Protesting with water
April 25, 2003 3:10 AM   Subscribe

Jeff Webster threw water on women who were silently and legally protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq in my hometown of Soldotna, Alaska. He has been charged with harassment, a misdemeanor. The Anchorage Daily news reports with photos of both parties involved. Video of the incident here (window media format). Aside from the support for and against Webster's actions, does throwing water on people constitute a right of free speech?
posted by ericrolph (50 comments total)
The video is crass.
posted by mook at 3:16 AM on April 25, 2003

What if it were sewage? Or pixie dust? Flower petals?

How can 'throwing water' = 'speech' again?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:19 AM on April 25, 2003

These are his arguments. I wrote an opinion piece here that attempted to mock the logic behind his and other's justifications. It didn't do much good, as indicated from the response of Webster here.
posted by ericrolph at 3:26 AM on April 25, 2003

meanwhile in denmark - throwing red paint on the prime minister can get you up to six years in jail - the paint-protester is being tried for 'bodily harm' or something...
posted by dabitch at 3:31 AM on April 25, 2003

That has to be the single most pathetic thing I have ever seen justified as a 'protest'. What next? Flicking boogers? Don't you have a law in Alaska that requires children to be securely restrained in a moving vehicle? Jebus, I've seen it all now...
posted by punilux at 3:38 AM on April 25, 2003

This is too funny. I for one hope he wins. Imagine the consequences. Imagine the opportunities. People walking around throwing buckets of water on each other day in and day out. Practicing their freedom of speech (or any arbitrary bill). Way too funny... What country was this again?
posted by psychomedia at 4:01 AM on April 25, 2003

hang 'em!
posted by delmoi at 4:01 AM on April 25, 2003

... does throwing water on people constitute a right of free speech?

Nope. It constitutes 3rd degree assault.
posted by RavinDave at 4:16 AM on April 25, 2003

I'm disgusted by Webster's lack of patriotism. After the Alaskan police, who risk their lives on a daily basis to uphold civilization and defend Webster's freedoms, came to his house and told him to stop throwing water on people, he shamelessly went ahead and did it again -- in utter defiance of the boys in blue. (Or girls, as the case may be.)

I don't know about Webster, but I will never forget the sacrifices made by the New York City police department on 9/11 and would ask Mr. Webster where he would be without a police force to protect his life and property! It's absolutely repulsive that traitors like Mr. Webster would spit in the face of the very people who defend his freedom. He would be well-served to honor the memory of the policemen and women who died on September 11, and die every year, to keep America free. After all, if terrorists ever attack Alaska, the police will be the first people he goes crying to for help.
posted by Ljubljana at 4:35 AM on April 25, 2003

It is only free speech if you are throwing water on a fire that actually is burning in a crowded theatre
posted by ElvisJesus at 4:37 AM on April 25, 2003

Hey Eric, could we get "Lee Greenwood" warning on that video next time? Thanks.

Oh, and throwing water on people is bad.
posted by grabbingsand at 4:59 AM on April 25, 2003

I advocate water torture for this guy and any accomplices who helped him make that offensive video clip. Why are so many self-proclaimed "patriots" bullies and blowhards? Maybe he thought water was benign after seeing how harshly authorities get away with treating peace protesters elsewhere?

There is a silver lining here: this guy twice failed in his attempt to gain the republican nomination for governor.

And well said ElvisJesus, haha.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:19 AM on April 25, 2003

if terrorists ever attack Alaska

Was that sappy missive about 9/11 supposed to be sarcastic? I can't help but be suspect of a statement like this. I think throwing water on someone in Alaska might constitute assault, (you know, hypothermia and all that). Regardless, throwing [object] at [person] is not speech, unless you're a mime or something, and even then you'd only use a pretend bucket of water.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:20 AM on April 25, 2003

does throwing water on people constitute a right of free speech?

Only if the throwees are participants in a wet t-shirt contest; then it's constitutionally protected performance art.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:26 AM on April 25, 2003

That video makes the baby jesus cry.
posted by adampsyche at 5:37 AM on April 25, 2003

...traitors like Mr. Webster...

Is it only me, or is anyone else annoyed with our new definition for traitor? Back in school they taught me a traitor was one who committed treason. Treason is an attempt to overthrow a government. Somehow I just can't relate an act of civil disobedience such as throwing water to anything beyond just being a jerk.
posted by LouReedsSon at 5:44 AM on April 25, 2003

These days, sadly, the definition of traitor has been expanded to include those who simply disagree with you, so I agree with you on that point. However, throwing water on people is decidedly uncivil. Webster is no traitor, nor is he a patriot. He's a redneck asshole. The Lee Greenwood soundtrack gives him away.
posted by psmealey at 5:54 AM on April 25, 2003

Is it only me, or is anyone else annoyed with our new definition for traitor?

traitor = anyone who has a different political opinion than me (we are at war after all)

in other word, yes
posted by ElvisJesus at 5:54 AM on April 25, 2003

madamjujujive, it was Webster's lawyer (?) who ran for governer twice and lost.
posted by ericrolph at 6:19 AM on April 25, 2003

Great, now I am embarrassed for water on top of everything else.

