Monday, July 07, 2008

Signing Off

Yes, and I really mean it this time.

My sincere thanks to all who have read this blog or any part thereof. I hope it has been a useful source of information and analysis, regardless of whether or not you agree with my positions. In particular, thanks to everyone who sent me e-mail and my apologies for being so bad about responding. I also owe a debt of gratitude to those bloggers who linked to me and otherwise provided encouragement. In particular, I need to recognize Greg McClay of SHUSH; Jack Stephens, formerly of Conservator; Walter Skold, formerly of Freadom; and Stephen Denney.

A special mention should be made of the late Steven Vincent, the first "name" blogger/writer to link this site. It has been nearly three years since he was murdered by pro-Iranian Islamist thugs in the Iraqi city of Basra. He was truly a man of courage and conviction. RIP Steven.

Anyway, those looking for blogs by conservative or centrist librarians still have several choices:

-Annoyed Librarian (not that she really needs the PR)

-Collecting my Thoughts (A conservative Christian librarian: I think she de-linked me due to my being less than enamored with Mike Huckabee; oh well)

-Librarians for Fairness (Focused on Israel/Middle East issues)

-Safe Libraries

-Finally, there is Stephen Denney's excellent banned books blog.

If I missed any, please feel free to add a link in the comments.

While I will be preoccupied for the next year and a half, I may well write again someday on the issues I discussed here. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to the reader. Any final questions, comments, or hate mail regarding this site can be sent to:


In the meantime, I can think of no better way to retire "Heretical Librarian" than with some Freedom Rock:

Egypt's Minister of Book Burning

Two months ago, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni was widely considered one of the favorites to be selected as next head of UNESCO. Now, his hopes appear to be in doubt. This article from the May 29 New York Sun explains why:

Last week, a Muslim Brotherhood member of Egypt's parliament complained about Israeli books being in Egyptian libraries. Denying that such publications were available there, Mr. Hosni retorted: "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt."

(Emphasis added-DD)

In a letter to the current head of UNESCO, Simon Wiesenthal Center International Relations Director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, pointed out that Hosni's (pardon the pun) inflammatory remarks were part of a pattern that should disqualify him from consideration for the UNESCO post:

- He had personally invited convicted French Holocaust denier, Roger Garaudy, to speak in Cairo and to present his apology for genocide in a one-hour interview on national television (reported in the British anti-Nazi monthly SEARCHLIGHT of June 2001).

- In an interview given to the Egyptian publication Al-Arabi in May 2004, Hosni had stated that 'we consider culture as a powerful weapon which we will invoke' – a threat that he had reportedly addressed to former Israeli leaders: the late President Ezer Weitzman and Culture Minister Shulamit Aloni.

- His blockage of an initiative to establish a Museum of Egyptian Jewish History in Cairo (, 14 May 2008)."

Hosni has tried to clarify his remarks, telling Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly that his comment was merely "hyperbole". In an attempt to repair the damage, he has even offered to visit Israel. However, according to Agence France Presse, he won't be allowing Israeli cultural products into Egypt anytime soon:

In his interview, Hosni reiterated he would not allow distribution of Israeli books or movies in Egypt. "I'm not willing to have a cinema burned down in Cairo or Alexandria because an Israeli film is shown there", he said.

He added he does not hate Israel, but said it is too early for a normalization of cultural relations.

It is an open question how much Hosni is limited by Egypt's growing climate of intolerance versus how much he is a reflection of it. Either way, he should never be head of UNESCO.

(My thanks to long-time reader Davette Zinik for letting me know about this story)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Iran Ponders the Death Penalty for "Apostate" Blogging

Iran's Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have spent the last three years engaged in a "Second Islamic Cultural Revolution" designed to save their unpopular autocratic regime by fostering Islamist ideology and curbing the growth of "un-Islamic" thought and expression. In early June, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty noted that Khamenei used the 19th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini to warn against the evils of Western cultural influences:

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that the nation's "enemies" seek to weaken the country's youth by spreading immorality, prostitution, and drug addiction, as young people themselves express their frustration at hard-line social restrictions.

