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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dangerous Libraries, Part II: Apology

So... here's the scoop.

I called the library this morning, after they opened-- to talk to the librarian about (and to apologize for inadvertently triggering) what I was sure was a boatload of emails on her system, to explain where they were coming from, and to ask her if I could have a copy of the letter to post.

Turns out, after some... awkward conversation, that the story was, as my grandmother would have said, "not stitched out of whole cloth." The paper she had been holding was something else entirely. No letter, no trip to Billings necessary, no upset husband (well, there is a husband-- yes, I have seen him-- but he is not upset about the letter because there is no letter to be upset about).

Why she felt the need to spin this tale to us (there were 3 people near the circulation desk, counting me, participating in this conversation) I do not know. We have not yet been able to talk about that, though we have an appointment to do so. I will likely not share anything of that discussion. I may been-- scratch that, I certainly was, in this situation-- gullible and easily duped; but I am also a priest, and do not make a habit of revealing confidences.

I do, however, owe you who stopped by to read this blog an apology. It was not my intent to stir things up. I try to be honest, even in the opinions and musings you see here (which is all this blog is intended to be); but others were not honest with me. If I had not believed what I was told, I would not have posted it as such. I am sorry to have contributed to such a controversy.

I am also sorry-- and will by the time you read this (I hope) have spoken to the head librarian in Billings, to tell him so-- that the good reputation of some honest, hardworking "big city" librarians was brought into question by the statements of one who was rather less than that, via my repetition of her story on this blog.

Added 1/13/07: I have chosen to remove the post in question. Not because I think that solves the problem, nor do I believe that will eliminate what I am sorry to say is swiftly becoming an urban legend; but simply because that means the folks who follow a link from somewhere else will not find it here. If anything, they will hopefully find this apology instead, and realize that the tale was not true. I cannot do much about reducing perpetuation of this story, but I can do this.

Nothin' more to see here, folks. Time to move on.

22 Comments:

Blogger Reverend Ref + said...

Mistakes will be made, about all kinds of things. We are human. We are fallible. If this is the worst thing you ever do, you're a lucky woman. Not only that, but it takes a person of character to own up to a mistake; and you do have character.

All that said, I will stand by my comment on my blog; and I still trust you.

January 11, 2007 3:55 PM  

Blogger The young fogey said...

What Ref said and duly noted here.

January 11, 2007 4:29 PM  

Blogger Casey Kochmer said...

It's interesting since, 10 years ago this would have been a non issue.

Now with all the primary news sources being rigged has moved the trust and our information flows, to the people directly.

It's a strange shift of information flow. As we saw people didn't treat you with respect, rather as a news source.

Very much like communist Russia where the news papers were a joke, and what matter was the trust of who you know and what information you shared in your underground network of associates. Gads this reminds me more of dictatorship government than I care to think about.

I think there is much to learn from this as the world is getting smaller, and in that so is our trust, since we are lied to so often by traditional sources of information.

You have nothing to be sorry about, rather you should be very proud, since you handled it with very good grace.

People need to learn and remember, we bloggers are human and need to be treated as such, and with some respect.

We bloggers need to learn that what we do say does matter and people do hear us.So I guess we do need to be more careful on how we report facts, even though we are still doing so from a personal level.

What happen here is very much what I have been talking about, how we do now have the power to shape society, by speaking out, I am mean look how powerfully your blog entry was taken. Thats an amazing statement saying our society is in a state of flux right now.

It's a new world we are shifting, and strangely in that I Suspect the governments and news are not catching up and we as a result will have the power to shape things to come as the existing power structure tries to play their old games as we shift to our new global village.

Peace, and sincerely you handled it well.

me

January 11, 2007 5:30 PM  

Blogger Jessamyn said...

Thank you for the update!

January 11, 2007 5:50 PM  

Anonymous AA Guy said...

Not so fast Jane. Joliet is a small town, and I'm sure that most everybody living there knows the librarian of whom you spoke. Now, to make matters worse, you have publicly accused her of "spinning a tale", which is a polite way of calling her a liar. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't. But your public proclamation of it is improper behavior for a friend, let alone one that tried (in the previous post) to lend weight to your honesty by reminding us that you are a priest.

Words mean things. People seize upon writings like this to prove points, political and otherwise. There is a reason this caught the attention of a small crowd of people. People have vested interests in finding episodes like your imagined scenario and exploiting them. I’d love to tell you that with your apology people will forget all about it. But they won’t. It’s out “there” and it will have taken on a life of its own. What the political bloggers call Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) is fueled by this sort of well meaning pontificating.

I’m not here to scold you, or to accept or deny your apology, but to encourage you to pay attention to this incident and watch what it grows into. I hope I’m wrong, that it’ll simply fade into the background and we’ll all get a good chuckle when we think of it in the months to come. But in my experience it won’t. People were bad-mouthing the Patriot Act before they read it and still do.

We’re at war. It matters.

January 11, 2007 5:56 PM  

Blogger Jane Ellen+ said...

Thank you for your kind words, folks.

