June 24, 2014

Baudrillard on the futility of information

There’s a passage from the first part of Jean Baudrillard’s In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities that always resonated with my more pessimistic moments of doing library instruction. There is a faith involved in pursuing information literacy, a passionate belief in the empowerment of people, especially students, though teaching them to find, filter, and use information. For Baudrillard, there was a God behind that faith, and he is dead. I always read Baudrillard with a healthy dose of skepticism, because he took things to such extremes and wrote as if history had reached its endpoint. With all we are hearing now about rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and mass extinction, his words are seeming more relevant. For an idea about why the public largely ignores these issues, consider this passage:

The Abyss of Meaning

… Whatever its political, pedagogical, cultural content, the plan is always to get some meaning across, to keep the masses within reason; an imperative to produce meaning that takes the form of the constantly repeated imperative to moralise information: to better inform, to better socialise, to raise the cultural level of the masses, etc. Nonsense: the masses scandalously resist the imperative of rational communication. They are given meaning: they want spectacle. No effort has been able to convert them to the seriousness of the content, nor even to the seriousness of the code. Messages are given to them, they only want some sign, they idolise the play of signs and stereotypes, they idolise any content so long as it resolves itself into a spectacular sequence. What they reject is the “dialectic” of meaning. Nor is anything served by alleging that they are mystified. This is always a hypocritical hypothesis which protects the intellectual complaisance of the producers of meaning: the masses spontaneously aspire to the natural light of reason. This in order to evade the reverse hypothesis, namely that it is in complete “freedom” that the masses oppose their refusal of meaning and their will to spectacle to the ultimatum of meaning. They distrust, as with death, this transparency and this political will.They scent the simplifying terror which is behind the ideal hegemony of meaning, and they react in their own way, by reducing all articulate discourse to a single irrational and baseless dimension, where signs lose their meaning and peter out in fascination: the spectacular.

Baudrillard could have been talking about Facebook, but that was published in 1983, in a small book from Semiotext(e), In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, pp. 9-11. The book is a pessimistic response to the likes of Habermas – or at least it seems pessimistic to someone who believes in Habermas. I’m not sure Baudrillard would have called himself a pessimist; he rather would have said he had made an adjustment to a new state of affairs.

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June 19, 2014

Piracy: Leakages from Modernity

Piracy: Leakages from Modernity

Editors: Martin Fredriksson and James Arvanitakis
Price: $40.00
Published: July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936117-59-8
Printed on acid-free paper

Available on Amazon

“Piracy” is a concept that seems everywhere in the contemporary world. From the big screen with the dashing Jack Sparrow, to the dangers off the coast of Somalia; from the claims by the Motion Picture Association of America that piracy funds terrorism, to the political impact of pirate parties in countries like Sweden and Germany. While the spread of piracy provokes responses from the shipping and copyright industries, the reverse is also true: for every new development in capitalist technologies, some sort of “piracy” moment emerges.

This is maybe most obvious in the current ideologisation of Internet piracy where the rapid spread of so called Pirate Parties is developing into a kind of global political movement. While the pirates of Somalia seem a long way removed from Internet pirates illegally downloading the latest music hit or, it is the assertion of this book that such developments indicate a complex interplay between capital flows and relations, late modernity, property rights and spaces of contestation. That is, piracy seems to emerge at specific nodes in capitalist relations that create both blockages and leaks between different social actors.

These various aspects of piracy form the focus for this book, entitled Piracy: Leakages from Modernity. It is meant to be a collection of texts that takes a broad perspective on piracy and attempts to capture the multidimensional impacts of piracy on capitalist society today. The book is edited by James Arvanitakis at the University of Western Sydney and Martin Fredriksson at Linköping University, Sweden.

