Paste it in the head!


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Oh. My. God.

If you want to read something ridiculous, visit the above link and read the article entitled "When librarians protect terrorists," by Richard L. Cravatts.

As a graduate student of an information studies program, a former employee of a bookstore, an avid reader and, in my opinion, a fairly decent citizen, the idea that libraries and bookstores should be required to turn their patrons' and customers' records over to the feds is deeply unsettling. I oppose the so-called Patriot Act--I feel that it is nothing more than W's continued crusade to marshall his forces of evil and idiocy and turn my country into a police state--even though I abhor the idea and the reality of terrorism.

Obviously, September 11th was one of the most unimaginable tragedies of my lifetime--however, that does not give anyone the grounds to attack the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and remove Americans' rights to privacy. Whose business is it if I choose to purchase Nabokov's Lolita at the bookstore, or check out books on witchcraft from the library? As long as I'm not preying on children, as long as I'm not actually performing ritual sacrifices*--essentially, as long as I'm innocent, and until I can be proven guilty--no one needs to know about my reading habits.

Where it grows murky is when I do actually commit a crime that can be linked to my reading habits. At first, when I considered this, my immediate reaction was, "No, of course no one should have access to my library/bookstore records, even if I have done something wrong. That's an invasion of privacy." Then I thought about the number of times that I have cited violent video games as "the downfall of society" (I don't like video games, can you tell?)--or more specifically, that violent video games have been singled out as one reason that those two teenagers killed that taxi driver here in Toronto last week. There was a copy of "Need for Speed" found in one of the boys' cars, and there was speculation that they were imitating the moves on the video game when the one car crashed into the taxi. If I had it my way, video games would be censored. But I don't feel that way about books. I would never remove Lolita from the bookstore, or Mein Kampf even, for the sake of censorship. I almost wish I would, because then I wouldn't be a hypocrite when it comes to video games.

However. I also think that reading, or listening to heavy metal or rap or classical music or tribal chants, or even, though I hate to admit it, playing video games, isn't going to change the intrinsic nature of a person. There would still be child molestors if Lolita didn't exist; there would still be genocide if Mein Kampf was banned; that taxi driver would still have died if "Need for Speed" was censored; and, even if that library director had surrendered that patron's records, there would still be terrorists. I don't think that something as simple as censoring video games or banning books or operating a widespread surveillance program of your citizens is going to change what is inherently wrong with our societies, our cultures, and our world.


  • I am torn. Part of me believes that as a public place, law enforcement had the right to search the computer...especially since a crime had been reported. because this crime had been reported, and only because, it seems to be protecting more the suspect than the innocent. damn it, that is a hard hard distinction.

    i too would hate the thought of books being censored. perhaps because of their long and treasured past of being the ultimate political emancipators. i just can't help but see them as symbols of political freedom...even if certainly not all of them have such a noble purpose.

    i think i might be too tired to write on this, but i don't want to be writing that feckin' paper. anything but. we'll chat more, i am sure.

    i wonder if they ever found and convicted the "terrorist" from the article. hmmm...

    By Blogger al, at 11:51 PM  

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