Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Just Condemn!

Last time I discussed the moves and motives of the library in the Sicko Conflagration, but it wasn’t the library that raised the ruckus. Only political busybodies raise ruckuses, and most of the political busybody librarians are too busy drafting SRRT resolutions on non-library topics for ALA Council to care about library video showings.

There’s also the question of whether for their own sake the town council and anti-Moore residents should have just kept their mouths shut, because none of them came off very well. They seemed to think they were making some bold stand, when really they just sounded like whiners.

The resident who complained about promoting “Sicko” “on his dime” must be very a naive busybody indeed. Only naive people would believe that libraries don’t contain all sorts of material someone is going to find offensive, and it’s also naive for him to think he’s the only one funding the library. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his dime funding that video showing. It was his liberal neighbor’s dime. That book by Glenn Beck was funded on his dime.

Besides, since when is showing a video necessarily promoting its ideas? That’s the big fallacy here. Videos like “Sicko” prompt debate and discussion. If he’s so sure “Sicko” is mistaken, he should go watch it at the library and start a discussion afterward. Likely enough, he hasn’t seen “Sicko,” and if he has can’t argue against it, so it’s easier just to keep other people from seeing it.

My favorite quote, after the one about “militant fascism” I mentioned last time,  is from one of the councilmen, who “said he didn’t think the effort to cancel the screening amounted to censorship, saying the library should be age-appropriate for young children. ‘We want it to be a place for relaxation and fun for the kids.’” Sort of like Disneyland, but with stained carpet and uncomfortable furniture. He seemed to think there were going to be gaggles of kids streaming into a room at 1pm on a Friday to watch “Sicko,” because that’s exactly the sort of thing kids do.

There’s some sense and nonsense mixed in there. Pressuring the library was stupid, but it wasn’t censorship. However, what would it possibly mean for the entire library to be age-appropriate for young children? Should the library buy only children’s books and videos? Surely there must be some adults in Enfield who want to read adult fare or watch documentaries. This isn’t exactly like streaming Internet porn on the public computers. It’s not even like streaming “Sicko” on the public computers.

Another couldn’t refrain from expressing his  blinkered opinion. “I don’t even know why people make these decisions to go down those paths. It’s stupid. It’s like, it just blows my mind that people try to push the envelope with the public dime. Do nice stuff. Do uncontroversial, or if you want to step in the mode of being controversial, make sure it’s fair on both sides and it becomes a discussion.”

Because of course believing that everyone thinks exactly like you and finds the same things nice or controversial isn’t stupid or mind-blowing at all. There are plenty of tolerant people who think exploring and discussing different points of view isn’t controversial. It’s just what you do. Those people obviously don’t control the Enfield town council, though.

The article saved the juiciest quote for last. According to one resident,“‘This is not a place for kids to watch this kind of stuff when you have somebody who thinks Fidel Castro is a great guy, he thinks all these other people who are suppressive in other countries — this is what this guy is all about,’ Alaimo said of Moore.” Well put! It completely evades the subject, though. Fidel Castro is bad, and so is complexity!

Oh, where to start with this one. “Sicko” isn’t a children’s movie and wasn’t being shown to children, was essentially the director’s response. The most striking thing to me is the utter lack of critical thinking implied by this statement. It’s also terrifically ironic. It implies that only media which represents your own views should be shown in public, which is exactly the sort of thing that goes on in “suppressive” countries. No one is supposed to think or discuss, only listen and obey! It’s like some of my critics. People who can’t refute ideas they disagree with would prefer nobody express those ideas.

It reminded me of another politician’s quote last week about a kerfuffle at Brooklyn College, where a graduate student was removed from teaching a graduate class after a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn publicly protested that he was anti-Israel. (He has since been reinstated.) There are several accounts, but the stupidest of many stupid quotes is in this interview, where the assemblyman said he considered the grad student an “overt supporter of terrorism.”

“He reached these conclusions after spending ‘countless hours’ reading the newly hired adjunct’s work. This included, chiefly, his unpublished paper, ‘Inventing the Martyr: Struggle, Sacrifice and the Signification of Palestinian National Identity,’ in which he examines martyrdom as it ‘embodies ideals of struggle and sacrifice’ in the context of national identity. Hikind said such works reflect an effort to ‘understand’ suicide bombers. ‘There’s nothing to understand about someone who murders women and children,’ he said. ‘You condemn.’”

