December 19, 2005

We are all suspects now

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s tome on Communism called “The Little Red Book.” […]

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand’s class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents’ home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said. […]

“I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book,” Professor Pontbriand said. “Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that’s what triggered the visit, as I understand it.”

Dr. Williams, another professor here, is reconsidering a course on terrorism because he is worried about exposing his students to scrutiny. If a book on Mao raises a red flag, what do they think about surfing al-Qaeda websites from campus?

If this student had said to somebody that he was worried he would receive a visit from homeland security for borrowing a historical book at the time he requested it, reasonable people would have called him paranoid. And back then they would have been correct, because we didn’t know the extent of the surveillance.

Today when you express this fear, you can no longer be considered paranoid by reasonable people.

There was a time that Ed and I were discussing the middle east and terrorism, and both of us borrowed books from the same library. I wonder, with some Lebanese blood in me, if I have landed on any lists as a result of my inter-library borrowing habits? Apparently I haven’t tripped the “visit from Homeland Security” trigger, however.

But I’m willing to bet that if you post here, you get your comment read by a low-level government employee!

Dear reviewer: I hope your lunch truck is better than the one we had when I was working on the navy base. Although their chicken salad was edible.

[Update: JimC. points out that this story’s authenticity is being debated on Boing Boing. The contention is that there are small details which may not be accurate — hardly a reason to dismiss a story, as I have never read a story about someone I know that didn’t have at least one small error in it. They also point out that the reporter is getting the story from the professors, who were not directly involved. Since the reporter has re-affirmed the accuracy of his reporting, then to believe the story is false you must assert that the reporter is lying, or the professors lied to him, or the student lied to the professors. I assume this story will unfold further. Stay tuned.]

[UPDATE: It was all a hoax. Thanks for making UMass Dartmouth world famous… for having an idiot liaras a student.]

Posted by James at December 19, 2005 9:43 PM
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Jesus. Welcome to Amerika, land of the freely oppressed.

Posted by: Chuck S. at December 20, 2005 12:19 AM

Mao's Little Red Book is available at Amazon. No need to go all the way to Peking. (Jung Chang's Unknown Story gives a welcome perspective, if you want to read horror stories about a megalomaniac. Or, you can just read the NYTimes.) If Amazon is a contributor to BushCo, you shouldn't be pulled out of line for the purchase. Still, I wonder if the kid gets extra credit?

Posted by: ThirdMate at December 20, 2005 8:36 AM

Where do you suppose we are on the 14 aspects of fascism scale these days?

Posted by: briwei at December 20, 2005 10:34 AM

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