Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Research and deep thinking

Are two things that don't happen much in the Idaho legislature, especially among Republicans.  Betsy Russell reports on the anti-pornography internet filtering in libraries debate yesterday. 

First, there's this claim:
Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, said a group called “Citizens for Decency” brought the idea to him. “As a result, I've done a lot of personal research into this topic,” he told the House.
So, the guy who sponsored the bill has done "a lot" of research. His research revealed this:
At one small library, he [Shirley] said, “Big lumberjacks would come in from out in the timber and get into material they shouldn't, and there'd be youths sitting right next to them.” That small library now has a free Internet filter program, he said, which solved the problem.
I heard Shirley on the radio giving this example of the need for the new law, and he prefaced the remark by saying that a librarian in a small town told him this story.

Let's unpack that a bit. "Get into material they shouldn't." Do we have any idea what the material was? No. Perhaps it was XXX, perhaps it was the Victoria's Secret web site. "They shouldn't." Well, who says so? The small town librarian, I guess. If that librarian was from Rexburg, like Shirley, odds are that he or she is pretty conservative, and most likely LDS. I could see such a person objecting to something that is simply risque or racy, but that does not meet the definition of pornography.

"They shouldn't." Well, why shouldn't they? Because a "youth was sitting next to them?" Or because that librarian simply disapproved of what the lumberjack was looking at? We just don't know.

So we have some anecdote passed off as "research" and on that basis Shirley tries to get a law passed imposing state control over a local librarian. Which takes us to the last sentence of the blurb from Russell. "That small library now has a free Internet filter program, he said, which solved the problem." If so, and it was free, why do we need the law?

At least one thing we'll never hear from that legislator is, "And don't call me Shirley."


Christina Auret said...

This is a bit odd. The point of having internet in libraries is to give people access to information. What if a psychology student who was home for the holidays wanted to go to the library work on a project about deviations from the social gender norm as found in porn?

Who gets to decide what information an individual could appropriately access? Also, why is it appropriate to access certain information for study, but not for enjoyment?

I have to agree with you that it is hard to understand why anyone would spend time and money on this issue.

Alan said...

It just seems like to could be handled without a new law. If a library board was too restrictive and the locals didn't like it, they'd have a way to object and possible get the policy changed. A state law removes that option.

Geoff Schroeder said...