Do Not Resuscitate: April 2007: Archives

April 18, 2007

CU Student Jailed: Valid Reaction To Virginia Tech? genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Six Degrees of Speculation

Walking A Tightrope

A student at the University of Colorado was arrested following comments during a discussion of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Max Karson stated that he understood how someone might want to kill thirty two people along with some other remarks that a number of the students felt were threatening.

Karson also produces a controversial campus publication called the Yeti that contains what he characterizes as satire. Some view the publication as "hate speech".

Max Karson of Denver had spoken in a class on Tuesday "about understanding how someone could kill 32 people," university police Cmdr. Brad Wiesley said.

He was arrested later that day and pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of interfering with staff, faculty or students of an education institution.

Karson was to turn 22 on Thursday. CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said privacy laws prevented him from releasing any information about him.

Several witnesses told investigators Karson said he was "angry about all kinds of things from the fluorescent light bulbs to the unpainted walls, and it made him angry enough to kill people," according to a police report.

Michael Karson, Max Karson's father, told the Camera newspaper of Boulder that his son's comments may have been misinterpreted. The elder Karson questioned whether his son's free-speech rights had been violated.

"I would have hoped that state officials would know their First Amendment better than they seem to," he said.

Karson also has a video on You Tube that is included below. Be forewarned that the video contains adult language and simulated violence. I felt it was beneficial to post the video and allow viewers to comment on how law enforcement should react to these types of situations. I don't actually know how the authorities will be able to discern which statements (verbal or written) or which videos need to be viewed as threats to society. At the same time, I understand people's concerns and the instinct to be suspicious and cautious.

I've not had enough time to collect all of my thoughts, but my instincts tell me that we (society) would be better to focus on the dynamics that are creating troubled children and treating them than on how to craft a law enforcement policy that fully protects the public while also preserving our freedom of speech. Creating such a policy could be quite complex. An example may be helpful.

Everyone understands why it is inappropriate to yell fire in a theater and what the law enforcement reaction should be...but should making a video or writing a story that contains violence be considered a similar criminal act? Unfortunately, I think that's the conundrum we face as we consider establishing far more proactive guidelines while attempting to prevent another Virginia Tech. I'm inclined to think that we (society) often make the mistake of addressing the symptom rather than the core problem and I've never found that to be a very successful approach.

Feel free to share your own thoughts and observations.

The Interview

Daniel DiRito | April 18, 2007 | 9:22 PM | link | Comments (1)
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