Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Politics and the AL

I don't usually do this, but I'm bringing a comment on the last post up to the main page and responding to it, because I think it's an interesting comment that nevertheless mischaracterizes what I'm doing.

Here's an excerpt: "It seems strange that conservatives feel they "should" have more representation, ideologically, than they do now.
Yeah, probably, but you don't.
And that sucks for you. Really, I'm not being an ass. I'd be mad if my professional organization was 180 degrees off my own views."

I'm not accusing the person of being an ass. The full comment is considerate and thoughtful. I just think it's mistaken, at least regarding me. But for anyone who thinks this statement has any relevance to the AL, I can only say, you just don't understand.

I'm not sure from the comment if the commenter is indeed referring to my blog specifically, or some "movement" or what, so I just want to address it as it may or may not apply to the AL.

Let's be clear on something. I've never argued that conservatives should have more representation in ALA. And I've never argued that SRRT political stances are "180 degrees off my own views." What I have consistently argued is that the ALA has no business taking stands on issues unrelated to libraries, whatever the substance of the stand might be.

I don't care tuppence if there are more conservative librarians in ALA. I also don't care tuppence if there are more anarchists, libertarians, or communitarians in ALA. If there was a conservative group to rival the SRRT and they started proposing resolutions about President Bush or the Iraq War, I would be attacking them as mercilessly as I now do the SRRT. My only claim on ALA politics is that the ALA should address library issues where it speaks with authority and expertise, instead of letting itself be hijacked by a group of political ideologues and blowhards into taking public positions on issues that have nothing to do with librarianship.

Careful readers will have noticed that I don't mention my particular political views. Except for the handful of readers who both know me personally and also know I write this blog (and that's a small group indeed!), I doubt any of you could say anything substantial about my political opinions, nor could you say what I think about George Bush, the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, human rights, terrorism, Hillary Clinton, national health care, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, global warming, or the legalization of marijuana. As some of my frustrated readers have noted, it's just not in the blog, folks. About the only political opinion of any substance I've stated is that I think Marxists are ridiculous. That's hardly a position confined to conservatives. I've only made the observation because it seems irrefutable based on the facts.

Though you might not believe it, I do in fact have carefully considered, historically informed, theoretically nuanced political positions about a wide variety of issues. And I'm not sharing them with you. Sorry, but this is Annoyed Librarian, not Annoyed Citizen. Outside of the context of librarianship, I don't talk about my politics, period, which is why I find it so bizarre when people try to criticize whatever they suppose my political position is rather than addressing my arguments. Some of my opponents absolutely insist on substituting political labels for political thought, and it's no wonder they froth at the mouth and rant and rave. They are incapable of reasoning about politics. They're only capable of political insult. That might work fine on an ideological blog or talk radio program, but I'm having none of it. Whether I'm a liberal or a conservative or an anarcho-syndicalist is irrelevant.

There's nothing particularly "conservative" about my position on the issue of the ALA taking stands on non-library issues. It's only political ideologies that conflate the personal and the political and that politicize all areas of life--that is, totalitarian positions of the right and the left--that I ever specifically criticize. For all you know, I'm an anti-war, anti-Bush, welfare state liberal.

I don't criticize the propriety of the ALA in addressing areas of political concern such as the Patriot Act or CIPA or DOPA, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the ALA stance on the issue. I have never argued that the ALA should not address larger issues of intellectual freedom. And I have never criticized the personal politics of any librarian who hasn't tried to use the ALA as a mouthpiece for their personal political ideology. To librarians as librarians, liberal or conservative doesn't matter. Unless I'm engaged in these asinine debates with the SRRT, none of these issues ever comes up in my work either in my library or within ALA.

There are a lot of important issues that the ALA should be addressing, from librarian compensation to the issue of library education to intellectual freedom. Having the ALA Council make statements about how we librarians don't like genocide in Darfur, for example, does absolutely nothing to help librarians or the profession of librarianship, but does a lot to make a mockery of serious and tragic issues. Is there some idiot out there that thinks if the ALA passes one of these resolutions, that anyone at all is helped? Or is the purpose just make sure we all feel good and we're all on the side of the angels? "We're such good people! Unlike all those other people who think genocide is just dandy!"

Is there anyone reading this who really thinks I like genocide, or war, or terror, or torture, or oppression, or exploitation, or racism? One difference between me and a lot of anti-conservatives is that I don't think conservatives like these things, either. I'm doing what I can to persuade people that the ALA shouldn't take positions on non-library issues. If you agree with me about this issue, it won't be because you admire my personal politics, whatever those might be. It will be because you think I'm right.


IL Library Student said...

But what about martinis? Can they take a stance about martinis?

