Guardian Author Says Mysterious Godlike Entity Deleted Text for His Snowden Book as He Was Typing

The NSA ate my homework
Weird • Views: 26,280

Rarely do I laugh out loud while reading something on the Internet, but this latest piece from Guardian writer Luke Harding, author of the Guardian’s book on Edward Snowden, provoked a genuine lolwut out of me: Writing the Snowden Files: ‘The Paragraph Began to Self-Delete’.

I was writing a chapter on the NSA’s close, and largely hidden, relationship with Silicon Valley. I wrote that Snowden’s revelations had damaged US tech companies and their bottom line. Something odd happened. The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish. When I tried to close my OpenOffice file the keyboard began flashing and bleeping.

Over the next few weeks these incidents of remote deletion happened several times. There was no fixed pattern but it tended to occur when I wrote disparagingly of the NSA. All authors expect criticism. But criticism before publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel. I began to leave notes for my secret reader. I tried to be polite, but irritation crept in. Once I wrote: “Good morning. I don’t mind you reading my manuscript - you’re doing so already - but I’d be grateful if you don’t delete it. Thank you.” There was no reply.

A month later the mysterious reader - him, her, they? - abruptly disappeared. At a literary event in Berlin my Guardian colleague David Leigh told a journalist about my unusual computer experiences; he led with the anecdote in a piece for the leftwing daily Taz. After that, nothing. I finished The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man in December.

In idle moments I wonder who might have been my surreptitious editor. An aggrieved analyst at the NSA’s Fort Meade spy city? GCHQ? A Russian hacker? Someone else intent on mischief? Whoever you are, what did you think of my book? I’d genuinely like to know.

Yes, folks, let’s recap. Luke Harding claims that while he was writing his book with OpenOffice, he saw text being deleted right in front of his eyes, not once, but several times over the course of several weeks.

But he did nothing to find out what was going on, or to try to stop it? He didn’t turn off his network connection? He didn’t take out his iPhone and record a video of it happening? He didn’t call the Guardian’s IT department to check his computer for malware? He didn’t check to see if his Delete key was sticking? Didn’t ask his officemates if they were playing a prank on him?

He just watched it happen, over and over? And the only action he took was to write cute little notes to… a godlike entity who was reading every word he typed?

It’s difficult to finish this post because I keep breaking out in laughter, but where do I get one of those cool flashing beeping keyboards? Mine just sits there.

UPDATE at 2/20/14 3:04:03 pm

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