December 29, 2013
A bunch of people on my twitter feed were (rightly) up in arms about this critique of the ALA’s new Code of Conduct by some guy I’m guessing is well known? I don’t really know who he is (nor do I particularly care at this point).
One one level, it is always sad to see a librarian who doesn’t know how to google of find sources.1 On the other, more depressing level, it is always sad to see yet-another-d00d act as if his unfounded opinions are a) novel or otherwise interesting and b) that men like him show a horrifying inability to perceive moral differences between positions in their quest for liberal values.
There is so much to discuss about his post, but I find I don’t have the energy for most of it, since the ALA’s policy is already in place and all his whining isn’t going to make it go away.
I do want to point out how his first major concern, interestingly, largely targets trans people (or some gender non-conforming people). He makes the rather fallacious assumption that just because he is too ignorant and lazy to look up what ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ means, everyone else is too.
Bill C-279, the so-called ‘trans rights bill’ defines Gender Identity as:
“gender identity” means, in respect of an individual, the individual’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex that the individual was assigned at birth. source
Now, to a certain extent, ‘gender identity’ still remains a contested term, but so does ‘race,’ ‘religion,’ ‘disability,’ etc. More importantly, he seems to not realize that the flexibility and openness inherent to these terms is actually a good thing as it allows the law to keep up with modern re/definitions of the terms.
His attempt to play willfully ignorant isn’t very cute, either. “Other groups” is too vague, according to him, because it could possibly cover skinheads or the Rotary Club. Which, of course, most sensible people would look at the list, notice that all the mentioned groups/categories have something in common and apply this commonality to other groups.
Last, he really seems to be majorly confused about what the ALA is, what with his talk of the ‘First Amendment’ and ‘due process.’
For Canada, at least, the right to free speech only applies to government censorship. So, as far as his comment about the ALA suing the federal government… well, this isn’t actually inconsistent with them, as non-governmental organization, having a code of conduct for conferences – which aren’t even open to the public. Moreover, the grounds of specifically prohibited behaviours are, again in Canada, the same grounds that apply to hate speech restrictions on free speech. Given that unregulated free speech demonstrable reduces free speech, it is really hard to understand his constantly repetition of ‘free speech’ in the comments. One would think that being such an advocate, he’d be supported equal access to this right.
The ‘due process’ part usually applies to law enforcement and other parts of the justice system. And his hyperbolic pearl clutching doesn’t help his case in the slightest.
Imagine Howard Stern being arrested by law enforcement at an ALA conference for saying the seven words you cannot say on radio
Okay. But why would law enforcement get involved? This isn’t a crime. However, things like sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, stalking, threatening people, etc. Or even things like discrimination based on one of the named categories…2 He appears to be saying that illegal activities shouldn’t be reported to the police and, if they are, this is somehow violating ‘due process.’
In any case, buddy, no need to get hysterical about it.