Boycotting Beijing

If you haven’t read the back of your ALA membership card lately, take a gander.  It has the ALA Code of Ethics on back.  One of the eight key points state:

We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.

So, when I hear that the International Olympic Committee struck a deal with China to allow censorship of the Internet during the Olympic games, I get a little…irritated.

As someone who has previously worked in the sports industry, I have an immense interest in the Olympic Games.  The men’s 100 meter sprint looks like it might become the event that defines who is the world’s fastest human.  The swimming competitions will be intense, with new suit technology and faster athletes challenging old speed records. 

But I’m going to have to boycott Beijing.  If we are the same professionals who balk at the Patriot Act, then we should also be concerned when our nation participates in a multi-national event meant to celebrate the global community and what it means to be human (and that includes human rights).  As librarians we pioneer information access and promote freedom to access information.  When it comes to the Olympics in China, we need to ask ourselves, do we believe in the letter of the law or the spirit of it? 

Of course, if a patron requests information on the Olympic Games, I certainly will keep my opinion to myself.  In my personal life however, I will not be purchasing news papers or magazines with information on the Games, or tune into broadcasts.  Will it change the tide of the games?  Will it cause a big shit-storm because I’ve decided to not watch?  No.  But when you purchase or log-in or tune in, you are casting a vote and demonstrating interest, and my lack of participating will be one less “vote”. 

There is a lot more to the argument and a million directions we could go.  But this is my library blog, and as a librarian, I’m telling you, it doesn’t make me happy that my own country inhibits/reviews/inspects the information used by Americans, and I’m certainly not going to be happy about other countries doing it too.


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