Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The First Amendment Project


Three segments of a program produced for the Sundance Channel and Court TV, each a little over 20 minutes long.

Fox vs. Franken is the best. You may recall that Fox News brought a lawsuit against Franken and his book Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The case was thrown out of court, but not before Al got enough material for a dozen stand-up routines. Very, very, very funny. The best bit is about the poor lawyer assigned to argue the absolutely insane assertions of Fox, Bill O’Reilly, et al., one Dori Ann Hanswirth. Franken says of her “It was like she was in such a nightmare from the moment she opened her mouth that it was amazing she wasn’t standing in her underwear.” Great stuff.

Poetic License. This concerns one Amiri Baraka, poet laureate of New Jersey (sort of says a lot about his poetry right there, huh?), who wrote a “poem” shortly after 9/11 that contained a reference to the 4000 Jews who missed work that day. This is a perfect example, for me, of that old maxim “I totally disagree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it, you unspeakable, posturing, pustulent, reeking unwiped asshole.” Or something like that.

Now, I confess I have a little trouble with government support of the arts. I’m conflicted. There are indeed arts that will never pay their way at the box office or in the bookstores or galleries and are worth preserving. My admittedly unsatisfactory solution is to allow government support for the performing arts because they’re so expensive, but I really don’t think poets, other writers (like myself) or “artists” of any stripe should be allowed to suck at the government tit. I got no problem with Mapplethorpe, “Piss Christ,” the Elephant Dung Madonna, or “performance art.” But pay for it yourself, you pretentious punk, and sell it …. if you can. Same with Baraka and his poetry. You know, my main problem with him has nothing to do with the content … but simply that he’s a bad, bad, bad poet. Really awful, really pretentious, it totally sucks.

Some Assembly Required. Deals with the massive police presence at the Reptilian National Convention (sorry, I meant Republican) in the Big Apple in ’04. Thousands of blatantly illegal arrests were made, and it was terrible … but this is a pretty boring documentary. I have to say, liberals on parade can be a pretty nasty sight, not for the squeamish. All that sincerity and “individuality” gets on your nerves pretty quickly. One group was Ukuleles for Peace, or something like that.

And you know what? I’m glad a lot of people got arrested. I wish the news media had covered it better—that’s the real scandal, that America hardly even saw 500,000 people marching in the streets—but there’s nothing to radicalize a comfortable liberal like a few nights in jail. We need more pissed-off people, and the things they did in New York were perfect to hatch them.