Rory Litwin critical of LISNews


The most recent issue of Library Juice includes an essay by editor Roy Litwin. He reflects on Blake Carver's decision in February to encourage more conservative contributors to LISNews.

When Blake made his original announcement, I linked to it in Library Juice and called it "Batty." It seemed batty to me for Blake to describe his own site as a "liberal echo chamber" when to me it had for years seemed like one of the more politically conservative sources of information relating to librarianship available, in terms of the stories that were posted, but especially the comments that people were leaving. The belligerant, "AM Talk Radio" style of much if not most of the discussion on LISNews had led me to stop posting stories there roughly a year earlier and to stop reading the site almost completely. A year ago it already seemed, to me, that LISNews had, far from being a "liberal echo chamber," been taken over by a right wing librarian's militia group.

So, basically I am still disturbed by Blake's sentiments about his site and about politics in the library community. It comes as a surprise and a disappointment. If you are a reader of LISNews, I hope you will read it with a critical eye and an awareness of this development.

I would like to add that I have nearly stopped reading the comments in recent weeks. Mainly because my work load has increased and my free time has decreased, but also because it seems to be the same folks, beating each other up over the same issues. Sometimes I get the feeling that my moderate, left-leaning opinion isn't wanted here.


p-upchuck that is really clever. I can hardly control my rage and anger at your sharp wit. Oh, please please stop. Lord, make it go away.

How do you do it? You start out with a sharp stinging play on the name. This leaves one almost immobilized with fear. Then you come in with your overwhelming logic. Then you follow up with another witty and politically timely remark about those nasty conservatives. If my eyes aren't burning up after that you then finish off with your real name. You really are making your parents proud.

By the way, did that make you feel big to say "pooh-pooh" and bullshit? I bet you were just dying to say some "big-boy" words.

In an online forum like this, people tend to be at their worst and least thoughtful. It shows.

I'm floored to see this. Why not just tell everyone you're too ______ to even want your name associated with this place -- and that's why you won't get an account here?

I didn't get recruited by Blake either. I lurked, liked it, started posting.

Can I just call you "P"? First, you deserve an answer: I was frankly a little disappointed in the "upchuck" thing - shoulda been more clever, but I was busy.However, I got what I wanted: the rhetoric has calmed, folks are - with a few exceptions - actually engaging Rory's ideas; the anonymity question (and the associated issue of intestinal fortitude y'all thought was such a winner for you previously) is at the fore; and you folks back off when you get a taste of your own medicine.So, yes, I'm happy as a Republican wallowing in crude...No child left behind in this debate, I'm still:John Buschman (a real person, not a chicken nom-de-plume)

You and the others don't leave your names - you are anonymous. Do please don't ask me for names.I am sure my memory isn't failing me, but I don't really have the time to dig up the messages that I am thinking of. They were in comments to stories that I am not sure how I would go about finding at this point. Sorry.Rory Litwin

Trying to find an example of the overall tenor of the site isn't really appropriate - we're in the midst of it. The site as a whole has a certain character, partly shaped by the balance of stories that are posted and the way that they are described, and partly shaped by the nature of the comments on the stories. In February, Blake called this overall character of the site a "left wing echo-chamber," which in itself was, but was not taken as, an admission that the site has a frame of reference - as off-base as it sounded to me and many others who visit the site when the comments had become dominated by aggressively conservative posters and the balance of stories seemed pretty middle of the road. So, Blake called for more conservative content, and I watched things for a couple of months and decided that he had indeed made an effort to shift the overall frame of reference of the site to the right, and that there was an appreciable effect. Now the character of the site has shifted to the right, partly through this move on Blake's part, and partly through the gradual buildup of conservative comment. Despite this, you and Blake and others still represent the site as "neutral" and ask for proof that it is not. If I may answer a question with a question, what is neutrality to you if this site has it, and if the absence of it on a site with a political culture has to be proved?Rory Litwin

Rory - You confound me. You consider the LISNews forum more akin to a brawl than a civil exchange of ideas, yet you are bothered by Blake's invitation to "conservative muckruckers" to participate. Why should you care?

You're visiting the monkey house here Rory. You should fan the flames, encourage this perpetual food fight to expose conservatism for what it is. Perhaps a button on your Juice site, something like "Click Here for Conservative Cognition" or "Right Wing Think Tank Straight Ahead". Surely this site poses no threat to you or progressive librarians.

