MINOT, N.D. — My daughter loves "The Office." So do I.
This summer we had a standing lunch date. I'd get the food ready, and then we'd sit down and watch an episode or two.
In the final season of the show, there's a scene where one of the characters, a white man, appears, briefly, in blackface. As we watched the episode, I was thinking about the conversation my daughter and I would have about blackface. The history of it, and why it's offensive.
Only, the scene never happened. Turns out, NBC (which owns the rights to the show) and Netflix (the medium on which we were watching it) have sent it down the memory hole.
Apparently, similar scenes were also cut from shows like "Community," "30 Rock" and "Scrubs."
This has become a trend. The streaming service HBO Max removed numerous episodes from several adult-oriented animated comedies available on its service, without any notice to the public, deeming them "problematic."
Even in the world of journalism, this ex post facto revisionism is happening.
Last year the New York Times launched what they called the 1619 Project, supposedly commemorating the 400-year anniversary of slaves coming to America. The special issue has since turned into a multimedia extravaganza.
The director of the project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, won a Pulitzer Prize. Oprah is developing for "an expansive portfolio of films, television series and documentaries, unscripted programming and other forms of entertainment," according to Deadline.
The project argues that America's "true founding" was not 1776 but 1619, and that slavery is central to American history. Except, 1619 wasn't the first year African slaves came to America, and that year "wasn’t particularly significant beyond being a tidy 400 years prior to the publication date" of the project, writes columnist Jonah Goldberg.
Academics, including many with decidedly left-wing politics, have criticized many of the assertions made in the project.
Even the Times has come to recognize that the project has some problems. They've now edited the piece to remove the "true founding" language. Yet they've made no public acknowledgment or explanation for the changes.
Just like NBC and Netflix and HBO, they removed "problematic" content, and the only reason we know is that some in the public noticed.
As more and more of our media — from journalism to sitcoms to adult cartoons — exists exclusively in a digital format the risk from this sort of self-serving manipulation and even censorship is very real.
Blackface is offensive, but does that mean scenes depicting it should be expunged from popular media, with no effort made to preserve what was? How will we learn from the mistakes of the past if we erase them from the public's consciousness?
What the Times has done is an even greater sin against veracity. The publication famously describes itself as the "newspaper of record."
But now they've taken to fudging the record.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.