Table of Contents

List of Acronyms

Introduction
Martin Fredriksson and James Arvanitakis

Part I – Ontology

The Pirate Imaginary and the Potential of the Authorial Pirate
James Meese

To Name a Thief: Constructing the Deviant Pirate
Virginia Crisp

“You Can’t Change Our Ancestors Without Our Permission”: Cultural Perspectives on Biopiracy
Daniel F. Robinson, Danielle Drozdzewski and Louise Kiddell

Piratical Community and the Digital Age: The Structural Racialization of Piracy in European Law and Culture
Sonja Schillings

Part II – Politics

Modernity, Law and the Violence of Piracy, Property and the State
Sean Johnson Andrews

‘Pirates’ in EU’s (Semi)Peripheries: A Comparative Case Study on the Perceptions of Poles and Greeks on Digital File-sharing
Yiannis Mylonas

The IPR GPR: The Emergence of a Global Prohibition Regime to Regulate Intellectual Property Infringement
Lucas Logan

BitTorrent: Stealing or Sharing Culture? A Discussion of the Pirate Bay Case and the Documentaries ‘Steal this Film’ I & II
Ekin Gündüz Özdemírcí

The Internet Between Politics and the Political: The Birth of the Pirate Party
Mariacristina Sciannamblo

Cultural Resistance or Corporate Assistance: Disenchanting the Anti-Capitalist Myth of Digital Piracy
You Jie

Part III – Practices

The Justification of Piracy: Differences in Conceptualization and Argumentation Between Active Uploaders and Other File-sharers
Jonas Andersson and Stefan Larsson

Set the Fox to Watch the Geese: Voluntary IP Regimes in Piratical File-sharing Communities
Balázs Bodó

Pirate Economies and the Production of Smooth Spaces
Pavlos Hatzopoulos and Nelli Kambouri

The Collaborative Production of Amateur Subtitles for Pirated TV shows in Brazil
Vanessa Mendes Moreira De Sa

After Piracy: Reflections of Industrial Designers in Taiwan on Sustainable Innovation
Yi-Chieh Jessica Lin

Piracy is Normal, Piracy is Boring: Systemic Disruption as Everyday Life
Francesca da Rimini and Jonathan Marshall

An Epilogue – Privacy is Theft: On Anonymous Experiences, Infrastructural Politics and Accidental Encounters
Ned Rossiter and Soenke Zehle

Author biographies

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June 18, 2014

News from the Sign Project

News from the Sign Project, This-Sign.net. (This-Sign.net is a digital sign in a public space that is connected to the internet, so that people can put their messages on the sign.)

We have enjoyed having this sign up and running at the Doughbot donut shop on 10th Street for the past half year or so, and have especially enjoyed working with Bryan and his wife in maintaining it. They have been super generous and accommodating as we got our project up and running and dealt with the occasional downtime issues. That is one of two reasons that we are sad about their recent decision to close up shop in August (the other reason of course being: no more donuts).

This is going to mean that our gizmo will be without a home soon, so, we are looking for potential new hosts. Someone in Sacramento or Marin County with some kind of a shop – bar, cafe, bookstore, etc. – could benefit from having our sign up on their wall, because it is a way for their customers to interact with each other and with the store, and a way for the store to put up rotating messages for them. It works pretty well.

The sign currently works very simply. There is a website that people can go to on their smartphones where they can simply enter text, and the text shows up on the sign in about ten seconds and sits there for a little while. We are working on getting it connected to Twitter and toying with some other ideas as well, but for now, that is what it does.

Want to have our sign in your store? Drop us a line….

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June 16, 2014

Interview with Jennifer Sweeney

Jennifer Sweeney teaches at the College of Computing and Informatics at Drexel University and in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA, and is a program evaluation consultant for libraries and other public agencies and nonprofits. She is scheduled to teach a series of classes for Library Juice Academy, which we are calling the “Painless Research” series. We describe the series as follows:

The Painless Research Series provides an overview of basic research techniques needed by library managers and other staff in different workplace sectors, such as service quality, customer satisfaction, and operational metrics, or in specific tools such as surveys and focus groups. Participants develop skills in formulating typical research questions and strategies, making use of existing studies and data, collecting and analyzing data, and tailoring presentations for different audiences.

