The Memory Hole
August 6, 2002 8:42 AM   Subscribe

The Memory Hole " Last month the Office of Management and Budget got sloppy: it issued a press release stating flatly that tax cuts were responsible for only 15 percent of the 10-year deterioration. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noticed, and I reported it here. Now for the fun part. The O.M.B. reacted angrily, and published a letter in The Times attacking me. It attributed the misstatement to "error," and declared that it had been "retracted." Was it? It depends on what you mean by the word "retract." As far as anyone knows, O.M.B. didn't issue a revised statement conceding that it had misinformed reporters and giving the right numbers. It simply threw the embarrassing document down the memory hole."

I'd like to propose a new word, "rovian."
posted by nofundy (10 comments total)
For a whole Swiss cheese of Memory Holes. How Gas Companies Manipulate Prices is an interesting article. You knew it was true.
posted by michaelonfs at 10:46 AM on August 6, 2002

Um... what would the term "rovian" mean, nofundy... and how is this related to the article? I think I'm missing something here.

I love using new words, so fill me in.

Right now, I'm just digging on the "memory hole" term. Very fun turn of phrase.
posted by silusGROK at 11:42 AM on August 6, 2002

Rovian as in Karl Rove, who has a tendency to avoid spin and go straight to denial and cover-up.
posted by mogwai at 11:45 AM on August 6, 2002

When even the IMF, of all sources, calls bullshit on your accounting tricks and no one pays attention then you pretty much have a free ride to lie at will.
The IMF doubts are expressed in a low-key way; and others have made many of these points before. But coming from such a widely-respected source--and one outside the political fray in the US--such an assessment should be difficult to ignore, although the IMF analysis has so far received remarkably little attention in the American media. If the IMF had called into question the most important economic policy initiative of Japan, Germany or Russia, there is little doubt that its criticisms would have received much wider coverage. Americans, worried about the outlook in the next few months, or even weeks, may be ignoring a ticking time-bomb that seems certain to go off in the next few years, just in time for Mr Bush-;s re-election campaign.

posted by euphorb at 11:47 AM on August 6, 2002

Thanks Mogwai... I completely missed it.
posted by silusGROK at 11:51 AM on August 6, 2002

Thanks for the link, michaelonfs--I didn't know about The Memory Hole site. Now that's an example of why I came here in the first place.
posted by y2karl at 11:53 AM on August 6, 2002

As Brendan Nyhan pointed out in Salon, if you go to the O.M.B.'s Web site now you find a press release dated July 12 that is not the release actually handed out on that date. There is no indication that anything has been changed, but the bullet point on sources of the deficit is gone.

This brings up an interesting point about the web. It's possible for an organization (the O.M.B. in this case) to alter the history of their communications by altering an online archive of those communications. It would be one thing if they insisted that there had been no July 12th press release; this could be easily contradicted by reporters who have archived their copy of the press release. By altering the online archive of their own press releases, the O.M.B. has accomplished a much more subtle deception: a casual observer will never notice an inconsistency, and reporters relying on the web won't have a trustworthy archive of information.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:03 PM on August 6, 2002

What about the Google cache, and other web archiving spiders? Won't that provide a check on such weasels?

Or would they just end up being compromised by the thugs in power, wielding a bat labeled "national security"?

(In other words, if the gov't wants to deep-six info it had previously published on the web, they just cry "national security" behind the scenes and have all official archives wiped)
posted by beth at 12:33 PM on August 6, 2002

What about the Google cache, and other web archiving spiders? Won't that provide a check on such weasels.

The Google cache (or the site) isn't as fail-safe as a couple of observers, or better, the kind of people who download pages that interest them, rather than just bookmarking them. The problem's that you just don't know who's going to rewrite their own history. (On the other hand, MS Word's 'show revisions' is very good when it comes to dealing with government documents.) But until the web works like, say, the content management system at a newspaper, where every revision gets noted and attributed, we're at the mercy of people with eyes for detail.
posted by riviera at 1:25 PM on August 6, 2002

Oh, I thought you were talking about this Memory Hole, which includes a link to this, which contains this
posted by interrobang at 2:18 PM on August 6, 2002

« Older   |   Bravo, MetaFilter Grammar Posse! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments