The Assassination of Hillary Clinton, The Assassination of Barak Obama

Police Shut Down Artists Assassination Show – City Room – Metro – New York Times Blog: In what would seem to me to be a clear case of censorship and an attack on Freedom of Speech, New York City police and Secret Service agents have shut down an installation by New York artist Yazmany Arboleda which involved the phrases “The Assassination of Hillary Clinton” and “The Assassination of Barak Obama” being stenciled on a plate glass window on West 40th Street in downtown Manhattan.

Arboleda, according to the New York Times, was “led” off to the Midtown South police precinct for what he called an interrogation.

Apparently Arboleda was renting the gallery space in question for an art show that was to open on Thursday and run all day.

From the Times:

“Later, Mr. Arboleda, who is 27, said in an interview: “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.” He added, “It’s about the media.”

“The Secret Service had to do a whole questionnaire with me,” he said. “It was about an hour of questioning. They asked if I owned guns, if I was a violent person, if I had ever been institutionalized.”

Mr. Arboleda answered no. Nonetheless, he said the Secret Service asked him if he would voluntarily take down the exhibition title from the window.

“I’m renting that space; the space was allocated for an exhibition and it’s my right to put those words up,” he said. “They said it could incite someone to do something crazy, like break the window. It’s terrible, because they’re violating my rights. If someone breaks a window, they’re committing a crime.”

He added, “The exhibition is supposed to be about character assassination. It’s philosophical and metaphorical.”

Apparently the stenciled letters have now been covered over with brown paper and blue masking tape censoring the words stenciled by the artist.

Although free speech is not without limits (you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater for instance) it would seem to me that simply stenciling letters on a building saying nothing more than “the assassination of Hillary Clinton” and “the assassination of Barak Obama” should not fall under the same sort of category. Didn’t Hillary Clinton in fact mention the assassination of Robert Kennedy as one of the reasons why she was staying in the race?

Is the “a” word in this case really off limits for artists to present and talk about? Aren’t artists supposed to present society with confrontations about things that might make us uncomfortable? Isn’t exploring why specific words might make us uncomfortable itself worth exploring? Is the “a” word officially taboo like the bomb word at an airport might be? Taboo enough to have your show censored and “led” downtown for interrogation by the cops?

It’s important to note that this was not graffiti art, this was legitimate gallery space rented by an artist for his show.

Thanks, Brad!

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  1. reechard says:

    A violation of some section of the patriot act I’m sure: a spelledwordcrime, (but not a soundcrime or a thoughtcrime.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m a fairly ardent supporter of the ACLU, privacy and free speech. In fact, my pledge was to give the ACLU $20 per month every month George Bush is in office after the 2004 election. I’ve fulfilled that pledge and will continue to do so.

    You can make a convincing argument that putting “The assassination of…” anyone on the side of a building is equivalent to yelling fire in a theater.

    The question is where do you draw the line. Is the same text written in graffiti OK? What if it’s written in graffiti and accompanied by a picture of a gun? What if you add a swastika? How about a picture of someone actually being assassinated?

    And finally, how about adding a picture or representation of the person in question actually being assassinated? I think everyone would agree that crosses the free speech boundary into pure suggestion of the act.

    It comes down to where you draw the line and I think the Secret Service is drawing the line appropriately.

  3. KD says:

    Normally I would side with free speech, but I think this one borders on irresponsible. I think he could have thought of a better way to comment on the media. Choosing those particular titles sounds like something done more for shock value or to get attention.

  4. erebusrat says:

    I disagree with the people above. It’s not suggesting action. It’s a title, like “The Assassination of Jesse James”. It’s not suggesting that you assassinate him, it’s stating that he has already been assassinated, like Hillary has been by the media which was the artists intent. “Assassinate Hillary Clinton” would be over the line, suggesting that she should or could be assassinated. If the former version leads to action against Mrs. Clinton, then anything could have set the person off. Rational people would not see it any immediately start planning her demise. It’s a silly notion; not one that warrants suppression of the freedom of speech.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Im for freedom of speech, but Im also a fan of common sense. Thats why this world is so messed up because of people like you saying what you dont need to say. Just like our children how can we tell them you just cant walk up to the teacher, or anybody and say I dont like you and you should be shot. When some one like you is out there.

  6. TranceMist says:

    This is due to the poor education in this country.

    People apparently do not understand the not so subtle difference between “The assassination of … ” and “Assassinate …”

    Sad and ignorant.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The artist could have easily used “The media Assassiniation of….” or “The character assassination of..” and avoided any issues…

    The secret service is notorious for its diligence at squashing anything that even remotely insinuates an attack on a president or presidential candidate, and its probably just as well.

    I presume the artist was released and not sent to Guantanemo