Thursday, February 23, 2006


Civil liberties' group barred from showing film in Montana State library

A viewing of a film created by the ACLU called "Beyond the Patriot Act," originally slated to be aired in Helena's Montana State Library, was called off:
The State Library called off its viewing of the film after people complained about the ACLU being involved. State Library spokeswoman Sara J. Groves said Tuesday complaints came from residents and state employees who didn't like the idea of the ACLU getting a forum. The library considered finding someone to counter the ACLU's position on the Patriot Act but couldn't on short notice, she said.
So...a group espousing civil liberty for American citizens, especially freedom of speech issues, was banned from speaking. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. And why couldn't the library find anyone to counter the ACLU's position? Were the Helena neo-Nazis busy? I mean, really, who would oppose our right to free speech? Update: Hullabaloo's Tristero brought up the ACLU and freedom of speech today:
...the principle of free speech and civil liberties simply must be respected regardless of my personal beliefs and feelings - it is essential to the operation of a modern democracy to support an organization like ACLU. Strangely, many on the right and some others don't quite get ACLU's beat. Defending Oliver North or the Ku Klux Klan in no way implies endorsement of North's loopy Cro-Magnon militarism or the Klan's racism. The problem is this. Once you start infringing on Ollie's constitutional right to be a flaming asshole,fundamentalist churches any NAMBLA are next. No great loss, you say? You're right, I agree. But the problem with infringing those civil rights is that rapidly you reach the point where just about any kind of speech can be banned for any reason. And therein lies the problem. First and foremost, the banning of speech and the curtailment of civil rights, is a political act, exercised by the powerful upon the weak. It is an immensely slippery and dangerous slope. Speech suddenly gets criminalized at the whim of the government or corporations in cahoots with the government. That is why those of us who don't have any interest in speaking up in defense of major league jerks nevertheless refuse to give up our ACLU cards when they offer their services to defend someone we utterly detest. We know that, if they get away with shutting up Ollie or a Nazi, we're next. Just as we don't like Iran/Contra criminals, we don't like NAMBLA either. But they all got rights. Or none of us really do. [snip] of the best ways to uphold the principle without being exploited by cynical manipulators is to support an institution whose sole mission is to defend specific liberties like free speech without endorsing any specific ideology. Free speech - real free speech - is a complex issue, and an emotional one. Rightly so. There are ways to be pro-free speech without holding hands with the American counterparts of sleazy gits like David Irving or Flemming Rose. ACLU is one way.
Amen, brother. So when I see a group of people hound the ACLU out of their library, effectively closing off the flow of ideas, it's obvious that they don't understand the meaning of the liberties granted to us by the U.S. Constitution. The purpose of the amendments is to protect the rights of minorities, whether of race, origin, or of opinion, from the tyranny of the majority. Freedom of speech, then, is designed to protect the opinions of those you don't agree with. The Montana State Librarians and those that engineered the banning of the ACLU from its doors should be ashamed for violating the basic prinicples of our freedom.
Truly pathetic of the library.

But let it be a warning for progressive Montanans. The right-wingers and GOP here are very organized. When a film like this shows up, you see how quickly they pour in the pressure on libraries, media, elected officials, whoever. It's all highly coordinated -- using e-mails, phone trees, etc., and frequently succeeds in quickly frightening timid library folk and corporate newspaper editors alike. You've heard it before, but progressives really need to get in the habit of raising such targeted hell. Otherwise, we see what happens..
Well, right now the best way to raise progressive hell is probably to email Matt Singer...heh. Ultimately it'd be cool to use these MT progressive blogs, Left in the West, Intelligent Discontent, etc. as a sort of message board for progressive issues, alarms, and meetings...
Last month, the Newton Library in Newton, Massachusetts, resisted an attempt by the FBI to to access computers believed to be used by terrorists in emailing threats to Brandeis University. The library simply required the FBI to get a warrant.

Recently the Montana State Library decided to cancel the viewing of a film simply because it was sponsored by the ACLU. The library received complaints from some folks who were more upset about the ACLU's involvement than the content of the film (it was critical of the Patriot Act).

Today, the AP ran a story about a survey that was conducted that revealed that only one in 1,000 Americans could name the five basic freedoms that are guaranteed by the First Amendement, while 22% could name all of the Simpson family members.

Perhaps the Montana State Library would be more relevant if it simply showed a Simpson movie.
Now if we can get the Simpsons to run an episode about the Patriot Act...
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