Monday, August 22, 2005

You say you want a revolution?

As reported in The Book Standard, this idea sounds clever until you think about it:

If you walk into your local bookstore looking for a copy of George Orwell’s 1984, you may just happen upon a cryptic note in its place from a group called The Ministry of Reshelving.

Though they may sound like a gang of vigilante librarians, the Ministry, which was founded only 12 days ago, is in fact made up of people looking to make a sly political statement in a playful way.
When I first read this story, I smiled. Someone clearly has a fertile imagination and a wicked sense of humor. But then it occurred to me that if I owned a bookstore, this might not be funny at all. Somebody will have to reshelve those books. Somebody will have to find them for the customers who can't. And after the bookseller has explained this little prank to the tenth or twentieth puzzled customer, I don't imagine the joke's going to seem funny anymore. Especially if the booksellers don't agree with the protesters to begin with.

And what if other groups began reshelving books? Wouldn't that be a nightmare?

Protest groups should never attempt to garner attention for themselves by imposing on innocent bystanders. Not only is that bad manners, isn't it a bit ridiculous to attempt to highlight government oppression by oppressing others? Shame on The Ministry of Reshelving for taking its protest rally into bookstores uninvited.

[Founder Jane] McGonigal says that having the Ministry send its message through bookstores was ideal because they are, she says, the closest thing we have to a cafĂ© culture. “It’s important to show that there are small things you can do to make a statement and bookstores are very much a public plaza for our time. . . .”

Perhaps McGonigal ought to consider that bookstores don't exist to provide a "public plaza" for airing our political views, but to sell books.

I like to think I have a sense of humor, but this childish stunt just isn't amusing.

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