Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The limits of free speech: joking about Presidential assassination

YouTube has become a clearing house for just about every public statement people want to make — witness the ”YouTube divorce woman” who recently posted a video complaining about her mondo-rich husband kicking her out of their Park Avenue apartment.

There are limits, however, to free speech — ones that dwell somewhere in the “yelling fire in a crowded theater” area (or the “every single joke about the head of state is investigated, especially under a Republican presidency”). Some enterprising soul decided to do a video featuring a kid threatening to kill the President. The vid went down from YouTube, but can be found below. The kid makes his best bid to make the threat sound serious, and it is a particularly damaged bit of play-acting (one commenter in the comments field on the original website notes that the kid has “played too much Grand Theft Auto”). It also gets to be both creepy and boring, as the kid rambles on and on, saying he will kill himself after offing Bush, plus will take out the First Family.

It’s the most extreme form of political humor, and not funny, but interesting to note that it can indeed exist at least in one corner of the Internet. I can’t conceive of a single newspaper (and that includes the “alternative press”), radio station, or television paper that would let this kind of stuff through the filter.

In no way do I advocate what this kid is saying (okay, watchdogs?), but I am certainly interested to observe its appearance (and most likely imminent disappearance) in the public eye:

UPDATE: The video has indeed been taken down, and probably won't be posted anywhere soon, unless the videographer wants to put it on his own website. Here are some blog items about the video. They seem to take the opinion that Bush is generally an okay guy. I think he's an apathetic and genuinely repellent war criminal, but I think the kid's solution is rather grim: since the Pres seems to still be connected to his past drug/alcohol use (either by current "slips" or just the brain-damage they caused), maybe a nice straitjacket would fit the bill.

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