On Fact Checking and Sarah Palin and Book Banning

Hi. A lot has gone on since I posted the thread linking to the Time Magazine article about Sarah Palin. I would like to explain some things to possibly staunch the flow of emails I have gotten asking me about Comment Eleven, the supposed list of books Palin wanted to ban. That list is not in any way linked to Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin did not ban any books. She did, however, have many interactions with the Wasila librarian concerning the library’s collection and possible censorship/challenges/banning. Specific information about titles has not made it to any media report I’ve read and probably won’t. The librarian was fired, reinstated and ultimately resigned much later but not necessarily because of that incident. She is still a librarian in Alaska.

That information comes from the New York Times, ABC news and factcheck.org. There is a lot of misinformation about this entire situation and very few concrete facts. The list of books can be found other places on the Internet, and most recently on Snopes. Please go to Snopes if you need a site on the Internet to send people to who are still sending you that list.

Now, let’s look at what we do know. I actually got an email from the guy who left that comment on my blog. I’ve removed his last name because he asked me to. It would be easy enough to find elsewhere. Please do not repost it here. His assertion is that someone at his school was playing a trick on him leaving that comment and his email address. I verified that he lived in the same place where the IP address of the comment came from. I made him friend me on Facebook so that I was certain the person who sent me the email was in fact the person (or at least had an identical name and email address) who left the comment. The man on Facebook is a real person and if this is some sort of nefarious scheme, it’s a dense and complicated one. I think it’s just a weird throwaway comment that happened at an exact time and place to gain traction and become a big deal.

I think I followed decent procedures both commenting multiple times in-thread and leaving a disclaimer on my original post that I didn’t think the list was accurate. Other people commented similarly in the thread as well. But you know what? People don’t read comments. Many of them didn’t read the post before or after I’d amended it. Or, they got the list over email, see it attributed to librarian.net and wrote me an email asking did I write it or was it accurate? I wrote back to every single person who asked me this (including people you may have heard of, interestingly enough) saying that there was no truth to the list and giving some backstory. The question I ask myself was and is: where does my responsibility for this begin and end? It was clear by the comments and the email I received that many people didn’t think I went far enough. I got at least a few SHAME ON YOU emails and comments from both sides of the Palin debates. I find those sorts of emails and comments disturbing.

Not that it matters particularly, but this weekend was also my birthday.

I’ve also been keeping an eye on several Palin threads where I work at MetaFilter (one with well over 4000 comments), so I simply didn’t have more time and attention to give to this thread on my blog and I closed the comments. I also created a comment policy of a sort, to give me a better leg to stand on if there’s a runaway thread like that in the future. My basic policy is as follows: I will not edit or delete other people’s comments (unless there’s a privacy or stalking-type issue) at the request of another reader. I may delete comments that are off-topic, abusive or just plain crazy. I’m fine with people disagreeing with me or other commenters. I’m less fine with people using my blog as a place to post anti-topic screeds and/or harass and insult other readers or me.

So, I encourage people who are still interested in the topic to find a place on the Internet that makes them happy and go find people to talk to about this topic. I’ll be leaving comments open here unless this thread just fills up with more PALIN SUCKS/OBAMA SUCKS type of talk. There are two librarian-oriented sites out there about Palin: Librarians Against Palin and Librarians For Palin that I would suggest keeping an eye on in the meantime.

I think this topic generally is important, but I don’t want to turn this blog into a political shouting match. I’d encourage you all to do your own research, impart your findings as honestly as you can, and be prepared when new information may come out that changes the way the playing field looks to you. It’s going to be a long few months in the US and we could use good fact-checking more than ever. Thanks, in a general sense, for all your attention.

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