US Dept. of Education to erase website info which "does not reflect the priorities, philosophies, or goals of the present administration."
October 10, 2002 10:46 PM   Subscribe

US Dept. of Education to erase website info which "does not reflect the priorities, philosophies, or goals of the present administration." Can you say 1984? Say it now....OVER and OVER and OVER again so you can GET USED TO IT......a brutal, clever strategy of the Bush rewrite reality: erase problematic info and then channel money to people willing to produce the right stuff. Samizdat opportunity -- use a website capture program: WebWhacker costs $, but there are freeware site suckers available too. Orwell is turning in his grave.....Download and archive this stuff before it gets erased. Remember, Information Wants to Be Free!...or does it?
posted by troutfishing (8 comments total)
HTTrack is a free one.
posted by trioperative at 11:11 PM on October 10, 2002

Those of you using Unix variants... wget and curl aren't half bad for mirroring sites.

The trick for me is figuring out where to put 30 years of ERIC archives...
posted by namespan at 11:21 PM on October 10, 2002

Thanks for the links, troutfishing.
posted by walrus at 6:55 AM on October 11, 2002

Obviously this is disappointing, but unless there's a statutory responsibility to keep the stuff on the website it's not illegal; and nothing here says the information itself is being "deleted" or "erased" from Education Department records. The reorganization is not wholly for policy reasons but because it's literally outdated -- like a 1999 calendar -- or lost, so to speak, in previous reorganizations. One of the key documents listed is the ERIC digests -- but the article says they're still available on ERIC's own website.

This is indeed new territory and it appears there is little legislative guidance. The White House website was wiped clean in January 2001; older versions are available through the National Archives, but it appears this is because it's specifically required by law. Certainly (as I complained at the time) it's a huge annoyance that they started fresh, invalidating thousands of URLs pointing at, but the information itself was retained. For lesser agencies, though, the "memory hole" will continue. What if an agency is eliminated during a particular administration, either through executive order (many were established that way) or Congressional mandate? Should the website continue to exist? What would happen to the information? The physical records will go somewhere, but won't be nearly accessible as they were, if only due to the lack of staff. Is it really the sense of the nation that all policy documents should be retained indefinitely? Will Democrats be happy to keep Republican documents around? They'll certainly be made less accessible. Consider that a Google search could take you directly to an internal document; if you navigated there, you'd know it's obsolete, but Google doesn't tell you "this is from the Clinton administration, and as such probably has little current relevancy". The State Department's approach has been to retain a great deal of material, some of it perfunctory, some of it high-level policy -- but with a disclaimer that it was the product of a previous administration. If you Google to a page which has the Secretary of State praising the Foreign Minister of Qumar1, who has since been determined to be a terrorist puppetmaster, and assassinated, and with whose country we are now close to war, has the public been well and duly served?

1 Qumar is a fictional country on The West Wing.

It's likely that this should be something that Congress should ponder and develop guidelines for. Without guidelines, the administration is pretty much free to set their own. We still have a system of checks and balances; if the legislative branch deems it important, or a FOIA request wends its way to the Supreme Court, that discretion can be overruled.

So cut the Orwell shit. Pretty much a red flag that you're not trying to discuss this seriously.
posted by dhartung at 10:59 AM on October 11, 2002

the questions isn't about legality. it is about the "administration" trying to control the mentality/policy/philosophy of the citizen and where better to start than in the department of inculcation. add to that, also trying, somewhat, to cover any proof that anything else might have existed. that sounds very Orwellian to me...
posted by memnock at 9:22 AM on October 12, 2002

So you're upset that a government propaganda outlet is switching to different propaganda? As if the articles being removed were not originally chosen for their alignment with the philosophy of the then-current administration?

Remember, just because it's on the Web doesn't mean it's information.
posted by kindall at 12:02 PM on October 12, 2002

maybe the current department of education is just removing old, out-of-date, *inaccurate* information leftover from the Clinton administration? don't think there's anything nefarious about that...
posted by jasontromm at 2:07 PM on October 12, 2002

maybe the current department of education is just removing old, out-of-date, *inaccurate* information leftover from the Clinton administration?

This is a good point until you read the linked material, after which you should have some healthy questions to ask, instead ....

dhartung, your questions could be overcome with the simple response of adding some relevancy information into those websites. Something along the lines of a meta-tag should do it (eg "last updated on", "information owner", possibly even pointers to updated info). If it's big enough of a worry to waste money developing new websites every four years, its worth considering cheaper strategies which maintain the old info and add your updates. It may be helpful for an imcumbent administration to point to the policy of a previous administration in order to point out their errors, for instance.

The cost-benefit ratio can be adjusted by adding some simple rules, but the big question here relates to accountability: why should I even start to believe you, if you're making a special effort deny me access to what your predecessors said?
posted by walrus at 7:40 AM on October 18, 2002

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