Thursday, February 09, 2006
There's No Escaping the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy in Kansas
On the news this morning was a story about pending state legislation, bill HB2581. It would require libraries in Kansas to filter their Internet access to receive state funding. While many battles have been fought over this one, it has previously been lost at the federal level. We already filter our computers. The new bit is that the law would require a parent to be present in order for a minor to check out an R-rated movie. The movie rating system itself isn't even a law. It is a self-regulating effort on the part of the studios, but there is nothing legal about the ratings. Same goes for video games and the like. To make it a legal requirement is going too far. It seems they are frustrated with libraries' perceived lack of self-regulation in these matters, so they want to force the issue. The key word there is perceived, because it involves two big concepts they don't seem capable of understanding: nuance and personal responsibility. Nuance--libraries are not without self-regulation; we divide our collections into different categories based on age appropriateness. We make recommendations. We don't want children watching porn anymore than anyone else does. We just see a difference between recommendation and limitation. Because we understand that everyone is different, has different values and expectations of what is appropriate or inappropriate for themselves and their children. We offer freedom--intellectual freedom--one of the cornerstones of this so-called democracy, and require our citizens to take responsibility for their freedom. We will recommend that their children watch/read in a particular section, but it is up to them to decide for themselves whether to accept that recommendation or not. And the main concern expressed in all of this is "pornography," but movies often receive R-ratings without a bit of sex or nudity and library materials are put in the adult section for many reasons, not just because of objectionable material. There are countless arguments to make in explanation of why this is a bad idea, but I won't go on. I just say to make a blanket law like this is ridiculous.