A controversy has erupted within the American Library Association and more particularly its sub-group, the Social Responsibilities Round Table, over a mailing just before the annual election for ALA council members. In the mailing, organized by SRRT member Elaine Harger but mailed from the SRRT c/o the ALA's address in Chicago, a card was sent to all SRRT members informing them of SRRT members who were running for ALA council. Two names were left off: Harger's and Greg McClay. When the controversy came out in the SRRT Action Council email forum, Harger informed
"Your name is not included because I could not in good conscience play any role in votes being cast for you by anyone who is unaware of your hostility toward everything that SRRT stands for. The other name left off the list was my own, because I also could not in good conscience accrue any possible votes myself while depriving someone else (even you) of the same."
In discussion on the ALA council list and in the SRRTAC forum, criticism was directed at Greg McClay because it was felt his politically conservative views made him an outsider, a disrupter within the SRRT, whose only purpose in joining the organization was to undermine it. One poster to the SRRT list compared him to David Duke, another said:
"Neo-fascists should have no free speech. They deserve the business end of a baseball bat."
The above remark was an extreme example of a deeper problem within the ALA and SRRT, the notion that ALA members who want to engage in activism on what they consider to be socially responsible issues can do so only if they do so from within a left of center context. To me, a roundtable within the ALA should be a place where people of different political views can come together and discuss their ideas and then move forward with some consensus on certain proposals, like maybe the U.S. Congress, or for that matter the ALA Council. But the presumption here seems to be that the SRRT is more like a political party within the ALA, say the Green Party, and that only those who share the general political mindset of the SRRT leadership are welcome to participate, others are considered outsiders intent on undermining the organization.
Greg McClay is much more conservative than me, but I have also been made to feel unwelcome in that organization because of my support for the independent library movement in Cuba and my opposition to the 2003 political crackdown on dissidents in the same country, in which individuals were sentenced up to 20 years in prison following quick political show trials, a crackdown which has been condemned by Amnesty International and every other major human rights group, but which has been defended by certain prominent SRRT Action Council members who are also on the ALA council. That such individuals could then set themselves up as arbiters on what constitutes socially responsible activism within the ALA is in itself highly ironic.
It is time for the ALA council to recognize that no one within the organization has a lock on what constitutes socially responsible activism within the ALA, and that Greg McClay or any other conservative, or moderate for that matter, has just as much right to fully participate in the one organization set up for this purpose, the Social Responsibilities Round Table, as do its current leaders. Otherwise, the ALA should encourage the development of alternative social responsibilities round tables for those who do not share the leftist political views of the current SRRT leadership.