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by Bud Buck, 3/10/00

Dc: Librarians everywhere are wrestling with difficult first amendment choices regarding the Internet, and public places. . What sort of viewing should be allowed? What restrictions are legal? Where are the boundaries of decency, good taste, and freedom? Bud Buck reports.

(sfx: library ambiance, with sounds of footsteps passing right behind Bud and Melba)

Bud: I'm standing in a main thoroughfare of the downtown public library … the government records section is to my right, the business and economic section to my left, and directly behind me is a row of computer terminals … all hooked up to the Internet.
Through these portals, it's possible for library patrons to view any of the offerings the World Wide Web makes available … from the newsy, to the scholarly, to the fun, exciting, sublime and … profane.
With me is library director Melba Clampett. What are the rules regarding use of these machines and the Internet?

Melba: We have a time limit of thirty minutes if other patrons are waiting.

Bud: (pause) Uh huh.

Melba: That's about it.

Bud: What about content?

Melba: (sounding rehearsed) Because we take freedom of speech seriously, we have no restrictions regarding content that may be accessed through our computers.

Bud: I know some library patrons have found offensive scenes on these computer terminals.

Melba: Yes, and so have I.

Bud: And as you can hear a main traffic thoroughfare within the library is right behind us. Hundreds of people walk right past these computers every day. All they have to do is glance over the shoulders …

Passerby 1: Oh my gosh! What is … that's disgusting! (fade) I can't believe a person is allowed to sit here in a public library and view the sorts of things I see displayed on this screen out in the open where anybody can happen by and be exposed to this kind of exposure!

Bud: (over) And it sounds like it's happening again.

Melba: I'm not sure what this person's objection might be, because I'm not looking at the screen in question, but I always try to remind myself that one of the prices we pay for having our freedom is an occasional glimpse of … trash. It's regrettable, but …

Passerby 2: Aughghgh! Have you no shame? (fade) When I was a kid we had nuns to instill a sense of guilt in us, and embarrassment! Where is the shame today? I have never seen anything so pitiful, so pathetic, as this obsessive behavior here. This has got to stop. My tax dollars are going to pay for this? No way!

Bud: And yet … it seems this freedom causes a disruption.

Melba: Freedom often causes a disruption. Again, we can't know what the problem is in this particular case …

Passerby 3: Great scott! This is a travesty! (fade) Never in my life did I think I would see something like this in the hall of learning that is a public library! Well, in a medical textbook, maybe, but what's the medical purpose of THAT! I mean, maybe if you were studying up on people who needed operations, but I don't think this interest being displayed here is academic in any way, shape or form.

(sfx: sounds of shock and horror build as others happen by)

Bud: Still, isn't there ample evidence that this sort of thing violates "community standards of decency?"

Melba: This is just a random sampling of passers by and so it can't be considered a scientific survey by any means …

Passerby 4: (shrieking)

Bud: Come on! At least turn around and take a look at what all the fuss is about.

Melba: Constitutionally, I'm not permitted to judge anyone's choice of web sites or limit access in any way. I'm sorry if that bothers you but …

(sfx: timer beeping)

… time's up! Pardon me, sir, but your session at the terminal has expired. Sorry. You've gotta go. Turn it off. Off! Up. Out! Go.

Bud: Pardon me, sir. Bud Buck, public radio news. If I could have a word with you … you've caused quite a disturbance here. What is the nature of … I mean, why do you … what's up here. With this.

Guy: Whaddaya mean?

Bud: Why do you do this in the library of all places? Don't you feel conspicuous?

Guy: Conspicuous? Sure.

Bud: Aren't you ashamed?

Guy: I'm an addict.

Bud: There are programs. You could get help. You don't have to be a slave to these pictures. This pornography.

Guy: Pornography? I couldn't care less about pornography.

Bud: But you were sitting here with a screen full of it. You said you were an addict.

Guy: Yeah, I'm hooked on outrage. Didn't you see how I had 'em all wound up? Man, there must have been a half dozen people right here in the library, goin' ballistic. What a rush!

Bud: You're hooked on outrage?

Guy: And scorn. I'm a "scorno" fiend. In fact, I gotta go. I'm catching a bus here in five minutes … a commuter express. I've got some light reading to do, right up front where everybody can see me!

Bud: That's despicable.

Guy: (fading off) Thanks, pal!

Bud: And so … the pathetic quest of a disapproval junkie. He knows which buttons to push. His daily "fix" comes in public places and is provided free by we … his enablers.
Does he know we are powerless in the face of provocation so troubling and repulsive? Is he a chump? Or are we? Can we ignore his cry for help?
Can we ignore our own cry for decency?
And if we can, how far will he go to get our attention?
Is there an action we can take, or must we simply ask an endless series of questions? Like this.
When will it end? Time will tell! This is Bud Buck!

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