UPDATE: I clarified this over at mangablog but for some reason my post was removed. I am not arguing that Handley is a creepy guy. I am saying he put himself in the position of being judged one. That’s just the reality of the situation, and unfortunately that reality could include criminal prosecution right now.
UPDATE II: My post was back up on Mangablog sometime yesterday.
It’s all over the place. There’s one thing I believe could be learned from all this and one point someone made that should be highlighted.
First, let’s look at the crime from the perspective of someone who follows crime. Here’s the description of what happened from the AnimeNewsNetwork site:
“Handley had received a package of seven manga that the Postal Inspector intercepted and determined to contain objectionable images. With a search warrant, the agents from the Postal Inspector’s office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, Special Agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and officers from the Glenwood Police Department followed Handley home from the post office and seized his collection of over 1,200 manga volumes; hundreds of DVDs, VHS tapes, and laser discs; seven computers; and other materials. However, Handley is being charged for only part of his collection. ”
Assuming this is correct, and acknowledging that I don’t know any more specifics of the arrest, the part about the postmaster is interesting.
- It could have been pulled for a random check, since the government doesn’t have the resources to screen the contents of every package.
- It could have been pulled because it was from Japan. Yes, let’s acknowledge that there is racism. Glenwood is near Omaha, and I don’t know that there are a lot of book deliveries from Japan. Throw in the job cuts throughout the postal system, and you get motivation to examine anything that is out of the ordinary the hopes you get a high-profile catch.
But the idea I find most interesting is that maybe this wasn’t random at all. Maybe the return address or something else about the packaging caused it to be pulled. Maybe some identifier on the packaging is on a list or in a database that caused it to be automatically flagged for examination. Rightly or wrongly, maybe Handley ordered something from somewhere with a bad rep.
Or maybe not. You may find that hard to believe. I don’t.
So just in case you forgot (and I don’t know why anyone would forget) or didn’t know, your mail – electronic and otherwise, along with a whole lot of other communications- is being watched in some way. No, I don’t like it much either.
The other thing I want to highlight is the nature of what he did and why I believe that – while he might not be a full-fledged Creepy Guy – he certainly put himself in the position of being judged one. Notice I didn’t use the word “crime” here – there’s enough commentary out there about the current law, and for the record I don’t believe someone should be prosecuted just for being creepy.
That said, I’m sorry he’s facing what he’s facing, but it seems to me he knew what he was ordering through the mail. The responsible legal analysis I’ve seen and the fact that – despite CBLDF‘s willingness to assist in his defense – the defense lawyer felt the best option was to plea bargain suggests that the material crossed over into Creepy Guy territory. Jeff Trexler provides excellent analysis on that here.
Additionally, typical bad Creepy Guy judgment appeared to come into play when it was found that Handley was allegedly looking at the “Goth and Lolita Bible” among other things while he was being prosecuted for obscenity. I don’t believe that helped his case any. Haircut: check. New suit: check. Not looking at anything with the word “lolita” in it: hmm.
Why does it matter whether or not he’s a Creepy Guy? Here’s where I want to highlight the point Neil Gaiman made:
“You can say what you like, write what you like, and know that the remedy to someone saying or writing or showing something that offends you is not to read it, or to speak out against it.”
So let me be clear: You know that book you’re ordering? The one that has cartoon images of little kids having sex with animals? That’s kind of creepy. Not to mention you might run into problems with the law. But mainly, it’s creepy.
And this isn’t advocating censorship, or supporting existing law or calling for additional laws, or curtailing anyone’s right to be a creepy guy. Except, you know, by choosing to be a creepy guy you end up driving the debates, pulling us into the courtroom and defining our precedents.
So insofar as improving the legal standing of comics and graphic novels here in the United States? You creepy guys AREN’T HELPING.
Just thought you ought to know.