October 31, 2007

Censorship at the Canadian Border

I have long been aware that that Canadian postal service will stop delivery of materials it deems obscene or otherwise censorship-worthy. I was not aware that they published a list (actually it’s the Canadian Border Services Agency that does it) of all the materials that it stops.

The British Columbia Library Association IFC blog has an interesting post about this list of banned materials. Without passing judgment on the censorship involved, they note the openness of publishing the list on the web.

October 28, 2007

LJP Facebook group

Library Juice Press Facebook group….

October 19, 2007

All about Peter Suber

Peter Suber is a major leader in the Open Access movement. (His Open Access News is an indispensible source – extremely detailed and up to date.) Today Richard Poynder of the Open and Shut? blog gives us a nice biographical post on Suber followed by an interview (part of his Basement Interviews series).

Thanks to Heather Morrison for announcing this interview to multiple open access-related lists.

October 16, 2007

New issue of Information for Social Change

The new issue of Information for Social Change, issue 25, is available online. It is another theme issue, this time dealing with libraries and information workers in conflict situations. Examples of what’s in it include articles in disinformation during wartime, truth commissions in Latin American countries and libraries in relation to them, women living under Muslim law, human rights and librarians, and cultural property.

October 7, 2007

“The truth is somewhere in between” as a way to avoid thinking

Here is a diagnosis of a certain malady in our body politic: the “both sides have a point” reflex. It stems from a desire for fairness and from the recognition that real issues are more complex than their advocates often allow, but leads to a pathological bypass of healthy brain function. Sometimes it also appears as the “the truth is somewhere in between” reflex or the “See? I am balanced” reflex.

“Both sides have a point,” as a habitual thought, often leads people into the illusion that they are above having an opinion on a subject (since people with definite opinions, by the “both sides have a point” logic, fail to recognize the truth in those opinions they disagree with). This leads to an avoidance of the meat of the questions at issue. People with this malady often fail to discover those points of specific difference in matters of fact and philosophy, because they think there is no point in exploring the debate themselves, relying on others to form definite opinions, which to them merely add up to a tableau to look at. They think their role is to “let people make up their own minds,” forgetting that they count, too.

Sometimes it is true and both sides of an argument have a strong basis in reality. Perhaps it is even true most of the time. Recognizing the complexity of an issue results in complex opinions once you think things out. But it is never true à priori that “the truth is somewhere in between”; that is, when it’s true that both sides have a point you can only know it by paying close attention to what both sides are saying and thinking about it. “Let’s hear both sides” – that’s a salutary thought. But a presumption in advance that both sides are equally right, that’s just lazy, and, unfortunately, common.

Part of the cause of this kind of thinking is that journalists have turned to it as a way of avoiding criticism from bellicose right wingers who write letters to advertisers when the newspapers publish analyses that they disagree with, or facts that they want to suppress. Instead of just telling the truth in articles about hot topics, journalists now mostly provide a platform for “both sides,” regardless of how bogus one side’s statements actually are. Many in the public follow suit, thinking that this kind of “balance” equals objectivity. It doesn’t. That’s what’s so cancerous about this habit of thought. Objectivity can draw conclusions. À priori “balance” cannot. In the absence of a public that’s engaged enough to draw conclusions, who leads?

October 1, 2007

Two articles of interest from The Nation

First, Jeffrey Chester’s Google and Data-Seizure, about the significance of Google’s acquisition of Doubleclick, the internet marketing and company whose business is based on showing banner ads and tracking users’ web surfing. The article is primarily about privacy and what Google’s continuing acquisition of websites means for it (as the data is conglomerated).

Second, Tom Englehardt’s The Draconian Becomes the Norm, which is also about privacy, but in terms of how we are discarding it in the interest of post9/11 “safety.” Our loss of privacy is partly driven, the article asserts, by the clout of the surveillance industry, which is big business.