That paper is only 28 pages long, so the assemblyman, despite having a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science from Brooklyn College,  must be a slow reader to have spent countless hours on it, but that’s beside the point. The bizarre thing is the assumption that there’s nothing to understand about suicide bombers. It’s eerie how similar the views are to some in Enfield. There’s nothing to “understand” about suicide bombers or “Sicko” or conservatives or anything else you don’t like.

Militant fascism isn’t on the loose in Enfield, or in Brooklyn, but ignorance and anti-intellectualism are a rife as ever. Someone in this debate told us that libraries were important to have an informed citizenry. They forgot that most citizens don’t want to be informed, just affirmed. They don’t want to understand, just condemn.



  1. Libraryman says:

    I will agree with you, but I think a big reason anti-intelectualism is so rampant is that many intelectuals are so arrogant and annoying. I consider myself cultured but I don’t think less of those who don’t know how to say Chopin.

  2. So what is the difference between being “cultured” and being “intelectual” (sic)? Or do we have to parse out the difference between “being intellectual” and “being an intellectual”, or simply being somewhat “intelligent”? Which is acceptable, and which isn’t? I don’t think we’re talking about merely being able to pronounce “Chopin” here.

    I must agree with AL on this. The level of stupidity – arrogant stupidity – makes my head hurt.

  3. Annoyed Librarian says:

    Maybe “anti-intellectual” wasn’t the right term to use, since I’m not saying everyone should be an intellectual, whatever that is. I just thought it was weird that showing a movie was considered the equivalent to advocating its ideas. For people who only read or watch things they already agree with, I guess that makes sense. After posting this, I also thought about what a huge gap there is between what these residents and politicians think a library is supposed to be and what many librarians think a library is supposed to be. A library is supposed to be a place to discover ideas, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to some of these politicians. Maybe they’ve never been in a library.

  4. Right, AL, many of these politicians have never set foot in a library, especially their local library that they are so eager to censure. I think the point you’re missing here is that four residents of Enfield should not be able to dictate what all the other residents of Enfield can view at a program at the public library. That’s why all we Connecticut librarians were so riled up. And let’s get real – how can you present a “balanced” view every time you show a movie? Show movies that present every possible viewpoint, supposing such movies exist? That would make for a very long & boring program. Actually, I was discussing the Sicko fiasco with a colleague, and we agreed the Enfield town council and town manager were crazy to make such a fuss, calling down all that bad publicity on themselves. Honestly, when you show a 2007 movie on a Friday afternoon in the winter at most libraries, you’d be lucky to get half a dozen people to attend – hardly worth making all that noise about, is it?

  5. “Honestly, when you show a 2007 movie on a Friday afternoon in the winter at most libraries, you’d be lucky to get half a dozen people to attend – hardly worth making all that noise about, is it?”

    That depends on your point of view. If you equate the Political Left with Commies or Nazis, then they become the enemy – and that means that you cannot tolerate the existence of even one of those “villains.” Likewise – though I think to a lesser extent – demonizing the Political Right has a similar effect. And it doesn’t seem to matter anymore whether one is anonymous or pseudonymous or using their “real name.” On Facebook, where (almost) everyone is under their real name, people have little fear of throwing around insults – socialist, communist, brownshirt, Nazi, fascist, librul, libtard, libturd, Repug, Rethug, RepubliCan’t, theocRAT, baby-killer…. Around the time of the State of the Union, half the messages were something about “resign” or “impeach him” or “where’s the birth certificate.” And when Keith Olbermann and MSNBC parted ways, you might have thought that American conservatives had won the Super Bowl.

    So yes, to their minds, “SiCKO” and Michael Moore matter a great deal. “Evildoers” must be stopped.

  6. Randal Powell says:

    Perhaps the situation could have been mitigated had there been an explicit acknowledgment by the library that a discussion would be held after the movie and that citizens with diverse points-of-view were encouraged to participate.

    Also, the library could add a general legalese disclaimer:

    [The opinions expressed in “Movie J” are “Director K’s” and do not represent the views of “Library X” or “Town A” in any way. Nothing asserted in “Movie J” should be considered official or sanctioned by “Library X” or “Town A” or any other affiliated organization.]

    By the way, I like the idea of citizens going to see a movie that they disagree with in order to debate their point-of-view. I’d like to see Literary Societies come back – I think that the country desperately needs them. Public libraries could start “Open Literary Societies” at little financial cost and, in the process, convincingly reassert themselves as educational and intellectual centers for the community.

    Literary Societies have been all but abandoned by colleges and universities and are ripe for the taking. They automatically connote sophistication, self-improvement, rational discourse, and prestige. Literary Societies would imbue the public library brand with a powerful halo effect and change society for the better in the process.

    –Think about it.

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