Sunday, September 07, 2008

Guns don't kill people, books do

Sarah Palin wanted to fire her town librarian when she was mayor, because the librarian wouldn't help her ban books. Bringing up this fact has the Palindrone blogosphere furious: it's a smear campaign to mention the mayor's effort to fire her librarian. But Palindrones should be pleased and proud: Palin stands in the Ashcroft-Gonzalez tradition, after all: everyone should have the right to own many guns, and gun ownership should be completely unregulated. But we need to know who is reading what and we need to have the full force of law to investigate readers and even imprison them for reading.
I think this proves conclusively that if the pen is not mightier than the sword, the word processor is at least more threatening to the Republic than the gun.

And the failure to read is a big threat to the Republic as well. I'm not talking just about an informed citizenry, but what happens to us when the citizens are illiterate. 85 percent of juvenile offenders are functionally illiterate. And in many states, such as California, the department of corrections projects the number of prison beds it will need ten years down the road based on how many kids entering fourth grade CANNOT READ at grade level. Read or go to jail, if you are an inner-city youth. Read and go to jail if you live under the Patriot Act. I have no answers, only a deep sense of outrage. If you know what to do, go do it. As Mario Savio said, there are times when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, that you must put your body on the gears. Are we at that point?





Sara Paretsky

51 comments:

Libby Hellmann said...

It's interesting that of all the people whom Palin tried to fire in her swath of political retribution, the librarian kept her job. Maybe that's because Palin knew the blowback would be untenable.

Librarians are truly the guardians of free speech as well as the few shreds of privacy we have left. Their courage in standing up to the PAtriot Act (just ask your librarian what she or he does) should be a model for other types of civil disobedience.

Sobering statistics, Sara.

Btw, this is a must read.

Doug Chambers said...

What happened to this blog? I used to come here to read about authors and writing and crime fiction.

If I want content like this, I'll go to Blue Voice or Huffington.

It's so odd how the Internet has given people the false sense that they all have (and deserve) a pulpit.

Dana King said...

Doug,
You mean like the "pulpit" you just took advantage of?

Anonymous said...

Very scary statistics.

And thank you for using this blog to do more than just promote books. (Although I am very excited to get the new VI novel the very first second I can next year.)

Doug Chambers doesn't speak for all of us. :)

Kelly

the Bag Lady said...

Gee, I come to this blog to read what intelligent people have to say about life in general....as well as for a glimpse into what's on their minds when they are not writing fiction.
Being Canadian, I don't feel qualified to comment on American politics, but find it interesting to hear how The Outfit feels about things.
Thanks for blogging, Sara (et al) - and carry on blogging about whatever the hell you want!

Anonymous said...

Doug said: I used to come here to read about authors and writing...

Censorship is about stopping authors from writing the books they want to write, and stopping readers from having access to the writing of those authors.

Or am I missing something?

Judy Bobalik said...

FYI

http://www.snopes.com/politics/palin/bannedbooks.asp

Sara Paretsky said...

Judy, you're right that the list t hat's been circulated is bogus, but not both her interest in banning "objectionable" titles--nor her effort to fire the librarian for not being "enthusiastic" en ough in her support of the mayor.

Geno Petro said...

The librarian is always the last person you'd suspect...

Anonymous said...

Done here. Leave politics out of it. Keep your politics to yourself. Promoting one political philosophy over another alienates half your readership. Not coming back and not interested in your writing now. Too bad it affects the authors here.

Libby Hellmann said...

And now for Something Completely Different, check this out.

Maryann Mercer said...

Given the fact that the banning of books has everything to do with writing and writers, I'm happy to see Ms.Palin's efforts chronicled here and see nothing wrong with discussing the matter. I for one enjoy the diversity of the subjects tendered here. It's an indication of how involved these authors are in real life issues, a trait that can only enhance their writing. Good words, Sarah...and Libby, thanks for the chuckle :o)

Anonymous said...

I hate the whole "Shut up and sing/act/blog about your books" attitude directed at famous people. (And yes, Sara, I consider you a household name--at least in the well-read households.)

It's your blog; why shouldn't you be able to discuss whatever is on your mind?

Kelly

Sara Paretsky said...

Thanks for all these comments. It is a writers/readers blog. And maybe it's a place where we all get exposed to views we don't share--not so easy in these days where most of us--including me--segment ourselves into reading or hearing news that best fits our views. When I wrote my third book, twenty years ago, my editor at William Morrow told me to remove a subplot about anti-abortion activists, because the parent company, Hearst, was afraid of anti-abortion boycotts. I gave into that censorship, and it's been kind of a boil on my conscience ever since. If we readers and writers don't stand up for our libraries, our own texts, other people's texts, then pretty soon we will have the kind of books that helped make Stalin's Russia a desert in every way. Librarians in this country have gone to prison in the last few years for protecting reader' rights. So thanks to Kelly, Mary Ann and others who have added your voices to our right to speak/write/read.

ab said...

But Sara, I remember an anti-abortionistplot in one of your books? I even remember some of the lines.

