Thursday, April 28, 2005

I suppose gun shops were too obvious?

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Keep that in mind as you read this column, which is just this side of hysterical. Which side of hysterical is still debatable, though. Look at some of the evidence this man shows as proof that libraries need to be monitored under the Patriot Act 2:

- asking for a good restaurant

- being facile with computers even though you come from a poor area

- Kaczynski ordered "tons of stuff" on L. Sprague deCamp

- Heriberto Seda, the "Zodiac Killer", checked out books by Aleister Crowley.

Call me crazy, but these aren't exactly overwhelming arguments. One could argue with just as much justification that strip clubs should be monitored since two of the 9/11 hijackers frequented them often. His argument that the hijackers used the libraries to send e-mails may have some merit to it, but I'm not willing to go allow all-out monitoring of the untold millions who use library computers for the chance that some of them may be hijackers. I wonder why he didn't suggest monitoring gun shops, since that would be a likely place for a hijacker to frequent. Or, hey, how about monitoring all the churches out there, since one of the followers may be the next Eric Robert Rudolph? I mean, in the first case there would be a much more likely chance of using the premises with an illicit purpose in mind, and in the second there's just as much chance of one of the many people using it being a terrorist as there is for the library. Heck, let's go all out and place traffic cameras in every room in the US! Better safe than sorry.

Mr. Murdock also states that libraries haven't been affected by the Patriot Act provisions. As Media Matters points out, that may not be true - how would we know when they can't SAY they've been affected?

Having a fondness for deCamp shouldn't be taken as proof of terrorism by itself - at worst it may be an argument for geekiness. And while it may be amusing to imagine Goths across the nation rounded up for reading Aliester Crowley, overall the net benefit would be close to zero.

Then he shakes his finger at the libraries for being zealous about privacy. What he appears to be saying is that since there is some chance that some person using the library could be a terrorist, there should be no privacy right whatsoever in the library. I repeat my earlier argument - why not say the same for gun shops, churches, mosques? At the least, they would seem a bit more likely. And when it comes to my privacy, I'm all for zealous. Heck, give me downright fanatical devotion.

Perhaps Mr. Murdock is still scarred from some traumatic reading experience in high school that's made him lash out at libraries in retribution. I suggest to him he buy the Cliffs Notes and get over it.

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