Feds Come Knockin’ Over Mao Book

Just in case you think they’re kidding about wanting to know what you read, be careful what you request from the library.

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.”

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library’s interlibrary loan program.

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.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a “watch list,” and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

“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.”

What I want to know is what books are on the Homeland Security “watch list.” Any ideas?

Whatever’s on it, I think it’s already having the intended effect on college campuses.

Dr. Williams said in his research, he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots, and suspects that some of his calls are monitored.

“My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think,” he said.
Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.

“I shudder to think of all the students I’ve had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that,” he said. “Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless.”

Message received: watch what you read and watch what you teach, because they’re watching you. Or maybe I’m making too much of it because I just finished reading a 70-year-old novel in which America is taken over by a fascist dictatorship that monitors what citizens read (among other things). It can’t happen here. Right?

Not overnight, at least.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
This entry was posted in Books, Civil Liberties, Current Events, Politics, War on Terror. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Feds Come Knockin’ Over Mao Book

  1. Craig says:

    It seems like federal agents could better spend their time learning Arabic, studying Middle Eastern cultures, maybe studying some of the history and issues from Morrocco to Pakistan. That might make them useful when investigating possible terrorist threats.

    Oh, but that might put the federal agents themselves on the watch list!

    This is are absurd times.

  2. Brad says:

    Earlier this year, I went with my fiancee, a card-carrying member of the Socialist Party of Florida, into a major bookstore where she bought A Very Brief Introduction to Karl Marx by Peter Singer.  When the cashier scanned the book, something behind the counter started beeping loudly, and she quickly hit the right buttons to make the noise stop.  As we walked away with our purchase, I half-jokingly remarked "you must have set off the Homeland Security alarm."

    To this day we both wonder if I was right.

  3. KathyF says:

    A couple of years ago, I was researching a novel set partly in the White House. I ordered books on the White House, Secret Service, etc. and googled things like “white house floor plans”. I also had some other sketchy things in my background that would make me look like a terrorist, like relatives in foreign countries. I figured I got on a watch list somewhere.

    I did have a Secret Service background check when I worked briefly on the Kerry campaign, but they didn’t stop me. Wonder if that was deliberate?

  4. Rachel S says:

    I guess Big Brother Bush is watching us….maybe this blog is on the watch list. Uh-oh!

  5. Terrance says:

    Normally, I’d assume they had bigger fish to fry than me, but if I kid can’t write a term paper without getting a visit from the feds….

  6. E says:

    Wow.  Makes you think about what else could be on Homeland Security’s trigger list.   Creepy.

  7. So what do Mao and the Chinese communism of fifty years ago have to do with the war on terrorism?

    Nothing.

    Once you turn on police state mode, you don’t get to limit it, and you don’t get to turn it off, ever.  There are always more enemies.  We are so f*cked.

  8. julia says:

    The best way to fight this would be for everyone to go to the library and request a copy of Mao’s "Little Red Book".  And any other book that is on "The List".

Comments are closed.