The AL seems to have two different kinds of critics. There are those who respond thoughtfully and considerately to what I say and often leave intelligent and insightful comments that occasionally make me rethink my positions. And then there are those who seem to read about every fifth word of what I say, try to cobble together some meaning from that, and then just mouth off in an insulting and half-baked way rather than provide any argument at all.
Speaking of Snipey Fellow-Traveling Dude, he's been blogging away again. Apparently the AL is getting to him, because he's gone on the attack once more. You might remember how he initiated his sad little blog with a gratuitous insult to yours truly and revealed how emotional he is and how he "sputters in anger" when he reads stuff he disagrees with. The easy solution for him would just be to continue reading only things he agrees with. Then he could remain in the comfy little totalitarian echo chamber with Cranky Marxist Dude and their comrades.
I've never looked at the comments on his blog, but he claimed he got lots of "garbage" in reference to the "discussion" where he so ungraciously insulted me. Well, you know what they say: garbage in, garbage out. He failed to note that his "discussion" was just scurrilous ad hominem attacks and that he if wanted some intelligent and courteous debate he should provide some. In a response to some comments, he's noted he doesn't "respond to comments," and how he supposedly doesn't "answer those who hide behind anonymous postings because [he has] no respect for those who are afraid to openly stand behind their views." You know, people like "Publius" writing the Federalist Papers. And this after Humorless Unionator claimed anonymous blogs were "paper tigers." What is it about these people? They're so personality driven, aren't they. If they don't have anyone personally to attack and smear, they're just not happy.
And yet, he's at it again. This time, either through a pathetic attempt at humor or perhaps just an inherent sloppiness, he calls me the "Annoying Librarian." You're so clever, Snipey Fellow-Traveling Dude! That's shows the same amount of wit as the "right wing nut" crack. You just keep at it, and maybe one day you'll accidentally stumble upon a genuinely clever insult. Until then, keep swinging! It would be nicer, or course, if you could save the insults for whoever it is that encouraged you to start blogging, and try to engage in a little intellectual debate occasionally.
He doesn't like it that I criticize totalitarians who conflate the personal and the political. He claims I just accuse "those on the left," but it's not true. I gladly point out the similarity of totalitarians everywhere. He could be a fascist and I'd still criticize him. I just don't like totalitarians. Call me crazy. Call me, as he implies I am, "un-American." (He seems to have a touch of McCarthy about him.)
This time, mixed in with his irrelevant name-calling, is at least some semblance of an argument, so I suppose just for old time's sake I'll try to analyze his claims. "I look at it this way," he says. "ALA is not a library. ALA is a membership organization, and if those members or their representatives on the ALA Council decide that war, in Iraq or Vietnam, is an issue about which they wish to take a stand, and that it is related to librarianship, that is legitimate." Well, he has me there. The ALA is not a library. Very astute observation. Funny thing is, I never said it was. Yes, it's a member organization--for librarians to address issues common to librarians. I especially like the pseudo-democratic argument that if "those members or their representatives" decide that something is a library issue, then it is! The great thing about such a fuzzy claim is that one doesn't have to think or analyze or argue. Voting makes it so. Perhaps this is one of those "wikiality" arguments. If enough people believe it, it must be true! Yay! Democracy! Certainly saves the trouble of thinking, and I know some people find that comforting.
But then we get an even bigger claim: "Indeed, war is a library issue, as is any other issue that raises questions about how we will allocate public resources." Wow! So everything that has to do with the allocation of public resources is a library issue? Thus, a librarian by definition can speak authoritatively about almost every political issue. That's really great, because it eliminates the elitist standard that people should actually know what they're talking about. Who knew librarians were so knowledgeable about every last aspect of the "allocation of public resources"?
As I've said, when librarians speak on library issues, they speak with authority and expertise. When they speak about other issues, they're just blowhards. This bizarre claim that any issue to do with public funding is automatically a library issue becomes the justification for being a blowhard. I'll just call this the Blowhard Fallacy, and attribute it to Snipey Fellow-Traveling Dude. And of course there's the obvious truth that the ALA can say whatever it likes, but no one takes it seriously when it doesn't address library issues. It's not even clear anyone takes it seriously when it does address library issues. But the ALA passing resolutions on wars and presidents is definitely just "spouting some opinions."
And he just goes on and on: "I just can’t understand why right wingers like Heretical and Annoyed, who constantly spout their views either anonymously or not, but always as librarians, find it wrong for ALA members to vote to do the same." (Notice the loaded language. The AL never provides argument or analysis. I just "spout my views." Takes one to know one, I guess.) If he can't understand this, then the problem is probably him.
Where have I ever said that librarians shouldn't "spout their views"? And where have I ever written about a political issue that wasn't obviously of concern to libraries and librarianship and the ALA? Where have I ever "spouted my opinions" about President Bush, the War in Iraq, or any other issue that isn't immediately connected with libraries? Snipey Fellow-Traveling Dude is apparently a very sloppy reader. I write about library issues and I don't write about my politics. Such cannot of course be said of Heretical or Conservator or SHUSH, but they have their blogs and I have mine. Thus, the lack of understanding is based on a faulty assumption--the assumption that I am denying to "ALA members" a privilege I exercise myself. I practice what I preach. If I practiced what Snipey Fellow-Traveling Dude preached, I'd try to get the ALA to pass a resolution on the proper way to make a dry martini. Resolved: a dry martini is shaken or stirred with a gin:vermouth ration of between 4 and 8 to 1 and with an olive or twist. I still wouldn't vote for it.
Most importantly, there's the false analogy between my personal blog, which represents the opinions of me and for which I am entirely responsible (as Heretical et al. are personal blogs), and a professional organization that represents thousands of librarians and the entire profession of librarianship in America. Are those really the same thing? Does one have to be some sort of genius to see the difference? Personal blog/ professional organization. Keep repeating until they become clear. The AL is a personal blog. The ALA is a professional organization. Seems pretty clear to me.
The additional problem is that it isn't "ALA members" in toto that are doing anything, but a select group that wants to hijack the ALA Council and make it speak for them, when most ALA members seem to disagree not with the particular stances but with the very fact that the ALA Council is taking any stance at all. Let's put, for example, a resolution up before the entire membership, perhaps with one of those AL Direct polls, that asks whether the ALA should be taking positions on issues like the Iraq War or whether the ALA should address library issues exclusively. Then let's see how the ALA members vote.
And the hits just keep on coming. "Librarians, as librarians, do have social responsibilities, and they are duty bound to express their views about them, either as individual librarians or as members of library associations." Keep telling yourself that, Snipey Fellow-Traveling Dude. If you ever provide a reasonable argument for the claim, let me know. We're duty bound, you see, to press our personal politics on others in an organization devoted to librarianship. We're duty bound to make nuisances of ourselves until other people just break down and pass silly resolutions because they're too tired to fight off the political ideologues who have no higher standard than political victory. We're duty bound to be rogues and pests and thugs. Duty bound!
And then he turns all patriotic on us. "That is how we’ve always done it in this country.... That is the American way, after all." Isn't that quaint. I expect to see him showing up soon on Youtube with an American flag behind him talking about the American Way and mother and apple pie and whatnot. Some people, and I'm betting Snipey Fellow-Traveling Dude knows such people, claim the American way it exploitation, imperialism, racism, sexism, fascism and just generally bad manners. That's the stuff about the American way I would expect from the SRRT types. But when such a meaningless generality as the "American Way" can be used to support totalitarian positions that eliminate privacy and conflate the personal and the political, then out come the flags!
It's also the American way to fight totalitarianism wherever we find it. Pretty soon I might have to start waving my own flag.