The Dim-Post

April 8, 2015

To train a censorship debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:33 am

The discussion about ‘How to Train a Child’ – the book in Auckland Library that instructs parents to beat children under one year of age with a ‘willowy branch’ – seems to focus on people being ‘offended’ by the book. And of course no book should be removed from the library just because it offends someone. There is no right not to be offended. But infants do have a right not to be beaten with sticks, and children have a right not to be tortured to death – which is what’s happened to some of the children whose parents’ have followed the advice of this book – and that seems like a right libraries should uphold, not undermine.

60 Comments »

  1. “…children have a right not to be tortured to death – which is what’s happened to some of the children whose parents have followed the advice of this book”. Tell me more.

    Comment by Mark — April 8, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  2. But infants do have a right not to be beaten with sticks, and children have a right not to be tortured to death – which is what’s happened to some of the children whose parents’ have followed the advice of this book – and that seems like a right libraries should uphold, not undermine.

    I definitely think people should uphold the right of children not be tortured, but I’m fine with libraries focussing their energies on upholding freedom of expression.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 8, 2015 @ 10:46 am

  3. There’s most likely quite a few books in libraries that could inspire people to do unpleasant things.

    Comment by NeilM — April 8, 2015 @ 11:54 am

  4. To me the issue isn’t one of offence, but to what extent the library is perceived to give credibility to the books it contains. I’m on the fence on this one. I think books of all kinds should be available, including nutty ones, but I also worry that many people won’t get much guidance about which books are more reliable. It’s a tough one.

    Comment by Stephen J — April 8, 2015 @ 11:59 am

  5. @Graeme, a book advising parents to beat their children is effectively advising them to commit a crime, is it not? Is that also covered by freedom of expression?

    I wonder what all those people on the right who are outraged by this attempt of censorship would say if a book on how to grow marihuana in your back yard was included in the library.

    Comment by eszett — April 8, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

  6. People who want to beat their children with a stick aren’t going to be going to a library to learn how. That’s what the internet’s for.

    Comment by NeilM — April 8, 2015 @ 12:08 pm

  7. I don’t think anyone is ripping into free speech rights if they simply question the wisdom of the library allocating its limited purchasing budget to a book that advocates whacking babies with a stick. The public has every right to question the libary’s purchasing decision here and “upholding freedom of expression” is hardly an answer, I’d say. Nor is the fact that 10 people have checked it out. Calling for it to be removed from the shelves does take things a step further, but it’s still not much of a free speech issue, given that the entire book is available for free online, and I don’t think anyone’s free speech rights extend to requiring a library to stock their preferences. I haven’t read the book, but if there is some serious chance that it actually incites harm, then that comes close to the sort of justification that theorists would accept as a limitation on speech anyway. The real issue is what responsible custodians of a public information resource would make available. There seems a fair case that it doesn’t include this book. Talking about “upholding freedom of expression” rather muddies the water here, Graeme.

    Comment by Steven Price — April 8, 2015 @ 12:16 pm

  8. There is something about the nature of the book, though. This is not a literary depiction of child abuse, or a journalistic description of child abuse (which are both legitimate, and potentially very important, things to be able to express). It’s explicitly presented as a manual. So it’s not just something which describes child abuse, it explicitly encourages it. Danyl’s dead right in that the issue here is not whether people may take offence, but that the library is facilitating access to material which actively encourages criminal assault upon children (with the disclaimer that obviously I haven’t read it, but this is the clear impression given in the various reports).

    The other aspect is that while it’s true that the library may want to stock everything available and not restrict access to any particular kind of literature, since they have a finite acquisitions budget they have to make choices about what they stock. So why this particular book, rather than another? It seems an odd choice.

    Comment by Dr Foster — April 8, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

  9. I think you’d have to look at the overall pattern of purchase expenditure to get a sense of whether resource allocation is an issue with buying this particular book.

    It’s probably just one book amongst many so the cost isn’t likely to be significant.

