Orwellian police visit prompts a story edit

A lot of conspiracy theorists — heck, even your average paranoid types — take George Orwell’s cautionary novel 1984 pretty seriously.

In the book, the state watches everyone and controls everything. Even “The Truth” is under their control, with a whole sector of the government devoted to rewriting history to make it mesh with the official version of the truth.

Though we don’t live in that kind of world just yet, there are some worrisome signs that suggest Orwell may have not been a total nut.

Take, for example, what happened in Berkeley last Friday. Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan sent an armed police sergeant to Bay Area News Group reporter Doug Oakley’s home after midnight on Friday.

To be clear, Oakley was hardly a dangerous suspect. Nope, the sergeant was sent because Oakley had written a story that the chief believed contained inaccuracies, and he wanted it changed.

The story related to the chief’s handling of the beating death of 67-year-old Peter Cukor in Berkeley on February 18.

Tim Kaplan, a police officer and the president of the Berkeley Police Association, expressed concerns about the action. He worries that Meehan’s actions could compromise the trust Berkeley places in its police force:

“We are committed to providing the best possible service to the community, and protecting the constitutional rights of the citizens of Berkeley to whom we ultimately answer. We do not believe that the actions taken by Chief Meehan represent the will, spirit or sentiment of the membership of the Berkeley Police Association.”

For his part, Meehan acknowledged that his actions were “overzealous,” and perhaps to placate opponents, he has agreed to launch an independent review. He stopped short of issuing an outright apology.

Still, the damage can’t be undone. The most chilling part of the story is that after Oakley got the late-night rap on the door, he changed two paragraphs in his story.