Keeping an Eye on This

Palin Pressured Wasilla Librarian

I’m hoping someone in the SCLM actually does some digging on this; it strikes me as a disturbing trend.  It doesn’t bother me as much as George W. Bush’s spending the 2000 presidential debates bragging about all the people he had executed, but it does bother me nonetheless:

WASILLA — Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so.

According to news coverage at the time, the librarian said she would definitely not be all right with it. A few months later, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, got a letter from Palin telling her she was going to be fired. The censorship issue was not mentioned as a reason for the firing. The letter just said the new mayor felt Emmons didn’t fully support her and had to go.

Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job.

I’m not holding my breath on this; after all, relatively few people care about libraries, I realize.  But I’m certainly going to keep my eyes open to see if any real reporters dig in on this.  And please note, O readers, that I’m not saying that Palin is in fact a book-banner; I’m just wishing that the SCLM would look run down some leads and give a fuller picture of this.  (By the way, when Internet searching for this, search under “Palin book ban” or something of the like; a search for “Palin librarian” will yield a whole mess of perverts’ blogs waxing vulgar about their “sexy librarian” fantasies and Palin’s fit to them.

Also, since people keep asking my opinion when I don’t have one yet, I did a bit of Internet digging during my lunch hour this afternoon.  That’s when I turned this up.  I also saw a number of reports that Palin campaigned for mayor of a small town on an anti-abortion platform but none yet that she’d pushed for any actual policy as governor, and in fact a couple sources say that as recently as two years ago she would not answer questions in a gubernatorial debate about abortion policy.

I know my good friends at the CRM are quite impressed, but I’m starting to wonder whether this is a gimmick candidate.  As far as I’m concerned, Palin so far looks like a typical Republican politico–she pushes the hot buttons during campaign season and then forgets about them (to turn her wrath on public librarians, some of the few people in this nation less powerful than college English teachers) once in office.  Unless someone convinces me otherwise, I think that abortion seems to be off the table for yet another election cycle, and book-banning might just be on the table.

In other reading news, Steve Jobs once again indicated that he’s just too hip for books and other such non-Apple technologies in a NYT interview:

Mr. Jobs can be like that when he assesses the competition.

Today he had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I don’t like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.  I know, I’m always doing the double-disclaimer: I’m neither Republican nor Democrat, neither Mac nor PC, neither capitalist nor communist.  It’s that Socrates thing again, I’m sure.  Or the fact that Republicans and Mac-heads are jittery about such things.  But back to ebooks and such, I still heart my Sony reader, and I imagine that other folks dig their Kindles just as much.  The portability and readability of such a collection (310 public domain books and counting that fit into a small, light, elegant reader that I carry with me everywhere, effectively making my backpack’s smaller pocket a small college library) is enough to commend it to me, even without the bells and whistles of the Kindle.  I can only imagine that a Kindle would be even cooler.

Finally, to my goodly readers: I promise that, when we start reading Republic in my freshman English classes on Tuesday, I’ll have some good philosophical posts coming in the days that follow.  I’ve not turned into an exclusively election-watching blog.  I promise.

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15 Comments

Filed under Political Entertainment

15 responses to “Keeping an Eye on This

  1. Jonathan

    SCLM? Makes me laugh every time. 🙂 I don’t see the need for the SC part though.

    I really don’t think this election will deal more with libraries than it will abortion. You know my thoughts on the matter and the importance of this election in terms of who will be appointed to the Supreme Court. We disagree though so I won’t belabor the point.

  2. Well, it seems like a responsibly empirical title. There are in fact those who call outlets like the New York Times and NBC liberal, so they are in fact called liberal. But neither of those (nor CNN nor the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to get the Georgia companies in there) bears much resemblance to what most people would call actually liberal media, such as Rolling Stone or Harper’s. Folks familiar with actually liberal media (ALM?) find the so-calling of NBC and such strange, hence SCLM.

    I’m aware of your thoughts, and you’re aware of my main argument, namely that the GOP has had nearly thirty years to put some comprehensive anti-abortion policies (legislation preferably) together but have not. On the other hand, they have faithfully brought up the specter of anti-abortion in every presidential election cycle that I can remember, save 1996, when they decided to be honest and run an openly pro-abortion candidate.

    Incidentally, I do hope that somebody runs down the principals in the book-banning story and does some follow-up investigation, but given the SCLM’s silence on such things as the Downing Street Memo and the 2002 White House torture meetings, I’m not holding my breath.

    The actually liberal media, by the way, covered both of those fairly extensively. I suppose I’ll have to wait for a Harper’s piece to look into the book banning.

  3. Jonathan

    On the importance of the abortion issue I won’t rehas that since we’ve been through that and both respectively disagree with eachother.

