George Orwell wrote in 1984, “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. History has stopped.”
Stalin was famous for disappearing people from photographs and historical records as well as in real life. See for instance, https://www.history.com/news/josef-stalin-great-purge-photo-retouching, where they discuss people at the highest levels of organization, such as Avel Enukidze, Nikola Yezhov, and even Leon Trotsky who were erased in documents and photographs.
But with our First Amendment protections, are we completely safe from people trying to rewrite history? Of course, we applaud efforts to make history more accurate, but I, for one, want to know when they are doing it. I don’t want the old history just cancelled. Maybe it deserves to be in a museum. But I don’t want it disappeared, even to protect young minds.
We recently picked up a children’s book featuring Saint Nicholas and noticed that it was redrawn to remove his pipe because smoking does not model the right behavior for youngsters. Progressive progress or “woke” censorship? Every day we see a culture war swirl around us. We hear about political correctness, banning books, pronoun choices, trigger words, cancel culture, and so forth. I am not sure I trust anyone and I think history is on my side.
We recently were looking to purge a book from our personal library to save shelf space: The New York Times Page One: One Hundred Years of Headlines as Presented in the New York Times, but we hesitated and didn’t get rid of it because we were concerned that it might be edited in the future. Needlessly concerned? Probably. But still we were uneasy. With a word processor and Photoshop, it would be trivial to make history conform to someone else’s version of the truth. Today I don’t need to own a physical book or even its digital instantiation. I can just download it from the Cloud when I want it. Music also is streamed, and museum images are online. My control over personal snapshots of the truth is going away. It is all being swallowed by the metaverse. Indeed, I am reading about the metaverse on my Kindle.
But there is good news. Even in the digital world, we can capture snapshots of reality in ways that cannot be altered by using Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). It would seem to me that people who are worried about today’s truth, however imperfect, and it is imperfect, should take to capturing today’s media with NFTs. It may not be Truth, with a capital T, but it won’t be truth(t), that is truth which changes as a function of time. If someone wants to change it later, then must generate a new truth, a truth’, and we will all know it.
Red or Blue, Right of Left, put it on the block-chain.