Library Juice 7:11, May 28, 2004


1. Links...
2. Please stop being excited about the Web - especially 'blogs
3. Response to the LISNews community
4. Core Values Task Force II Draft Report & Comment
5. Activist accused of burning people's American flags

Quote for the week:

"It would seem impossible in a year such as the past year has been with its
overturnings and upheavals, not only of material things but of ideals and
of what had seemed moral certainties, that we should spend the time of our
annual meeting in the discussion of small or esoteric questions. These
crises in life show us the littleness of little things, the subserviency of
technique; make us feel through the pull of events our connection with the
rest of the world, and even with the universe; take us out of our
professional selves and make us conscious of more inclusive selves. And
they make us see, as perhaps even we have not seen before, that our
profession has a not insignificant part to play in world matters. Hence we
have chosen as our general theme for the conference, "THE PUBLIC LIBRARY

- Mary Wright Plummer in her "President's Address: The Public Library and
the Pursuit of Truth," delivered at the ALA Annual Conference in Asbury
Park, New Jersey, 1916.

Homepage of the week: Paulina Barsook


1. Links...


ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee - resources on media concentration

[ sent by Don Wood to ALA's member-forum list ]


Biblio Forum - a francophone forum on libraries

[ found on ]


The new issue of HERMES : revue critique is out

It the 10th number.
Aurelie Wellenstein on e-revue in social science and humanities
Lisa McNee on African cinema
Raphael Clerget on Adorno esthetical theory
Emmanuel Sabatie : fiction and literary theory
Claude Poissenot on library, information science and sociology
The next number will be on GLOBALIZATION.
Table des matières

[ sent to me by Roger Charland ]


Arts & Letters Daily

[ sent by Dr. James. J O'Donnel to liblicense-l, in a note about the
problem of link-rot in the back issues of this publication. ]


Jail Library Group ... website has new annual report

[ sent to me by Kathleen de la Pena McCook ]


Four international conferences on Open Access:

21-22 May 2004, Budapest, Hungary
Serial Culture in the Electronic Age
Szetfolyoirat ("Disperserials")
Dissolving and Emerging Communities
The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the
Electronic Age

10-12 June 2004, Berlin
Wizards of OS
3 panels on "Free Access Science"

24-25 juin 2004, La Rochelle, France.
Libre Acces aux resultats de la recherche:
une politique pour un renouveau de la
publication scientifique.
Institut de l'Information Scientifique et
Technique du CNRS.

22 August 2004, Philadephia, United States
Scholarly Publishing: Perspectives on Open Access.
American Chemical Society.

[ forwarded by Zapopan Muela to the IFLA list ]


English: Transborder Library Forum Chihuahua
2005, No Borders to Information

sin Fronteras

[ forwarded by Zapopan Muela to the ALAWORLD list ]


Schedule of SRRT meeting/program times & locations


Librarians Say No to Occupation! Open letter still needs signatures.


ALA's strategic plan 2010 member survey
(Tell ALA what it's priorities should be. The questions are
multiple choice, but there is a place for comments at the end.)


2. Please stop being excited about the Web - especially 'blogs

In the mid to late '90's, the web was new and belonged to geeks.  It hadn't
spread throughout all of society yet.  Not every organization or
publication had its own website.  The subject matter of what you found on
the web was heavy in computer related topics, and those projects that
related to the humanities and politics originated predominantly in the
Silicon Valley and viewed themselves as starting from scratch, using the
creativity and "superior intelligence" of the geek mind to bypass old
problems, without much awareness of the intellectual history and
antecedents of the ideas they were dealing with.  New projects on the
Web were greeted with uncritical favor and celebration. The Web itself
was the favorite subject of Web culture and something that created
tremendous excitement among Web users, who attached to it the feeling of
a new frontier.  For many, it carried a sense of launching humankind into
a new era.  Even most criticism of cyberculture was in the context of
excitement and enthusiasm for the Web, so that its problems, too, were
celebrated (similarly to the way a teenage goth might celebrate her own