Jennifer Sweeney agreed to do an interview for the Library Juice Academy blog, to help give people a better sense of what will be covered in these classes, what needs they address, and a little bit about herself as the instructor.

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June 14, 2014

Interview with Vincent Mosco about his new book

Vincent Mosco is Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University, Canada. In his career he has focused on the political economy of information, communication, and the media. Back in the 80s he co-edited a book with Janet Wasko that was very influential to me as I was developing my thoughts on libraries and related subjects – The Political Economy of Information. (I used to have two copies of it but it seems I’ve given both of them away. The paperback edition is still in print.) Among the books he is responsible for more recently are his important texbook titled The Political Economy of Communication, now in its second edition from SAGE, and his The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power, and Cyberspace, from MIT Press. Both of these books are highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the kinds of things Library Juice has given attention to over the years. A new book by Dr. Mosco has just come out from Paradigm Publishers: To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World. He has graciously agreed to do an interview about this new book.

Dr. Mosco, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I feel privileged to get to ask you some questions about this book. First, I wonder if you could briefly tell us what this book is about?

VM:
Thank you Rory. It is pleasure to share my thoughts with your readers.

To the Cloud is about cloud computing, which moves data, applications, and software from the desktop or on-site data center to a distant location, and big data which analyzes quantitative data typically stored in the cloud. It is the first critical examination of cloud computing moving beyond the affirmative, promotional and mythic tone of what has been written on the subject. As such, it concentrates on the growing concentration of corporate power in the industry, the environmental damage caused by large data centers and their massive power demands, the menace to privacy in the surveillance that the cloud enables, the threat to jobs, especially in the IT industry, and the dangers of the digital positivism that big data unleashes for many different ways of knowing. Nevertheless, if it were strictly regulated and organized as a public utility, cloud computing holds the potential for expanding access to information and communication and creates new opportunities for democratic social planning.

RL:
I have to comment that these represent a set of very important trends to talk about, and cloud computing is a convenient way to group them, but in most cases what you are talking about are phenomena that do not proceed directly from the specific innovation that cloud computing represents. So, regarding the concentration of corporate power, environmental damage caused by the industry, the menace to privacy, and even the problems to be found with big data, it seems that all of these things are linked to the internet in general as much as to cloud computing specifically. I wonder if you could talk about how cloud computing as a new development has affected some of these issues which were already problems in the internet era going back a decade or two. Certainly these problems have had your attention for some time. What are the new developments to be concerned about?

VM:
Correct. Cloud computing deepens and extends longstanding problems in what might best be called digital capitalism and its current trajectory forecloses opportunities for democratic communication. The industry is hardly a decade old and is now dominated by Amazon which, along with a handful of others like Microsoft, uses predatory pricing to drive out competitors and fight off all forms of regulation. Even the CIA relies on Amazon for cloud services. As companies and governments recognize the cost savings in cloud computing, the global demand for data centers is growing. The need for 24/7 service makes massive demands on the power grid for processing and cooling servers and requires environmentally dangerous back up systems including diesel generators, chemical batteries and flywheels. The shift from PCs and in-house storage to the cloud makes surveillance easier and big data analytics extends the power of surveillance. It is no coincidence that the NSA is building one of the largest cloud computing systems in the world. Moreover, the cloud poses a massive threat to IT jobs. In fact, one expert describes cloud computing as nothing more than a global drive to eliminate and outsource IT labor. Finally, the spread of big data analytics enshrines a singular way of knowing that relies solely on quantitative data and correlational analysis and denies the value of theory, history, subjectivity and qualitative ways of knowing. A common line among enthusiasts is that “the data will speak for itself”. In essence, cloud computing brings together digital capitalism and digital positivism in ways that threaten democracy. It is therefore imperative that we begin a discussion of how to control the cloud and how to realize its genuine potential as a public resource.

