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Librarians Check the Facts

Whew, what a week. For my east coast readers, I hope you’re getting powered and gassed and somewhat back to normal after the storm.

The only good thing to come out of last week was that Sandy pushed election news from the top of my news reader. I’ve grown weary of Presidential candidates promising me the moon and giving me cheese instead, or not even giving me cheese depending on who wins. Here’s hoping that Wednesday morning it’ll be all over and we won’t have to hear about any Presidential campaign speeches for at least three months, when the campaigning for 2016 starts.

Speaking of politics, I ran across a story about some Seattle librarians fact-checking political statements on a Washington state politics website. The story opens with the claim that “nine Seattle librarians are doing something tough, unprecedented and very risky.”

Is any of that true?

If you consider fact checking to be nothing more than trying to find answers to questions, it’s neither tough nor unprecedented. That’s what reference librarians do, only I guess there are a lot of people who don’t know that. And risky?

The reporter writes that the librarians evaluate claims as to whether they’re accurate, inaccurate, or unverifiable, and then adds that “Sometimes, it’s not that simple.”

She gives as an example a claim that “some studies suggest children raised by families with both genders do better than those from a same sex parentage,” which the librarian had called accurate, but misleading, since there are other studies that show the opposite and yet other studies that show no difference. That seems pretty simple to me.

I guess it’s supposed to be risky because when it comes to politics, people are averse to any evidence that doesn’t support what they already believe, so that if anti-gay marriage folks see that there’s evidence contrary to what they think, they might then distrust the librarians providing it, and then maybe…I don’t know what…not ask librarians reference questions or something.

Maybe those folks would later vote against funding libraries, but they might do that anyway. People who get angry or upset that other people don’t automatically agree with them probably aren’t big users of libraries anyway.

Or is it risky just because it might tarnish the image of librarians as neutral information providers? Librarians claim to be neutral, or at least that they try to be neutral, but neutrality means different things to different people. Reporting only the facts isn’t considered neutral by people who don’t like those facts.

Would the people who are totally incapable of neutrality or even seeing more than one side in an argument believe in librarian neutrality anyway? For those people, people who disagree with them are just in a conspiracy against the truth, of which they are in sole possession.

Look at the studies about the effect of same-sex couple on children. What difference do they make? It’s not like the opposition to same-sex marriage is motivated by science. No one has ever honestly said, “oh, I was totally in favor of same-sex marriage until I read a study saying it was bad for the children.”

For this particular issue, the opposition isn’t motivated by science, either. It’s not like two men or two women who are in love and want to marry each other are doing so because they read some studies about how beneficial marriage was. On this issue, it’s all about culture, religion, and equal rights.

Though I applaud the efforts of librarians to do what they can for the cause of evidence-based politics, I fear that it’s too late for that. Checking facts assumes people care about facts, but in politics they don’t. People don’t choose their politics to fit the facts, they choose the facts that fit their politics.

And that’s not just the ordinary simpletons that make up the bulk of the electorate; it’s everyone. One of Romney’s pollsters responded to accusations that some political ads were just plain lying by saying, “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Some people, presumably Democrats, were outraged by the statement, but the main thing that distinguishes that pollster from others of his ilk is an occasional public outburst of honesty.

A study mentioned here “found that between April 10 and September 20 of this year, roughly a third of the money spent by third parties on television advertising–27.8% to be exact–went to spots that were deceptive.” And that’s from both parties, so no matter who you support you’ve got people lying on your behalf. That’s a form of neutrality, I guess.

FactCheck.org has a list of “the biggest falsehoods from the presidential campaign,” and there are a lot of whoppers from both major candidates, some misleading, some flat out wrong, and some just weird to boot (where did that Chrysler to China thing come from?).

And you know what? Nobody cares. I’d be willing to wager a shiny new nickel that nobody in America looks at a fact checking website like that and decides who to vote for based on who tells the fewest lies. They vote for the candidate whose lies support what they already believe.

Bravo for librarians who try to wade into the sea of lies known as politics, but it won’t help. We don’t vote based on facts, even librarians. Election Day tomorrow will be a load of fact-free fun for everyone but the losers.

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Comments

  1. Dan Kleinman says:

    Well, for a change I’ll disagree with AL.

    I think fact checking should be done by unbiased people or at least people believed to be unbiased. When it comes to librarians, about 87% of the money they donate to political candidates goes to Democrats. Not a problem, it’s just one-sided. Further, George Soros is funding the ALA to guide libraries into becoming information creators/distributors for his brand of news (see link under my name), such as his latest efforts to seriously cut back on the American military. “Fact checking” could be the first step along that path.

