Some thoughts on books about Wikileaks

Posting to Autocat

“How WikiLeaks Books Came to Be Liberated & No Longer Categorized Under ‘Extremist Websites'”

“The Library of Congress (LOC) and the National Library of Australia (NLA) have, in the past week, reviewed their categorization for WikiLeaks books that were on file. A bottom-up movement of WikiLeaks supporters and writers on Twitter going back and forth on how WikiLeaks books were being categorized led the LOC and NLA to mount this review. And, reviews by the LOC and NLA led to a change in categorization, meaning no longer will WikiLeaks books be categorized under the subject header “Extremist Websites.””

[by the way, it is “web sites”]

I suggest that all catalogers read this very interesting article, but even more interesting is the authority record:

150 __ |a Extremist Web sites
550 __ |w g |a Web sites
670 __ |a Work cat.: Hate on the net : extremist sites, neo-fascism on-line, eletronic jihad, 2008.
670 __ |a Oxford handbook of Internet psychology, 2007: |b p. 191 (extremist websites; review of 150 extremist websites revealed large percentage had links to similar sites)
670 __ |a Community in the digital age, 2004: |b p. 191 (extremist websites; HBO documentary “Hate on the Internet” provided number of disturbing examples of how extremist websites influenced disaffected youth to commit hate crimes)
670 __ |a Counterterrorism, 2009: |b p. 152 (increasingly important role played by Internet and extremist websites in radicalizing immigrants, citizens in Western countries)
670 __ |a Internet Watchfoundation WWW site, Mar. 30, 2009 |b (extremist websites; extremist web sites)
952 __ |a 0 bib. record(s) to be changed
952 __ |a LC pattern: Government Web sites

Even after reading this, I still don’t really understand what is an “extremist web site”. I could understand “Neo-fascist web sites” (I am purposely ignoring capitalization) or “Hate–Computer network
. Additionally, the subjects in the LC record for the work cataloged in the authority record, “Hate on the net” are:

Racism –Computer network resources.
Race discrimination –Computer network resources.
Antisemitism –Computer network resources.
World Wide Web.
Cyberspace –Social aspects.
Technology –Social aspects.

These subjects are clear to me and I think they are well done.

After a search, the dictionary definitions of “extremism” leave me unsatisfied (e.g. Merriam Webster’s “the quality or state of being extreme”) and I prefer the Wikipedia definition

“Extremism is any ideology or political act far outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards. In democratic societies, individuals or groups that advocate the replacement of democracy with an authoritarian regime are usually branded extremists, in authoritarian societies the opposite applies.
The term is invariably, or almost invariably, used pejoratively.  Extremism is usually contrasted with moderation, and extremists with moderates. (For example, in contemporary discussions in Western countries of Islam, or of Islamic political movements, it is common for there to be a heavy stress on the distinction between extremist and moderate Muslims. It is also not uncommon to necessarily define  distinctions regarding extremist Christians as opposed to moderate Christians, as in countries such as the United States).”

It goes on to discuss how difficult it is to define “extremism”. I confess that what pops into my own mind is the Barry Goldwater quote: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”.

So, whether someone likes Wikileaks or not, according to the Wikipedia definition (and the others I have seen) “Extremist web sites” should not apply to Wikileaks and I applaud the popular movement to change the  subjects on that book. Continuing the same line of thought however: I don’t know if I like the subject itself “Extremist web Sites” since it does not appear to have a clear meaning, and is invariably pejorative, as Wikipedia points out.

I think this is a great illustration of how the public can get involved, and would like to get involved, in some of the issues of cataloging. Naturally, some more negative examples can be given as well, and I could provide some myself.