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The Day Book-Burning Saved A LibraryAugust 15th, 2012 at Wed, 15th, 2012 at 9:00 am by Meredith
In my first post, I shared the story of a professor who encouraged his students to create elaborate online hoaxes meant to fool as many members of the online community as possible. He and his students were roundly chastised for pulling the wool over the internet community’s eyes for the sake of scholarly discussion. Is there ever a time when this kind of widespread deception is acceptable? What if it could spark a conversation about taxes vs. value, and save an entire library?
The citizens of Troy, Michigan voted down two separate proposals to maintain funding for the Troy Public Library after the recession forced city funding to be cut. An anti-tax organization that opposed tax increases regardless of their purpose was largely responsible for this result, considering that the vast majority of people polled were in favor of keeping the library funded. Just before the library was scheduled to close its doors, the city council put the decision to the voters one last time. This time the naysayers were joined by a new organization: Safeguarding American Families. This newcomer advertised its hope that the library would close so that it could host a book burning party. Yes, that’s what I said.
Signs started to appear around town proclaiming, “Vote to close Troy library Aug. 2nd, Book burning party Aug 5th.” The organization spread its views on Facebook and Twitter. Only thing was, the whole organization turned out to be an elaborate, award-winning hoax. But it worked. Citizens stepped up and the proposal passed with 58% of the ballot.
My question is: is this kind of deception an acceptable means for promoting civic engagement and enacting change? What does it say about our society that we need something as extreme as the threat of book-burning in order to become engaged and make our voices heard? With another presidential election looming in the near future (one sure to have its own share of misdirection and spin) it’s something to think about.