Thursday, January 21, 2010

Alice In Wonderland: The Justice Department and The Sigmund Freud Archives -- An Insane Logic All Its Own

On Friday January 15, 2010, I received a visit from two federal law enforcement officers. They directed me never to write about a certain federal official on my blog. Yes, the U.S. Department of Justice has been reading my blog! I had stated some facts about the official on my blog, facts I had gleaned from published sources. So the Justice Department was concerned about me republishing material that is already public knowledge and easily accessible. Does that sound a little Kafkaesque?

Actually, it reminds me of the insane restrictions imposed on The Sigmund Freud Archives housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Columbia University professor Yosif Hayem Yerushalmi has written about the insane logic of the Freud Archives in Series Z: An Archival Fantasy. Would you believe that the Freud Archives has imposed a ban on the publication of information from the archives--information that is already published in other sources?

Professor Yerushalmi writes: "What is bizarre about the Freud Collection is not the fact of restriction but the manner in which the policy is implemented. Anyone, mind you, can request and receive from the Library of Congress a copy of the typewritten catalogue of the collection, which laconically lists virtually everything in it, even in Series Z, with names of correspondants and interviewees, but of course without revealing its actual contents. I have the 1985 version and the revised one completed in October 1993. This catalogue is itself Kafkaesque; I know of no other like it. All items in Series Z are listed under the year in which they are to be declassified, starting in 1995. Fair enough. But as one reads and re-reads these lists one begins to have the eerie feeling that not only the professed concern for living persons and patient privacy is at stake, but some insane logic all its own. Why should a photocopy of the manuscript of Träume im Folklore, written in 1911 in collaboration with D.E. Oppenheim and published in 1958, be in Series Z until the year 2,000? Is it merely because it includes "unidentified poetry and writings by someone other than Freud"? But then what of Freud's corrected typescript and Introduction to his and W.C. Bullit's unfortunate book on Woodrow Wilson, published in 1967, which is placed under the same restriction? Again, why totally restrict a file on Josef Freud, Sigmund's uncle, containing "photocopies and documents regarding conviction for counterfeiting rubles, 1865-66," when Freud himself alluded to it in The Interpretation of Dreams, and the documented details were published by Renée Gicklhorn in 1976 and Marianne Krüll in 1979?"

Apparently, the Freud Archives operates on the same insane logic as the U.S. Justice Department!

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

Obviously, a concern for privacy of federal officials was not the reason for banning me from writing about that official. I think some unconsciously-determined bureaucratic reasons were at work.