Thursday, February 14, 2008

Vancouver's Amoral Public Library

After reading Terry Glavin's article in the Vancouver Sun, "Does our library know there's another word for anti-semitism", I was pretty upset, so I went to the Vancouver Public Library to complain in person about this revelation that they were scheduling a flagrantly anti-semitic author to read excerpts from his book, at the library, later this month.

Armed with my camera, I wanted to accompany this post with pictures of the advertising the library had on display for the event. But there wasn't any advertisement for the author's upcoming talk. Maybe because it's too soon, maybe it's because somewhere within their moral core they know it is preposterous to use up their limited resources on guests like this, and they were trying to keep it low profile.

I spoke to a seemingly nice and well-mannered librarian about my disagreement with their decision. Despite how upset I was I tried nevertheless to be as gracious and polite as possible as I explained the reasons for my objections to this person being offered a prominent public pedestal by the library for his views.

The librarian was most helpful and attentive, however unsympathetic she was to my position. In fact she was so unemotional and detached, beyond dutifully offering good customer service, that I began to wonder if I wasn't making myself clear. She was talking to me as if my position was as morally neutral as it would be were a Toronto Maple Leafs fan chagrined that the library had scheduled an "award-winning journalist" to talk about why the Vancouver Canucks were the better hockey team.

At one point I asked, "You can understand why someone would be upset by the discovery that an author like this was being given a public forum in, of all places, the city's main library?"

To frame her answer, she consulted, as she did right from the start of my discussion with her, a document that she read from, verbatim, off her computer screen. I asked her about what she was referring to, if it was online somewhere so that I could read it as well. She said that it was not. I asked if I could have a copy, and after consulting a few others for their ruling on the matter, a decision was made that it would be okay for people to see it, so she printed off a copy for me.

In a follow-up post to his earlier article, Terry Glavin wonders about the decision process that led to the library making room for the "provocative" author now scheduled there later this month.

Maybe the document the library offered me, produced evidently in anticipation of complaints like mine, can shed some perspective on what that story is:

February 25 Greg Felton Reading Q&A

Q. Did VPL invite Greg Felton to read at the Central library?

R. Mr. Felton approached the library to read from his book as many authors do and publishers on behalf of their authors. Given that Freedom to Read week occurs in February, the Library felt this would be an appropriate event to hold during that week.

Q. Some groups and individuals believe Mr. Felton is a holocaust denier and neo nazi. Should such an author have the freedom to read at a public library?

R. The Library knew Mr. Felton’s book would be provocative but it has not been identified as hate speech.

Intellectual freedom is a core tenet of public libraries even though some subjects may be considered unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable. Upholding the right to intellectual freedom may put you in the position of appearing to support controversial views. The role of the public library, however, is to provide a forum for an open and public exchange of contradictory views and to make materials available that represent all points of view.

Public libraries have a responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom. This is one of the reasons this event is being held during Freedom to Read Week.

Q. Even though Mr. Felton is a known neo-Nazi sympathizer, denies the Holocaust and calls Israel a parasite?

R. Before agreeing to Mr. Felton’s request to read at the Library, Library staff reviewed several excerpts of his book and reviewed a number of websites. We found no information indicating the book is subject to any legal action. Library staff conducted more research than is normal for an author reading to ensure the book has not been identified as hate literature.

Because his work is provocative and Mr. Felton has been the subject of debates over journalistic freedom, the Library believed this event was particularly relevant for Freedom to Read Week.

Q. Have you received any complaints about VPL holding this event?

R. Some concerns have been raised and we have communicated the Library’s perspective and explained our obligation to uphold and support intellectual freedom.

Q. Is there any possibility the event will be cancelled?

R. We have seen no evidence to indicate this event should be cancelled. Mr. Felton’s book has not been identified as hate speech. The event was scheduled because of its appropriateness for Freedom to Read Week and it would be highly ironic to cancel it without evidence that the book’s content is breaking any laws.

Q. Will Mr. Felton’s event be monitored to ensure hate-crime laws are not broken?

R. Library staff will attend the event as they do for virtually all author readings. Uttering hate speech is a crime in Canada. The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits willfully promoting hatred against any identifiable group. If Mr. Felton were to utter hate speech he would be dealt with according to these laws.

