Library Filters Why Libraries Must

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

It could be argued that in private, individuals have all the freedom they desire to access the websites of hate advocacy groups, but the public funds allocated to libraries do not necessarily have to subsidize hate-promoting groups. Why should the tax dollars of an African-American, for instance, subsidize someone's research of the Klan? However emotionally resonant this argument is, it does not answer the question of who is to determine truly what is the difference between a group advocating hate and a political position, however noxious. Does the mere statement that one ought to go out and murder individuals of a particular group constitute hate, a hate so pure that it must be banned?

In the case of the last-listed example, one of course is tempted to answer yes, before coming up yet again against the problem of true enforceability. One website might advocate a political point-of-view that one disagrees with, such as the poet laureate of New Jersey's condemnation of Israel, or the Nation of Islam's condemnation of white Americans. Another website that identifies itself with such a group might advocate hate, spread libel, and encourage violent actions to support that hatred speech. Although the latter might be worthy of a ban in a public area, how it is possible to screen out one type of hate speech and allow the official political website to exist, without continued human screening and policing of the internet use of all library patrons or through the imperfect use of software filters that are trained to merely focus on certain words?

Alexander Hamilton's early discussion of freedom of the press, in our nation's history, is perhaps gives the most cogent gloss of this issue. For instance, Hamilton would suggest that so long as an allegation is not libelously false, it might be advocated, even against a group of individuals. An argument, even a supposedly racist one, about Middle East history can be made, for instance, but one cannot make inaccurate, spurious allegations about someone as a Jewish person that are not true on a personal level. Thus, refining hate speech to mean speech that stirs up hate against an individual outside of a political context could be worthy of prosecutorial attention -- as would the hate-filled screeds published upon the Internet by the assassins at Columbine.

But how to screen out only such material, while still allowing objectionable but purely political manifestos to be published seems to give too much power to censorship, and to do little good. Ultimately, the hate-filled words of Columbine seems to argue in favor for greater airing of points-of-view, and recognition and public condemnation of hate speech, rather than its attempted suppression. Let all of the noxious fumes of hatred come out into the public area, including the most public areas of access such as libraries, so they might be condemned, or, in the event of individual attacks, prosecuted to the fullest extent of libel and even criminal law. But the prosecution and suppression must take place outside of the imperfect screening medium of software technology, as it exists today.

Works Cited

Chiang, Vicki. "Libraries, the Internet, and Freedom of the Press."

Dershowitz, Alan. "What is Hate Speech?"

Hamilton, Alexander. "In Defense of the Freedom of the Press."