By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Did Ted Kennedy fall for a hoax?

Ted Kennedy — or, to be more accurate, Ted Kennedy’s office — has an op-ed piece in the Globe today about the Bush administration’s war on civil liberties. It includes this:

Just this past week there were public reports that a college student in Massachusetts had two government agents show up at his house because he had gone to the library and asked for the official Chinese version of Mao Tse-tung’s Communist Manifesto. Following his professor’s instructions to use original source material, this young man discovered that he, too, was on the government’s watch list.

Think of the chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom when a government agent shows up at your home — after you request a book from the library.

Leaving aside my apparent misapprehension that “The Communist Manifesto” was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (or maybe I’m right), there is a slight problem: the story about the college student appears to be an urban legend. Gary McGath has details here, noting that a variant of the story recently popped up in California. (Via Universal Hub.)

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  1. Bill Baar

    There is another good one about the lady in Mass with the radioactive cat litter who had a visit from the FBI after she threw it away and it was picked up eventually in a garbage truck headed for Maine by some Gov Surviallance system. My Mom sent me that one.

  2. Bill Baar

    What isn’t a hoax is this by the way Purge on Beijing’s first gay festival which doesn’t seem to have been picked up in the US press much, not to mention UUA’s Human Rights websites, which makes me wonder at least if Communists Cops really cracking down doesn’t some how get a free pass.And of course, we can’t even mention the fate of Gays in the Palestinian Authority.

  3. Chuck Tanowitz

    I believe the original story was that the student requested Mao’s Little Red Book, not the Communist Manifesto.The professors noted that it was reading material for their class, but the version requested was a specific copy that acts as a more accurate and complete translation of the book itself. This changes the story slightly as it wasn’t just ANY copy, but a very specific version.Original story here: that said, I still think it may be a hoax, but needs more investigation.

  4. Bill Baar

    Sound like Mary Mapes on the forged documents Chuck. Forged and faked but objectively true?

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Chuck — Great link. After reading it, I’ll amend my characterization: very possibly a hoax, but not an urban legend.

  6. Bill Baar

    It will be a legend soon considering how many places I’ve seen it. Dan Harper deleted his post on it but its here on the UUA Sercie Com’s site and Paul picked it up too.

  7. Mike Stucka

    Bill, Howzabout the one where the hippie college kid showed up at the Massachusetts town council meeting to tell him his Geiger counter was getting strange hits near the town dump? Wait. Not urban legend. Attleboro chased him outta town, then found out the kid was right a couple years later. They’re still Shpack up, three decades later. Flip side of the coin, I guess. For every few things that sounds paranoid, one might be real …

  8. Bill Baar

    I was paranoid about Saddam and that his WMD’s might be real.I think his Bio Chem stuff might have gone into Syria’s Extensive stockpile.I think “might” doesn’t apply when Iran says they could absorb a nuclear first strike and retaliate wiping Israel off the map. Rafsanjani means it without a doubt.I think the world faces grave times and we’ll be worried about a phony story about a kid reading Mao.That mightly scares me too.

  9. Anonymous

    Bill,What scares me just as much is that a senior member of the U.S. Senate, a graduate of Harvard and U Virginia Law School, thought that the Communist Manifesto was written by Chairman Mao. Yeah, I know, whenever its pithy, HE said it, whenever it’s stupid, HIS STAFF said it. Shades of “Andy Meehan”….

  10. Neil

    We may be forced to limit ourselves to made-up examples of government snooping into our library books, because (my understanding at least) the part of the Patriot Act that allows this practice also prohibits the librarian from informing the person under investigation, or anyone else, that a request for their book list has been made. So we can only guess at, or make up, scenarios, because we have no access to the truth.Hey if it’ll help catch terrorists, do whatever you want. Torture. Keep it all a secret, I don’t mind. I don’t need to know about it. I trust you. Take my civil liberties. I wasn’t using them anyway. Anybody remember the John Carpenter movie “They Live”? Submit. Consume. Obey. Watch Television.

