A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

[For the journal--guidelines, focus, etc.--go to www.theamericandissident.org. If you have questions, please contact me at todslone@hotmail.com. Comments are NOT moderated (i.e., CENSORED)!]
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia, not to mention Sweden, England, and Austria.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Monday, September 28, 2020

Banned Books Week… And Prohibited Thoughts with Its Regard

Banned Books Week… 

And Prohibited Thoughts with Its Regard

Words words words

—Léo Ferré 

Experience—real, personal experience—helps profoundly in the perception of reality.  In the absence of such experience, one will likely end up perceiving and presenting a faux-reality.  Try testing the waters of democracy at your local library in an effort to grasp its reality, as opposed to the likely virtue-signaling un-reality, of its library director and library trustees!   In 2012, as an example of reality, I was permanently banned without warning or due process from my neighborhood library in Massachusetts.  No document was presented to me as to the reason for the banning.  The State Secretary of Records had to force the library to open its records to public scrutiny so that I could discover what precisely was written about the banning (see sturgisbansdissident.blogspot.com).  All I could find was an informal email from the director to the president of the library trustees, noting “for the safety of the staff and public.”  Yet I have no criminal record of violence.  What I’d done one week prior to the banning (no mention whatsoever of it in the library records!) was distribute an open letter to the library directors in the particular system (Clams Library System of Cape Cod), pointing out the hypocrisy of their own collection development statement, in particular, that “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view.”  Rejecting a free subscription to the journal I publish and permanently banning me and my points of view certainly back the accusation.  For actual documents et al, see theamericandissident.org/orgs/sturgis_library.html.  The question comes to mind:  how many others have been banned due to their ideas from their neighborhood libraries?  Where might one find such information?  Well, I have no idea if such information is even recorded! 

Needless to say, Andie Bulman’s CBC article, "Banning a book: Why the freedom to read can't be taken for granted," definitely grabbed my attention!  Was there anything at all critical in it?  Not really!  In the article, Bulman cites Bonnie Morgan, librarian and collections manager with the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries:  “I see such efforts [to ban] coming more from a place of fear and control than morality.”  Yes… but those efforts also come from library directors, not simply from patrons, though Morgan and Bulman, do not mention that at all.  Bulman notes, “While the Newfoundland and Labrador public library system rarely has books challenged, it was a regular occurrence when denominational school boards existed.”  But there is certainly more to it than “challenged.”  What happens when library directors simply decide not to purchase certain books or periodical subscriptions?  Where might one find that information?  Who might even raise that as a reality?   Shouldn’t such occurrences also form part of Banned Books (And Periodicals) Week?  Yet sponsors of the Week, who I’ve contacted, including the American Library Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and National Coalition against Censorship, did not care about that at all!  The ALA’s American Libraries Magazine would not even publish a brief account of my banning.  In general, the response has been one of non-response. 

Bulman notes, “The public libraries of Newfoundland and Labrador are committed to protecting the freedom of readers and writers. The provincial library board even formalized that commitment by endorsing the International Federation of Library Associations Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom as part of the libraries' collections policy.”  Yet inevitably, due to the personal sensitivities of librarian directors, a definite divide between those words and reality exists.  Morgan states that “We take each complaint seriously while considering our commitment to intellectual freedom.”  How not to cite Léo Ferré, “words words words.”  Not one library director has yet manifested any commitment whatsoever to my intellectual freedom!  With that regard, examine the revealing dialogue de sourds I had with the director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (see wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com/2017/04/james-larue.html).  Well, at least he actually responded.  The current director refuses to respond.  

Morgan states, "Maybe someone else has a different take on a book you personally disliked or found disturbing and can open your eyes and mind to seeing it in a different way. Don't be afraid to ask the question, 'read any good books lately?' A new more diverse world of ideas and experiences can open up for you.”  What Morgan fails to state and what Bulman fails to question, however, is the problem of library directors, who do not de facto follow their own collection development statements.  Where might one find criticism of such directors?  Certainly not from Morgan or Bulman or library magazines like American Libraries Magazine or Library Journal.  How about Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice & Research?  Well, in vain, I searched through a number of its article titles. 

Bulman states, “My thesis may have been wordy, but the idea rings true.  Here it is: Libraries are great equalizers. They function as public places where anyone can access information or entertainment no matter their social or economic status.”  Well, I cannot access information at my public library!  How many others cannot access information at their public libraries?  And what information is NOT accessible at those libraries, thanks to their gatekeeper library directors?  These are questions that ought to be addressed, but simply are not.  Library directors, like it or not, are indeed gatekeepers of information, allowing some information to enter, while preventing other information from entering.   

Bulman concludes, “Finally, celebrate Banned Books Week by remembering that libraries being threatened, books being taxed and works being challenged or banned are all movements that have a harmful impact our collective access to information.”  Well, perhaps Banned Books Week ought to open its doors to more than library director (and free-speech advocate) virtue-signaling… and actually include criticism regarding library directors, who themselves reject/ban books and periodicals.  And what about library patrons being threatened?  

Over the years, I have “knocked” on many library doors in an effort to get library directors to subscribe to the journal I publish.  My attempts were largely futile.  In vain, for example, I tried to get St. John’s and Charlottetown (PEI) libraries to subscribe.  In the States, one library banned me for six months because I had somehow disturbed its reference librarian by evoking library hypocrisy (see theamericandissident.org/orgs/watertown_free_public_library.html).  Another library had decided to subscribe, but then suddenly ceased to respond (see theamericandissident.org/orgs/mashpee_public_library.html).  Of course, one serious problem exists regarding the journal I publish:  it actually encourages criticism regarding libraries and librarians!  Where else might one find such criticism?  It is as if somehow, libraries and their directors are above criticism.  Today, I have essentially given up trying to expand my small list of library subscribers.  For me Banned Books Week will always be a farce, certainly not something to celebrate, especially when I see its poster hanging up outside my neighborhood library.  

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