Those regressive librarians just can't deal with arguments, which is why they keep focusing on "anonymity" and how they don't like it. As most of you know by now, when the regressives say they don't like anonymous criticism, they're not just talking about anonymous comments on blogs. They're also talking about me, baby.
All their high-minded rhetoric doesn't bother me a bit, because I know it's just a red herring. Because they don't have any good arguments, they can't address any, so they're putting a bit of spin on the issue to draw attention away from the insubstantial basis for their attempting to politicize the entire ALA.
According to the "Librarian" blog, there's an editorial in the latest issue of Regressive Librarian, penned by all the usual suspects, on anonymity, and presumably how they don't like it. I say presumably, because even though there is a citation and a link, the link doesn't go to the editorial. The editorial is supposedly in the summer issue, but there's no summer issue listed online, and the last issue available online isn't completely online anyway. It's refreshing to see librarians putting out a publication and making some of it available only in print.
So while they focus their ire on anonymity, let's analyze the best arguments they've come up with for why the ALA Council should pass resolutions on non-library issues.
First, there's the very conservative, nay, even reactionary argument that "this is just the way we've been doing things for 30 years." How many of you have heard that argument from some of your older colleagues? A polite term for it is precedent, but since the precedent was established with lots of hostility and rancor, and has never gone uncontested, it hardly counts as a good precedent. That's what the slave owners kept telling the abolitionists. But we've always done it this way! But the regressives like conservative and reactionary arguments when they serve regressive purposes. Almost all of the regressives have put forward this pseudo-argument at one time or another.
Then, there's the wikiality argument some of the regressives are so fond of. If enough people believe something is true, then it's just true, darn it, and who are you to challenge the democritization of truth! If enough librarians say this is a library issue, then it just is. We don't need any arguments or justification for the totalitarian politicization of the world; we just need the votes! This is the favorite argument of Snipey Fellow Traveling Dude and the Griping Illini. They don't want too many people voting, though, just the relative handful of councilors who attend ALA, ones they can lock in a room and badger with their hostile irrelevancies until the sane councilors break down just to get them to shut up. They don't want to put any of these issues to a vote of the entire membership, that's for sure. To do that would be to circumvent the representative process we've established, as one of the regressives argued. They're all about process over democracy if it serves their purposes. "Participatory democracy"--the alleged goal of so many regressives--pales as a goal in comparison to political victory.
My favorite is the "public funds" argument, where anything that has any implications for public funding of anything becomes a "library issue," because libraries receive public funds. Since that's just about everything in our age of expansive and intrusive government, then everything is thus a library issue. QED. This suffers from some of the same problems as the wikiality argument, and is definitely governed by the blowhard fallacy. This argument assumes that librarians as librarians have something worthwhile to contribute to absolutely every debate. Does that seem like a reasonable assumption? Would the regressive librarians agree that every other organized group whose members receive public funds has something to contribute to every public debate by virtue of their profession? Does the library custodial staff have the same expertise to contribute to such debates, or only the exalted librarians? How about the postal workers? Is everything a "postal issue" as well as being a library issue? Should we librarians pay attention to what postal workers have to say about intellectual freedom, because everything is a postal issue? Oh, and the military. They receive public funds. Does everything then become a military issue as well? Are the regressives thus providing the justification for the militarization of society? And what about those librarians who don't work for public libraries, but work at private colleges or law firms or whatever. Do they not have a say because they don't receive public funds? And let's not even mention those regressives so prominent in this debate who aren't even librarians. Why should we listen to them?
And then of course there's the red herring of anonymity. We can't take any of these arguments or concerns seriously, because some of the people putting them forward are anonymous! Of course no one believes they'd address the arguments if their opponents put their names on them. No, then they'd just call them names and smear them in public. Either way it's a convenient out for people who don't have any arguments, very convenient indeed. Either way the approach is to smear opponents rather than engage in debate, and that's a lot easier than thinking and a lot more fun than being civil for people who actively hate anyone who disagrees with them on anything.
I would mention other arguments, but the regressives don't have any. Conservatism and reaction, wikiality, smear tactics, and red herrings--these are the tools in the regressive toolbox.
Perhaps Michael Gorman, who looks like he'll be arguing the regressive cause at the ALA debate, will come up with a new one, but I doubt it.
And then there are those of us who think the ALA should focus on library issues, because many of us are librarians and we actually know something about libraries. The ALA could just possibly have some sway in a debate on access to information, intellectual freedom, rural access to libraries, and other political and library issues where librarians could speak with authority and expertise. And the ALA could certainly speak up more on behalf of librarians regarding such issues as library compensation, library school recruitment and accreditation, library jobs, etc..
But dealing with those issues is painful and difficult and tedious, and not nearly as much fun as being on the side of the angels and joining the Second Life Liberation Army. Focusing any attention at all on non-library issues not only gives the regressives a chance to be blowhards--a role they dearly love to play--but also draws attention away from all those boring library issues. The regressive blowhards want to be responsible for all of society, but not for anything related to libraries. It's easy to stand up and say you don't like something that you can't do anything about. Okay, so librarians don't like war. That's fine. I don't like war. But nothing the ALA does is going to stop any wars. If the ALA focused on library issues, people might actually expect some positive change. There might be failure, but in this case failure is better than irrelevance.
The ALA faces an important choice, and it's not the choice between saving the world and ignoring their "social responsibility." The ALA Council can waste time passing resolutions on non-library issues where it's guaranteed that what they say will have no relevance or interest or effect at all, or they can try to address library issues where there's just the slimmest possibility they can do some good.
That's the choice, and let's hope from now on the ALA Council makes the right decision.