Will no one think of the di-hydrogen-oxide?
posted by Dagobert at 6:33 AM on April 25, 2003

Throwing a bucket of water in neer freezing temperatures? That isn't free "speech", that's assault. Not because of the temperature, mind you, the action.

"The more people who protest the war like that, the more dangerous it is for the kids", said Ross, who also has a son in the Marines in Iraq. "What does the state see in prosecuting someone whose son is fighting for the country?"

This coming from the mouth of a lawyer? Someone twice running for governor to boot? Fuck me! Where's the logic, dude? Good thing the populace didn't vote this moron in. I fail to see how a protest makes it more dangerous or even just plain dangerous to kids? Failed logic did he? Yep, it shows.

"If nobody gets hurt, it's basically a water balloon fight that somebody's getting charged for," he said. "If in fact he threw water on these people, well, there's a saying about throwing cold water on somebody's ideas."

Same doofus "lawyer" eh? Nice try, jack. Balloon fights are for kids, when you do that as an adult [and it isn't a water balloon fight party] then you're immature and show signs of retardation in your lack of judgement. Since when did he become a performance artist?

"If there's any criminal charges, they should get them people standing on the corner for treason," Miller said.

Treason now? What happened to reason? Or did it vote itself in as President?

Jeff Webster, standing in front of his banner wearing a communist Russian red star on that shirt? WTF? Nice one also, brainless ass hat [famous MeFi saying, love it!]. We know where your allegiance stands, in that case.

If it wasn't f'real, it would be laughable. However....

He was warned by the local police once, didn't heed the warning, he should be charged, period. Hang'im judge!
posted by alicesshoe at 6:35 AM on April 25, 2003

Dang. Threw water at them from a moving truck--he didn't even have the decency to stand toe to toe with them. Couldn't be bothered to make a rational argument. A bully and a coward.

This is the kind of crap that gives the right a bad name. Get off their side, jerk.
posted by frykitty at 6:36 AM on April 25, 2003

Civil_Disobedient: My entire comment was just a rearranged version of some of the content in the links. More parody than sarcasm. The line "if terrorists ever attack Alaska" actually appears in Helen H. Hunt's letter. Interesting sidenote: Check how often she uses the word "loyal" in the second paragraph
posted by Ljubljana at 6:45 AM on April 25, 2003

"The more people who protest the war like that, the more dangerous it is for the kids," said Ross, who also has a son in the Marines in Iraq.

If by "kids" he is referring to his son and others fighting the war in Iraq, shouldn't he be against the war because we are sending "kids" like his son to fight it? I consider those who are in our armed forces men and women and I think they deserve the same rights and respect as such. If we are sending "kids" then I have just found another reason to be against the war.
posted by SweetIceT at 6:49 AM on April 25, 2003

Are there really people dumb enough to think dousing someone with water is "freedom of speech?"

Ferchrissakes, the fuckwit pro-war people would be in conniptions if that had happened to them...
posted by drstrangelove at 7:07 AM on April 25, 2003

can someone pinpoint the exact moment american's became so hateful, close minded and sadistic towards one another? was it with the mass production of TV's that people started spending more time in front of them and less time talking to one another? was it during the vietnam and nixon years that turned people bitterly cynical? is it folks daily diet of right wing talk radio and cable news? i don't mean to come off as naive but when did a punch to the face (or in this case water) become a substitute for lively public discourse of the issues? have we become so lazy as a country that trying to persuade others on an issue is just too hard?
posted by photoslob at 7:13 AM on April 25, 2003

Of course it isn't free speech - what's next, punching someone out? "Your Honor, I was just exercising my right of free speech when I gave him a haymaker to shut his treasonous hippie mouth."

This asshat should have the book thrown at him precisely because it was obviously a premeditated assault...
posted by FormlessOne at 7:14 AM on April 25, 2003

Why are so many self-proclaimed "patriots" bullies and blowhards?

can someone pinpoint the exact moment american's became so hateful, close minded and sadistic towards one another?


