IN THE BOOK OF STUPID
By Enfield Mayor Scott Kaupin
Enfield town manager postpones future screenings of non-fiction films at library until balanced viewpoint ensured, orders library director not to speak to the media
By Marcus Hatfield
Published: Saturday, January 22, 2011 8:53 AM EST
ENFIELD — Future installments of the Enfield Public Library’s series
of non-fiction films about controversial issues are postponed until
the library director creates a plan to ensure that each screening
offers multiple sides of each issue, the town manager announced
Town Manager Matthew W. Coppler has also ordered Library Director Henry Dutcher not to speak to the media.
The library on Wednesday canceled a Friday screening of filmmaker Michael Moore’s controversial documentary “Sicko” under pressure from most Town Council members and the mayor, who threatened to cut the library’s funding if the film was shown.
Mayor Scott R. Kaupin asked Coppler to talk to Dutcher about canceling the film after several residents complained at a council meeting Tuesday about the scheduled screening.
Coppler said the film series had been advertised as a “balanced approach to hot topics,” and said that he and the library staff failed to do “everything we could do to meet the expectations that council had of us, and we’re correcting that.”
The film series would be postponed, Coppler said, until Dutcher could meet those expectations.
Coppler said he told Dutcher that until a plan was in place “that lived up to that,” the screenings would not go forward with the topics he selected.
“He’s working on that now,” Coppler added.
Also on hold are Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Trouble the Waters,” a documentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which were both to be screened next month.
One screening of the PBS Frontline special “Sick Around the World” already occurred on Jan. 7.
When asked Friday if Dutcher would have lost his job if he failed to cancel the screening, Coppler said he never discussed that.
“It was never ever said, never ever indicated, never ever even contemplated,” Coppler said. “Henry has been a very good employee for the town of Enfield and the library does a tremendous job for this community.”
Coppler said he had directed Dutcher not to speak to the press, and Dutcher did not return several calls for comment.
The cancellation of the film, which criticizes the shortcomings of the American health care system, drew attention from civil liberties and library groups as news of the controversy spread well beyond the town’s borders and generated conversations about censorship and freedom of speech.
On Thursday night, Moore linked to the Journal Inquirer’s first story about the cancellation on his Twitter feed. Moore, who is attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, could not be reached for comment.
Will Wilkins, director of Real Art Ways in Hartford, said that he attended an event Thursday at the Sundance Film Festival where Moore mentioned the Enfield controversy in his speech.
Connecticut Library Association President Debbie Herman, whose organization on Thursday called the cancellation “deplorable,” said she has received a lot of feedback on the issue, which she said was “incredibly supportive.”
“Overall they’re very pro-library and anti-censorship,” she said.
Herman said the association is looking into hosting a screening of “Sicko” at a library in a neighboring town and, while there has been interest, no events have been confirmed.
Wilkins said that Real Art Ways might also work with the library association to host a public event that could include a screening and discussion on censorship.
He said the Enfield Town Council should stay out of the library’s business.
“If there’s some form of speech that the council disagrees with, the proper response to that is more speech, more conversation, more dialogue,” Wilkins said.
Library staff members working at the library Friday declined to speak to the Journal Inquirer or to a television reporter from WFSB-TV3. The library’s community room, where the 1 p.m. screening would have taken place, remained dark as the scheduled start time came and went.
The library’s copy of “Sicko” wasn’t on the shelf — it had been checked out, as had another Moore film, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
But there was still one copy sitting on a library shelf of filmmaker Michael Wilson’s “Michael Moore Hates America.”
Town Manager Matthew Coppler has also ordered Library Director Henry Dutcher not to speak to the media.
This unfortunate saga gets more and more alarming. The Town Manager remained silent when he should have explained his earlier actions. He didn't return calls to the JI. He's the Town Manager, the top-dog in Enfield, pulling down a tidy salary for managing the town.
For him to now "silence" the town librarian is yet another form of censorship. The mayor was on the tube last night presenting his side of the drama, so why not the librarian?