Actually, I'm right (or center right, or center left, or left or wherever you actually stand) with you AL.

So far, my professors have stayed out of the political realm and are actually teaching us tools we may (or may not) need when we get into the library world. And that is the way I like it.

Although, he who should not be named is teaching a course at my school this summer. I'm not taking it, as it seems like a waste of my time. It is supposed to be about current trends and issues in libraries, but I shudder to think what the course will actually cover.

Chuck said...

I agree with you. I am a member of the ACLU, the Democratic Party and other organizations that serve my political leanings.

I don't need ALA to do it half-assedly and neglect representing me as a professional.

Alex Grigg said...

Unfortunately, I don't think most of those who continue to slam you for being "conservative" are likely to suddenly see the light after this post. It is, however, a nice little example of the sociology-type paper that has been rolling around in my head. It seems like people almost always assume that the people they like are like them and the people they don't like are unlike them. This goes for stupid things like the kind of food you enjoy or the books you like all the way up to your political and religious viewpoints. I admit to having had jarring experiences with this myself when someone whose I company I enjoyed turned out to have a deep belief in something I thought was crazy.

So basically I think most of your angry, unreasoning critics are projecting their anti-views upon you and there's probably not much you can do about that. You could maybe try angering fascist ideologues just so you get the balancing criticism of being decried as a bleeding heart liberal.

AL said...

You're probably right. Personally, I don't care if I'm known as a liberal or a conservative or whatever else. My point has always been that some of my critics, such as SFTD, CMD, and HU, are apparently incapable of reading or of critical thought. I'm just pointing out to those capable of reading and thinking critically that this particular issue has nothing to do with my politics. I do not associate all of my critics, by any means, with the subliterates.

On a different level, I am endlessly amused by people like SFTD, CMD, and HU who make such idiotic arguments and throw out their insults with apparently no idea of how foolish they are. It's not just a lack of self-awareness, it's a lack of any awareness of the other as well. I sometimes wonder what it's like being so thick. It must be like being stoned all the time.

AL said...

I just noticed the first sentence of the first comment! As I noted in "More Foolishness," I do not think the ALA should take a public stance about martinis, not even a non-binding resolution in favor of them. While I would like to see the dry martini become the official drink of librarians, and while I would like martini bars in ALA cities to subsidize the AL in return for drink reviews, I think there should be a firm line drawn between the work of librarianship and the martini.

However, if I'm ever persuaded my my critics that there is in fact no issue that is outside the domain of the ALA, if just enough people vote for it, then I will begin championing the following resolution:
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.

And I expect a strong fight on this, because opinions about martinis tend to be stronger than opinions about politics, at least among civilized people.

Bunny Watson said...


Your comment: I admit to having had jarring experiences with this myself when someone whose I company I enjoyed turned out to have a deep belief in something I thought was crazy is something I live with daily. I've lived my entire adult life in academia, so 99% of my friends and acquaintances have held opposite political beliefs than me. That's something that a mature adult ought to be able to handle, just going to show how immature "SFTD, CMD, and HU" are.

AL said...

I just assume everyone radically disagrees with me about something. The great thing about being a professional librarian (which is of course something SFTD and HU don't know anything about) is that as a professional we only have to agree on library issues, or at least agree to address only library issues. I have a reputation for being especially collegial and getting on very well with all of my colleagues, including the flakes and the freaks and the psychopaths, but it's because I consider professional relationships very different from personal ones, and I also don't attribute evil motives to people. Professionally, I've found that if we all stick to library issues and all try to act like decent people, then the world runs smoothly and work is very pleasant.

One problem with the SRRT is that they don't act like professionals. If they acted like professionals, then these stupid debates wouldn't occur. They act like spoiled children who must have their way and must impose their personalities on us all.

I'm more particular about my friends, though I have my share of friends who are flakes and freaks. But even most of my friends radically disagree with me on something, whether its politics or religion or music or whatever. But within reason, I really do enjoy the variety. I've changed my own mind so radically on so many different subjects in the last 20 years that it's difficult for me to think that people who disagree with me are therefore bad.

Robert said...

eeeewwww... dry martinis. Might as well make lighter fluid the official drink of librarians. Wait, those are the same thing. Never mind.

Nicely done post. However, since you're posting pseudonymously, it must really be a cowardly hate-filled fear-mongering rant and I missed it.

AL said...

Dry martinis = lighter fluid? Them's fightin' words!

Robert L said...

Sorry.. allow me to qualify my remarks. Dry martinis taste like crappy lighter fluid. I should have been more concise.

Max said...

