The Vanishing

Anthony Kaufman writes that the commercial demise of VHS videotape has caused scores of lesser-known films to effectively vanish from the culture.

This is occurring because studios can’t be bothered to prep expensive DVD-quality masters for some of the more obscure material in their back catalogs, a decision that’s a business choice made increasingly understandable in a turbulent economy. But meanwhile, as Walter Olson mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago on PJM Political, great chunks of childrens’ books published prior to 1985 are vanishing from used book stores and library shelves, as a result of heavy-handed government legislation.


G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the past is the “democracy of the dead”, but as Mark Steyn wrote in 2005, “A nation’s collective memory is the unseen seven-eighths of the iceberg. When you sever that, what’s left just bobs around on the surface, unmoored in every sense.” And our already present-tense culture is risking a history that could be shrinking even more at a surprising rate.

Update: So what small slice of 20th century history does at least one legislator want to see vanish next? Barbie. No, really!


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