Q. Journalists complain about documents being redacted. What does that mean?
A. The short answer is I can’t tell you
Q.Is there a longer answer?
Q. My mother said if I asked politely that you would tell me.
A. And you are?
Q. Think of me as a tumbling drop of rain. Or the chuckle of a small stream. Or the cry of a loon. Or the oopsie from a hippopoopsie.
A. Geezy fareeking weezy.The longer answer: redact means to edit. And edit, of course, means to viciously cut out. Like a rogue heart surgeon who cuts out your heart and hands it to a Russian mobster who bobbles it, drops it, hollers piiiizdets, blyaaaa, picks it up within the five second rule, blows a hair off it, washes it off in vodka for good measure, and sells it on ebay.
Q. Where does that leave the guy without the heart?
A. Feeling blue, wishing he were young again, and basically, as stiff as a board of directors.
Q. Can you give me a less bloody example of redacting?
A. Let’s say I wrote:
I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree
An editor would cut certain words and substitute others, making the writer feel as if his heart has been cut out, dropped on the floor and hit up for spare change by unemployed hair. The line then reads:
I am a tree hugger.
Q. But isn’t redacting done by the CIA or the NSA or the NFL?
A. If the government or Roger Goodell thinks you might jeopardize national security or the ability of the commissioner to do his numbers, the redactor blots out sensitive language with a black Sharpie. In the example above, a redacted sentence might look like this:
I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree
All you are able to see is:
I…I shall see a…a…
And people would say something like “This guy calls himself a poet? This doesn’t even rhyme.”
Q. What if the Sharpie is all dried out because someone left the cap off?
A. That is a class C felony. Three to five in the federal big house without crayons. It’s the same statute that makes it a crime to tear the label off a mattress—in case you’re hiding under the bed and feeling bored–or to charge your brother-in-law admission to your living room to watch a football game without the express written consent of the commissioner.
Q. Do they ever use green or brown or periwinkle Sharpies?
A. I’d like to answer that but then I’d have to redact you.
Q. Does redacting do any good? Or is it just censorship for censorship’s sake?
A. Oh, for Pete’s sake. Ask an intelligent question.
Q. All right. If John left Cleveland on a train going east at 75 miles an hour and Ed left Buffalo in a huff because Rex Ryan was hired as the new coach of the Bills, how long would it take to run that by me again?
A. I think I hear the cry of a loon.
Q. So, anyway, who was Red?
A. Obviously, Red was a boy who acted. One presumes he acted badly because if his acting was any good he would have won an Emmy or an Oscar and become appropriately aloof and condescending. And then the word Redacted would have been Redacted like anass.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2015, all rights reserved.