The Practice of Censorship

October 13, 2008

From The Atlantic -January 1930

“Censorship wherever it exists is as much a problem for the police as for the critics. And, like the poor, it is always with us.”

by Edward Weeks

The Practice of Censorship

Living, as I do, in what Alexander Woollcott impatiently termed ‘that nasty and silly city of Boston’ and deriving my livelihood from publishing, I am naturally sensitive on the subject of book censorship. In itself censorship is an impatient theme, and when it calls for a law so unjust and an enforcement so unhappy as that in operation in Suffolk County (which contains the city of Boston) one is apt to follow Mr. Woollcott’s example and lose one’s temper. For two years I have served on committees which have endeavored to reform the Massachusetts laws ‘relating to obscene literature.’ In the course of this service I have come into dose contact with the actual practice of censorship and have gained, perhaps, more than a parochial perspective of the whole vexed question.

In a little over two years sixty-eight books have been suppressed in Boston. Only two of this number — The American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser, and Oil, by Upton Sinclair — were brought to trial. The other sixty-six were thought to be subject to the present Massachusetts statute, and so, according to the strict letter of the law, they may have been. Complaints, however, were lodged against them only in Suffolk County, where, in most cases, they were promptly withdrawn from sale; but, since officials throughout the other districts of the Commonwealth did not feel called on to take any action, we have the anomalous situa-tion of books being banned in Boston yet being sold openly in Cambridge, only three miles away.

Read on http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/193001/censorship-practice


America’s Most Dangerous Librarians : Meet the radical bookworms who fought the Patriot Act—and won.”

October 13, 2008

by Amy Goodman and David Goodman”


September 02″, 2008

They looked like they had walked off a film set, the two men standing at the door of the Library Connection in Windsor, Connecticut, as they flashed fbi badges and asked to speak to the boss. Director George Christian courteously shepherded them into the office. By the hum of the Xerox machine, one agent explained to Christian that the bureau was demanding “any and all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person or entity” that had used computers between 4 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. on February 15, 2005, in any of the 27 libraries whose computer systems were managed by the Library Connection, a nonprofit co-op of library databases. He handed Christian a document called a national security letter (nsl); it said the information was being sought “to protect against international terrorism.”

Like a children’s librarian during story hour, the agent used his finger to draw Christian’s attention to one line in particular: The recipient of the letter could not disclose “to any person that the fbi has sought or obtained access to information or records.” It was a lifetime gag order; break it, and he could be looking at five years in jail. “I believe this is unconstitutional,” said Christian politely. In response he got a threatening scowl, a business card, and instructions to have his lawyer call the fbi.

Christian did call his lawyer as soon as the agents were gone—and then he called Peter Chase, another library director and member of the Library Connection’s executive committee. “Where is the court order?” Chase asked.

“There is none,” replied Christian. “They said they didn’t need one.” Christian was being ordered to turn over records on library patrons simply because an fbi agent had told him to. He called a huddle with the rest of the Library Connection’s executive committee, librarians Janet Nocek and Barbara Bailey. There, they passed around the nsl. Their attorney then announced that by virtue of having read the letter, everyone in the room was now bound by its provisions, and therefore gagged. It was as if they’d been exposed to radioactivity. That was the beginning of a yearlong battle pitting the four librarians, barred from speaking publicly and identified in the media only as “John Doe,” against the anti-terrorism enforcers of the Bush administration.

National security letters are a little-known fbi tool originally used in foreign intelligence surveillance to obtain phone, financial, and electronic records without court approval. Rarely employed until 2001, they exploded in number after the Patriot Act drastically eased restrictions on their use, allowing nsls to be served by fbi agents on anyone—whether or not they were the subject of a criminal investigation. In 2000, 8,500 nsls were issued; by contrast, between 2003 and 2005 the fbi issued more than 143,000 nsls, only one of which led to a conviction in a terrorism case.

Abuse has also been rampant. An investigation last year revealed that the fbi had broken regulations governing nsls in more than 1,000 cases. Among the violations: failing to get proper authorization, making improper requests under the law, shoddy record keeping, and unauthorized collection of telephone or email records. Such misuse has cast a long-lasting shadow over countless innocent Americans. Even when an investigation is closed, information gained through an nsl is kept indefinitely in the fbi files.


To protect their patrons, the four librarians engaged the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. They challenged the constitutionality of nsls; they also wanted their gag order lifted so they could participate in the national debate over renewal of the Patriot Act. “People say very confidential things to our reference librarians,” explains Chase. “They have medical issues, personal matters. What people are borrowing at a public library is nobody’s business.”

