The #TeamHarpy Affair – My Comments a Bit Too Late

The #teamharpy result ended exactly as I feared, but also as I hoped, but then again as I feared it would.

I feared that the people accused of libel could not prove their statements are true. I feared that they based their claims on hearsay and innuendo, but, egged on by people who should have had IANAL pasted on their foreheads with super glue, would continue to make the claims because they appeared true, or ought to be true, or had a vague air of truthiness to them. I feared that they treated the justice system in spiritual or normative terms when all of my knowledge and experience reminded me that the justice system is not a spiritual system, but a cold, hard materialist system. “Ought to be true” does not stand up in court.

I hoped that the plaintiff would understand just how stupid the world has gotten with communities and friends and followers. I hoped he would use that knowledge to compromise and negotiate with the defendants. I am not particularly fond of people who think that complete annihilation of their opponent is a virtue. It appears that the plaintiff has gone in that direction, and for that he’s gained a good amount of my respect. I learned from restorative processes that when harm is done, the person harmed most wants to be believed.  I don’t know him personally, but his (still alleged) choice to look for an apology instead of a big cash reward is magnanimous — empirically magnanimous. Everyone is not an angel, but occasionally people show flashes of moral brilliance. This seems like one of those cases. It’s better than I hoped.

Before I get to the final fear I had, I kept holding Don Quixote in my head as a mantra. Don Quixote. Don Quixote. Don Quixote. But the reality is that this was not like Don Quixote. Don Quixote had a Sancho Panza who tried to tell him to look ahead and see what was real. The defendants in this case, were spurred on by an army of Don Quixotes – all “fighting” symbolic ideas of … well, no need to go into that. Anyone who has read a really great book understands that sometimes symbols have a truth of their own. Don Quixote is a likeable character, probably because he has read too many books about chivalry and knighthood. The only problem he had was that he became so lost in the symbolic battle (there are plenty of abstract giants to overcome in our world) that he broke his lance. In fact, he was lucky that he didn’t all break the windmill, otherwise he may find a miller coming after him for restitution.

In short, the #teamharpy fiasco reminded me of this wrestling moment (be sure to start from 7 minutes):

I wonder what people really meant when they said “I support #teamharpy.” Was it real support or was it using the defendants’ reputations and livelihoods as a means to support their own foolish self-interest? Then again, what *is* real support? We all find ourselves throwing a little bit of money towards causes that inspire us, assuming that it actually helps.

This leads me to my last fear. The librarians I thought I knew claimed that their role was, at least in part, a way of improving information literacy. A big part of that was promoting critical thinking, evaluation of sources and better understanding of materials. This year it seemed that these ideas were all thrown out the window by some. The concept of professional librarianship took a big hit this past year.

I can hear a small band of Twitterites making the irrelevant claim that we should believe women, because harassment is a real issue and it needs to be addressed. And moreover that the only reason I am speaking out now is because I am a cis-gendered white male who is invested in this patriarchial system that oppresses men.

My reply rhymes with “duck shoes,” not because it is an absolutely false claim (the idea is so general, that is has to be at least partially true) but because it assumes that I do not have real life experiences that can inform the experience of the defendants here. I have had my own Don Quixote moments, and I am extremely thankful to the kind and supportive _female_ librarians who reminded me to pay attention to what is really important, and think hard about what hills are really the sort to die on. I got through my Don Quixote situations, not because I am special or heroic, but because people cared about me and helped me tell the difference between a crusade that was truly principled and one that was a sham.

I’ll also say that a good number of the #teamharpy Andy Kaufmans on my feed were white cis-gendered men. Consider King Lear, but reverse the genders. Those who disagree are not necessarily your enemies, and those who agree are not necessarily your friends.

My last fear was that we now live in a society that finds it nearly impossible to learn from the experience of others, and where diversity somehow became a “fight” instead of a set of values that lead us to make the world just a little bit better. And when we speak of a “fight” we usually mean one where other people pay the physical costs while the rest of us sit at home clicking stupid stuff, perhaps forgoing the occasional Starbucks so we can pretend we are changing the world.

This fear is in parallel with the loss of the principle that ideas should be judged on their merits rather than from their source.

It also suggests that the values of library 2.0 that i held in such high regard not too long ago, may have made our society worse off than better.

And as I watch people using the #teamharpy tag to continue to bully people from stupid anti and pro camps, largely to support their own ideological beliefs rather than the actual people involved, I cannot say that my last fear has not come true.

