The American Library Association’s Stealth Jihad Against Free Speech – by William J. Becker, Jr

Book Burning

Last month (September 2009), the American Library Association (ALA) sponsored Banned Books Week, an initiative purporting to promote intellectual freedom, which it defined as “the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular.”  Yet even while it was busy promoting the event to draw attention to “the harms of censorship,” it was immersed in a separate stealth campaign to suppress intellectual freedom and to marginalize a dissenting voice.

On July 12, 2009, Robert Spencer, the editor of JihadWatch.com and author of the recently published “The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran,” was invited to join a panel forum at the ALA’s annual General Meeting on the topic “Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping.”

As he was leaving to catch a plane for the event, Spencer learned that it had been cancelled.  According to reports he later read on the Internet, Ahmed Rehab, Chicago executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was responsible for bringing about the cancellation.  In a letter to ALA, Rehab wrote:  “I ask you to rescind the invitation to Mr. Spencer in order to maintain the integrity of the panel and the reputation of the ALA.”  Mr. Spencer, he argued, offered “grotesque viewpoints that lie well outside the bounds of reason and civilized debate.”

The reports were supported with press releases issued by CAIR-Chicago admitting that it along with the Council on Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), a coalition of more than 50 Muslim organizations, the other ALA panelists and a number of librarians and academics pressured ALA to drop Spencer from the conference.  The press releases referred to Spencer as “Islamophobic” and one “who systematically spreads fear, bigotry, and misinformation.”

By pressuring ALA, CAIR-Chicago, CIOGC and others had just one objective in mind:  to deprive Spencer (and ALA) of the freedom to present information and to express ideas, even though the information he would be expected to present and his ideas might be considered “unorthodox or unpopular.”

ALA maintains  an Office for Intellectual Freedom.  As its mission statement claims, “…[I]ntellectual freedom can exist only where the freedom to express oneself and the freedom to choose what opinions and viewpoints to consume are both met.”  That clearly was a principle the Islamic groups, by their pressure tactics, threatened.  ALA should have been prepared to defend itself against such a transparent assault on intellectual freedom.  By challenging ALA to cancel Spencer’s appearance, they achieved their objective, and ALA exposed its support for intellectual freedom to be duplicitous if not entirely fraudulent.

With its tough talk, ALA would be expected to have invited Spencer to show up alone.  After all, the panel topic referred to “perspectives” in the plural form, implying there would be more than one perspective presented, presumably heterodox.  It also promised a discussion that would reveal how Islam, as a culture, transcends the narrow perceptions some hold of it.  Pulling Spencer’s appearance would contradict ALA’s lofty claims and signal a surrender to the power of censorship.

Yet surrender it did.  One might imagine that by cancelling the event, ALA was merely making a politically expedient decision to avoid alienating local constituencies in the Chicago region where it is headquartered.  But when Spencer asked to be reimbursed a paltry sum for non-refundable airfare and lodging expenses he had incurred, ALA told him to take a hike.  His request for an apology was just ignored.

Remarkably, when Spencer offered to eat his expenses if ALA would simply invite him back to speak at another event, ALA’s attorney, Paula Cozzi Goedert of the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, accused him of attempting extortion.  This from an organization that seemed open to extortionist tactics.

After much legal haggling, ALA eventually agreed to reimburse Spencer a small portion of the amount he claimed he was owed but refused to admit it had made a mistake or to offer him an invitation.  This time, it was Spencer’s turn to reject, and he did.

Spencer, of course, knows something about Islam’s perspective on free speech.  In his 2008 book “Stealth Jihad,” he pointed to the efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), whose members include fifty-seven governments of Muslim-majority states, to craft a “legal instrument” to fight “Islamophobia,” which means any criticism of Islam.

This “legal instrument” is a call to arms to end what the OIC refers to as “defamation of religions.” It has been adopted by UN Human Rights Council resolutions and by the General Assembly.  Only the US and the EU have resisted endorsement of it.

And it is not some fiction developed by Islamophobes who fear their cultural values being attacked.  As the OIC’s 2009 Second Observatory Report on Islamophobia suggests,  it is an open work-in-progress:  “The perceived threat to freedom of expression on the part of the US, the EU and other concerned countries constitutes an obstacle that can only be removed through sustained and constructive engagement.”