I have to back AL on the martini issue. A strong platform built on the dry martini is about the only thing that would lure me back into ALA. I would ask if we need to consider brand of gin. I'm fond of Tanqueray myself. I pity the poor people lacking the sophisticated palates of those dedicated to the martini.

AL said...

I didn't want to specify the gin because I hoped my platform would have a broad popular appeal. I consider the brand of gin an ecumenical matter. In the spirit of bipartisanship, I might even be willing to allow vodka, though I would consider that a vodkatini. I think the real battle will be with those who think any cold drink in a cocktail glass should be termed a "martini."

Now that I think about it, maybe I should try to get the ALA Council to vote on this. After all, if enough people vote, then it's relevant.

Robert L said...

No. Absolutely not. I'm sorry, but I have to fight you on this one. Gin and Tonics are a much more civilized drink, and obviously would be more appropirate as the Official Mixed Drink of Librarains. In fact, I'm going to establish the G&TRT.

Honestly.. Martini "Librarians". What is my profession coming to?

AL said...

Robert, I'm shocked, positively SHOCKED, at your cavalier attitude toward martinis. G&Ts? Sure, they're great if it's the middle of summer, or if you're trying to fight off malaria. But as a year-round standard drink? To paraphrase Wordsworth, I'd rather be a pagan suckled on a creed outworn than drink a G&T in December. (I'm paraphrasing because I can't remember if he said "December" or "February". No matter.) The dry martini is the most civilized of drinks, the most significant American contribution to world culture, and also pretty darned tasty.

Robert L said...

Or should it be a Task Force? I've kept myself blissfully ignorant of bureaucratic organization.

AL said...

I think you have to start as a task force. I think I may have to begin the Martini Task Force. ACRL would probably be a good place to start.

Robert L said...

I can tolerate your snide little comments about everything I love and hold dear.

I can accept and forgive your unwillingness to post your name, contact information, SS and DL numbers.

However, to elevate that lowest of sewer filth as the most civilized drinks is beyond the pale. You, AL, are a scoundrel of the first degree and a danger to all that is right and just in this world.

Well, not lowest. I have to reserve that for mass produced domestic beer. But really, if I found out that Budweiser invented the Martini, I wouldn't be surprised at all

Robert L said...

Furthermore, I will never, ever, vote for you as ALA Bartender. So put that in your mixer and shake it.

AL said...

That's a pity, because under my real name I'm running for ALA Bartender as we speak. There's still time for you to vote, if you change your mind.

AL said...

And I don't even want to contemplate domestic beer. Unless I'm in England or Ireland. And even then, I'm picky.

contrarian said...

"...Now that I think about it, maybe I should try to get the ALA Council to vote on this. After all, if enough people vote, then it's relevant."

It's not just the number of people, but HOW people vote that makes an issue relevant in ALA. It's only relevant if ALA votes exactly how you want them to vote. Remember, intellectual freedom according to SRRT means thinking AND voting like they do.

Robert L said...

Enough about SRRT... the truly important question is: Martini or G&T?

shade said...

T&T with two limes for me, please. Make it a double.

AL - Didn't you also take a stand on the spotted owl? In addition to the Marxists? When I was living in Ecotopia choosing logging over the owl was a conservative position. Maybe it's become a liberal one now that they're losing a library.
It's like gang colors or NASCAR - sometimes one doesn't realize the assumption of a political position until stomped by the other side.

AL said...

Did I take a position on the spotted owl? And if I did, was it a political position? I think both of those questions are open for debate. I believe my position was that I thought people were more important than owls.

shade said...

"If I had to choose spotted owls or people, I'd choose people."

While one may try to keep the personal and the political separate sometimes the expression of a personal opinion happens to have an unintentional political connotation. I was merely pointing out that in Seattle in the early 90's you would have been branded a conservative, no matter your personal political beliefs. Since the political has become so radicalized it is difficult to hold an opinion without being labeled as one thing or another. I'm not trying to pin you down. I don't care what your politics are and I hope to never find out. You are far too amusing for me to give you up for political reasons.

AL said...

Interesting. Not having been in Seattle in the early 90s, it didn't really occur to me, though I probably should have reasoned it out for myself. Environmentalism seems to me to fall outside the traditional liberal/conservative dichotomy in a lot of ways. I see the radical environmentalists (i.e. the tree spikers and such) as beyond politics, and I think one can be liberal or conservative and support many environmental causes. I guess it all depends on the context.

Dances With Books said...

A nice post. I had a good laugh over the martini vs. G&T issue in the comments. Given that I spent a large part of my life in a part of the world where rum is the rule, I cannot say either way on your little "war." However, I am willing to try both out and see what happens. Because we librarians should be willing to expand our horizons. Can't we all just get along? *laughs some more*