    Comment by NeilM — April 8, 2015 @ 12:23 pm

  10. Children are tortured to death quite often, but those responsible usually aren’t big readers.

    Comment by Gareth — April 8, 2015 @ 1:08 pm

  11. That’s a pretty silly line of reasoning, NeilM.
    All books cost money of which the library has a finite amount. Therefore every purchase is a resource allocation decision predicated on the acquisitions policy of the institution and presumably a number of factors such as popularity, cultural significance, potential revenues etc.

    I’d be interested to see how this particular item met the library’s acquisitions policy.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 8, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

  12. @Dr Foster It’s explicitly presented as a manual.

    Doesn’t mean it is read as a manual or stocked by the library as a manual. It’s also an example of a genre of thinking. Therefore, stocked by the library so that the public can inform themselves about the kinds of things some people believe.

    Much the same way that the library stocks books about Scientology (or Christianity or Islam or Buddhism or Capitalism or Socialism, etc). Not because the library is trying to convert the public to a particular ideology, but because the library is allowing the public to inform themselves about the ideas/beliefs of other people.

    You have to look at it in the context of the whole library collection. I’m sure that there are plenty of other books that explain why it is a bad idea to beat children.

    Comment by RJL — April 8, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

  13. Yeah, but even if this book’s presence in the library only leads to, like, an 0.1% percent increase in child torture and murder, that doesn’t seem like a big win for freedom of expression.

    Comment by danylmc — April 8, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

  14. @danylmc “…only leads to, like, an 0.1% percent increase in child torture and murder…

    So, we should also edit all copies of Hamlet so that Ophelia “accidentally drowns”?

    Comment by RJL — April 8, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

  15. I’ve just done a token search of the Wellington Central Library and despite a heap of Famous Five and Secret Seven and Magic Faraway (“hurry up with those sandwiches, girls, I’m starving!” Tree titles by Enid Blyton, I still can’t see any Noddy books, either original versions or golliwog-purged versions. Is this likely to be just because nobody’s asked for them?

    Comment by izogi — April 8, 2015 @ 1:28 pm

  16. So, we should also edit all copies of Hamlet so that Ophelia “accidentally drowns”?

    Nope. Because that would be to desecrate a great work of art, so the consequence of that kind of editing would be bad. Is there value in the “How to Train a Child” text such that it warrants a 0.1% percent increase in child torture and murder?

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

  17. Hope there are none of those manuals for life like the Bible or the Koran in the library otherwise the Sisters for Perpetual Offense will get really upset. Whipping your kid is just the start with those books.

    Comment by insider — April 8, 2015 @ 1:53 pm

  18. Of course, insider, by the same token you Brothers of Universal Tolerance are quite OK with Auckland Library stocking “The Child Swappers”. Seeing as you are above making judgments on the content of books.

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 2:05 pm

  19. Not if it upsets some people’s sensibilities and might possibly lead to a0.1% chance that someone in some other country might do something stupid and blame it on the book. That would be more than society could bear.

    Comment by insider — April 8, 2015 @ 2:22 pm

  20. Insider – the library did make a point of noting that the book was in the Religious section rather than the Parenting one, so they may well have decided it had the same value as the other fairy stories.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 8, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

  21. Quite right, insider! All information must be free and the possible consequences of making it so should not be something we ever consider. Which is why you personally support pedophilia being freely available on the Auckland Libraries’ shelves.

    (Just as we’re playing the “take an argument and push it to its furthest extremes” game, of course. Or, alternatively, we could stop doing so and get back on the issue at hand.)

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 2:34 pm

  22. insider +1
    We’d need to ensure no Dexter, no Breaking Bad, no no no.

