Many of you probably saw the Chicago Fox News opinion piece (which for some bizarre reason they and others call a “news” story) a couple of weeks ago asking if public libraries were necessary or a “waste of tax money.” This was followed by a long, well reasoned reply by the Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library.
The reply was completely unnecessary, and I think the Commissioner should have just kept quiet. Why? Several reasons.
First, people who read the Fox “News” are incapable of reasoning, much like the average reader of the Daily Worker. People go to Fox “News” for the same reasons people go to church or union meetings–to have their beliefs reassured, not tested.
Trying to argue with the average Fox “News” devotee is like trying to argue with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they come a-knocking on your door. They have a script and they stick to it. Their silence while you speak is no indication of comprehension; they’re just waiting for you to shut up so they can start prattling again about whatever it is they’re obsessed with this week.
If nothing else, the opinion piece alone should confirm this, because only an moronic ideologue could take it at all seriously. Every sentence in the article seems both forced and pointless. Take the opening:
They eat up millions of your hard earned tax dollars. It’s money that could be used to keep your child’s school running. So with the internet [sic] and e-books, do we really need millions for libraries?
I suppose this is supposed to be provocative, but it’s really just kind of dumb. Obviously no one at Fox “News” cares about your “hard earned tax dollars,” nor do they care about your public schools. Fox “News” fans are absolutely against all government programs until they need them personally, and I doubt many of them are heavy library users or readers, especially if we don’t count Civil War history books.
This happy insular belief is just reaffirmed in the last sentence, as if “the internet [sic] and e-books” are equivalent to libraries at all. Obviously this could only be believed by people who don’t use libraries. Honestly written, the sentence would go, “Since I have [internet] access, have rather shallow information needs, and purchase the three romance novels I read every year for my Kindle, do I really need libraries?” Obviously the answer is, no.
The second paragraph barely makes sense.
Libraries are quiet havens for the community. They take us to other worlds. They even make us laugh. But should these institutions — that date back to 1900 B.C. — be on the way out?
First of all, public libraries don’t date back to 1900 BC. In America, they date back to 1848 with the founding of the Boston Public Library. The Fox writer for some weird reason seems to believe that public libraries are the only libraries there are, as if the University of Chicago library is “on the way out.”
But the dumbest part is that the question itself–whether libraries should “be on the way out”–is never answered one way or the other, nor is any argument or evidence given to support the conclusion the writer clearly favors. That libraries cost money is evidence of nothing. Everything costs money. Even the incorrectly low usage figures the writer gives us would indicate that the library is pretty busy.
The funniest part is the social scientific experiment the clever folks at Fox “News” undertook at the Harold Washington Library.
So we decided to check it out. We used an undercover camera to see how many people used the library and what were they doing.
In an hour, we counted about 300 visitors. Most of them were using the free internet [sic]. The bookshelves? Not so much.
This is the sort of rigorous research I’d expect in a junior high social studies essay. I think the “not so much” is supposed to provide the proof that libraries are unnecessary, but it’s hard to say. What I can say with complete assurance that such an experiment really tells us nothing at all useful for making any decisions about the library, its use, or its usefulness. All this really tells us is that the public library mission to support lifelong learning has obviously failed with great swaths of the population.
We can take many lessons from this article. If this is what passes for “news” for Fox “News” writers and fans, then we know that they hate public services, that they’re not very bright, and that they can’t make or understand an argument about anything. However, we knew this already. These are the sorts of people who get their scientific opinions from talk radio, after all.
While it’s good to know what sort of benighted folk are hostile to libraries, it’s really quite pointless to respond to them. The library commissioner made the mistake of believing that people reading Fox “News” actually care about reason or evidence, when we know from the initial article itself if nothing else that they don’t.
The best thing to do is to treat such yahoos as we would any group of radicals. Ignore them and let them babble on until they start saying things so stupid even stupid people get tired of listening to them. It’s worked so far with fans of the Daily Worker, and it can work with fans of Fox “News” as well.