As the email exchange shows Gates was unhappy about the request and appeared to be minded to reject it, but then agreed to a version that left out the controversial finding. In a piquant detail, PBS warns Gates that if it became public that he sanitised the historical record of one of his subjects upon request, he would risk his scholarly reputation. Still, Gates obviously bowed to pressure from Affleck.
|Ben Affleck - A liberal for good times only
Photograph: Startraks Photo/REX/Startraks Photo/REX
Affleck does not come off much better in this story. Interestingly, the programme revealed that his mother was active in the civil rights movement. The information about slave owning ancestors could have shed some fascinating light on her personal motivation for political action yet, suppressing the inconvenient detail of slave owning clearly deprived her story of political engagement of any meaningful context.
It is hard not to see this as some sort of voluntary Orwellian cleansing of personal history based on the (mistaken) assumption that we are born of impeccable liberal convictions. What we should
celebrate instead is the ability of human beings to reflect, learn and change their ways. That fundamental point gleaned from history appears to have escaped bother Gates and Affleck.