    “Is there value in the “How to Train a Child” text such that it warrants a 0.1% percent increase in child torture and murder?”
    We should get rid of cars, it’d do wonders for our road toll. I suspect if you look at all our child murders and (non-sexual) serious abuse in NZ, most have to do with deprivation and poverty rather than religious fundamentalism?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — April 8, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

  23. “pedophilia being freely available on the Auckland Libraries’ shelves.”
    Sheesh, good one. But I suspect there’s some texts on the matter in there somewhere, and perhaps a DVD copy of Broadchurch?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — April 8, 2015 @ 2:40 pm

  24. There are quite a few odd books that find their way into the Auckland Public Libraries, to be honest. Sticking to a subject I can claim to know a little about, I recently discovered that they hold quite a large number of highly-controversial books about Islam, including works by notorious anti-Muslim polemicists Mark A. Gabriel PhD (never trust a man who needs to flout his PhD on a book cover), Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, Rebecca Bynum, and Ibn Warraq. None of these are works of scholarship or even reasonably-reliable guides to Muslim history and beliefs, which is why the number of them in the library system (and the paucity of really good scholarly works on the history of Islam) really surprised me.

    Much as I’d like to think that there’s some conspiracy to stack the shelves of New Zealand’s public libraries with Islamophobic screeds, I suspect the truth is simply that the acquisitions policy of the city libraries is guided more by publicity and price than by expertise. It would be nice to have expert subject-librarians who could ensure that only works by reputable authors made their way onto the shelves, but in truth it’s probably unreasonable to expect libraries to do more than judge books by their covers. And do we really want libraries acting as the gate-keepers of knowledge anyway? Is social responsibility really part of a library’s remit in choosing which publications to make available? And doesn’t the logic of the market ultimately dictate that libraries should spend public money on popular-but-unreliable books rather than worthy-but-unread ones?

    On the whole I’m not much more outraged by the presence of highly unreliable books about child-rearing than I am about books of questionable authority on any other subject. Moreover I’m not sure that I think the likely-consequences of reading a book that encourages parents to beat their kids are necessarily worse than books that denigrate or misrepresent the beliefs of other groups. I think it is improbable that there are children in New Zealand who would go unbeaten if not for the authority of Micahel and Debi Pearl, and even if there are then the responsibility still rests with the parents themselves, and not with a library that is seemingly (and perhaps properly) undiscriminating in the literature it chooses to make available to its members.

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — April 8, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

  25. 14.Yeah, but even if this book’s presence in the library only leads to, like, an 0.1% percent increase in child torture and murder, that doesn’t seem like a big win for freedom of expression.

    Yeah, but even if this book’s presence in the library only leads to, like, an 0.1% decrease in child torture and murder, that doesn’t seem like a big win for censorship.

    Comment by unaha-closp — April 8, 2015 @ 2:50 pm

  26. @Clunking Fist,

    We should get rid of cars, it’d do wonders for our road toll.

    Yes. It would. But it would have heavier downside costs in terms of making it a lot harder for everyone to live their lives. So we shouldn’t do it.

    You’re making the elementary mistake of assuming those arguing for not stocking this book are only focused on the negatives of doing so and have failed to account for the positives of having it on the shelf. But what are those positives? Why is having this book available for public lending “a good thing”? And make sure your answer doesn’t just collapse into “’cause free speech!”, otherwise you’ll have to explain why you are going to distinguish this text from a “how to” guide on pedophilia … or else justify why that sort of book also shouldn’t be available on library shelves.

    Sheesh, good one.

    Better than your “banning this book is like taking all cars off the road” analogy? Thanks!

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

  27. The library buys a lot of books, how much would it cost to have censorship regime capable of avoiding the possibility for someone on twitter to make a spurious, statistically unjustifiable claim that something bad might happen 0.01% of the time? How many librarian jobs is that going to cost? How many book purchases should we forgo? How many opening hours shall we cut?

    Censorship costs money, paranoid censorship costs lots of money.

    Comment by unaha-closp — April 8, 2015 @ 3:02 pm

  28. In case you missed it flashing, the only one playing that game is you with your mentions of child swapping and paedophilia. Nice attempt to bait and switch.

