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Gordon Lee Trial Begins Today

CBLDF: "On April 3, CBLDF defendant Gordon Lee will appear before the court in Rome, Georgia to begin his trial on two remaining misdemeanor counts of 'Distribution of Harmful to Minors Material.' ... Mr. Lee's case first came to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund early in 2005 following his arrest for accidentally distributing 'Alternative Comics #2,' a Free Comic Book Day edition, to a minor. The comic book at issue included a segment from Nick Bertozzi's upcoming graphic novel 'The Salon' depicting Georges Braque's first meeting with Pablo Picasso, in which Picasso is shown painting in the nude. The comic depicted no sexual situations."

The Salon was originally serialized on serializer.net

Looks like you're right,

Greg Carter's picture

Looks like you're right, apparently this will be a magnet for attention-whores after all. But I say bring them on. They'll go face down again. Te free speech loonies and the religio-loonies will go at it from either side then things will land in the middle like it almost always does. But I'm still glad the CBLDF is making noise so everyone can keep an eye the situation easier.

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I'm all for defending this

Greg Carter's picture

I'm all for defending this loudly. So people will know comics can't be rolled over on. Comics aren't just for kids. Never have been. But most people think that. Just like they think all cartoons are for kids. Even with The Simpsons and Family Guy is you say "cartoon" to most people they think "kids". Even Bugs Bunny makes them think kids cartoons but those were not made for kids. At least not until the sitcom writers took over in the early sixties. If you actually talk to someone they'll admit they know cartoon and comics aren't necessarily for kids. But it's still what they think of first.

Cases like this arrest shouldn't be settled under the rug. The extremests (fundies, fascists, or whatever) shouldn't be allowed to control the situation. Even in a right-wing Christian stronghold like rural NW Georgia, most people are more moderate and have more common sense that others like to think. I think a lot of people in Rome and that area are embarassed by it.

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I hope you're right.

Aleph's picture

I just take a dimmer view of the way people deal with attention-heavy situations.

I would like to believe this won't become a magnet for attention-whoring activists, who will be able to get otherwise rational people to support them based on their feeling personally threatened.

But then again it wasn't all that hard to get a lot of otherwise reasonable people to go foaming-at-the-mouth-rabid on both sides of an issue of a set of crudely drawn Danish cartoons that weren't even so terribly shocking to anyone until some rabid Imam went on his own personal quest months later. People on both sides of high-profile issues end up acting half-cocked and even less-informed.

To me, this is the only thing that raising a public hue and cry does here. There's no legislation to vote on, no official being targetted for ousting, nothing that a bunch of bystanders can really do but spread the gossip. A petition isn't going to change anything, nor will a write-in campaign. I would have preferred a public victory dance or a public appeal after the fact.

But, I hope you're right, and everything is peaches and cream after all is said and done. I'm always happy to see my dim view of human nature brightened a bit.

The fact that art escapes

Sean C's picture

The fact that art escapes the self-righteous eyes of "moralists" is because it's accepted as art, and one can't make a case against art defined as art. Comics, in the eyes of many, many people, are still just for kids, and shouldn't have questionable material in them. They don't understand the artistic integrity of comics, and don't want to. Cases like this occur more often than you would think, and thank god the CBLDF exists to protect the comic world. This case will probably go in favor of the comic store owner. There was no intent, or motive (the comic was free so he couldn't make money off pushing it) It was an accident. Even though manslaughter is an accident, (ususally) this is the kind of "crime" that should not be punished. I applaud the CBLDF for making a big deal of this. They NEED to send the message that comics are art, comics are free speech, and comics are protected. If they don't, this small-mindedness will simply go on, appearing all over the country. A precedent, a highly public one, will make overzealous DAs think twice before trying to squelch and attack this type of free speech.

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I'm totally glad they're defending the guy...

Aleph's picture

But like I said, I don't think the amount of press they're giving it helps them in that goal, you know? I think the amount of noise they're making is just playing into the hands who want to make an issue about what is acceptable and what is not. The cry they should be raising here is abuse of process, not freedom of expression. The law is being stretched here, really thin, and looking at the law superficially I think they'd be likely to win on mens rea alone if they didn't allow this to get dragged into a decency discussion.

It's allowing people to separate comics from other art forms that gives the fascists a foothold here. That's my main problem with the way it's being handled.

