Sunday, July 26, 2009

Porn, Predators and Prevarication

A recent comment posted on Randy Melchert's blog by "West Bend Mom" claims to describe "the issue for anyone uni[n]formed," yet the most uninformed source seems to be West Bend Mom herself. She likens the books in the West Bend Library to internet predators and pornographic movies, showing that she's heard the hype but hasn't done her homework.

She writes, "they are allowing young children to read about things that there are laws out there protecting them from." This statement is true, but not in the way the writer intended. There are, in fact, books in the library that inform children about some of the dangers that exist in the real world. That's a good thing. What the writer likely meant, though, was that there are books in the library that break some kind of law designed to protect children. Of course there aren't, but because she's short on specifics she leaves this insinuation in the mind of the reader, continuing the hype.

She writes, " Would anyone allow their child to purpos[e]ly chat sexually with a predator on the internet? Of course not, then why would you allow books to be available for them to read that say the same things?" What books in the library are in any way like an internet predator? She clearly feels there is something dangerous in the library, but forgets that a book never kidnapped or molested a child. The hype continues.

She writes, "Would you rent a porn movie for your kid? NO, I doubt anyone with common sense would. Why is it then, that they are allowing these books to be viewed by children." There are, of course, no books in the library that are even remotely like a "porn movie." Again, by being vague, she leaves an unsubstantiated claim in the mind of the reader (more hype).

She does actually get specific in one instance: "I can show them where [Kama] Sutra is available for them to give to their child to read." Yes, the Kama Sutra really is about sex and isn't age-appropriate for children. Here West Bend Mom seems to go beyond the WBC4SL, since the Kama Sutra is NOT in the Children or Young Adult sections of the library. But even in this specific she's not very specific. There are any number of books with the Kama Sutra title, varying from scholarly discussions of the ancient Sanskrit text (which was not illustrated, by the way) to modern picture books having very little to do with the original. She's using the Kama Sutra title for its shock value, hoping people imagine the worst and don't bother to check in with reality. Of course the copy held by the West Bend Library is one of the more scholarly editions (yes, you can look that up online without even getting out of your chair).

West Bend Mom needs to stop accepting the hype uncritically and do at least some basic fact-checking. Maybe, just maybe, she'll go to the library and see what's really there. Myabe, just maybe, there'd more facts and less hype in this debate.

West Bend Mom's entire comment can be read at http://www.randymelchert.com , in response to his July 22nd posting titled "CNN on West Bend Library".

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