Be Careful!

Means do not justify the ends. It is important to determine the veracity of one’s arguments lest an inaccuracy undermine the credibility of the point you are trying to make. I really detest Sarah Palin for more reasons than I can count, but in these days of ‘spin’ and ‘at-any-cost’ I am not so quick to take political emails at face value, even one from a friend. The email I received began:

Let’s spend a few moments browsing the list of books Mayor Sarah Palin tried to get town librarian Mary Ellen Baker to ban in the lovely, all-American town of Wasilla, Alaska.  When Baker refused to remove the books from the shelves, Palin threatened to fire her.  The story was reported in Time Magazine and the list comes from the website.

and it continued with another paragraph and a long list of books. So I did some checking.

First I went to the original Time magazine piece and found that it said only:

Over the past few years, a growing number of Evangelicals have been consciously distancing themselves from the more extreme stands of the Christian right. They live in the suburbs, hold graduate degrees, and while they might not want their children reading certain novels, would be embarrassed by attempts to ban certain books from libraries, as Palin is reported to have briefly considered while mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

the caveat being “reported to have briefly considered.”

Then I checked out the post on, not an organization web site, but one personal librarian’s blog on which she slams Palin (yes, I don’t like her either) and links to the list that was actually posted by one of her readers as a comment. The librarian/blogger also writes:

there’s some buzz being generated that says that this post contains a comment that lists the books that Palin supposedly wanted banned. The list is here, but there appears to be no truth to the claim made by the commenter, and no further documentation or support for this has turned up.

Another commenter on the blog pointed out:

The list of banned books is inaccurate. Several of the titles listed above, most notably the Harry Potter books, had not been published yet in 1996 when Sarah Palin attempted to fire the librarian.

I kept reading the comments and perseverance paid off when I came across reference to a New York Times article, Palin’s Start in Alaska: Not Politics As Usual (sept. 3, 2008):

“Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.

In 1996, Ms. Palin suggested to the local paper, The Frontiersman, that the conversations about banning books were “rhetorical.”

Ms. Emmons was not the only employee to leave. During her campaign, Ms. Palin appealed to voters who felt that city employees under Mr. Stein, who was not from Wasilla and had earned a degree in public administration at the University of Oregon, had been unresponsive and rigid regarding a new comprehensive development plan. In turn, some city employees expressed support for Mr. Stein in a campaign advertisement.

Once in office, Ms. Palin asked many of Mr. Stein’s backers to resign — something virtually unheard of in Wasilla in past elections. The public works director, city planner, museum director and others were forced out. The police chief, Irl Stambaugh, was later fired outright.”

So the book list is probably bogus, but where there’s smoke…. The is one scary lady!

There are myriad posts online about Palin, but one that caught my attention  evoked the ghost of Bella Abzug. (If you’re not of a certain age you might not know that she was a formidable congresswoman representing New York and a leader in the woman’s movement when I was a kid.)

Bella Abzug…once remarked that we would only have true gender equality when an incompetent woman could go as far as an incompetent man. That milestone appears to have been achieved with the nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President.


3 thoughts on “Be Careful!”

  1. To be fair, I don’t think my post could be construed as “slamming” Palin. I linked to a Time magazine article using fairly neutral language. The comments got a little out of control but I felt like I was being quite responsible about it.

  2. My apologies. Jessamyn is absolutely correct. I went back and re-read her post; she did not slam Palin. The feeling I had was part projection (shades of Fahrenheit 451) and part fueled by the comments of readers on her site and the content of the other articles I read. The number of allegations that Palin uses her positions to threaten and intimidate others to move her personal agenda forward makes me very suspicious. I guess I had best heed my own advice and be more careful.

  3. Hi Devra – fantastic quote from Bella A.! True equality does show from Palin’s nomination and it seems to scare the bejezzus out of people within whom I generally agree. FWIW, the one and only allegation that seems to have factual basis is that she initially supported the bridge but eventually opposed it. All the others – yes, all – seem to be misunderstanding or outright false. E.g., she does support sex education, including teaching about contraception; what she said was that she preferred the instructions not to be excessively graphic which seems reasonable when you consider the audience.

    I’m afraid this reminds me of the Tawana Brawley circumstantes when many people were falling all over themelves to demonstrate a willingness to accept that colleagues might have done something horrible; in their eagerness they publicized every rumor and every name as if they were all true, before checking anything, and one man was so distraught that he killed himself.

    Everyone on “our” side has been eager to slam Palin presumably because she’s a Republican and a hunter therefore not one of “us.” So eager that they’ve grabbed onto anything anyone could get out of their mouths, no matter whether it was verifiable.

    Why aren’t we as tolerant of “them” until we know otherwise as we want “them” to be of “us”?

    Sometimes smoke is just smoke and there really isn’t any fire.

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