Saturday, July 03, 2004

A First Amendment Issue?

Another Boing Boing find. The Washington Post reports on a novella by Nicholson Baker, due to be released on the eve of the Republican convention, in which one of the characters discusses ideas for assassinating President Bush.

It's a crime to threaten to kill the President. But this isn't a threat; it is fiction in which one of the characters discusses a possible assassination. But it makes me uncomfortable.

I believe and hope that if challenged, the right of Baker to write and publish this book will be upheld. But I don't like it.

Do you remember how offensive it was when a southern Senator implicitly threatened that violence would occur if Clinton visited an army base in his state. (I hope I remember that correctly.) Clearly this isn't the same. But still ... .

The point of the book is that the character who is thinking about the killing finds that what Bush has done is so disturbing that he fantasizes about killing the President. Certainly anyone can fantasize about anything. And one should not be prevented from expressing one's fantasies. But still ... .

Much as I don't like Bush, I hope that perhaps Baker will, if necessary, edit the book to make it clear that the character is expressing his anger and frustration, not thinking seriously about assassination -- that he is so angry at the President that he is driven to this sort of fantasy, which he knows he will not carry out.

UPDATE: See my follow-up comments above.

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