RL:
It’s a really exciting book that pulls together a number of threads that have to be understood in relation to each other. It suggests more books on each of its related topics: for example, I think we need a book about big data in particular that extends the criticisms you bring to it here. But at the same time, the combinations of many of these phenomena present a new complex that I think you are right to try to understand as a whole. The new reality of surveillance via the cloud may be a problem in itself, and the digital positivism of big data may be a problem in itself, but in combination we are talking about a digital-positivist surveillance of individuals that renders our subjective choices and meanings into limited variables and quantities, all adjudicated at a level beyond our knowledge and control through these corporate structures that own the cloud. Your analysis presents a fairly dystopian vision – scary stuff – and yet you find reason to be hopeful about the cloud as a public resource. How do you envision that possibility? Can all of these problems be solved via more democratic control of these resources?

VM:
It is scary stuff. You get a clear sense of how important the cloud and big data are for surveillance capitalism and the surveillance state by examining how fiercely they are being promoted. In the chapter “Selling the Cloud Sublime,” I take a close look at the role of advertising, blogs and other social media, private think thanks like McKinsey and Company, international organizations like the World Economic Forum, lobbying, and trade shows in marketing the cloud and big data.

Nevertheless, it is important to think broadly and dialectically about the relationship between technology and society. Doing so helps me to identify counterpoints to the cloud envisioned by big companies and the NSA and counterpoints to the singular way of knowing advanced by big data enthusiasts. Examining the history of the cloud computing concept takes me to variations on the public, information, or computer utility concept which was prominent in research on computers in the 1950s and 60s, in the West, in the Soviet cybernetics program for national economic planning, and in the 1970s in the experiments with using computers to promote democratic socialism in Chile. Each of these strains of thought suggests another way of thinking about cloud computing emphasizing public purpose and social planning over commercialism and corporate profit. I think we are at a point not unlike that of the electrical industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when unbridled capitalism shaped decisions on who had access to electricity with no public oversight. Ultimately, citizens and the great social movements of the time refused to accept the view that corporate greed should determine access to technology and created public utilities that, however unevenly and problematically, guaranteed universal access at affordable rates. I envision a similar movement taking shape today around the scourge of inequality and led by activist educators, librarians and other knowledge workers. Such movements are not guarantees of a democratic outcome but provide the means to fight for one and the hope necessary to carry on the struggle.

Moreover, in the concluding chapter of the book I address the counterpoints to big data drawn from an epistemological critique of digital positivism (the failure to consider qualitative data, history, theory, subjectivity and the limits of correlational analysis) and a broader critique from what I call “cloud culture,” or the humanistic tradition that spans Aristophanes’ play The Clouds, the medieval text The Cloud of Unknowing, and David Mitchell’s magnificent work of fiction Cloud Atlas. All of these provide a rich stew of alternatives to the narrow singularity of big data’s imperious and dangerous digital positivism. The times and our many problems call for many ways of knowing that need to be revived and supported. There may be numerous dark clouds forming but there are also many bright spots on the horizon including growing attacks on the many failures of big data analysis and the recognition by a surprisingly large number of technical experts, social scientists and humanists that other ways of knowing are essential.

RL:
Thanks for talking to me about your book. Any thoughts on what is next for you in your writing life?

VM:
I am beginning to think about a book on the so-called internet of things which, like cloud computing, is grounded in mythic thinking . But whereas the cloud imagines a universal intelligence available to all people, even as corporations and the surveillance state sequester it for their interests, the internet of things envisions a universal intelligence embedded in all matter, even as those same business and their partners in the state design it as an instrument of profit and control. Does it too contain a democratic potential?

