Book Burning - Neocon Style
Wayne Madsen Report
It is yet another outrage from the same neocon cabal that brought us the privatization of federal and state emergency response and the military --privatization of "public" libraries.
Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a story on the Medford, Oregon public library system, which closed its doors last April after running out of money,. The Medford libraries have now been outsourced to a Germantown, Maryland corporation called Library Systems and Services, Inc. (LSSI). Jackson-Madison County, Tennessee; Riverside County, California; and Redding, San Juan, Moorpark, and Leander, California, in addition to other communities, have outsourced their libraries to LSSI.
Bedford, Texas rejected an attempt to turn over its libraries to LSSI. Fargo, North Dakota severed its contract with LSSI as did Jersey City, New Jersey. The Jersey City contract was pushed by neocon Republican Mayor Bret Schundler. His successor, Democrat Glenn Cunningham, canceled the contract.
Cunningham, Jersey City's first African-American mayor, died of a sudden heart attack in 2004. Schundler may have been the original impetus for opening discussions with a company called Information Spectrum, Inc., a division of Anteon, to take over Jersey City's emergency 911 telecommunications system. The incumbent contractor for the system, Larimore, had its contract suddenly dropped after Cunningham's death. Eight thousand emergency 911 calls made on September 11, 2001, were scrubbed from the system. Jersey City has been a locus for individuals involved with the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks. The Jersey City Public Library system would have served as an excellent surveillance vantage point targeting the city's large Arab American and Muslim population.
The FBI has made no secret of its use of National Security Letters aimed at library circulation records of readers. Although public library employees have resisted government surveillance, the same may not hold true with privatized "at will" library employees.
Privatization of "public" libraries may seem like an oxymoron, but the cut-back in pubic funds for social services is opening the doors for privatization of public services in a number of areas. Library employees see the move as a way to bust their unions, since LSSI is re-hiring employees under a no-union clause.
However, there is another menacing aspect to the privatization of public libraries. LSSI and other companies have the responsibility of purchasing books. However, no corporation ever acts in the public interest, only in making their stockholders and corporate executives handsome profits and salaries.
The American Library Association, a longtime defender of First Amendment rights, has taken a critical stance against privatization of public libraries.
If a private library corporation decides that books on man-made climate change do not sit well with their corporate investors, stockholders, or partners, do not expect to find books by Al Gore on a privatized library shelf. Or if Rupert Murdoch decides to extend his sinister neocon web to cover privatized libraries, expect a new era of "virtual book burning." Coming off the shelves will be Michael Moore, John Dean, Frank Rich, Gore Vidal, Chalmers Johnson, and other critics of the right-wing. Going on the shelves will be books by Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Newt Gingrich.
The move to privatize "public" libraries is yet another slide towards a fascist society.