In Spencer’s case, which as his attorney I sought to resolve on his behalf, the threat to freedom of expression is not merely perceived, but is repugnantly demonstrably real, just as it is in the case of Joe Kaufman, a writer for FPM sued by various Islamic groups in Texas for defamation, a case that is testing the power of the OIC’s “legal instrument” as the groups petition the Texas Supreme Court to overrule the lower court ruling in Kaufman’s favor.

In the end, ALA not only failed to protect Spencer’s intellectual freedom, it went out of its way to suppress it, showing complete indifference to either the principle of intellectual freedom or the potential damage to its own reputation, even knowing that this dirty episode would be publicly aired.

As ALA’s attorney, Goedert, made sure to point out to me (as though I were a first year law student), this isn’t a case of free speech under the First Amendment, because ALA is not a government actor.  As a private institution, the First Amendment has no power over it; ALA can censor whomever it chooses.  Goedart’s unapologetic statement impressed me as somewhat breathtaking.  I can’t think of a more embarrassing and shameful example of hypocrisy and moral apathy by an institution that holds itself out as a champion of free speech.

Given the amount at stake and the limited reach of the panel discussion’s influence, Spencer’s ordeal would be perhaps unsettling but inconsequential if it didn’t involve the ALA, founded in 1876 in Philadelphia, and whose members consist of America’s librarians, some of our most cherished guardians of free expression.

And it would be perhaps unsettling but inconsequential if it did not involve Robert Spencer, the target of frequent death threats due to his candid and authoritative views on Islam and the Koran, making him the Salman Rushdie of our time.

It might even be called unsettling but inconsequential if the cowards who withdrew from the panel discussion were not so hostile to American values and did not have a battle plan to shred the First Amendment.

As this article was being written, World Net Daily reported that radio host Michael Savage’s invitation to an October 15 debate via video hook-up to Cambridge University was cancelled one week before it was scheduled.  Savage was to have argued against political correctness.  As Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute think tank, has explained opponents of intelligent design theory, “They don’t allow a debate; they try to stop it and the reason they try to stop it is because they don’t think they can win it.”

That may be one probable explanation for the reaction by ALA to Spencer’s appearance.  But it is also likely that his case represents a broadside attack on freedom of speech and intellectual freedom waged by Islamic apologists and abetted by America’s liberal elite establishment.  The cancellation of Spencer’s appearance based on ALA’s silent acquiescence to outside pressure from those who seek to destroy intellectual freedom isn’t inconsequential, and it is more than unsettling.  This is, as Spencer has characterized it, a stealth jihad against free speech, which now claims the American Library Association among the jihadists.

  • Bellerophon

    “As Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute think tank, has explained opponents of intelligent design theory, “They don’t allow a debate; they try to stop it and the reason they try to stop it is because they don’t think they can win it.”

    That's why Stephen Meyer and William Dembski ran away like scared little girls from testifying at the trial “Kitzmiller v Dover” back in 2005.

    They had their chance to argue the “science” of Intelligent Design in the most public of settings, a court case that put the very ideas that they have promulgated for years on trial to determine if they were scientific or supernatural. In front of the entire world Meyer and Dembski chose to withdraw.

    They had excuses of course but not one of those excuses had to do with defending ID. At least Michael Behe showed up. He may have made a fool of himself but he had the guts to show up.

    The pathetically misnamed “Discovery Institute” hid because during the discovery phase (ironic, no?) of the trial the institute was forced to provide a series of manuscripts that showed how their textbook changed. Immediately after creationism was ruled to be a religious concept in the case Edwards v Aguillard (1987) the institute changed their textbook deleting all mentions of “creationism” and replacing them with “intelligent design”.

    No one is afraid of debating creationists, the problem is that they are never willing to show up when it counts.

    Advice to William Becker – Don't include creationists in your arguments. They drag down everyone around them. False claims of persecution undercut your otherwise well argued case.

  • keithrage

    Islamic inconvenient truth; Islam by propigation or the gun intends to rule all countries. The slaughter of innocents are justified under jihad. The Islamic peacefull majority will never adequately condemn the jihad minority Non muslims are infedels who must conform. There is a plan formed in every mosque to expand their interests within host cities. Call a spade a spade

  • The_Inquisitor

    Thanks, Bellerophon. Interesting bit of information.

  • Lou

    I would like to point out that this article is about the cowardise of the ALA and not about intelligent design. Americans have the minor luxury of seeing what political correctness and Islam are going to do to Europe in the next few decades. Will we learn from their experiences?