However the subject gets formulated, my approach has been fairly consistent over the forty years that I have been writing about technology. First, stay ahead of the curve and “plant a flag” of critical thinking when you arrive so that those following can cut through promotional thinking and deepen opportunities for political intervention. Second, situate what you find ahead of the curve in a historical context that enriches alternative ways of thinking. Finally, carry out research with the mind of an activist and act with the mind of a theorist. The goal should be praxis or the unity of theory and activism.

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss my book.

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June 11, 2014

Interview with Andrea Baer

Andrea Baer is the Undergraduate Education Librarian at Indiana University-Bloomington, as well as an Adjunct Lecturer for the University of Tennessee’s School of Information Sciences. She holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Washington and a Masters in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee. Andrea teaches two classes for Library Juice Academy: Information Literacy, Composition Studies and Higher Order Thinking and New Directions in Information Literacy: Growing Our Teaching Practices. The first is a class she has taught for us a couple of times now, and the second she is scheduled to teach for the first time next month. Andrea agreed to do an interview for the Library Juice Academy blog about these classes and about herself as an instructor.

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June 5, 2014

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine Launches Solidarity Network

Last summer I went with a delegation of information workers to Israel/Palestine. As our post-trip solidarity statement said: We bore witness to the destruction and appropriation of information, and the myriad ways access is denied. We were inspired by the many organizations and individuals we visited who resist settler-colonialism in their daily lives. We connected with colleagues in libraries, archives, and related projects and institutions, in the hopes of gaining mutual benefit through information exchange and skill-sharing. We learned about the common and unique challenges we face—both in different parts of Palestine and in our home contexts.

Below is the press release that Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP) is issuing today. Please read on and join the network if you are moved to.

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine Launches New Website and Solidarity Network

contact: librarians2palestine AT gmail com

June 5, 2014

On the 47th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and after 66 years of dispossession of the Palestinian people, a group of librarians and archivists is launching a network of information workers in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. In summer 2013, information workers from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, and Palestine went to Palestine to connect with colleagues in libraries, archives, and related projects and institutions, in the hopes of gaining mutual benefit through information exchange and skill-sharing. In the months since our journey, members of the Librarians and Archivists to Palestine delegation have publicly discussed what we witnessed during, and learned from, our trip—in local activist spaces, at scholarly conferences, and in publications.

Today, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of a new name, a new website, and a new network. We have updated our name from Librarians and Archivists to Palestine to Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP). This change reflects the fact that we are more than a visiting delegation; we are committed to ongoing work on projects of solidarity in support of Palestinian libraries and archives.

Our new website, librarianswithpalestine.org, includes information and observations about places we visited—research and cultural organizations including Birzeit University, the Issaf Nashashibi Center for Culture and Literature, the Tamer Institute for Community Education, and the Saffourieh Museum for Heritage and Return—photos, and a compilation of LAP publications such as zines and articles.

Most importantly, we are excited to launch a broad-based network in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Any self-defined information worker who agrees with our principles is invited to become a LAP member. Members can also join solidarity project working groups and contribute their skills to support access to information in and about Palestine.

For more information and to join the network, please visit librarianswithpalestine.org. The public is also invited to LAP’s open house on Tuesday, June 17, at Interference Archive in Brooklyn, NY, where we will be displaying prints, zines, and photos from our new portfolio created with Booklyn Artists Alliance.

 

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June 2, 2014

Bibliography of Scholarship on Women and Gender Studies Librarianship

From: Jennifer Gilley
Subject: [WGSS-L] Updated Bibliography of Women and Gender Studies Scholarship
Date: June 2, 2014 12:42:04 PM PDT
To: wgss-l@ala.org

The WGSS Research Committee [Women and Gender Studies Section of ACRL] is pleased to announce that the Bibliography of Scholarship on Women and Gender Studies Librarianship has now been updated through early 2014! The bibliography can be viewed by subject, in addition to author’s name and date. The subject listing follows the intellectual organization of the Research Agenda for Women and Gender Studies Librarianship, which is intended to be helpful for letting would-be researchers know what has been published on a particular topic.