Now it is mid-2004, and the Web has matured to the point of being simply an
element of infrastructure for society, and we have matured in our relation
to it.  Right?
Well, to a degree, yes, but blind enthusiasm for the web itself and for what
is new on the web (like blogs) persists, along with the ahistoricism of
geek culture and the problems of cyberculture and electronic communication.
Librarians, whose professed ability to critically evaluate information
sources makes a promise of maturity in relation to cyberculture, have
fallen behind the curve in an effort to be ahead of it.  Librarians who are
still excited about the web, who cheer new technologies because they are
new, who have an uncritical bias toward websites with a "buzz," or who
reflexively think of everything on the web at the surface level (as a
"website" rather than as a non-profit that has a website, for example)
ultimately do a disservice to the profession and to library users as well.
The problem we face in the excitement and enthusiasm many librarians still
have about the Internet is that that enthusiasm takes away from our
objectivity regarding the content (as well as the organization) of what we
encounter in the medium.

As an example I would like to cite the blogging craze - and it is a craze
in its current form - because so many people, librarians included, have
started their own blogs for no discernible reason and through blogs have
renewed their irrational excitement about the Web in general.  It appears
to me that in most cases where someone has started a blog that is useful,
it would be more useful if it were not a blog but a website with a
different structure.  I say this because if there is one thing that is
essential about blogs, that they all have in common, it is not the ease of
updating them, not RSS feeds, not the ability to post comments, and not the
capability of having a community of users add content. It is the
chronological structure.  Many people are now using the blog format where a
chronological organization is not appropriate to the content they are
putting up, for no other reason than that blogs are hot and there are
services supporting them.  This is irrational.  I feel that librarians
should be a little more mature and less inclined to fall for Internet
crazes like this.  That is not to say that a blog is never a useful thing,
only that blogs - as everything on the web - should be seen for what they
are and not in terms of a pre-existing enthusiasm.
Many librarians still feel threatened by the web, and in response have
subordinated themselves to it through this attitude of uncritical
enthusiasm, with the result that we are one measure less in control of our
own destiny.  We may tell ourselves that we are in control of our use of
the Web and therefore in control of our future to that extent, and to a
degree that is true, but so many of us have an unrecognized blind
enthusiasm for the Web and for what presents itself as new in and through
it - and among the younger generation especially, an emotional attachment
to it - that our judgment is often impaired where the medium is concerned.  
We like the Web too much.  We can recognize its importance and usefulness,
even its ubiquity, and we can use it to its full advantage as well, without
being Web enthusiasts with compromised judgment. More objectivity regarding
the Internet in general would give us more of an ability to steer clear of
the pitfalls surrounding cyberculture and electronic communication, as well
as more of an ability to critically judge information resources, as we
profess to do.

3. Response to the LISNews community

My brief editorial comments about LISNews in the last issue generated a
heated response from "members of the LISNews community," much of that
response consisting of personal attacks, innuendo, false accusations, etc.
- below the belt stuff.  I don't know to what extent these folks represent
"the LISNews community," or what that really is, but I won little defense
from other members of that community in that discussion.
What did I do to deserve this?  I pointed out that LISNews has shifted to
the right in terms of the stories posted there and the community of active
commenters, since Blake Carver put out his call for more conservative
bloggers three months ago (but also a trend going back a couple of years,
especially in the comment department).
Additionally, I pointed out that Blake's justification for calling for more
conservative bloggers - that LISNews was a "left wing echo chamber" - was
based on his own definition of the "political center" in librarianship,
which he argued was somewhere to the right of the balance of the people
posting stories at the time.  Rather than explain his method in determining
that political center, I pointed out, Blake stated that he had no
definition, that it was "up to the community to decide."  But if it were up
to the community to decide, I pointed out, then no intervention would be
necessary in the first place, would it?  I suggested that Blake seemed to
feel that the political center in librarianship should be the same as that
of American society at large (a center that itself is not easy to pin down)
and that this must be his reason for thinking his site needed an
adjustment.  (Why didn't he conclude, as I think most people would, that
the political center in librarianship is a little to the left of US
society's at large?)  I pointed out that it's worth paying attention to our
own cognitive process when we determine what the "political center" is.

