Posts tagged ‘[comment removed]’

May 9, 2012

[Orwell Removed]

At some point last year I wrote a short text entitled [comment removed] (complete with brackets). It grew out of an exchange on Facebook between myself and a couple of friends. I had (rather crudely) made fun of something that one posted to the other. So my friend deleted my comment and posted the aforementioned comment in brackets. What I found interesting about his intervention is that it did not completely obliterate my mockery. Someone who didn’t know what had happened could see, by the fact that the words [comment removed] stood there, that a number of things had happened. It made me think of the subversive nature of these words. One could, after the fact, just as easily assume that the moderator (my friend) was unjust in removing my comments, and therefore the phrase [comment removed] indicated an injustice done. One that cannot be named, but is present.

(Can you tell that I am currently reading Derrida?)

Anyway, the text that I ended up writing about this was not in fact about the subversive nature of the phrase. It was about my inability to shut up and let things go. In discussing the text that actually got written, someone asked me if I was now going to write something about the original idea: the subversive nature of [comment removed]? It had slipped my mind since then.

And then I ran across this passage in George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

There was a new rule that censored portions of a newspaper must not be left blank but filled up with other matter; as a result it was often impossible to tell when something had been cut out.

This is what I had been thinking about with the phrase [comment removed]. Orwell is talking about the his last days in Barcelona, just before he is driven out by the Stalinists for his association with the POUM (considered Trotskyist). It’s almost as if he’s complaining that this new form of censorship is somehow dishonest, hiding the very fact of censorship. Implying that there is a better, a fair, a friendly form of censorship (indeed in my case, one done by a friend). A censorship which erases, but leaves evidence of its own activity, one where the blank space tells the reader that there has been some heavy-handed editing. Orwell is indicating an increase in repression, an undercutting of subversion.

The blank space is subversive. And rather than prove it positively, here is negative proof (a proof by absence, one might say) that it is so. If it were not subversive, the government would not have instituted this new rule.

Perhaps in a year’s time, when I get around to it, I’ll write something about Georgie Orwell.