The point was to have him sign up for an account. How do we know that any of the things that say Rory under it are really him. Both the post I made hade language that showed that it was not Rory but did show the point that without the language you would think it was from him. Since only you top level people have the power to see the IP of the post people should have an account.

I do hope you'll change your mind Rory. As Blake said previously, this is not strictly his forum, it is a place for all to add their thoughts and opinions, left, right and non-denominational to the stories and commentary posted here.

As I was out of the country when the original Library Juice editorial and LIS News responses were posted, I'd thought I'd chime in now...hoping that maybe...I could have the last word.

Tomeboy (love the nom de plume..),Oh boy! This really intellectual now! Medications as well as the subsequent rant on Stalinism and broad brush red-baiting. Studiously avoiding the actual issues at hand (remember Rory's original position & his reasons?) & attacking personally is classic right wing sleaziness. I don't really expect much else - just know that I too won't back off.Get used to what, stupidity? Nobody is defending Stalin - as I assume you folks aren't defending Hitler or Mussolini or Franco or Cheney (well, strike that last one). Rory's non-account is a nonsense issue too. Do you folks lay awake at night dreaming this stuff up?So, answer the question: why was it necessary to slap around postings as too left to get more diversity of viewpoints if that is what was felt was needed?John Buschm

So, answer the question: why was it necessary to slap around postings as too left to get more diversity of viewpoints if that is what was felt was needed?


The “slap� hyperbole notwithstanding, I think you have answered your own question John.

Tomeperson,I think you're caught in the same kind of tautology that you accuse PLG types of holding dear: the fact that anyone dares argue with you makes them, by definition, wrong and deserving of any & all you might feel like dishing out. That is, of course, a convenient way to avoid answering a simple question, which you've done consistently.Personal attacks substitute for argumentation and reasons for you and amongst the true believers you speak for. You can call "slap" hyperbole, but its pretty clear from this long string who the attackers are, and who's trying to argue for their position (which is different, you know).Doing my best to make good on W's promise to "leave no child behind", I'll keep corresponding as long as you wish. Sign me with my own, real name,John Buschm

John, you answered your own question which leads me to believe you have no other question.

You mention personal attacks. I see the puerility of your debate now includes my handle “tomeboy�. Fine. Call me tomeshithead, tomeasshole, tomesonofabitch….I really don’t care John.

But if you wish to play the role of the progressive blog martyr here for Rory, then I suggest you either lay off your own ad hominem BS or tell Rory to get out from under your skirt.

Better a coward than a hypocrite.

Person-of-Tomeness,The names continue! I'm impressed - and you managed to do so much personal slapping around beyond even me... Come on, Tomeness, humor me just this once and try, real hard, to actually enter a debate wherein you might be thinking:Why was it necessary in the first place for LISNews to slap the "left echo chamber" to get more diversity of views? In other words, why was it necessary to make one perspective unwelcome to foster another?Still leaving no child behind, I am:John Buschman (my actual, real nam

Because this WAS a liberal echo chamber.

Are you suggesting that conservatives and liberals were equally divided here prior to 2004? I can think of two conservative types when I started posting last fall, myself and bibliofuture (I'm not even sure biblio is a conservative, though we do agree on the smut issue in libraries). So, the ball is in your court John. Where was this right wing tsunami of opinion?

Tome-of-indeterminate-gender,So, it was a "liberal echo chamber" because it was a liberal echo chamber. Now I understand! People joined & posted shudderingly liberal stuff to shut y'all out, so turn about is fair play. Nice.Again, just actually answer the question (do you do this on the reference desk? "I told you, the population of Arkansas is what the population of Arkansas is, because that's the population that's in Arkansas. What part don't you understand?").That question again is: why was it necessary to make a class of opinions unwelcome to broaden the field for others (more conservative in this case)?Still leaving no conservative child behind in our attempts to educate, I amJohn Buschman

John I’ve answered your question . You’ve answered you question . Now you’re trolling for another answer. No thanks. Try this and your shtick with making moniker funnies on another conservative. There should be plenty to find around here.

And yes, please take a final shot. LISNews colleagues would expect no less than to see your “no child left behind� gimmickry one last time. Form over substance.

You win John.

Tome-of-righteousness,It's funny because it *is* funny (see, two can play the same game). You haven't answered the question, you're clearly not going to because you either: a, can't; b, know that you'd be betraying a central professional principle as a librarian if you did.As for the naming thing, y'all raked Rory over the coals but good & opened that door. Minor puns on a pretentious "handle" is pretty mild compared to what I've read. You can dish it out, but you can't take it.I refuse to quit & leave this child behind, signedJohn Buschman (again, my real name...)(Just couldn't resist the pot-shot on "form" could you? Brave words from somebody who's ducked a question 37 times.)