  • xyz

    Okay, Robert, to whom do we write letters? Merely tattling is not good enough. When you sign up for speaking engagements, do you warn them ahead of time that this might happen? It would be interesting to see if letting them know before hand has any affect on the outcomes. Sometimes it causes them to commit to you. Forewarned is forearmed. Sometimes even that doesn't work. Then, slam the hell out of them for being gutless cowards.

  • baffledlife

    OK, I get it, “they” don't want the truth to be told, and want to eliminate the opportunity to present the truth. That being said, what do better minds suggest we do to counteract these attacks on our Constitutional rights.

  • baffledlife

    OK, I get it, “they” don't want the truth to be told, and want to eliminate the opportunity to present the truth. That being said, what do better minds suggest we do to counteract these attacks on our Constitutional rights.

  • http://www.tarandfeathers.shugartmedia.com/ Tar_and_Feathers

    I sure hope whoever is in charge of irony is listening.

  • Canadianpatriot

    “Only the US and the EU have resisted endorsement of it.” A small point in an otherwise excellent piece. In fact Canada has stood solidly against the UN Human Rights Council's resolution against so-called “defamation of religion.” Furthermore, Canada boycotted Durban II in support of Israel. Canada knows who the bad guys are.

  • Estase

    Free speech, as long as it isn't controversial. Or right-wing.

  • thormikalsen

    The Koran is a facsistic book and brainwash people.The Koran make people to terrorists.Prohet Mohammad was the worlds first terrorist.Let us burn the Koran or trew it in the toalett!

  • felsonstark

    The OIC's campaign against what they allege to be 'islamaphobia' really becomes strange. Their site tries to represent the indoctrinated and the faulty and contradictory political ideology they call Islam, that it is, in their minds supreme and should dominate the entire world. At the sametime they try to present an image of being reasonable, as they would guess what 'reasonable' is to someone on the receiving end of Islam's proposed domination. Knowing Islam's goal, when they point and say 'islamaphobia', REAL reasonable people who are living happy, hopeful and good lives, free from anything Islamic, do and should feel fearful.

  • Elaine

    It had to happen. Once a culture degrades itself to the point where truth is immaterial as is our culture, then attacks on what is true will be the norm.

    Add the fact that only one ideology, a mixture of secuarlism/liberalism/Marxism/Scientitism, is the dominant ideology and anyone expressing views outside that ideology will be demonized and ostracized.

    In addition, a culture devoid of a moral and ethical compass and which glorifies perversion, corruption and evil and dismisses the rule of law while also lacking any semblence of common sense, which is also our culture, then it is only logical that speech which is against these norms will be squelched.

  • therealend

    And now there is news a publisher decided to cancel the printing of a book about honor killing because it might spark unrest and offend. Are we getting that stupid that we come to regard honor killing as not a big a deal but publishing a book about it is?

  • http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/ SafeLibraries

    Outstanding!

    See what I have written in the past about this: “Proof of ALA Pro-Terrorist Censorship; ALA Challenged to Explain and to Include Censored Speaker Next Time.” In particularly, see the comments were I get an ALA big wig, Michael Golrick, to blame a bureaucratic snafu.

    I may have to write something new because of the new information contained in this post of your. Thanks.

  • williambecker

    I don't need or welcome your uninformed “advice.” You haven't a clue what the difference between creationism and ID is, and you completely misunderstand (or never investigated) the reasons why Meyer and Dembski declined to testify at the Kitzmiller trial. You're typical of the brainless class that my practice does battle against. — WJB

  • Bellerophon

    williambecker

    Thank you for directly replying to my post

    Unfortunately for you, I am not uninformed.

    I have read the transcripts of the Dover trial and all of the submitted statements and thoroughly understand the claims of Dembski and Meyer about having been deceived by the Dover board. The Dover board members responsible for the case being brought to court were, in fact, creationists. Meyer and Dembski said that the Thomas More Law Center would not agree to allow them to have their own attorneys present and that was why they refused to testify. Presumably, Meyer and Dembski wanted their own lawyer to prevent the plaintiff's lawyers from trying to identify ID with creationism.

    However, the surrounding facts make their claims suspicious.

    The Seattle Times story of April 26, 2006 states

    “Chapman said he asked Discovery fellows not to testify in the Dover case. But Scott Minnich, a microbiologist, and Michael Behe, a biochemistry professor, did and were asked in court who they thought the designer was.

    “The designer is in fact God,” Behe testified.”

    The “Chapman” referred to is the same Bruce Chapman you claim said that no one would debate ID.

