History

In the last post, yesterday, I spoke about my desire that edits to remove racist or politically incorrect material from songs or cultural items should not totally remove the evidence that the racism or politically inflammatory attitude existed. That amounts to rewriting history, and is uncomfortably like the "Newspeak" in George Orwell's novel 1984, where the totalitarian government casually changes history for its own convenience and requires all citizens to go along.

In my cheerful ignorance, I was just thinking about rewriting songs and changing websites. Those are, indeed problems and worth thinking about. I spoke with my Advanced Legal Research class last week about why we always want to include the date last visited in citations to websites: the web changes so fast that the site is very likely to have changed between the time YOU cite to the page and the time I go to look at it myself. One saving grace is the Internet Archive ( Yay! and its entertaining WayBack Machine.

However, there is a much more unnerving rewrite of history underway. See the link above at George Washington University, National Security Archive website. This is a report on a secret program by the Pentagon and the intelligence community in the U.S. to reclassify a huge number of documents that had been previously declassified. This is really worrisome to government documents librarians. It ought to be worrisome to lawyers, law librarians generally, and to all citizens! Plus, it is really stupid, and makes our government look like incompetent dopes! Many of the documents that they are carefully stamping Classified and putting away again have been copied and distributed around the world, reproduced in textbooks and on the web. They can't be put back in the box. (Thank heavens, I say). How silly they look, though, trying to mark them Classified, after that. It is rather like old King Canute who tried to order the tide back. Many thanks to Matthew Aid, who seems to be spearheading this project! You can join -- please take a look at the website, read the report and any links that are still working (the newspaper reports might have closed up). Excellent and very important issue!

The decoration above is a play poster designed for a theater company, from the website:

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