Tuesday, April 19, 2005

You Be the Judge

Below is the full text of my e-mail debate with Karl Noyes about his Secret Service column. His responses and the text from his original article are bolded for easy comprehension. Now you can decide for yourself if I was making degrading points or if Noyes thinks himself too important to respond. Text in red are points I made that Noyes has not yet responded to; be forewarned - there's a lot of red text.

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There are a few misleading points Karl Noyes's column that I felt needed to be made more clear.

Karl: Thank you for your email. I wish my column was more carefully read but nevertheless, I can clarify a few things for you.

"The artist, Al Brandtner, had the gall to create a panel of enlarged postage stamps with Bush and a handgun lurking in the background."

If by "lurking in the background," Noyes meant "pointed at his head in an execution-style fashion..." You can see the picture here.


Karl: In my mind Bush is the focal point of attention of Brandtner's work, he is the first thing the viewer sees thus I believe it is correct to say that the gun is in the background.

To say that the gun is "lurking in the background" is wholly untrue. It is neither lurking, nor is it visually implied to be in the background. It is physically at the same depth level as the President's head. Do you think that the gun in this picture is lurking in the background? Of course not.

"Who knows how many other anti-art missions the Secret Service has conducted?"

The Secret Service is charged with investigating any and all threats on the President's life. These were not "anti-art" missions; they were doing their job. Does Noyes seriously believe what he writes?

Karl: Do you think exhibits and high school band rehearsals are threats to the President's life?

It doesn't matter if I think so. It matters if the Secret Service thinks so.

From the ABC News article about the "high school band rehearsal" you mention:

"But some students and adults who heard the band rehearse called a radio talk show Thursday morning, saying the song the band sang ended with a call for President Bush to die.
Threatening the president is a federal crime, so the Secret Service was called to the school to investigate. "

When you refer to this group as a "high school band," you are once again being misleading. The song was sang for a talent show, and not performed by the high school's band, as you imply.

Jeff Weise (of Red Lake) made an animation depicting himself brutally murdering about a dozen people with a handgun and then shooting himself shortly before he brutally murdered about a dozen people with a handgun and then shot himself. Do you think his "art" was at all indicative of his future behavior? The phrase "better safe than sorry" comes to mind.

"Some citizens even took a vigilante approach when they had an art show in New York closed because a portrait of Bush made out of monkey pictures and grass was deemed too offensive."

Incorrect. The Secret Service had nothing to do with this incident. The gallery manager closed the exhibit himself after seeing the painting. You can read more about the *facts* here: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04355/429620.stm

Karl: Of course the Secret Service had nothing to do with the New York incident that is why I called it a vigilante approach, outside of law, not through law.

The wording in your original column can be taken in this way:

"Who knows how many other anti-art missions the Secret Service has conducted? Some citizens even took a vigilante approach when they [the Secret Service] had an art show in New York closed because a portrait of Bush made out of monkey pictures and grass was deemed too offensive."

So in your mind, threatening a boycott is vigilante justice? From the article:

"On Dec. 8, however, the day before the exhibit opened, a manager called Turco and said a Bush supporter had threatened to boycott the market if Savido's painting was not taken down.

Turco removed the painting, but he decided to put it back up for the exhibition's opening, which attracted more than 2,000 people.

When the market manager saw the painting, he ended the party."

"Indeed, the true act of art, of creation and not of entrepreneurship, must boggle the mind of many Bush supporters. If you cannot profit or satisfy a power urge through art, why do it?"

Here, Noyes decides to use one of the logical fallacies (the false dilemma; more here: http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/distract/fd.htm ) as an argument. He expects readers to believe the Bush supporters will only commit an act if one can profit from it or satisfy a power urge, which is obviously an incomplete set of options.

"Yet, it is this ignorance of the purpose of art, or perhaps the realization that art is one of the few remaining avenues to subvert the Bush administration, that has inspired Bush’s crackdown."

The Secret Service has not arrested any of these artists, nor has it stopped the art from being viewed. Investigating a possible threat on the President's life does not equal a crackdown on the arts.

Karl: The purpose of the Secret Service visits is not to arrest artists but to create a chilling effect. Just as the tortures in Guantanamo and Iraq are meant to instill fear and take away identity rather than to gather information or punish.

So you're comparing the torture of terrorists to the investigation of threats on the President's life? The tortures in Guantanamo *are* meant to gather information and punish. Why would you say they aren't?

The main point that you're ignoring is that having freedom of speech does not guarantee one the freedom from consequences.