Upon further thought it seems to me that it might have been the active
complaints of the growing number of conservative bloggers on his site that
convinced Blake to "balance" things, and perhaps not Blake's own politics.
I really don't know.
I won't reply to the specific comments made about me and my work on Library
Juice and in the library community.  I will say about those comments that
some of them are quite confused about the facts, about me, about what I
stand for and what I've done, as well as about what I have said.  You may
be interested in reading this lengthy discussion in detail.  Its initial
one-sidedness was moderated by the presence of outsiders to the LISNews
community who came on board to defend me (but notice how LISNews
"moderators" have ranked the comments on less-than rational grounds,
bringing some comments to the foreground and relegating some to the
background).  Despite this, from the outset Blake was calling the thread
an example of the openness and neutrality of LISNews.

I would like to add a remark about the difference, as I see it, between a
community weblog like LISNews and a newsletter like Library Juice, because
the difference is relevant to a number of the comments on LISNews related
to this.  A community weblog like Blake's generally claims to be an "open
forum" with diverse opinion and people debating ideas.  Blake takes pains
to deny that he is a journalist or an editor with a point of view, and says
part of the beauty of LISNews is that it has no point of view, that it is
open to whatever diversity of librarians wants to contribute their ideas.  
There is an element of cyber-utopia there - no offense - that needs to be
deflated.  While LISNews and other community weblogs definitely are fora
with a diversity of views represented, the idea that they are totally open
and do not have a point of view - or at least a frame of reference - is
something of a myth.  In fact, fora like LISNews do have a definite
cultural and political frame of reference which privileges certain kinds of
ideas over others by defining the terms of the debate, framing issues, and
more actively than that, in the manner that the community of members of the
site has the ability to "moderate" comments (contribute to their "ranking"
by calling them good or bad) based on any criteria - rational or irrational
- that they feel like using.  In this way, what bills itself as being free
of ideology and not having a point of view really does have a frame of
reference, one that is shaped by the moderators and the creators of the
site but usually not acknowledged.  
What happened with LISNews is that Blake announced that he was going to
actively adjust the cultural and political frame of reference of the site
in the way that he thought was right, while still claiming that it was
"open" and neutral ground.  I pointed out that that constituted something
more like editorial discretion than technical management.  I was accused of
trying to drive people away from the site, and also of objecting to LISNews
moving in a conservative direction.  What I objected to was the lack of
acknowledgment of the site's having a definite frame of reference and of
the rightward shift of that frame of reference.  My object wasn't to drive
people away from the site but to encourage people to read it more

In the LISNews comments, I was accused of running a site that is "[less]
diverse and inclusive than [LISNews] ever will be," the commenter adding
that I must be criticising LISNews because I am jealous of its success.  
But I am not pretending to be operating an open forum of any kind - or even
a blog of any kind.  I am editing a newsletter.  It has an editorial
perspective; I select articles that I like and that I think are in keeping
with the editorial perspective of the newsletter; in fact, the messages I
try to deliver, while they may range widely in subject matter and content,
are deliberately within a particular philosophical range.  Because I
have a different intention, a different audience and a different format
than LISNews, I have never compared Library Juice to it.

A key difference is that I'm not pretending to be neutral, and LISNews is.
When Blake took the step of specifically calling for more conservative
posters, to achieve "balance," (where in my opinion the site already leaned
right), I believed that it was worth pointing out the inconsistency and
worth encouraging readers of LISNews not to regard it as something
representing "all of us" but as something with a definite frame of
reference, and to read it with that awareness.

It is worth pointing out, in addition, the consequences of anonymity on
websites like LISNews.  One commenter acutely observed that the website
would be more civil if it weren't possible to post messages anonymously.
What they commenter missed, though, was that it was mostly the people who
posted comments as an "anonymous user" who signed their comments with their
true names, and mostly people logging in using "non-anonymous" nicknames
who were actually anonymous - that is, who do not have to take personal
responsibility for what they write online.  It superficially appears,
because of the "anonymous user" tag, that my postings are anonymous, when
in fact, with the exception of a couple of oversights, I signed each of my
postings with my first and last names.  My opponents in the dialogue (and
most of them defined themselves as my opponents, as opposed to my
co-intellectuals, by the nature of their comments) were almost exclusively
anonymous, and as the commenter noted, this encouraged a greater level
of incivility.