In retrospect, I think the right-wing tsunami of opinion in early 2004 was in the comments to the stories. I think it was the influence of these commentators that led Blake to call for more conservative postings. I'd say the stories themselves hardly constituted a left-wing echo chamber. I think they pretty much reflected the mainstream of librarianship - mostly rather centrist, with some liberalism, very little real progressivism, and some conservatism and radical conservatism. But it strikes me as odd, and still strikes me as odd, that Blake, who was accused by this wave of conservative comment on LISNews of being a crazy liberal, responded to them by giving them exactly what they wanted - validation of their interpretation of the preponderance of LISNews postings as making up a "liberal echo chamber" (I challenge anyone to find evidence for this view) and calling for more conservatism. If that doesn't constitute a definite political frame of reference and shifting it to the right, I don't know what does. My beef, as I've said, is not with LISNews having a frame of reference, but with LISNews continuing to call itself perfectly neutral ground as this is going on.Rory Litwin

You call it an "opportunity to engage" but you treat it as an opportunity to fight. I see a real difference between honest debate, which is motivated by an interest in what the other side has to say and in a cooperative pursuit of truth, and a political slugfest where the goal is not to find truth but to hurt your opponent. One is civil, rational discourse, the other is not. If I don't want to participate in a forum which is dominated by the latter type of discourse, it's not because I can't handle a diversity of opinion. It's only because I think diversity of opinion should be expressed, debated and thought about in an atmosphere of peace and mutual respect rather than unruly contest where dishonest argumentation (taking things out of context, misrepresenting views, baseless personal attacks) tends to ruin the discussion.Rory Litwin

But it strikes me as odd, and still strikes me as odd, that Blake, who was accused by this wave of conservative comment on LISNews of being a crazy liberal, responded to them by giving them exactly what they wanted

Who accused Blake, Rory??? I want names. I certainly didn't accuse Blake of being a "crazy liberal", nor did I whine to Blake about the ideology of stories or petition his assistance for right wing help. I respect Blake, though rarely do we, or have we, agreed on issues. Check the record. He is, dare I say, a true progressive.

You could count on one hand the conservative voices here in LISNews prior to 2004. That leaves the possibility of up to four other suspects. Who were these conservative name callers that influenced the "Crazy Liberal"? Without names, these are baseless accusations.

Having an account is no guarantee of identity. You could be sharing your login with someone, for all I know.To me the important thing is not to be anonymous. I have signed all of my postings (where it wasn't obvious that I was responding to something said to me directly). I don't know your name or the names of most of the people here who use nicknames alone.- Rory Litwin

Apologies to Anna - I see that she, not Rochelle, posted the story. I'm still not angry at her at all, of course. I was initially shocked, kind of hurt, and angered by the nature of many of the comments, but now they simply appear to me as "information" about the nature of the LISNews community as well as online forums in general.This story is six days old now. At this point I want to invite anyone who has read this deeply into the comments to step back from them and analyze the discussion.- Rory Litwin

No on ever gets the last word! ;)

The other related point that I think needs to be discussed is the extent to which an online forum like LISNews, and LISNews in particular, can really be said to be neutral and open, and the extent to which it actually has a cultural and political frame of reference.
So that we can start the discussion please provide an example of how LISNEWS is not neutral or open. If you cannot provide any examples we can at least end the discussion on that point.

I would like to add that I have nearly stopped reading the comments in recent weeks. Mainly because my work load has increased and my free time has decreased, but also because it seems to be the same folks, beating each other up over the same issues. Sometimes I get the feeling that my moderate, left-leaning opinion isn't wanted here.

That is your choice. If you don't like reading conservative opinions in the comments then you don't have to read them.

As for this other guy, he sounds like he is just name-calling and belly-aching. I love this one, "
right wing librarian's militia group". He claims that Lisnews sounds like AM radio. Well, after reading his essay he certainly ripped a page out of the AM radio script.

So much for listening to more than one opinion.

conservator: stop pouting! Sheesh!

This Rory chap shows his true colors and for some it is a real eye opening experience.

Sounds like an epiphany.

