American Library Association: Libraries must allow hate groups
July 17, 2018 3:01 AM   Subscribe

 
Step 1:
Let them use the rooms in accordance with policy.

Step 2:
Record everything.

Step 3:
Publish!
posted by evil_esto at 3:12 AM on July 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


Ideal, meet Reality. Reality, meet Ideal. You two kids are going to get on great!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:32 AM on July 17, 2018 [31 favorites]


I live in South Florida. Parkland, specifically. Our closest Broward public library is in proximity to some of the denser clusters of rental apartments/affordable housing. It’s next door to a school. I love seeing the wide diversity of kids hanging out in the library after school. It’s a safer place to be, waiting for parents to get off work. They socialize, play games, do homework, look at magazines, read books! It’s an egalitarian space. All races, and a wide range of economic background. With knowledgeable adults present who can steer them toward answers they might need, to a wide variety of problems ... even beyond homework.

A couple of KKK members showing up for a meeting in regalia will absolutely drive these vulnerable populations out of the library. (Which is why they would do it.) It will be a sad and cruel day in America when a street corner is again seen as being safer for kids than a public library.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 3:33 AM on July 17, 2018 [86 favorites]


Paging Karl Popper! Mr. Popper, please answer the white courtesy phone. (Important follow-up.)
posted by mystyk at 4:04 AM on July 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


James LaRue seems to lack an understanding of the definitions of "equitable", "community", and "access".
posted by eviemath at 4:19 AM on July 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sorry, "I hate you and everyone like you, and you should all be killed" is not a contentious discussion leading to positive social change.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:34 AM on July 17, 2018 [45 favorites]


My local library (in Canada) has been struggling with this. I think James LaRue's statement is a good, and eloquent, explanation of how this is sometimes, though not always, a zero-sum game. You can have Islamophobic groups be welcome at your library or you can have Muslim people be welcome at your library. You can have Jordan Peterson or you can have trans people. Libraries need to be realistic that when they allow hate groups to use their space, they are making an equal and opposite decision to exclude the object of that group's hate.

I wish nobody had to experience their humanity, their right to practice their faith, receive medical care, being a constant object of lively public debate, but for folks who haven't had that pleasure, I wish they could understand how terrifying and exhausting it is, and how hard it makes it to participate fully and safely in public life.
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:39 AM on July 17, 2018 [50 favorites]


(Yikes, I meant the response to James LaRue's statement!)
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:51 AM on July 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


The paradox of tolerance, now playing at a multiplex in your vicinity.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:57 AM on July 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


If your library is owned by a government, or receives substantial government funding, that library must allow all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, unless there is an actual threat of disruption or violence. The First Amendment applies to all.
posted by tommyD at 5:11 AM on July 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


No. Not my library. This is upsetting.
posted by mermayd at 5:13 AM on July 17, 2018


Violent speech is violent action, tommyD.
posted by kokaku at 5:16 AM on July 17, 2018 [22 favorites]


> Step 2: Record everything.

The ALA opposes recording patron activity in excess of what's necessary to sustain operations and has been for a long time now. Mics and cameras in their meeting rooms would be a pretty hard 180 on some of their fundamental principles.
posted by ardgedee at 5:34 AM on July 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


that library must allow all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, unless there is an actual threat of disruption or violence.

And does making other patrons reasonably fear for their wellbeing such that they avoid the library qualify as disruption?

Meanwhile in Canada:

"Support for free speech does not translate into tolerance for hate speech...

The public library is a welcoming, inclusive public space that supports the social justice principles of equity and inclusion and will always stand up against hate speech."

posted by Secret Sparrow at 5:35 AM on July 17, 2018 [30 favorites]


For what it's worth:

So, what I am gathering with the extra information from everyone about this library meeting room hate group debate is the following:

1) many ALA Councilors did not read the document that they were voting on.

2) it’s not binding, enforceable, or actionable.