    So no, AL, I do not think it is a good idea for such people to be fact checkers.

    By the way, that Seattle library allows unfiltered pron even after children have been seriously harmed for life by viewing it there. They can’t even fact check their own library which falsely claims pron is a First Amendment right in a public library. No, I would not what to see these biased people being fact checkers.

  2. Morse says:

    Dan, the irony of a heavily partisan conspiracy theorist like you criticizing the neutrality of librarians is amusing. Your problem, besides seeing conspiracies everywhere, is that you think like a lawyer building a case for a jury: you select evidence that supports your case and ignore everything else. Librarians aren’t trained to think that way. The difference is many of them demonstrate their neutrality with every reference transaction, just like you demonstrate with every comment your mistaken belief that advocating selective evidence and conspiracy theories make you a reasonable person amidst all these looney leftist librarians.

    Plus, the implication of your own argument is that anyone who supports a political party is de facto biased and their opinion can’t be taken seriously. Since you are obviously pro-Republican and very biased against Democrats, that means that your own opinion can’t be taken seriously. You’ve undermined your own claims to speak with any neutrality. You might claim that it’s only Democrats that can’t be neutral about information, not staunch Republicans like you, which would just make you look more absurd.

    Please continue to comment, though, because every comment you make provides evidence for my claims about you. Seeing you make gigantic leaps in reason – like thinking that Soros giving money to the ALA means that librarians can’t check political facts with some neutrality – is part of the fun.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @Morse, please respond to the issues. What you said about me is false, and it is irrelevant to the issues.

      The library knows it is false to say the First Amendment protects porn viewing in public libraries, yet we are supposed to believe that same library will accurately discern fact from fiction. Hogwash.

      And ALA’s OIF bragged about how there are more libraries than McDonald’s to use as Soros’s propaganda posts for which Soros paid good money, yet we are supposed to believe that libraries will accurately discern fact from fiction. Hogwash.

  3. GetAClue says:

    “By the way, that Seattle library allows unfiltered pron even after children have been seriously harmed for life by viewing it there.”

    Is this a specific case that you can link to or just your opinion that children have viewed porn at the Seattle Public Library and are now seriously harmed for life?

    I’m not against intelligent filtering, but this kind of hyperbole is incredibly annoying and detrimental to your agenda.

    However Dan, I agree with you that heavily partisan people are not unbiased, but I suspect that you are far more partisan that the average librarian.

    So let’s be safe and only allow intelligent people like me who don’t belong to a party and know neither of them are working for the American People to be fact checkers.

    Vote Third Party and let your dissatisfaction be known! :D

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @GetAClue, these are real cases, I’m just not researching them now. But I did speak with the mother of the child of one such case, a young girl who saw something so disturbing that she had physical and psychological pains for days afterwards. The damage is likely permanent. The mother said she spoke with the library and understood the library’s argument that First Amendment rights allow porn viewing, therefore she chose not to pursue the matter further. I pointed out the library was misleading her in that the US Supreme Court said the exact opposite, but she said she was moving on, appreciated my input, said goodbye, and that was that.

      The point being that such a library that would so seriously mislead people and allow children to be harmed in such a fashion, all the while doing so in violation of the law, cannot be trusted to act as fact checkers of truth and fiction.

      I normally agree with the AL on most everything but not this time. I would never trust people who excuse and/or cover up harm to children by knowingly misleading people. And I base my opinion on direct knowledge of the situation derived from my conversation with the mother of one of the victims.

      Did the ALA ever issue a peep about this horrible incident? Of course not. Is the ALA looking into library crimes harming children, patrons generally, and librarians? Of course not. Does the ALA support librarians suing for sexual harassment in public libraries? No.

      Actually, it sends out people like Theresa Chmara, Esq., to deliberately mislead local libraries into maintaining the ALA OIF policies that are doing the harm. One way she misleads is by advising libraries that they could be subject to legal liability for blocking porn, but she does not reveal the huge amounts of money libraries are losing to sexually harassed librarians where the libraries are following ALA policy and refusing to use Internet filtering. People like her should never be in a position of being considered an unbiased source for judging truth from fiction.

  4. Tom M says:

    Another round of fact checkers? This never seems to work out well, especially for those that consider passing judgement on factual truth a risky undertaking. Usually there’s an initial splashy revelation of a campaign’s falsehoods followed by denunciations from one side or another and then the exercise devolves into a search for false equivalency.

