introducing readers to writers since 1995

June 17, 2005

I'd Quote Some Sondheim Here,
But That'd Probably Set Off All Sorts of Alarms

by Ron Hogan

Thanks to the Mumpsimus, I've just stumbled onto a story from earlier this week, in which Jeremy Lassen, the head of fantasy/science fiction press Night Shade Books, was visited by Secret Service agents because somebody took offense to a set of images he'd set up on Flickr called "Bush and Guns" that juxtaposed pictures of our president and firearms. Lessen had, as it happens, created his gallery in reponse to another Secret Service visit to a New York art gallery because of a similar image. "I felt very strongly that this investigation was silly," he writes, "as the piece was by a well known and well respected artist. A simple background check ought to have been sufficient."

Mind you, "a simple background check" reveals that the curator of that original exhibit is already under federal investigation after "he sent a skull and crossbones stamp through the mail with the word 'anthrax' written on it" and routed it to Chicago's main post office, but in theory, Lessen's right--when the Secret Service starts leaning on people like him, and questioning his right to call himself an artist, something seems seriously out of whack.* He was so rattled by the experience that he immediately took down his original LiveJournal, resurrecting it after he'd calmed down so he could tell the story. Sounds like he could have used the EFF Legal Guide for Bloggers, which by coincidence just happens to be mentioned next to Boing Boing's alert on his troubles. (Or maybe not--a quick glance at the contents suggests that while it's strong on how to deal with accusations of libel or copyright violation, it may not have any answers for those suspected of planning to kill the president.)

* And, yeah, it's the Secret Service's job to look into potential threats to the president's life, but--from this remove, anyway--it's hard to see why Lessen couldn't have gotten the same kind of kid glove treatment agents showed to Jesse Helms when he said Clinton had better wear a bulletproof vest if he ever came to North Carolina...but my reaction's probably colored by the fact that, thanks to Maud Newton, I'd just reread Elena Lappin's account of her experiences with homeland security.
If you enjoy this blog,
your PayPal donation
can contribute towards its ongoing publication.