3) this document (and ALA by extension) really has no power or influence over libraries whatsoever

4) libraries should basically just do a better job writing local meeting room policies. (I think everyone already knew this)

5) it is basically just a restatement of Federal laws currently in place

6) libraries are, and will continue to be, on their own on this one.

posted by Pyrogenesis at 5:37 AM on July 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


must allow all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, unless there is an actual threat of disruption or violence.

Construing the threat of disruption of violence as being limited to the library premises themselves is far too narrow. The entire point of a hate group is to threaten violence. This is fundamentally at odds with the entire point of a public library, which is to spread knowledge and build inclusive communities.
posted by flabdablet at 5:39 AM on July 17, 2018 [36 favorites]


Once more for the people in the back: Fascists and hate group use apparently shared values like freedom of speech as a pretense, in bad faith, to spread their noxious shit. They will not return any favors of decency afforded to them. They are weeds that, if allowed to grow, will choke our garden. Pull them out by the roots.

THE GARDEN IS A METAPHOR
posted by entropone at 5:40 AM on July 17, 2018 [71 favorites]


The First Amendment applies to all.
More than two centuries of case law says that the first admendment does not apply to all speech.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:50 AM on July 17, 2018 [27 favorites]


>that library must allow all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, unless there is an actual threat of disruption or violence.

What is the appearance of a bunch KKK members to a black person?

The ONLY REASON anybody marches under these banners is because there's an implicit threat of violence. "We will cover our faces and come for you at night." That's their only message and their only idea. They make the threat merely by being present, and then pretend innocence--"Why are all these mean leftists violating my rights? I didn't even DO anything." THEY EXIST ONLY TO THREATEN VIOLENCE.

As you are crawling through the desert looking for water, you will encounter no peaceful gatherings of vultures. The vultures are waiting until you are weak enough, and they are numerous enough, that they can do whatever they want. Buzzards will never gather around you peacefully; nor will Nazis or Klansmen.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:53 AM on July 17, 2018 [43 favorites]


> If your library is owned by a government, or receives substantial government funding, that library must allow all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, unless there is an actual threat of disruption or violence. The First Amendment applies to all.

The right to free speech, in practice, is not nearly as simplistic as this, nor should it be. Alarmist activities (the canonical shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater) and seditious actions are two obvious examples of free speech that are not protected. And, with the precedence and lingering fondness some people have in the Confederacy, there's a good case to be made that many hate groups are interested in and sometimes actively involved in insurrection and separatism. Whether most of them are capable of overturning more than a pancake is irrelevant.
posted by ardgedee at 5:53 AM on July 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


It is occasionally justifiable to shout FIRE in a crowded theatre; after all, the theatre might be on fire. There is no case where it is ever justifiable to plan or encourage violence on the basis of a difference in ancestry.
posted by flabdablet at 5:56 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


> 2) it’s not binding, enforceable, or actionable.

Regardless of whether it's binding, an official-sounding document, followed by memes and concern trolling on Reddit and Facebook, can be sufficient to have a bunch of chucklefucks up in arms about it. Lord knows how wound up they get about even stupider, less substantial things such as gold fringe on a flag.
posted by ardgedee at 5:58 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


And not on the basis of a perceived difference in ancestry either.
posted by flabdablet at 5:58 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


The reality is that if libraries were allowed to deny service to patrons based on their viewpoints being seen as “hateful” or their presence being disruptive or discomforting to other patrons, such a policy would most likely be disproportionally applied to minorities and racial justice advocacy groups.
posted by mpbx at 6:20 AM on July 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


There is, fully, no reason to single out hate groups for inclusion. No reason. Could and did hate groups use library meeting rooms before? Probably! In my system we don't police meeting rooms to that level. Use the space, don't be too loud.

