FACT: I was permanently banned without warning/without due process from my neighborhood library “for the safety of the staff and public,” yet I have no police record for violence, never issued threats, was not accused of issuing threats, and was not a constant disruption to library patrons. My civil rights are thus being denied in my town of Barnstable, MA because I am prohibited from attending any cultural or political events held at my neighborhood library, Sturgis Library.
FACT: James LaRue and the his American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom would not get involved and would not report on the incident in the ALA’s American Libraries Magazine. In fact, not one librarian of the many contacted since the incident in June 2012 would respond… with the exception of LaRue…
QUESTION: Should the ALA serve only as a propaganda arm for librarians, depicting them and their libraries as faultlessly wonderful?
Over the years, I’d challenged the American Library Association (ALA) via email and cartoon. In 2011, for example, I cartooned its Office for Intellectual Freedom, noting its absolute apathy regarding an intellectual-freedom issue: the essential banning from my neighborhood library, Sturgis Library, of the journal I published, The American Dissident. I’d actually offered director Lucy Loomis a free subscription, which she rejected. Also, she ordered me to cease leaving American Dissident flyers on library property. The flyers were of course critical of the library, especially regarding its hypocritical ALA Collection Development Policy statement, in particular, that “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” Of course, one might debate what constitutes an “issue.”
Barbara M. Jones, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the time, simply did not respond, nor did the other staff members of the Office, Angela Maycock, D. Caldwell-Stone, Brian Campbell, Nanette Perez, and Jonathan Kelly. In-lockstep was not a good intellectual-freedom policy, or was it? In fact, one would expect an intellectual response from an organization with such a name. Alas, not when it was being criticized… intellectually!
In 2014, I sketched another cartoon on the ALA, this time on its president Barbara Stripling, who was promoting her “Declaration for the Right to Libraries” on the ALA website. Did that “right” include the right of libraries… to serve as banning and censoring gatekeepers of information, especially information critical of libraries and librarians? Unsurprisingly, I was not permitted to leave a comment with that regard because, unsurprisingly, comments had been “disabled.” Stripling did not respond to the cartoon or email I’d sent directly to her. In 2015, I sketched yet another cartoon, “The Bewildered Intellectual Freedom Herd,” featuring Dave Trudeau, chair of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom Round Table at Vance-Granville Community College, and sent it to him. Again, the egregious absence of response! Clearly, Trudeau did not value vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy!
Then in late 2016, I noticed a New York Times article, "Libraries Become Unexpected Sites of Hate Crimes," which included comment by James LaRue, the new director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom: “We hope to track the details, locations and frequency, the better to stay on top of it, develop training or webinars, and support our members.” The hate crimes in question were mostly graffiti, a misdemeanor that technically constituted a crime. Thus I wrote LaRue, noting the further developments in my battle for intellectual freedom vis-a-vis libraries, especially the permanent trespass order issued without due process or warning in June 2012 against me for the speech crime of having criticized the library director in writing (no prohibited vocabulary used or threats made). That speech crime was a critical open letter, part one and part two, distributed to the library directors of the Clams Library System of Cape Cod, less than one week prior to the banning decree. Surprisingly, LaRue responded, and thus began our somewhat lengthy dialogue de sourds. And I use that term because LaRue refused to address a number of points raised…
Jame LaRue—Yes, we're trying to track as many relevant details as we can—people, media reports, etc., about incidences that (so far) seem to fall into defacement of public property, and physical harassment and assault. I don't understand your distinction: while not all crimes are equal, a misdemeanor is in fact a crime. There's a fundamental difference, in my mind, between standing on a corner and saying “I don't like Muslims" (free speech), and hitting a Muslim patron (a crime), or spraying a library wall with swastikas.
The American Dissident—Yes, technically, a misdemeanor is a crime. And technically, dropping a cigarette or pencil on public grounds is a littering crime. And technically, writing DEUS VULT, former war cry of Crusaders, in small letters on a desk at a public university or library is not only a crime, but a hate crime (see University of Southern Maine)! Yet did that not indicate legislative insanity? And how aberrant you chose Muslim as victim for a fictitious example, when Muslims have been murdering or attempting to murder right and left in the name of Allah (San Bernardino, Orlando, Ohio, Texas, Sweden, London, France, Egypt, etc.). Are you perchance funded by the Council for American-Islamic Relations?
JL—As a former library director myself (who came in for plenty of criticism, mostly from my weekly newspaper column), I get that people don't agree. And I really do think intellectual freedom is important. Yet I'm reluctant to wade into a local dispute between a patron and a library, for reasons I hope will make sense to you.
AD—Well, if you think it is important, then you ought to also consider tracking patrons, periodicals, and books banned by library directors and develop training for library directors on the importance of freedom of speech and expression, something perhaps many of them do not understand, let alone encourage or even accept. I know from personal experience. You could begin with my case, banned without due process. If you really think intellectual freedom is important, then why don’t you stand up for the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, in particular, “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view,” and against library directors who use it, while simultaneously and hypocritically ignoring it? Why possess such a policy if the ALA and library directors are not going to abide by it?
JL—For one thing, ALA isn't in the enforcement business, serving as a judge of libraries about every collection decision. We're a membership association, mostly focused on the identification of best practices, and their promotion. The ALA has no power to compel local libraries to do anything.
