Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Monday, December 3, 2018

New York Times Obituary for Victor Marchetti Adds Another To Our List of Suppressed Books– Interesting What Gets Suppressed and the Selectivity of What Sometimes Gets Reported

At the end of October, the New York Times ran an obituary for Victor Marchetti, a former C.I.A. employee proclaiming him as “co-author of the first book, about the agency’s inner workings, that the federal government sought to censor before its publication.” See: Victor Marchetti, 88, Dies; Book Was First to Be Censored by C.I.A., by Katharine Q. Seelye,  October, 31, 2018.

The book, written with John D. Marks, “The C.I.A. and the Cult of Intelligence,” was ultimately published in 1974.

According to the Times, Marchetti’s book “became a critically acclaimed best seller” and “was one of several accounts of the C.I.A.’s attempts to subvert foreign governments and spy on American citizens (Mr. Marchetti among them) that led to the creation in 1975 of the Senate select committee to study intelligence abuses chaired by Senator Frank Church.

Although the book was so catalytic to government investigation and the ensuring recommendations for policy change and reining in the intelligence community, the Times obituary reported how the CIA fought to suppress it.  They did so based on Marchetti’s confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement with the CIA even though Marchetti’s publisher was able to argue that much of the information sought to be suppressed was already public. That means, the effort was to suppress an overall picture or point of view.

The Times obituary quoted one of its own, Anthony Lewis, a longtime columnist and legal affairs specialist for The New York Times, who weighed in back at that time worrying about the implication of knowledgeable authors in the area being so restricted that “They cannot write anything in the vaguely defined area of national security without the prior approval of the C.I.A.”

Citizens Defending Libraries has previously posted about a long list of potentially influential books that have been subject to efforts at suppression even though they often were not the subject of direct censorship.  See: Books As Catalysts In A World Where Information And Points of View Are Often Suppressed.

We’ll thank the Times obituary for calling one more such book to our attention.

While, on its face, it’s seemingly comprehensive, the Times obituary for Marchetti was selective about what it reported.  One story in the newspaper’s morgue of the collected stories the New York Times  previously ran that concerned Mr. Marchetti did not get woven into the obituary’s fabric.  It was a story was reported February 7, 1985: Watergate Figure Loses Suit Against Tabloid.

The, albeit, brief Times article reported that a Federal jury had decided that Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt Jr. was not libeled in a 1978 article by Marchetti where Marchetti  reported that a 1966 C.I.A. memorandum said Mr. Hunt was in Dallas the day Mr. Kennedy was slain and in which he suggested that Mr. Hunt was part of a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.  (The L.A. Times reporting the same grand jury decision related that the CIA memorandum said Hunt “was disguised as one of three `bums’ who were arrested in Dallas the day Kennedy died.”)  Whether, or not, Hunt, as a serial fabricator (and serial novelist), can be believed, he reportedly told his son before he died (including in recordings and videos) that there was truth to the story of his involvement in the assassination.

The New York Times obituary for E. Howard Hunt does not mention any of the talk about such possible involvement of Hunt in the Kennedy assassination.  See: E. Howard Hunt, Agent Who Organized Botched Watergate Break-In, Dies at 88, by Tim Weiner, January 24, 2007.  Instead it reports that “Mr. Hunt was never much of a spy. He did not conduct classic espionage operations in order to gather information”; that his “field was political warfare: dirty tricks, sabotage and propaganda.”

It portrays Hunt as a bungler who “mishandled many of the tasks he received from the C.I.A. and the White House” and incorporates a serviceable quote from a colleague that Hunt “went from one disaster to another” right into Watergate.  Although Hunt was once CIA station chief in Mexico the obit writer assures that enough of Hunt's secret activities are known to assure the reader that he “was a rank amateur” in “political and psychological warfare” despite the fact that he was charged with training CIA recruits in this area.  The Times article credits Hunt with helping “to plan the covert operation that overthrew the elected president of Guatemala,” but mentions, as if it’s squarely on Hunt's doorstep that the country suffered when the military regime that came in afterwards was repressive.

The Times Victor Marchetti obituary winds up by letting us know that Mr. Marchetti reckoned the attention his book received to be “a dubious reward” that in retrospect he would have avoided to instead `play the game’ instead, because he “lost everything.”  Marchetti’s son explained that the losses even extended his mother, Marchetti’s wife, being prevented from getting jobs by the CIA.

Mr. Marchetti’s son told the Times: “When you take on the system, it’s hard to beat the system.”

In other words, a word to the wise from the conclusion the Times offered: It is difficult for the public to learn about the intelligence community those things that are inconsistent with the way that the intelligence community wants itself depicted.

If New York readers want to read Mr. Marchetti’s groundbreaking book, the NYPL has one copy in its research collection that cannot be borrowed (or discovered by browsing the shelves) and it keeps it off-site so that it must be requested in advance; the two other public library systems in New York City, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library do not have any copy of the book.

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