Friday, March 23, 2007

More Foolishness

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.


Vera said...

I think it's truly sad when people hide behind labels like right and left wing. It takes gray area issues and makes them black and white. Personally, I'm completely and utterly against the war, but I know that there is a time and place to express those views. People like this guy give liberals a bad name and every time they talk, Ann Coulter gets another ten minutes of air time.

kicker of elves said...

Maybe if some of these librarians didn't fill their free time reading simplifed crap fiction and watching dumbed down television, they would understand that many of us actually are a bit more nuanced in thinking. For example, it is totally possible to be a Democrat who is very conservative when it comes to library/education issues. The heart of the matter is that librarians want to think they have more impact beyond the scope of librarianship. Their public stance on the war is something they can use to divert attention from all things library, such as compensation, low LIS admission standards, etc.

I am really beginning to hate this profession. I am just about sick of all the bloated idiots I run into at conferences.

Dances With Books said...

Have to agree with Vera, labels just make things more difficult. I am one of those who think the truth must be somewhere in the middle. I am very conservative on some things and bordering on "bleeding" liberal for a few others (can people still say that, "bleeding liberal?"). In the end, regardless of stance on things like the war, ALA is not the place to be doing it. As kicker points out, we have LIS education, compensation (or the lack thereof), funding in libraries, issues of access, so on and so forth. What is it about the so-called premier professional organization for librarians that it can't focus on what actually concerns the profession? Then again, in the eyes of some ALA people, the fact I have not renewed my membership yet (hey, those couple hundred bucks plus are a bitch when you are undercompensated. That, and I am honestly not sure I should renew), would mean to them I am not qualified to speak on something like the professional organization that is supposed to represent my profession.

I am guessing Mr. Travel must have been having a slow blog day. Oh well, carry on.

Roughhouse Doyle said...

Whenver I hear one of these burned-out hippies extol the "wonderful Sixties", I'm reminded of these exchange from "Field of Dreams"--

Terence Mann: Oh, my God.
Ray Kinsella: What?
Terence Mann: You're from the sixties.
Ray Kinsella: [bashfully] Well, yeah, actually...
Terence Mann: [spraying at Ray with a insecticide sprayer] Out! Back to the sixties! Back! There's no place for you here in the future! Get back while you still can!

Norma said...

You've overestimated the number of words he reads.

"And then there are those who seem to read about every fifth word of what I say, . . "

janitorx said...

You've overestimated the number of words he reads.

I also don't think he's carefully reading your blog.

What is it about the so-called premier professional organization for librarians that it can't focus on what actually concerns the profession?

That's pretty much why I've let my membership lapse since 1998.

Jason said...

Although I disagree with some of AL's opinions (what libraries should/should not have access to), I also find myself agreeing with others (the hectoring of "frustrated trendsetters"). Our profession needs more thoughtful and witty voices like hers, and it seems rather telling that she has to post pseudonymously. John Berry may not take much stock in the opinions of those who post "anonymously," but the need to do so seems symptomatic of deeper problems within the profession. It's also rather chilling that Berry uses the Library Journal as a forum from which to indulge in occasional ad hominem attacks on those with less power and influence. As one who considers himself a liberal, I find such a notion shameful.

Anonymous said...

Oh AL, so many pixels and brain cells wasted on such tripe.

You just don't see the image of Sall Field, corrugated hand deawn sign held high: "Union." That's all that matters, ALA, AFL-CIO, SEIU, whatever. The masses must contribute their money and votes to their betters and let their betters decide for them what is best for them.

You do, however, have a choice of singing "Internationale" or "Beasts of England."


Anonymous said...

“I don't care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right.”
Often, perhaps spuriously, attributed to George M. Cohan. Perhaps an updated version would substitute "link" for "say"? Mr. Berry thanks you.
(PLG Delenda Est)

contrarian said...

It's people like John Berry and the SRRT types that keep me from re-joining ALA. I can only shake my head in disgust.

miriam said...

A lot of librarians are disgusted with ALA. Unfortunately, since many of them drop out,the remaining nutcases are running the organization.

Silas said...


Anonymous said...

I needed a good laugh and Annoying son of a beetch independent-minded scumbag irreverent right nut wing bolt has done it again!!

JBerry of LJ infame might need a round of applause: for provinding such hillarious fodder for da blogger.

Thanks JB. So sorry John, but we're mad as hell and laughing all the way to keyboard. So sorry you no longer control the gates of information. That is what buggers him...he and his elitist chums no longer get to "select" (o heavens,never censor) what the rest of libraryland says or reads.

Power to the People, especially the funny anonymous ones.

Walter Dloks

AL said...

I've been away from a computer since I posted this. Thanks for all the comments. Yes, I realize, PLD Delenda Est, that I'm giving SFTD more exposure, but on the other hand I didn't use his real name and didn't spell it correctly. One of my increasingly many goals is to put forth the best arguments I can muster for one side of this debate, and unfortunately that means bringing the weaker but perhaps appealing arguments of others into the open and addressing them directly. Positions like those of Cranky Marxist Dude and SFTD like dark, dank spaces, and wither in the light of reason and public debate, which is possibly why they spend so much time complaining about "anonymous blogs." If they can't call up someone's workplace and complain, or they can't smear someone in person, then they don't know what to do. Reason, argument, debate, and common courtesy are alien to their personalities.

SFTD has been one of the gatekeepers for so long, it's obvious he doesn't know how to deal with criticism anymore, if indeed he ever did. All those years editing the People Magazine of the library world have apparently been spent around the choir and keeping alternative voices out of circulation, because he can't argue his way out of a wet paper bag. Hence the name-calling in lieu of debate.

I prefer courteous debate, and I have many critics who definitely don't agree with everything I say, and yet who are willing to point out problems with my arguments without any name-calling. I try to respond equally courteously to them, first, because I'm enough of a skeptic to know that we may both be wrong, second, because I don't believe people who disagree with me are thus bad people, and third, because it's the nature of a blog like mine that I state things in stark contrasts to generate thought and discussion, and rarely present the nuances of an argument. Thus, like my critics, I can see many sides of an argument, and while in general I agree more or less with what I say, I could easily switch sides and present opposing arguments that might be just as strong.

And I think it must bother SFTD that he can't control anonymous blogs, that the "library literature" is no longer confined to our pseudo-scholarly journals, the carefully screened fluffy puff of American Libraries and Library Journal.

tomeboy55 said...

Time to put to pasture this Bitter Berry.