Kathleen McCook thrown off HE-SL discussion list for addressing disinformation
Here is a bit of depressing but not surprising news. Kathleen de la Peña McCook was thrown off of the Higher Education Service Learning discussion list for addressing a bit of Bush administration disinformation. Dr. McCook is not some unhinged anarchist who goes around trying to stir up trouble on discussion lists. She is a distinguished senior library science professor and former director of a library school. Her message was based on a decision by ALA encouraging librarians to raise awareness of government disinformation. Apparently it’s okay to raise awareness of government disinformation, as long as it doesn’t have to do with our own present government, because that would be partisan.
What is the source of this idea that anything with political relevance is out-of-bounds in professional discourse? Our own professional values have political implications. How can we practice our profession responsibly without getting political? I don’t think we should accept these kind of speech-chilling decisions lying down. To reject politics may seem to some like being neutral, but it really isn’t. It is a decision that actively supports those currently in power. When the political issues that some want to avoid speak directly to our professional values (and if government disinformation doesn’t speak to our professional values, what does?) then the decision to make those issues off-limits in professional discourse is simply irresponsible. Again, what is the source of this idea that anything political is out of bounds in our own professional discourse, and why do most of us accept this idea? I’m all for neutrality at the reference desk, but as a profession we can’t avoid being an influence in one way or another; we should act with intelligence and responsibility, and not simply passively support the Bush administration.
I would like to see an organized response to situations like this.