    If anyone doubts this then check it out:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews

    A far more likely explanation is that once Chapman, Meyer and Dembski found out that the draft copies of the textbook were part of the pre-trial discovery they knew that the case was lost. Those draft copies established the pedigree of “Pandas and People” showing it to have been originally conceived and written as a creationist text. If Meyer and Dembski got on the stand they would have been been compelled to reveal their creationist roots as well as those of Chapman and the Discovery Institute. Worse still it would also become apparent that ID was supported solely as a means of circumventing Edwards v Aguillard. This was, in fact, the court's finding.

    Although many of ID's proponents are not creationists, the overwhelming majority subscribe to Behe's theory of irreducible complexity which purports to demonstrate that the existence of certain complex biological structures can only be explained by a superior intelligence of unknown and unknowable origin. In practice, this is indistinguishable from creationism.

    “We don't know how this happened therefore there must be a god” vs “We don't know how this happened therefore there must be an intelligent designer”.

    These may be oversimplified versions of the arguments but anyone who wants to check it out can find the court transcripts on the web. I think that the National Center for Science Education may still have pdf files on line for downloading. The Discovery Institute website has the opposing view.

    A brief aside. The National Center for Science Education has many of the same problems as the Discovery Institute. While it upholds the science of evolution against religious dogma, most of its members are hard core true believers in the dogma of CO2 induced global warming. It's a dangerous sign when so many scientists are willing to subordinate their scientific thinking to politics.

  • sflbib

    I guess another lesson here is to get the ALA and similar groups to pay for travel expenses in advance and then refund them AFTER the event.

  • PhilByler

    Bellerophon, Michael Behe did not make a fool of himself at the trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover. That is the propaganda of macro-evolution hard liners. Professor Behe testified at trial about his argument for intelligent design based on the mind boggling complexity of life at the microbiochemical level, learned from the use of late 20trh century century technology, that is incompatible with Darwin's 19th century theory of evolution, which presumed a simple cell structure; and on cross-examination, Professor Behe rejected the suggestion that the many response articles had successfully rebutted his position. The Kitzmiller cross-examining attorney acted as if and no doubt thought he was a trial courtroom legend, but the substance in his cross-examination was not there — hence, the need for propaganda.

    The trial record in Kitzmiller v. Dover did not support the judge's decision. The trial record supported that there is an ongoing debate between macro-evolutionists and intelligent design advocates. What accounted for the judge's decision was ideology that treated macro-evolution as unquestioned science and intelligent design as a form of creationism (contrary to Profesor Behe's testimony) — not law, not facts and not expert testimony about macro-evolution and intelligent design.

    I am not sure where you get the idea that Meyer and Demski ran away for the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. It was not a panle discussion. It was a trial where the number of witnesses are expected to be kept as few as possible. There was one chief expert scientific witness each for macro-evolution and intelligent design. If I had been the Dover attorney, I would have chosen Professor Behe as that one chief witness, as his scientific argument about the incompatibility of the complexity of life's organisms with Darwin's 19th century theory of evolution is arguably the most powerful one from that side. And the fact is that the many responses to Behe do not show how macro-evolution can account for complexity, only mabe, possible, could be type speculations.

  • Lillith

    Ouch, that was unnecessarily harsh, I think Bellerophon is really on your side. I am an Atheist and an Evolution advocate but also a conservative, and I think we need to stick together on these very serious issues, not slander each other. I agree with what he said, why alienate people that are generally on the same side. If we can't put our lesser disagreements to one side…we will all loose.

  • kidsgames123

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  • Bellerophon

    Lillith, thank you.

    I do agree with Becker about the vital importance of getting opposing viewpoints into discussions on various issues. This issue has only one underlying question – Should all relevant facts and viewpoints be considered or only those presented by persons that have been approved by self appointed guardians of “valid” ideas?

    The evolution issue is quite different. Advocates of intelligent design usually aren't published in biology journals because their work isn't science. In most other venues the ID advocates make themselves known. TV, radio, the internet, philosophy journals, religious publications all have substantial representations of IDers.

    The issue raised by the ALA is whether certain viewpoints should be kept from the public because their advocates are supposedly “haters”. If this were to be accepted eventually there could be no venue in which these ideas can be discussed.

    We don't need to add more issues to the case for intellectual freedom than is necessary. Suppose we changed the question to “Is it permissible to criticize a valid religion?” Now you have to answer the question of whether or not any given religion is “valid” before you can evaluate the effect of that religion. No one in their right mind wants the validity of a religion to be determined by law. The result would be devastating to all sects but the one ultimate survivor. That is why the First Amendment necessitates a separation of church and state.