AD—Yet does that mean the ALA should remain totally apathetic to patrons banned without due process by libraries? Indeed, the ALA’s American Libraries Magazine ought to at least be open to publishing accounts of library and library director assaults on intellectual freedom. Yet it is not! Moreover, are banning patrons and rejecting free subscription offers part of those “best practices” you promote?
JL—My own office focuses on reports and resistance to censorship: usually, the removal of books that were purchased because they fit collection standards, but then were challenged, and the library was pressured to restrict or ban access because of their content or viewpoints.
AD—But what about books and periodicals that never make it on to library shelves, thanks to librarian gatekeeper decisions? Theoretically, all books and periodicals fit collection standards, so why are some rejected? The crux of that hypocrisy lies in that ALA Library BIll of Rights statement. It is that very statement that pushed me to attempt to get Sturgis Library to subscribe to The American Dissident.
JL—There is a difference between selection and censorship.
AD—Yet not selecting has the same effect as censoring. To censor is to reject. To not select is also to reject. It is a matter of Soviet semantics! What is the difference if a librarian refuses to put a book on her shelf because it is controversial or removes a book from her shelf because it is controversial? No difference at all! By selecting, the librarian gatekeeper inevitably acts as a censor, deciding what patrons can read and what they cannot read in her publicly-financed fiefdom. How can you deny that? Also, I eventually offered a free subscription, which the director rejected!
JL—No library can buy everything, and things popular in one place aren't popular in another. Not all things offered for free meet collection goals, either.
AD—So, now you reduce intellectual freedom to “popular”? That is not a good definition of the concept at all! And how precisely does rejecting The American Dissident NOT meet the collection goal of “providing materials and information presenting all points of view?”
JL—Briefly, if I read automobile reviews, and choose to buy a Toyota because it receives better marks for gas mileage, dependability, and return on investment, I’m not boycotting Chevrolet. I’m just making a choice based on factors that match up to my interests. It’s not ideological. Selection isn’t censorship, or not necessarily.
AD—Yes, but who dishes out the grades? The literary establishment does. And how to get a grade for a periodical when establishment listers and reviewers like Library Journal, American Libraries Magazine, NewPages, and Poets & Writers refuse to list or review it? Your example is faulty! Besides, it deflects from the prime concern that Sturgis Library had only one poetry journal on its shelf, Poetry magazine, and that The American Dissident stood at antipodes to it regarding what poetry was or should have been, and thus the librarian should have felt an intellectual obligation to subscribe to it. You too should have felt an intellectual obligation to back that balancing principle, and yet you do not.
JL—As a public library director for 27 years, I learned that it’s a balancing act. The American Library Association can’t step in and tell a library it must buy a particular title just because it’s opposite something else. Then every climate change/Holocaust denier would demand that we do the same.
AD—Every denier does not write a book or publish a periodical! Perhaps you don’t have the right to tell a library what to buy, but you sure do have the right to publish in American Libraries Magazine articles by people like me who denounce hypocritical librarians! Yet you refuse to do that and won’t even support patrons like me by, for example, writing a letter Sturgis Library, expressing concern for intellectual freedom or rather lack thereof.
JL—You say you offer an "opposite view" from Poetry Magazine. That doesn't convey much information. Poetry Magazine has been around for over 100 years. It offers a publication, programs, and a library. Its website provides links to audited financial statements. It features many authors in its pages. Together, whether you agree or not with its editorial standards or final products, that adds up to a kind of credibility. Does your publication offer the same financial transparency, history, multiple authors? If not, being "opposite" a respected journal isn't much of a claim, or recommendation for purchase. You're quoting PART of a collection development policy, not all of it. That's not entirely honest. I bet there are clauses in their policy that speak to currency, credibility of the author, positive reviews, and so on.
AD—The problem with Poetry magazine is precisely that it has been around for 100 years. What it does not offer is criticism of Poetry magazine itself as an organization of the academic/literary establishment with a very large multimillion-dollar endowment. For it, for the establishment, The American Dissident simply and conveniently does not exist. For an example, of an essay, it would outright reject because of contents, not because of poor writing ability, examine “PEN, an Ethical Consideration.”
Poetry magazine does not include any criticism of the academic/literary establishment and its diverse organizations (e.g., NEA, state cultural councils, Library of Congress, PEN, and the ALA!) and icons (Pinsky, Collins, Angelou et al), whereas The American Dissident does. And I cannot think of any other magazines out there that really do. Poets just tend to open wide and say ah, then swallow. I suppose librarians tend to do the same. What they don’t really care about is The First Amendment. In fact, far too many do not understand it and really don’t even need it. And that sums up why poetry does not really matter in America today. Oh, but it does matter in places like Cuba, where poets can be found in jail cells. Yes, Poetry magazine does have “a kind of credibility,” but only for those lacking independent questioning-and-challenging minds. It is just like American Libraries Magazine in its absence of criticism regarding the establishment.
Again, you seem to be avoiding the Library Bill of Rights statement I keep on emphasizing! Why do you avoid it regarding libraries and Poetry magazine, which would NEVER include points of view critical of the poetry establishment? It is a great statement, but if you and other librarians cannot understand its implications, then what good is it?
