Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Sunday, June 15, 2008

ALA resolution on Cuba

Five years ago, in March 2003 the Cuban government launched one of its harshest crackdowns, arresting 75 dissidents and sentencing them to up to 25 years in jail after blatantly unfair political trials. Major human rights organizations such as Amnesty International strongly protested this event. Within the American Library Association, the trials were a matter of some controversy because some of those arrested and tried had been involved in a movement to establish independent libraries in the country.

Proponents of this movement felt the ALA was obliged to join with various human rights groups in demanding their immediate release. But some others, primarily activists who consider themselves progressive and belong to the Social Responsibilities Round Table, opposed any action on behalf of these prisoners of conscience.

The result was a compromise of sorts, in which the ALA went on record as expressing "its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003 and urges the Cuban Government to respect, defend and promote the basic human rights defined in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It also joined with the International Federation of Library Associations in calling "for an investigative visit by a special rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights with special attention given to freedom of access to information and freedom of expression, especially in the cases of those individuals recently imprisoned and that the reasons for and conditions of their detention be fully investigated." In addition the 2003 ALA resolution/report urged the U.S. to end its embargo on Cuba and other hostile policies.

Now, five years later, should the ALA issue any kind of statement of concern regarding the same situation? Normally, when an organization expresses its deep concern over unfair trials and harsh prison sentences handed out to dissidents, it doesn't then drop the issue completely and never bring it up again. To do so would be hypocritical because such inaction would indicate the organization doesn't care at all about these prisoners. But such inaction is exactly what the so-called progressives within the ALA have urged in opposing a new resolution submitted to the ALA council which demands the immediate release of the remaining prisoners of conscience from this 2003 crackdown.

In contrast, Amnesty International issued last March its commentary on the 2003 crackdown, in which it said:

"On the 5th anniversary of the largest crackdown against political opponents in Cuba, Amnesty International today called on the new Cuban president to immediately release the 58 dissidents still being held in jails across the country, many for contacting journalists and human rights defenders.

"'The only crime committed by these 58 is the peaceful exercise of their fundamental freedoms. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience. They must be released immediately and unconditionally,' said Kerrie Howard, deputy director for Amnesty International's Americas program...

"..Fifty-five of the 58 current prisoners of conscience in Cuba are the remainder of a group of 75 people jailed during a massive crackdown against the dissident movement in March 2003.

"Most were accused of 'acts against the independence of the state,' charged with publishing articles or giving interviews to U.S.-funded media, communicating with international human rights organizations and having contact with groups or individuals considered hostile to Cuba. The men were sentenced to between six and 28 years behind bars after what were considered dubious trials. So far, 20 have been released on medical grounds.."

Those who oppose the independent library movement in Cuba saw the failure of the ALA to take a less equivocal stand against the 2003 crackdown as a victory for their side, that is by the ALA not calling for the release of these prisoners but only expressing its deep concern over the trials and imprisonment of these individuals. That in itself is a sad commentary on a rather authoritarian, pro-dictator mindset among some ALA members; but the fact remains that there is nothing inconsistent with the ALA expressing its concern over this crackdown and then calling for the release of these prisoners. One is a logical extension of the other. At the very least, the ALA should inquire over the remaining prisoners, especially those affiliated with the independent library movement; and ask why a UN special rapporteur has not been allowed to visit the country to investigate the situation of these prisoners.


9 Comments:

Anonymous Steve Marquardt said...

If Peg would search the original 30,000+ word report with its more than 70 references to the sentencing documents, and search for the key word “library,” she would find at least 17 hits. See: Cuba:"Essential measures"? Human rights crackdown in the name of security, AI INDEX: AMR 25/017/2003 3 June 2003 Accessible at
http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR250172003?open&of=ENG-CUB or at
http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?lang=e&id=36E4149F1DC8594780256D3600529FEA

Regarding where books come from, they come from several nations: France, Sweden, the Czech republic, and also Spain and the Netherlands. Here's a link to a copy of a Cuban customs document showing confiscation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sent from Spain: http://groups.google.com/group/Cuba451Letters/web/customs-confiscation-of-universal-declaration-of-human-rights and http://www.boekenvoorcuba.nl/ where you should click on “BOEKENCAMPAGNE” and then “ACTIES” to see a photo and text [in Dutch, sorry] of schoolchildren packing up books for shipment to Cuba. For a Radio Netherlands report IN ENGLISH about this effort, go to http://download.omroep.nl/rnw/smac/cms/tswi_080517_bibliotecas_mp3_en_080517_44_1kHz.mp3.