We already have people who try to use free spaces in antagonistic ways. This is basically just an advertisement to send more of them our way. Lovely, thanks!
posted by graventy at 6:24 AM on July 17, 2018 [16 favorites]


I disagree with this intensely and despairingly on a personal level because fuck Nazis and anyone else in a hate group. But god, does it get tricky with public libraries. On a much smaller scale here in Kingston, my friends started a community activist group called Libraries Are for Everyone, when the current KFPL board rewrote the Code of Conduct in a way that specifically excluded homeless and indigent people. (It's still in contention as of this writing.) As it says in the name, they show up to the board meetings, go on the news, circulate petitions, to remind citizens and librarians that even if you don't want the stinky homeless man in your library, well tough shit, he's got a right to be there. And of course homeless/minorities are in no way the same as a hate group, but it becomes a weird hard public needle to thread. The librarians I know that work for KFPL absolutely were not clued in to what the new Code of Conduct was and didn't support it (they were ignored, or portrayed as outliers). I promise you the librarians fighting this were not asked about how they felt about the potential of fucking Nazis in their workplaces.

This is a very difficult row to hoe because you don't want fucking Nazis in the library, but then you don't want the same potential used against perfectly normal people who aren't fucking Nazis.
posted by Kitteh at 6:26 AM on July 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


As an (American) public library patron my whole life, is there anything I can do about this, in an activist way? I'm sickened by this, and feel like it's just another example of our country/society crumbling.
posted by honey badger at 6:30 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


There are a number of librarians that continue to think that what we do is neutral and we are just angels of light and justice providing equal access to all materials. *cue harps* Those librarians don't understand why gender neutral bathrooms are a thing, why ensuring that marginalized groups feel welcome in spaces that typically don't welcome them, and why treating everyone the same* isn't a good thing.

As a profession, librarians have been aware but not really making the effort to address our lack of diversity. We talk a good game about inclusion, but the real work has yet to be done to be a truly inclusive profession.

*Middle-class white lady as the standard 'everyone'
posted by teleri025 at 6:34 AM on July 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


Oh, and if Nazis show up at your public libraries, do your duty* as a citizen/patron and make sure they don't feel comfortable enough to ever come back there. It's your library too.

*caveat that not everyone has enough spoons/mental bandwidth/privilege to do this
posted by Kitteh at 6:48 AM on July 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


1) many ALA Councilors did not read the document that they were voting on.


The irony. It hurts me.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:57 AM on July 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


If you read the link from the ALA Councillor (“resolution was snuck...”), It seems that the resolution was changed between the voting, with additional material added and not identified. Which, as a Parlimentarian, I have a serious beef with.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:11 AM on July 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Sorry, "I hate you and everyone like you, and you should all be killed" is not a contentious discussion leading to positive social change.

So, I'm not on the ALA's side here, but I think the left tends to be a bit glib and naive about power and free speech. And glibly normalizing government restrictions on it makes it easier to use that power to preserve hierarchies and oppress minorities. In the end the people who decide who get to speak are not the ones spearheading social change.

Pulling out this quote because to people in power a lot of discussion here looks exactly like "I hate you and everyone like you." Followed by some guillotine "jokes."
posted by mark k at 7:13 AM on July 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Ironically, this is happening when My division and section of ALA Have been charged with addressing issues of diversity and inclusion. No I’m like “we have her work cut out for us, and we’re not even out of the organization.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:30 AM on July 17, 2018


[A few deleted. Let's back it up; it's fine to make your points about the ALA policy etc, but do it without putting words in other Mefites' mouths.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:47 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


The intellectual dishonesty in the statement defending this position in the name of "intellectual freedom" is staggering. Once again, we have a piece that argues that intellectual freedom/free speech/etc. requires allowing hate to be allowed in the community, but can never make the argument honestly, instead relying on euphemisms like "offensive", "distasteful", "unpopular", and so on. As I've said in previous threads, I'm done with this sort of argument. If someone is going to argue that tolerating hate is the price of "intellectual freedom", they can make the argument honestly, without all the euphemisms. And if they can't, well...that shows how dishonest their argument really is.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:54 AM on July 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


