Gordon Lee to Finally Get His Day In Court (Again); Also, Essayist on the Road

From the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:

"On November 5, after three years of criminal charges, legal proceedings, and seemingly countless delays, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund defendant Gordon Lee will finally have his day in court.

"Lee's trial comes after three years of legal action arising from the Halloween 2004 distribution of Alternative Comics #2, a Free Comic Book Day sampler which featured an excerpt from the critically acclaimed graphic novel The Salon that depicted Pablo Picasso in the nude, and was allegedly handed to a minor. The CBLDF has spent over $80,000 on Lee's defense since taking the case in early 2005, and expects costs to reach six figures by the end of the trial.

"Mr. Lee will stand trial for two misdemeanor counts of distributing harmful to minors material, and faces penalties of up to a year and prison and $1,000 in fines for each count if convicted.

"'Everyone at the Fund is glad to finally take this case to trial,' says CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. 'For three years Gordon has had to live with the tormenting reality of this case hanging over his head, and to suffer criminal accusations, a complete change of facts by the prosecution midstream, and numerous delays when it looked like the end was near. All for something that shouldn't have been prosecuted in the first place. We look forward to taking this case to trial, and because of the donations of the CBLDF's supporters, are confident that we have the best team possible to prove Gordon's innocence.'

"Outside the comics community, Lee's case is being closely watched by the mainstream media for its implications on Free Expression. Stories have appeared in venues including NPR's Morning Edition, CourtTV, The New York Times, The Book Standard, Publishers Weekly, New York Magazine and dozens more.

"'This case has broad consequences for all retailers of First Amendment protected material,' Brownstein explains. 'If Gordon is found guilty, it would establish a precedent that makes anyone offering any book, magazine, or film depicting non-sexual nudity vulnerable to a similar prosecution in the State of Georgia.' He adds, 'We're confident that Gordon is not guilty of the charges he's accused of, and that the work in question comes nowhere near the threshold the law requires to deem a work harmful to minors.'

"For a detailed summary of the case and its developments, please see Gordon Lee: The Road to Trial -- http://www.cbldf.org/articles/archives/000318.shtml

"To support Gordon's defense by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, please visit our donations page -- http://cbldf.safeshopper.com/12/cat12.htm?479

"The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1986 as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for members of the comics community. For additional information, donations, and other inquiries call 800-99-CBLDF or visit www.cbldf.org ."

I've written about Lee's case before, but the short version of the story is that on Halloween, 2004, Lee accidentally gave a comic book featuring nudity in a non-sexual context to a minor, whose parents would not accept an apology for the mistake and instead demanded that Lee be arrested for distributing such "filth." To be clear-- this book wasn't pornographic. It just showed Picasso's little Pablo. Apparently, these parents, police officers, and prosecutors think it's very, very important that young boys be shielded from the knowledge that men have penises.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Fuckin' what the fuck, you know?

Anyway. I'm a-leavin' on a jet plane in just a few hours. In honor of the NonfictioNow conference, I'd like to direct your attention to this post about Matt Taibbi, over on Shakesville. It turns out there are quite a few reasons to hate Matt Taibbi beyond my own "He's like Hunter S. Thompson without the wit, insight, or writing ability." Frankly, I don't agree with all of them-- I'll never be able to get behind the suggestion that some things are so serious that they can never be joked about, in any context whatsoever. But I think Melissa's right when she says that Taibbi's "Fred Thompson rape joke" from his latest dispatch is disturbing without being funny or insightful, and others have also pointed out Taibbi's tendency to go for the easy "fatty" or "retard" joke in his writings. Of course, Taibbi's defenders point out that he's critical of the Bush administration, the war, politics-as-usual in America, and-- frankly-- has all the qualities we expect from a Rolling Stone journalist. To which I reply, "Yes, but can you imagine how good he could be if he could actually write? If he had a unique voice, rather than just pure ego?" Again, Taibbi tries to do "gonzo" the way Hunter S. Thompson did it, but at the heart of some of Thompson's best work (Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved"), there's a sense of self-indictment along with the criticism of others-- as if to say, "America's is a cesspool, and as an American, I'm just more muck." Taibbi doesn't do that-- he employs a confrontational diction and crass language to describe others, but always makes it perfectly clear to his readers that he's quite certain he's above it all.

As odd as it may sound, arrogance is the enemy of the nonfiction writer. Sure, it takes a certain amount of ego to write a memoir, personal essay, or journalism that employs the first-person, but if your primary goal (or, at least, one of your primary goals) in your writing is to demonstrate how brilliant you are and how contemptible your subject is, then you're not likely to approach the material honestly-- you've already limited your scope too much; whatever you write has to prove this self-centered hypothesis you've established for the work. That's why Montaigne, Baldwin, Dillard, and McPhee are so great-- they're intelligent enough to admit their ignorance at times, and that admission gives them the freedom to probe their subject matter thoroughly.

That's just my opinion, though. Que s├žais-je?

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