Show your work

Jonathan Ross, over at his new blog, has written a post in which he posits the Administration of the Vancouver Public Library needs to be “reigned in” because of what he feels is a pattern of bad decision-making in choice of speakers at the institution. To support this, he highlights the VPL appearances of Greg Felton and assisted-suicide advocacy group Exit International.

I’m not going to speak to whether it’s appropriate for a library to allow someone like Felton or EI to use their facilities. Nor will I speak to whether it’s fair to conflate Felton and EI as equivalent in objectionability.

What I will speak to is:

  1. A pattern has alleged to which exactly 2 examples have been cited in support (one of which was, you know, cancelled).
  2. VPL actively seeks speakers, rather than passively approving speakers who approach them.

On 1, I left a question of Ross at CivicScene and I’ll repeat it here: What is the ratio of furor creating to non-furor creating events at the Library? Don’t know if I’ve received a response or if I will, but I ask because VPL has outside speakers every day and has for decades and if you can only cite two (one of which was, you know, cancelled) as objectionable then it’s not really a pattern that requires “reigning in”, is it? So “show your work”. There has to be more to it, right?

On 2, this is matter of factual accuracy and Ross oversteps in his characterization of VPL’s role in these two events. He uses the term “selection” and “booked” – as if VPL sought Felton and EI out to appear rather than what is actually the more mundane case (as it is for the vast majority of VPL events) – that Felton and EI approached VPL to use their rooms and VPL approved (in, you know, one case).

I would also be curious to know what is meant by “reigning in” in practical terms. Does he mean speakers must be approved by the Library Board? Or what? What if the Board approves someone that someone else somewhere objects to? Do we then reign in the Board?

Finally, I too had the great misfortune to be in the audience of the Felton event and while it definitely degenerated into a worthless screaming match I would not say it was a “near riot”.


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