"Combating organized plots that push Iranian youth toward carnal desires, drugs, or sexuality is a prime duty of the Iranian people and especially the young," said Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters in the Islamic republic.

RFE/RL confirms the growing unhappiness of many Iranian young people with the regime's intensified social controls:

Mohammad, a young Tehran resident, told RFE/RL that even websites which have nothing to do with politics and Islamic values have been blocked by authorities.

"It's really ridiculous how websites are filtered here," Mohammad said. "Don't think that the authorities have only filtered sex-related sites. No, rules and laws do not apply here. News, music, and photos are all filtered. Until last week, I used to download music from some sites, but now they are blocked, too. They were Iranian music sites."

So-called morality police are stationed in every crowded place in Tehran, and they stop young women who violate a dress code by wearing tight overcoats or skimpy headscarves. Young men are not allowed to wear ties or to get a "funky" hairstyle

Over the last several months, the Iranian autocracy has intensified its efforts against these "organized plots":

-In late April, a top Iranian official warned of the dangers posed by that evil symbol of Western sinfulness: the Barbie doll. Around the same time, Agence France Presse reported that Iran's culture minister warned Iranian authors to censor themselves if they wanted to be published:

"This is what we ask publishers and writers, you are aware of the vetting code, so censor pages which are likely to create a dispute," conservative minister Mohammad Hossein Safar Harandi told a news conference.

He said publications should be in line with the system's "religious, moral and national" sensitivities and warned writers against graphic descriptions of relationships or sex.

-In May, the regime intensified its filtering of web sites. The Iranian authorities are also reported to rely on the slowness of home Internet connections to curb online expressions of dissent

-In mid-June, the regime launched its annual summer crackdown on "immodest" women's clothing.

Not content with such measures, radical Islamists in Iran's parliament now want to apply sterner methods for purging society of unbelief. The First Islamic Cultural Revolution culminated in 1989's Rushdie Affair, which saw the "right" to murder apostates extended throughout the globe. Now, the proponents of the second such revolution hope to extend the death penalty to cover apostasy in cyberspace. Global Voices Online has the details:

On Wednesday, Iranian members of parliament voted to discuss a draft bill that seeks to “toughen punishment for disturbing mental security in society.” The text of the bill would add, “establishing websites and weblogs promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy,” to the list of crimes punishable by death.

In recent years, some Iranian bloggers have been sent to jail and many have had their sites filtered. If the Iranian parliament approves this draft bill, bloggers fear they could be legally executed as criminals. No one has defined what it means to “disturb mental security in society”.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Reporters Sans Frontieres calls the measure "horrifying". There is nothing I can add to that description.

Answering Peter McDonald

Safe Libraries has the text of a message posted to the ALA Council listserv by radical leftist ALA Councilor Peter McDonald. I would be remiss if I signed off without offering my reactions to Mr. McDonald's comments. Three paragraphs in particular stand out. I'll address them one at a time:

My sympathies go out to you my fellow Councilors. We have had to deal now 10 interminable years with Mr. Kent's endless vitriol and misinformation campaigns, indeed virtually since the day he was himself deported from Cuba for espionage when it was clear to Cuban authorities that he was in their country as nothing more than an agent provocateur. Some reports say he was in cahoots then (as now?) with Miami rightwing anti-Castro elements (among other fellow travelers, easily gleaned from net accessible sources, for example: but don't stop there, there's dozens of similar sites.)

