Re: [ACAT] shouldn’t care about contents of what we catalog

Posting to Autocat

On 01/10/2012 15:41, Dawn Grattino wrote:

But, a lot of people really, really want only books that reinforce their point of view. They don’t want books that say Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a practicing Christian. They want the books with the demonstrably false assertions that agree with what they want to believe. (Just to pick a topic with lots of disinformation, and misinformation about it going around)

That is a really good point, unfortunately. We see this today with the attacks on the “fact checkers” and other recent events that I will avoid because they get a bit too political. Many are concerned that there is a real danger of “filter bubbles” that I discussed in a recent paper I gave at ALA (I can’t control myself. I must give myself away to this awful self-promotion!) It is a real danger, especially so in the future when everyone begins to experience the “wonders” of the Semantic Web. (If that ever happens)

There are differences of opinion (sometimes very wide differences of opinion!) as opposed to outright 100% lies that everyone agrees upon, as the fellow who confessed that he made up the Bob Dylan quotes did. In this sense, as a user, I am not even so concerned with plagiarism since I am looking for information, and am only concerned that what I am reading is true. So, if I am reading a plagiarized part of a book that quoted those bogus Bob Dylan quotes, that is a concern, but if the author stole word-for-word an analysis about one of Bob Dylan’s songs that is correct, I don’t really care since that is a matter between the author and the plagiarizer. As a reader, I don’t care who wrote it down first, so long as it is not just a pack of lies.

Yet, there is power in lies as well. Perhaps others would be interested in something I have just discovered. A friend of mine likes to send me, shall we say, “provocative” things, and here is the latest one: “AGENDA 21 … Countrymen: Something Wicked Comes This Way, American Citizens Move To ‘Sustainable Human Development Zones‘” where the author claims that the United Nations has adopted Agenda 21, which creates “Sustainable Human Development Zones” and if the Senate also adopts this Agenda, it will force the entire population of the United States to move into these zones, and the UN can then take over the entire country! I can imagine that some people would find a page such as this terrifying.

I looked into this a bit, found the UN’s Agenda 21 and did a search for “Sustainable Human Development Zones” limited to and retrieved zero. I personally know that the topics of “sustainability” and “human development”, and “forests”, which are all major topics for the UN so there is a lot to be found under those terms.

When I opened up the search, I discovered “economic zones” and “agricultural zones” which makes much more sense. For instance, a country may have a “tax free zone” for special companies or industries, such as IKEA has in several countries. Of course by definition, agriculture and forests have all kinds of zones.

So, where did this person get the idea of “Sustainable Human Development Zones”? After considering it for a bit, my intial impulse is to think it was from …. poor reading skills. Some of these documents are written at a high intellectual level, or by people with poor English language skills. When you get poor writing attached to poor reading, problems seem to be unavoidable.

So, here this is a page that is very easy to find (lots of links to it!) that most probably contains a lie about “Sustainable Human Development Zones” but the author could very well believe it sincerely. I have no doubt this situation happens thousands of times every single day. The bit of “research” I did was for me elementary–I personally hesitate to call it by such a term as “research”–but it is probably far beyond the capabilities of most people.

What role do (should) librarians play in this new information environment? What would the public want? I still believe that librarians are uniquely suited for a special role that the populace would really appreciate.