Chilling Effect (Chill Them Young Dept.)

One of the marks of a free country is that you can criticize the Maximum Leader without fear of investigations or reprisals.

Not in Seattle Prosser, Washington State, USA, where a boy was Investigated by the Secret Service, then disciplined by his School, for drawing Bush as the devil in an art class assignment on the Iraq war.

Art students at Prosser High School were told to keep a notebook of drawings depicting the war in Iraq.

One 15-year-old turned in a sketch showing President Bush, dressed as a devil, launching a missile.

Another of his drawings was of a Middle Eastern-looking guy holding a rifle in one hand, while in the other hand was a pole with an oversized head of President Bush stuck on it.

The art teacher found the drawings troubling.

Maybe it was the caption that said: “End the War.”

Anyway, the drawings were turned over to school administrators.

School administrators took a look and tossed this political hot potato to police, who took one look at the “Vote For Ralph Nader” slogan and called in the Secret Service.

Last week, Secret Service agents trekked out to Prosser and grilled the 15-year-old artist.

They left without charging him with anything, but that didn't stop the school district from punishing the kid anyway.

(emphasis added) AP version of the story. And this hyperactive tendency to investigate people is not a fluke but is now shared by many law enforcement bodies: Recall this previous incident? Or this one? All of which leads to self-censorship

Teach the children well, indeed.

[Corrected to remove slur on Seattle, per comment by froz]

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5 Responses to Chilling Effect (Chill Them Young Dept.)

  1. Pingback: TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime

  2. MP says:

    The Secret Service was correct in checking into a lead that threatened the President. Many psychopaths or mentally ill killers first commit their acts to artwork. Its funny how people complain that the government wasn’t dilligent in pursuing terrorism leads pre-9/11, now matter how unactionable the info. Here they are being dilligent, and people are critical. The kid isn’t in jail, and we have so few of the facts that would be necessary to determine if the school took appropriate action. Wake us up if they start shooting kids in the head for political statements, ala Cuba, North Korea, Iran, China….because those places are where free speech is a little colder than “chilled”.

  3. Michael says:

    I am quite dubious about the idea that every person who draws Bush as the devil deserves to be investigated by the secret service, although once a teacher has reported the student I can see why some law enforcement agency might reasonably feel obligated to check it out. I am quite certain that given the reported facts there could be no possible cause for the school to discipline the student. It appears to be a public school which makes it especially wrong, indeed unconstitutional. It’s always possible there are other facts we don’t know, but given what’s reported it seems fairly straightforward.

  4. froz says:

    Your link is to a story reported by a Seattle televison station, but the incident took place in Prosser, which is near Yakima in Eastern Washington.

    I am not suggesting a similar occurrence would be impossible in Seattle. However, there is a cultural divide between the Eastern and Western parts of the state. This is exemplified by the local terminology for outsiders: residents of Eastern Washington are fond of using the perjorative “coasties” when referring to residents of the wet side. Coasties have been known to refer to residents of Eastern Washington as “flatlanders”.

  5. MP says:

    Tolcacher insisted it was not a freedom of speech issue, but a concern over the depiction of violence.

    “From what I saw, [school officials] were right to be concerned,” Prosser Police Chief Win Taylor said.

    The school district disciplined him, but district officials refused to say what the punishment was. Tolcacher said the boy was not suspended.


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