-- Steve Marquardt

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Peg_Oettinger, MOettinger@alumni.cua.edu
Date: Mon, Jun 16, 2008 at 9:28 AM
Subject: [alacoun-ro] [alacoun] RE: Information on Cuba
To: Michael Golrick, michael.golrick@gmail.com, alacoun@ala.org

I found it interesting that no where in the Amnesty International statement quoted did it refer to the jailed people as librarians or suggest that they were jailed for being librarians. While I regret the continued imprisonment of these dissidents, I do not think calling them librarians because they had some books and other materials in their homes (which they may or may not have made available to others) makes them librarians. Also of interest is that the people who keep calling these people independent librarians never seem to indicate where the books came from or how these collections were funded. It would be appropriate for ALA to once again join with IFLA and other organizations calling for respect for human rights and fair treatment of all dissidents by the Cuban government and for the US government to moderate it’s stance on Cuba, specifically the Helms-Burton Act of 1996.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Stephen Denney said...

Thanks Steve. I just don't understand why Peg or other ALA council members consider it some kind of huge taboo to actually ask for the release of these dissidents, even while the ALA says it is concerned over their situation. It is five years now since they were sentenced in these unfair trials.

2:04 PM  
Blogger SafeLibraries.org said...

Stephen,

In response to Rory Litwin on his blog, I just added the following regarding what Rory said that was prompted by your comment:

Rory said, “For my part, I’ll say that it’s not something I have an opinion about, and that I think it would be rather arrogant for me to have an opinion about it, since I’m not a Cuban citizen but an American observer. It’s their country, not mine.”

That sounds either cold hearted or convenient. Would Rory say that about the Muslims killing Christians and other Muslims by the millions in Africa at this time? What about Darfur? What about the Tibetans being slaughtered? Who cries for North Korean victims of their own government?

Yes, it’s their country, Rory. But does that mean “it would be rather arrogant for [Rory] to have an opinion about it, since [he's] not a [foreign] citizen but an American observer”?

I am shocked to hear such pure callousness, such pure, unadulterated who-cares-itiveness.

Rory likely joined with the ALA to excoriate our American government when it helped liberate the Iraqis from their evil ruler who murdered by the hundreds of thousands and who used rape as a weapon of control, but let his political compatriots do similar things and suddenly he can’t have an opinion about it because he’s just an American observer. Hogwash!

Rory’s callous comments are a perfect example of the definition of a “useful idiot” as described by Mona Charen in her book, “Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First.”

6:44 PM  
Blogger SafeLibraries.org said...

Walter Skold said, "First off, kudos to Rory for not censoring the posts on this issue." Mr. Skold is understandably not aware that indeed ALA Councilor Rory Litwin has indeed censored posts on this issue. For the coup de grace, Mr. Litwin wrote me an unbelievable nastigram, and anyone can see it is plainly false.

First, the nastigram:

Dan,

I'm blocking your comments from this point forward because you are an idiot, and debating you publicly is pointless and a waste of time. You don't understand a rational argument and don't know how to make one. I don't want to waste my readers' time with your nonsense.

This is a permanent policy. Don't bother commenting and don't bother writing back - I'll just ignore you.

Rory Litwin
Library Juice Press
PO Box 3320
Duluth, MN 55803
218-724-2435
rory@libraryjuicepress.com
http://libraryjuicepress.com/

"Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries." - Ann Herbert


Now the post to which he objected, and it was a result of something someone else raised on Mr. Litwin's blog. I said something on that issue. ALA Councilor Mark Rosenzweig then launched an ad hominem attack on me, and I responded to the attack. My response to Mr. Rosenzweig's attack is what Mr. Litwin cut out. It is yet another example of the double standard that applies to the ALA.

Here is what Mr. Litwin censored out, and I only have it since I suspected he might play some kind of dirty trick, so I saved a copy of the page after my post appeared publicly:

26.

Mr. Rosenzweig, I am not "pro-censorship."

First, I merely inform communities in a manner to counteract the false and misleading information provided by the ALA.

Second, I use as my guide Bd of Educ. v. Pico and US v. ALA, and the US Supreme Court says, "The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree." I agree. You and the ALA's OIF do not.

Third, censorship is not the answer, but it is the convenient excuse to hide behind when name calling. Ad hominem argument is weak. Your argument is ad hominem. Your argument is weak.

Fourth, "The elites have convinced themselves that they are taking a stand against cultural tyranny. [T]he reality is that it is those who cry 'Censorship!' the loudest who are the ones trying to stifle speech and force their moral world-view on others." By Dan Gerstein, an independent consultant, former communications director for Joe Lieberman and a senior strategist for his presidential campaign.

Fifth, your attacking me let's me know that I have finally arrived. People are judged by their enemies. I am happy to count you as one of my enemies, just as the Boy Scouts of America does when you excoriate it for legally complying with the US Constitution you oppose so much.

Sixth, I am not an "ALA-hater." I am an ALA member, and I oppose the "Office for Intellectual Freedom's" actions that take away informed consent from parents while at the same time claiming only parents are responsible for their own children. How can parents be responsible in this area if they are being misled by the ALA? For example, the ALA awards a book containing oral s3x as the best book of the year for children aged 12 and up. I personally got the author to admit he wouldn't even give it to his own 12 year old, if he had one. Yet the ALA makes no mention whatsoever of the potentially objectionable content. Zero. I am perfectly entitled to advise people that the ALA is doing this. You are not suggesting that I should not have a right to be critical of the ALA where such criticism is deserved, are you?