    Comment by insider — April 8, 2015 @ 3:03 pm

  29. The answer to this question is, of course, that this censorship/freedom of expression thing is an inexact thing. Presumably that is why we have taken the time and expense to create a corps of trained librarians.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 8, 2015 @ 3:05 pm

  30. In case you missed it flashing, the only one playing that game is you with your mentions of child swapping and paedophilia. Nice attempt to bait and switch.

    Well, if you want to throw around terms like Sisters for Perpetual Offence and suggest that if this book is going to be taken off the shelf then the Bible and the Koran will go next, you can’t get too precious when people push you on just how far your tolerance goes. Or do slippery slopes only travel in one direction?

    But now we’re back on topic – what is your positive defence of allowing this text on the Auckland Libraries’ shelves, above and beyond bland platitudes of “free speech, mmmkay?”

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 3:08 pm

  31. I’m equally parts amused that Danyl has made an appeal to the great authority Disney, and afraid that he’ll have all copies of A Clockwork Orange burnt before I can get to read it.

    Comment by Robert Singers — April 8, 2015 @ 3:11 pm

  32. Censorship costs money, paranoid censorship costs lots of money.

    Oh, sure. There are limits to what libraries can (and should) do to vet new additions to their collections. But still:

    (1) This book’s central purpose is to serve as a “how to” manual to “train” children using methods that are illegal in New Zealand (and were illegal at the time the library bought it in 2012);
    (2) The controversy over the book’s methods was pretty widely known at the time (a google search would have uncovered this, for instance: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2011/10/03/did_the_disturbing_philosophy_of_how_to_train_up_a_child_lead_to.html);
    (3) Buying this meant something else didn’t get bought – it had a “free speech” cost attached to it.

    Given all that, I’m perfectly happy to say that it was a mistake to add it to the collection.

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 3:19 pm

  33. Flashing

    Given the way you seem to be able to attribute arguments to me that I didn’t make, it’s probably more productive to allow you to keep on arguing with your own extreme straw men. It helps though, if you read a full thread rather than reacting to a post out of context.

    Comment by insider — April 8, 2015 @ 3:23 pm

  34. @Robert Singers – the movie is better.

    @Flashing Light – it allows general people to see the book. These books are available and even encouraged within some small part of society. If one of your relatives is practicing this sort of discipline and justifying it through reference to this book it is helpful for you to understand what is going on so you can assist your family. Without access to this book you would be less able to empathise with your family members plight and less able to provide assistance.

    Comment by unaha-closp — April 8, 2015 @ 3:30 pm

  35. Oh, I did insider. There was a debate going on about the desirability of having this particular book on the Auckland Libraries’ shelves. You jumped in with a snarky jibe at “the Sisters for Perpetual Offence” and the implication that if anyone wanted to see this book removed, then they’d also want the Bible and Koran removed, too. Then, when asked why your apparent tolerance of this book didn’t likewise mean that you supported pedophilia texts being placed on library shelves (slippery slope arguments being something you introduced into the thread) and asked what was your positive defence of the book in question, you took a huff and stormed off.

    So, let’s reset the debate – I’ll foreswear any extreme analogies, you do so to, and instead set out why you think it is a good thing for this book to be on the shelves of the Auckland Libraries.

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

  36. If one of your relatives is practicing this sort of discipline and justifying it through reference to this book it is helpful for you to understand what is going on so you can assist your family. Without access to this book you would be less able to empathise with your family members plight and less able to provide assistance.

    Great! Now we’ve something to work with.

    So the “good” of having this book on the shelves is that there may be somewhere out there a family where the advice in this book has led one member to beat her/his kids with a plastic pipe and starve them because they won’t eat the foods the parent wants, which still has a good enough relationship to allow for “assistance” to try and stop the parent from doing so, but not good enough that the family can’t talk to the perpetrator about why she/he is acting like they are (so obviating the need to go to the book as a source), and anyway we expect the family to work it out on their own rather than bring in any trained/professional outsiders.

