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Cheers - AE

Friday, 26 March 2010

Met Office memory hole - UPDATED

I wish I could say I'm shocked by this but it'd be a lie. I'm sure they're not the only type of holes in the building.
On July 23, 2009 the UK Met Office issued their infamous winter forecast, ahead of the coldest winter in 50 years. It read:
“…Early indications are that winter temperatures are likely to be near or above average over much of Europe including the UK. For the UK, Winter 2009/10 is likely to be milder *(and wetter) than last year “.


I remember reading the article on the Met Office web site at the time. But something funny happened on December 30, 2009. The Met Office over wrote that link with a new article titled “Forecast for the rest of Winter 2009/10″ which has no mention of the original prediction. It now reads:
…for the rest of winter, over northern Europe including the UK, the chance of colder conditions is now 45%; there is a 30% chance of average and a 25% chance of milder conditions.
Their original warm winter forecast seems to have been scrubbed from the web site, and there are no longer any press releases dated July 23.
Of course after Climategate this probably isn't a surprise to anyone, but it's still quite disturbing. Naturally a couple of Watts Up With That commenters have mentioned the obvious Orwellian link, the memory hole, which was the first thing that I thought of when I saw the post. I'm sure a lot of people have heard of the memory hole concept in 1984 but when you think of how things on the internet can simply be changed from saying one thing to saying another the passage in the book that describes Winston Smith at work is worth re-reading.
Winston examined the four slips of paper which he had unrolled. Each contained a message of only one or two lines, in the abbreviated jargon -- not actually Newspeak, but consisting largely of Newspeak words -- which was used in the Ministry for internal purposes. They ran:

times 17.3.84 bb speech malreported africa rectify

times 19.12.83 forecasts 3 yp 4th quarter 83 misprints verify current issue

times 14.2.84 miniplenty malquoted chocolate rectify

times 3.12.83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling

With a faint feeling of satisfaction Winston laid the fourth message aside. It was an intricate and responsible job and had better be dealt with last. The other three were routine matters, though the second one would probably mean some tedious wading through lists of figures.

Winston dialled 'back numbers' on the telescreen and called for the appropriate issues of The Times, which slid out of the pneumatic tube after only a few minutes' delay. The messages he had received referred to articles or news items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, as the official phrase had it, to rectify. For example, it appeared from The Times of the seventeenth of March that Big Brother, in his speech of the previous day, had predicted that the South Indian front would remain quiet but that a Eurasian offensive would shortly be launched in North Africa. As it happened, the Eurasian Higher Command had launched its offensive in South India and left North Africa alone. It was therefore necessary to rewrite a paragraph of Big Brother's speech, in such a way as to make him predict the thing that had actually happened. Or again, The Times of the nineteenth of December had published the official forecasts of the output of various classes of consumption goods in the fourth quarter of 1983, which was also the sixth quarter of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. Today's issue contained a statement of the actual output, from which it appeared that the forecasts were in every instance grossly wrong. Winston's job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones. As for the third message, it referred to a very simple error which could be set right in a couple of minutes. As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a 'categorical pledge' were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.

As soon as Winston had dealt with each of the messages, he clipped his speakwritten corrections to the appropriate copy of The Times and pushed them into the pneumatic tube. Then, with a movement which was as nearly as possible unconscious, he crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames.
1984 was, as has been said about a bazillion times, supposed to be a warning, not a fucking instruction manual. It's ironic that the reason these bastards are getting caught doing this sort of thing is because they don't control the internet, the medium they're trying to give the memory hole treatment, and it just takes one nosy blogger to notice and post this sort of thing for other bloggers to read and spread. How on earth did they think this would go unnoticed? Must be more than one type of hole in the building.

UPDATE - Actually it's a bazillion and one times thanks to I know this is getting away from memory holes but it's still a fair point.
Aaron Evans is another cautionary tale against bragging. Evidently fearing that someone might take false credit for his illegal deeds, Evans had his full name and birth date tattooed on the back of his neck. This was a particularly poor decision considering he was a car thief from the UK--the place which treats Orwell's 1984 as a set of instructions concerning video surveillance.
And that was pretty moronic idea for a tattoo.


JuliaM said...

You mean, they don't control the Internet yet...

Anyone doubt someone somewhere is working on just that?

Angry Exile said...

As per yesterday's long post, his name is Stephen Conroy and he works in an office in Canberra. ;-)

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