As I have read it, Palin asked this librarian how she would feel about removing books - without mentioning any titles. The horrified librarian replied she was going to follow the general guidelines for libraries, as always - a no, of course. After she had assured Palin of her loyalty, she was allowed to stay. The librarian is now working elsewhere and has refused to comment - which is a comment in itself.

Writers should not discuss politicians' attempts to censor them? Ridiculous.

Anyone who can speak out now, should - or you may be forced to forever hold you silence.

savvymegs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
savvymegs said...

^^It didn't post the other one correctly.

I started reading this blog because I'm a big fan of the VI books and am now hoping to get some of the books by the other authors. I also appreciate reading about the politics, and it seems to me that the issue of libraries censoring reading material is incredibly relevant to authors. So, it seems like this is an odd post to begin to attack over politics. Perhaps the people in question are Palin supporters.

Anyways, I'm not an author, but I enjoy reading along - especially about the politics. If you have a platform, in these times, use it! My vote is keep up the good work!

Picks By Pat said...

The post should also remind us that funding for libraries is not growing, and in many communities, actually shrinking. If we want our youth to grow up and become productive members of the community, we have to get them to read. We should be building more libraries instead of more prisons. If prison officials can make such projections based on reading statistics, isn't the answer to promote our libraries?

We must be ever vigilant against attacks on books in the local library. But cutting the budget for libraries can be worse than banning books, because it happens without any fanfare.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind at all that Sara discusses her political views on this blog. What does bother me, though, is that both conservative and liberal bloggers tend to exaggerate in order to bolster their views. Sara, you wrote: “Librarians in this country have gone to prison in the last few years for protecting reader's rights.” A quick search on the web reveals no stories of librarians having gone to prison in this country (there were a couple I found in Cuba and China). If there is an example, I'd like to hear about it. But I'm skeptical.

And before condemning Sarah Palin, I'd like to have more information beyond what is in the Time magazine article. The article says: “...but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving 'full support' to the mayor.” Is this a claim that the librarian herself made? Or that the reporter made? Do we have any actual records or corroborating witnesses? I'd prefer some more information.

Sara Paretsky said...

Dear anonymous, Four Connecticut librarians were held for several weeks about two years ago for consulting the library's attorney when they were served with a National Security Letter that demanded they turn over their circulation records. While a court ultimately gave them the right to counsel, it was the U.S. government that aggressively pushed prosecution. Under FISA and PATRIOT law, librarians are not supposed to have the right to counsel when the government comes calling

Anonymous said...

No wonder Doug doesn't like discussion of censorship. If his reaction to a blog discussion about censorship is to say "Shut up!" Then obviously he's not against censorship -- as long as we only censor the things he doesn't like.

Rob said...

The truth hurts, I guess. Don't let the door hit ya in the ass, Doug.

Anonymous said...

Sara- Thanks for the info about the four librarians. I had not heard of the case and just looked up the NY Times article on the internet. There is no mention of them being jailed, though, only threatened with prosecution if they violated a gag order about the request for records. Do you have additional information that says they actually went to prison?

And that brings up the obvious question, how far can the government go in order to prevent terrorist attacks? Obviously I share the concerns about government spying, big brother, etc. But I also want authorities somehow monitoring extremist groups who may be plotting terrorist attacks. Where is the line? I'm not sure I know the answer myself.

Dana King said...

As for how far government should go when monitoring extremist groups, let's remember one thing: elected officials swear an oath to "protect and defent the CONSTITUTION of the United States." We've done all right with protecting the people for over 200 years, while generally coloring inside the lines. For government to say these extraordinary times require extraordinary measures is an excuse for rights violations, not a reason.

savvymegs said...

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin

Doug Chambers said...

I never said I was for censorship or to not talk about it. And I did not make the anonymous comment.

Obviously, my comment touched deep insecurities in several of you. To take my comment and turn it into something it was not is sad. I feel bad for those of you who did it.

For the uneducated: I commented on the fact of how this blog - which used to have a ratio of about 1 political post for every six or eight posts about writing or reading or Chicago, has now reversed itself.

I'm sure with an election weeks away, the posters of this blog will be hammering us with their political views. They have every right. I was simply stating that if I wanted to read that type of content I would go somewhere else. I came here for writing and reading posts, but apparently, I no longer need to.

And just as everyone here has a right to their opinion, I have a right to mine, and merely expressed it. Again, it is sad the insecurity level is so high among this blog's readership.

I am sorry my one comment in two years of reading here made so many so nervous.

Marcus Sakey said...

Late to jump in, but I did want to say--Doug, I hope you will come back. Dissenting opinions, even on the choices of topics that we post on, are welcome here.

That said, you're likely right--given the upcoming elections and the fact that all of us are rather passionate about our politics, chances are, yeah, there will be more posts on this topic.

If that kills your interest, I regret to see you go. But the point of the blog is to provide a place for us to talk about the things that are on our mind, and to open that discussion to others. Sometimes that will be writing; sometimes crime; sometimes it will be movies. This isn't a paid endeavor, so you'll just have to be understanding.

Sean Chercover said...

I suppose I should also comment, as I'm one of the 'Outfitters' who recently made a political post.

