Libraries | Borrowing conspiracy theories is possible

Alex Jones, Renaud Camus, Didier Raoult, Joseph Mercola… many controversial, even conspiratorial authors have found a place in the sun on the shelves of our national and local libraries. A situation that these public institutions justify, among other things, by intellectual freedom and democratic access to culture, without judgement.

Posted at 7:26

Sylvain Sarrazin

Sylvain Sarrazin
The Press

Within our libraries, there are names that make you sing (Vigneault, Hugo, Reno…), as much as others make you squeal. On subjects as diverse as COVID-19, 9/11 or the “great replacement”, a range of books and DVDs by highly controversial or downright conspiratorial personalities is available for consultation and borrowing.

Among the heavyweights, we note the presence of Alex Jones, an American animator notorious for his strings of aberrant conspiracy theories, ranging from chemtrails to the Sandy Hook killings – a charade, he says. Copies of DVDs made by him (New World Order, TerrorStorm) are listed in the catalogs of the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (BAnQ) and the Montreal Library Network.

Other personalities accused of conspiracy also have a voice, such as Joseph Mercola, an anti-vaccine doctor who has led a drumbeat campaign of misinformation about COVID. His spearhead The Truth About COVID-19 is not available, but its views on 5G can be viewed in EMF*D: 5G, Wi-Fi & Cell Phones: Hidden Harms and How to Protect Yourself.

In the same courtyard, we will also find, in paper and digital versions, The Real Anthony Fauci by Robert Francis Kennedy, a book featuring America’s chief public health adviser as an orchestrator of the pandemic, as well as Plague of Corruption by Judy Mikovits, a virologist who has become infrequent.

On the French-speaking side, the infamous professor Didier Raoult also has his place on the shelf, with his latest opus COVID-19 War Diariesoffered at the Grande Bibliothèque, or Beyond the chloroquine affair: how the pharmaceutical industry perverts our health systems and puts ours at risk… offered by the Montreal Library Network.

Finally, we also find borrowing from BAnQ French-speaking champions of conspiracy, such as Renaud Camus, who develops in his essay dispossession his theory of the “great replacement”, according to which the European populations are doomed to be substituted by the peoples of Arab and African culture. Note also the presence of Thierry Meyssan, who signs in The appalling deception an “investigation into the attacks of September 11, 2001 [fondée] on the idea that they were perpetrated by a faction of the military-industrial complex to provoke the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq”.

Free to think

Librarians say they are aware of the presence of sulphurous titles in their catalogs, the development of which is framed by well-defined principles and guidelines. While discourse inciting violence or breaking the law could be excluded, for the rest, we prefer to rely on the principle of democratic and equitable access to culture and knowledge.

Should a public library therefore make available to its subscribers works deemed to be vehicles of misinformation or largely discredited by the scientific community? Both at BAnQ and at the Montreal Library Network, intellectual freedom is invoked.


Mélanie Dumas, director of the collection of the Grande Bibliothèque

Our role is not to judge or substitute for the judgment of our users. On the contrary, it is to expose them to a diversity of points of view, whether we agree with them or not, to allow them to develop their critical sense and form their own opinion.

Mélanie Dumas, director of the collection of the Grande Bibliothèque

We also find in the catalogs a large quantity of works criticizing misinformation and conspiracy theories.

“Libraries contribute to the development and maintenance of individual freedom,” officials from the City of Montreal replied by email. They also help to safeguard fundamental democratic values ​​and universal civic rights, do not replace the judgment of their users and leave them free to access, borrow, read and form their own opinion on a subject. »

Mme Dumas insists on “accompanying” subscribers who frequent places, for example by offering resources or workshops providing information on the mechanism of fake news; activities also offered by local Montreal libraries, aimed particularly at young people.

Several bookstores, particularly in France, and major online retailers (Amazon) have already come under criticism for displaying very controversial titles in their windows… but very popular ones.

Some researchers (like Sylvain Delouvée, from the University of Rennes 2, quoted by AFP) had deplored the fact that disinformation speeches, presented in the serious form of a book and promoted by bookstores, thus gain credibility.

Aren’t libraries afraid of becoming complicit in the conspiracy fever by participating in its dissemination? “This information, if we don’t find it in the library, we will find it elsewhere. But by coming to look for it here, we will have access to a diversity of points of view, to information professionals who can equip us to make sensible choices and verify the information. It is a democratic and free access, ” pleads Mme Dumas, noting that public complaints about this are extremely rare.

We therefore prefer to supervise rather than resort to censorship – a word to which librarians are fundamentally allergic. “In the eyes of the Libraries of Montreal, it seems preferable that subscribers have access to these controversial books to develop their own opinion with regard to the ideas they convey rather than having access only to articles or texts by opinion on the subject,” replied the City of Montreal.

Finally, one cannot presume the use that will be made of the twisted theories of certain authors; which could, for example, be studied in the context of academic research.

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