As for “financial transparency, history, multiple authors,” well, Poetry magazine has over 3000 institutional subscribers (i.e., libraries), whereas The American Dissident has about 10. Does Poetry actually reveal the amount of money it receives from those subscribers? If so, I haven’t seen that information! Where is it hiding? Poetry receives a ton of public money. I cannot get a dime of public money, despite my 501c3 nonprofit designation. Why not? Does Poetry magazine really need it? Certainly not since the drug company heiress dumped thousands and thousands of dollars on to its lap! Again, the unusual highly critical bent of The American Dissident is the clear answer to that question. A long history is not necessarily a plus. Look at how long the New York Times has been around and look at how shamefully biased it’s become. But again this is simply a diversion/deflection away from that key Library Bill of Rights statement.
JL—Libraries have real limits: resources, space, community interest.
AD—Well, library director Lucy Loomis evoked that non-argument too! And yet Sturgis Library has plenty of space for all sorts of inanity from Jackass I to Jackass II and Jackass III and so forth! It has plenty of space for unoriginal periodicals found in just about every library from Oprah to Elle and Vanity Fair. Sturgis is a large spacious library, one of the oldest in the country. Moreover, The American Dissident would hardly have taken up any space at all. Your argument is evasive and absurd. In fact, Loomis had banned me from leaving flyers next to other flyers. As for community interest, I have not heard of any polls taken by Sturgis. And I am part of that community. What library does not possess the resources to purchase a $20 subscription, or in the case of Sturgis, a free subscription? And what library doesn’t have room for a 56-page journal like The American Dissident? Absurd! And what if the community interest is banning a library book? Why then would you counter that effort? Your argument doesn’t hold water! It is not based in reality, but rather in evasion!
Jl—Libraries have a mission: to gather, organize, and present to the public the intellectual content of the culture. But not all of it, because that literally isn’t possible. Rather, libraries strive to build collections that are representative samples of timely and significant authors and subjects, and also represents the interest of the community it serves.
AD—That sounds fine and dandy, but who defines the limits of “intellectual content of the culture”? Gatekeeper librarians, of course! And why isn’t it literally possible? And who determines what authors and subjects are significant and insignificant? Gatekeeper librarians, who tend to be part of the establishment! And how do they know what “the interest of the community” is, if they don’t take polls?
JL—Libraries also reflect, or try to, the ongoing cultural consensus about some subjects. It’s not one-to-one pairings of ideas.
AD—“Some subjects” implies a lack of inclusion! And thus libraries conveniently avoid other subjects, including librarian scorn for intellectual freedom or librarian banning of patrons.
JL—Nor can I say whether or not your own publication is any good; that is, is well-edited, represents more than the voice of a single person, presents credible or accomplished claims, etc. If we get into the business of examining every author offended that the library doesn’t want his or her publication, and claims the rejection is ideological, we’d never have time for anything else.
AD—And yet who defines what “well-edited” means? Do you think a librarian will determine a periodical to be “well-edited,” if it criticizes librarians as autocratic gatekeepers? And how many thousands of such offended authors or editors have contacted you? Two? One? And how many have you featured in American Libraries Magazine? Zero?
JL—We do try to offer best practices, and values-based advice. Not all libraries take it.
AD—Well, why not feature some of the libraries that don’t take it?
JL—Frankly, I’m more concerned about your alleged outright denial of access to the library. I trust you’ve also pursued legal action?
AD—If indeed you are concerned, then why don’t you express your concern not only to Sturgis but also in American Libraries Magazine? Do I really want to spend $10,000 on a lawyer so that I can again step into Sturgis and without having three cops confront me?
JL—As far as due process is concerned, again, ALA has no power to compel local libraries to do anything. An appeal to your librarys' [sic] governing authority seems more appropriate.
AD—Well, of course, I appealed to the library trustees… in vain. But why should it be an either or situation? Why not both? More appropriate would be your taking sincere interest in the name of intellectual freedom and doing something, instead of doing nothing and, aberrantly, in the name of intellectual freedom!
JL—I can't explain what happened in your library bannings. You say you weren't hollering, swearing or interrupting patrons. I've worked in libraries for over 30 years, and banning someone really isn't that common. What WERE you doing? When vendors try to sell their wares to libraries, it rarely rises to the level of calling the police. Yet this happened in two different libraries? An independent observer might ask: Is there any possibility that this might be more a reflection on your sales approach than a library conspiracy?
AD—Well, I did not infer that a library “conspiracy” against me personally and my publication existed, although one might be apt to believe such a thing regarding the Clams Library System of Cape Cod, since each library director in that system was informed about my permanent banning, as well as that of The American Dissident. Certainly, there is an implicit conspiracy of like-mindedness in that System. Are all of its library directors indifferent to intellectual freedom? Well, yes. What I really inferred was that libraries generally will reject a journal like The American Dissident because of its contents, not because of space and monetary restrictions. Which library directors do you know who would permit criticism of them in their particular library fiefdoms? In fact, over the years I have offered to donate a free-speech and democracy bulletin board to a number of libraries in Massachusetts, not one of which ever accepted the offer or idea. Why not? Can you really blame my “sales approach” for such a general rejection? That to me is an evident kill-the-messenger deflection away from the message.