    As to the SCLM label, I get your point but the lines are becoming increasingly blurred. NBC always had people like Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams as their faces of the network. While Brokaw leans to the left he always reported fairly…as it is his job to do. Tim Russert’s death was a huge blow to the network and to Americans who want unbiased news. It’s getting hard to tell the difference between NBC and MSNBC because there reporters and such go back and forth between the two.

    MSNBC has blatantly gone to the left. Even Democrts such as Ed Rendell and Howard Wolfson agree. Also, employees from within NBC have said similar things (people like Browkaw and Scarborough). The three prime time shows on the network are hosted by Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow. They even had Mathews and Olbermann (a contributor to the DAily Kos) be the hosts for MSNBC’s coverage of the RNC. It’s crazy. Gone are the days of getting your news from men like Russert and Brokaw.

    I know Fox News (the one and only news network that slants right) hasn’t gotten a bad rep, but they are actually more fair than MSNBC. O’Reilly tries to act like he’s an independent (even though we all know he’s not), but at least he tries. I’m not much of a fan of him myself. Hannity has Colmes to off set him. And Greta van Susteran isn’t known as a political person either way. At least, they have respectable guys like Brit Hume there during big nights like debates, conventions, elections, etc. I don’t know…I’m basically ranting now but the lines between the SCLM and the ALM are becoming increasingly diffuicult to tell a part, imo.

  4. Well, for what it’s worth, the lines between Fox News and AM Radio have always been hard for me to discern, and that goes for Hume as much as Hannity.

    Lately I’ve gone entirely to the Neil Postman conservative dark side and stuck almost entirely to newspapers for my news. 🙂

  5. Jonathan

    Awww, come on. You’re smarter than that. I believe in you and your power of discernment.

  6. A couple of quick thoughts in response to several comments by both Gilmour and Jonathan:

    1) news, regardless of avowed affiliations, will always look to bring in more viewers for revenue. So, basically, most news outlets are going to say whatever they can to encourage controversy/attempt to justify their existences. In the case of 24-hr news channels . . . well, they’re the worst of all, saying whatever they need to say to keep up ratings. Accuracy and “fairness” has less to do with it than further controversy.

    2)a”pro-abortion” candidate? Is this accurate, Gilmour?

  7. With regards to pro-abortion, Dole has been the only Republican presidential candidate that I remember who explicitly refused to make abortion a campaign issue. Because the status quo is abortion-on-demand, that marks him as a pro-abortion candidate the same way that, because John Kerry did not want to make radical changes to Bush’s education policy, he was a pro-NCLB candidate. I suppose I’ve got some Thoreau in me with regards to abortion–candidates who speak against it but do nothing are effectively pro-abortion, and candidates who do not even speak are pro-abortion. And please understand that much if not most of my profound disappointment with the GOP has to do with their cowardice on the abortion question–they had a constitutional amendment banning it in their platform and held either the White House or Congress or both for nearly 30 years, and although they were not idle for those three decades, they never made so much as one move on that amendment. They keep promising such things, but they never deliver, giving the nation instead the politics of global capitalism, the very ideology that makes abortion-on-demand an intelligible practice.

    Incidentally, that’s what makes my own politics such a lonely place–I can’t think of too many more people who are anti-abortion for basically anti-capitalist reasons! 😀 I suppose the some of the Catholic church’s teachers (most notably the current Pope) might fall under such a category, but I won’t presume to speak for them.

    As we discussed back when you were here at UGA, I do think that, a couple hundred years from now, people are going to be talking about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century human slavery and about twentieth- and twenty-first century human abortion in the same breath as the great crimes of the West in particular and America in particular. I think that people are going to be to some extent sympathetic with folks who backed pro-abortion politicians, the same way that historians can be to some extent sympathetic with folks in the first few decades of the American Republic who backed pro-slavery politicians, but nonetheless I do think that folks will see the crime itself as epoch-defining.

    With regards to the news industry, I agree that 24-hour news is one of the great culprits, and I’m inclined to swerve over towards Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan and say that, for the sake of public things, printed text seems to be a better medium for serious thought than television. I say that as a CSPAN watcher, so please observe my waffling even as I make such statements.

  8. My main issue is with the term “pro-abortion,” as though these candidates are actively looking to promote that practice, which we both know isn’t the case–it’s the choice that’s important. But I can see from your comments that the diction is intentional, so . . . cool.

    One of the issues I have with the pro-life movement is that it often also promotes some rather ineffectual forms of sex education. Abstinence-only sex ed is a joke without the system of beliefs that supports it ideologically, and it’s impractical–and illegal–to teach both in public schools.

