05 April 2014

What's In Your Library?

Kevin Levin wants to know what kind of books are in Glenn McConnell's library. Is Kevin seriously making a connection between what's in McConnell's library, to his qualifications as president of the College of Charleston?
. . . there does seem to be a relatively large group, including students, faculty, donors and even board members that is set against McConnell taking the reins of this school. It will be interesting to see whether McConnell can survive the pressure.
Kevin then writes:
I want to know what he believes about the American Civil War and Reconstruction. What does his Civil War library at home look like? What kinds of books (if any) did he sell in his store, which specialized in Confederate memorabilia? 
Wow. Am I the only one that finds that just a bit creepy? Maybe someone can also go to the local library and see if they can get a list of the books McConnell has checked out over his lifetime. Fortunately, that isn't an option any more. But it was at one time, as a December 2012 article in Mother Jones pointed out:
In 1987, the Federal Bureau of Investigation approached Columbia University librarian Paula Kaufman with a request: Keep an eye out for commies.
She refused to cooperate with the bureau's "library awareness" program and her defiance helped spark a nationwide backlash against government snooping into Americans' reading habits. Even knowing the government [or anyone else for that matter] might be watching, people realized, could change what you choose to read—and in turn alter what you think. As a result of similar incidents that occurred over the years, 48 states now have laws on the books protecting library records, and the other two have legal directives in place that uphold similar standards. (The protections vary from state to state.)
Is Kevin suggesting that unless McConnell conforms to HIS perspective and analysis of the Civil War, then he's not qualified to serve as president of the College of Charleston? Perhaps McConnell should have submitted a list of books to a government approved committee of scholars before he offered them for sell in his store.

As an ACLU attorney noted in the MJ article:
"We wanted to enact a law to make sure that readers of all sorts had the kind of protections readers have traditionally enjoyed," says Chris Conley of the ACLU of Northern California. "It's important not just in the privacy sense, but also from the First Amendment freedom of expression sense. If people aren't free to read, if they feel like what they read can be watched or monitored or used against them, that really hinders communication."
Restricting what people read (by intimidation and other means), has a very long history and dark connection to oppression and free-thinking. Wikipedia notes the following in regards to the McCarthy era:
The State Department bowed to McCarthy and ordered its overseas librarians to remove from their shelves "material by any controversial persons, Communists, fellow travelers, etc." Some libraries went as far as burning the newly forbidden books. Shortly after this, in one of his carefully oblique public criticisms of McCarthy, President Eisenhower urged Americans: "Don't join the book burners ... Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book."
Is Kevin suggesting that what McConnell has read about the War For Southern Independence be "used against him" by those opposed to him serving as president of a college? 

If so, I find that quite chilling. But if not, why even bring it up? Will we see the same kind of curiosity in the reading list of others who are appointed to similar posts?


13thBama said...

Just in time for 10 May. In 1933, the Germans burned books by the thousands.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, I know. I had another piece I was going to post about a college gathering up a conservative student newsletter and destroying all the copies. They were sued and ordered to pay $100,000. Amazing.

I found Kevin's post quite stunning. Perhaps all future applicants for similar positions should first submit a list of what they read and watch to make sure they're not subversives.

Of course, that would only be required for those who don't conform to approved thought.

Anonymous said...

Hello: Enjoy your blog. This post is not related to this post, however, I am wondering if you have watched the show "The Civil War" by PBS and what your thoughts were. The focus of this show, (and there are more parts to follow, might want to set your VCR or search for them) is that the Civil War was won/lost in the Western Theater, and the control of the key rivers, and the battles at Shiloh and Corinth. That is the short version of the first series. Personally, I thought it was well done and much thought and detail went into the research of the terrain at those locations and reacting those battles at those locations.
Sincerely, Anonymous

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Anon. No, though I've seen it advertised recently. (I'm assuming you are NOT referring to the Ken Burns series).

To be honest, I'm a bit burned out on CW films and something has to be very interesting (and narrowly focused) to keep my attention these days. They all seem so similar anymore. But I may try to catch the next broadcast. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

That is correct, I am not referring to the Ken Burns series. Well, perhaps you may be interested in this series. I am from Texas and I haven't found very much in the way of attention being paid to the control of the waterways in the west. Also, there are several portions from a historian from TCU, that were enlightening.

Anonymous said...

Compare to Code of Virginia 1849

Chap. 198. Of offences against public policy.

Sec. 22-29. Seditious speeches, &c. as to slaves; free negroes illegally in the state.

Denying right of property in slaves, and writings, &c. to incite insurrection. Postmasters, knowing of such writing in the mail, to give notice thereof; proceedings thereon.

22. If a free person, by speaking or writing, maintain that owners have not right of property in their slaves, he shall be confined in jail not more than one year, and fined not exceeding five hundred dollars. He may be arrested, and carried before a justice, by any white person.

23. If a free person write, print, or cause to be written or printed, any book or other writing, with intent to advise or incite negroes in this state to rebel or make insurrection, or inculcating resistance to the right of property of masters in their slaves, or if he shall, with intent to aid the purpose of any such book or writing, knowingly, circulate the same, he shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than one nor more than five years.

24. If a postmaster, or deputy postmaster, know that any such book or other writing has been received at his office in the mail, he shall give notice thereof to some justice, who shall enquire into the circumstances and have such book or writing burned in his presence; if it appear to him that the person to whom it was directed subscribed therefor, knowing its character, or agreed to receive it for circulation to aid the purposes of abolitionists, the justice shall commit such person to jail. If any postmaster, or deputy postmaster, violate this section, he shall be fined not exceeding two hundred dollars.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon - I would not go so far as to compare Kevin's attitude to slavers. I see what he posted as a dog whistle for McConnell's opponents. Again, will we see the same curiosity for similar college presidents and administrators? Perhaps Kevin also wants to know what videos McConnell has been renting. As I said, it's a bit creepy. These people get so wrapped up in their agenda, they're blinded by it.