Please let me know if you are aware of any relevant scholarship that has been left out of the bibliography, and also feel free to give me any comments or suggestions for either the bibliography or the research agenda.

Happy Researching!
Jennifer Gilley

Member, Research Committee
Women and Gender Studies Section

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Free exhibits pass to visit our booth at ALA

We’re exhibiting at ALA in Las Vegas later this month, showing our books and talking to people about Library Juice Academy. We want to give you a free pass to the exhibits hall if you want to come visit us there. If you’re already registered for the conference you won’t need an exhibits pass, but the exhibits pass will give you a badge without registering. In the exhibits hall we will be at table 1954, so come by and say hello.

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June 1, 2014

Commentary on The Speaker – Al Kagan, Pat Schuman, Mitch Freedman

The SRRT discussion list has been alive recently with comments – objections, to be accurate – to ALA’s decision to present a screening and discussion of the controversial 1977 film, The Speaker. Here is a sampling of some of the better ones, from Al Kagan, Pat Schuman, and Mitch Freedman, followed by a link to a good resource for further study of this, put together by the ALA Library.

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On Wed, May 21, 2014 at 7:39 AM, Kagan, Al wrote:

I find it outrageous that the film is coming back to haunt us. Most of the the key players of that time have died, but there still are a few people around who could contextualize the serious outrage that this caused with passion. I am surprised that the Black Caucus would co-sponsor it. One of the presenters is Bob Wedgeworth. He played a key role in the production and hid the real intent from almost everyone of what was going on. The debacle overshadowed everything else in Eric Moon’s presidency. Here is a short excerpt from my forthcoming book:

Major Owens said that it revealed a “secret agenda of racism,” and E. J. Josey asked members “to support the humanity of black people.”[i] Sandy Berman circulated a statement that was signed by sixty-five prominent librarians. It read in part,

WE ARE ASHAMED AND DISGUSTED. The American Library Association has produced a film, The Speaker, that purports to deal with intellectual freedom and the First Amendment. It does not. Instead, it distorts and confounds the First Amendment. But even worse than this intellectual dishonesty is the film’s wanton assault upon Black people. In effect, it says: “Blacks are irrational. Blacks are unprincipled. Blacks must be ‘protected’ by Whites. And Blacks may indeed be less than fully human.”[ii]

Bill Eshelman, editor of Wilson Library Journal, put it this way:

…The decision to make the ‘liberals’ the villains who wish to prohibit the free speech of the “reactionary” is very strange and flies in the face of the facts of American, if not ALA history…It makes one question whether the IFC knows who the real enemies of the First Amendment are.”[iii]

[i] Kister, 343.

[ii] Sanford Berman, “E.J. and Me: Twenty Years of Correspondence and Agitation,” in E.J. Josey: An Activist Librarian, ed. Ismail Abdullahi (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1992), 72.

[iii] Eshelman, 254. See also Donnarae MacCann, ed., Social Responsibility in Librarianship: Essays on Equality (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1989), 7-8.

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Pat Schuman wrote:

Actually there are at least three Past-Presidents — Mitch Freedman, Betty Turock, and myself who are very much alive and very much around and can offer context. John Berry, who is also very much present at ALA, reported extensively on the issue.

It is disturbing that even the current press release announcing the film’s showings and the program already indicates a bias by saying:

“Many ALA members objected to the film’s subject matter and the process by which the film was produced. ”

WRONG. What many of us who voted against ALA distributing the Speaker objected to was the poor manner in which the “the subject matter” was treated –for example, the racist stereotyping of the characters, and the false dichotomy of the film ( if you are upset by racist comments you must be for censorship). No one suggested destroying the film. Personally, I opposed giving it ALA’s imprint, not because it dealt with inviting a racist speaker, but the WAY it dealt with the reactions. Many others were also appalled, including the President and the President-elect at the time (Eric Moon and Clara Jones) as well as future President and founder of the ALA Black Caucus EJ Josey. Clara, by the way, was the first African American to direct a major public library ( Detroit) and the first to become President of AL A. A vote against ALA putting its imprimatur on the the film was not a vote for suppressing or destroying it. Our votes were no more for “censorship,” than American Libraries rejecting an article, or ALA Publishing deciding to reject a book that did not meet its standards. The Speaker was poorly conceived and poorly executed. We did not want it to be the representation of our Associations view of intellectual freedom to the world. The marketplace obviously agreed — only a few hundred copues were sold.