Oh, this jerk? Some jail time and a big, big fine. I'm surprised some of those tough, independent Alaskan-types didn't take it into their own hands to school him the old-fashioned way.
posted by rushmc at 7:26 AM on April 25, 2003

Someone needs to explain to Mr. Webster that the government who sent these marines into war have done more to put them in danger than the 7 people protesting on the side of the road in his neighborhood.
posted by witchstone at 7:47 AM on April 25, 2003

oops, "has done more," not have.
posted by witchstone at 7:48 AM on April 25, 2003

While my left-leaning (hell, surveyed-the-land-and-built-a-house-on Far-Left-Street) politics wants to protest Webster's act of throwing water...I can't.

Because if I do then I believe I lose my freedom to pie-the-face of moronic politicians.

Unless....? Of course, the politicos are public officials and my throwing a pie is simply a pre-modern protest email.

And that's nothing like attacking my poor protesting grandmother with a bucket full of bacteria in an H20 medium! Hang the bastard!

Seriously, we do laugh when a public official gets a pie in the face. No real harm except to his/her dignity. If throwing a bucket of water is called assault will we slide down the slippery slope to lose our meringue rights?
posted by ?! at 7:50 AM on April 25, 2003

can someone pinpoint the exact moment american's became so hateful, close minded and sadistic towards one another?

uhh, ever take a U.S. history class?
posted by luckyclone at 8:21 AM on April 25, 2003

I see the following issues here:
1. Dousing people with water, unless it's 80 F. and they are in swimsuits and expecting it, or (as noted above) unless it's performance art and they consent, is a hostile act--not a statement.
2. Dousing people from the back of a moving pickup is cowardly. Borrow a pair if you don't have them.
3. The effect of your patriotic protest is diminished if you don't stand up and say, "Yeah, I did it, and I had good reason . . . " I assume that pie-in-the-face protests would do likewise, rather than hire a lawyer.
4. Anyone else getting really tired of bullies aligned with the powerful who holler that they are the real victims?

Photoslob--Yeh. I see it as more of a slippery slope or continuum than a catastrophe point--though Dec. 2000 deepened the slope considerably.

Blame the media to some extent (not solely as institutions but as channels). They present a big echo chamber where right-wing talk radio [/redundancy] and Springer-style talk shows and a number of real world political venues reward extreme positions (extreme sports?), and there's little incentive for empathy or courtesy or reason (except when defined as rationalization). On-line discourse--forums (Metafilter usually excepted) are part of the echo chamber.

So how do we get out of this mess? Promote listening to others, even when they are a.holes as Webster appears to be? Or turn up the volume on the counter-attacks?
posted by palancik at 8:34 AM on April 25, 2003

?!, that is the worst argument I have ever heard.

No intelligent person thinks that the pie-throwers have any more moral grounds for their actions than this guy chucking water around. In fact, they're worse: They're hitting somebody in the face with a pie, which usually has, oh, I don't know, a metal or tin plate and someone's hand right behind it. At best, it's juvenille, and, at worst, it's harmful to whatever statement they were trying to make.

So, yeah, both are wrong. This is one slippery slope I think we can safely slide down.
posted by jon_kill at 8:38 AM on April 25, 2003

Does anybody else feel the weird friction of that video? It's like the soul of idiocy opened up and spoke its name. The lines "I'm proud to be an American, cuz at least I know I'm free" happen right at the time that Americans using their right to protest openly are bullied and intimdated by an idiot who won't even stop to give his name.

Of course, after he's been identified in the press he assumes a tone of rational discourse, but where the hell was that on the sidewalk? See, what he's not getting is that if he disagrees with somebody, it's his right to voice that disagreement, not his right to intimidate them into shutting up. If you feel like somebody has out-argued you then go home and sharpen your tongue.

Take this, from his response letter:
I have the right to not have to see an adult male war protester holding a sign in front of me mentioning Marine casualties
Uh, no you don't. You don't have the right to declare that any public display of opinion that differs from yours is now banned. It brings to mind that old trope "your right to swing your fist ends at my nose." It's a cliche, but it seems that most Americans don't get it these days. A free country doesn't mean "I can do whatever the fuck I want and fuck you for saying I can't." That kind of blows the whole country part of it.

In fact, it just kind of proves the lack of rational arguments on the pro-war side. This is the sort of thing you do when you don't have a real argument. It reminds me of the pro-war protest here in NY a few weeks ago where they were singing "All we are give war a chance." It's the kind of thing that guarantees that no one will take you seriously.

[Get's down of soapbox]
posted by lumpenprole at 8:39 AM on April 25, 2003

Once this guy's case is successfully prosecuted, I am going ahead with my class-action lawsuit against Rip Taylor. Anyone interested in signing up?