JL—You accuse me of idealism (guilty!), then say, "you do not really address the egregious hypocrisy in that Library Bill of Rights statement. Yes, it is a good statement, but why brandish it if library directors are not going to heed it?" Why pass a law if someone isn't going to follow it? Why write a book if someone isn't going to read it? Your response seems far more idealistic than mine. Yes, ALA advocates for principles—but those principles are applied in the real world, where aspirations have practical limits and limiting factors. We're both in our sixties, sir, so have been around the block a few times. Americans embraced the Declaration of Independence, pledging us to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Then allowed slavery. Hypocrisy, or aspiration? Yet slavery was abolished, eventually.
AD—Well, clearly you have not been around the same block I’ve been around! Climbing up the careerist ladder has likely been your block, not mine! My block has been one of testing the waters of democracy, questioning and challenging the intellectually corrupt—librarians, journalists, professors, poets, editors, local political hacks, etc. One would have to have never had any conflicts with power to not be able to understand any of what I’ve written to you. How could I possibly receive favorable reviews from establishment reviewers? In fact, how could I possibly get any of them to even review what I’ve written? I sure couldn’t get Library Journal or American Libraries Magazine to do that! BTW, it is thanks to conflicts with power that have made me a writer, cartoonist, poet, and editor. One really cannot know what de facto rights, as opposed to de jura rights, one really possesses, unless one tests the waters of democracy as I’ve done and continue to do. I am not surprised that “banning someone really isn’t that common.” After all, how many library patrons out there are editors of a journal like The American Dissident?
You can find my Watertown Free Public Library story and other library criticism, some of which have been published elsewhere, here: http://theamericandissident.org/orgs/american_library_association.html. In fact, one of the few magazines that would write a review (and even interview me) of The American Dissident was Counterpoise, edited by a former librarian, Charles Willett. Here is a great statement made by him, quite opposite to your viewpoint of limited space and monetary restrictions, presented at the Fifth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries:
“In almost all the 45 libraries studied here, and probably hundreds and hundreds more across the country, we have failed our professional duty to seek out diverse political views. [...] These books are not expensive. Their absence from our libraries makes a mockery of ALA’s vaunted ‘freedom to read.’ But we do not even notice that we are censoring our collections. Complacently, we watch our new automated systems stuff the shelves with Henry Kissinger’s memoirs.”
That is a damning statement indeed! And, from my personal experience, I believe it is an accurate one. Again, it is sad that the ALA and its American Libraries Magazine would not be interested in examining such rare criticism with its regard. For me as an editor, I have a difficult time grasping that because I not only brook, but encourage hard-core criticism with my regard, and publish the harshest in each and every issue of The American Dissident. What’s the big deal? Well, apparently it is a big deal. I cannot think of another literary journal out there, including Poetry magazine, that does that. And by the way, thanks to my constant knocking at library doors, I have gotten Harvard, Yale, Brown, Buffalo, Johns Hopkins, Michigan and a few other university libraries to subscribe. Also, Concord Free Public, Newton Free Public, Lincoln Public and New York Public libraries also subscribe.
JL—In completely practical terms, would you, as a library director, truly buy or make space for every single publication that claimed to be opposite another? Perhaps one library could accommodate your single publication - but do you imagine you are the only publication seeking entry to library shelves? This perspective is naive. I question if you are being serious in your assumption that this principle of collection development can or should be applied without question or qualification.
AD— Well, if I were a library director, I would make certain my library had a FREE SPEECH Bulletin Board and would encourage criticism with my regard and post it on that board. Ah, but that would make me a highly unique library director, wouldn’t it? The reality is, and surely you must know this, that likely very, very few publishers like me knock on library doors with highly dissident books and periodicals, reciting the ALA Library Bill of Rights statement and then asking why the library director would not purchase OR ACCEPT A FREE subscription. Yours is really a non-argument, a gross hypothetical exaggeration, as if thousands of dissident publishers stormed library doors everyday with purchase requests. Really? Well, I refer you back to Charles Willett’s statement.
Not one library in the entire Clams Library System of Cape Cod, where I live, will subscribe! Again, you deflect away from that ALA Library Bill of Rights statement. The reality is that VERY, VERY few publications like mine exist and seek entry on to library shelves. Why can you not focus on the reason provided: One poetry magazine on the shelf. A free offer for a second poetry magazine rejected, not permitted on the shelf. Also, of course, the second magazine stands at antipodes to the first. How can you continue to deny the clarity of that simple situation vis-a-vis the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights?
JL—It still troubles me that you're denied access to a library altogether. I understand that you may not be able to find pro bono legal support. But you do have access to some libraries?
AD—Sure, I’ve got access to every library in America with the exception of my very neighborhood library. And my very civil rights are being denied because I cannot attend any cultural or political events held there. Why would a director of an office for intellectual freedom not really (i.e., sincerely… to the point of action) care about that? Why would American Libraries Magazine not care about it either? Why would the director of the ALA, Keith Michael Fiels, not give a damn?
