The head librarian at San Antonio's University of the Incarnate Word has canceled the college's subscription to the New York Times "to protest articles exposing a secret government program that monitors international financial transactions in the hunt for terrorists."
"Since no one elected the New York Times to determine national security policy, the only action I know to register protest for their irresponsible action (treason?) is to withdraw support of their operations by canceling our subscription as many others are doing," said Mendell D. Morgan, Jr., UIW's dean of library services. "If enough do perhaps they will get the point."
Now, I can imagine some huffy dean of political science or a fat-cat benefactor demanding such a thing, but a librarian? Canceling a subscription might be a fairly civil form of protest, and it's certainly within any librarian's rights to do it, but isn't it only about a step-and-a-half from book-burning? When did librarians begin to morph into reactionary censors? To me, that's what makes this little protest a bigger deal.
And nobody elected the New York Times or The Beaumont Enterprise to determine whether Americans should be able to make their own decisions based upon good, complete information either, but that's central to any newspaper's mission. The librarian's lame logic disregards that he is able to speak so freely largely because newspapers have vigilantly defended -- at great cost -- his right to do it. I assure you, the government would have curbed your right to speak long ago without a vigorous press.
Also today, the U.S. House has passed a resolution condemning the media. (Don't you wonder how bribery suspect Rep. William Jefferson voted on that one?) Isn't there something a little hypocritical about Republicans condemning secret information being revealed by a newspaper ... even as high-ranking White House figures face indictment for purposely leaking secret information? Another reason why putting your absolute faith in government might be unwise.
Newspapers have done more to protect libraries (and their readers) than Congress or the White House ever did. When the same government lustily sought freedom to fish around in library and bookstore patrons' records, newspapers rose to defend readers' rights.
The revelation of the government's surveillance of international banking is really just a tempest in a teapot, and I'd imagine it delights terrorists everywhere. Do you really think they didn't ASSUME their money transactions were being watched? Smaller cells and odd-shot brigands might not have been so smart, but our government hasn't yet proven the program actually has paid off. They say "Trust us" and too many people do.
The Bush Administration has been marked by extraordinary secrecy. That's not a bad thing in war-time, but common Americans have too often been their target. Is government essentially evil? No, but it has proven over and over that it will act first for its own enrichment, and only later for yours. In the halls of government, common people are too often considered the barbarians at the gate, not the noble soul of democracy.
The librarian's personal feelings are just that, personal. But when he takes steps -- like the freakish Ward Churchill on the other side -- to limit a student's access to information to make decisions for himself, he's no longer an educator, but a common brown-shirt.