So the allegations of the Cuban government and a pro-Castro hit piece from a radical left web site are enough to prove that Robert Kent is an evil anti-Castro conspirator? So much for critical thinking and "questioning authority". BTW, Ms. Diana Barahona, author of said hit piece, has also accused Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) of being a tool of the U.S. government because it has condemned the Castro regime's treatment of independent media. Among her sources for this claim are French "researcher" Thierry Meyssan, best known for arguing that the Pentagon was not actually hit by a plane on 9/11/. She also ignores the fact that RSF has, among other stands, called for the closure of the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. If she is the source that Mr. McDonald chooses to highlight, I'd hate to see what the "dozens of similar sites" look like.

Now, on to paragraph two:

As has been said a hundred times, there is not a shred of evidence that any of these Cubans were jailed because they were "librarians", still less that they were even 'librarians' at all. They were by the whole average citizens journalists, teachers, laborers, who were arrested, tried and convicted for knowingly subverting Cuban law repeatedly -- for one, distributing U.S. funded anti-government materials (among other crimes), not from 'libraries' but from their living rooms and store fronts.

It's really odd. Librarians like to inflate our sense of self-importance by claiming to be guardians of intellectual freedom, the last thing standing between our collections and howling mobs of book burners. Yet, when it comes to people who find themselves in exactly that situation, the argument is made that none of that matters if the individuals in question are not professional librarians. Does maintaining a collection of otherwise forbidden books and making it available to users mean nothing if the material is not cataloged in accord with AACR2?

Andrei Codrescu, who unlike McDonald grew up in a totalitarian society, has no problem calling Cuba's independent librarians exactly that. Growing up in Romania, Codrescu benefited from just such a private collection. As he puts it, "the man who lent us his books was a librarian, was our librarian".

Finally, I am intrigued by McDonald's seeming approval of the Cuban regime protecting its people from subversive U.S. government propaganda such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I will grant the terms of imprisonment were harsh, but hey! America has the largest (corporate-run) prison population in the world not only in real numbers of the incarcerated (over a million+ citizens behind bars at last count), but in average terms of incarceration (10-15yrs), and as a percentage of general population in the top echelon. And we have hundreds (not a handful as in Cuba) of U.S.-held prisoners under solitary lock-up by our military who have never even been charged with a crime, let alone tried and convicted. Where's Mr. Kent's outrage on this travesty where, if we're talking library-related, the prisoners' Korans have been routinely desecrated" by soldiers and where they have NO freedom to read?

Yeah, it sucks to be them, but hey! America has lots of people in prison, too. So that makes it okay. What Mr. McDonald doesn't say is how many of those held in America's "corporate-run" prisons are there because they distributed "anti-government materials". This being America, the answer is zero.

A Guantanamo Bay reference was predictable if not mandatory. Setting the record straight on that facility requires far more time than I have right now, so I will confine my response to the "library-related" aspect. To begin with, a May 2005 investigation found that Korans had been "routinely desecrated" a grand total of five times at Guantanamo by U.S. personnel. Only three of these incidents were deliberate. By contrast, detainees desecrated their own Korans on 15 occasions.

Guantanamo also has a library that has proven very popular with the detainees. This August 2006 article quotes the assistant librarian as saying that the collection includes "books by some of the bigger religious philosophers and Imams in the Middle East, because that's what they want to read." Speaking of freedom to read, the detainees like to show their commitment to this principle by sometimes returning "the books they read with pictures and photos of women blacked out".

In his recent American Libraries article (PDF) on the Cuban library issue, Mr. McDonald was careful to avoid defending the Castro regime too closely. As shown above, he is a little bit more open in his e-mail comments. Mr. McDonald well and truly lets his inner Castroite loose, however, in this follow up message forwarded by Stephen Denney:

"I request as someone who feels that I have been attacked unjustly on
this issue by this Cuba cabal (among many other Councilors) that ALA
leadership address this issue at Council III Wednesday July 2nd 2008
with a "statement of concern" from the dais;


"And that my fellow Councilors use every outlet available to them to
publicize these vicious and abusive and potentially illegal tactics to
their respective chapters, divisions, roundtables, and local interest lists.."

