Killing joke: By now the entire world is familiar with Julia Wilson, the 14-year-old McClatchy High School student who posted the words “Kill Bush” on her MySpace page, spawning a full-fledged investigation of the teen by the Secret Service. Bites for one is relieved that the Bush administration’s pro-torture stance permits federal agents to browbeat innocent schoolgirls and reduce them to tears. Mission accomplished. Another victory in, as the president calls it, “the war on terrah.”
A humbled Wilson has since acknowledged that it is wrong to make death threats, on the Internet, in print or otherwise. Yet, here’s the rub: It may be wrong, but it’s not illegal, as right-wing radio reprobate Michael Savage demonstrates on a near-daily basis. The object of Savage’s latest homicidal outburst? Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a “traitor” who should be “hung.” Bites thinks Savage is an imbecile who should be shot, but Bites would never dream of suggesting anyone carry that out, even though technically it is not illegal to make such a suggestion.
However, it is illegal to make death threats against the president of the United States. This lesson is so ingrained in the national consciousness that one might think it has always been so, but such is not the case, as essayist Ben Metcalf noted in the June issue of Harper’s. In fact, the prohibition against presidential death threats was passed by Congress in 1917, during the peak of the Red Scare. Like Wilson, Metcalf is no fan of President Bush. But unlike the alleged teen terrorist, he has a somewhat firmer grasp on the law.
“Am I allowed to write that I would like to hunt down George W. Bush, the president of the United States, and kill him with my bare hands?” he asks. The answer, he finally concedes, after writing that he would “like to hunt down George W. Bush and kill him with my bare hands” at least a dozen times, must be no. The essay, “On Simple Human Decency,” is the best piece of political satire Bites has read this year. Check it out at www.harpers.org.
Unexcused absence: Speaking of McClatchy High, SN&R reader Joseph Weems writes that security at the school appears to be weak at best. Weems recently attempted to return a student’s backpack he had found and, after wandering the hallways unnoticed for some time, was surprised to find no teachers or other adults about. Eventually, he gave the backpack to a student.
“I was absolutely appalled that I could walk right in the front door with no deterrent,” Weems says. “Those children were completely vulnerable and no one was there to watch out for them.”
License to ill: Is there something in the water at The Sacramento Bee? What else can explain the paper’s sports columnists’ recent obsession with disease as metaphor? Check out the permanently dour Marcos Breton’s take on the Oakland A’s propensity for wilting in the playoffs:
“The label of playoff chokers is stuck to the A’s like week-old meat wedged between rotten molars,” he writes. “The thing is, these guys don’t seem to notice the halitosis.”
Bites smells something, all right: the odor that emanates from overly purple prose. Marcos, get thee an editor.
Yet, Breton is by no means the only offender. Here’s the lovely Ailene Voisin riffing on beleaguered San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith after the team’s recent shellacking by the San Diego Chargers:
“Alex Smith wanted a mulligan the instant he threw the pass, the one that dropped like a wrench into the guts of the 49ers’ free-flowing offense, remaining there like a chronic ulcer for the better part of an afternoon.”
Lord almighty, pass the Pepto Bismol! This disease-as-metaphor thing at the Bee is spreading like … monkey pox.