This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Consolidate the Media and Close the Libraries in Bush's America


THIS IS FROM BILL MOYER'S NEW BOOK, Moyers on Democracy:


"I wish I could say that journalists in general are showing the same interest in uncovering the dangerous linkages thwarting this democracy. It is not for lack of honest and courageous individuals who would risk their careers to speak truth to power--a modest risk compared to those of some journalists in authoritarian countries who have been jailed or murdered for the identical "crime." But our journalists are not in control of the instruments they play. As conglomerates swallow up newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and networks, and profit rather than product becomes the focus of corporate effort, news organizations--particularly in television--are folded into entertainment divisions. The "news hole" in the print media shrinks to make room for advertisements, and stories needed by informed citizens working together are pulled in favor of the latest celebrity scandals because the media moguls have decided that uncovering the inner workings of public and private power is boring and will drive viewers and readers away to greener pastures of pabulum. Good reporters and editors confront walls of resistance in trying to place serious and informative reports over which they have long labored. Media owners who should be sounding the trumpets of alarm on the battlements of democracy instead blow popular ditties through tin horns, undercutting the basis for their existence and their First Amendment rights."


Take action now to stop more corporate media consolidation.


In other news, I am proud and happy to report that the Stoneham Town Meeting has restored all of the Stoneham Public Library (pictured) funding recently, unwisely, and amazingly cut by the Stoneham Board of Selectmen. The annual $750k budget, hardly enough to keep the library certified in the first place, was cut by $350K by the Stoneham Board of Selectmen-- the same Board which routinely approves out-of-scale, traffic-intensive development projects on the fringes of Happy Land. Enough citizens were outraged to add a special article to Town Meeting, which fully restored the funding. During the debate, the local newspaper (speaking of the media-- a rag) actually suggested the library be closed. A pox upon them. Yes, you read that right-- that's like libraries advocating for the suppression of the press, because circulation is slipping.


As one resident aptly put it, "It's embarrassing to be from a town where they want to close the library." We're always being told that commercial/business projects are 'good for the town's tax base...' But is there a town which has spread its legs wider, so to speak, than Saugus, in terms of commercial and business development? And now the Saugus Public Library is, for all intents and purposes, closed, due to a lack of town funds. A pox, I say! While it's true that I am no longer welcome at the Stoneham Public Library, having kept certain items out longer than was deemed acceptable, and while it's also true that they declined to carry my 'controversial' books, libraries must be defended to the death-- to the death!!! (This disinclination to carry my books was especially bemusing in that half the staff, at least, of the Stoneham Library struck me as being of LGBT inclination-- it's a Nest of Fairies, as my dear friend Dermot would say.) Speaking up for libraries' continued existence is kind of like protecting motherhood, or the environment-- one doesn't know where to begin in defending and justifying certain causes, as one would think their benificence is understood. So when I'm debating with the blockheads, on why libraries should be kept open, I just say, with the proper amount of nostril-flaring indignation,"Keep them open for their smell alone!" Cast not thy pearls before swine department.


I'm happy to report I am a member, in good standing, of the wonderful, venerable, and numinous Robbins Library, in Arlington, Massachusetts, which is probably five times the size of the Stoneham Library. (And it has a lovely garden contiguous to it-- Robbins Memorial Park, complete with a statue by former Arlington resident Cyrus Dallin, who did the Paul Revere statue in the North End, and the Appeal to the Great Spirit, in front of the MFA. In this lovely garden one can repair, and peruse one's latest selections amdist the smell of blooming bushes and the happy tinkle of falling waters.) But such was not always the case-- I'm afraid to confess that at the Robbins Library, too, in bygone years, I was a habitual offender when it came to returning things in a timely manner-- to the point where I was publicly dressed down and cast out by the formidable Miss Judith Stromdahl, head librarian of the Robbins for many, many moons-- she of the arched eyebrow, bosomic build, and glaring pince-nez. "Hayes?" she inquired, when I handed her my card to check out something. (This was many years ago.) "Joseph George Hayes?" "Yes," I answered. With this acknowledgement, she held up my library card and publicly ripped it into little pieces, pronouncing, "Mr. Hayes, in some people's hands, a library card is a lethal weapon." (Some years before that, she also was pleased to give a public harrangue to my oldest sister Peggy, who had the temerity, at the tender age of 20, to try and check out Valley of the Dolls. Miss Stromdahl didn't think this was appropriate reading for a young woman, and she wasn't afraid to say so, quite loudly and frankly, to Peggy's blushing chagrin.)
But again, that was many many years ago, and before the dawn of the computer age. Apparently the records didn't carry over from previous, capricious, youthful and irresponsible days, and, aware of this wonderful second chance, I have, like a character in a Capra movie, turned over a new leaf since then. When I moved back out to the 'burbs, one of the first things I did was reapply for membership at the Robbins. "Did you ever live at_______ or at _______?" the pleasant young man asked me. "Certainly not," I denied. And thus I was given a new card, one which, thus far (ten years) I have not abused. Though it does occur to me even as I write this that Joyce's Ulysses is currently overdue. Now, if only I could find it....

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5:12 AM  

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