Land of the free?

I’m sceptical about the case against US soldier Ryan Anderson, who allegedly passed Al-Qaida military secrets in an Internet chatroom*. But whether he’s guilty of passing military secrets or merely of being a Muslim gun nut, the New York Daily News’s article on his arrest says disturbing things about about America today.

Anderson wrote a letter to the Spokane newspaper on April 9, 1998, that should have raised alarms, warning that he could come to decide that the U.S. was no longer “based upon the freedom I was taught to love.”

“Should have raised alarms”? Why not just lock him up for being un-American and throw away the key…? Then again, this is a country where schools have a “zero-tolerance ban on jokes”.

*Incidentally, how does this work?

PrivateRyan: got mil secrets 2 give away 2 my islamic bros!

Osama_bin_Laden: send thru 2 my cave

Osama_bin_Laden: wanna cyber?

The mind boggles.

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6 thoughts on “Land of the free?

  1. To be fair to the school, in the wake of Columbine and similar incidents, how would you have reacted if you were in charge and it was your moral and legal responsibility to protect the schoolkids’ welfare? It looks as though this particular situation went well beyond an overheard throwaway comment, what with students actually drawing up fake ‘hit-lists’ on paper.

    I can certainly sympathise with a desire to ridicule a zero-tolerance attitude towards jokes as an abstract principle – but in this particular context I can easily see where the school’s coming from, just as I can understand US airport officials’ unwillingness to find jokes about bombs and terrorism especially amusing.

  2. It’s hard to work out exactly what happened, since both articles I can find on the subject (the linked one, plus one from a different local paper which doesn’t have the excellent quote) are so badly written.

    To me, this sounds like something which was clearly a joke (ditto the airline bomb jokes); I believe there is nothing about which it is morally inappropriate to make jokes*; and I believe that using legislation designed to catch violent criminals against jokers is morally reprehensible.

    If it was a more elaborate hoax than I’m interpreting it, then the school authorities were right to crack down; however, the idea that those responsible should face criminal charges is still deranged.

    * While I do hold this belief, I don’t always exercise it. I enjoy being allowed to fly on aeroplanes, for example.

  3. As I said, I agree with you that in theory there’s nothing that you can’t make jokes about, but in practice there are countless situations where one would be spectacularly ill-advised to attempt making them.

    In the real world, Columbine happened (as did Dunblane over here). So did September 11th, and Richard Reid was allowed on a plane a couple of months later. If you’re in a position of authority in a school or an airport, you cannot possibly afford to brush aside what look like obvious jokes in retrospect. Hindsight is not a commodity people in that position have the luxury of using.

    I’ll be honest here: the reason why I have something of a sense of humour failure when it comes to bomb "jokes" is that I was the manager of a cinema during the early 1990s, when the IRA was operational in London. I had to take EVERY threat seriously, and the fact that on one occasion a genuine bomb was found in the tube station only just across the road showed how right I was to be careful. Not only was it a pain in the arse having to follow up every suggestion, but having to examine apparently unattended packages is not exactly the best way of prolonging your life (not because they might actually contain a bomb, but through the stress caused by the faint possibility). Might I hazard a guess that you’ve never been in this situation yourself?

    As for your comment that it’s "deranged" and "morally reprehensible" to slap criminal charges on bomb and gun hoaxers, how would you suggest imposing a deterrent, given that plain common sense so often fails to work? That’s the reason why perjury attracts such stiff sentences – and I bet you were delighted when Jeffrey Archer got one! (So was I, but I was equally glad that that idiotic woman got hit with a hefty fine for her bomb "joke": I agree a fifteen-year sentence would have been disproportionate, but letting her get off scot free would have been… well, a joke).

  4. "Police also arrested a 16-year-old boy after a teacher spotted him repeatedly writing the word "die" on his backpack Thursday,"

    Presumably this would be thewrong place to ask if he was simply a Dungeons and Dragons fan.

    "Oh no I’ve rolled a six and they’ve stolen another personal freedom away."

  5. Yes, free Ashley. He’s a victim, not the murderous car drivers

    I totally sympathize with him knowing the ruthless drivers on the road.

    free Ashley Carpenter!!

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