2: DMA (77)
There was a time when all I ever did, all I ever wanted to do, was sit around and read, listen to music, watch TV. It’s so much easier to do when you’re young, when you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. You’re basically putting off whatever it is that you’re planning for the rest of your days. When you’re older, all of those other things get in the way. Between work, family, and sleep, there’s little room for that relaxation time — to fill your mind up with great stories or music or aesthetics. But I’d try anyway.
We all have our favorite movies, books, or albums. I’d come home from a long day at work and the first thing I’d do is hook into the Knowledgebase and sit on the couch. I’d surf for something to watch, something to distract me and hold my attention so I didn’t really have to think, but somehow I’d still engage in the story of whatever it was. When it was time to do chores like clean the house or wash the dishes, I’d turn on our music collection from the cloud service. When I did want to think, we had our tablets that we could download whatever story or book that we could imagine.
It was an odd day when they started disappearing. I could be in the middle of a book and it would simply vanish. Erased. No cache version on the tablet, just streamed directly from the Knowledgebase.
This was something known as the Dissident Materials Act (DMA).
And it wasn’t even so much that these things were disappearing from the Knowledgebase, right as I was attempting to engage the material; it was more that they came to our door and asked to inspect our house. Every Wednesday.
That first Wednesday, the licensed inspector showed up and checked every room. Under beds. Lou was his name. The inspector, I mean. Lou, he told me that he worked for the Bureau of Dissident Materials – a subsidiary of the Office of Strategic Services. He told us that the gentlemen with rifles who were accompanying him were only there to ensure compliance. Lou said that he was really sorry about this, but that he was just doing his job. Some other schmuck in the same uniform was off right at that exact moment doing the same thing to his home.
At first, my wife and I, we didn’t want to let them in. We didn’t really understand what was going on, but it was happening to all the neighbors. That’s why we let it happen. When men in uniforms show up with guns, saying that they’d like to erase our entertainment collection or we’d face charges of treason and life in prison, we let them do what they want. We let them walk all over us because everyone else was allowing it. We were told that further consumption would be considered a violation of the DMA, and that a licensed inspector would be coming by every Wednesday.
“Further consumption.” As if that were possible once they’d finished. Sure, I could visit a secondhand store or a used book place, but that doesn’t match the convenience of downloading or streaming directly from the Knowledgebase. It’s all out there, in the cloud, and somewhere there’s some editor shaping it.
Didi liked books though. She liked them because they were difficult to find, which made the act of reading one of these things all the more satisfying. She also liked the smell. Like some strange mixture of old vanilla and hamster cages, any time you open an old book it simply wafts out. Preservatives, maybe. Didi just loved it, and she tried to teach that love to our daughter, Sabrina.
One time Sabrina got in trouble at her pre-school for getting into a bit of a fight with some other kids — they were making fun of her. She was trying to tell a friend about the books that she and her mom would read; the others overheard the conversation and started to belittle Sabrina. Then one of the children started in on my wife’s nationality.
It wasn’t pretty when I had to go pick her up and even the teacher seemed to be judging me. But all that’s beside the point.
Besides the books, they confiscated a record player and a number of albums. They ransacked our computers, our external hard drives, and the Knowledgebase tablets. There were people there to judge the artwork on our walls, like old movie posters.
But at least the President could say that the OSS was creating jobs in a down economy, after all.
It was like garbage collection. Different neighborhoods had different days. In the first week, a surge of OSS employees combed over everyone’s houses. After that initial surge, the inspectors became fewer and fewer each week. Eventually it was just a visit from Lou every Wednesday. The inspections that came afterward weren’t nearly as invasive. He’d check out Knowledgebase histories, do a brief search through the house. And he really wasn’t a bad guy who was trying to control our thoughts the way you might think. I’m not even sure he’d report us if he found something — he’d probably just remove it from the house.
At first, there didn’t seem to be much of a penalty for harboring this so-called “dissident content,” and there didn’t seem to be a mandated group of people determining what was and was not labeled “dissident.” I assumed that there must be an ever-growing blacklist. In an age of transmitting machines, what’s the use of the page? And isn’t it easier to regulate a digital delivery system than to go about burning books?
I tried not to think about it too carefully, day-to-day. Our culture wants us to consume, just not to consume dissident materials; and so much had become labeled dissident. Made no sense from a capitalist standpoint — if you can market these materials and profit from them, that’s how the system should work. These people, they said they were capitalists. They wanted us to gorge.
After that first Wednesday, we went back to our bookshelves and our computers to see what was gone. The missing titles seemed scattershot — so it wasn’t exactly like we could tell what was on the blacklist. They certainly weren’t going to tell us what pieces of media might be on such a list — after all, they’d been erased. They didn’t exist anymore. It was at that point I went out to one of those secondhand stores and found a blank notebook. In the notebook I tried to list as many titles as I could remember.
Tags: erased, media, dissident materials