Google’s going to have a hard time assessing whether – under the new EU court ruling -- it needs to bury the links to people in the 28 EU nations who want the world to forget about their past infidelities, indebtedness, incarcerations, and mass incinerations.
There’s a lot of history there, including crimes committed during WWII, which won’t pertain to the new ruling because that conflict took place before the creation of the Internet. Too bad, because I sure would have liked to have seen email exchanges between Adolf and his squadron, although investigative journalist Edwin Black only a little more than ten years ago dug up records of IBM's Watson supplying Nazis punch card technology so they could whip through census records to identify and transport Jews to their death. The Nazis even organized their concentration camp train schedules using IBM punch cards and software.
Well, I’m sure this kind of information would evaporate from Google and other search engines were IBM to request a ban based on the irreparable harm these then-nonexistent links might inflict on its reputation, perhaps not in Europe but in the U.S. Well, maybe not even in the U.S., where it’s dubious whether IBM’s reputation as an innovative technology company could descend even further since it sold its hardware assets to the Chinese and hoards even more stillborn patents than does Intellectual Trollers (Ventures?).
WWII exacerbated the European’s need for privacy. Actually, it’s more like a passion for secrecy, which implies you might have done something morally awry or just plain illegal. Privacy just means you’d rather not share your life’s activities, such as the fact that you sprinkle high-fiber flakes on your scrambled eggs each morning and you love watching slash-and-burn flicks.
The U.S. had its own witch hunt periods as well: the Salem witch hunts for uppity women and the McCarthy witch hunts for labor union leaders, progressives, and people who today might be part of the Occupy movement. My first week at Reed College in 1963, I learned how to write a pamphlet with Bob Mandel, a fellow student and son of KPFA commentator and Soviet expert William Mandel, who challenged the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1960 by calling they themselves un-American: ”men who sit here in violation of the Constitution.”
So I have my own experience with witch hunts, but because I have always supported the hunted rather than the hunters, I would prefer to keep the records of their transgressions forever open. Otherwise, without a record of our crimes, albeit some might prove to be merely embarrassing peccadilloes, how will we be able to preserve history? And without history, how can we possibly continue to create a wise future?
The new EU ruling on link killing in search engines could kick our collective memory into a coma from which it would never again awake.