Monday, March 10, 2008

ALA & Censorship?

A library group called "Friends of Cuban Libraries" is claiming that American Library Association, a group that champions free speech, is censoring. It's not exactly a new claim. Hundreds of people have claimed throughout ALA's long history that it censors, but the claim is nonetheless intriguing. We all censor to a certain extent, I that what ALA is doing? Read the press release and judge for yourself. Feel free to comment below and weigh in on the issue...

7 comments: said...

I went to the link provided and got links to a lot of press releases. Would you please specify the specific one at issue?

Scott Douglas said...

It's the top press release labeled March 8th said...

Found it. Here's a direct link: ALA Censoring Guest Speaker, Critics Say

nan said...

Interesting issue -- I don't know if it amounts to what I've always thought of as censorship -- according to the press release, the ALA didn't stop Anthony Lewis from talking about Cuba, it just hasn't publicized his remarks (the press release refers to "ALA journalists" being at the session-- I don't know what that means). And I sort of doubt the ALA has been taken over by pro-Castro zealots because I imagine the ALA has different priorities. said...

Okay, Scott Douglas, I have read the press release in question.

Censorship is usually defined as a government suppressing ideas. For example, according to "Friends of Cuban Libraries," Cuba has censored "Animal Farm" by George Orwell.

The ALA, however, is not a governmental body. It cannot censor anything. So no, the ALA has not committed censorship.

Be that as it may, the ALA holds itself out to the public as the nation's censorship police regarding public libraries. It even has an "Office for Intellectual Freedom" that supposedly opposes censorship. Its leader is Judith Krug, for forty years the de facto leader of the ALA, according to The Krug Contribution, by John N. Berry III, Library Journal, June 15, 2005.

However, the ALA claims keeping sexually inappropriate material from children is "age" discrimination--right in its so-called "Library Bill of Rights." The ALA opposes "censorship" of such material. For example, when Howell, MI, parents attempted to keep a book containing bestiality from public school children, Krug intimated the parents were racist since the author had dark skin. Worse, the ALA promotes "Banned Books Week," which Thomas Sowell said should be called "NATIONAL HOGWASH WEEK." And I do not now have a citation but I recollect Krug expressed the wish that the Cuban librarians would just "drown" to get rid of the problem.

And in recent news, the Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, has admitted to taking part in prostitution. Now that happens every day, but when the Governor of New York does it, after being an Attorney General opposing such matters, that is an entirely different ball game. Child pornography sadly occurs every day as well, but when former ACLU executive Charles Rust-Tierney does it, that is an entirely different story, especially where Rust-Tierney had lobbied against restricting Internet access in public libraries, taking the position that “recognizing that individuals will continue to behave responsibly and appropriately while in the library, the default should be maximum, unrestricted access to the valuable resources of the Internet."

The same applies to the ALA. It holds itself out as the nation's censorship police while at the same time suppressing information about the crimes being committed against Cuban librarians. Spitzer cannot argue against prostitution if he is committing it. Rust-Tierney cannot argue for unrestricted access if he is violating it. And the ALA cannot claim censorship if it is doing something substantially similar.

And like with various political officials, it is often not the activity that is the problem, it is usually the cover up. And, true to form, the ALA elite are covering up. ALA Counsel members are saying not reporting on Anthony Lewis's comments supporting oppressed Cuban librarians is no big deal because other speakers did not get reporting either. See, e.g., "Sadly Ironic."

But other speakers were not directly challenging the ALA as did Anthony Lewis, and others in previous ALA meetings. Clearly such a challenge is newsworthy as it occurred in the heart of an ALA convention, but the ALA choose not to report on it. While not explicitly censorship, the seriousness of the charge and the ALA Council attempts at cover up or explain it away raise serious questions as to the propriety of the ALA's actions or omissions.

I have seen the ALA act in a similar fashion again and again, but I'll shorten this comment by not listing examples. I have myself fallen victim to its double standard--in "Unequal Access" I describe how the ALA continued to raise the bar to keep me out of one of its classes while at the same time defying state supreme court rules regarding open access to all, except to me, according to the ALA. So much for intellectual freedom as practiced by the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

In summary, I'll agree with you that the ALA has not censored anyone strictly speaking. But given how it acts in light of its self-arrogated position as the nation's censorship police, one would expect the ALA to be open and honest.

Mr. Douglas, I ask you to consider what I have said. And please confine your comments to substantive issues, not ones about me personally, even where I have made the ALA's interaction with me an issue. I think you can see I am being reasonable by saying censorship has not occurred, but given the nature of the circumstances, the ALA should have made every effort to avoid the appearance of censorship on its own behalf. Sadly, typically, it has not. To me, it appears that the ALA has continued in it long line of censorship-like activity against speech it opposes. What do you think?

Scott Douglas said...

I'll hold my tongue...for now. But you certainly make valid points, and no the issue well.

Jessamyn said...

Failure to report is not censorship. The ALA came out with a resolution condemning the imprisonment of the people in Cuba with private libraries. That they are not activist ENOUGH on this issue is a bone of contention to many people.

I was active on Council when this issue was being debated for hours and voted in favor of the resolution. The issue is heavily politicized and dramatized by people with specific agendas. I think ALA 1) did not censor anyone and 2) has acted appropriately on this issue.