Tracer: I stand by what I said. There was no "imagining," "mistaken overhearing," or misinterpreted hearsay, as was claimed in a comment on my earlier post. This was a conversation in which I was actively involved. In fact, while we talked, I asked for and was handed the books in question so that I could write down the titles and author's name. I will not speculate about the source or veracity of the story about children's books; I can simply tell you that they were not discussed in my presence.

As to the comment about my identity: I did not intend to suggest that, as a priest, I am somehow more credible than a layperson. I have no illusions about that. I was simply trying to establish that I was (and am) an actual person, rather than some sort of urban legend construct. Directing attention to my name on the diocesan website was one quick and easy way to do that in the moment.

As to "paying attention to the incident," I can assure you that I will-- for any number of reasons.

January 11, 2007 6:44 PM  

Blogger michaelhollowaysblog said...

A positive out of all this is that it teaches all of us to be honest.

Passion can make your adrenaline flow, and that can lead to exaggeration.

The powers of the patriot act that the government wields should make us passionate; the attacks on the world trade centre, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and now Somalia should bring out passion in us.

The lesson is, when you feel that passion rising in you, remember Ellen's blog and how stretching the truth can hurt innocent people - just look at Colin Powell who was assured by those around him - those he trusted - that the tubes, the yellow paste, the Nigerian connection were all 'slam dunks'. He repeated the lies in front of the whole world; and 688,000 people have now died.

I hope the librarian is reading this blog; and I hope she learns something from the experience.

I have faith we all believe we are on the side of good; even when I disagree with another, I have to believe they have that faith also.

Your duty to that faith and the subsequent logic is to tell what you know rather than what you wish was.

The beautiful thing about the whole escapade is that the Wikis and the Blogs have once again shown that they are powerful devices for towards truth.

And now we have some more of it.
michaelholloway

January 11, 2007 7:55 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearing up this topic.

There are enough real dangers to privacy and freedom out there that we don't need fake ones distracting us.

January 11, 2007 8:01 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update. If/when you find out more, please post it. Believe it or not, this is being picked uop by other sites, and a librarian friend of mine was already aware of it. Therefore, some resolution and additional information would be a good thing.

I certainly hope this is a case of the librarian spinning a yarn. This isn't due to any ill will toward her, but the alternative--that someone told her to shut her mouth and take the fall--is much worse.

January 11, 2007 9:54 PM  

Blogger St. Casserole said...

Jane Ellen,
You've handled this well. Thank you for your honesty and candor.

I appreciate you.

January 11, 2007 9:57 PM  

Anonymous AA Guy said...

Jane,
I just want to make clear I don't think you handled this well. You've got some friends here that are reinforcing your belief that you didn't do anything wrong. Yes, you did. Just because somebody says something doesn't mean it's suitable for broadcast. Yes, Jane, this is broadcasting. I said people will probably use this for their own purposes, and already Michael Holloway has proved me correct.
He said
" just look at Colin Powell who was assured by those around him - those he trusted - that the tubes, the yellow paste, the Nigerian connection were all 'slam dunks'. He repeated the lies in front of the whole world; and 688,000 people have now died. "

Honorable people disagree with Michael. But Michael has seized upon your little story further as proof that we went to war for an unjust cause. Michael knows very well that there was a whole laundry list of reasons that we went to war in Iraq, not just the lies of Clinton hack named Plame.

I won't go further, because obviously this isn't a political blog, and my words for Michael aren't appropriate on your site. But I will say this; you absolutely are dishonest when you say you didn't intend to suggest that your position as a priest was not meant to enhance your credibility. People KNOW that you are a person; articles like the one you authored are not written automatically. Bringing in the fact that you are a priest further enhanced the believability of this story. I wouldn't have looked into at all had it not been for that.

January 12, 2007 7:04 AM  

Blogger KarenE said...

Brava on handlimg this entire incident with grace and honesty.

January 12, 2007 7:40 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane, I do appreciate you passion, and your honesty. However, it is critically important that, if you must gossip, you stop doing so with identifiers.

It is not uncommon for people to exagerate and tell "tall tales". Back in college when I was as liberal as you are, I too recall exchanging braggs with my fellow do-gooders about how we were all "probably on some FBI black list" for being in Amnesty International (which I'm sure was quite untrue, and was certainly pompous and stupid). This is akin to yapping in the bar about the "big fish that got away".

But I didn't have to worry about people suddenly publishing my stupid and imature teenage embellishments to a national audience, which is what you did. This is not going to be good for that librarian. We are at war. Words matter.

So, next time, don't include the identifiers. You spoke as friends. She trusted you, and she never gave you permission to blog about it.

Shari

January 12, 2007 9:54 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane have you considered your friend might have told you the right story the first time...
but then in fear of reprisals changed her story to protect herself.

I mean look how this story took off, and the response it generated. More happened here than meets the eye or truth meters. The one thing that is correct from both sides of the responses. Don't take the surface as the truth since the truth is often much different. You stirred up much more than you could guess.