JL—Meanwhile, I heartily endorse your exercise of First Amendment rights. But neither those rights, nor the Library Bill of Rights, require any library to provide a platform for their distribution. In the marketplace of ideas, you have competition. Librarians make choices. It's a complex world, in which principles vie against one another, and the realities of administration.
AD—Well, that all sounds nice. But in reality it is a general statement used to dismiss the evidence and reason presented. “The realities of administration” are generally anti-freedom of expression and otherwise fascistic in nature. That incarnates the crux of “administration,” be it government, university, corporate, armed forces, or library. Only a very, very rare administrator, public or private, will permit real freedom of expression (i.e., hard-core critique) within his or her fiefdom, let alone transparency. In reality, administrators tend to stand at antipodes to freedom of expression (i.e., intellectual freedom!), which is why I thought it odd, if not Orwellian, that the ALA had an Office for Intellectual Freedom. What you really endorse is not my exercise of freedom of expression, but rather librarian rights to reject that exercise. That is the reality.
Now, I would like to challenge you and the ALA to at least attempt to get American Libraries Magazine editor, Laurie D. Borman, to open her gates to intellectual freedom and devote ONE little page in each issue to freedom of expression, intellectual freedom, and problems patrons might have had with their libraries. What’s the big deal? Well, apparently it is a big deal! That said, I do appreciate your rare willingness to debate these issues with me.
JL—But the heart of my response would be that there is a certain idealism in your view as well, to believe that the library has an affirmative responsibility to accept every book or magazine, every donation, regardless of quality, relevance, currency, and community interest. Or, as I’m pretty sure I wrote in my missing email, the problem may not be with your content, but your sales style. Again, OIF’s mission is to support people working in libraries whose works are attacked, not to force them to buy things they’ve decided they don’t want. Right now, it’s not at all clear that you’re being discriminated against because of ideological reasons, or that a whole topic is being censored. As you express it, the library is rejecting YOUR works, not a particular idea. If the concern is lack of due process, that is a legal issue, not intellectual freedom.
AD—Never have I written that every library should subscribe to The American Dissident! What I suggested is that perhaps ONE library in a particular library system ought to subscribe to a periodical, especially if that periodical is published by a local publisher… and is even somewhat unique. Not one library in the Clams Library System of Cape Cod will subscribe. Period. To me that smells a bit off. Sadly, for you it just smells like library-as-usual everything’s fine business. Also, if a library subscribes to one poetry journal, it should subscribe to a second one, especially if that journal presents an opposite point of view regarding poetry. You seem unable to comprehend that simple situation… and I’m not sure why, unless library careerism has done something to your mind. Again, I urge you to eliminate the Library Bill of Rights because it is a clear example of egregious librarian hypocrisy.
As for your argument that my “sales style” is perhaps the wrong “style,” well, it’s really another non-argument posed to deflect from the above crux. OF COURSE, the problem is with the content of The American Dissident! Few—very, very few—librarians would subscribe to a periodical that features, for example, a satirical front cover of a librarian or an essay exposing librarian hypocrisy? That is one definite idea that most librarians will sadly reject. You reject it! And why will you not respond to my challenge regarding American Libraries Magazine? Are you simply proud that the latter is just another everything’s perfect smiley-face periodical, shielded from any criticism apt to question and challenge that very fact, thanks in part to your Office? And how aberrant of you to ignore that highly revealing, denunciatory remark by librarian Charles Willett! You and the ALA backslap and self-congratulate, as if that egregious truth did not exist.
JL—Thanks for the summary. We seem to be in the territory of repeating ourselves, which is a clue that there isn't much to be gained from going on. As for your request to grant you the ALA platform to attack the integrity of ALA and such mid-level functionaries as your humble correspondent: You have your own platforms, and more power to you. We have other business, and in fact I believe it is noble. (Oh, and I don't have the authority to grant you guaranteed column inches in American Libraries, either.) I've worked throughout my career to include many voices our society ignores. I don't need to recite all that. Believe me or don't. But do take a look at ourvoiceschicago.ala.org. Does every contrarian voice hit the shelves? Alas, no. But the application of judgment remains a part not only of our professional duties, but of our responsibility. We're not perfect. We don't always get it right. But I really do believe that, mostly, we do. And again, my warm best wishes to you, sir.
AD—I understand why you conclude that there’s nothing more to gain from our back and forth. Though I’m not sure what you gained, if anything at all, I do know what I’ve gained; this thought, for example: Intellectual impotence, as opposed to intellectual freedom, is the inability to focus on cogent counterarguments when they seriously implicate fundamental flaws in one’s own positions. Those afflicted evade, misinterpret, deflect, and/or deny when confronted with such counterarguments.
Other thoughts I’ve had include the now evident fact that your office is not inclusive regarding intellectual freedom. It defends the intellectual freedom of librarians, but not that of library patrons. And in that sense it defends the intellectual freedom of library directors to limit and/or truncate the intellectual freedom of library patrons. Contrary to your assertion, mine is not simply just another “contrarian voice” that doesn’t make it on to the library shelf! It is a somewhat rare voice against librarian autocracy and librarian apathy, ignorance and/or outright adversity to real and inclusive intellectual freedom! In that sense, it is a voice against you and yours! It is the kind of voice that you and yours have NOT wanted to include throughout your careers!