    Combine the tendency to declare “both sides do it” on any given issue with the ability of paid media professionals to craft ambiguous messages and fact checkers generally end up being irrelevant.

  5. Morse says:

    A bad thing happened in a public library (but not in the other 16,000 public libraries) and thus librarians can’t be trusted to be neutral information providers. QED. Keep ‘em coming!

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @Morse, it’s not one library. It’s a third of all libraries. It’s the CIPA author saying so:

      “CIPA Author Exposes ALA Deception; Ernest Istook Who Authored Children’s Internet Protection Act Calls Out American Library Association for Using Legal Tactics to Claim First Amendment Protection for Public Library Pornography Viewing, Causing Librarians to Be Indifferent and Leave Children Unprotected”

      http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2012/02/cipa-author-exposes-ala-deception.html

      I realize this may be news to you. Library Journal’s former EIC refused to publish news about what the CIPA author wrote then went on to mock him. So it got little to no coverage in the library news. But there it is. I republished it. A third of American libraries are following ALA policy and endangering local communities as a result.

      No way can such an organization, its members, or followers be considered unbiased when deciding what is truth and what is fiction. It promotes the fiction that public libraries may not block legal porn. The truth is that the US Supreme Court said they may. And libraries they do block porn, patrons and librarians love it. Sometimes citizens even stand up and cheer.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @Morse, quoting Ernest Istook, on Seattle libraries, no less:

      Sadly, Seattle is following a strategy promoted by the American Library Association, which regards pornography as just a routine aspect of protecting the First Amendment. But they generally omit an important qualifier: When taxpayers are paying for the computers they have a right to insist that children are protected.

      I know because I authored the federal law on this, and it has passed muster with the Supreme Court. ….

      ….

      Nobody should have the Seattle experience of shocking their children, nor of having librarians who are indifferent to the problem.

  6. The Librarian With No Name says:

    I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with librarians fact-checking political claims, but I do think that it’s another example of mission creep that’s liable to distract from our primary purpose: the wholesale display of hardcore pornography to unwilling minors.

    I mean, uh…providing access to information. Man, I really hope Dark Lord Soros doesn’t read this.

  7. Morse says:

    Oh, I didn’t realize a “third of American libraries” are “endangering local communities.” That “fact” isn’t highly misleading at all. You’re the voice of reason, Dan. Always fun to watch your work!

  8. John says:

    Dan Kleinman… something something something… George Soros… something something… ALA is a bully and no one wants to play with me. Someone please reset the needle on that record!

  9. Morse says:

    What makes it so amusing is that there are numerous studies of reference transactions, especially virtual reference, and as far as I know there offer no evidence at all of any sort of systematic bias by librarians. Poor searching and bad customer service, yes, but not bias. And that’s about the only way one could measure systematic bias of librarians as information providers or fact checkers. Likewise, there’s no evidence of systematic or widespread harm that libraries cause their communities, and ample evidence of the systematic and widespread good they do for communities. Instead of focusing on what available evidence there might be one way or the other, we get conspiracy theory, innuendo, guilt by association, and huge generalizations about an entire profession based on a handful of incidents around one obsessive topic, porn. Sometimes it’s fun seeing so many textbook examples of bad critical thinking just for a little mental exercise.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @Morse, AL said, “Speaking of politics, I ran across a story about some Seattle librarians fact-checking political statements on a Washington state politics website. The story opens with the claim that ‘nine Seattle librarians are doing something tough, unprecedented and very risky.’”

      Unprecedented. Librarians fact-checking political statements. Seattle.

      What were you saying about “numerous studies of reference transactions, especially virtual reference”? It doesn’t apply; it’s unprecedented. Do you have any studies of bias of librarians fact-checking political statements that the media may have missed? Are Seattle librarians who falsely claim porn in public libraries must be made available for First Amendment reasons expected to be unbiased about political statements when fact checking them?

      Ernest Istook, the CIPA author, spoke out about the harm being done to children as a direct result of ALA policy, and he used the Seattle library as one of his examples. Is he a textbook example of bad critical thinking just for a little mental exercise, as you put it?

      Back to the AL. Her post was about Seattle librarians fact-checking political statements. When questioned, I referenced my own phone call with the mother of a Seattle library porn victim minor and also what the CIPA author said about Seattle. And I disagreed with the AL’s conclusion based on this and more.

      Your response, on the other hand, along with others a little more or less, has been to, simply put, attack the messenger and ignore the issue AL raised. When that happens, I know someone feels a need to cover up information by ridiculing others. Thank you. What you are covering up is how some librarians like those in Seattle are misleading their communities, harming people as a result, and, back to the AL, are not reliable sources for unbiased information on political statements.