The one fact is: you are not told if you are on the watch list. So that part of the story didn't fit, but its also a clue as, At times the FBI does visit you, and does tell you if you mention the visit, it's a crime and they will go and do go after you.

I am not saying this is the case here, I am just saying I have encountered this in the past. So I can already tell your friend is reacting with fear and that says more is there than meets the eye.


The truth here is .. no one wants the truth, they just want their side of the story to be in the history books

The truth here is, America is in turmoil and many people are being hurt as it determines its new future.

The truth here is: this is just the beginning of the story and now you have open up the rabbits door and taken the blue pill. Nothing will seem quite the same now. Follow what feels right and don't be swayed by all these comments, instead look at them and learn since as one of your readers said before... we are in pivotal times. and as another reader says: we are at war and it matters

Yes we are at war, and the war is here in America now. And the war is over our own freedom, and so much more...

January 12, 2007 11:08 AM  

Blogger Jim said...

I know you only through your blog and Todd's most recent kind words to you. You don't deserve the wire-brushing that some have attempted to perform on you. You, in a personal web log, related what someone had told you.

Each of us does that many times a day. The librarian's enhancement of the story is the heart of the issue, coupled with our country's sensitivity to the lawlessness with which our executive branch has operated over the last few years.

Thank you for continuing to share your ministry with us.

January 12, 2007 2:18 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the clarification, but i feel that removing the original post was a very poor decision.

firstly, it flies in the face of every belief i hold with respect to digital information and writings published online... they should almost /never/ for any reason be deleted and consigned to the memory hole of the internet. if errors are detected or corrections necessary, they can be appended to the original writing or, in a case as extreme as this, inserted prominently at the top of the original piece.

you mention in your comment about the first blog entry being taken offline that you hoped it would somehow assist people in discovering this correction... exactly HOW does a 404 error give someone like my aunt or grandfather the ability to discern that? even I had to take a moment to decided to jump up a few directory levels to your blog root in order to see the truth.

i never understand when people delete things from online publications after they have been seen by the world at large. at best, it merely makes you look like you had something to hide... at worst, it may cause a person to believe "oh, man! not only is the DHS getting on a librarian but now they've come after the blogger who reported this and deleted their commentary!"

just my $0.02,

- Deviant

January 13, 2007 10:36 AM  

Anonymous AA Guy said...

Jane,
Perfect, your elimination of the original post now qualifies you as an outstanding example of how urban myths are created.

January 13, 2007 3:48 PM  

Blogger michaelhollowaysblog said...

AA Guy posted,

"Michael knows very well that there was a whole laundry list of reasons that we went to war in Iraq, not just the lies of Clinton hack named Plame."

I don't understand the Valerie Plame reference.

Plame was a CIA agent who was outed by White house chief of staff 'Scooter' Libby; apparently(so far a five-count federal criminal indictment which includes obstruction of justice is in progress; as well as a civil suit brought by Plame and her husband).

Libby outed her in a vindictive rail after her husband former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV wouldn't return 'correct' intelligence.

The Ambassador, was sent, by the Whitehouse to co-oberate German reports Saddam Hussain was trying to buy nuclear weapons materials(yellow cake) in Nigeria. He came back with no evidence to support already leaked reports from the Whitehouse.

To get back to the point of my comment, the former Ambassador told the truth even though he knew it would hurt the Whitehouse, the people who were employing him at the time.

Whether or not Plame was a Clinton hack seems irrelevant to me.

January 15, 2007 2:43 AM  

Anonymous AA Guy said...

The point is that people like you are all too willing to use allegations like Jane's gossip spurred from a librarian that Jane calls a liar to further your political goals. I stand by my point.

January 15, 2007 11:09 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane+
I think you did the right thing, removing the post. Unfortunately, bloggers are (sort of) like journalists, and I do think if we are going to make it easy for folks to figure out whom we are speaking about, we should either be extremely sure it really happened, or say "Wow! Really? I might write an article about that on my blog if you don't mind".

I know I am much more careful about what I say when people identify themselves as being from "the Joplin Globe" or something.

Yeah, folks should tell the truth, but she obviously was blowing off steam with you as an acquaintance not as a newsperson.
Shari

January 15, 2007 12:22 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny to watch the political affiliations fall in line with the opinions being presented...

January 16, 2007 6:16 PM  

Blogger Prentiss said...

Gossip, hearsay, exaggeration and credibility-damaging urban legend are an unavoidable part of human nature and happen even in the best of times.

But the secrecy provisions of the Patriot Act create an environment in which paranoia and misinformation are bound to thrive. If libraries are precluded from speaking openly about how they handle patrons' privacy, what are we supposed to think when we hear rumors? If citizens can't find out whether they are on watch lists, or even what watch lists exist or who maintains them, how can we do anything but worry about our mistakenly being listed on them?

If the authors of the Patriot Act wanted to encourage rational democratic discourse about it, they botched the job. However, appearances suggest that rational democratic discourse was the last thing on their minds.

January 18, 2007 11:07 AM  

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