    Against the “bad” that some parents get this book out and start doing what it tells them that they should do.

    Which is the more likely outcome?

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

  37. @Flashing Light: Against the “bad” that some parents get this book out and start doing what it tells them that they should do.

    Don’t be ridiculous. No naïve parent is going to casually get this particular book out of the library and then follow exactly what it says. No parent is really that isolated. A parent following the advice of this book is going to be part of a cultural/religious/family/other group which considers these sorts of practices appropriate. And in that case, access to the book via a library is irrelevant. The parent(s) are going to do something like this book suggests anyway, and they could just get the book via Amazon if they really wanted it.

    Comment by RJL — April 8, 2015 @ 4:08 pm

  38. And in that case, access to the book via a library is irrelevant … they could just get the book via Amazon if they really wanted it.

    A point that applies just as much to unaha-closp’s argument for stocking the book, of course. So I’m not sure if it really gets us much further along.

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 8, 2015 @ 4:36 pm

  39. In the bad outcome the chances of some random person picking up this book out of the library and (without any peer pressure) enacting it is zero. It quite happy to accept a zero chance of anything bad happening.

    Yet there are people who will follow this sort of teaching, they will come from within peer environments where the authority types to which this book ascribes have value. And people within these groups will have access to these teachings, with access being through the group and not the public library.

    People who beat their kids or are in abusive relationships often don’t shout it from the roof tops, relatives don’t always know that much. People get clues, if a relative boasts of success from following a particular method another relative can learn something if the info is there. Things are found out gradually and families prefer to arrive at a solution together. A call to CYFS is hardly ever welcome within most family groups.

    Comment by unaha-closp — April 8, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

  40. I think Graeme has confused librarians with libertarians.

    Either that or he (and many others) don’t understand a conflict of rights.

    Comment by George — April 8, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

  41. 39. Flashing Light.

    My point is that the public library should have the book there for the person who really doesn’t want it, but might just need it.

    That person is quite different from someone who wants it.

    Comment by unaha-closp — April 8, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

  42. I hope you get the shit beaten out of you: free speech

    I am going to come around to your house and beat the shit out of you: That’s a threat and not free speech

    Comment by Simon — April 8, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

  43. Wellington library has a copy of Nicolae Ceacescu’s brother’s book advocating Soviet-era Romania’s particular brand of xenophobic totalitarian nationalism. What if this book leads to even a 0.1% increase in totalitarianism?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 8, 2015 @ 6:09 pm

  44. I hope you get the shit beaten out of you: free speech

    Or not. Say that to someone on the street and there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve breached s.4(1)(b) or 4(1)(c)(i) of the Summary Offences Act 1981.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 8, 2015 @ 6:10 pm

  45. I think it is significant that in this day and age people are still galvanised by … a book. Last year, people were like ya de ya de yah about KDC ‘s signed copy of Meine Kampf, many maintained it insignificant that it outlined anti-semitism by an author who later went on to slaughter four million jews – in a contemporary cultural atmosphere which still advocates anti-semitism. I believe the argument was KDC should be allowed to own what he likes. Certain people were agitated by Nicky Hager’s “Dirty Politics.”. Have youn read it? They would ask critics? How dare you criticise it unless you have read it?

    But now, if a book in the library can be alleged to increase the ‘death and torture’ of children, say those who haven’t read it, it should be banned, even though it may be debatable that the authors believe it does., at least any more than the Old Testament and the New routinely outline just that.

    I’m tempted to assume that freedom of speech is only dited when the author isn’t supporting a narrow or convenient political agenda, and the outrage iw nothing ro do with whether the book has been read, or if it is in itself offensive.

    Which of course, brings us neatlyback to National Socialists’ treatment of books they disagree with.

    Sorry, but there it is, but it’s cool that books can still excite n’est-ce que pas?