If you see all of this as a trivial matter, because we are just talking
about comments on a blog, then I'll have what you're having.  I want to see
it that way and I think that you must be right.  But I have to admit to
being hurt, at the time, by the comments in response to my editorial.  It
is not fun to be called an enemy of intellectual freedom and democracy on a
popular website, after years of hard work and sacrifice to defend and
extend those values.

In the end, if you read that thread, I think you will agree with me that it
tends to make my original point about LISNews fairly well.

The URL of this thread is:

It was noted favorably in Jack Stephens' Conservatorblog (May 14th):

and in Greg McClay's conservative SHUSH (May 16th):

4. Core Values Task Force II Draft Report & Comment

I have read the Core Values Task Force II's draft report, released May 15,
and I am very pleased to see how complete it is and how well it holds
together. Although it would be possible to find redundancies in it with a
fine analysis I think those redundancies are actually useful for emphasis.

On the ALA Council list I also noticed some opposition to retaining "Social
Responsibility" as a core value. I want to urge the Task Force to leave
Social Responsibility in the document as a core value. While it may seem
appropriate to have it last on the list of core values, please recall that
it is first in the Policy Manual, as a part of item 1.1 (in the
introduction to the statement of ALA's mission and goals). If ALA Council
has in the past found Social Responsibility to be enough of a core value to
place in item 1.1, then removing it from the list of core values would be
significant enough to require a much deeper and more extended debate than
one conference would allow. I also want to point out that Social
Responsibility as a mission of libraries and ALA does't necessarily
represent a 1970's-era innovation, but, identified in different ways, was a
key part of the modern library movement from the beginning.

I want to congratulate the Task Force on a job well done. It looks like we
are finally going to have a real Core Values Statement.

Rory Litwin
SRRT Coordinator


Library Juice readers: The report follows. Comments from ALA members have
been invited. You can send them to mghikas[at] (Mary Ghikas) by
June 1st....


To: ALA Council
ALA Division Boards
ALA Committees
ALA Round Tables
ALA Member Forum
May 15, 2004
From:  Core Value Task Force II:  Patricia Glass Schuman (Chair), Betty J.
Blackman, Michael A. Golrick, Christine Lind Hage, S. Michael Malinconico,
Bernard A. Margolis, Stephen L. Matthews, Kathleen de la Pena McCook,
Kenton L. Oliver, Sally Gardner Reed, Melissa J. Riley,  Mark Rosenzweig
(2004), Mary R. Somerville, Carla J. Stoffle, Maureen Sullivan, Michael B.
Wessells, Lois Winkel, Mark D. Winston.
At the 2003 Annual Conference in Toronto Council voted that the Core Values
Task Force II present " a concise statement for review and approval by
Council at the 2004 Annual Conference."
Following is a draft report from the Core Values Task II, as well as a
background document summarizing the events leading up to Council's request.  
We look forward to seeing your input, suggestions, and comments on this
draft by June 1, 2004.
Thank you in advance for your help.

Please send your comments to:

Mary Ghikas (mghikas[at]
Please put CVTF II in the subject line.


