Why I Support the Internet Archive
It is a rare opportunity, indeed, to be able to speak out when something like this happens. And, while I am honored to be able to do it, the most important part of this is that I impress upon you an inalienable truth.
Humanity has lost countless priceless treasures, literary, and other works of art, all in the blaze of one single thing: fire. The Maya codices were destroyed by fire, maliciously, by people who wanted to erase my people’s great history. The Nazis sought to destroy my very identity, my very family, in the firing of books, and bodies.
Now I stand here; now. And I watch as another force— this time, for once, ignorant of the damage it may do— tries to set ablaze yet another library. I have to stop you. And I have to ask you, please. For the love of God— for the love of humanity, itself. Stop.
Publishers: please. Put down your torches. The Internet Archive is the modern-day Library of Alexandria. You are not to set this beauty ablaze.
Without the library, I would have been completely unable to defend myself from my attackers. I am trans. I am intersex. I am multi-racial. And I am Jewish.
Stuck at home during the Pandemic, with every library closed, The Internet Archive was my only solution. And, beset on all sides by white supremacists, who wanted to defame me, destroy me, and wipe me from the pages of history, do you know what I used the Internet Archive for?
I used the Internet Archive to research all the methods that white supremacists use to indoctrinate; to obfuscate; to confuse, and manipulate. I used the library to arm myself with the weapon that is knowledge. And, in doing so, now, I am safe.
I have learned, thanks to this precious— priceless— resource, how to combat white supremacy. I have learned how to defeat their rhetoric. When you know the tools of your enemy, you can begin to learn how to defeat them. Without the library, I would have no recourse— no Path, towards victory.
Without the Internet Archive, I would be wholly unable to defend myself. I would still be awash in a sea of confusion, not able to formulate a defense. But the Internet Archive saved me.
In peacetime, I’ve used the Archive for many things. I have used it for researching the hateful actions of homophobes; transphobes; sexists, and racists. And I have pulled from their Web Archive information about 9/11 that was completely erased from the clear web: a video, previously thought completely lost, of the attack on the Twin Towers. And that one was used in doctoral research, illuminating a single facet of that terrible day.
When my online home, Arcadium, was destroyed, the only people who had any evidence that it ever existed, was the Archive. They had scans of magazines, where Arcadium was advertised. They had copies of legal documentations, proving that it existed. Even when it was wiped from what I thought were the pages of history, from time itself, the Archive remembered. And it aided me. Always.
Who I am is not important. I do not place great weight in my own words. However, if you must know: I am a writer whose works, over the past 16 years, have had something close to, at the very minimum, 5 million readers. And I have always given my work away, for free.
I am a writer by profession. I was a musician, as a child: a concert pianist. People paid money to see me. Now, on the Internet Archive, I give my works away, for free. And do you know why?
Because I wanted my work to be saved forever. Not for selfish reasons; but because I wanted you, the reader, to do with it what you liked. I wanted you to have this. I wanted to share my art with you— forever.
I have seen so many priceless works of art, eternally destroyed. I would not do such a thing, myself, by selfishly guarding my works; by hiding them behind capitalistic practices, and forcing people to pay money to view, and experience them. Before the Pandemic, I could walk into any library, pick up any book, or any music CD, and I could experience them, for free. Why should this be any different when I do it, online?
My work, I should note, is not so important that I would compare it to the Maya Codices. But, there are texts, videos, songs, and media, on the Archive, that no one else has. And if those are destroyed, we lose, AGAIN, irrevocably, another priceless piece of human history.
As humanity progresses, you will come to know that your most-valuable resource, after the trust and love you have for each other, is the knowledge and the experience(s) that you have shared. You will come to know that, until humanity joins together, and unites, sharing what they have learned with one another, you will never reach the heights that you all so desperately seek.
Until the day comes that all hardware is open— all software is, too— and all information is free, humanity will never be free.
It will always be beholden to a small class of people with the money and the power to burn libraries, whether they are physical, or digital.
So I say to you, Publishers: Put down your torches. You are not Nazis.
You do not wish to burn books.