I think N.K. Jemisin put it perfectly way back in 2013. In her case the context was the SFWA being welcoming to racists. But her point is equally applicable here:
The world has changed, and professionalism is now incompatible with bigotry; there can be no peaceful coexistence between these two concepts. Where a conflict occurs, SFWA cannot remain neutral, because there is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo. I repeat: there is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo. Put simply, SFWA must now take action against bigots in order to prove itself worthy of being called a professional organization. SFWA’s leadership is going to have to choose which members it wants to lose: the minority of scared, angry people whose sense of self-worth is rooted in their ability to harm others without consequence… or everyone else.
People often dislike picking sides, they'd prefer to be neutral, to keep their options open, they dislike the fact that when you pick a side you inevitably piss off the people you've sided against. But it isn't even that you have to pick a side here, its that you will **AUTOMATICALLY** pick a side, and by doing nothing you're automatically siding with the oppressors.

There is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo.

By trying to achieve neutrality, the ALA has unavoidably sided against the victims of hate groups. I get that they'd like to be neutral, but that's impossible.

Either a library can be a welcoming space to people of color, or it can let the KKK meet at the library. Letting the KKK meet automatically, unavoidably, makes people of color unwelcome. They may not want to make people of color unwelcome, again I get that the ALA would like to be neutral here. But they can't be. By being "neutral" they're really siding with the KKK and against people of color.
posted by sotonohito at 7:58 AM on July 17, 2018 [47 favorites]


Either a library can be a welcoming space to people of color, or it can let the KKK meet at the library. Letting the KKK meet automatically, unavoidably, makes people of color unwelcome.

It's the biker bar analogy again - if you have biker gangs come into your bar, you have two choices - kick them out, or accept that you run a biker bar now.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:05 AM on July 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


So, I'm not on the ALA's side here, but I think the left tends to be a bit glib and naive about power and free speech. And glibly normalizing government restrictions on it makes it easier to use that power to preserve hierarchies and oppress minorities. In the end the people who decide who get to speak are not the ones spearheading social change.

I hear what you're saying about it being dangerous to put the power to restrict speech into the hands of government and I agree. But it's also dangerous to allow hate speech to fester. Hate speech is not like normal speech that we want to protect, and one of its explicit goals is to suppress dissenting opinions with violence. As dangerous as it is to give government the tools of restricting any speech, even hate speech, it is far more dangerous to allow extremist hate groups to restrict others' speech through violence and intimidation. And an important difference is that in a democracy, we (should) have mechanisms for holding the government accountable if and when it abuses its power. Hate groups, by contrast, are accountable to no one but their own members.

There are also numerous democratic governments in Europe that place restrictions on hate speech, and the sky has not fallen as far as general free speech in these countries. I don't think it is wise or beneficial to try to aggressively suppress all hate speech when it occurs, and my opinion is that in some of these countries the aggressive policing of hate speech has backfired, but there is a clear distinction between suppressing such speech and making it clear that it doesn't enjoy the same protections that normal political speech enjoys. For example, the right to assemble and speak in a public library.
posted by biogeo at 8:09 AM on July 17, 2018 [16 favorites]


... glibly normalizing government restrictions on it makes it easier to use that power to preserve hierarchies and oppress minorities.

I think you're going to have to show your work on this one. Hierarchies are being preserved and minorities are being oppressed already. It is easier for the government to do this when hate groups are allowed to organize, proselytize, fester in public spaces.
posted by ODiV at 8:15 AM on July 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


This somewhat reminds of the rage that surrounds the idea of burning the American Flag. Is there an epidemic of hate groups booking library meeting rooms? Google has a couple pages of the current controversy but the only report of hate groups using library space is a 2002 report from LJ.
posted by WonderFunGo at 8:28 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is there an epidemic of hate groups booking library meeting rooms?