Core Values Task Force II Draft Report
The foundation of modern librarianship rests on an essential set of core
values which define, inform, and guide all professional practice.  
These values reflect the history and development of the profession and have
been advanced by numerous policy statements of the ALA. Among these are:
  Education and Lifelong Learning
  Intellectual Freedom
  The Public Good
  Social Responsibility

It is impossible to attempt to articulate more eloquent or meaningful
statements than the Freedom to Read statement, the Library Bill of Rights,
the ALA Mission Statement, or other policy documents that are so carefully
thought out, articulated, vetted, approved - and revised or expanded when
necessary -by the ALA Council. Over time, the values embodied in these
statements have been embraced by the majority of librarians as the
foundations of their practice.
Following are some selected excerpts from various ALA policy documents
articulating these values. Please note that many of these statements
express the interrelationship of these values.
All information resources that are provided directly or indirectly by the
library, regardless of technology, format, or methods of delivery, should
be readily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users. ALA
Policy Manual 50.3 (Free Access to Information)

Protecting user privacy and confidentiality is necessary for intellectual
freedom and fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship. ALA
Policy Manual 53.1.16 (Library Bill of Rights)

A democracy presupposes an informed citizenry. The First Amendment mandates
the right of all persons to free expression, and the corollary right to
receive the constitutionally protected expression of others. The publicly
supported library provides free and equal access to information for all
people of the community the library serves. Interpretations of the Library
Bill of Rights, Economic Barriers to Information Access

We value our nation's diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by
providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we
serve.  ALA Policy Manual 53.8 (Libraries: An American Value)

ALA promotes the creation, maintenance, and enhancement of a learning
society, encouraging its members to work with educators, government
officials, and organizations in coalitions to initiate and support
comprehensive efforts to ensure that school, public, academic, and special
libraries in every community cooperate to provide lifelong learning
services to all. ALA Policy Manual 1.1 (Mission, Priority Areas, Goals)

We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to
censor library resources. ALA Policy Manual, 54.16 (ALA Code of Ethics,
Article II)

ALA reaffirms the following fundamental values of libraries in the context
of discussing outsourcing and privatization of library services. These
values include that libraries are an essential public good and are
fundamental institutions in democratic societies. 1998-99 CD#24.1, Motion

The Association supports the preservation of information published in all
media and formats. The association affirms that the preservation of
information resources is central to libraries and librarianship. ALA Policy
Manual 52.2.1 (Preservation Policy)
The American Library Association supports the provision of library services
by professionally qualified personnel who have been educated in graduate
programs within institutions of higher education. It is of vital importance
that there be professional education available to meet the social needs and
goals of library services. ALA Policy Manual 56.1 (Graduate Programs in
Library Education)

We provide the highest level of service to all library users ...We strive
for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own
knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of
co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the
profession. ALA Policy Manual 54.16 (Statement of Professional Ethics)

ALA recognizes its broad social responsibilities. The broad social
responsibilities of the American Library Association are defined in terms
of the contribution that librarianship can make in ameliorating or solving
the critical problems of society; support for efforts to help inform and
educate the people of the United States on these problems and to encourage
them to examine the many views on and the facts regarding each problem; and
the willingness of ALA to take a position on current critical issues with
the relationship to libraries and library service set forth in the position
statement. ALA Policy Manual, 1.1 (Mission, Priority Areas, Goals)

Discussion of the need for a Core Values statement surfaced at the [1st]
Congress on Professional Education [COPE1] spring 1999.  The final report
of the COPE1 Steering Committee recommended that the Association:  
 "clarify the core values (credo) of the profession?.Although the
Association has issued a number of documents that imply values for the
profession (e.g. the code of ethics, the statement on intellectual freedom,
the affirmation of libraries as an American value) there is no clear
explication to which members can refer and through which decisions can be
assessed; the resulting statement should be developed with partner groups
or endorsed by them as the values of librarianship."
[ALA, Final Report of the Steering Committee, 1st Congress on Professional
Education, June 1999]                   
In response, ALA President Sarah Long and the ALA Executive Board appointed
a Core Values Task Force (ad hoc) "to develop [a] core values statement for
review by ALA units and partner associations by MW2000 and approval at
Several draft statements and the final version submitted to Council
(1999-2000 CD#32.1) resulted in extensive discussion.  Among the questions
raised during discussion were: (1) Should there be a (single) statement of
core values?  (2) If so, who is the audience?  (3) What would be the
purpose of such a statement?  (4) Did the draft statement presented
satisfactorily articulate the profession's "core values"?