When we started The Outfit, our primary mission was to blog about writing, crime, and Chicago (or any combination thereof). And that's what we do. But sometimes, we talk about other things that are on our minds.

With an election upon us, it isn't unreasonable that politics is on our minds right now. And an argument could be made (especially for those with a Chicago perspective) that writing about politics is writing about crime.

"There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." -Mark Twain

Whatever we blog about, we welcome all (civil) comments, even (or especially) by people who disagree with us. We enjoy the exchange of ideas from different viewpoints. We are not threatened by reading opinions that differ from our own.

Frankly, we don't even agree with each other all the time.

For example, I don't have much use for the notion of banning guns. I used to carry a gun for my job. I don't think that guns are inherently evil. Furthermore, I think prohibition is useless as a matter of public policy. We tried it with alcohol, and all it did was make violent criminals very rich and very powerful. We're trying it with drugs now, and the results are equally disastrous. The cities with outright gun bans (Chicago and Washington DC) have the highest rates of gun violence.

I'll resist further explanation of my position on gun policy; I don't want to start a second amendment argument here. My point is, while some of my fellow Outfit bloggers disagree with me, we are all good people with good intentions for our nation. We all want what's best, but we sometimes see different ways of getting there.

If you see a post that expresses an opinion contrary to your own, that is not a cause for upset.

Jump in, and (civilly) express yourself. That's what we're here for.

Or, ignore the posts that don't interest you, and know that you are always welcome to come back and comment on those posts that do interest you.

Doug - you came here and commented using your own name, and I respect that. I hope you'll return.

Leonard T. Carruthers said...

My interest in reading the political thoughts---right, left or head-up-the-ass---of mystery authors is approximately equal to my interest in reading the mystery novels of politicians. (Speaking of which, has anyone tried Newt's books?) I don't especially care what the guy who lives down the street, the newspaper delivery boy, the cute woman who works at my local Starbucks, or random strangers on the street think about the subject either. We all have our gifts. But we don't all have all gifts.

ab said...

Leonard T. Carruthers said...

My interest in reading the political thoughts---right, left or head-up-the-ass---of mystery authors is approximately equal to my interest in reading the mystery novels of politicians.

-----

Not quite comparable, since politics is something that concerns everyone, while fiction novels (alas! since I write them) are not.

Sean Chercover said...

Yes, and if thinking and talking about politics is now considered a "gift" that only special people have, our democracy is in serious trouble.

A free democratic republic is built upon the idea of informed and engaged citizens who contribute to the national dialogue and get involved with the political process.

"Gifts", indeed.

Leonard T. Carruthers said...

There is thinking about political subjects---and then there is donning the hat of the pundit and thinking one's thoughts and analyses are important enough to share with one's readers. It's not a question of whether one has the RIGHT to do so. It's a question of whether the would-be pundit is skilled, educated, informed about the subject and whether the audience is interested. I know that it's a blow to the ego of anyone to be told that their opinions aren't really that interesting---think how I feel when I hear it from my own kids!---but there is nothing wrong with sticking to one's strengths. Writing detective novels is a wonderful way to use one's creative energies. That doesn't mean one has to appoint herself gadfly as well. A degree in creative writing and a blog does not an expert political commentator make.

Sean Chercover said...

True enough... but I don't think anyone here considers him/herself a "pundit". This place is more like a water cooler. We're just folks, citizens engaging in conversation, you know, like people do. One of us starts the conversation with a post, then we all talk about it.

And I, for one, do care about the political opinions of my fellow citizens, not just those anointed as "pundits".

Sara Paretsky said...

I'm not sure who in our blog might have a degree in creative writing--we didn't ask for credentials when we got together. My own advanced degrees are a PhD in US political/intellectual history and an MBA in finance. But I think all Americans, whether like me they have as many degrees as a dog has fleas, or whether they stopped at the 8th grade, should feel passionately about attacks on free speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to be free from unwarranted search and seizure in our homes. These are our core freedoms. they affect us as readers, as writers, as citizens.

ab said...

So I guess Leonard just wanted to say he is bored with the political blogs here, because that's not what he came for. I think that's a perfectly legitimate thing to tell. But, if you'll allow me to say so, this is the blog of these authors and they bring up whatever interests them - which, mostly, has SOME connection to book-writing and mysteries. Sometimes not.

This presidential election has everything to do with book-writing, in my opinion. This election is very much about the freedom to speak and research and communicate, and the freedom to privacy.

Chapman said...

Doug– Don't flatter yourself. You haven't made anyone nervous.
Leonard– You'd be surprised what can be learned by listening to your neighbors and children, and even fiction writers. 90 percent of what radio talk show hosts tell you is a lie, 70 percent of what the current crop of candidates tell you is a lie and 50 percent of all statistics are made up. Didn't Diogenes spend his life looking for a credentialed pundit. I don't think you can make an informed decision without doing your own research and that means seeking out info from reliable news agencies– Reuters, BBC, AP, etc. A lazy electorate gets what it deserves. You can, however, engage in discussions with your fellow citizens, who have opinions, just like you, just like us, just like fiction writers.
More Palin book ban blogs–
http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6593199.html
http://librariansagainstpalin.wordpress.com/

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