Of course, in those days we were often bludgeoned with cries of censorship when we discussed to racism and sexism in children’s books, objected to sexist language, etc. We can only hope that the discussion does not deteriorate once more into a meaningless, but very destructive, hurtful–and false– “intellectual freedom vs. social responsibility debate.”

Deidre may be right. Ignoring this turn of events may be the best course of action. Members can judge for themselves how bad the film looks now, and how it must have looked in the context if the mid -seventies ( barely a decade after ALA itself desegrated its Chapters).

Pat

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Mitch Freedman:

As Pat indicated, I too was appalled by The Speaker.

It was a warped and bad idea that never should have seen the light of day. But once ALA paid for it–which purportedly made it beyond reproach & criticism–trying to get it put away because of its overall defectiveness was targeted as “censorship”.

As ALA Honorary Member designate, Patricia Glass Schuman indicates below, discarding a book that turned out to be unworthy of addition to the library collection is what we call collection development, not censorship.

The movie was sooooo bad.

One of its joys that permanently stuck in my mind was that the African-American who had dark skin was portrayed as a “bad” guy (a censor) and the “good” guy was a very light-skinned African-American. That little piece of its reality was one of the reasons I opposed it.

Judith Krug, the head of the Intellectual Freedom Office and a bosom buddy of Nat Hentoff’s got the whole intellectual freedom community to defend her egregious error, i.e. the release of the movie. Of course Hentoff went after any opponents of the film as betrayers of ALA, intellectual freedom and the First Amendment.

I ask you, if you buy a DVD or a book that turns out to be a piece of crap when you read or preview it, what do you do? Put it in the trash because its lousy, or publicize and disseminate it so you can’t be called a censor.

A great example from real life:

A really sweet guy and director of a rural Minnesota library system ordered a few copies of the Illustrated Report of the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. When the books came in, he realized that they were published by a San Diego porn house, and that the report was an excuse for publishing all of the pornographic photos. The funny part of the story is that he put the books in a drawer in his desk. He woke up in the middle of the night terrified that he might die before the morning and people would find the books in his desk and would think he was a librarian who not so secretly kept a stash of porn in his desk.

The next day when he discarded them permanently because they were a wholly unintended horrible mistake, the same advocates for The Speaker would accuse him of censorship–at least if they were consistent.

If instead it was okay to dump it because it was a terrible mistake, then rather than being censorship it was reconsideration of what was a mistake.

Well, folks, all opposition to The Speaker was tarred with the censorship brush.

And all of its defenders were front line freedom fighters defending the First Amendment who fought the repressive librarian censors.

I see no difference between the two cases: the porn books honestly ordered and honestly thrown out because it turned out their selection and purchase were a terrible mistake; and the case of The Speaker which was created with–I trust–good intentions, but which turned out to be a divisive, degrading and dishonest movie.

Sadly because it had IFC’s imprimatur it became the cause of the intellectual freedom establishment.

I’ll fight censors, but when something is crap, it’s my job to not compound the mistake by keeping the item in the library for fear of being called a censor.

E.J. Josey the foremost African-American of librarianship for all time, fought The Speaker with his heart and soul.

That the Black Caucus is bringing it back must have E.J.’s spirit weeping the bitterest of tears.

mitch freedman, ALA President, 2002-2003?

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For further reference:

Pathfinder of resources on The Speaker compiled by the ALA Library:
http://www.ala.org/tools/speaker

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