Jan Brewer

George Orwell Link on Governor Brewer's Reading List for Students Removed Due to Possible Malware; (But Read On!)

How's this for irony in literature:

A state summer-reading list's Web link to a site about George Orwell states that accessing the page may result in "malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent."

Orwellian, no? But instead of the pervasive government that Orwell deemed "Big Brother" in his famous novel 1984, this warning looks like it was generated by Google.

The link in question was to a Web page on the site www.orwell.ru (click at your own discretion) for Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" essay.

Reading Orwell is just one of the many suggestions made in Governor Jan Brewer's Summer Reading Initiative, which encourages kids to keep improving their reading skills during summer break.

The complete reading lists can be found on www.arizonaready.com. Kids who sign up and read five books can obtain a coupon for free admission to the Arizona Science Center.

State officials changed the questionable link to a different George Orwell Web page after New Times brought the problem to their attention, although the warning seems to present itself only when the link is accessed through the Mozilla Firefox browser. When tried on Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari, no warning came up.

The warning page leads to a link that says three pages on the Orwell site resulted in malware being installed, including as recently as Sunday. The ".ru" extension stands for Russia; other .ru links we tried on Firefox were fine.

Such warnings may be overly paranoid about the potential threat. A few years ago, a similar warning message showed up when people Googled the name of a popular conservative magazine, the American Spectator.

In any case, it's probably safer to use the new link to the essay by Orwell, which is well worth the read and contains gems like:

Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern