A public danger

We learn, from an article in Atlantic magazine, that the idiots have published 129,864,880 old-fashioned printed books. And this was as of August 2010; there must be more by now. By “the idiots” I of course refer to humankind, and express the view of all the other animals, who inwardly laugh at our madness, though not all the time. (Alone with a human in a confined space, they may instead be terrified.)

Apparently, Messrs Google got the idea of digitally copying every one, and making each available “at one click” through the Internet, for a modest fee. They got 25 million books and 400 million dollars into the project, before the lawyers stopped them, and now this linguistic stargate is locked away, like the chemical weapons in Syria, waiting for a more appropriate moment to come out again.

Thank God for lawyers. They went to work on behalf of that unsilent class of over-literate intellectuals, who were happy enough for Google to pay, but outraged that they might benefit. They were demanding a vast new tax-paid bureaucracy to regulate everything, and redistribute the income from dead authors to live ones (i.e. themselves). Having cost Google a few more million in legal fees, and having won the support of the malicious clowns in the Obama Justice Department, they tied the project up in so much tape and string, that the corporation finally cut its losses.

This, so far as I can see, is the only use for the progressive Left. By bundling every one of their crazed, idealistic schemes with minute, Kafkaesque requirements, they eventually defeat themselves. All Google’s opponents spastically declared in favour of the project “in principle.” But it would have to be done to their unworkable specifications. A beautiful “own goal” by the devils.

Whereas, I would oppose the principle itself. Nine in ten books should never have been published (at a very conservative estimate), and cannot be forgotten quickly enough. I note that merely turning the pages, to feed the cameras, required an army of the unskilled, working at sausage-factory speed. Clever algorithms were written to correct their sloppy work, and straighten the images of the pages. Lorry-loads of books from the participating libraries were driven through — innocent books that had never disturbed the peace of the world, quietly serving their turn as interior decoration, were subjected to this indignity. How many lovely old leather spines were cracked in the process?

Books should be treated with care. They contain innumerable errors, of doctrine and of fact. Incarcerated in physical libraries they may seem harmless, these days. Hardly anyone goes there. But caution is required in the use of them, and all those currently in vogue should be handled with tongs. Were it up to me, we would restore the Catholic Index, and ban all newly-published books without exception, for at least fifty years, allowing any heat in them to cool. Then, a committee of hoary and senescent elders could let a few through, having determined that they constituted no threat to public morality.

Though to be fair, making every book ever published easily available to anyone, is perhaps the next best thing. For it would reduce a grave public danger to just another desert of pixels.