Tuesday, May 07, 2002

THE REAL PROBLEM WITH LIBRARY CENSORSHIP: Jared Kendall, in a recent e-article ("The Filter War Rages"), courageously sides with liberty, freedom, down-trodden people, and the American Library Association to denounce the Childhood Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and to fight against the implementation of either mandatory or voluntary filtering (read "censoring") software on computers at public libraries. The gist of Kendall's argument against censoring software (who said that alliteration is dead?) is two-fold: (1) Librarians simply want to "provide information" and give the public the opportunity to "tap into as vast a store of knowledge as possible," and (2) that Congress will make the filtering software as a condition for Federal technology grants. The first point is disingenuously bogus and, with regards to the second point, tough beans, c' est la vie. Let me elaborate. As one brilliant curmudgeon noted recently, the American Library Association of today is scarcely a neutral professional organization. A few minutes at the ALA homepage reveal it to be more closely aligned with the progressive agenda of the Democratic party's left wing than with Benjamin Franklin, the nominally revered founder of the American public library system. The truth is that librarians already censor their material. See for yourself. If your local library is like mine, you will find it next to impossible to find an honest account of communism v. fascism (e.g., in the Twentieth Century Mass Murder Olympics Hitler takes only the bronze while Joe and Mao duke it out over the gold), the truth of domestic violence (e.g., both sexes kill their spouses with almost equal frequency and women are more likely to use a weapon), or even the real reasons why nearly 300,000 Southern boys gave their lives fighting the invading armies of Honest Abe Lincoln. Librarians don't hate censorship -- they just want to do it themselves in their own sneaky and dishonest way with no one watching. Kendall's second major point, that Congress would use its financial power to call the shots, is on target, but so what? Congress has the authority to tax and, by implication, has the right to oversee how the money is spent. But actually, all that is piffle -- let's cut to the chase. Ironically for Kendall and the ALA, there does indeed exist a very strong case against this sort of censorship by Congress. But don't hold your breath waiting for them to make that case. Simply put, it's that wrascally and oft ignored Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people." Of course, Congress has no constitutional authority to make laws for or against censorship software, but then again it also has no constitutional authority to regulate auto emissions, set the drinking age, protect spotted owls, make abortion legal or illegal, or to require busing in Cleveland. To anyone who takes the Constitution seriously, it's obvious that Congress does a lot things it shouldn't. When Kendall and the ALA join the fight to limit the unconstitutional powers of the Federal Leviathan, I'll think about joining their noble efforts to empower public library smut-peddlers.

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