If they had already set a precedent, I would be absolutely for shouting it from the rooftops. The setting of a precedent or not occurs in that courtroom, not in the press. What they're doing here is not setting a precedent but raising the visibility, which isn't always a good thing. Whether they win or not, what they're doing here is creating a palpable sense of threat that will linger. I think they should be handling this quietly the same way the NAACP handles a ton of civil rights problems, most of which without kicking up a fuss-- usually when a big public spectacle occurs it ends up serving the very worst agendas and results in a loss of liberties. People are panicky creatures, and Americans are very quick to give up their freedoms if you tell them it a) stops terrorists, b) protects children c) exempts them from a threat which falls close enough to them to make them uncomfortable that they might be next in the crosshairs.

I just think the defense here might inadvertantly open up a great big hole in free speech. If legislation goes in to 'protect' us from abuse of process like this, don't think they won't sneak language in that 'protects' us all from things like Sexy Losers, the Danish cartoons and all things 'anti-American' as well.

So I figured out why this bothered me so much...

Aleph's picture

Scenario: High-profile kafuffle erupts around socially redeemable nudity in a comic. One side screams 'endangering our chiiiiildren!'. The other side screams, 'censoring our aaaaart.'

No matter how the case goes, now the legislature gets to play the hero. They create law guidelines that 'protect' the 'good' comics from being targetted same as bad. Protect our free speech, protect our liberty. They define what's acceptable and what's not.

Only, this isn't a protection we needed before. Because art with nudity was an exception to the prudish fascism that legislates morality in this country. Protection is also a definition of what's not protected, so suddenly we have ruled a segment of artistic expression unacceptable.

There are people in this country who find the body to be disgusting and vile, something from which we need to be protected. They use children to play our protective instincts, and they are coming after what they think is a kind of art that doesn't have the gravitas of Michelangelo and Ruben behind it. But it's still comfortable and relatable enough that a good portion of the country will see how it could deserve protection. It's a foothold, and going after something with high-minded goals just gives the public morality a cause no matter which way the chips fall here.

Cuz, I just can't ignore... this case went through the hands of politically-minded DAs and police officials before it went so far as obtaining an indictment rather than slapping a warning on the guy. Nobody disputes the idea that this was a mistake. The issue here is not some criminal trying to pervert children... it's the material itself and how much/little it's accepted by the community. Somebody decided to make this an issue, and there's intent behind it.

And, thinking about that, I kinda resent the CBLDF for their part in making this a high-profile case rather than handling it with quiet contempt. That just gets more people shaken up for no reason, panicky and receptive to the 'protection' that would threaten their liberties. It's not like making noise about it is going to have any real effect in that courtroom.

It's amazing..

Aleph's picture

Why they choose a test-case like this, wherein the comic is doing nothing lewd at all, and not a juicy hard-to-defend comic like Sexy Losers, I don't know. Neither deserves to be censored.

Us graphically violent comics are next, of course...

Because No One's Arrested Clay

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

This case came up b/c of the arrest - so far I'm not aware of arrests/prosecution over webcomics. 

Knock on wood! 

 

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Well obviously no one's arrested Clay..

Aleph's picture

I'm saying, if they were going to try to bootstrap this, they might have waited for a juicier subject, or gone straight to the web where there is an array of juicier subjects. This is bootstrapping on porn laws but federal child pornography laws are being similarly bootstrapped in parallel for the online world, and the courts have shown greater leeway when it comes to what they do and don't consider 'distribution' when it comes to online pornography. It's the same lobby, basically, the same activism, one wonders why they would target a tasteful socially redeemable target rather than one of a thousand doujinshi or more hot-button issues like online pornography, if they were going to bring comics into this mix.

Far as I know trials always follow arrests, unless you piss off da secret police, then trials are not a given. Just saying, if someone was going to go all gung-ho and try to legislate through the courts, it's fairly amazing to me that they'd start with this when they could just give a kid $15 bucks and get something harder to defend. Smacks of dog and pony to me.

I was kind of being snarky in my above comment..

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I see your point though, but CBLDF (comic book legal defense fund) is set up pretty much for cases like this - my understanding is they try to take on anything comic book-related.

 

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Dunno what you were being snarky about..

Aleph's picture

But I'm not talking about CBLDF, I am talking about the people who decided to take the law and apply it far wide of its intended purpose, thus attempting to bootstrap existing pornography law onto comic books.

CBDLF wasn't the subject of the amazement here. The folks bringing the case are.