ACAT Hate literature

Posting to Autocat

On 9/5/2015 5:26 PM, Bowers, Kate A. wrote:
I also think “Hate speech” for instances of hate speech should be a form-genre term. It may never appear in LCSH but there are other thesauri where it would be useful. This suggestion that “hate speech” is somehow too subjective to be identified is just plain wrong. Most libraries won’t be collecting hate speech, but if you are a research library or special collection you very likely will collect it and need to identify it as such. For example, it’s likely that there are researchers out there right now making collections of hate speech (websites or tweets) and that they are writing books about it. Those books will get the subject heading “Hate speech” but eventually the original research material will find its way into archives and special collections, where it will need to be identified. In fact, there is already a close term in

I’m afraid we have a serious disagreement. If I am the compiler (creator) of a collection of hate speech, I can decide whether individual examples of speech should be labelled as “hate speech” or not. Let’s consider a recent instance: Donald Trump’s characterization of “undocumented immigrants” from Mexico, as well as his pledge to build a wall and deport 11 million people. Is this an example of hate speech?

From the regular and social media, I have seen people come down on both sides: some will say yes, and others will say no. There is, and can be, no objective, definitive answer. I am 100% certain that if someone asked Mr. Trump himself, he would reply that it is definitely NOT an example of hate speech.

If I am the compiler of a collection/archive of hate speech, I am perfectly free to consider Trump’s statements as hate speech and add them to my compilation/archive and give it a title like: “A compilation of examples of hate speech”.

If I am a compiler of a collection/archive of freedom of speech, I am just as free NOT to consider his declarations as examples of hate speech, add it to my compilation/archive and give it a title like “A compilation of examples of freedom of speech”.

If I am a reader of these compilations/archives, I can agree or disagree whether Mr. Trump’s speeches are examples of hate speech or freedom of speech. But they are definitely not hate speech simply because some compiler somewhere decided to put it into a collection of hate speech–any more than a book is immoral because it was on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books. As a reader, I make up my own mind on these issues.

Now comes the tricky part: if I am the cataloger, what do I do?

First, I must acknowledge that I have my own opinions on these matters. (When a cataloger has no opinion one way or another, everything becomes much, much easier) All I need to do is understand that I have opinions and what those opinion are, so I can set them aside for the moment.

Second, it depends on what I am cataloging. If I am cataloging the compilation, and it has a title, or in some way characterizes itself as a collection of hate speech, I will catalog the compilation as a compilation of hate speech, because I am following how the creator presented it. I do this no matter what my opinion is of the collection itself: in my personal opinion, I may consider the collection actually to be examples of statements of freedom of speech. But I must set my own opinions aside–when, and only when, I am a cataloger. When I become a reader like anyone else, I can speak my own opinions, and I could even write a reader review where I can do so.

But, if I am cataloging the individual pieces of the collection, I must once again take each piece as it characterizes itself. To return to one of Mr. Trump’s speeches, to say that it is “hate speech” when he (supposedly) would say it is not hate speech, and then to justify my determination that it is hate speech on the fact that it is in a collection of hate speech, then this would be just like saying that I must catalog the works of Galileo, Copernicus, Bruno, Sartre, Voltaire, Milton, Locke, etc. as “immoral works” because they happen to be in a collection that declares them to be immoral (The Index).

Yes, I realize that this seems inconsistent: in the catalog the same item may be characterized in different ways. When it is in the catalog an item is characterized one way, but individually that same item may be characterized in a completely different way. Nevertheless, when looked at in the aggregate, it is an entirely consistent treatment. This may seem weird to us today because the catalog itself is becoming a strange tool to 21st century eyes.

Of course this method has never been perfect and in other posts, I have pointed to several examples where it has fallen apart. Perhaps someday, someone will come up with other methods that are better. As Ann mentioned, reader opinions may take precedence (for good or ill), but that has yet to happen and so far I have seen nothing except concerns that we are finding ourselves more and more into our own personal “Filter Bubbles” where the technology silently makes us aware only of things that make us happy and comfortable. There has been a debate about this, but (in my opinion!) I think it very well may be true.

That is not the purpose of the catalog and it is one (forgotten?) powers of the catalog that I think could become appreciated if it were widely known and–more importantly–if our catalogs functioned differently so that people could actually see it in action.