The first hearing of the Library Connection case took place in federal court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in August 2005. Government lawyers had declared that the librarians’ presence posed a threat to national security (since people might guess their identity), so they were barred from attending, and were only allowed to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit TV. Similarly, when the “John Doe” librarians went to an appeals court hearing in Manhattan, their aclu attorneys instructed the four not to enter the room together so that no one might guess who they were. John Doe New York—an Internet service provider whose case had been joined with the librarians’ on appeal—was also in the room, but the librarians did not know who he was.

Being the target of a terrorism investigation and forbidden to talk about it became an increasingly surreal experience. One day Chase’s 21-year-old son dashed out of the house to greet him, looking ashen. “Dad, you just got a call from the Associated Press saying the fbi is investigating you. Is that true? Why haven’t you told us?” Chase was unsure how to respond. He didn’t want to lie, but he also didn’t want to get his son caught up in the nsl mess. “I’m involved in a case,” he said slowly and deliberately. “I can’t talk about it. And it would be best if you didn’t tell anybody about that phone call.”

That was in November 2005. The Patriot Act was reauthorized in March 2006. Six weeks later, the Justice Department informed the aclu that it would no longer contest the Connecticut librarians’ demand to lift their gag order. The Supreme Court subsequently ordered the Justice Department to unseal the court documents in the case. Among the evidence the government had tried to keep secret were quotes from previous Supreme Court cases; copies of New York Times articles; and the text of the Connecticut law that guarantees the confidentiality of library records. The Justice Department had also sealed arguments made by the aclu attorneys, including this passage: “Now that John Doe’s identity has been widely disseminated, the government’s sole basis for the gag has wholly evaporated.”

In September 2007, a federal court ruled in the case of John Doe New York that the entire national security letter provision of the Patriot Act was unconstitutional. US District Judge Victor Marrero said that secretive nsls are “the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values.” The Bush administration has appealed the decision, and John Doe New York remains gagged. But in San Francisco, another librarian has managed to beat an nsl: In May, the fbi withdrew a letter issued to the Internet Archive, a digital library, after a legal challenge brought by the aclu and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “A miscarriage of justice was prevented here,” eff staff attorney Marcia Hofmann said at the time. “The big question is, how many other improper nsls have been issued by the fbi and never challenged?”

Amy Goodman and David Goodman recently cowrote Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times.

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This article has been made possible by the Foundation for National Progress, the Investigative Fund of Mother Jones, and gifts from generous readers like you.

© 2008″ /> The Foundation for National Progress


Sarah Palin’s Book Banning, and Why It Matters

October 4, 2008

Sarah Palin’s Book Banning, and Why It Matters
by John Wilson http://www.opednews.com
https://i2.wp.com/necessarychocolate.typepad.com/necessary_chocolate/images/1stamendposters2_copy.jpgEach year, the American Library Association marks Banned Books Week to raise awareness about censorship in our public libraries. This year’s Banned Books Week runs from September 27 to October 4, and it has a special significance because the Vice Presidential Debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin falls in the middle of it on October 2. It’s also significant because of allegations that as mayor, Palin questioned the Wasilla, Alaska town librarian repeatedly about banning books in the library, and then after being rebuffed, tried to fire the librarian.

Palin told ABC News’ Charles Gibson: “I never banned a book, never desired to ban a book.” However, that’s not true. According to a New York Times report which named two sources, in 1995 Palin was on the city council of Wasilla and objected to the book “Daddy’s Roommate” being allowed in the town library. Laura Chase, who was Palin’s campaign manager in her 1996 run for mayor, suggested that Palin read the book. Chase says, “Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff. It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.” Yet even after the New York Times revealed this fact, Palin continues to lie about it: “I certainly never advocated banning books. This was a ridiculous, false claim.”

Once she was mayor, Palin expressed extraordinary interest in book censorship, speaking about it three times to the town librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, and asking what she would do if Palin wanted her to remove books.

The local newspaper, the Frontiersman, reported in 1996, “Emmons said Palin asked her on Oct. 28 if she would object to censorship, even if people were circling the library in protest about a book.” Emmons noted at the time, “She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied ‘Yup’.” Later that year, Palin again asked Emmons about book censorship.

Palin now claims she was asking a “rhetorical question”: “When I became mayor in our town, it was the issue of: what if a parent came into our local public library and asked for a book to be taken off the shelf, what’s the policy?” But back in 1996, Emmons explicitly contradicted that possibility: “This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy. She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library.”

