Red book misread

A 2005 story in the the Dartmouth Standard-Times alleged that a University of Massachusetts student was visited by agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after he supposedly requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s ‘Little Red Book’ from the University library. The story turned out to be a hoax. In any case, the student could easily have found the complete text of Quotations from Mao Tse Tung on the web.

redbookFor the information of any government agents out there, I would be happy to provide a picture of my own copy of the “Little Red Book”—not autographed, sadly, as Mao may not have time to sign all of the hundreds of millions of copies. The agents may also view a catalogue of many of my books.

There is a serious side to this. The American Library Association maintains a watching brief on the impact of anti-terrorism measures on intellectual freedom.

The American Library Association (ALA) opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry. . . . ALA considers that sections of the USA Patriot Act are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.
—from ALA’s Resolution on the USA PATRIOT Act (See also Resolution Reaffirming the Principles of Intellectual Freedom in the Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks.)

This is of interest to me as a librarian. The Australian Library and Information Association’s Statement on professional conduct requires its members to protect their clients’ rights to privacy and confidentiality. The Association’s Statement on free access to information states “that library and information services have particular responsibilities in supporting and sustaining the free flow of information and ideas including . . . protecting the confidential relationships that exist between the library and information service and its clients.” But when government laws override these principles, libraries, against their will become data collection agents for government spooks.

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