Annoyed Librarian
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Your Existence is a Disturbance

Kind Reader sent a story about what has to be one of the most ridiculous encounters ever to take place in an academic library.

The short version is that 5-6 protesters invaded a room in the library at UC-Santa Cruz that had been booked by the College Republicans for a discussion group. The protesters proceeded to yell at people until some of them were arrested for disturbing the peace.

In the middle of it all was a librarian trying to calm things down, and who displayed a remarkable poise in dealing with the situation, despite one of the protesters yelling at her to show her political leanings and kick out the peaceful College Republicans.

We know this because there’s a video, and it’s a doozy.  When I viewed the video, it was at “City on a Phil; October 18 at 9:44am.”

It’s pretty stunning to watch a 20-year-old woman make such an ass of herself. Perhaps readers will disagree, but here’s how the situation looked to me.

The College Republicans, which I assume is a registered student group just like the College Democrats, had booked a room in the library, just as they had many times before, to hold a discussion.

The protesters burst in and started chanting. There’s no doubt they were they only ones disturbing the peace, unless you subscribe to the twisted leaps in logic the most vocal young woman propagated.

Here’s the chain of thinking, with every link being weak:

  1. College Republicans are all supporters of Donald Trump.
  2. All supporters of Donald Trump are racists and fascists.
  3. The very presence, no matter how quiet, of these racists and fascists makes it impossible for anyone else to use the library for study, and thus they should be removed.

As the young woman so eloquently and loudly put it when the librarian suggested the group had been quiet, “People can’t study if they’re being discriminated against.”

And, you see, they’re being discriminated against because another person in the library, who without evidence has been designated a racist fascist, is present in the library. Thus, the library isn’t a “safe space.”

The whole thing comes across as an SNL skit about political correctness gone wild on college campuses.

Some of the exchanges are priceless.

College Republican: “We’ve been meeting for months here and there have been no disturbances.”

Protester: “Your existence is a disturbance.”

That’s exactly the bigoted mindset of the very people the protester probably hates. Someone’s very existence is problematic. Perhaps they should be exterminated if that’s true.

That’s how totalitarian propaganda works. Dehumanize everyone who doesn’t agree with you.

The librarian asks the protesters to leave because they are loud and disturbing the ability of others to study, prompting this exchange:

Protester: “Do you think this is a safe space to study because these people are meeting in here and discussing things?”

College Republican: “We were discussing whether the government should be big or small.”

The protesters burst in expecting a cabal of Nazis and found a bunch of libertarians, and they can’t tell the difference.

The most vocal protester isn’t done, though. Protest isn’t complete without harassing the librarian, who merely wants to keep the peace and let people study and discuss things in rooms appropriately booked without a bunch of rowdies making trouble.

According to the main protester, the alleged fact that the librarian has to “separate her identity and her political views is really [effed] up.” It’s highly likely the librarian doesn’t like Donald Trump. It’s also entirely possible the librarian sees how stupid the protester’s argument is. And it’s likely she believes in freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

When the librarian tries to quiet things down, the protester is “sorry she feels that way” because the librarian “should be able to engage in whatever political ideals she feels is right.”

It’s entirely possible that among the librarian’s political ideals is the belief that campus groups quietly holding discussion groups should be allowed to exercise their freedom of speech without being disturbed by illogical buffoons. Intellectual freedom and the free exchange of ideas is part of what libraries are about.

Then comes the final straw for the protester, who has quickly become disgusted that the librarian hasn’t joined in the chanting: “Would you let Nazis stay and discuss their ideas?” Kudos to the librarian for not replying, “But they’re not Nazis, you idiot.”

The Nazi reference is perhaps more apt than the young protester realizes. One thing groups that claim to have “the truth” do is recruit the youth, because young people are naive, ignorant, inexperienced, and can be easily manipulated into believing anything by a trusted source.

Nazis, communists, religious cults, Joseph Kony–they all know to get ‘em while they’re young.

Nobody who had seriously thought through the complexity of modern American politics could make the leaps in logic our earnest young protester made, but once you drink the koolaid logic doesn’t matter anymore.

Everyone who disagrees with me is my enemy, and every one of my enemies is the most extreme version possible. And they should all be silenced and forbidden from public spaces. People like that don’t see or hear the actual people in front of them. They view everyone as an abstraction, usually an abstraction that should be eliminated.

The librarian should be congratulated for calmly standing up for library values that resist such simplification. There was no hate speech involved here, unless it was from the protesters.

Instead there was free and calm discussion of ideas in a free society, the sort of exchange that libraries should and do foster, whether or not librarians happen to agree with the speech.

And what libraries should always resist is fanaticism. In a library you should be able to learn about everything, not just the views that the loudest group claims are “the truth.”

Some might protest that this creates the illusion that the librarian is “neutral,” but that’s nonsense. There’s nothing neutral about intellectual freedom when it’s under assault from the left or the right.

As this librarian showed, defending library values can be hard, but without those values the library wouldn’t be worth defending.

Three of the protesters, including the most vocal young woman, were arrested for disturbing the peace, so they were removed and the group could continue its discussion.

She probably felt martyred to the righteous political cause of disrupting a meeting of College Republicans. So everybody wins.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for seeing the ridiculousness of protesters like that. This statement is everything “Everyone who disagrees with me is my enemy, and every one of my enemies is the most extreme version possible.”

  2. anonymous coward says:

    The ignorance and irrationality is mind numbing.

    I would say it is exactly the neutrality libraries need and are designed for. Neutrality doesn’t mean doing everything for everyone. It means treating all as equals under the law (principles, ethics, values, etc.)

  3. I do want to add something to this. I was reading about this from some other news sites and apparently there were a few democrats at the meeting, who had been going to several meetings, to discuss the differences in politics. I can’t remember the quote but they were not happy with the protesters, either.

    Those kinds of people really tick me off. You aren’t going to win anyone to your side by shutting down your opposition. Whatever happened to civil discussions?

  4. The universities deserve much – really all – of the blame. The kids are being sorted into identity groups ostensibly for “mentorship” or support, before they even arrive at freshmen orientation; and given the impression that they are there not for the traditional reasons but merely to play grievance politics, no doubt encouraged by professors and counselors who are themselves bummed at having missed the sixties.

    It is not kind to the kids, who become objects of ridicule over and over on the internet (the most pathetic recent incident being the incoherent protest of the idea of a test at the moment the test is starting, at Berkeley); and it is entirely contrary to the spirit of discovery beyond one’s adolescent self that should prevail if college – as a “liberal education,” and not vocational training – has a reason to exist at all.

  5. I hardly support the GOP in any form but this video showed some pretty poor behavior. I would not have wasted a minute to call campus police to eject the protesters.

  6. The moment the protestors started using profanity, I would have called campus security. Whay does she have to put up with that? Are academic librarians required to try to argue with people who use profanity in their attempt to argue?
    Actually – – I take that back. The moment the protestors started chanting, I would have called security. That is when they started disturbing everyone’s right to use the library.

  7. Libertarian Librarian says:

    And this is why The Onion reads more like actual news every day. How dare a group of people use the library (that bastion of the 1st Amendment) for free assembly and discussion! Kudos to the librarian for being much calmer than I would have been.

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