I find it interesting that someone seemingly so blase about people being imprisoned for distributing forbidden literature could in turn be so upset about being "attacked unjustly". Yes, the ever dangerous "Cuba cabal" that has been unable for five years to get council to pass a decent resolution on this issue. There is something vaguely Orwellian about Mr. McDonald's appeal; it is a thoroughly transparent effort to try to end debate on the Cuba issue by having ALA Council delegitimize and marginalize his opponents. It is an interesting window on Mr. McDonald's true attitude towards intellectual freedom.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Change Coming to Campus?

A July 3 article from the New York Times/International Herald Tribune argues that academia is becoming less dogmatically left wing as radical baby boomer faculty retire and are replaced by more moderate younger professors:

Together, these Midwestern academics, one leaving the professoriate and another working her way up, are part of a vast generational change that is likely to profoundly alter the culture at American universities and colleges over the next decade. Baby boomers, hired in large numbers during a huge expansion in higher education that continued into the '70s, are being replaced by younger professors who many of the nearly 50 academics interviewed by The New York Times believe are different from their predecessors - less ideologically polarized and more politically moderate.

"There's definitely something happening," said Peter Wood, executive director of the National Association of Scholars, which was created in 1987 to counter attacks on Western culture and values. "I hear from quite a few faculty members and graduate students from around the country. They are not really interested in fighting the battles that have been fought over the last 20 years."


Democrats continue to overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans among faculty, young and old. But as educators have noted, the generation coming up appears less interested in ideological confrontations, summoning Barack Obama's statement about the elections of 2000 and 2004: "I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation - a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago - played out on the national stage."

My reaction to this piece is hopeful yet skeptical. On the one hand, the Times may be right that the next generation of college and university faculty are less radical than their predecessors. However, it is hard to believe that the environment of left-wing conformity that exists on many campuses will be dramatically altered anytime soon. Especially in the humanities and social sciences, factors such as ideological self-selection and the ability of older faculty to influence hiring and tenure decisions enable the current ideological climate to perpetuate itself. If change occurs, it will take years to become apparent. An end to campus speech codes and allowing center-left Democrats like Larry Summers, let alone right-of-center individuals, to speak on campus without harassment or interruption would be good indicators.

Assuming that the Times is correct, however, will the same phenomenon manifest itself in librarianship? Will the new generation of "hipster librarians" prove less dogmatic and more open to opposing views than the aging sixties radicals who still dominate the profession at the national and large library level?

For lack of a better answer, they can't be any worse. If nothing else, at least they will probably have a sense of humor, unlike the dourness of Rosenzweig and Gorman. Still, I do get an occasional e-mail from conservative library science students and what I hear isn't encouraging. Sadly, it appears, based admittedly on anecdotal evidence, that the climate of ideological conformity in librarianship begins in library school. As long as this is the case, our profession is unlikely to become more open to the expression of conservative or even moderate points of view.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Subverting the Che Cult

I have been a frequent critic of the efforts to market the image of terrorist mass murderer Ernesto "Che" Guevara. It would appear, however, that Che merchandise has finally served a useful purpose.

This Washington Post article on Wednesday's magnificent hostage rescue in Colombia, includes the following:

Yesterday, two white helicopters arrived in a jungle clearing where the hostages were being held. The men in the helicopters looked like guerrillas, Betancourt later said, describing details of the rescue at the military airport.

“Absolutely surreal,” she said, noting that some of the men who got off the helicopter wore T-shirts emblazoned with the iconic image of the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. “I thought this was the FARC,” she said.

Their hands bound, the hostages were forced aboard the helicopters, wondering where they would be taken next in their long ordeal. But once aboard, Betancourt said, Cesar and another guerrilla were overpowered and the crewmen announced that the passengers were now free. “The chief of the operation said: ‘We’re the national army. You’re free,’ ” she said. “The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down, yelling, crying, hugging one another. We couldn’t believe it.”

(Emphasis added-DD; link via Hot Air)

Such glorious irony is truly to be savored.