In essence, incapacity to focus on hardcore criticism sums up the likely bulk of leadership fiefdoms in America today, be they corporate, academic, media, cultural, or librarian. In essence, that sums up the veritable death of real intellectual freedom… behind of course the charade of thriving freedom and self-professed “noble” purpose.
Too many organizations that brandish themselves as freedom fighters like yours, the NCAC, ACLU, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, and PEN have become part of that charade. True, as opposed to faux, intellectual freedom means not only brooking, but encouraging hard-core criticism. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom does not do that, nor do those other organizations. Why do you continue to refuse to comment on Willett’s statement? The answer can only be intellectual impotence. BTW, I am not in the least bit angry at you or, for that matter, the ALA. I am simply questioning and challenging what needs to be questioned and challenged.
JL—You use the phrase "incapacity to focus on hardcore criticism," which appears to mean I do not immediately agree with you. I hear your argument; I just don't find it credible. Willett is right in some respects. It is absolutely the case that libraries, generally speaking, like bookstores, newsstands, and traditional media outlets overall, do NOT give as much attention, or even as much as deserved, to alternative voices. There are a host of reasons. Those alternative voices are not often requested (because, among other things, they don't have big media dollars pushing them). And librarians try to respond to public requests, if only because their continued support depends upon their ability to satisfy those who pay for library services. Certainly it's true that non-mainstream ideas are disadvantaged. Reviews are hard to find, few distributors carry them, etc. Too, many ideas are at first resisted when they show up at the fringe: black authors in the South in the 50s and 60s, Christian fiction, and now, self-published content.
AD—Intellectual impotence is not a question of your not agreeing with me. It is rather one of your seeming inability to focus on what I write, as manifested by your ignoring of points made, deflection away from other points made, and full misinterpretation of yet other points made. It is, for example, your inability to focus on the point I made about intellectual freedom for library directors, but not for library patrons, the ALA magazine’s smiley-face we’re doing a wonderful job, the hypocrisy of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, etc., etc.
Boasting about the wonderful job you’re doing is nothing but a convenient whitewash, a quite effective one in the absence of real accountability. You sound like a typical college president or better yet Obama himself boasting about what a great job he’s done. And very, very few people, if anyone at all, in the audience will stand up to contradict the vaunting, that is, the usual political (and academic) hack’s MO and seemingly also yours, as well as that of library directors in general. Of course, a few good librarians do exist. I’m not denying that. But from two decades of knocking on the doors of librarians, I assure you they are the exceptions! It is really sad that you likely will not bother to examine the highly critical (of libraries) webpages I directed you to. You seem to have little if any real curiosity as to the other side of the smiley-face librarian portrait you’ve helped propagate over the years.
It is really quite amazing how you so easily espouse and reject simultaneously the ALA’s hypocritical statement: “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view”! Yes, but not my point of view, nor that of those I publish, nor that of other alternatives! Boasting inclusion is almost always hypocritical. Academe is a model with that regard! It is sad that you canNOT grasp that. Careerism is a great mental blocker!
Sure, you and yours are doing a “good” job… of scorning freedom of speech and keeping multiple copies of Henry Kissinger memoirs on the shelves, not to mention the multiple copies of dopa dvds like Jackass I, Jackass II and Jackass III. And yet library funds are so limited! Yeah, tell me about it! Sure, you and yours are doing a wonderful job rejecting any tough criticism from patrons and ejecting patrons without due process when you and yours decide their “sales style” is not the right sales style! Bravo! Indeed, if one were to simply examine the ALA’s website, then one would have to conclude that you are indeed doing, not simply a good, but a fantastic job! Zero accountability, thanks to the ALA and its big buffer bucks!
You live in a closed, smiley-face cocoon of backslapping and self-congratulating, similar to that set up by countless corporations, universities, poetry societies, and even human rights commissions. Self-preservation is accorded top priority, while accountability is essentially inexistent.
Yes, reviews of alternative periodicals are hard to find, especially when magazines like Library Journal and American Libraries Magazine refuse to review them! Well, please do send your book (“I wrote a book about how I thought librarians should engage with their critics.”) to Sturgis Library and Watertown Free Public Library! Get it on those shelves! Unless of course it argues for permanent banning without warning or due process.
JL—Yet, I don't see this as a large scale failure of librarianship, or a condemnation of our belief in intellectual freedom. Nor do I see it as a sign of intellectual impotence. In my own career, I engaged with the harshest immediate critics of libraries, which at that time was Focus on the Family (a conservative Christian organization with a following both of its huge radio show and many publications, mostly about parenting). I bought their publications for the library, I joined their training sessions, and I wrote a book about how I thought librarians should engage with their critics. I hosted and moderated debates with them.
AD—You state you’ve done all of this laudable stuff IN THE PAST. So, what’s happened to you? Why don’t you even care that ALA’s magazine will not even review journals like mine, let alone include an iota of criticism vis-a-vis library directors? That magazine is like Better Homes & Gardens magazine, but for librarians like you!
You conclude that you’re “proud to be a librarian.” Well, I was a professor for most of my adult life and NEVER thought I was proud to be a professor. I knew far too many professors to be proud of that profession. And I also knew too many librarians to attach the word pride to that profession.
