Student Visited By DHS Agents After Requesting Little Red Book at Library

Status: Hoax
A news report has been doing the rounds concerning a student at UMass Dartmouth who was visited by Department of Homeland Security agents after ordering the official Peking version of Mao Tse-Tung's Little Red Book via interlibrary loan. The student needed the book for a research paper on communism, but apparently the book is on some kind of government watch list, and thus the visit. However, over at Boing Boing, suspicions have been raised that the story is a hoax. Apparently a second version of the story is floating around that places the student at UC Santa Cruz. Also, people find it suspicious that the student is unnamed, and therefore the story is basically hearsay. However, the reporter who wrote the story has responded to queries and is insisting that what he reported is true.
Update: Turns out the student invented the story about being visited by federal agents. Why he made up the story is unclear, but it's speculated that he did it simply to get attention. Details can be read in Aaron Nicodemus's follow-up article in

Law/Police/Crime Literature/Language

Posted on Mon Dec 19, 2005


I've seen copies of it in mail-order catalogues often enough, so I don't see why anybody would make a fuss about some student requesting to see a copy.

Of course, I never actually tried ordering any of the mail-order copies (I have one of my own already! Take that, DHS agents!), so for all I know, it could be delivered to your door by an FBI agent with a search warrant.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Mon Dec 19, 2005  at  11:24 PM
Well, if the reporter says it really happened, it MUST be true! After all, if we've learned anything in the age of Bush, it's that the mainstream media NEVER fabricates anything. You know, like that nice Judy Miller from the New York Times.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Dec 20, 2005  at  02:42 AM
Going soft on a commie wannabe because he's "just reading"?! Have the liberals taken over the asylum?!

After all, as it says in my '67 edition of the Quotations of Chairman Mao, "Reading is learning, but applying is also learning and the more important kind of learning at that." So anyone reading commie literature should be put down for their own and everyone else's good.

Ooh, wait a minute...
Posted by David B.  on  Tue Dec 20, 2005  at  06:34 AM
No, Accipiter, the President has said search warrants aren't necessary anymore.
Posted by tina smith  on  Tue Dec 20, 2005  at  10:13 AM
It's extremely unlikely DHS would have any interest in checking out matters involving communist writings -- communism hasn't been the focus or the threat for 15 years. And the provisions of the so-called Patriot Act relating to oversight of library-borrowings has not, in fact, ever been used. But I suppose it's nice for the partisan and the polemical to fantasize that they are government targets despite their generally pedestrian lives. Isn't that how conspiracy theories usually start?
Posted by Sam  on  Wed Dec 21, 2005  at  02:17 PM
well, the reporter has pledged that what he has reported is true. basicly what he has reported is that two proffessors have attested to the character of an unnamed student who alleges that a copy of the little red book he ordered from a library was delivered by agents who then questioned him.

the only reason that this is being looked at is because the american library association is concerned of their implication in it. if this story is true, that means a library or librarian somewhere broke ranks and cooperated with the feds.

another item which makes the story suspicious is the dramatic, but unlikely image of the agents interdicting and hand delivering the book. if someone can speak with any authority on actual fbi protocols for this sort of thing, please do.

there is certainly pressure against people who align themselves with the social justice movement to substantiate breathless claims about ordinary citizens being scooped up by government agents after browsing das capital at the local library.

also, the intersection of universities and the social justice movement seems to spin off this sort of hoax pretty regularly, often shrugged off as "culture jamming" once exposed.

we don't know if this intersection runs through this story, and even if it did, it would still not be proof of anything.

if it does exist there, i would expect it to be associated with the world can't wait campaign, which is run by unstable maoists. i don't think they'd actually apply this sort of hoax as a strategy, but i can imagine such a scheme spinning out of one of their listserv discussions and perhaps taken seriously long enough for someone to at least rehearse it. for me, this plausably explains the existence two stories.

i've been to one of the professors' websites, and he didn't seem overly radical, but then i didn't really dig in and read anything at length. he wouldn't nessesarily have to be a responsible party in it, judging from the path the claim has allegedly travelled: from the student to the proffessor in such a manner as to not seem like a big deal enough to rush to the presses with, mentioned by the proffessor weeks later as a sidenote to his comments in a broader discourse. still, it might be worth it to get a look at those comments.

its possible that the student was rehearsing the risk and plausibility of the claim when he mentioned it to his proffessors. perhaps he is now paralized, fearing the ramifications on his schoolastic carreer.

or, it could be true.
Posted by jummy  on  Thu Dec 22, 2005  at  06:11 PM
well, there
Posted by jummy  on  Thu Dec 22, 2005  at  07:30 PM
Federal agents' visit was a hoax
Student admits he lied about Mao book
By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer
NEW BEDFORD -- The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.

The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.

Had the student stuck to his original story, it might never have been proved false.

But on Thursday, when the student told his tale in the office of UMass Dartmouth professor Dr. Robert Pontbriand to Dr. Williams, Dr. Pontbriand, university spokesman John Hoey and The Standard-Times, the student added new details. The agents had returned, the student said, just last night. The two agents, the student, his parents and the student's uncle all signed confidentiality agreements, he claimed, to put an end to the matter.

But when Dr. Williams went to the student's home yesterday and relayed that part of the story to his parents, it was the first time they had heard it. The story began to unravel, and the student, faced with the truth, broke down and cried.
Posted by skinner  on  Sat Dec 24, 2005  at  01:57 AM
"social justice activist lies, other social justice activists credulously use lie to spread fear and hysteria."

woa. whodathunkit?

ted kennedy used this hoax in his most recent address on how the bush admin is lying to us. the irony is deeper than the san andreas fault.
Posted by jummy  on  Sun Dec 25, 2005  at  02:27 PM
Asking for a Peking edition is a good idea if you want to understand it, though. Many of the earlier English translations are immensely garbled, due to the telegraphic nature of written Chinese and the homily nature of Mao's writing makes it worse.

Example from an essay on linguistics by L. Sprague de Camp illustrates the problem nicely; The phrase in Chineses that most easily translates into English as "Good one go out, bad many stay" is actually the equivalent of "It is better to let a guilty man go free than imprison a thousand innocent ones."
Posted by DFStuckey  on  Tue Jan 03, 2006  at  09:54 PM
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