  9. I see your point, though I generally object to the term “pro-choice” in the case of abortion because I’d also object to it in cases of state execution, aggressive war, and nuclear proliferation. If someone said that he didn’t favor the state’s executing prisoners, only taking away what obstacles might obstruct governors’ choices should they be inclined to execute people, I’d call that person pro-state-execution, not pro-choice. Or, to take it back a hundred and fifty years, if someone claimed not to be pro-slavery but wanted to facilitate plantation owners’ choices to own them if they saw fit, I’d call that person pro-slavery rather than pro-choice. So yes, it’s intentional.

    And the reason I don’t call myself “pro-life” is in part precisely because of what you’ve started to discuss–the label has pulled into itself so many squirrelly things that I prefer simply to call myself anti-abortion, anti-state-execution, anti-nuclear-weapons, and so on. My working assumption is that everyone is “pro-life” and “pro-choice” if the prefix and nouns actually mean anything when combined. The terms simply don’t do any work in political theory, as far as I’m concerned. I do believe that Western nations in general and America in particular participate in some genuinely bad practices, and I’m not going to pretend that their stupidity is simply part of an opposition to “life” in general–nobody opposes “life” or “choice” in the abstract, and I want to talk about particular policies.

  10. Jonathan

    Nate,
    I thought that you’d be interested in this:

    Fact-checking Palin

    They talk about the whole supposed book banning thing.

  11. I knew that the book list was bogus; as far as I can tell, somebody copied and pasted a comprehensive list of all banned books in America into the comments section of a few blogs. As far as the incident itself is concerned, the factcheck.org site didn’t offer any new information, just one possible reading of the data. When I expressed the (vain) hope that a reporter would follow up, I had in mind the gathering of new information, not another argument-from-silence. I had already run that permutation, as well as a couple others, in my head. I’d like to see further actual investigation.

  12. Jonathan

    I know this won’t be sufficient but I figure I’ll just relay related posts to you as I find them.

    Palin did not ban books in Wasilla as mayor

  13. Again, they’re relying on newspaper accounts from 1997 rather than doing any more legwork. As I’ve said before, I knew as soon as I saw the “book list” that it was bogus; I’ve worked in public libraries for eight years now, and I knew that no one town ever made attempts that broad. In my mind, the book list isn’t the issue.

    Here’s what concerns me, and what I’d like to see further investigated:
    1) That Palin ran for a small-town mayorship with national RNC-style campaign tactics, telling me that, to paraphrase Obama’s critics, she’s been running for president at least since she was my age.
    2) That Palin ran a small-town government like a white house. I don’t know if you’ve ever lived in a small town, but mayors just don’t matter that much. The police chiefs and heads of garbage collection and librarians generally stay untouched when one mayor leaves and another comes in, largely because they actually do the work of running a small town’s common life. The level of funding from local property taxes might shift when a new mayor doesn’t like the library very much (that’s happened here in Bogart), but I’ve worked in small-town libraries in Indiana and Georgia through several mayoral changes, and nobody’s ever considered it the prerogative of the mayor to can those sorts of people. From what I’ve read around this story, the folks in Wasilla generally thought the same thing in ’96. I’d like to see some reporting on what exactly made this new mayor so different in her mind and in the minds of the RNC.
    3) That Palin pretends (and apparently her allies at Newsweek and factcheck.org go along with her) that she was asking a simple “what if” question. Accounts seem to point to repeated questioning done in the wake of a letter demanding resignation for lack of loyalty. Again, I don’t know if you’ve ever lived in a small town, but in the ones where I’ve worked for public libraries, rhetorical questions at the business end of a gun are called threats. I’ll admit that it disturbs me that Palin (or at least her campaign staff) is already playing the “that depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” game with this.
    4) That she campaigned on anti-abortion and made one of her first actual executive decisions to demand the resignation of the public librarian. She’s letting her campaign staff run her as anti-abortion now; what policy will be her first if McCain’s threescore and ten run out in his first term?

    So I know that the book list is bogus; I intentionally didn’t post any links to any blogs or conspiracy theory sites, preferring an Alaska newspaper which, as far as I could tell, omitted the ignorant claims. And I know she reinstated the librarian soon after demanding her resignation, and I’d like to see if that reinstatement is another case of ex-post-facto “bridge to nowhere” redaction (pulling active support out of an already dead cause and then congratulating oneself for opposing the unpopular cause) or if she really saw her error and changed her mind. But since the GOP calls seeing one’s error “flip-flopping” (I call it being a reasonable human being aware of one’s own fallibility), I’m not holding my breath. Bottom line: I know that Internet sites are good at taking a limited body of reportage and giving every possible permutation of what the data could mean. What I want now is not more inventive interpretation but more data.

  14. Jonathan

    I know it wouldn’t change your mind. I’m just giving you links from ‘SCLM’ and non-partisan sites.

    The bridge to nowhere thing cracks me up. Especially since the Alaska Democratic Party credited Palin for killing it on a website. Oddly enough, the website has been pulled down recently. Weird stuff.

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