Source: Hartford Courant – By Rick Green
“To show an offensive film of any sort at a public library to me, it’s embarrassing,” Ken Nelson, Enfield’s deputy mayor, said at a recent town council meeting. “Put something up that everybody is going to enjoy and nobody is going to complain. They might be bored … but that is the easy solution here. That should be our standard as far as I’m concerned in this town.”
There you have it. Libraries should be like a Happy Meal: bland and inoffensive.
Last week the Enfield Town Council jumped into action after they learned — from four members of the Republican Town Committee who complained — that Bolsheviks at the Enfield Public Library were daring to show Moore’s “Sicko” as part of its Fun Flicks movie series on Fridays. The movie is a polemic broadside against health care in America. It’s amusing, disturbing and annoying, which is pretty much how I feel about Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann.
“Do nice stuff,” Mayor Scott Kaupin said at the council meeting. “Do noncontroversial … This isn’t a fun flick. A fun flick would be ‘Finding Nemo.’ That’s a fun flick.”
The series also featured “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Trouble the Waters,” which is about the very un-fun Hurricane Katrina. You don’t feel that everything is OK after watching these movies, which is the why the library was screening them.
The problem here is that we have political partisans intervening to block something they don’t like at the public library. Libraries don’t exist to keep Republicans — or Democrats — happy.
“That is blatant political censorship,” said Peter Chase, chairman of the Connecticut Library Association’s intellectual freedom committee. “This is a real turning point for censorship when political officials feel they can remove things from public libraries or ban them because they disagree with their political philosophies.”
“For them to say, ‘Oh, we don’t want to see the library providing any controversy,’ … that’s like saying we don’t think Enfield is ready to have a public library,” said Chase, director of the Plainville Public Library. “This is one of the core beliefs of our profession.”
The town council concluded that it wasn’t censorship to shut down the library’s Fun Flicks presentation of “Sicko,” because it offered an unbalanced view of the world.
The council’s inane discussion of cinema and what’s appropriate for a library film series is available for viewing online, uncensored. During the meeting, Kaupin also made it clear what was at stake when he directed the town manager to tell library director Henry Dutcher to clean up his act.
“If they don’t reconsider, they are going to have the repercussions of the council,” Kaupin said. “When budget time comes and Mr. Dutcher is asking for funding for Fun Flicks … He is going to have to answer for it. The chips fall where they may when it is an elected body, and I hope a director is smart enough to understand that.”
This certainly sounds like a threat and not much fun at all. When we spoke, Mayor Kaupin, who told me he wasn’t “a moviegoer,” said it was more a matter of equal time for both sides, not censorship.
“There seemed to be a concern that the movie was being shown in a program classified as a nonfiction ‘fun flick,”’ he said. “The council was voicing an opinion that the programming needs to be balanced.”
Think of the balancing opportunities for Enfield’s busy town council: anything by Moore and Al Gore, of course, but they can’t stop there. Somebody has to make sure some librarian doesn’t try to screen “Dead Man Walking,” which is clearly anti-death penalty propaganda, or the blatantly pro-gay “Brokeback Mountain.”
Dutcher did not return a call for comment. Town Manager Matthew Coppler told me his office will oversee creation of a more balanced movie series, subject to the approval of the town council.
As if dealing with plowing the snow, Route 5 congestion and balancing the budget isn’t enough, Enfield’s leaders will now be assessing what is and what isn’t fun for citizens to watch.
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, of the American Library Association‘s Office for Intellectual Freedom, reminded me that “it shouldn’t be that a heckler can disrupt a library program.”
Libraries, she said, exist so we can “make up our own minds.” Tell that to the Enfield town council.
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