Can't say that I've noticed any macro shift in political slant for the articles posted to LISNews during the last several months.**

With some exceptions (e.g., stuff that begins "Fang-Face writes ...") most of the articles appear to be of the straightforward this-is-in-the-news-here's-a-link variety. I suspect that LISNews members tend to put their positions into the comments and journals rather than the article posts.

** Of course, this could be because I generally just scan LISNews and read only the items that catch my interest.

Sometimes I get the feeling that my moderate, left-leaning opinion isn't wanted here.

Why? Because someone disagreed with you?

I guess you don't understand the concept of differing opinions.

Nothing like an epiphany! Maybe you can have one soon, too!

Maybe you can have one soon, too!

What? That you are a clown?

It seems a nerve was hit for poor pchuck. Take a nap. You'll feel better.

SO! You admit there IS a script for A.M. radio! I knew as much...

It seems a nerve was hit for poor pchuck. Take a nap. You'll feel better.

Nah, no nerves hit here. I can take it and I can dish it out.

SO! You admit there IS a script for A.M. radio! I knew as much...

Curses! I let it slip and you got to peek behind the curtain of the vast right wing conspiracy.

I can hear them giving the orders to "release the hounds."

We have to stop meeting this way.

Can we be expected to moderate based on one quotation? The rest of the comment by Rochelle was insightful.

No, because often those with similar opinions get slammed for them. I'm all for reasoned discussions, but there seems to be quite a bit of flaming going on in the comments. Granted, there are some really insightful things posted here. Unfortunately, they're getting drowned in the political battles.

I still appreciate what LISNews is as a resource for information, and I continue to be a faithful reader and occasional contibutor. I hope no one is angry with me for posting Rory's comments, but I thought it was important that this discussion happen in the open right here where it matters to us.

I hope no one is angry with me for posting Rory's comments, but I thought it was important that this discussion happen in the open right here where it matters to us.

Other than Rory, why on earth would anyone be angry at you for posting this story? I think it is a fantastic story and with a few exceptions, the comments are great.

I'd be disappointed if you gave up on LISNews because you felt your opinions were not welcome. I get the impression that LISNews strives to provide a forum where everyone has the opportunity to state their opinion. Encompassing everyone from the kooky-right to kooky-left. That should be considered a good thing.

" If we can't defend our viewpoints to our colleagues, how can defend ourselves to those outside our professional circle?"

That is what makes LISNews most valuable, the ability to openly debate our differences.

Few can be as right wing as me. I even have photos of Richard Nixon on my refrigerator. However, postings from 'leftists' like slashgirl and shoe certainly revealed interesting insights and complicated my view of some things.

It is through challenging our ideas which we grow. I enjoy, even crave the intellectual tete-a-tete that goes on at LISNews (the unintellectual part just makes me giggle). I love it when people disagree with me and have cogent reasons. It allows me to see things through their eyes, broadening my view.

Sure there are things on which I will never change my opinion, matters of faith and life are sacrosanct to me. But I don't think anyone on LISNews cares about my view on abortion or the death penalty or any of the hot button issues not directly related to libraries and librarianship. While there are going to be books in libraries about such topics I think we can all agree that community standards should, and most often will, prevail over our politicized banter.

I hope we all agree that libraries are repositories of freedom- freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom from repression. What is good for libraries is good for librarians.

Utopia for me is not a land where everyone agrees with me, but a place where I can hear different opinions and come to my own conclusions. LISNews is closer to Utopia than any left-wing or right-wing echo chamber could be. The free debate of ideas is a prime element of scholarship, as librarians we encourage life-long learning and LISNews provides the forum for us to do just that.

If people want to think of me as some right-wing whacko that's fine. I'm sure many people already think of me that way and have for years. However as a librarian I am unbiased in my selection and presentation of materials. If you want a book on transvestite homosexual farm animals that are repressed because they do not wear a burqua I'll get you one, but it will have to be ILL as I know we don't have that locally.

Oro, confero, cogito, vivo vixi!


This is Rory here.I posted a reply to Rochelle this morning and it didn't go through. I'm hoping Blake will post it tonight.I'm shocked at some of the accusations against me, which I find completely untrue (some of them actually factually untrue). I think some of you need to go ahead and read what I actually wrote. And please read my response to Rochelle when Blake posts it.I believe this response to Rochelle's posting linking to my article (and I'm glad she did it) helps me to make my point about LISNews.I also want to correct those who refer to Library Juice as a blog. It is an online serial. The authors are diverse but it is definitely an edited publication with a point of view and not an open forum. I don't believe a comparison to LISNews would be quite appropriate. The nature and intentions of the two things are very different.