I checked the library's catalogue: they currently have another of the author's books on file ("in stock"? Not sure what the proper expression is here...). They don't have the newer book that the author is going to be reading from at the event, but I was disillusioned to learn that it is on order.

Is this really the kind of book that our library should be buying? How many new books can they afford each year, that they can find the resources to accommodate a book like this in their budget? I wonder what kind of standards are in place for them to follow when they are determining how and where to spend their presumably limited resources. (Maybe that should become a topic for them to schedule a discussion around at their evening lectures... "Why you can trust that we are handling your money wisely". We can have a "Freedom to Judge" week...)

It makes you wonder how much of those limited resources have also gone towards accommodating this author's upcoming personal appearance at the library. Who pays for the time they spent researching whether he's been "subject to any legal action"? How many man hours are involved when the library staff conducts, as they put it, "more research than is normal"?

And the costs keep coming: "Library staff will attend the event...". Given the tendentious nature of the event, will there be more staff than usually attend these events? And who is paying for that? And what does it mean that "hate speech" "would be dealt with"..? Is that implying the staff that would have been in attendance anyway, will deal with it, or will there be even more employees required to be there, adding to the library's expense?

And my questions keep coming: what book got left out, to allow for his book to be purchased for our library's files? They don't have a printing press in the basement turning out money as well as renewal slips... what got lost in the trade-off required to put his books on their shelves? Which speaker(s) did we not get to meet, in order to give the one slot for "Freedom to Read" week to this author? What can't be done at the library now that money was spent on costs surrounding this author's appearance instead? Who gets to oversee the judgment of whoever it is that judges how the library's funds get used up? Do I have any say in how my library uses its money? Whose library is it?

Well, despite whatever probable strain was placed on the library's limited resources, the guy is going to speak there, by the library's consent.

Now, what do we do about it?

What is the Right Thing To Do?

What would constitute a principled reaction to this person's appearance, and the library's acceptance of his appearance, for the reasons outlined in their Q&A document?

Do we seek to get this "provocative", to use the library's term, appearance canceled? What does that say about our belief in Free Speech, even for people who have vulgarly silly things to say?

Do we protest his appearance? Doesn't that just give him more attention? We can't do nothing... but what do we do?

Personally, my anger is aimed much more at the library than the author. His work is simply beneath contempt; I should be able to trust that my library should know better, and should have far better things to do with the money it is given. I thought they were hard up for funds these days. Apparently not. They certainly won't be needing the quota of books I used to occasionally donate, or the cash I would dutifully give them through their seasonal fund-raising book sales, if they can afford to finance "particularly relevant" events like this one.

23 comments:

truepeers said...

Good work, Charles.

The question remains: why did the librarian(s) think crazy Judeophobic fantasies were appropriate for "freedom to read week". Why did they go to the trouble of checking if this guy was "legal"? - it all suggests a desire
to have him, a desire that can't be explained by the neutral sounding
nihilism of their "all points of view"' spiel.

Flanders Fields said...

You are entitled to your opinion, Charles, but you aren't willing to give the same right to another person. You might learn if you were to attend his lecture, but you will not, I'm sure. You prefer to deny free speech for someone else and hide behind a feeling of moral superiority.

I don't know the man, but his views don't sound too outlandish. I've heard recordings and have read accounts from some who identified themselves as former Zionists who have held the same views.

A Dr. Benjaman Freedman gave a speech reciting similar views during the fifties or sixties. I don't think he was "Judeophobic", although he is attacked by those who prefer to call free speech by hateful names.

Different people have different beliefs. Until they act to hurt others, they should be allowed to express those beliefs. That goes for your views, too, so long as everyone is not required to agree with you.

truepeers said...

"I don't know the man, but his views don't sound too outlandish."

-which is it then: are you ignorant or ignorant?

Charles isn't saying the guy should be shut up; he's saying the library should never entertain the idea of giving him some of their limited resources. The facts in Glavin's article speak for themselves.

Charles Henry said...

Flanders,

If we were both standing outside during a cloudless sunny day, you and I would probably not agree that it was not raining, but nonetheless I respect the civility you used in your disagreements with my post.

Even though we disagree, strongly (to say the least), I’d like to ask you a few questions about your beliefs. I’ll be honest with you: I do so mostly so that I can better sharpen my arguments against them. But it’s win-win if you participate, because by answering them you yourself will be able to explain why I might be wrong.

