I almost ran with the story of the U-Mass student busted for reading Chairman Mao yesterday, but certain details in the newspaper account didn’t ring true. For example, there’s the fact that there’s nothing from the student in question about allegedly receiving a visit from Homeland Security agents after trying to check out Mao’s Little Red Book. Instead, the reporter simply accepted the anecdote given from two history professors—one of whom is convinced that the government is already monitoring his phone calls because “he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots.” (And since this is a guy who runs around saying things like “Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless,” I wasn’t particularly inclined to trust his political judgment.)
It’s a good thing I held off on passing the item along, as it turns out. BoingBoing, which originally brought the story to my attention, has been getting letters from other readers suggesting the story might be a crock. Reporter Aaron Nicodemus stands by his story, but Jessamyn West of librarian.net passes along word that no record exists for the alleged interlibrary loan request. For that matter, instead of bothering with a library request, the student could just as easily have found the Little Red Book online from a Marxist website or another source.