Le Grand Frère

The French national library has airbrushed out the cigarette from Jean-Paul Satre’s mouth in a photograph in the French National Library.

For a country that prides itself on centuries of culture, the way in which the French National Library has simply thrown Sartre’s cigarette down the memory hole should be extremely disturbing. The Stalin-like revision of history in this case may be minor, but the consequences of something like that happening unchallenged are nothing less than disastrous. The comparisons to Orwell are clear, and in this case quite apt.

The Belmont Club‘s article also contains this interesting nugget of information:

But so powerful a technique as historical revisionism would tempt others to purposeful use, not only for the relatively harmless purpose of eliminating cigarettes from the likeness of Jean Paul Sarte, but for political gain. Certainly the machinery was in place to do this. An Oxblog link to Wikipedia reminds us that the BBC’s annual budget of $10 billion “rivals that of NASA. It is greater than the gross domestic product of more than half the world’s nations and ranks behind the budgets of only the twelve governments of the wealthiest nations on the planet.”

Granted, the BBC (fortunately) exists in a competitive marketplace in which citizens of the UK can get their news from SkyTV, CNN International, etc. However, every citizen of the UK must have a TV license — having a TV and refusing to pay can land you with fines or jail time, regardless of whether one watches the BBC or not. The BBC is an organ of the state despite its nominally independent charter, and the recent cases of the BBC’s institutional bias and arrogance illustrate why such a system is so undesirable.

As Satayana wrote, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it — what would he think of a society in which history that conflicts with the current political status quo simply disappears?

3 thoughts on “Le Grand Frère

  1. I seem to recall hearing of FDR photos with the cigarette airbrushed out here in America. To suggest that France is ahead of the U.S. in anti-smoking hysteria is a pretty desperate attempt to make them look bad.

  2. It’s bad regardless of who does it.

    France doesn’t need any help looking bad. With their history, I’m pretty amazed they don’t just airbrush out the last 2 centuries.

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