Following extensive debate Council approved a motion to refer, requesting
"That the ALA presidents, building on existing Association policies and
their interpretation and on the work of the Core Values Task Force and
units of the Association, establish a process to enable discussion across
the Association on the need for and content of a core values statement for
librarianship leading to a proposal to Council at the 2001 conference."

Core Values Task Force II (CVTF II)
The 2nd Core Values Task Force was appointed in 2000-2001 by ALA President
Nancy Kranich.  Its charge was two-fold:
  (a)  "To develop discussion questions that will enable a discourse and
dialog across the Association, its Chapters and Affiliates on 1) the need
for and 2) the content of a core values statement for librarianship; to
identify mechanisms for organizing, convening, facilitating and evaluating
discussion sessions on these values; to review and build on existing policy
documents of the Association and their interpretations and the work of the
[1st] Core Values Task Force and other units of the Association;" and (b) "
to recommend 1) desired outcomes, 2) next steps, 3) a process and 4)
timeline; and, to present a report and proposal to Council at the 2001
Annual Conference, with follow-up as needed."
The Core Values Task Force II met at the 2001 Midwinter Meeting. At the 2001
Annual Conference in San Francisco, the Council approved the report of the
chair of the Core Values Task Force II (2000-2001 CD#32) which presented a
working draft of a discussion guide, and suggested a process and time-line
for facilitated discussions across the Association, its Chapters, units and
During 2002 and 2003, several facilitator training sessions and facilitated
values discussions were conducted by task force member Maureen Sullivan and
other members of the CVTF II.  The discussion guide was also used for
facilitated discussions at state chapter meetings, library schools, and
other venues.  Both the discussion guide and interim reports were
distributed to the ALA Council.
A Core Values Discussion List was established (CVDISC[at]  
Participants in facilitator training and members of the task force were
subscribed.  All interested individuals were invited to participate.
The Facilitator's Guide and related materials are now available on the ALA
web site.
Documents available on this site include the following:  
1) Who We Are: America's Librarians Discuss Their Professional Values -
Facilitator's Guide, prepared by Maureen Sullivan  
1) Appendix A: Who We Are: America's Librarians Discuss Their Professional
2) Appendix B: Core Values Task Force II: Charge and Membership
3) Appendix C:  Suggested Guidelines for Our Discussion
4) Appendix D: Ten Values Domains Worksheets
5) Appendix E:  Plus/Delta Assessment Technique
6) 2000-2001 CD#32:  Report of the Core Values Task Force II, ALA Annual
Conference 2001  

At the 2003 Annual Conference in Toronto, Council voted to approve 2002-2003
CD34 as amended to read: "That Council thanks the members of the Core
Values Task Force II (CVTF II) for their work.  That the Core Values Task
Force II presents a concise statement for review and approval by Council at
the 2004 Annual Conference."

5. Activist accused of burning people's American flags

Subject: I've been accused in flag burning!
From: Brendan O'Connell <shevek[at]>
Date: Sat, 01 May 2004 10:57:17 -0400
To: shevek[at]

Hi all,

I hate to send out these mass emails, but I think it's pretty
important that everyone read this, especially if you're politically
active. This letter will be going to the editors of the local papers.

Background: Since last summer, many individuals in Spencertown have had
their American flags stolen, mutilated, or burned during the night. The
police haven't yet made any arrests in the case, and no person or group
has claimed responsibility. I was accused by the Sheriff's Department
of being the flag burner.

Dear Editor,

I've read enough U.S. history to know that harassment and
surveillance of legitimate political activists has been all too common
in the past, and continues today, but I never thought that I would
become a target of it. Last Thursday, the Columbia County Sheriff's
Department accused me of participating in the flag burnings that have
been going on recently in Spencertown.

How did I become a suspect in this case? Apparently all
that I had to do was be a dissenting voice in a political atmosphere
where dissent is becoming less and less tolerated. Since around October
2002, I have been an outspoken opponent of the war on Iraq, and today
continue to criticize the Bush administration's handling of the
occupation of Iraq. To show my opposition to the war, I have
participated in peace vigils, demonstrations, written letters to
legislators, handed out news articles and information on this issue to
my classmates at school, chalked on sidewalks and roads, sat in silence
during the Pledge of Allegiance for a time, and helped to host a speaker
on this issue at my school. I have also felt compelled to speak out and
hold actions on issues around military recruitment, and animal rights.
In all my activist ventures, I have engaged in legal methods of protest,
even when I felt completely ineffective and I couldn't see what I was
doing having any visible effect.