Honestly? I wouldn't be surprised. This was something that we dealt with regularly at my local urban Canadian library when I worked there ten years ago. The conclusion at the time was to allow the meetings but not allow distribution of hate group literature on library property and to eject for any hate speech or disrespectful language uttered where staff or patrons could hear it. A decade later, in the U.S., in this political climate? There are a lot of hate groups. They have to meet somewhere. Libraries that allow this would not be reporting on it, under the justification of protecting patron privacy.
posted by northernish at 8:35 AM on July 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


WonderFunGo, it's come up as an issue several times in the past year at my local library.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:42 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


People. For public libraries, this is "viewpoint discrimination." Under our existing jurisprudence, viewpoint discrimination faces what is known as "strict scrutiny." It is the most stringent standard of review and is very challenging, though not impossible, to meet. That's the reality that the ALA is facing.

For private libraries, fuck 'em. No Nazis. But it would be very hard to justify excluding hate groups that are not themselves openly advocating violence against other patrons, or using slurs against them in earshot, from general meeting space at public libraries without undermining that precedent in ways that could be very harmful to marginalized groups. Especially now that white boys aren't ashamed of whining about discriminated against and having their feelings hurt by being asked to meet basic standards of decency. (Maybe some readers have spared themselves this delight, but I assure you that in reading around online I've found there are plenty of righties out there with no compunction about calling anything, e.g., vaguely feminist "hate speech.") I've shifted a great deal to the left on free-speech issues over the last ten years or so, but the viewpoint discrimination bulwark is really important to preserve.
posted by praemunire at 10:17 AM on July 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Step 1:
Let them use the rooms in accordance with policy.

Step 2:
Seal the doors, release Daleks from secret chamber. Wait 5 minutes.

Step 3:
Rejoice.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:17 AM on July 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


For public libraries, this is "viewpoint discrimination." Under our existing jurisprudence, viewpoint discrimination faces what is known as "strict scrutiny." It is the most stringent standard of review and is very challenging, though not impossible, to meet. That's the reality that the ALA is facing.

Yes, we live under a legal system in which a hate group committing an act of intimidation and terror is held up as a symbol of how free we are. This is part of the problem.

But it would be very hard to justify excluding hate groups that are not themselves openly advocating violence against other patrons, or using slurs against them in earshot, from general meeting space at public libraries without undermining that precedent in ways that could be very harmful to marginalized groups.

No, it really isn't. Nazis don't stop being Nazis because they're behaving themselves in public. It is not difficult to say "hey, if your organization subscribes to denigrating others based on race/gender/creed/etc., you are not welcome here."
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:37 AM on July 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


(Maybe some readers have spared themselves this delight, but I assure you that in reading around online I've found there are plenty of righties out there with no compunction about calling anything, e.g., vaguely feminist "hate speech.")

Sartre had the best response to this:
Never believe that anti‐ Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.
Just because they eagerly call things "hate speech" does not oblige us to take the argument seriously.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:42 AM on July 17, 2018 [18 favorites]


It is not difficult to say "hey, if your organization subscribes to denigrating others based on race/gender/creed/etc., you are not welcome here."

(a) For a public library, it would be unconstitutional. You will not have a problem with literal Nazis or KKK members--their organizations are dedicated to the violent destruction or subjugation of "inferior races" and so exclusion is likely to pass scrutiny. But John Smith's local "white history group?" Yes.

(b) If you literally cannot imagine how this policy could and will be used in conservative locales to exclude those "man-hating" feminists, "black identity extremists who are the REAL racists," blaspheming atheists, and the like, I don't know what to tell you. State governments have gotten more and more conservative in many areas. This is not the time to be giving them additional power to decide what speech can and can't be made in public forums.
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on July 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


Hate speech, hate policy, hate programming directed at protected groups leads to criminal activity. Nazis don't just want to wear stupid symbols; they want to march and they want to incite violence. White supremacists want to exterminate people of color. They rejoice when cops kill another black man with a phone or at a traffic stop. It's just a bad idea to let Satan book the meeting room.

In 1978, the ACLU took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a neo-Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie , where many Holocaust survivors lived.

