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.

2 comments on “Kathleen McCook thrown off HE-SL discussion list for addressing disinformation

  1. Thanks for the comments. I was quite active in developing a service learning component at my university. I helped put on an International conference on the Scholarship of Engagement and I think I developed a decent approach to LIS Fieldwork and the Scholarship of Engagement:

    As the Bush administration has tried to control the message of..well-EVERYTHING…I found if I made any comments on any entity that has a crumb of government money then the “you are a partisan! ” bellow would come out if anything critical was said of the way the Bush administration works.
    When the Higher Education Service-Learning list included a piece of PR about the increase in volunteers under Bush I simply pointed out what was wrong. For this I was attacked and dismissed.
    I was later contacted and told I could come back if I made no more political statements. Well, I thought..who needs to be where one is not able to speak the truth? So I stopped doing service learning. I am not going to be co-opted. There are other things to do.
    It just shows how even the cracks and crevices of our society have been controlled and manipulated under the Bush administration.
    Recent coverage of disinformation made me rememebr this incident and I appreciate the Library Juice discussion.

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