The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

The USA Patriot Act was a knee-jerk piece of legislation passed in the panic-drenched aftermath of 9/11. Basically, it puts a sharp curb on civil liberties by allow law-enforcement agencies to... pretty much do whatever they want, all in the name of "fighting terrorism".

One of the questionable methods of fighting terrorism on these shores is to check someone's book-buying history. Apparently, if it's uncovered that you've purchased The Anarchist Cookbook, then you're under suspicion as a shady character. Gosh, I feel safer already! Never mind that someone who really wanted to do serious damage would likely not be dumb enough to leave that kind of paper/digital trail.

Some booksellers in Vermont feel much the same way, and so they've decided to delete all their customer records of past purchases, thereby making it practically impossible for them to comply with the Patriot Act if asked.

It's a brave move, on a few levels: They willingly sacrifice potentially lucrative demographic information, and they of course become targets for future hassles with the Feds. Unfortunately, at this point this represents a BB-gun shot against a behemoth. Unless the bigger companies across the nation follow suit--and I'm not holding my breath, especially when it's so effortless to keep things the way they are--then this will really be more of a symbolic gesture. An important one, nevertheless.