Zombie update (OK, I lied)

Remember how I said that I wouldn't comment on the Kentucky zombie story anymore?

I lied.

Actually, I didn't lie, because I did leave myself the out that if anything else came up I might still comment. But wouldn't you know it that I couldn't go more than a few days without commenting on this incident again. As a followup to my last rant about this story, I've found a few other bloggers who are of the same opinion that I am: That the Kentucky law against "terroristic threatening" is a bad law and that the police are using a frighteningly (to free speech advocates, at least) loose interpretation of the definition of "terroristic threatening."

James Bow
says: The possibility that this was an attack on free speech weighed heavy on me.

Matthew Rossi says: More unfortunate is the society that thinks that they can stop these awful things by declaring criminal everyone who suggests openly that they might have a dark side. It's in these societies that mental illness festers and grows, that people who truly are sick don't seek help for fear that they will be declared enemies of society.

M. Valdemar says: Call me a cynic, but I think the most likely truth in this story is that Poole is lying and the courts are overreaching. What we've got here is real Clash of the Titans, bluegrass-style.

Bottom line: The Kentucky law, in my opinion, is a bad, bad law. It is a threat to the First Amendment and should be repealed or overturned.

OK, now no more posts on this topic for a while.

Also, I promise that my first decent-sized post after Grand Rounds tomorrow will be medicine- or science-related. It may even be on par with some of my best (as seen in Essential Orac on the sidebar), but I'll leave that to the reader to judge...


  1. I hear ya, Orac. I got tired of this story a long time ago, but I kept feeling obliged to post updates because of the startling lack of logic in the blogospheric reaction.

    I think it's important that people understand that the Poole's veracity and the law's validity are completely unrelated issues. The law doesn't suddenly become a good law just because Poole wasn't some kid writing zombie stories.

  2. In this post 9/11 world, anything sounding close to terrorist seems to have a different meaning than it once did. The origins of the terroristic threatening law began with a movement to criminalize threats to personal safety in domestic violence situations. It allowed for an arrest for the threats from someone who had shown a pattern of violence to be considered a crime and meant individuals who practiced this behavior, which often escalates into violence, could be arrested. This prevented the injury and even death of domestic violence victims. It isn't something new to catch "terrorists" -- it labels those who use threats to frighten others into submission (terroristic -- like a terrorist, not is a terrorist). Later the law was changed and made broader to incorporate other situations in which threats were made. The law doesn't target writers -- it targets people who make threats. Only if someone writes something that can be seen as a threat does it affect writers. The law and its intent have been misrepresented by the media.

  3. It is utterly irrelevant to me what the "original" intent of the terroristic threatening law was. I am concerned with how it is being used now. You can't deny that the post-9/11 hysteria has made it easier for a law like this to be expanded so easily and with so little opposition. And my very point was that the interpretation of the law has broadened to the point where it is being used for dubious purposes, like arresting William Poole. Notice that the "terroristic threatening" law is the only law under which Poole was arrested. If he were truly making threats and truly developing a conspiracy, there are plenty of other laws that he could be prosecuted under.

    The problem is, any law like this one will always be pushed to the limit by the police and prosecutors. Laws that are so open to interpretation, that allow misuse so easily (as this law does) are bad laws. Whether the original intent of the law has been misrepresented by the media, I don't know. However, how it is being used now (which is what I'm talking about) is not being misrepresented.

    It's a bad law, and a threat to the freedom of the citizens of Kentucky.


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