Not too long ago, I jokingly argued in favour of politicians being killed before they reach their natural expiration date. It might not have been a particularly good joke–that was certainly the opinion of a number of commenters–but it was a joke. I’d hope anyone reading it would be able to divine the post’s humourous intent, rather than a murderous one.
In the absence of any additional context, I can’t determine the intent of the person who posted the “Should Obama be killed?” facebook poll from the screen capture at Pam Spaulding’s blog. Perhaps there’s a clue in the Obama image attached to the poll–it’s too small for me to see clearly on any of my immediately available monitors.
Spaulding points out that facebook users can flag the poll as offensive, and she and TalkingPointsMemo.com (where I first learned of the thing) are reporting that the facebook poll app is currently down. There’s some debate in comments over whether the two situations are related, but even if they aren’t, it seems likely that particular poll won’t reappear.
I really wish there was some indication of what the creator of the poll was trying to accomplish by creating it. Knowing whether it’s the work of Trey Parker or Orly Taitz would help me. Part of me wants it to be the work of an artist who’s trying to make some sort of point. Another part fears it was written by some hapless schmuck who just didn’t see how another stupid facebook poll could create problems. God knows I’ve publicly posted things without considering how they might affect those who read them. If I gave that too much thought, I wouldn’t post anything at all.1
The commenters at TPM, at least, don’t seem to have as much problem as I do ascribing intent to the pollster. I haven’t read all the replies to the post, but the general concensus there seems to be that the person who created the poll is attempting to incite the pollees in some fashion. And they probably are, but on the basis of the available evidence, I’m not sure the pollster’s attempting to incite what the TPM commenters believe they are. The discussion of (and general support for) serious legal ramifications for the pollster worries me for a number of reasons. Some of them are even not entirely selfish.
It takes a lot for words to offend me2. So, absent a more specific indicator of what the pollmaker was going for, this poll doesn’t really bother me. Beyond the question of whether it’s tasteful to ask if someone should be killed3 , beyond the writer’s sense or lack of same in specifying the sitting US President as the potential target, what did this person do?
They asked a question. Given the nature of the question, who asked it is something the Secret Service is understandably going to want investigate. I’d think the people who answered “Yes”, if there were any, are also going to find themselves under a bit of a microscope–if I was the SS, I’d be more worried about those folks than the pollster, myself.
It was a provocative question, and I don’t know why the person who asked it wanted to provoke people. Until I do, the degree of vitriol being aimed at the (as far as I know, anonymous) questioner makes me uneasy.
People saying “This guy’s an ass”–that reaction makes sense to me.
Accusing the pollster of deliberately inciting people to violence against the President? I’ve got to admit, I don’t see it, but I’m 1) Canadian, 2) inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt, and 3) not as a general rule the biggest fan of politicians.
Wanting the person responsible arrested, solely on the basis of the phrasing of this particular poll…? Chris is a million times more qualified to discuss that than I am, but I’d hope that such an action would be an overreach, even for the American legal system. If it isn’t, that’s a legal net cast mighty wide–wide enough to catch artists, comedians, bloggers with a dubious sense of humour…
PS: I wonder what the reaction would’ve been if the poll’s subject had been whether Dick Cheney should be killed. Or Osama bin Laden.
Disclaimer: The positions expressed in the preceding post–actually, in every post Andrew Foley’s ever made–do not necessarily reflect the opinion of MightGodKing.com, Christopher Bird, or Andrew Foley. Nothing to see here, move along.
- Which is partly why you haven’t seen anything from me here recently. After five years of blogging, knowing someone’s actually reading this stuff is more than a little disconcerting. [↩]
- Upsetting me, on the other hand–? Dead easy. [↩]
- Probably not, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be funny or shouldn’t be asked. [↩]