Happy Independence Day!

Just wanted to wish all of you a happy Fourth of July. Posting will continue until Sunday July 6.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Antioch College Closes its Doors

I have blogged previously about the sad case of Antioch College. This once outstanding liberal arts college has devolved since the 1960s from a bastion of free inquiry to an ideological "boot camp" of radical left orthodoxy, extreme even by the standards of contemporary academia. As a result, the college shed both students and faculty until only a few hundred true believers remained. This process of ideological self-selection has proven inadequate to the task of preserving Antioch as a viable institution.

In a post last week at Minding the Campus, Charlotte Allen confirmed the inevitable: Antioch has officially "shut its doors and laid off the last of its faculty members".

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Sivas Massacre: 15 Years Later

Today marks the 15th anniversary of one of the most horrific atrocities in Islamism's war on intellectual freedom. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet describes what happened in the city of Sivas on that terrible day:

On July 2, 1993, a group of Islamic fundamentalists surrounded the Madimak Hotel in which many intellectuals were staying for the Pir Sultan Abdal Festival in Sivas, known as a stronghold of Islamist movements.

The demonstrations to protest novelist, Aziz Nesin, who translated and published Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and who criticized Islam, turned violent and the fundamentalist crowd set fire to the Madimak Hotel.

Nesin was saved by security forces, but 37 other intellectuals and participants of the festival, who stayed inside the hotel, were killed. Security forces and officials were criticized for not stopping the massacre.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The Sivas massacre was by far the worst act of violence carried out in response to the publication of The Satanic Verses. Incredibly, many of the perpetrators of this atrocity have yet to be brought to justice. The Turkish paper Today's Zaman explains:

The killers were arrested and tried, and after some 13 years of trials, convicted. However some were later released under a law known as the “rehabilitation project,” which gave partial amnesty for terrorist crimes committed in 2003. Some perpetrators are still at large. The city’s inhabitants claim that some of the perpetrators were even not from the city and that some passersby were wrongly convicted.

To mark today's anniversary, supporters of free expression, many from Turkey's minority Alevi sect of Islam, staged a demonstration in honor of those murdered. Among their demands are that a museum be erected on the site of the Madimak Hotel and that all of the perpetrators finally be brought to justice.

The Sivas massacre was not only directed at Aziz Nesin and The Satanic Verses; it was also one of a number of attacks directed at Turkey's Alevi minority. According to the Hurriyet article cited above, "Alevis are the second largest religious community in Turkey, although no official statistics are available. The Alevis' interpretation of Islam differs from Sunnis, and represents a more liberal wing of Islam." It is no coincidence that the Pir Sultan Abdal festival was named after a 16th century Alevi poet who was hanged by the Ottoman authorities for his outspoken and heterodox views. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Alevis should be willing to defend to defend free expression and that they would find themselves targeted by Islamists.

In June, a number of Turkish Alevi leaders published an appeal regarding the commemoration of the Sivas massacre. It is they who should have the last word:

Turkey must remove this shame from its past and also illuminate its future. In our opinion the solution is to convert the Madımak Hotel into a museum, to identify the real, hidden perpetrators, and to apologize to the Alevi Community. To prevent new Madımak massacres, therefore, it is of great importance to stop initiatives and efforts to forget July 2 and to ensure that the Turkish state and society confront it. Thus commemorations to be held on July 2 in Sivas are critically important.

Alevi organizations have been waging a determined struggle for fifteen years to expose the Madımak Massacre, and not only Madımak, but all massacres which devastate the culture of tolerance and reinforce darkness. And we consider it important to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who defend secularism, emancipation of the individual and labor, and democratization of the State. We call on our friends to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the Madımak Hotel on July 2.