  11. Michael Corcoran

    This is troubling because rather than debate the seriousness of the issue, it will be a bash-on-Kennedy fest from the right. Hoax or not, there were in fact provisions in the Patriot Act, that do grant the government power to spy on library records, and yes, Librarians under the provision, are not allowed to even speak of such requests in any capacity. In June, the House voted to curb that part of the Patriot Act, though I am not positive how things have shaken out given the battle that is taking place in Congress right now. I spoke to Nicolas Margolis, president of Boston Public Library about the gag order while doing a story last summer. Disgusted by the library provision he had this to say:”I had said that I would go public, if I was asked [for information about people’s reading habits]. This could save me from going to jail.”

  12. Bill Baar

    hoax or not? Maybe the real issue is what is Sen Kennedy about passing on hoaxes as fact in his editorial?And the UUA Service Committee picks it up same day?I used to buy Books from North Vietname and Red China when you had to go to the Post Office and Register, and the books came to you in the mail inspected and stamped by the US Gov.That was a dumb policy then. But no threat to my civil liberties. And sadly I was buying those books from real tyrants in the midst of mass slaughter during the Cultural Revolution which I at the time sadly thought was revolutionary and liberating.The great threat to our civil liberties, to our Republic is when our Politicans debate by passing off hoaxes. This isn’t an intellignece failure on Kennedy’s part. It’s dileberatly misleading.Because liberty is precious and we need only look at what happens in countries that don’t enjoy it.

  13. Anonymous

    This is not confirmed as a hoax. There is a real student behind the story, and U Mass Dartmouth is in contact with the student. The question is whether the student is making the story up. The journalist and the professors in question stand by the story; the DHS vehemently denies it. Certainly there are red flags, certainly the UC Santa Cruz version is a hoax, and certainly Kennedy’s office got the book wrong. But this still may have happened; the jury is still out.

  14. Ken D.

    The (apparently) original news story carries the reporter’s email address, two quick clicks away from the above post. Maybe somebody should ask him.

  15. Sven

    The great threat to our civil liberties, to our Republic is when our Politicans debate by passing off hoaxes.Indeed.

  16. Bill Baar

    I stand by it Sven. This sure looks like a false story to me with a specific political goal with regards to patriot act renewel in Congress, and more importantly Alito’s confirmation where Dems are trying to portray him as a storm trooper of sorts. Just as Mapes was a specific attack timed with the presedintial election.These are clearly planned fabrications timed with specific poltical acts here.A lot different than the bin lade story you cite.And it’s interesting UUA service committee jumped so quickly onto this story.Interesting too that its totally absent here in the press in the midwest.I want to hear what this kids story is for sure.

  17. Bill Baar

    Part of what’s going on here is after a few years of the Patriot act, the Dems are offering very few specific examples of abuse to argue against renewing it.All we’ve really got is this reference from Ted Kennedy to and even which now looks pretty staged.

  18. mike_b1

    Bill said, “Part of what’s going on here is after a few years of the Patriot act, the Dems are offering very few specific examples of abuse to argue against renewing it.”Bill, that kind of logic — “prove me wrong” — wouldn’t pass muster in a high school debate. The most compelling argument against the Patriot Act is this: It is unconstitutional. As has been pointed out elsewhere on this blog, if the abused are American citizens who happen to be a distinct and unrepresented minority – i.e., Muslim — there are some — yourself included — who believe that that’s OK. That great piece of paper doesn’t discriminate, however, even if you do.

  19. Bill Baar

    We’re not in high school.If it was unconstitutional, Teddy should have brought a case to court and not write an editorial citing a hoax. He’s had a number of years to do so.Same with Rockefeller on NSA spying. Sen Roberts said he sat in a room with Rockefeller and Cheney and never heard a peep out of him about it. Rockefeller could have blocked it in the budget onthe floor without disclosing what it was.The JR High kid can see baloney when he sees it.The Dems can’t or won’t make a case on meriet i.e. these laws unconstitional because they’re probably not. So they don’t risk getting blown away in courts, or in legislature with votes.They filibuster and cite hoaxs instead.Fake liberals, fake left, crummy politics for sure.I’ll send a letter to my Reps: Durbin, Obama, and Hastert with copies of the articles and Ted’s editiorial and to the IG at Justice and ask they story be investigated.