Careerism (and professionalism) is the enemy of hard-core truth… and vice versa. I sure wish I could somehow get you to reflect on that. But that of course would constitute a pipe dream. Hopefully, the internet will end up assuring the demise of free-speech (intellectual-freedom) scorning gatekeeper librarians. Unfortunately, it seems to have been producing other free-speech scorning entities like Facebook and Twitter.
JL—OK, I read your page. I believe I have responded, sir, to all of your salient points, as far I understand them. As a brief summary, you assert: when libraries don't accept your publication, they are violating the Library Bill of Rights. I explained that selection is not necessarily censorship, and gave examples. Clearly, you don't, and won't, agree.
AD—In essence, they certainly are violating the Library Bill of Rights! How can you possibly not agree?
JL—You assert, almost all librarians are hypocrites because they do not collect "all points of view." I explained that this is a physical impossibility, and "all points have view" have some reasonable boundaries, which I explicated. Moreover, there is ample evidence of libraries defending many points of view, often controversial ones. So the blanket statement that all librarians are (to use one of your arsenal of terms) apparatchiks, is just an ad hominem attack of the sort you accuse others of making against you. It is not a credible claim, no matter how often you repeat it.
AD—What you fail to do, unsurprisingly, is present one of my concrete arguments, as opposed to a misinterpretation, and concisely point to its lack of purported “merit.” Instead, you simply issue a blanket statement that all of my arguments lack merit. Is that intellectual or a failure of intellect on your part?
If librarians keep their doors closed to the viewpoints expressed in The American Dissident, they are being hypocritical if they espouse the ALA statement, “libraries should provide materials and information presenting ALL POINTS OF VIEW.” How you can disagree with that is absolutely mind-boggling and a clear sign of intellectual impotence!
Still, the point I made was in regard to poetry and the library that provoked me to actually read the ALA’s statement in the first place. That library, Sturgis Library, subscribed to POETRY magazine and, although I’m tired of repeating it to the brick ALA Office for Intellectual Impotence wall, I shall do so once again: The American Dissident offers a completely opposite point of view regarding poetry. Rejecting it is an absolute violation of the ALA statement, which does not stipulate all points of view, unless we have no shelf space and no more money! It stipulates ALL POINTS OF VIEW… Period! How can you possibly not comprehend that? In fact, how can someone who cannot understand such a simple point be the director of an office called the Office for Intellectual Freedom? What don’t you understand regarding ALL POINTS OF VIEW? Ah, ole George Orwell to the rescue:
Inclusion Is Exclusion!
All Points of View Is Some Points of View!
Intellectual Freedom Is Intellectual Constraint!
From my personal experience, I would conclude, many, if not most, librarians are indeed hypocrites, BUT ONLY if they espouse your ALA Bill of Rights. Your argument of limited resources and limited space is nothing but a vacuous non-argument, one used to restrict intellectual freedom to the choices made by librarians, you know, those gatekeepers of thought, the ones who want to tell patrons what they can read and what they can’t read. And that of course is NOT intellectual freedom at all… unless we revert to Orwell, as in Intellectual Freedom Is Intellectual Constraint!
In essence, library directors are gatekeeper apparatchiks of the establishment. If you find that insulting, then maybe you should change jobs. Why you cannot understand that can only be explained by your lifetime service as a gatekeeper apparatchik of the established order! Likely, most library gatekeepers will not permit criticism of library gatekeepers on their shelves in their little fiefdoms, let alone entranceways, nor will they permit criticism of other local pillars of the community. Some of course will, but they are certainly rare.
Your “reasonable boundary” argument regarding “all points of view” is a sign of reason deficiency (i.e., intellectual impotence)! That in itself is a mind-boggling thought, one that evokes the Komintern! Why must you and others like you brandish phrases like “all points of view” (i.e., inclusion), while arguing for “reasonable boundaries” (i.e., exclusion)? “Defending many points of view” does not by any means equal “defending ALL points of view.” And yet somehow you just cannot grasp that self-evident truth. You need help! ¡Ayuda!
JL—You assert, your publication presents the "other" side, some kind of dissenting opinion, and a forum for "vigorous debate." Having read some of your comments, cartoons, etc. (in which Toni Morrison is labeled a racist, for instance), I have to say that I've seen those viewpoints before, and in libraries. Nor do I see much evidence of debate - mostly just satirical accusations against some straw dog opinion. Is there some distinguishing quality of uniqueness or insight in your work? Maybe for some, but not to justify their inclusion in all libraries, or even the libraries you insist must include them.
AD—Toni Morrison utters highly anti-white racist statements, which has nothing to do with what I do or don’t do. Read some of those statements! Read the one in my cartoon! She is not a closet racist! She is an open racist. Ah, but she’s black, so gets a pass? Is that part of your intellectual freedom sphere? So, you’ve seen Morrison criticism in a library. Okay. But have you seen cartoons critical of local librarians in the library? Likely not because you and yours act as gatekeepers, assuring intellectual limits, not intellectual freedom. You make a gatekeeper determination by belittling what I write and cartoon—“mostly just satirical accusations against some straw dog opinion”—and thus rationalize censoring, banning, and keeping off the shelves of libraries. Bravo! No need for me to ask for your gatekeeper badge. I believe you, sir!