*sniff* Six months later and I'm still picking confetti out of my clothing!
posted by filmgoerjuan at 8:45 AM on April 25, 2003

"It's the kind of thing that guarantees that no one will take you seriously." People do take it seriously, and you may view this with sadness if you choose. If one took, for face value, what Bush and Co. were telling the American public before the onset of the war on Iraq: 9/11 = Saddam = Weapons of Mass Destruction attack on United States then it is easy to buy any argument that helps satisfy the base fear that stirs in the hearts of some stirred from some unknown depths of despair. But even Bush's initial arguments for invading Iraq are more realistic than the "give war a chance" sloganeering.
posted by ericrolph at 8:59 AM on April 25, 2003

minus a few "some" and "stirs" there, brain on vacation
posted by ericrolph at 9:03 AM on April 25, 2003

I have a funny feeling that this guy wasn't trying to make a point, or express himself in a unique way, but rather simply wanted to do something mean to people he didn't like on account of their opinions. spinning it as free speech is just cowardly.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:32 AM on April 25, 2003

photoslob: can someone pinpoint the exact moment american's became so hateful, close minded and sadistic towards one another?

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I think I can.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:55 AM on April 25, 2003

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I think I can.

Oh come on, it has to be way before that.
posted by thirteen at 11:01 AM on April 25, 2003

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I think I can.

Oh come on, it has to be way before that.

Maybe so, in the sense that Sammy Sosa did play Little League ball at some point, but that may well have been its first Major League at bat
posted by ElvisJesus at 11:48 AM on April 25, 2003

If by "kids" he is referring to his son and others fighting the war in Iraq

Billie Dailey, 82, was on a Soldotna street corner the day Webster doused several other war protesters nearby.

Did he say his son was a kid? If he calls his adult, Marine son a kid, then his actions speaks his own words, childish. Imagine the war stories he will now swap with his son.

{{{ A possible, future father & son talk for what did you do in this war Dad}}}
Marine Son: Dad, what did you do in this war?
Dad: poured water on an old woman using her freedom of speech & waving the American flag on a street corner. By the way you should have been there, we drove by real fast too...

Father: Son, what did you do?
Marine Son: Dad, I went to Iraq to have a bully taken out of power. You should have been there, saw old woman speak freely. Made my day.
Do you know of any?
Dad: Old Woman..
Marine Son: no, a Bully...
posted by thomcatspike at 12:05 PM on April 25, 2003

After looking at that video, again, how do you show that to your son when he comes home, especially when he has photos/names of dead comrades. Hearing that tune, seeing that flag...Canada you want him? May his truck find a sweet spot in his big bucket of water, a lake.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:15 PM on April 25, 2003

...hypothermia and all that
Throwing a bucket of water in neer freezing temperatures?

Hardly near-freezing: Soldotna didn't get much snow this winter but a lot of rain. Us Alaskans don't live in negative temperatures and igloos all year round, you know.

And here I thought Alaska was going to escape the nastiness in protesting that other states have experienced. But then my state picks up on things a little later than other states (fashion, technology, etc.), so I should have expected this.
posted by rhapsodie at 12:17 PM on April 25, 2003

Petty, juvenile, crass behavior being dressed up in Constitutionally-protected clothing is still petty, juvenile and crass. I just hope that the doused protestors don't fall victim to too much retributory glee when this argument is stripped naked and shown for the sham that it is.
posted by Dreama at 12:48 PM on April 25, 2003

Why are so many self-proclaimed "patriots" bullies and blowhards?

Because they're not patriots, they're nationalists. They shouldn't even be refered to as patriots, and they should be challenged every time they try to steal the concept of patriotism and confuse it with nationalism.
posted by homunculus at 12:53 PM on April 25, 2003

This guy is, of course, an idiot, a coward, and about as unpatriotic as you can get....but his actions at this time are not terribly unlike many folks in this country (and even here on MetaFilter) who fear any challenge to their jingoistic beliefs. These are the people who ineffectually try to get others to "just shut up" or otherwise try to stifle debate and dissent, because their own ideas and ideals are reality-dystonic.

Perhaps "ineffectual" is the key characteristic of these folks. Failure in making a difference in many arenas no doubt generates enormous frustration, which leads to such reprehensible and frankly gutless behavior.

Thomcatspike precisely portrays the irony of Jeff Webster's actions.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:55 PM on April 25, 2003

Is throwing water free speech? That depends... can you throw water on the president in protest of [place issue here]?
posted by freakystyley at 1:19 PM on April 25, 2003

jon_kill: I'd like to thank my parents and the academy for winning, uh, losing this award. It takes a lot to be able to make "the worst argument ever heard." (I'll take it that you read posts out loud. I can only wish I had won "the worst argument ever written" and "the worst argument ever conceived" to garner my first hat trick.

That a country where a US Senator can claim that money equals free speech why is it unfathomable that those of us without money might use a bit of cream to make our voices heard?

Yes, I know he threw water and he didn't stay for the resulting political discourse. That is what separates him from the piests.
posted by ?! at 2:17 PM on April 25, 2003

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