I've only just got around to picking up on the discussion surrounding
Before I go any further I must make clear that this is a personal take on
things - not a statement by my employers, the EPIC network or the EIA. All
conceptual errors, heresies and misspellings are my own!
John Goodwillie voiced what I think are the fears of many, and have been the
fears of many for a long time. The Commission "does information" for a
purpose, or rather a number of intertwining purposes. It is an organisation
that believes in what it does, and believes that what it does is good. I
can remember the slightly shocked tones that greeted votes against
Maastricht and continue to greet any Eurosceptic utterances or publications.
I don't think that the Commission officials I've spoken to always see that
they might be seen to be "spinning".
Over the years I've seen the Commission support a range of information
networks - EICs down to European Resource Centres in the UK. With each new
network alongside the cries of "Why another one?" there have been voices
doubting that we can be honest librarians if required to provide information
with a purpose. I know that EPICs - who don't seem to get a mention in my
quick scan of the COMdoc - have been very exercised about the issue of
propaganda. I put forward my own views on this in European Information some
years ago and looking back on what I said I'm pleased to see that the old
codger made a little sense.
It is naive (at best) of the Commission - or any other body - body to think
that its output can drop into a politicised and aware environment as "pure"
information. Equally it is naive of librarians to assume that any
political body will produce information that is 100% apolitical. In my
experience in an EDC an EIC and an EPIC (one day I hope to collect the
set...) the Commission has been happy that the information it provides is
"made available". Once the initial culture clash was resolved I've never
detected any overt pressure to propagandise. This may, of course, be a
function of my density, puppy-dog naivety and thick skin, but I think it
owes a lot to a sensible policy of decentralisation and laissez faire.
A more assertive Commission stance of late has rung a few Cooper alarm
bells, but I hope I can reassure John and colleagues that what may seem to
be the Commission's intention may turn out far softer. I've not yet
digested the COMdoc - its ages since I've had one as bedtime reading - and I
may be very wrong. I do think that the real danger is that this move will
set up yet another parallel chain of information suppliers and add to public
confusion rather than speeding the flow of information.