In the interests of actually having a discussion, I will try to match your initial civility, and I’ll restrain from substituting name-calling for reasoned discussion if you do. We each view each other’s beliefs as distasteful, but in the interests of freedom of speech, let’s agree to disagree, and then engage in constructive debate.

First, do you believe that these jews who supposedly control the world believe in their Torah? What role does that book play in their belief system, according to the conspiracists’ view of history?

If jews do believe it to be genuine history, how do you account for all the accounts of mistakes, bad judgment, bad behavior, and other flaws so honestly chronicled in those biographical stories? Does recent, 20th century history really suggest that when someone thinks they deserve to rule the world, they will readily admit their mistakes, let alone judge them? How do such people typically feel about criticism in general, let alone self-criticism? Would a history book produced in, say, North Korea, or Cuba, mention any of the problems that have resulted from their leader’s bad decisions? Would such a book include, or exclude, anything that made the leader look bad? How many books got published in Nazi Germany that mentioned their leaders’ failures, such as the early boast that no bomb would ever be dropped on german soil by Allied pilots?

When I actually read the Old Testament as an adult, this was a point that struck me, and stayed with me: the honesty. How many bad people are so honest about their own weakness of character? Being human, they must make mistakes; if genuinely interested in self-betterment, they would face them, and seek to learn from them.

My Old Testament has been of great service to me over the years in many ways, but especially in how the above example teaches me the value of humility; their Book of Instructions serves as a wonderful model for effective introspection. Just my brief study of it has had enormous benefits to how I live my life, so it seems no surprise to me, seeing things from my personal experience, that if someone undertook a far more prolonged and detailed immersion into its lessons, they would emerge as above-average achievers.

Second, would you agree that is a fundamentally human trait, that we are most likely to criticize others for the flaws we are most guilty of ourselves? Someone who is always late for his appointments, spouts off about the disrespect shown by a colleague’s being late for an engagement, someone who steals from stores goes on a rant about how you can’t trust anybody anymore, when he himself is ripped off in a business deal… surely you’ll agree that this is one of the sillier parts of our human nature, that hypocritically we see our own personal flaws reflected in others, as a substitute for being able to see them in ourselves.
When authors like the one appearing at my library, therefore, start talking about “cowardice”, “dishonesty”, and other sins, what might that be saying about themselves, and their own lives? Does he adopt the belief that there is a giant lie enveloping the outside world (a “secret conspiracy”), because he himself is living through an immense lie of his own? Does he really even believe what he is saying is true? From where I sit, I judge that he is not choosing to act in ways that would be likely to lead more people to agree with him, let alone even want to listen to him; he is rude when he doesn’t need to be, he tries to insult and offend instead of persuade… if it’s so important that more people share his beliefs, why is there no honest accounting of what it takes to get people to really shift their point of view?

If he makes a speech, writes a book, or just leaves a comment at a blog, and it fails to convince people, does he blame the conspiracy or does he look inside and recognize that he himself screwed up, that he’s not particularly skilled at his chosen labor? Because if he’s not even honest with himself, why would you assume he would bother being honest with you?

Charles Henry said...

oops.. Sorry for the long comment... wasn't expecting it to grow to that length. I'll be more succinct next time!

reliable sources said...

I was reading David Berner's blog and he knows Felton personally. He said Felton was fired from the Vancouver Courier newspaper nine years ago by the Asper family who own it. The Aspers are, of course, Jewish.

Berner said that he worked with Felton for eight months and the guy was incapable of carrying on a conversation for more than four minutes without launching into a rant against Jews.

http://thebernermonologues.blogspot.com/2008/02/freedom-to-hate-week.html

The Vancouver Public Library has a record of crackpotism when it comes to free speech. They will give a platform to a raving anti-Semite, yet a man has been barred from all VPL public access computers at Carnegie Center for supposedly writing entirely legal blog posts that they don't happen to like. I should mention that the guy isn't even a blogger!

And a woman was barred from all VPL computers in the Carnegie Center after speaking up about sexual harassment. When she would sign up for a VPL computer and sit waiting her turn, the attendant would repeatedly ask her to go home and watch pornography, change her appearance to be more attractive to men, etc. She told him to stop and when he didn't, she lodged a formal complaint. Then, mysteriously, she was barred from all VPL computers. She asked for the reason and then Carnegie Director Michael Clague wouldn't give her one, but he upheld her barring in a letter which I have a copy of.

