Saturday, July 18, 2009

Good Morning, Big Brother!

I love my Kindle. I really do. It is with me, in my purse, wherever I go. A ten minute wait for a doctor's appointment? Waiting for the oil to be changed in the car? Waiting for my friend, Pam, to show up for our Tuesday lunch at Sweet Tomatoes? In any such situation I reach for my Kindle, and the time flies by while I read a few pages of my current e-book.

One of the e-books I recently purchased was the Works of George Orwell. I really only wanted to re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four, since it had been years -- no, decades -- since I had read it. As I worked my way, once again, through this book that gave us the terms "Big Brother," "Newspeak," and "thought crime" I realized that I had forgotten how depressing and, in ways, terrifying this story really was.

The protagonist in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a character named Winston Smith, who works for the Ministry of Truth. His job is to change history, by making events and information appear or disappear, based on the directions of the Ministry of Truth; for rewriting the past, the Party contends, is vital to control over the present:

"This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date."

Imagine my surprise, this morning, when I awoke to learn that Amazon had electronically pulled George Orwell books from Kindle owners' library of purchases. YES! They removed the book. It disappeared! No record remained of having purchased these books. History had been "brought up to date!"

Amazon's explanation? They say the book was added to their store by a third party that did not actually have rights to sell the books. Imagine, if you will, how you would feel to learn that someone from Barnes and Nobel sneaked into your house during the night and removed a book from your shelf.

Can you miss the irony that they were Orwell's works that were eliminated? To borrow a Newspeak phrase, what a doubleplusungood development this is!

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