A few months after her questions about book banning, Palin tried to fire Emmons. But Palin had to reverse course after a public outcry in support of Emmons. We will never know if Palin tried to fire a librarian who refused to censor books, or if Palin was simply firing a town employee who had not supported her campaign, and Palin has been kept from inquiring journalists who might ask her about this. Either answer should disturb anyone who thinks librarians are professionals who should not be subject to the whims of petty politicians.

Contrary to one false email circulating around the internet, Palin apparently never tried to ban any specific books as mayor. Perhaps the public’s reaction to her effort to fire the town librarian prevented her from putting any further pressure to censor books. However, as former New York City mayor Ed Koch observed, “Any time someone goes to the library and says, ‘I want to ban books,’ and the librarian says ‘no,’ and she threatens to fire them — that’s scary.”
Palin didn’t learn much from the reaction to her attempts to fire the town librarian about respecting the professionals who educate the public. In a 2006 questionnaire from the Eagle Forum during her race for governor, Palin was asked: Will you support the right of parents to opt out their children from curricula, books, classes, or surveys, which parents consider privacy-invading or offensive to their religion or conscience?

Palin replied, “Yes. Parents should have the ultimate control over what their children are taught.”

This response should frighten every teacher in the country, and every parent concerned about a quality education. Allowing parents to ban their children from reading certain books, or even from attending entire classes and subjects, is worrisome. Imagine if every creationist parent was allowed to ban the teaching of the facts of evolution to their children in science classes, as Palin urges. What would this mean? Would parents be able to ban their children from required sciences classes? Would parents be able to have teachers fired who dared to mention word “evolution” without first sending their children out of the classroom? What about parents who demand that history teachers never allow any criticism of America or Christianity in class? The result of Palin’s approach would be teachers afraid to allow anything controversial to be said in class. Yet Palin’s radical stand for total parent control over the content of public schooling has received zero attention.

During a 2006 gubernatorial debate, Palin was asked about teaching creationism or evolution, and she replied, “I am a proponent of teaching both.” This kind of relativism, which asserts an equivalence between accurate science and religious myth, is contrary to the concept of a quality education.

Alaska’s voluntary educational standards for science classes even in grades 3-5 expect that “students develop an understanding of how science explains changes in life forms over time, including genetics, heredity, the process of natural selection, and biological evolution and that the student demonstrates an understanding of the theories regarding the origin and evolution of the universe.” But the Republican Party of Alaska’s platform declares, “We support giving Creation Science equal representation with other theories of the origin of life. If evolution is taught, it should be presented as only a theory.”

As someone who might hold the highest office in the land, Palin needs to answer questions about her record of opposition to First Amendment freedoms. During the Bush Administration, the Union of Concerned Scientists found “a well established pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush administration political appointees.” A survey of 3,400 federal scientists found that 1,100 expressed fear of retaliation if they blow the whistle on politicized research. If Palin was willing to attack the freedom of ideas and the professional roles of librarians and teachers throughout her political career, how can we believe that she would restore intellectual integrity to our government if she becomes president?

This year, Banned Books Week serves as a reminder that politicians like Sarah Palin still believe that censorship is popular. The American people today must follow the example of Wasilla residents who defended their town librarian from Palin a decade ago. We need to stand up and remind our public officials that protecting the First Amendment is one of their highest duties.

John K. Wilson is the author of five books, including “Barack Obama: This Improbable Quest” (Paradigm Publishers, 2008), http://www.obamapolitics.com, and “Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies” (Paradigm Publishers, 2008). He is the founder of the Institute for College Freedom (www.collegefreedom.org, collegefreedom.blogspot.com).


ABC investigates Palin and book banning

September 29, 2008

Banning Books from Sarah Palin blog

September 16, 2008

this is from Sarah Palins new blog [ this is a joke] You can read her other posts here http://sarahpalin.typepad.com/

Banning Books

Wow, if it’s not one thing it’s another. Now the Main Streamed Media are talking about me banning books in Wasilla blah blah blah. Doesn’t the press have anything better to do than chase down old stories about me? Hey Nedra Pickler (cool name by the way!), how would you feel if I poked around in your past and then wrote stories about it and then published them in newspapers?!? The media and everyone are taking this whole “public servant” thing so seriously, honestly it kind of makes them look silly. Who cares what I “did” or “didn’t do” as “mayor” or “governor.” I’m not being elected the vice president of WHAT ALREADY HAPPENED, I’m being elected the vice president of the FUTURE. And the only way you can tell the future is by looking at (a) the love in my heart for Alaska/the USA/God and (b) whether my family is getting raised right.