For the Sheriff's Department, apparently this was enough to
make me a suspect in a completely different sort of activity: destroying
other people's property. During school last Thursday, I was called out
of class to speak with investigators Kevin Skype and Eric Hilligus,
members of the Criminal Investigative Branch of the Columbia County
Sheriff's Department, after they had already spoken with my mother. I
went into an office with them, and they refused to allow anyone else to
be present in the room. They apparently did not feel the need to inform
me of my right to remain silent, but launched directly into questions
about my education, where I was going to college, my SAT scores, and so
on. The implication was that I had a bright future ahead of me, but I
had done something very bad, and if I didn't confess to it that future
would be marred permanently. They asked several times if I knew why
they were talking to me. Frustrated with these mind games, I finally
asked the investigators to get to the point of their inquiry. I was
informed that they suspected me of committing the flag burnings that had
been going on in Spencertown, based on surveillance video footage they
had of someone with similar appearance to me burning the flags, and the
fact that I had once written the message "Runaway slaves unite, listen
to your heart for further directions" in chalk on Route 203.

It is amusing to me that the Sheriff's Department thinks
they made a big discovery that I wrote this message, since I have made
no secret of the fact that I did it. I was confronted by a neighbor,
who said the message had frightened her, which I had had no intention of
doing (I got it from a bumper sticker, and to me it's a message of
personal liberation, not a threat). I even agreed not to use my legal
free speech rights to chalk on the road in the future, based on her
concerns. Investigators Skype and Hilligus, however, tried to
intimidate me by informing me that they knew I did this and, by
extension, that I was being watched.

As far as the video footage is concerned, I am now fairly
confident that it never existed. This is based on the fact that when
they questioned my mother, they never mentioned this seemingly crucial
evidence in their case against me, and when I later asked when they
would know whether the person on the video footage was me, they answered
vaguely, and said the video enhancement was done through a private
company, and might take anywhere from one to six months to be completed.
I have since learned that mentioning video footage is a common
technique used by police investigators when they are trying to obtain a
confession. Fortunately, I could reply with a clear conscience that I
knew that it wasn't me on the "video footage".

I later found out from my mother that their questioning of
her was different from mine in other ways. The first question they
asked her was, "Isn't your son kind of a liberal?" As if this in itself
is evidence against me! The investigators also informed my mother (but
not me) that they had received an anonymous tip that they should check
me out. Whether this anonymous tip actually existed is debatable, since
they didn't feel the need to mention it to me, but if it did, it's
really troubling. Someone in my community has observed my legal
activism, and felt that by opposing the war, I also by extension hated
America, stole other people's property, and burned it.

Investigators Skype and Hilligus laughed off the discrepancies between
what they had told my mother and myself by saying, "Well, we can't
reveal all of our secrets!" The investigators concluded their talk with
me by saying that they definitely believed in free speech, but that I
should be careful what I say and do in the future.

It is extremely disturbing to me that the Sheriff's
Department used the case of flag burning to harass me and try to
intimidate me into silence. How else am I supposed to interpret their
final warning? I can also be fairly sure now that I am under some sort
of surveillance, whether it is by the Sheriff's Department, suspicious
members of the community, or both. It is scary, but unfortunately not
surprising, to think that in the United States of America, I am being
told by agents of government to self-censor my words and actions. How
many other local activists have been harassed like this, or may be under
surveillance and not even know it? And for the taxpayers, it's nice to
know that your money is being spent on investigating legal activists
like me in an effort to suppress political dissent, instead of on
fighting actual crime.

Brendan O'Connell
Box 38
Spencertown, NY 12165

L I B R A R Y   J U I C E

ISSN 1544-9378

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