Now We Are Engaged in a Great War: Publishers and the Patriot Act

September 2003
by Alan N. Canton

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I dreamt last night that I was giving a speech to a large assemblage of publishers at the PMA-U luncheon on the issue of the Patriot Act. This law gives the federal government the power to coerce publishers and librarians to hand over lists of book buyers or borrowers. Here is what I had to say. Read this slowly and HEAR the words. Please picture in your mind’s eye the crowd quieting down as I come to the podium….

Mr. PMA President, Madame Director, and fellow PMA members, thank you for allowing me to speak to you this afternoon.

My name is Al Canton and I’m a publisher. And like all of you, I see our endeavor as a noble one; indeed, I believe that we are among the key “keepers of the culture.” It is through our eyes, ears, and efforts that so much of the world’s population receives content they use to make decisions that determine their business, social, and “moral” lives.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and we answer to a higher “authority” than, say, a computer chip manufacturer or an auto dealer.

We publishers MUST understand the difference between right and wrong. If we don’t understand it, how can we communicate it to a world that looks to us to provide information for guidance and leadership?

The Patriot Act and similar Justice Department actions have been a great travesty of Constitutional law. Librarians should not turn lists of who has read what over to the FBI. Nor should publishers turn over

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