the telecomm bill

Karen G. Schneider kgs at
Fri Feb 9 23:18:24 EST 1996

It's once again time to walk the walk. I was inspired to do so when  I
re-read a truly marvelous essay by Joan Didion where she describes a scene
from a trashy monster movie: "Say, why the brown study?"  "Oh,
nothing--just can't get that monster out of my mind."

Well, I can't get the Telecomm monster out of *my* mind.  The folks who
preach about "decency" and the 'net (and pushed for the censorship sections
of the telecomm bill) have a pretty broad definition of what isn't decent.
I listen to them on the radio, I read their tracts, and I am here to tell
you they are very clear about what we should do and believe.

One of the sublunary targets of the radical right is the gay-rights
movement, and they earn a "shack" on the Telecomm Bill.  As a librarian,
the Telecomm Bill annoys me, because it's so vague about funding.  Oh blah
blah blah, don't give me should--give me how and when.  But as a lesbian,
this bill terrifies me, because I feel targeted.  It also angers me,
because I believe I'm a good person. I go to church, I'm in a committed
monogamous relationship, I volunteer time to my community, I vote.  I work
very hard on those "ties that bind."  But to the right, I'm just something
to eradicate or at least make invisible--a cultural pimple.  Sure, the bill
doesn't mention homosexuals, gay websites, etc.  It doesn't have to.  Piece
together your typical right-wing talk show and the language of the Bill,
and to quote another famous American, "you don't have to be a weatherman to
know which way the wind blows."

It hasn't been so long that gay people have had the rights we now have
(still far less than straight people, but better than before).  I also know
that what is given can be taken away.  There was a time--even in my own
lifetime--when anything relating to homosexuality sent through the mail was
considered prima facie obscene.  (Let's not even discuss the legal and
social consequences of living an open lifestyle; I'm just discussing
media.)  We know what I'm talking about--that any electronic media related
to homosexuality will soon be verboten, gone, disappeared El Salvador
style. (Au revoir Karen's Kitchen, among other things.)  Gay materials
won't be the only material to go, by a long shot--but we will be among the

We can ramble on about parental rights and so forth, but let's get real.
The folks behind the conservative parts of the telecomm bill aren't
concerned about parental rights, except to the point where they can control
what parents see. I seriously doubt they really care about kids. They think
it's o.k. for private companies and boards to determine public standards.
They're thrilled, I'm sure, to hear a deafening silence from the library
community, and even more thrilled to hear rumblings of discontent that web
pages were made slightly less convenient for several days.  (You want to
know what "inconvenient" means? My life-partner and I cannot marry or share
health benefits.  Talk to me some more about that hard-to-read web page you
hit this week.)  They must be in frissons of ecstacy that we are not
"naming it"--that is, saying what is REALLY going on.

I feel a sense of futility--that some will be alienated by this post,
others will think it paranoid and a few who get my drift will, like me, not
know what to do. But I feel the new Right is talking, and more importantly,
acting in a code that we are refusing to read, however clear it will appear
in the aftermath.  All I can do is continue writing by candlelight.

Karen G. Schneider * kgs at * kgs at *
Cybrarian * Columnist, American Libraries
Author, The Internet Access Cookbook (e-mail Neal-Schuman at
Karen's Kitchen reopening soon at a URL near you!

More information about the Web4lib mailing list