The opposing view has merit. Who decides? Nazis are barred, great, but the library director is uneasy with trans people, some patrons kind of freaked out, and it's been a controversy so the trans group has to meet elsewhere. Or the progressive Library Board says Girl Scouts are fine, but Boy Scouts are too religious. Or the regressive Library Board lets the Boy Scouts in, but the Wiccans can't meet. If there's a Wiccan scouting group, I want to join.

When it comes down to it, I want the courts to protect free speech fiercely, and if my library lets Nazis meet, I will be there with signs and a bullhorn and you better not shush my free speech. You just can't provide aid or support to Satan.
posted by theora55 at 10:53 AM on July 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Just because they eagerly call things "hate speech" does not oblige us to take the argument seriously.

No fucking shit. But if you could step outside happy Mefi Sartre-quoting land for just one minute and contemplate whether some jerkoff Billy-Graham-quoting library board in Middle-of-Nowhere might adopt this view and have the basic competence not to say out loud it's because they'd like the black/gay/Jewish/trans people chased out of their libraries. This is how nine million other discriminatory state actions have gotten by in the courts. I don't want to simplify the jurisprudence excessively, but, without some serious contradiction, courts are not generally eager to go beneath the professed motives of the government unit adopting a policy.
posted by praemunire at 10:57 AM on July 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


You will not have a problem with literal Nazis or KKK members--their organizations are dedicated to the violent destruction or subjugation of "inferior races" and so exclusion is likely to pass scrutiny.

Public libraries couldn't exclude them, either. The first amendment protects advocacy of illegal action. If they were excluded, they'd sue and they'd win.
posted by jpe at 11:01 AM on July 17, 2018


So, I see a couple of different issues here... One is the fact that hate groups can legally use public spaces. This is awful, but legal. I haven't seen any successful legal challenges to this, and seems settled law. So hate groups can, and always have been able to use the library to meet (I think, it seems). Just as they can march in the streets.

The second issue is that the ALA put forth a proclamation essentially inviting them in. Just because a city can't prevent the KKK from marching in it's streets doesn't mean that the mayor of the city can tell the KKK to fuck off and that they aren't welcome (even though they must be allowed). So it feels super-weird that the ALA put forth a statement explicitly saying that were allowed/invited. Even more than that is the fact that the wording of the statement was changed without notice to those that were voting on it. That's simply anti-democratic.

While I agree with those that say that viewpoint discrimination would (and has been) used against progressives, PoC, non-christians, et cetera... I am a supporter of the 1st amendment...
I also think that the ALA did it's members a disservice in the undemocratic and unethical way it's dealt with the resolution in question.

I feel like the ALA has some real issues they need to address, and honestly feel like the resolution that was passed doesn't have validity, insomuch it wasn't passed with its members understanding what was in the (secretly changed) wording of the proposal. If I was a member that voted on a resolution whose wording was changed at the last minute, I'd feel betrayed.
posted by el io at 11:05 AM on July 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Again, if the experience where I live is anything to go by, boards seem to just decide "okay, this is the new policy, etc" without ever engaging the employees on the front line or even asking the public. They literally have no skin in the game. Library boards tend to be older white people of all genders who offer the sop of saying they talked to the library employees or the public and it was all tickety-boo. (And then you find out they did no such thing.) Ask any librarian right now how they feel about the ALA saying "well, we have to let both sides have access." We already know how the public feels about this by this very thread.

If the ALA wants to allow Nazis in libraries, then I want them to be there at that location that day. I want the higher-ups to see how fucked up this is, and then come back with a statement that says, "Yeah, soz, fuuuuuuuck Nazis."
posted by Kitteh at 11:14 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


In 1978, the ACLU took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a neo-Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie , where many Holocaust survivors lived.

Yes, that would be the "demonstration" of freedom via defending an act of intimidation and terror I was talking about earlier. The ACLU fucked up with that case, and it's telling that when they made similar arguments around Charlottesville, they got slapped down hard.

But if you could step outside happy Mefi Sartre-quoting land for just one minute and contemplate whether some jerkoff Billy-Graham-quoting library board in Middle-of-Nowhere might adopt this view and have the basic competence not to say out loud it's because they'd like the black/gay/Jewish/trans people chased out of their libraries.