  20. mike_b1

    Sometime you ought to take a look at the 4th Amendment. And while you are at it, consider the political consequences of the time…the Democrats were reeling, “patriotism” (whatever that is) was center stage, and the Republicans were spending millions in propoganda (I’m sorry, “ad”) campaigns against anyone who invoked their 1st Amendment right to speech. Let’s add in that any judge who wants a long and notable career would haven been foolish to toss out the Patriot Act at that juncture. They would have been forever Borked. Face it, it would have been political and career suicide to go against the (amber waves of) grain at that time.Clearly, the better tact was to wait for the right moment to use their ammo … which is now.

  21. Anonymous

    mikey, do you think affirmative action is unconstitutional?

  22. Bill Baar

    Political consequences? Have you been following Bush’s approval ratings the past few years?But you’re right in a sense. The Democrats are the party of cynical opportunists. They won’t contest a President on principle if they think the winds not blowing their way. The Republicans under Bush have taken a moral high road and damn the polls.Lincoln trampled all over the Constitution on a moral high road. The Republic survived, free and better, (although it took another hundred years to fufill Lincoln’s pomise).We’ll survive Bush’s Executive Power too –and I don’t think he’ll be found at all unconstituional– I think like Lincoln, History will look back on him as one of our greatest.How’s that for a thought to end your year? Save this post for years to come and we’ll see.Merry Christmas to all.Bill

  23. mike_b1

    “History will look back on him as one of our greatest.Bill, I think you left off an noun or two. See this from the WP today: An anonymous Republican is blocking the Senate intel authorization bill, the first time that’s happened in 27 years. Among other things the anonymous senator is demanding be removed from the bill: language requiring the administration to regularly brief Congress about the CIA’s secret prisons.Nice. Once again, I’ll remind you: when they use these rules to find that kiddie porn you’ve been downloading all these years on your hard drive, don’t come running to me.

  24. mike_b1

    And Bill, how is it moral to lock up American citizens for years without bringing charges? Check your history books: that’s one reason why our founding fathers wanted out of England.Sometime you’ll have to show me where the “moral high road” meets the path of voting scams, illegal slush funds, blatant and consistent civil and human rights abuses, illegal wiretaps, contractor kickbacks, and invade a sovereign nation with which we were not at war (!).Everyday Bush sounds a lot more like Nixon. And it was year six of the latter’s administration that everything fell apart. He’ll be remembered alright: for being the second Republican president to resign in disgrace.

  25. Bill Baar

    Drudge had another Republican saying he was opposed to the Patriot Act because someday Sen Clinton could be President.Kidde Porn is illegal by the way. At least in Illinois and someone should be looking for folks who download it.You feel it’s protected somehow in the constitution?

  26. Bill Baar

    PS I don’t share the Republican’s fear of Sen Clinton and the Patriot Act by the way. I’ve always respected her. Wouldn’t vote her but respect her a lot. Although that could change depending on who would oppose her.

  27. mike_b1

    No kidding that kiddie porn is illegal. As it should be (and N., save your disagreements, you perv.)But we do have something called illegal search and seizure. And the PA helps the Feds get around that. So when they use the PA to search your home and you get caught with it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  28. ReaganSucks

    So what if it’s a hoax? How many total BS stories did Reagan get away with that made great sound bites.I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I’m tired of the Democrats always trying to take the high road. Trying to fight falsehood with truth. You’d think after six years of Bush we’d learn it doesn’t work; a good-sounding lie is what “my fellow Americans” want to hear…not an ugly-sounding truth. I want slander! I want muckraking! I want half-truths and quarter-truths and un-truths everywhere! If I can’t get a government, at least entertain me!Damn I’m bitter…must be the holidays…

  29. neil

    Hoax indeed.

  30. Gary McGath

    It’s a hoax, according to the news site that first released the story.This doesn’t negate the fact that the government is engaging in real abuses of power, but it’s important not to fall for the false stories. Thanks for the link to my blog.

  31. Anonymous

    Ted Kennedy should start up a Club so he and Dan Rather can swap stories. Stories about it may not be true but I am so powerful that me saying so will make it true. Hold on this would include most ot the Democrat party.

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