This is it: disagree with the LISNews moderator, you're a "troll."

Truly, what is "flamebait": the reference to a "'Right Wing Coven' on LISNews" ("5: Insightful") or the objection to such inflamatory name-calling from the left?

Don't get mad at me. It's not my fault that I'm funnier than you are.

>> If people are so unhappy with the tone of comments rather than>> the content of comments then perhaps eliminating the>> anonymous feature would be a solution.I've thought about that, and had others suggest it, but I don't think it's Mr. Or Mrs. Anonymous Patron who are normally the biggest trolls around here. I've never seen cutting off AP access as a good idea, but, I have thought about making it impossible for those without accounts to post, but to allow anyone with an account post anonymously.>>… LISNews is not mine. Blake can do whatever he wants.LISNews isn't really mine, not in the same sense Juice is Rory's. Library Juice is Rory Litwin, it's his voice, he chooses what ends up there, and what happens. That's not the case here, while I could do that, I don't. There's a couple dozen people with author powers, and anyone can add to the discussion. So while technically I can do whatever I want, I don't. It's rare that I delete a comment or story, and I don't try to tell the other authors what to post. I love not knowing what I'm going to see next. Sure, everything is not a gem, especially in the comments, but the good stuff makes the crap worth it.I could stop doing anything at LISNews tomorrow and it would move forward without me just fine, which is a good thing.

My perception is that much of the belligerence originates with certain left-wing/liberal posters. If I don't like a person's comments then I'll skip over their future posts, not try to shut them up. The Library Juice guy sounds like he has a real problem with democracy and free speech. This seems to be a common trait among true believers (in the Eric Hoffer sense).

I have to say that some of the things that we might be experiencing here probably just reflect the growth of LISNews. If people who lean to the right have the time to invest in commenting more than some of the left leaning readers, it is up to the people on the left to either comment or ignore the comments they disagree with. I think that in any internet community site, there are going to be people who are combative in tone no matter what their politics are. If Rory is unhappy with the direction of LISNews, why doesn't he start commenting or moderating himself?
The Slashcode gives any LISNews member the opportunity to rate comments, but people seldom take advantage of this.

The belligerence goes both ways. I don't think it's limited to either side of the political spectrum.

I would like to add that I have nearly stopped reading the comments in recent weeks. Mainly because my work load has increased and my free time has decreased, but also because it seems to be the same folks, beating each other up over the same issues. Sometimes I get the feeling that my moderate, left-leaning opinion isn't wanted here.

No matter what kind of forum you run, be it Slashcode, Usenet, PHPBBS, or whatever; you're always going to have vocals and lurkers. I lurked on LISNews for a long time before I even signed up for an account and then it took a while before I ever got the juevos to post something. So you're always going to have a majority of the same folks duking it out over the topic of the moment. Just like you'll have the same folks answering 95% of questions in a class.

It's the lurkers you gotta be aware of. Sure they're not posting, that's their right. But, beloved, that doesn't mean they ain't reading. I learn tons of stuff from here, and from various listservs I belong to. I hardly ever post on those listservs. But goddess above do I learn a lot from them.

Your opinion needs to be heard, whether it's conservative or liberal or middle of the fence or whatever. Hells bells, I'm liberal and I don't care if a conservative poster rapes my opinion, as long as they realize that I maintain the right to do the same to theirs. So who cares how an opinion is received and who cares what the political makeup of LISNews is?

The idea that someone is looking at the political makeup of an online forum makes me giggle anyway, especially since this is place is for librarians. I'd find it more interesting if they looked at the political makeup of some Usenet binary group, say*. Now that would be informative!

Don't you see, dear hearts? If you think your opinion isn't wanted then the terrorists... oops, I mean the conservatives have won. (Sorry, got caught mixing my media mumbo jumbo there.) You want this place to become a haven for conservative librariansim? That's easy, just do what you're saying, stop posting your opinions.

If people are so unhappy with the tone of comments rather than the content of comments then perhaps eliminating the anonymous feature would be a solution. One might view this feature as making it easier to take the low road by not taking ownership of a comment. This would assign ownership to comments, in the interests of full-disclosure.

I'm not advocating this drastic move, I'm merely offering it up for discussion. In addition, I really have no right to make this proposal because LISnews is not mine. Blake can do whatever he wants.


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