You mean like they would have anyway? Staying our hands doesn't stay theirs.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:16 AM on July 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


graventy : We already have people who try to use free spaces in antagonistic ways. This is basically just an advertisement to send more of them our way. Lovely, thanks!

Under US law, it is true that public libraries generally can't ban hate groups short of them harassing other patrons in the library itself. Given that fact, the ALA could have taken two tacks: concentrating on ways that librarians can try to protect their targets and keep the library a welcoming place for them. Or do smug self-backpatting bullshit about noble you are to allow "contentious discussions that lead to positive social change." I am so, so shocked that LaRue is an older white dude, who of course will remain untouched by groups discussing how he can be stripped of his rights and/or tortured and killed.

As for me, well, I just read James Nicoll's review of Neoreaction A Basilisk today, and he sums it up well: "I found it a welcome change from the punditry that regards monsters and fools as entitled to the same consideration as those they victimize."
posted by tavella at 11:18 AM on July 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


[One deleted; heated thread, try to engage more substantively than a dismissive one-liner, or just skip it. People are trying to actually talk about this thing that harms real people, and if you can't acknowledge the seriousness of that, it just looks like trolling.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:33 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


This has been already said in various ways already in this thread, but since I'm still in the World Cup vibe, I must say that

library must allow all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, unless there is an actual threat of disruption or violence

The 2018 World Cup had (one of the?) largest numbers of own goals in its history. And when I read the above I couldn't help but think that, since the definition of a hate group basically is that "there is an actual threat of disruption or violence" then that statement must be worse than any own goal during the entire 2018 World Cup.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:15 PM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


There are also numerous democratic governments in Europe that place restrictions on hate speech, and the sky has not fallen as far as general free speech in these countries. I don't think it is wise or beneficial to try to aggressively suppress all hate speech when it occurs, and my opinion is that in some of these countries the aggressive policing of hate speech has backfired

As far as I can tell there's no credible index or similar for free speech / suppression of hate speech, but there is one on press freedom, and that is bad news for the free speech absolutist US and good news for those free speech suppressing European countries...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:46 PM on July 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. If you can't see why people object to hate groups being allowed, which is described at length in the links and in the thread, then you're not engaging with other people's concern. If you just want to stir the pot, go elsewhere.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


You mean like they would have anyway? Staying our hands doesn't stay theirs.

In this case, it actually does. Under the current law, if Public Library X decided not to permit a group of blaspheming atheists whose rejection of Christianity and opposition to its proper role in public life makes believers feel unsafe to use the library community meeting space, the ACLU or similar group would sue on their behalf and they would almost certainly prevail. There is, of course, no particular reason for lay people (or, indeed, most lawyers past their year of Con Law in school; I'm certainly not holding myself out as an expert) to be familiar with the complex and contradictory case law on this subject, but that this approach protects everyone from this form of state action (obviously, not from the legitimate harms people are identifying above) is not a subtle or tricky point. "Staying our hands doesn't stay theirs" only works as a basis for action when it's correct. If you don't think it through first, you may end up punching yourself in the face.

Public libraries couldn't exclude them, either. The first amendment protects advocacy of illegal action. If they were excluded, they'd sue and they'd win.

It's actually an interesting question, because it's not just a question of general "advocacy of illegal action." There is not generally a 1A problem with evicting patrons who are actually threatening other patrons or staff. It could be argued that the government has a compelling interest in protecting the safety of people on public property, and refusing to give meeting space to a group explicitly committed to violence against groups into which other patrons or staff are likely to fall could be sufficiently narrowly tailored and the least restrictive means of achieving that interest. I don't know if there's ever been a case close enough on point. Maybe someone else does. (This is different from other "illegal action"--say, drug legalization groups--because they don't implicate the same interest.)

