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Big Brother At Work On White House Website

August 30, 2003


The alteration of the past is necessary for two reasons, one of which is subsidiary and, so to speak, precautionary. The subsidiary reason is that the Party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison. He must be cut off from the past, just as he must be cut off from foreign countries, because it is necessary for him to believe that he is better off than his ancestors and that the average level of material comfort is constantly rising. But by far the more important reason for the readjustment of the past is the need to safeguard the infallibility of the Party. It is not merely that speeches, statistics, and records of every kind must be constantly brought up to date in order to show that the predictions of the Party were in all cases right. It is also that no change in doctrine or in political alignment can ever be admitted. For to change one's mind, or even one's policy, is a confession of weakness. If, for example, Eurasia or Eastasia (whichever it may be) is the enemy today, that that country must always have been the enemy. And if the facts day otherwise then the facts must be altered. Thus history is continuously rewritten. This day-to-day falsification of the past, carried out by the Ministry of Truth, is as necessary to the stability of the regime as the work of repression and espionage carried out by the Ministry of Love.

- 1984, by George Orwell (Penguin edition, 1983), pp182-3.


In the past few days, it has been reported that the number of American military deaths in Iraq since May 1 now exceeds the number killed prior to that date. number of websites, notably The Memory Hole and Information Clearing House have drawn attention to a none too subtle rewriting of President George W. Bush's speech to troops aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

In that speech, Bush said: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."

In its coverage of Bush's speech the White House website headlined its reports: "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended".

In the past few weeks, these pages have apparently been altered to read: "President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended".


The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc. Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. For when it has bee recreated in whatever shape is needed at the moment, then this new version is the pasy, and no different past can ever have existed. This holds good even when, as often happens, the same event has to be altered out of recognition several times in the course of a year. At all times the Party is in possession of absolute truth, and clearly the absolute can never have been different from what it is now.

- 1984, by George Orwell (Penguin edition, 1983), pp182-3.


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