Totalitarians and ideological fanatics don’t like dissent. Whether their false religion is communism or regressive librarianship or whatever, failure to bow down before their profane altar draws wary glances, and open mockery of their tawdry rites brings them out snarling and sniping like lapdogs.
For those of you tuning in late, the Annoyed Librarian started life in the "conservative library blog" ghetto, back in the days when there was such a ghetto. Unfortunately it’s gone away for the most part. It’s still an open question as to whether I or the blog are or were ever conservative, but I really don’t care one way or the other how you answer the question, since I’m not one of those knee-jerk politicos who automatically hates people if the "wrong" political label is applied to them. But, because I made common cause with the conservative bloggers over the politicization of the ALA Council, and because of a column in American Libraries classifying me as a "dissident librarian," and because I don’t think children should be exposed to pornography at their public library, I was attacked and labelled and smeared. It was a fun ride. What my critics have rarely noticed is that I almost never attack a specific person unless they’ve attacked me first (or unless their pretentiousness is so overwhelming I just can’t help myself). Apparently they thought my demure manner meant I wouldn’t respond to their ridiculous charges. They were wrong.
The latest snipe is from a "distinguished" professor of library science at some little library school down in Dixie who really hates the Annoyed Librarian. Naturally she’s a part of the Regressive Librarians Guild, and seems to think anyone to the right of Che Guevara is a fascist. She likes to "out" people and keep them silent if they don’t agree with her. Her latest gig is writing the LJ Editor attacking me. She forwarded the email to the REFORMA listserv (where someone forwarded it to me), and prefaced the email to REFORMA with "This is a very powerful statement," which also shows how full of herself she is.
The Humorless Unionator wrote saying how evil I was, and she attached an article from the Regressive Librarian’s political organ entitled "On Anonymity in Libraryland Blogging," jointly authored by the Humorless Unionator, the Sniping Bronc, and Cranky Marxist Dude, all of whom had been attacking me onlistservs and in the comments section of the Blatant Berry Blog before I’d said a word about them. (I don’t know why they didn’t get any help from the Griping Illini , but he was probably busy haranguing the ALA Council on how important it is for American libraries that US foreign policy change, like he was doing last week.) Back in the day the Humorless Unionator said how hateful I and all the other "anonymous" conservative bloggers were. The other blogger being discussed was David Durant, who used to write a blog called Heretical Librarian. Since his blog was never anonymous or hateful, it was apparent to me that she was attacking blogs based upon no knowledge whatsoever of their contents. They were "conservative," and thus evil and hateful and should be silenced. Some people use political labels as a substitute for thought.
Anyway, Sniping Bronc, Humorless Unionator, and Cranky Marxist Dude make it very clear in this article that they don’t like "anonymous" blogs, especially "anonymous" blogs by "conservatives." They complain about the tone of these blogs, but considering statements they’d made about me, that was a bit hypocritical. What really bothers them, I suspect, is that a nobody from nowhere armed only with a blog and the truth made their political posturing look so silly, and that the increasing readership meant that lots of well meaning librarians considered them silly as well and were less likely than ever to relent to their hectoring. They’re the sort of people who get all hot and bothered just knowing that someone is reading this blog. I think any reasonable person can see that they really don’t care about anonymous or even pseudonymous blogging in libraryland. If the AL was praising Maoist librarians or brownnosing communist dictators anonymously, they’d be writing about the refreshing anonymous stances people were willing to take.
I can always tell the people who want to silence dissent from the people who tolerate it, that is, the totalitarians from the liberals. The librarians who want to silence dissent inevitably ignore everything but the alleged anonymity. That’s really all they can grasp at, because they know they don’t have an argumentative leg to stand on. Also, I might point out, it’s almost always the political totalitarians out there who focus on this. It’s not the twopointopians or the gamey librarians. They seem to be happy dismissing me as a harmless crank, and, frankly, somewhere deep down I know they’re trying to do good things for libraries, even though I might not agree with those things. But the political fanatics are another issue entirely. They have no interest in doing any good for libraries or librarians. They want to use libraries, librarians, and library organizations as political tools to engage issues that have nothing to do with librarianship. They want to manipulate us all into becoming their ideological running dogs and they use libraries and librarianship as a cover for their broader political activity.
My problem with this isn’t their political positions or activism. As long as people keep their laws off my body and my thoughts, I really don’t care what they do. You want to go march in protest at something, go ahead. I think you’re wasting your time, but as long as it makes you feel better and you’re not screaming in my face, I don’t care. You want to write articles about how bad the United States is, go ahead. It’s still a free country, more or less, no thanks to you. Do whatever you like in your bedroom; just don’t do it in the streets and scare the horses.
The problem comes when the ideological totalitarians want to use the rest of us as their political tools. I was happy to make common cause with the avowed conservative bloggers, but if they’d suggested having the ALA Council pass resolutions on abortion or stem cell research or science education, I would have been just as happy to mock them. What has always bothered me is the way the totalitarians believe that every person and every institution exists to be used for their political purposes. Instead of badgering the ALA Council to pass resolutions about important issues for American libraries, they want the ALA to comment on US foreign policy, as if anyone cares what the ALA has to say about that. In the process, they make librarians and the ALA look like blowhards (admittedly, the ALA helps a lot). Take the resolution on Gaza last week. There was no reason for the ALA to make a statement about that, especially when there are American libraries that need saving. Sure, there are a lot of poor, helpless people in Gaza, but there are a lot of poor, helpless people in this country in danger of losing their libraries, from Philadelphian urbanites to country folk all over America whose libraries are in danger. There are serious library-related political issues that the Council and the Regressive Librarians could be addressing, but those issues aren’t sexy. Conflict in Gaza is a sexy topic. Genocide in Darfur is a sexy topic. Complaining about "anonymous" library blogs is a sexy topic. Ill treatment of American librarians or shoddy library services to the American poor are just so booooring.
Do you want to know why I keep writing? I’d almost forgotten until this little shenanigan. It’s not just my bartender / masseur Chip, the big corner office overlooking the city, or the six-figure salary LJ pays me to blog, though these are nice. I write to give voices to those who don’t have them, the librarians out there who are badgered and harried and bullied. The ones who tolerate the rantings of political thugs because they think they don’t have a choice, because they’re afraid to just come out and say, "hey, you know what, I’d rather have the ALA do something for librarians and stay out of politics, and that doesn’t make me a fascist." I write for all the librarians who are told that if they’re not blogging or facebooking or twittering then they’re useless to the profession because they’re not on the "clue train." I write for the librarians who put up with incompetent managers and low salaries and library perverts because they think it’s important to share a book with a child or help people get answers to tough questions. I write for the librarians out there sick to death of the stuffy pretension pervading this profession, the ones who like libraries and librarians but want to scream when they read another post or article about how librarians are going to save the world one library card at a time. I write for those librarians who were wooed into library school by the false promises of the ALA. I write for the smart librarians who wonder why library school is such an intellectual joke. I write to expose the lies and burst the pretensions of librarianship. I write to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
And I write for the Humorless Unionator, and for all the humorless unionators out there who go crazy knowing someone, somewhere dissents from their ideological line, those who want to silence dissent because they can’t refute it, those patently illiberal fanatics who want to destroy their opponents because they can’t be bothered to argue with them. I write just to disagree with you because I know how much you hate the idea of dissent from your party line. Trotsky once said of Stalin that he "seeks to strike, not at the ideas of his opponent, but at his skull." For totalitarians, the shortest way with the dissenters is to silence them.