(Library meeting spaces are what are known as "designated" or "limited" public forums. Viewpoint discrimination is subject to strict scrutiny in such spaces. A "designated public forum" may restrict who enters it--e.g., a university space open only to students--but viewpoint restriction masquerading as person restriction is unlikely to pass muster.)

I do think it's fair to critique the tone or approach of the ALA resolution. To me, this is an evil I think is worth putting up with to avoid the risk of even greater evils, not something to celebrate or treat as a matter of moral courage.
posted by praemunire at 3:11 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Under the current law, if Public Library X decided not to permit a group of blaspheming atheists whose rejection of Christianity and opposition to its proper role in public life makes believers feel unsafe to use the library community meeting space, the ACLU or similar group would sue on their behalf and they would almost certainly prevail.

Yes, that's what would ideally happen. Well, I mean ideally they wouldn't be barred in the first place unless they were advocating violence against Christians or something. But how often does a member of a marginalized group get denied access to a public space and then go to the ACLU and then get the ACLU to sue?

Not being either an American or a librarian I can only speculate, but is respect for the law/fear of consequences really what's holding the bigots who are in charge of libraries back? Are they indeed actually holding back? Around here anyway it seems like for every one "incident" that makes it to a court of law or the Human Rights Commission there are many others that go unnoticed, unpunished. The law doesn't seem to stop a hell of a lot of racism/sexism/homophobia already, so I'd be surprised, but I'll defer to experts in the US on this.
posted by ODiV at 3:37 PM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised, and a little dismayed, that only one comment touches upon the rights of library workers to not have to deal with this shit at their job. In addition to the message it sends to other members of the library community, what about library staff?
Do they have to encounter violent groups advocating against their existence at work? For all the talk and work ALA and other orgs are doing to improve diversity and inclusion in the profession, this really sends a different message.
posted by kendrak at 9:40 PM on July 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


I am not a librarian but have heard enough stories of the shit librarians have to take already because it's a public building, like being abused by clientele, people doing disgusting things in the bathrooms, etc. So I get the feeling that librarians do NOT have any rights to not have to deal with bad people. This seems right in line with that. A friend of mine works in a college library and says that's why she couldn't work in a public one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:14 PM on July 17, 2018


The post on the OIF blog now includes a timeline of how the change was made before and during the annual conference. Of note, this timeline includes the various draft versions of the paragraph in question.
posted by metaquarry at 11:30 AM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


ODiV: But how often does a member of a marginalized group get denied access to a public space and then go to the ACLU and then get the ACLU to sue?

There have been a couple of recent ACLU challenges to the viewpoint-based exclusion of users critical of certain government officials from said officials' public-facing social media pages. There was also a case in 1999 where the Salt Lake City Council attempted to allow the LDS to suppress all other viewpoints but its own in a section of Main Street as part of a public easement. The council got around the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling against them in 2003 by exchanging the Main Street Plaza easement for LDS-owned land and funds to build a community center elsewhere in the city. That suit was brought "on behalf of the First Unitarian Church, Utahns for Fairness, and the Utah National Organization for Women."

The ACLU also sent a letter to the City of Escondido, CA in 2008 on behalf of a local association of mobile homeowners, arguing that the city's policy of charging higher fees to "political and religious groups" was unconstitutional viewpoint-based discrimination. Apparently it worked, as Escondido's facility fee structure no longer mentions political or religious viewpoints.

Although the ACLU weren't the ones to sue regarding a small town in Mississippi initially rejecting a permit application for their first Pride Parade on February 20 of this year (Starkville Pride did that), they did issue a statement critical of the decision within a day, and the town council reversed itself at its next meeting two weeks later.

I'm not sure I can say exactly how often the ACLU defends the rights of marginalized groups to speak in public forums, but I can say it's at least this much, and probably more.
posted by skoosh at 1:40 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


April Hathcock, a librarian who regularly writes and speaks about diversity, racism, feminism and intersectionality in libraries and librarianship, and an ALA Councilor, has a blog post giving her perspective. Y'all should go read it.
posted by kendrak at 2:04 PM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


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