As we do every year, to commemorate our loss, we will leave carnations in front of the Madımak Hotel on 2nd July in this year too. Once more we shall demonstrate our commitment to make the Madımak Hotel a museum. We strongly appeal to others to join us in these commemorations. We believe that your support will contribute to realizing the dream of a Turkey where different cultures and beliefs can live in tolerance and that your support will constitute an effective response to those who try the cause the Madımak Massacre to be forgotten.

ALA and Cuba (Again)

ALA's Annual Convention is underway in Anaheim. Those of you who remember my reaction to last year's ALA conference in DC will not be shocked to learn that I have skipped this year's festivities. Amazingly for an election year, this year's speakers lineup seems mercifully free of partisanship, though the Opening Session did feature that "impassioned, informed and gifted speaker" Ron Reagan.

To be fair, though, if the Cognotes summary (PDF) of his remarks is accurate, Reagan really did not give his audience the partisan red meat many of them undoubtedly desired. In fact, Cognotes has him saying the following, which probably did not endear him to his hosts:

“only when we stand everywhere [for freedom of information]”— in Cuba, Zimbabwe, Burma, and elsewhere — are we true to our commitments.

It is to Ron Reagan's credit that he referenced Cuba, especially since the issue has once again come up for debate at ALA Council. There are plans to introduce a new resolution on the Cuban independent library issue in Anaheim. The proposed resolution calls for council to demand "the immediate and unconditional release of those persons involved in the operation of independent libraries arrested in March 2003" and that the Cuban regime"return any materials confiscated from independent library collections which have not been incinerated or destroyed". (link via Stephen Denney)

The debate over this resolution promises to be bitter. The radical left wing opponents of this measure have taken the initiative in the information campaign. ALA Councilor and PLG member Peter McDonald has published a piece in the June/July issue of American Libraries defending the association's current position on Cuba, which he describes as "sufficiently nuanced--calling on both Cuba and the U.S. to break down official barriers and respect human rights." (McDonald's article is available in PDF from the PLG web site)

The main argument made by opponents of the proposed resolution, such as McDonald and ALA International Relations Office director Michael Dowling, is that the independent librarians have received funding and resources from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Thus, it is implied that they are tools in the hands of neocon American imperialism and therefore unworthy of support. Steve Marquardt has shown the utter absurdity of this argument, pointing out that the "federal budget line for the Bibliotecas Independientes de Cuba would not be enough to pay the average salaries plus fringe benefits of 2.5 FTE librarians employed at an average U.S. university library." In addition, he has noted that Cuba is merely one of dozens of countries where USAID has funded local civil society activists.

Of course, most Americans would see nothing wrong with the U.S. government aiding supporters of free thought and expression in their struggle against a totalitarian dictatorship. Nor would they feel the need to take anything like a "nuanced" stand on such a matter. Only in a profession skewed as far to the left as American librarianship could supporting persecuted librarians even be a source of controversy. Unfortunately, for all too many in our profession knee jerk opposition to American foreign policy overrides commitment to intellectual freedom. Factor in the influence of the openly pro-Castro PLG and ALA's shameful inaction on the Cuba question is explained.

It needs to be noted that there are many exceptions within American librarianship. Leftists such as Sanford Berman and liberals like Karen Schneider and Stephen Denney have forthrightly condemned the Castro regime's crushing of intellectual freedom. I believe Steve Marquardt is himself left of center on many issues (please correct me if I'm wrong). In fact, the main dividing line on this question isn't between left and right: it is between those librarians who put support for intellectual freedom ahead of political ideology versus those who don't.

For the sake of the Cuban independent librarians and for ALA's credibility, an already endangered commodity, I hope this resolution passes. Sadly, I'm not optimistic.

For more on this issue, the aforementioned Steve Marquardt has done some amazing work supplying facts and analysis on his Cuba 451 Letters list. In addition, the Safe Libraries blog, Stephen Denney and Annoyed Librarian have all posted some interesting thoughts on this question.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The MEMRI Widget

Just an administrative note; in order to keep this site useful after I stop posting, I have added the official MEMRI Widget to the right side menu: