The New Alarmism

Gordon Mohr
Thu, 20 Dec 2001 21:10:46 -0800

Luis Villa writes:
> The courts have, in the past, recognized that a deliberate 'chilling
> effect' can be just as bad for free speech (and just as illegal) as an
> actual arrest. This is (IMHO) a rather clear attempt to intimidate, and
> that is fairly clearly illegal, even if not explicitly unconstitutional.


No one was told to do anything, or to stop doing anything. No
one was told they could expect more visits. 

In both cases there had apparently been a report of material 
on display that depicted presidents or ex-presidents with
violence. (In the case of the dorm poster, the report seemed
to be inaccurate.)

Federal agents always take a quick look into such reports,
under every administration. It's just like the rule against
joking about weapons at the airport; the issue is so sensitive 
that even things that would normally be brushed off are taken 
very seriously. 

That sounds like a reasonable policy to me. So I have to wonder...

- What did you find objectionable about the agents' behavior?

- What indicated a "clear attempt to intimidate"?

- If a brief, cordial visit is "fairly clearly illegal", 
  what law does it break?

Many people who have gone on to kill have first given off
clues -- in their statements, writings, and other expressive
acts -- that they're readying themselves for violence, 
often in the service of some real or imagined cause. 

Of course, artists emit a lot of the same signals when
using powerful imagery to make political points. 

So, how about this: let the artists create, which is their
job; let the police peek around to distinguish the art
from real criminal intent, which is their job -- and don't
jump to the conclusion that either group has sinister

- Gordon