When it comes to free speech, you won't find integrity at the VPL.

karmalyzed said...

Charles,

In the spirit of your suggestion that one can always ask questions in place of comments, I'll try to ask some which will hopefully continue this discussion.  It seems there are two issues here.  One, which I'd like to follow more if "flanders fields" would oblige, is the question of what is this guy Felton saying and why?  If that's not exactly the debate you want to have with ff, clarification will be apprecitated.

The other is the one that Truepeers is pointing to - what is going on at the Library which brought them to the decision to invite GF?  

I had a look at the VPL website to see if I could find some information about Freedom to Read Week and GF's reading of his book.  Nothing obvious was apparent, but after a little searching, I found the event listed with a blurb about his book and awards.  That was it.  I found this while I was on hold, as the Librarian I spoke with was going around asking others about my requests for why no info on Freedom to Read on the website, why no info about the Q&A you posted, and who to contact for further information or input.
 
Like the Librarian you spoke with, mine was very nice and trying to accomodate me as much as possible, but it was clear that she had no information at her fingertips about either the Freedom to Read Week or the Felton event.  She directed me to marketing, so I sent an email asking for a copy of the Q&A, and suggested it should be available on the website.
 
I didn't think there was any point in complaining to her about the lack of information about FTRW or GF, but it did seem strange to me that there was nothing on the website to announce the upcoming event.  Maybe that has to do with the fact that they are revamping the website.
 
Next I went to the Freedom to Read dot cee eh website and discovered who they were and that a banner was available there through a link, which could be posted on websites, I presumed.  It seems like the library could have grabbed that quite easily if they had wanted to.  There is also a link to the Facebook page set up for the event, but nothing there about the GF reading yet.
 
Freedom to Read comes out of a committee run by the Book and Periodical Council, an industry run organization to promote Canadian writing and publishing.  The Freedom to Read Committee has 21 members, one of whom is from the Canadian Library Association.
Here is the Committee's Position Statement:
 
Freedom of Expression and Freedom to Read
 
A statement of the basic tenets of the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council.
"Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms . . . thought, belief, opinion, and expression."
— Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
 
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right of all Canadians, and freedom to read is part of that precious heritage. Our Committee, representing member organizations and associations of the Book and Periodical Council, reaffirms its support of this vital principle and opposes all efforts to suppress writing and silence writers. Words and images in their myriad configurations are the substance of free expression.  The freedom to choose what we read does not, however, include the freedom to choose for others.  We accept that courts alone have the authority to restrict reading material, a prerogative that cannot be delegated or appropriated.  Prior restraint demeans individual responsibility; it is anathema to freedom and democracy.  As writers, editors, publishers, book manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and librarians, we abhor arbitrary interpretations of the law and other attempts to limit freedom of expression. We recognize court judgments; otherwise, we oppose the detention, seizure, destruction, or banning of books and periodicals – indeed, any effort to deny, repress, or sanitize.  Censorship does not protect society; it smothers creativity and precludes open debate of controversial issues.
 
Endorsed by the Book and Periodical Council
February 5, 1997
 
Sorry for all of the above, but I just thought I would try to give some hopefully helpful background info to help you answer my question/s.
 
In our recent discussion, you were making a point about the library's decision being legal rather than moral, and you were very clear that they had failed in making the right decision from the moral point of view.  It would be helpful to me as one interested observer, to know how you make this judgement. 

I believe the library is funded by the City of Vancouver, so I would guess it needs to account to the citizens for it's actions.  In your view, according to its stated objectives, goals, visions, missions whatever, how did they fail by making this decision?  What should people see that's wrong here?
 
Also, do you see anything that may have influenced their decision with respect to their relationship with the Freedom to Read Committee of the Book and Periodical Council?
 
One final question which was one that came up with respect to reading ff's post.  How would you treat an attempt to engage you in debate about your opinions, by the author himself if he adopted the same kind of civil tone?
 
For my purposes here, I have been helped by reading your post and the comments about this important issue, and doing the little bit of research that I did
to discover some facts about our library system.  I hope to learn more by reading further commentary.
 
Thanks for taking this comment, and I hope it helps.
 
 

covenant said...

The freedom to choose what we read does not, however, include the freedom to choose for others. We accept that courts alone have the authority to restrict reading material, a prerogative that cannot be delegated or appropriated.