      On my blog, read:

      432 Patrons Ejected from Seattle Libraries in First Four Months of 2009; Librarians “Assaulted, Threatened and Spit Upon”

      Library Leaves Pedophile Free to Molest Other Children; King County Library System Defrauds Taxpayers of $1,158,253 from CIPA Program; Media Investigation Needed

      Right, people who let pedophiles go free or who defraud the federal government would make excellent sources for unbiased information on political statements, but only in Morse code, not in the real world.

  10. Way Barra says:

    Some messengers are attacked because their positions cannot be.

    Some messengers are attacked because they are not very good messengers.

  11. Morse says:

    Dan, it was a post about librarians checking facts that you turned into a conversation about, as usual, library porn, because you’re obsessed with it. Now you accuse me of changing the topic. No one here is fooled by you. Instead of leaving another verbose, irrelevant comment, please seek out the psychological treatment you so clearly need.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      @Morse, AL said, “Speaking of politics, I ran across a story about some Seattle librarians fact-checking political statements on a Washington state politics website.” She then went on to conclude, “Bravo for librarians who try to wade into the sea of lies known as politics….” I disagreed with her.

      I did this based on my conversation with a Seattle victim’s mother where the victim was exposed to harm so significant that Children’s Internet Protection Act author Ernest Istook wrote, “Sadly, Seattle is following a strategy promoted by the American Library Association, which regards pornography as just a routine aspect of protecting the First Amendment. …. Nobody should have the Seattle experience of shocking their children, nor of having librarians who are indifferent to the problem.”

      From this I made the comment that I disagreed with the AL’s conclusion. I said this based on solid evidence from reliable sources, and I did this as a direct response to the AL’s conclusions regarding librarians checking political facts. If Seattle “regards pornography as just a routine aspect of protecting the First Amendment,” and that is legally false, since 2003, no less, then Seattle is not likely to be unbiased in separating fact from fiction in political statements.

      I am on solid ground here with a legitimate point based on legitimate sources directly from the very community being addressed by the AL, namely, Seattle. By contrast, you continue your relentless ad hominem attacks, such as saying I need psychological treatment, and you do not address the issues, all the while hiding behind a pseudonym. I am contributing to the conversation started by the AL, thanks to the LJ, and I’ll continue to do so, and continue to rely on reliable sources, like the CIPA author or the people victimized by others enabled by ALA’s law-evading policy applied locally.

      I present the CIPA author saying “Nobody should have the Seattle experience of … having librarians who are indifferent to the problem [of shocking their children with unfiltered porn].” The AL concludes regarding those very same Seattle librarians, “Bravo for librarians who try to wade into the sea of lies known as politics….” I am making the legitimate and even compelling point that the AL’s conclusion is mistaken. If you’re indifferent to the harm done to children by porn that could be legally blocked but you refuse to do so, you’re not going to provide unbiased answers as to the veracity of political statements.

    • me says:

      So, because the story mentioned Seattle that’s how you make a correlation between fact checking political statements and porn in libraries? You really need to branch out on your hobbies and maybe find a new crusade. Otherwise I fear you’re going to turn into that guy in Brooklyn and stab someone you find looking at porn on a library computer too.

    • Dan Kleinman says:

      Okay, @me, that was funny.

  12. Morse says:

    Dan, do you have any friends or loved ones who could stage an intervention for you? If you do, please show them all the obsessive and paranoid stuff you write on the Internet. There’s help out there, Dan. All you have to do is ask.

    • Joneser says:

      There is no such thing as a stupid request for an intervention – there is only the request for an intervention which isn’t made.

  13. Joneser says:

    The biggest issue here is that MOST LIBRARIANS DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO DO THIS. Obviously this isn’t even on Dan Kleinman’s radar because he has no clue what goes on in librariesn 99.89% of the time.

  14. Just a quick note to let you know that your blog was mentioned in an article I had published in InFocus by Library Works / Librarians Yellow Pages. It’s entitled “The Top 25 Library Blogs.” I’ve also repurposed/republished it on the Rivistas Subscriptions Services blog at http://libraries.rivistas.com/top-25-library-blogs/

    Thanks for having such a great library blog!

  15. Tired Librarian says:

    Morse, that was brilliant.

    Perhaps you should nominate Dan to one of those “Intervention” shows? I would, except I still find his obssession amusing.

  16. Nonamouse says:

    Stop feeding the troll that is DK!