In the most recent issue of My Dictator Boyfriend, a webcomic by Teo and Guy on Webtoon, Anna, the mother of the protagonist, Immanuel “Manny,” the dictator of Taugilia, and wife of Gyorg Yvan, causes even more problems they shouldn’t exist, this time by literally manipulating archival records. She sees an ultrasound showing that her child will be a boy, at least as stated by the doctor, and goes immediately to the Hall of Records. She is told by the archivist, sitting behind a desk with a computer, that this won’t be possible because isn’t born yet. When confronted with this, she declares that as the future first lady of Taugilia “everything is possible.” She fills out the birth certificate form, with Manny’s birth-date as “TBD,” and says this should remain private. The archivist agrees to that condition. But, when she says that only the parents will have access, Anna declares this it can only be accessible to her alone and that if she doesn’t comply she will be fired! So, the record is filed away into the archives, to go from a paper form and become an electronic record within a database presumably. Not only is this bad because the protagonist is named after her ex-girlfriend (Margo), who she discarded like useless trash in an effort to get power, but she is literally manipulating archival records here and threatening someone! In the comments below the comic, only one person mentioned the archivist, when they wrote they were “pissed with that interaction between Anna and the desk lady.” I agree, but I wouldn’t call the archivist a “desk lady.” As you can probably tell, the title of this post is a joke mimicking the title of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and How I Learned to Love the Bomb if you didn’t get that by now. Anyway, I’d like to talk about the significance of this in a broader context of archival manipulation. When I say manipulation, I do not mean translation of records from paper to digital, information processing, online analytical processing, data processing, markup, all of which are justified for reasons of archival accessibility, but rather what Wikitionary calls the “usage of underhanded influence over a person, event, or situation to gain a desired outcome.” 
Throughout history, there are many examples of societies where powerful groups manipulate records and information, with the records themselves perpetrating the influence of those groups, even in societies which are said to be democratic.  Furthermore, public agencies in various countries, have manipulated records in order to further their goals, while restricting access to those records, including, in the U.S., the deletion of thousands upon thousands of email messages during the Iran-Contra Scandal in the 1980s, or the information system in apartheid-era South Africa, to give two examples. Corporations and bureaucracies, archivist Kenneth Foote wrote, sometimes seek to “keep secrets…lie, and…distort information to control others,” accompanied by destroying incriminating records and employing methods of secrecy.  This leaves historians having to ask themselves if records, like oral history records, were not “deliberately manipulated” to leave behind a biased record.
This circles back to the story at hand. With Anna’s manipulation of the record, how authentic is it? Can it be fully trusted as it is not “free from tampering“? This matters because the authenticity of records in archives depends on them not being subject to substitution, forgery, or manipulation, even as archives and their recordkeeping systems may, obviously, be suppressed, misinterpreted or manipulated.  This is even easier now, than ever, with certain groups or individuals gaining monetary or political advantage by altering records for their benefit, or perhaps even when using the “right to be forgotten.” In the case of this webcomic, the unnamed female archivist is fulfilling a social role that former SAA president Randall C. Jimerson wrote about in 2007. He argued, in an article on the subject, that archivists and record members must speak out against manipulation of records, limits to information access, and abuses of power.  He also warned that archivists can manipulate the past deliberately or subconsciously when engaging with the archival record. He further noted that control through “manipulation of the archival records,” abuses of power, and limited access to “vital information” shows the dangers of misusing power of records and archives.  He added that archivists should commit themselves to prevent the profession from “explicit or implicit support of privileged elites and powerful rulers at the expense of the people’s rights and interests.” Whether this has been fulfilled since his article or not is up to the reader, but there appear to be more community archives and more archivists aware of their social role than there were in 2007.
There is a possibility that the Hall of Records will make a reappearance in a later issue of the webcomic, although recent issues have mostly been a flashback to fill out the backstory, which helps deepen the story that much more. In any case, it was fun to do a little research, although not comprehensive, on this topic, about actual manipulation of archival records, the role of archivists, and connect it one of my favorite webcomics! Since I have so many webcomics I’m reading now that there is a distinct possibility I will come across archives once again. This has become a common topic on this blog as I;ve written about 180 Angel, Always Human, That Awkward Magic!!, and Lore Olympus in the past. I may end up using some of these concepts in my ongoing fiction series too, especially the one which features a non-binary archivist of color named Mx. Lawlor, who heads the Steamland Archives and Museum (SAM), or even the related series about the magical land of Avalor, which has a thriving archives! Anyway, I look forward to your comments and look forward, hopefully, to some other posts on here soon!
 Dictionary.com calls manipulation “skillful or artful management” and Merriam-Webster calls manipulation changing something “by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose,” synonymous with doctoring (altering something deceptively). The Merriam-Webster definition is closest to the Wikitionary definition.
 Jimerson, Randall C. (2007) “Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social Justice,” The American Archivist, 70(2): 254-5; Jedlitschka, Karsten. (2012) “The Lives of Others: East German State Security Service’s Archival Legacy,” The American Archivist, 75(1): 94, 99; Cox, Richard. (2009). “Secrecy, Archives, and the Archivist: A Review Essay (Sort Of),” The American Archivist, 72(1): 218; Kaplan, Elizabeth. (2003). “Reviews,” The American Archivist, 66(2): 326; Craig, Barbara. (2002) “Selected Themes in the Literature on Memory and Their Pertinence to Archives,” The American Archivist, 65(2): 280; Harris, Verne and Christopher Merrett (1994). “Toward a Culture of Transparency: Public Rights of Access to Official Records in South Africa,” The American Archivist, 57(4): 681.
 Foote, Kenneth. (1990) “To Remember and Forget: Archives, Memory, and Culture,” The American Archivist, 53(3): 384; Moss, William. (1977). “Oral History: An Appreciation,” The American Archivist, 40(4): 435.
 Guercio, Maria. (2001) “Principles, Methods, and Instruments for the Creation, Preservation, and Use of Archival Records in the Digital Environment,” The American Archivist, 64(2): 251; Panitch, Judith. (1996) “Liberty, Equality, Posterity?: Some Archival Lessons from the Case of the French Revolution,” The American Archivist, 59(1): 47; Wallace, David. (1993) “Archivists, Recordkeeping, and the Declassification of Records: What We Can Learn from Contemporary Histories,” The American Archivist, 56(4): 796; Skemer, Don. (1989). “Diplomatics and Archives,” The American Archivist, 52(3): 382; Vavra, Ashley. (2018). “The Right to Be Forgotten: An Archival Perspective,” The American Archivist, 81(1), 100-111.
 Jimerson, Randall C. (2007) “Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social Justice,” The American Archivist, 70(2): 270, 274, 277-278.
 Ibid, 281.
Update: In a recent issue of the webcomic, Gyorg claims that the birth of Manny drove a wedge between himself and Maxwell, even though it wasn’t Manny’s fault, as he wasn’t born yet, and he is resentful toward Gyorg, with Manny facing challenges ahead. Commenters noted that Anna and Margo caused the wedges, not Manny.