Danny O'Brien quotes Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle: "What happens to libraries? they burn," a pretty nihilistic-sounding comment if it's taken to be a comment on Iraqi libraries burning.

And Cory Doctorow points to a librarian's-eye critique of blithe, "oh, just reprint it all" dismissals of burning by people who "should know better."

But so far, all I can actually find about this "quote" from Brewster Kahle, is this ancient (1996!) Slate article on the looming, Borges-ian threat of a web archive, i.e., never being able to forget anything, ever. According to the oh-so-long-ago peace, love and cyber-utopian understanding paradise that was 1996, this kind of (admittedly traumatic) institutional slate-wiping is necessary "to rid yourself of the past so you can go forward.''

Perhaps the rhetoric's just a bit, er, overheated. It was 1996, after all. But now that we've actually had a good, old-fashioned library-burnin' or two, are we prepared to entertain the possibility that an ahistoricist, culture-be-damned imperialism may actually be boldly revolutionary and forward-thinking? Just playin' Rumsfeld's advocate here...

4/22 Update/Clarification/Retraction: If your main goal is just email *volume*, you probably can't do better than to unintentionally sound like you're slamming/questioning netgods Brewster Kahle and Danny O'Brien. If, however, you actually *care* what people think, and you also happen to be a longtime worshipper/groupie of said gods, you should quickly add context when it's provided.

More later, (gotta drop the car off for service) but start by checking Danny's original interview with Kahle, and the original quote, which is much better than the abbreviated version (and not just because it calls a spade a spade on the Bush library burning issue).

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: April 21, 2003.

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