It all sounds nice and holy, until you think about it.

How can the library avoid making choices for others? They buy the books, and since they don't buy conservative and Islam critical books I suggest to them through the official book request system, I take it that there is something wrong with my choices. What? I see no sign that they are buying solely according to market rules: according to demand, which is only part of what their system takes into consideration, surely.

How can they avoid making choices: the public meeting rooms do not operate like a Speakers' corner.

Once one appoints oneself as a guardian of "freedom to read", instead of simply making books available according to demand, one is involved in making choices for others. It's called professional judgment. Felton's books are not restricted in this country; the only thing that is restricted is the extent of his celebrity, which the librarian sees fit to rectify by extending it. He needs to be held accountable for his choices.

The libraries' official statement quoted by karmalyzed is a fine expression of liberal nihilism, the belief that some perfect neutrality is possible, which it isn't. At the same time, this expression of neutrality comes from people presuming to be professionals. And what is a professional if not someone with a responsibility for making choices?

The refusal to make choices, to offer a neutralist fantasy to the foolish public, is an extreme reaction to the Holocaust, the fear that any and every form of discrimination, however discriminating, is a form of victimization. As we now see, this extreme reaction to the Holocaust leads again to Judeophobia for various reasons, such as: 1) once discrimination is outlawed in the name of the victim, those who can claim the victim position have a lot of power or status; hence, the paradigmatic victimization, by the modern state, of the undoubtedly evil Nazi and the unquestionably innocent Jew becomes a model that others want to claim a piece of; and they do so, in part, by trying to make the Israelis or Americans into the new Nazis, i.e. to knock them off the pedestal; 2) Israel has to discriminate in order to survive; it has to act like a traditional nation that is willing to draw boundaries and to defend them in its own self interest; this goes against the Utopian thinking of "professionals" who will not make choices for others, preferring instead to act as sanctimonious guardians of our freedom.

Well, if you have a sanctimonious guardian of your freedom, one who pretends to be neutral, it's probably a sign that you are losing freedom to the guardian and his control of the myth of neutrality. Canadians can take care of themselves; and its time we told the Judeophobic librarians just that.

truepeers

karmalyzed said...

Just a point of clarification, Truepeers. The Position Statement I quoted was from the Freedom to Read Committee, not VPL. Here is the VPL's blurb:

Mission, Vision & Values
Vision
Inspiration through Information

The Vancouver Public Library inspires and enriches the human spirit. It is a library for all. It reflects the diversity of our communities, preserves the record of our experience, and provides access to the world's most innovative ideas and enduring wisdom. It celebrates our desire to learn, to share knowledge, and to contribute to the human story.

Mission
To enrich all, to reach all

We strive to enrich the life of our community by providing access to the world's ideas and information. We offer the finest possible collections, services, and technology. We provide caring and expert service supportive of human differences. We promote lifelong learning, the love of reading and exploration of ideas, culture, and knowledge in a welcoming, lively atmosphere.

We are a cornerstone to the community and are vital, accountable, active participants within it. We encourage involvement from the broadest spectrum of users. We shape our collections and services in order to be sensitive and responsive to community needs and aspirations.

Values
We value:

all people and their diversity
intellectual freedom
access for all
the right of individuals to learn and grow
quality service
teamwork and staff development
wise use of resources
innovation and responsiveness to community needs
shared contributions of employees, Board members, Friends and supporters

Charles Henry said...

Karmalyzed,

Thanks for your comment. This wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve not been clear in what I write, so I’ll add a few remarks here to put my thoughts in better context. (I'll break things up into a few separate comments)

My post asked a lot of questions about what would be a principled response to the library’s booking of GF.
To clarify, it wasn’t my intention to avoid thinking by taking that approach, I genuinely don’t know how to respond to the library’s action. I weighed the options that came to mind, and none of them seemed fully appropriate.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned by blogging, it’s how much smarter many readers tend to be compared to me; since I wasn’t getting anywhere to my satisfaction in my post’s first draft, I ended up writing about my indecision instead, and hoped some of the resulting commentary would help me see the issue within a larger picture. (your research into the Freedom to Read week is an example of that… thank you.)