JL—Moreover, if there is some identifiable "perspective," a reasonable person might try to ascertain if that perspective is available in other library holdings. You've never mentioned undertaking that act of fundamental intellectual honesty. You have the freedom to speak, but seem to think that requires others to listen to you. That's not so.
AD—Well, I have hunted for library criticism and basically came up with Willett’s statement, very rare indeed, and not in a library holding! You sound like the fascist antifascist left-wing Berkeley protesters, who managed to shut down Milo’s exercise of free speech! You sound like Loomis, if she had to present an argument for her shutting down of my exercise of free speech. Of course, others are not required to listen to me! Never did I imply they were! However, when others profess to be inclusive and to provide “all points of view,” then they are theoretically required! Again, you digress.
JL—So the primary reason you seem to have contacted me is to say that I am obligated to defend your unrestricted right to have a place in public library shelves. In the first place, I don't actually see any signs of censorship, and have explained what the role of my office is, and how we strive to fulfill it. You think, apparently, it is to tell libraries what they must purchase. You're wrong.
AD—Intellectual impotence blocks your ability to perceive precisely what I stipulate. You are only intellectually obligated to defend me, if you abide by your own statements, which of course you do not. Again, you digress. I do not think it is your responsibility to tell libraries what to purchase. You’re wrong! I think because of the very title of your office that you should perhaps send a letter to those librarians who ban and censor to help them grasp the meaning of your Library Bill of Rights and also open your hermetically-closed doors to criticism of librarians. However, it seems that even you do not understand the significance of that Library Bill of Rights, which explains why you will keep those doors hermetically sealed.
JL—Being asked to leave a library was unjustified, and denied you due process. I explained that investigation of such things is once again utterly outside the scope of my office. I don't know "the other side" of this, and in any case, this matter is between you and the governing authority of the library, and the law. As I've written, if my job was to take it upon myself to pressure every library to accept the works of every author aggrieved that the library didn't want them, or defend everyone who feels they were unfairly treated by library staff, I would have time for nothing else. That doesn't mean that such claims are accurate.
AD—This has indeed been a dialogue de sourds… Your whole argument makes no sense whatsoever, UNLESS of course one takes into consideration the fact that you direct an Office for Intellectual Freedom and have to somehow justify running it as an Office for Intellectual Constraint… or risk losing job, pension, and perks. Yes, I think I like that name better than Office for Intellectual Impotence, although impotence does infer an inability to deal reasonably with facts and logic that counter your purported mission to present “all points of view.”
So, can you name just ONE person who publishes critical cartoons, essays, and poems regarding library directors… and appears “in other library holdings”? And how about the illustration of your office and you perhaps on the front cover of the next issue of The American Dissident? Might there be something like that “in other library holdings” you’ve examined? Might we find that in American Libraries Magazine? Your Freedom to Read statement bears witness to just how biased you are, considering your position as director of an Office for Intellectual Freedom:
“Brexit. The rise of Austria’s Freedom Party, France’s Front National, Netherlands’ Party for Freedom. Anti-immigrant movements in Italy and Hungary. In the United States, following a campaign in which the winning candidate called many Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, threatened to jail a political opponent, and vowed to make it easier to sue the media, many fear that a nativist, nationalist, even authoritarian movement has returned to our shores.”
Of course, because of blind bias, you fail to mention the various immigrant terrorist attacks, the immigrant rape sprees making Sweden the rape capital of Europe, the growing push by Muslim immigrants to enforce Sharia Law in their no-go zone communities, the Muslim honor killings, the Saudi mosque money, etc., etc.
The ALA and you are evidently so biased that not only will you not publish all the pertinent facts, regarding that which you decry (e.g., Brexit), but you will not support those like me who will… and you call that Intellectual Freedom… maybe in Cuba, maybe in North Korea, and maybe in Iran, but not in America! Biased news is fake news… and you are evidently a perpetrator of that! In fact, I doubt you’d have any problem at all being forced to convert to Islam, which means Submission. You do not need freedom of speech because you don’t challenge the establishment. You are the establishment.
A director promoting Intellectual Freedom and Freedom to Read should not be so mentally manacled, as manifested by your overt bias and rejection of alt-opinions! Might there be anyone on your staff who favors Brexit, Marine LePen, the AFD, open criticism of Islam (vs. UN Resolution 16/18 espoused Obama and Hillary), etc.? Doubtfully! You direct a fraudulent office in the same darkness as the ACLU, PEN, and Southern Poverty Law Center, where alt-left bias is also egregious. And alt-left bias by no means equals FREEDOM! It means fascistic speech codes, trigger warnings, safe spaces, microaggressions, groupthink, newspeak, doublethink, anti-white racism, and on and on. Anyone daring to expose the idiocy, fraud, and hypocrisy is automatically deemed “insulting” and “abrasive,” just as you’ve deemed me.
JL—The rest of your correspondence, as near as I can sort through it, is just ever more elaborate ways of repeating the above, plus random insults. So, I don't have anything else to offer you. I don't agree with you, don't find much merit to your arguments, and find your emails redundant, unpersuasive and abrasive. I don't see much point in reading the same points, and typing the same responses, over and over. So I'll stop.
And that was that.