An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Friday, April 16, 2004

Why we do this blog.

(Updated 2010)

(note regarding September 11, 2001)

update 2010: we have another author on this blog. AR will (hopefully) write his own explanation of why he writes here sometime soon.

My name is Steven. I am a librarian. I believe in freedom of speech in all its forms. I believe that censorship and the dissemination of lies constitute a major threat. And yes, I realize how pompous I sound.

I noticed around 1990 that Internet had a great potential to become an "end-run" around various kinds of censorship. In the United States we have a kind of commercial censorship best described in Ursula K. LeGuin's wonderful essay "The Stalin of the Soul" (Found in her book The Language of the Night) along with the control information that comes with ownership of media. This makes a "de facto" control much more subtle than the draconian measures found in other countries.

Freed from the need to go through publishers and agents, or the expense of a vanity press or other kinds of self-publishing through paper media, anyone can publish anything on the internet at a minimal expense. And anyone usually does! Thus the internet's freedom and anarchy presents a classic "two-edged sword."

How do you sort through the mess and find information that has some value to you?

How do you find the information, facts or views, that the mainstream commercial media does not report?

This blog represents my attempt to answer those questions. I share it as a public service in the hope that it helps others find their own answers.

I purposely exclude conspiracy theory web pages. Although I concede that some conspiracy theories may be true, I find so much that has empirical evidence behind it needs attention that I do not post speculative or unconfirmed information. If I get fooled I put a retraction on this blog.

When I managed a web site on this topic I included links to as many web sites as I could find that perform an "end-run" around various and subtle forms of censorship. As I switch over to a blog format, over time I will transfer from my old html files all the information and links that still have relevance.

I will list specific examples of important stories that receive little or no coverage in the mainstream media as well as alternative publications from which I often discover interesting news stories. I do not include information already reported pervasively in the mainstream media. But I do not recommend ignoring conventional sources. Read everything you can.

"Alternative" does not guarantee accuracy. The alternative news sources often suffer from the same degree of bias and selective, sometimes deceptive, presentation of information as the mainstream ones. News items presented in this blog I double-checked for accuracy or come from known, reliable sources. However, I can not do this for all alternative publications or for links from a given other person's page/blog. The Alternative publications linked to from here provide different viewpoints and information. Therefore, when you consult these sources please also employ some critical thinking. 2+2=4 provides links to alternative news web sites, but without any assurance of accuracy or truthfulness of the site as a whole: I can only fact check the individual news items I mention and/or link to directly.

In addition, I found that the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom List-serve (ALAOIF) provided information and perspectives that I could not find anywhere else. Much of the discussion on the list gives insights into current IF issues facing librarians. I once maintained an archive of posts in the various discussions in the late 90s. I can not put this up on this blog and the discussions are archived on Yahoo E-groups starting in 1999. If anyone is interested in something that appeared on the list prior to 1999 please ask and if I can find it I will put it on the Blog or e-mail it to you.

A note about the September 11th attacks

I noticed shortly after Sept. 11th that anyone criticizing U.S. foreign policy drew the response of "unpatriotic" or "supporting the terrorists" and worse. Just to be clear: I do not support terrorists of any kind, I am very much interested in keeping the rights and freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. and I will be happy to support a war on terrorism as soon as one starts.

update 2010

I find my earlier comment above a little bit embarrassing. Some short time later Terry Jones of Monty Python pointed out the absurdity of the phrase "war on terrorism." He asked, "How do you wage a war against an abstract concept?"

Re-Reading my explanation of this blog six years later I find little of my focus and the blog's content has changed except that I am trying to bring more people on as authors. What else has changed is the proliferation and also popularity of alternative media and non-mainstream news outlets. Sites such as Huffpost, Firedoglake, The Focal Point, and of course, daily Kos, either did not exist when I started my old web site in the mid 90s or were hardly as well known as they are now. There are also other blogs with greater readership which have done a much better job of calling attention to factual information which mainstream outlets does report, but late on a Friday night so they can duck accusations of censorship but then - oops! the information hardly ever reaches a large audience. Due to many eyes looking for these juicy bits of information that in the old days would have lain buried next to the obituary column, corporate-owned media has a more difficult time keeping a lid on the spread of information while pretending to disseminate it. This I am glad to see.

I keep posting to this blog because I hope that at least some people read it now and then, and in the hope that I can call attention to useful information and then enough people act on it to make some difference sometime, somewhere. I often feel as Douglas Adams did after the broadcast of the radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - I do careful research, make sure I have solid sources to back up my witty post, I proof-read it carefully, I post something, Then : somewhere a dog barked.

Please feel free to comment. I moderate comments but only delete the ones which are clearly spam or so crazy they make no sense whatsoever.