When Flanders Fields said he thought GF’s views weren’t outlandish, I noted that his disagreements were wrapped within a far more civil tone than people who hold those beliefs tend to present. I hoped I was getting an opportunity that I don’t often get, to question them about their beliefs without it degenerating into an exercise in meaningless verbal abuse. Honestly, I am getting really sick and tired of the unnecessarily uncivil and vulgar tone to drive-by conversations online nowadays… I say that being fully guilty of having done my share, from years of using the internet as a window to yell out of when I was angry about the bad news I was learning about. Last year I started aiming my writing in another direction, trying to channel my frustrations and depression into more productive uses than just name-calling. (A standard still beyond my present self-discipline... but I'm trying)

In reply to your (final) question about whether I’d be willing to be as civil to a GF pledged to respond in kind… that would certainly be a test of the sincerity of my resolve to be more civil...!

I would have to be honest and admit ahead of time that I have no, zero, interest in listening to the details of their conspiracy theories, which is just intellectual pornography as far as I’m concerned. I would use such conversations to try and understand this deep antipathy towards Judaism as not just an isolated thought, but as a link in a long chain, trying to understand how one idea led to another.

It’s been my observation that once their belief reaches a certain tipping point, anti-semitic people tend to become profoundly unhappy people, their hatred burning away not just judgment and reason but also, well I’ll use the term “heart”, which I’ll define as, the part of us that connects with others, that delights in being of service to others, and that feels gratitude for being alive. I wasn’t trying to dodge anything by asking him those questions, in case that was the impression left by my reply. I just don’t meet polite anti-semites, they usually charge into a conversation with words guaranteed to shock or shatter any meeting of minds.

Charles Henry said...

“In your view, according to its stated objectives, goals, visions, missions whatever, how did they fail by making this decision? What should people see that's wrong here?”

This was a fair challenge.

The library lists a series of succinct principles, offering a compass point to guide behavior, then more detailed definitions that outline a practical approach to fulfilling these principles.

Vision: Inspiration through Information
Mission: To enrich all, to reach all

To me, this is parallel to how morals transcend law; the “legal” is the result of the “moral”, it is not the replacement of it. Laws are the human attempt to pragmatically fulfill the guiding moral principle.

To pick one example, it was when slavery came to be viewed as immoral that it then was made illegal… not the other way around. For years a morally terrible thing was considered adequately “legal”. During WWII, quite a few awful things were done by “following orders”.

To me, Reason itself involves searching for a moral precedent to legal action, in order for the principle of the law to be properly upheld. Doing “Right” or “Wrong” means thinking about “Good” and “Evil”. There is too deeply rooted a potential within human beings for engaging in needless cruelty, a yearning for the chance to be cruel, that can only be kept in check, with a conscience check.

When the library says that this guy has not broken any laws, that might be true, but that should be the beginning, not the ending, of thinking about the choice of granting him a prominent public podium for his book’s content.

As far as I know, the library does not have a hard-core porn section. There are limits to “information” and “enrichment”, that part of the very definition of something existing in principle is the notion that it means “sometimes”, not always or never.

There are choices involved, a choice derived from a moral, not legal, compass. Life involves too much change, life is too complicated, to think in only “legal” terms, because that box will always be behind the curve, just as our minds are constantly struggling, as mine is with this whole issue, to adapt to what constitutes the principle to fulfill.

Charles Henry said...

Karmalyzed,
I'm just now realizing that you've added a new comment... my responses were written without having read your new post.

I have to leave for work now, but I'll try and come back on later this afternoon and follow up.

regards,

truepeers said...

karmalyzed,

I don't know what you think of the Library's feel-good, make no real commitments "mission statement". If the library stands for "intellectual freedom" and "wise use of resources" can they do so while making no intellectual judgments about what they buy or whom they feature as a speaker? and offer no statement of personal or professional accountability when challenged on this lack of judgment by many letter writers?

It seems to me that supporting intellectual freedom positively requires one to make distinctions between good and bad. Public speakers are relatively rare and if they are chosen to entertain the deeply resentful, to make a infantile and nasty vanity statement about "intellectual freedom" (confusing a crazy conspiracy theorist with truly daring or oppressed thinking) you are only feeding their resentful addiction and not opening anyone up to a greater freedom that can only come from access to better, not violently mythological, thinking.

I don't think the library has any business trying to represent "the diversity of our communities"; there is a lot of hate and stupidity out there; the library should only present a wide range of materials and speakers that meet some minimum standard. Mission statements like this one are just designed so that people can hide behind them and avoid taking responsibility for their necessary choices. ANd that's the problem, the same problem that is responsible for a general intellectual decline in our culture, e.g. universities full of hate mongers and victim-worshiping death cultists chanting about "diversity". My language is hyperbolic but not far from the mark.