"While Bush is sending out the Secret Service to act like a modern-day Gestapo..."

George Bush is not checking art exhibits and dispatching the Secret Service when he doesn't care for the art; the Secret Service acts independently of the President's personal opinions.

Also, Godwin's Law applies here.

Karl: President Bush sets the tone for his Secret Service and a crackdown on artists is apparently acceptable to him because they keep occurring.

Do you know this for a fact, or are you just making it up? Also, you keep using the word "crackdown." That must mean something different to you than it does to the rest of the world. Can you explain what is being cracked down on?

"For every two-bit demagogue mindlessly spouting Bible quotes, there are youth writing poetry and hip-hop lyrics."

I like the imagery here. Religious types are "two-bit demagogues," but rappers are "youth writing poetry." Just so you know, I am personally offended. Not that Noyes cares, but I thought I'd mention it.

Karl: I do not say that all people who quote the bible are two-bit demogogues, I merely say for every two bit demagogue i.e. Pat Robertson, never implying all who read the Bible. If you are offended that I call people like Pat Robertson two-bit demoagogues, then there is not much I can do.

I'm not so much offended that you don't like Pat Robertson as I am that you use your prejudices against religion to try and make a point that Bush fosters an anti-art atmosphere.

"For every Toby Keith wailing Bush love songs, there are probably 10 underground punk bands calling for Bush’s scalp."

"*Probably..." When you don't have the facts to back up your argument, a good idea is to just preface what you'd like to be true with "probably."

"By the way, another world leader didn’t like unflattering portraits of himself. His name is Saddam Hussein."

Ah yes, a valid comparison, since both leaders had artists executed when they didn't like their work. Oh wait, you mean that was just Saddam? Bush hasn't personally stopped a single artist from expressing themselves? As a "senior editorial board member," I thought that Noyes would have been aware of that, but the fact that he wasn't certainly shows how closed-minded that Daily's editorial board apparently is.


Karl: Bush has fostered and tolerated an atmosphere where anti-Bush art can be removed and exhibits closed and sanctions intimidation of artists. What is the next step?

I believe the next step would be the slippery slope into hell. Soon, anybody who professes to enjoy art will be shot on sight and all expressions of creativity will be burned. Everyone in America will be a soulless, mindless drone, and The Great Leader Bush will tell us what to think. Is that on par with where you're going?

Do you think that the Secret Service has only investigated threats into this President's life? What did they do while Clinton was president - sit around and eat bonbons? What you've done is taken an occurence that has happened during every Presidency in the last fifty years and tried to use it to promote your hatred of Bush. Good luck with that.

Karl: Do you support what is being done in Guantanamo and Iraq with prisoners?

To what exactly are you referring? Do I support the interrogation of al-Qaeda and Taliban members? Or are you asking me if I support the a few isolated incidents of prisoner abuse? Perhaps if I support Lyndie England or if I'm rooting for a guilty verdict? I don't exactly see what my support or lack thereof of the military's prisoner interrogation tactics has to do with your defense of your column.

Karl: Your support of Guantanamo or the Iraq prisoner policy has a lot to do with whether or not you are rational human being.

In other words, if someone doesn't agree with you, then they are not rational? Give me a break. You never even clarified what it was you were asking me if I supported. Here's a question: Do you support what is going on in America? Yes or no please.

Karl: I support that people have the rights to have boycotts. People can boycott all they want, the point is that government policies are fostering unjust boycotts. Sure people can boycott and protest, but I think it is pretty sad when that is used as an excuse not to debate the issue.

Unjust boycotts? You think the government should be able to tell people what they can and cannot boycott? That is ridiculous!


Karl: I think it is a travesty that the exhibit promoters in these cases gave in to them. I don't care who is suppressing art, I don't support that suppression.

So you're arguing against the exhibit promoter's freedom to have the choice of what art he displays in his own exhibit? That's unconstitutional.

Karl: As to the rest of your points, I feel they degrade the value of this argument and are not worth even addressing.


Ah, now I get it. Given this stance on addressing reader's complaints from the Daily's senior editorial board member, I now more fully understand why the Daily's editorial section works like it does. If you don't like the points made by a reader in his submission, it's just a degrading piece and it goes in the trash, right?

If you didn't take the time to read through my points, you can say so.

If you don't have the time to respond, you can say so.

If you don't feel that you can respond, you can say so.

If you don't know how to respond, you can say so.

If you just don't want to respond, you can say so.

But if you honestly believe that the points I made are degrading and not worth addressing, then God help you.