Seventh, even other ALA councilors know you are blowing smoke. Consider what former councilor Jessamyn West said: "It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don't talk about much ... the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it's totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all." Are you now going to call Jessamyn West "PRO-CENSORSHIP"?

Eighth, the ALA does not control local libraries? Then why does Oak Lawn Public Library still make Playboy magazine available to children despite repeated requests to stop doing so, including by the government itself? Why did an ALA president, and the de facto leader of the ALA, and the library director/ALA councilor high five each other when they forced the library to keep Playboy available to children despite community efforts otherwise? "Parents who would tell their children not to read Playboy 'don't really care about their kids growing up and learning to think and explore.'" 9/18/95 Citizen, quoting Judith Krug, ALA Director of OIF.

Ninth, why are you calling what I do "the big lie." I am one little voice, versus the behemoth ALA that pushes its false views nationwide, like that porn is legal, therefore it should be allowed in public libraries. Does the ALA have no tolerance for that one little voice? Indeed the ALA blocked me from attending an ALA seminar open to everyone else in the world in my standing. What is it afraid of? The truth.

Tenth, you quote "an OSS analyst," but I have done none of those things. For example, although you call me an "ALA-hater," I just praised the ALA for its meeting room policy. Someone even commented noting that "I'm glad you are finding value in the ALA's policies of freedom, equality, and access!"

Mr. Rosenzweig, you are way off base, and you are projecting your own propaganda efforts on me. Then you attempt to tie me to others in an effort to tar and feather them as well. I am not intimidated by you one iota. People are not fooled by you or your ad hominem argument one bit either.

Comment by Dan Kleinman - June 18, 2008 @ 4:34 am


Mr. Skold, I am forced to write here because, as you can see, the "freedom of speech" people who care not for the freedoms of the Cuban librarians don't even care for the freedom of speech of their own countrymen.

It is no surprise to me the ALA cares nothing about truth, true freedom of speech, or about intellectual freedom. What surprises me is the vicious attacks from both Mark Rosenzweig and Rory Litwin. Apparently they have not learned the OIF's lesson to just ignore people with opposing viewpoints. For example, the time the ALA learned I was to appear on Fox News with an ALA representative to discuss the fake called Banned Books Week, as Ms. West hinted. What a coincidence the ALA backed out claiming there was no adequate substitute. In New York City. Right, I believe that. Another example is when the ALA's OIF blocked me from a class I was invited to attend, likely even violating Pennsylvania law to do so, once they learned I had applied. The ALA opposes FISA investigations against terrorists (see "ALA Opposes FISA; Joins Soros, ACLU, and PFAW to Restrict War on Terror"), but it investigated me and used that information to created excuse after excuse to deny me equal access. See "Unequal Access" for details.

What happened to the ALA that it has changed from being a great American institution into one where rights are only protected if the ALA agrees with those rights and those claiming them. And people like Rory Litwin and Mark Rosenzweig attack and censor without mercy or remorse. It's truly disgraceful anywhere, but where the ALA is the nation's self-arrogated censorship police, it's surprising people still give the ALA any credibility whatsoever.

10:10 PM  
Blogger SafeLibraries.org said...

To see more of my comments on this, see "Censorship Love Note by ALA Councilor Rory Litwin."

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo, Mr. Safe Libs....this happens to be Mr. Denney's blog. Maybe you can post the long emails about you on YOUR blog?

At the time, Rory had not censored things that I was aware of. In the past, in other venues, he has tossed people off lists and blocked comments. That is why I said Kudos to him.

By the way, it is not censorship to block comments on a blog. It is the owner's / editor's choice. No govt. agency is involved (yet).

10:46 AM  
Blogger SafeLibraries.org said...

"By the way, it is not censorship to block comments on a blog. It is the owner's / editor's choice. No govt. agency is involved (yet)."

Correct. But the person doing the censoring is part of the leadership of one of the nation's most prominent organizations opposing censorship. The claim is made that it is censorship to keep children from sexually inappropriate material. If I were in those shoes, I would avoid even the appearance of impropriety, or double standard, or defining censorship to be what it is not. Wouldn't you? I'm to be criticized for using "censorship" loosely but not the ALA? That's your own double standard.

Further, the guy does this on a blog where he opposes the ALA's supporting jailed Cuban librarians. He is opposing the Cuban's intellectual freedoms. Then he censors out people, essentially denying my intellectual freedom. And you don't think that's a problem?

He and the ALA is supposed to be considered some great authority on what is intellectual freedom and what is not. And he picks and chooses what he wants while telling others not to pick and choose. Alan M. Dershowitz, Esq., wrote a book with a title that perfectly fits Rory Litwin.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Stephen Denney said...

I believe you are thinking of Nat Hentoff's book, Free Speech for Me, but not for Thee.

11:10 PM  
Blogger SafeLibraries.org said...

Interesting suggestion, Free Speech for Me--But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, by Nat Hentoff, 1992.

Anyone else care to guess?

11:19 PM  

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