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 8, 2015 @ 7:04 pm

  46. damn thiß tablet

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 8, 2015 @ 7:05 pm

  47. Correction: the book is “To Train Up A Child” and is decried by Christian groups as well.

    It may be a shitty book written by idiots but not quite objectionable enough to make it illegal. Why don’t we remove the Bible and Koran as well, which clearly advocate slaughter and mayhem…

    Comment by ropata — April 8, 2015 @ 10:40 pm

  48. @Graeme, a book advising parents to beat their children is effectively advising them to commit a crime, is it not? Is that also covered by freedom of expression?

    Everything is covered by freedom of expression. The question is merely whether particular limits on freedom of expression are reasonable limits. Books that encourage crime, can, under the current censorship laws, be restricted or banned by the Censor.

    I wonder what all those people on the right who are outraged by this attempt of censorship would say if a book on how to grow marihuana in your back yard was included in the library.

    I’m not sure if I count as “right”. I suspect that I quite often do. If you’re asking what the law would say, again, it’s a matter for the censor. There are a number of books on growing marijuana that have been banned in New Zealand. Oddly, in light of recent changed to censorship laws, possession of those books is now a more serious offence that actually growing marijuana for commercial sale.

    If you’re asking what I think should be the law, I think books that encourage the commission of crimes should be not be banned.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 9, 2015 @ 12:38 am

  49. For most people “criminal” and “immoral” don’t necessarily coincide.

    So someone might object to Rules For Radicals being in a library on the basis that it promotes certain criminal activity but someone else might not consider those acts to be immoral,

    Comment by NeilM — April 9, 2015 @ 12:53 am

  50. I don’t think anyone is ripping into free speech rights if they simply question the wisdom of the library allocating its limited purchasing budget to a book that advocates whacking babies with a stick. The public has every right to question the libary’s purchasing decision here and “upholding freedom of expression” is hardly an answer, I’d say. Nor is the fact that 10 people have checked it out. Calling for it to be removed from the shelves does take things a step further, but it’s still not much of a free speech issue, given that the entire book is available for free online, and I don’t think anyone’s free speech rights extend to requiring a library to stock their preferences.

    I don’t know of anyone suggesting that the library had some obligation to buy this book, and that if it failed to meet that obligation, there would be some sort of breach of freedom of expression. And of course people can question the appropriateness of the spending of public money in a particular way.

    My comments in this context are about the proper role of library in society. The calling for a book to be removed from the library is a major step, and it’s a step that I don’t want libraries to take upon themselves, and, I am confident, most public libraries do not want to take either. Book buying policies are matters for libraries; book banning policies are matters for censors.

    In discussing the upholding of freedom of expression by libraries in general, and Auckland LIbrary in particular, I’m informed by a couple of things. In respect of Auckland Public Libraries, the views they expressed on the first episode of Prime TV’s documentary on censorship in New Zealand I really liked (and I encourage you all to watch it here http://www.primetv.co.nz/Default.aspx?tabid=402, don’t be put off by the stupid name of the show, Auckland Libraries is from about 44 minutes in). Auckland Libraries has a collection policy, which includes the statement “Librarians should resist all attempts at censorship, except where that censorship is required by law.”

    This line in the Auckland Library Police is taken from the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa Statement on Intellectual Freedom (available here http://www.lianza.org.nz/sites/default/files/LIANZA%20Statement%20-%20Intellectual%20Freedom.pdf), and aligns with language from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’s Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom (http://www.ifla.org/publications/the-glasgow-declaration-on-libraries-information-services-and-intellectual-freedom):

    Libraries and information services contribute to the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom and help to safeguard democratic values and universal civil rights. Consequently, they are committed to offering their clients access to relevant resources and services without restriction and to opposing any form of censorship.

    I haven’t read the book, but if there is some serious chance that it actually incites harm, then that comes close to the sort of justification that theorists would accept as a limitation on speech anyway. The real issue is what responsible custodians of a public information resource would make available. There seems a fair case that it doesn’t include this book. Talking about “upholding freedom of expression” rather muddies the water here, Graeme.