3 thoughts on “The #TeamHarpy Affair – My Comments a Bit Too Late

  1. Interestingly, the Librarian in Black got involved in this matter to the point of essentially becoming part of TeamHarpy. And we know what happened to TeamHarpy. And the Librarian in Black is the ALA’s leading expert on library filtering software and she says filters don’t work and should not be used.

    This intentional destruction of a man’s career over false allegations for a year is in part the Librarian in Black’s doing. It was all false. That has got to be very bad for Librarian in Black’s credibility. And she’s ALA’s leading expert saying library filters do not work. That has got to be very bad for ALA’s credibility.

    They can spin it all they want but if this were a court of law opposing counsel would tear her to pieces. I know, I’ve investigated experts myself and they lost all credibility as a result of what I uncovered.

    Of course library media will do all they can to ignore how ALA’s filtering expert has completely destroyed her credibility. I mean this is a national story now, this TeamHarpy debacle.

    What a complete debacle.

    And TeamHarpy wants to apologize once and move on. Where does Joe Murphy go to get his career back?

    Ryan, you pushed me years ago to speak freely, and so I did, creating SafeLibraries blog as a result. So I don’t get you in trouble, Ryan was encouraging free speech, not specifically the content of my SafeLibraries brand of free speech.

    I want you to know, Ryan, that I have started another resource, Sexual Harassment of Librarians, at, and its roots can be traced back to your encouraging me to write those many years ago. It is intended to provide real sexually harassed librarians with real information about sexual harassment in libraries, and to do so without the commentary when I write that is found on SafeLibraries. There is another writer with me and he has been sexually harassed by a library’s employees and trustees. I being sued for reporting on that harassment, but really it’s an attempt to silence me. I already know has helped at least one librarian and Library Journal has already written about it though it is only a few months old.

    So again, thank you, Ryan, for encouraging me to write all those years ago. To the extent helps alleviate sexual harassment for librarians, you get credit in part for making that happen.


  2. Hi Dan. I have to say that I was a bit uncomfortable bringing names into this post. At the end of the day, this has less to do with who are good, smart, believable or not-believable people, but ultimately it is about behaviour: what are or are not the right things to do.

    Like most major policy issues, the decision to have or not have filters is a complex issue. There are upsides and downsides to both sides. On the whole, I stay on the side of opt-in filtering. A media person once came up to us and thought the same to you. We were able to prove that with filtering, people would not be able to access a recent article about, of all things, filtering. So, filters do keep people from accessing key information. Whether the risk of that happening outweighs the risks of kids accessing pornography will depend on a lot of things, including community standards. Most libraries I know in Canada are opt-in. My experience dealing with the consequences of that decision is that only rarely is it a pain in the butt. Not once was there an genuine emergency stemming from computer use. An occasional fight, I suppose – but that usually had to do with something other than computer use. Even these sorts of incidents were managed here and there.

    In the end, a library is a public space, which means you get all kinds of people doing all kinds of strange and wonderful things. Rarely does this become a problem, but overall keeping libraries public makes our communities better.

    I assume that LiB’s support for team harpy happened because she had reason to believe them. Providing evidence is not immoral or a crime. Being wrong, making a mistake, and having an opinion are not immoral either. In fact, if she had what she thought was evidence and didn’t come forward THAT would be immoral.

    Libraries are complex, growing organisms. They need communities with all kinds of opinions to help them grow. In general, I do not think opinions hurt people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Forgive me but does opt-in mean filters are there but a patron needs to select them to use them?

      As to “In the end, a library is a public space,” know that the US Supreme Court found that USA libraries are _not_ open public spaces. Rather, they are quasi public and the government can and indeed has always blocked porn from public libraries. In other words, porn may be constitutionally protected material generally, but not in public libraries.

      As to “filters do keep people from accessing key information,” know that the Federal Communications Commission has recently said filters are really good nowadays:

      And I agree with what you are saying about opinions, but accusing someone of being a “sexual predator” and telling people to stop hiring and inviting the “predator” goes beyond having an opinion.

      That said, FYI, I am a defendant right now in a SLAPP suit designed to stop me from speaking about the effect of ALA policy on libraries, using the excuse that I reported on someone reporting on the homophobic statements of people in a library that ultimately admitted to providing and covering up child porn. Unlike TeamHarpy where no evidence is or ever was present, the homophobia can be seen on videotape I initially supported TeamHarpy since it said it was being SLAPPd and so was I. I withdrew my support after it became apparent self interests were at work, not true opposition to the sexual harassment of librarians. So because I’m being SLAPPd, I especially appreciate your decision to publish what I said and to allow “all kinds of opinions.” Not all librarians do that.

      Thanks again.


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