Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Assassination" Art Exhibit Shut Down by Police

The New York Times reported today that artist Yazmany Arboleda's exhibit "The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama" was shut down by New York City police.

The exhibit was shut down by 9:30 am, and police interrogated Arboleda for about an hour. According to Arboleda, authorities were concerned that the exhibit "could excite someone to do something crazy, like break the window."

Arboleda stated that the exhibit was about character assassination and how the media has portrayed the leading Democratic candidates:

It’s art. It’s not supposed to be harmful. It’s about character assassination — about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media. [...] It’s about the media.

The exhibition is supposed to be about character assassination. [...] It’s philosophical and metaphorical.
What bothers me about this incident is that there is a clear violation of this man's 1st amendment rights to freedom of speech. On the other hand, there is the concern of "yelling fire in a crowded theatre" syndrome; however, I do not think that the word "assassination" near the names of presidential candidates in an art exhibit qualifies. There's nothing about this art exhibit that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that a threat existed.

Ultimately, I think that this is an overreaction on part of the police, and in the process this man's speech was stifled. The 1st amendment is there to protect what others may find objectionable -- we don't need a constitutional amendment to protect what is acceptable to express, we need a constitutional amendment to protect what is taboo.

One commenter, B.A., from The New York Times article gave a rather intelligent insight:
This is just one of the things that is wonderful about America. If we feel this is inappropriate, irreverent, impolite, we have equal rights to speak out against it, in forums like this, or by walking down to the location, holding up signs and protesting. If this exhibit ignites passion furiously against it, those unwilling to do more than complain from their keyboards should not endorse the bending of the law to make it go away.
The answer to speech you don't like is more speech, not police oppression and/or intimidation.

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