Sunday, December 18, 2005


Militant Librarians?

No: there isn’t much to laugh at on the domestic front of the War On Terror. We have a president who believes in the Constitution about as much as James Dobson believes in evolution. Our Secretary of State is somewhere to the right of John Foster Dulles, and the country is in big trouble.

But the FBI is reported—according to the NY Times (11 Dec.)—as seething over their inability to obtain check-out records from America’s libraries. According to the article, an internal FBI memo said:
"While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from Office of Intelligence Policy and Review's failure to let us use the tools given to us..."

I wonder how many “militant librarians” any of us have ever met. The image of a librarian standing up to the FBI is....well, unusual. I’ve known quite a few librarians, at least professionally, and “militant” is a term that’s never popped in my head when I’ve contemplated their personalities. Most have been helpful—asking a librarian for help is like asking a Labrador Retriever to fetch a stick. A few have been giggly, some surly, some intriguing, in a perverse way, but “militant”? Nope. Never.

I guess what the memo shows is that FBI agents are bureaucrats: not moral agents. They’re given a job to do, shown the paperwork already done and the paperwork they’ll need to do during and after the task, and away they go. No exactly robots, but people so eager to function within a system that they just function. Moral or immoral, the actions they perform are just actions. Banal, you might say—as in the banality of evil.

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