|March 14, 2002
Volume 32 Number 12
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Ben Franklin
Most professors treasure their academic freedom. Restrictions on research activity are considered anathema, but censors, the commercial information industry, and increasingly the federal government and the forces of economic globalism threaten to curtail that freedom.
The World Trade Organization claims to promote “freedom” by opening borders to trade. While the WTO pays lip service to employee rights, fair compensation, democracy, and environmental protection, “free trade” has had a chilling effect on these very things, and a lesser-known effect on freedom of information. Their “Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights” was drafted without input from the information or civil liberties communities. Known as TRIPS, it is a terrible trip indeed, placing major restrictions on the sort of free flow of information that Americans take for granted by increasingly making information strictly a commodity. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court has decided to intervene in a fight against current copyright laws, taking the position that Congress has sided too heavily with writers, researchers, and inventors. Theoretically, this is so information can be made freely available on the Internet, but it is far likelier that much will be available only on a pay-per-use basis.
The so-called USA Patriot Act, which expands the government’s ability to conduct secret searches and Internet surveillance, gives the attorney general and secretary of state the power to designate domestic groups as “terrorist organizations,” and gives the FBI broad access to sensitive medical, financial, mental health, and educational records. All this without having to show evidence of a crime and without a court order.
Old-time religious censorship is still alive and well in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Members of the Christ Community Church had a old-fashioned book burning Dec. 30. Harry Potter, go back to Hell! The Bainbridge Island School District added “militant/extremist” sites to its Internet stoplist. This can include sites that simply report on extremist groups. Whatever “harmful” information the federal government and international business can’t suppress before the fact, the schools can try to block and fundamentalists can burn later. All in the name of defending “American values.”
The American Library Association has taken a strong stance in favor of intellectual freedom. If you are concerned about threats to academic and personal liberties, please contact your professional associations.
Jim Dwyer, Library Collection Management
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