Look, either you had better come out and tell us why Felton is a worthy speaker in the name of "freedom to read", or quit pretending that we are missing something about "diversity" when we express our outrage at this hate monger on the public dime and time. "Diversity" is a meaningless sentiment that is just designed to avoid responsibility and to clamor for victimary status.

karmalyzed said...

Truepeers,

Is that last paragraph of yours directed at me?

truepeers said...

I have no idea who karmalyzed is. That's the point of the last paragaraph. To tease you out a bit...

wilfr said...

Sorry, I was thinking for some reason that it was obvious who I was.

truepeers said...

Sorry Wilf,

wilfr said...

No worries, Truepeers. I guess I'll just say at this point that I am coming from the perspective of someone who knows very little about these issues, so I try to approach things from the perspective of trying to see some of the basics first. I was actually hoping that my questions would provoke some debate between differing viewpoints here, but it sounds like there may be no point to that, given that most here see Felton as too far out for serious consideration. I'll have to do some more research on him.

In the meantime, since accountability seems to be an issue in which I have some direct involvement with respect to the Carnegie Community Centre, maybe I'll just try to see where this issue goes with respect to holding the VPL accountable for their decision. Here is the Librarian's letter to the Sun which I got it today from the Marketing and Communications person at VPL.

Letter to the Editor
Re: Does our library know there’s another word for anti-Semitism?
A17, Feb. 12, 2008

Editor,

Terry Glavin provides a spirited condemnation of Greg Felton’s views
and his book The Host and the Parasite: How Israel’s Fifth Column
Consumed America. Let there be no doubt that in hosting a reading by Mr.
Felton that Vancouver Public Library is in no way agreeing with Mr.
Felton’s positions.

In reviewing Mr. Felton’s request to read at the Library, it appeared
to us that Mr. Felton’s book was provocative but not hateful and we
have found no information indicating the book is subject to any legal
action. We were aware of the freedom-of-expression debate surrounding Mr
Felton’s departure from the Vancouver Courier, where he was a
columnist, and therefore felt this reading was relevant for Freedom to Read
Week.

Intellectual freedom is a core tenet of the Library even though it is not
always an easy principle to hold. Abiding by this principle can at times
put you in the position of appearing to support points of view that you do
not believe in. The role of the public library, however, is to provide a
forum for an open and public exchange of contradictory views and to make
materials available that represent a wide range of views including those
that may be considered unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable.

Paul Whitney
City Librarian

Anonymous said...

Vancouver Public Library announced that supporting or opposing the genocide of the Jews is a legitimate topic for discussion. In so doing, as an Public Library has taken itself beyond the pale of legitimate discourse. Paul Whitney has embraced depravity by renouncing the intrinsic sanctity of human life.

Dag said...

This is an issue we can agree is important enough to show our displeasure at in public. On Monday evening at the library there will be an event at which like-minded people of all sorts can meet and greet. I'll be there. I look forward to meeting others who are concerned about the state of our state, of a state that can't find a difference between insanity and evil and common Human decency, it all seeming the same somehow. I'll be there, and if yo are there, please say hello. Let's meet and go afterward for coffee and some discussion. There should be much to talk about.

Anonymous said...

So even the City of Vancouver is promoting the event!

www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/events.cfm

Rob Misek said...

Hatred is maintaining a lie.

People who do so must be exposed. The resolution of the resulting conflict only strengthens a society.

Silencing them would prevent this exposure from the truth and result in social paranoia in a fascist environment.

I suspect that most people who prefer silencing liars don't really value the truth and have as much to fear from its exposure.

Truth is something to have faith in.

Wasn't this the same group that supported Bloggers freedom of speech?

truepeers said...

Rob, as we've already said many times, we do uphold the right to freedom of speech. But we don't say that this right means any and everyone has a right or reason to be one of the few speakers each year at the Vancouver Public Library. (It costs public money to supply the staff to host speakers; their list of speakers is a choice for which the library should be accountable.)

No one is silencing or banning Greg Felton's work. What is happening is that his work is being held up to exemplify the cause of "freedom to read week". And it is that exemplary status that we are criticizing.