    I don’t know that I concede that that is “the real issue”, but even if it is, I adopt the words LIANZA has so clearly laid out:

    No library materials should be censored, restricted, removed from libraries, or have access denied to them because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval or pressure.

    Your real issue was debated by libraries both within New Zealand, and internationally, in 2002, and I’m with them. I am open to an argument that this book is so harmful to the people of New Zealand that it ought to be banned, at least under the current law. The correct forum for that argument is the Office of Film and Literature Classification. Libraries do not want that role, and I support them in that decision. I endorse the view of libraries and library associations likes LIANZA and the IFLA that it is the role of libraries to oppose any form of censorship. They call it intellectual freedom. I quite like that, but consider it does fall within “upholding freedom of expression”, and when we’re discussing the role of libraries, I do not accept it muddies the waters: libraries are not censors.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 9, 2015 @ 1:29 am

  51. Buy that man a drink.

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 9, 2015 @ 7:55 am

  52. Buy that man a drink.

    So many damn html tags, I knew I’d stuff them up!

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 9, 2015 @ 8:36 am

  53. Graeme – excellent points re the role of libraries vs. the OFLC though I would suggest one doesn’t hold in this case: “No library materials should be censored, restricted, removed from libraries, or have access denied to them because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval or pressure.”

    This book is promoting the commission of a crime to produce a desired result. It’s clearly not written as a work of fiction and therefore covered under artistic license / freedom of expression.

    A such, I don’t think that calling for its removal really meets the meets the bar of “partisan or doctrinal disapproval or pressure” unless all law is classified as partisan or doctrinal, though I completely agree with your point that it’s removal is a major step in the wrong direction as, if nothing else, it would open the floodgates to a ton of falsely equivalent calls for similar actions that were genuinely partisan or doctrinal.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 9, 2015 @ 9:19 am

  54. I haven’t read the book, but if there is some serious chance that it actually incites harm, then that comes close to the sort of justification that theorists would accept as a limitation on speech anyway…

    That is why we have a Censor’s Office. That office hasn’t said the book needs to be burnt just yet.

    http://www.censor.org.nz/

    Comment by Ross — April 9, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

  55. Is there value in the “How to Train a Child” text such that it warrants a 0.1% percent increase in child torture and murder?

    Absolutely, because it has started a conversation about a serious issue. Discussing the subject could lead to a decrease in child torture and murder of 0.2%. So, the net effect would be positive.

    Comment by Ross — April 9, 2015 @ 2:02 pm

  56. …children have a right not to be tortured to death – which is what’s happened to some of the children whose parents’ have followed the advice of this book…

    Post hoc, ergo propter hoc!

    Public libraries buy a book based on whether they think at least some of their patrons will want to read it. In this instance, some patrons have read it so the decision to purchase was fully justified according to the criterion that actually matters. Ratepayers who think the library shouldn’t buy books the particular ratepayer finds offensive (regardless of whether they dress it up in terms like “it advocates committing a (gasp!) crime!”) just have to suck it up. The library isn’t there only for liberals.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — April 9, 2015 @ 3:51 pm

  57. The library isn’t there only for liberals.

    Yeah it is. Otherwise it wold be called a Conservatory.

    **Zing!**

    Comment by Gregor W — April 9, 2015 @ 4:08 pm

  58. NeilM: “There’s most likely quite a few books in libraries that could inspire people to do unpleasant things.”

    A quick glance at the Wellington Central Library catalogue reveals that Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Marx’s Communist Manifesto are in there.

    For most of us posting here, we’d ‘read the book so you don’t have to’. So I’d say the real issue is functional illiteracy and gullibility among certain people.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — April 9, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

  59. I’m also reminded of Warner Bros’ disclaimer preceding some of its reissued Looney Tunes shorts featuring minstrel blackface characters. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg of all people.

    The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in the U.S society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — April 9, 2015 @ 7:54 pm


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