This is going to be interesting:
The Renton City Prosecutor wants to send a cartoonist to jail for mocking the police department in a series of animated Internet videos.
The “South-Park”-style animations parody everything from officers having sex on duty to certain personnel getting promoted without necessary qualifications. While the city wants to criminalize the cartoons, First Amendment rights advocates say the move is an “extreme abuse of power.”
KIRO Team 7 Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne holds a key document that really lays bare the city’s intent. The document was quietly filed in King County Superior Court last week. It’s a search warrant accusing an anonymous cartoon creator, going by the name of Mr. Fiddlesticks, of cyberstalking (RCW 9.61.260). The Renton Police Department and the local prosecutor got a judge to sign off as a way to uncover the name of whoever is behind the parodies.
Apparently, the cartoons never identify individuals, or even the name of the police department. Basically the satirist did a brilliant job playing on people’s insecurities, to the point of provoked them into seeking revenge. Nice.
The complaint suggests this the author has engaged in cyberstalking. What. The. Fuck.
Unless there is some forthcoming bizarre twist in this story, it simply will not stand up in court. The ACLU is already itching for a fight:
The cyberstalking law is designed to protect individuals from serious harassment by other individuals, not to protect government from parodies by employees. People have a right to speak anonymously on the Internet, and employer-employee issues involving YouTube satires should not be pursued as criminal matters. We would very much like to hear from the individual who posted the parodies so that we can know more about the facts of this matter.
Clearly, the Renton police department is using a bullshit argument to get a search warrant to “out” the author (who they suspect is an insider). The author won’t be convicted of cyberstalking, but then that isn’t really the point, is it? The point is to extract revenge.
In other words, the Renton police department is administalking a person exercising their first amendment rights.
I’m sure the courts will do their job and find the author not guilty of cyberstalking. With a bit of luck, they will also rule in favor of the author in the inevitable follow-up civil lawsuit.
Will the press do its job? Will the press allow the Renton police department to get away with this bullshit? If they really do their job, this incident will result in many embarrassing internal affairs revelations, findings of abuse of power, and whatnot. Sounds like they have a “problem of internal culture” in the Renton PD.
And if the blogosphere does its job, the Renton police department will become a target. There will be many more satirical cartoons. There will be essays ruthlessly mocking Renton Police Chief Milosevich (yeah…that’s his name!), and whoever the fuck else is involved in this stupidity.
I haven’t tried one of those “make your own animation” tools yet, but this sure has me tempted!