So about that whole banning books and firing librerians thing (also: for some reason reporters never just CALL me to ask me about what happened! The campaign hired a nice girl named Becky to answer my phone, and I keep asking Becky if any reporters have called and but she says nope, none at all. I wish they would because I’d totally love to talk to them the banned book stuff, my foreign policy ideas, etc!!) But I guess since they don’t care enough to call I will just talk about the issue right here.

LIBEREL QUESTION: Did you want to ban books from Wasilla.
MY ANSWER: Of COURSE I did. Would you want to ban a Nazi from your baby’s crib? Would you want to ban a Muslim terrorist from your child’s kindergarten? Because it’s basically the same thing with these books.

LIBEREL QUESTION: Did you actually ban any books from Wasilla.
MY ANSWER: No because I knew the librarian wouldn’t let me. So some of them I had Track sneak out in his hockey bag and other ones I just hid behind the Ranger Rick display stand.

LIBEREL QUESTION: So What books did you want to ban.
MY ANSWER: Well Mr. Reporter I am so glad you asked me that because now I can warn other parents about these dangrous books.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pulman
Some people say that I banned this book because it is against religion and God. To tell you the truth I listened to the whole book on cassette like four times and I didn’t hear ANY of that anti-religion stuff! come to think of it, I also am not so sure that those Narnium books are about religion either–except for maybe on Noah’s ark I don’t remember any talking lions in the Bible. But anyway, the truth is that I banned the Golden Compass because if its completely inaccurate portrayal of Polar Bears. Polar Bears are a dangerous threat and this book made them seem honorable, etc. If I let this book be read by alaska children it could undo all the hard work I did in trying to get rid of the Polar bear menace in Alaska.

Harry Potter by Jay K. Rowling
ARGH so here is the thing: a couple years ago Piper and Willow both wanted to be Hermoany for Halloween. every day they were all whine whine blah blah blah I get to be Hermoany no I do no I do and I was all GUYS BE QUIET I AM TRYING TO BE MAYOR. Finally Willow snuck into the Tidbits Jar in the fridge, which she KNOWS is off limits, and stole a moose kidney and put it right in Piper’s cereal!! That was the last straw–todd and I were saving those for our anniversary jerky. So I took the books away from them as punishment but i figure probly lots of other Wasilla parents are dealing with the same kinds of problems, plus other parents in America, so if I was Vice President I would ban the whole book.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
One thing that’s important to know about me is that I make my decisions based on Evidence. In fact I am a lot like someone on the show History Detectives, except in the present. This time my evidence came from the neighbor of the woman who cut my hair. Annie (the woman who cuts my hair, she is FANTASTIC, if you have fine hair that also has a ton of body you should totally go to her, email me for her number) told me that her neighbor’s daughter Christine read this book her very first semester at the U of Alaska. When Christine came back for Thanksgiving she was acting really weird and finally her mother confronted her and it turned out that christine had become a Vegatarian. honestly I can’t even imagine, I know that my Bristol would never do anything like that. Even though Annie says her neighbor is a very nice woman I have to think that she also must have raised that child a little wrong if you know what I mean, but still I bet that this Leaves of Grass book had a lot to do with it. Leaves of grass are for cows/moose/etc NOT for people!!


Palin against ‘Daddy’s Roomate’ being in library

September 15, 2008

Now we know at least one title that she requested be banned

Palin Didn't Like 'Daddy's Roommate'

Gov. Palin

While Republican vice-presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin said she never intended to ban books, when she was a councilwoman in Wasilla, she showed her displeasure about a book explaining gay partners being in the library.

According to the New York Times, in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”

“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”


You can find out more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daddy’s_Roommate

The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000“. ALA. Retrieved on 200704-13.


Fake banned book list

September 11, 2008

Of course you probably have recieved the fake list of books Sarah Plain tried to ban while Mayor. The first clue is that some of the books hadn’t even been published at the time – and it seems to be a general list of challenged books.

Snopes has it debunked here http://www.snopes.com/politics/palin/bannedbooks.asp

If you receive this email remember to promote banned book week

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 27–October 4, 2008

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the
last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event
reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This
year, 2008, marks BBW’s 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4).

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion
even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses
the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular
viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can
exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

BBW is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American
Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association,
American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers,
National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the
Book in the Library of Congress.

Purchase BBW promotional items—such as the BBW Kit—through the ALA Store.

Explore Banned Books Week further through these resources: