July 30, 2003

More on "Suspected Terrorist", John Gilmore, Trolling

GrepLaw was kind enough to mention me in a story about [John] Gilmore's Flight Stunt Revisited, and to link back. So here's some more remarks on the topic.

First, the whole original account starts off in a way that is easy to misunderstand:

"Suspected Terrorist" button gets Gilmore ejected from airplane

It conjures a mental image of someone saying "Aha, you're wearing a forbidden button - off with your head, I mean, the flight". If the title were instead

Insisting on wearing "Suspected Terrorist" button gets Gilmore ejected from airplane

it would be more informative, though admittedly more cumbersome. That is, the information not given at the very start of the presentation, is that Gilmore wasn't suddenly put off the flight. Rather, he was repeatedly required, first by a steward, then by the captain, not to wear the button, with the captain saying it would "endanger the aircraft". And he responded "I told him that it was a political statement and declined to remove it." It would capture even more of the flavor of the event to have a title of

"Making political statement about being a "Suspected Terrorist" gets Gilmore ejected from airplane.

I sympathize with Gilmore's reaction. But under these circumstances, I think the captain was correct. Now, when Jonathan Swift published "A Modest Proposal", there were people who thought he was serious about eating babies.

Gilmore means his button as a hip, ironic, joking statement. But there will be uncool, unhip, un-smart people, who just won't get the joke. Some people's minds simply don't work with appreciation of the kind of humor popular in the techie crowd. They can't imagine someone voluntarily wearing such a designation about potentially being a terrorist. They will think

Gilmore's stunt is in fact one of the closest things I've ever seen in real life to the hoary free-speech cliche regarding
"falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."

He wants to "joke about being a terrorist while on an airplane, regardless of causing a panic"

It's not quite the same thing. But it's still notable for its physical aspect of provoking a response of fear and danger. Again, such actions are overall being a troll, not being a freedom-fighter.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics , security | on July 30, 2003 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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He's not joking about being a terrorist. He's stating truely, that he is a suspected terrorist. So if you want a better analogy it's

"Truely shouting fire in a theatre and possibly causing a panic"

Posted by: Gnuyen at August 3, 2003 07:27 AM