    Finally, in comparing the ALA's actions to Dover the differences should be clear. The Kitzmiller case concluded that ID was not science and could not therefore be taught in a science class. Almost any other kind of class would be fine – comparative religion, philosophy of science, current events and even politics would all be appropriate and legal places where ID can be discussed.

    (The issue of bias in public school curricula is outside of this discussion but I, unlike most atheists, endorse a system of vouchers which would allow parents to send their children to any school they choose. If they want they can send their children where ID is taught in a science class. How theists educate, or mis-educate their children is no one's concern but theirs.)

    By comparison the ALA's actions, if implemented as policy by public libraries, would in effect be a public endorsement of certain advocates and a public rebuke of others. Just as the First Amendment forbids the government from taking a position on religious ideas, it should also be seen to prevent the government from endorsing some ideas and individuals while sentencing others to obscurity.

  • EricAceCroddy

    I wrote a note to the ALA, and this was the response. Would anyone care to comment on ALA's defense? Thanks, Eric RE: Spencer affair, censorship–Well done, Stasi!‏ From: Deborah Caldwell-Stone (dstone@ala.org) You may not know this sender.Mark as safe|Mark as junk Sent: Mon 10/12/09 9:23 AM To: ecroddy@msn.com Cc: Keith Michael Fiels (kfiels@ala.org) Dear Mr. Croddy, Thank you for sharing your views with us. You should know, however, that Robert Spencer was never invited to speak at a Banned Books Week presentation. Rather, Mr. Spencer was one of four persons asked to contribute to a panel discussion during the July, 2009 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago. The Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT), one of more than 100 ALA member groups that organized over 2,000 meetings and programs at this conference, planned the panel presentation, “Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping.” Despite early controversy, EMIERT remained committed to presenting the panel as planned. EMIERT cancelled the panel only when three of the four scheduled panelists withdrew from the program, as the withdrawal of the three panelists made it impossible to provide a fair and equitable forum to explore the diversity of opinions that a full panel would have offered on the planned program topic. The decision to present this program, and the subsequent decision to cancel, were made by the EMIERT program planning committee. Each year, a number of ALA Conference Programs are cancelled when speakers or panelists cancel or cannot attend as planned. ALA supports intellectual freedom and opposes censorship in any form, including censorship intended to limit access to potentially controversial topics and opinions. Cordially, Deborah Caldwell-Stone Acting Director Office for Intellectual Freedom American Library Association 50 East Huron, Chicago, IL 60611 800-545-2433 x4224 From: eric croddy [mailto:ecroddy@msn.com] Sent: Saturday, October 10, 2009 4:36 PM To: oif Subject: Spencer affair, censorship–Well done, Stasi! I read the matter concerning ALA cancelling Spencer's (Sep) Banned Books presentation. ALA's behavior: Simply disgusting. Perhaps it would not have shocked Orwell, but it horrifies me that this would occur in America. Eric Croddy 808-351-7198 Ewa Beach, HI 96706

  • Bill Becker

    This was the same language used in an initial letter by ALA counsel. It might have been a plausible explanation apart from the vivid fact that ALA absolutely refused to consider inviting Spencer back at any time and demanded as a settlement term that he not seek to speak at ALA for eternity. WJB

  • http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/ SafeLibraries

    Are you saying she used the EXACT same language?

    Can I see the actual language supporting your statement about the “vivid fact that ALA absolutely refused to consider inviting Spencer back at any time and demanded as a settlement term that he not seek to speak at ALA for eternity.”?

  • Lillith

    Bellerophon

    I am so in agreement with you on the school vouchers, it will give much needed competition to schools that are underachieving. If your school is not doing the job you take your child somewhere else. Strange that we have that ability for to choose everything else, but not our children's (or as I have heard many times “our kidzes…”) education.

    I think what I most find concerning is the fact that this erosion of speech applies more to some groups than others, and unfortunately some groups have a huge capacity for insult and offence, real or imagined. Now we have to be careful that what we say might be perceived, no matter how ludicrously as offence by some rabid sign waving individual.

    Some time ago there was a Particularly vapid piece of artwork called “Piss Christ” at some gallery. I don't remember hordes of violent Christians burning down the gallery…but can you IMAGINE, if it was a “Piss Mohammed”, or for that matter, just a portrait of the old chap……Oy….hello thought police.