“The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” or so said the 19th century satirist Finley Peter Dunne, who wrote the humorous “Mr. Dooley” columns. One of the most comfortable in the capital of Virginia until recently was VCU Police Chief William Fuller, a man who did a lot better than scrapping. In the spring of 2006, I was sitting in the car of a prominent elected Student Government Association official at VCU who would go on to continue to milk thousands of dollars in salary from the activities fees that everyone at my alma mater paid. The student “servant” would brag to me that, because of his association with SGA, Chief Fuller had made sure that his charge of drinking underage was brushed aside. This was the racket that the VCU Police Chief William Fuller had operated: protect the reputations of the student leaders prominent enough to challenge their shakedown. The local social order was contingent upon the (essential) illusion that the elder were more altered consciousness-averse. All of this came crashing down this year when William Fuller, 50, was caught seeking to meet up with a 14 year-old for sex who was in fact another police officer.
Experiencing censorship is the highest possible compliment. Critics, typically herd-like in behavior, will flatter merely out of a desire for association; because people are often motivated to read by escapism, sales do not necessarily explain the quality of a work to describe true, bad news; because the point of censorship is to reduce the visibility of an expression, it is usually done with discretion or at least quietly.
It was in this fashion that Facebook removed the contents of one of my notes, which was a literary stab at making fun of the exotic and/or illegal sexual habits of Richmond cops and politicians. It was a couple of months after the posting I discovered that Facebook pulled the copy on its network along with even the comments on the item. To confirm, I telephoned John Bowman, of the commenters, and indeed Facebook deleted all of his remarks. In arguably the lowest blow in recent the city’s political history, former Mayor Douglas Wilder had exposed Councilman Bill Pantele for jerking off in his own office (through Internet histories), within just days of the future mayoral candidate’s wedding anniversary to boot. When this happened, then Brick Editor Pete Humes likened that circumstance to a point early in Lyndon Johnson’s career when he accused one of his opponents of having sex with pigs just to make him sully himself by denying it. The really sad thing about the satirical transcript Facebook censored and Richmond in general is – and this is a very safe hedge – the real transcript, should it ever surface, is probably substantially sleazier and more disgusting. Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney David Rigler writes, “I expect at some point the transcripts will be part of the public record.”
The attorney also released the statement, “As this is an ongoing prosecution I decline to release [the transcripts of the chats] to you, pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-3706(F)(1). I also believe that disclosure of the information would violate Rule 3.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.”
Through a contrived hyperlink, I even attributed my satirical to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s website. Given that Times-Dispatch is not too eager to be seen as defending open child predators and that the transcript was so cheesy, I felt pretty certain I was in my rights and outside of libel law, especially in the wake of that whole Flynt v. Falwell business. As one forum commentator at VAdriven.com noted, “[P]arts of that transcript have me doubting its authenticity because it’s just so dumb. For anyone calm enough to read through it, it was clearly a fake.
In the days after I published it, however, the blog’s daily hits went up by hundreds and hundreds. Two days after its posting, Google news search results for “VCU Chief Fuller” showed my result as just the 13th one down. Just like how in real life everyone was stunned by the crudeness and stupidity of Chief Fuller, all over the Internet, people who read my fake transcript felt a simulacrum of the same thing. Another of the commentators at VADriven.com, 240trainee, latched on to precisely the dynamic that I saw Chief Fuller firsthand encourage and participate in during his time as police chief.
240trainee wrote, “I’ve met a few good ones. But I have also had many many fucked up experiences, with cops taking advantage of drunk kids, getting into houses without probable cause, making BS charges.
“Actually had one who gave my roomie a maintaining a common nuisance charge, which was BS to begin with. Had 3 sets come within 10 minutes, first was cool, last was a jackass. Ended up giving my room mate the most severe, most general charge he could.
“Got to court, and the cop actually said, under oath, that he didn’t ask my room mate how long he had been there, because my room mate couldn’t prove that he wasn’t there. So since my room mate had been charged, the cop was implying it was up to him to prove his innocence, not the cop to prove his guilt.
“And I have been told before, if a cop wants to come in, might as well let them. Because its so easy to create probable cause, and they will.”
That notion of being beaten into submission 240trainee describes in that last paragraph sounds like the whimper of the dog VCU Police, VCU Dean of Students Reuben Rodriguez and the Fan District Association have been beating for years just to satisfy their own Puritanism-driven hatred of the youth. This was the hallmark of Chief William Fuller’s now dead career. Politicians and bureaucrats had so egged him on into believing that he had the right to bully and denigrate 18 year-olds for what they put in their bodies that his decision to seek out a 14 year-old girl for sex was as logical as any other step he had been taking for the past few years of his life. Much in the way that hiring a person to remain abstinent for a lifetime tacitly incites pedophilia, relegating the contents of the bodies of Richmond’s youth to anyone, daresay a man three-quarters of the way through his life, is a vastly negligent move.
Censorship is an acknowledgment of real psychological power. Even in the classic case of pornography, a term that has been applied to the most startlingly things ever produced by humanity and rape simulation video games alike, the worry is generally that circulating the material may induce lascivious behavior. Whether the latter is true is up for debate, but far less so than the fact that, when available, a great many Americans love pornography. If you get censored, it’s for no other reason than someone finding your work so potentially discouraging to his own motives in the eyes of others that the work must be stifled. Even in the fines levied in the wake of Janet Jackson’s semi-second Super Bowl nipple exposure were probably motivated by a sense of jealousy au Harrison Bergeron. The moment you see something and get the notion to keep the next guy from seeing it – when you obviously believe that seeing it yourself hasn’t permanently tarnished your own judgment – you are in fact lying to yourself. Censorship by the right people is 1000 Nobel prizes, a million Pulitzers.
After I published my obviously satirical transcript, that so-called student leader I mentioned at the beginning of this article complained to me online that so many people had thought that the transcript was real; indeed, he was worried that the reputation of a police officer who seeks out masturbatory partners among whose relative contemporaries he himself had regularly busted for drinking had been damaged. Of course, when I mentioned this angle, he immediately stopped typing, too frightened by the cognizance of his corruption being potentially brought to knee with complete evidence.
The fact that many clearly did see the transcript as believable is on its own right a testimony to how bad things have gotten. Wrote one gullible observer I found alone, “it def. seems real if they’re going as far to take fake chat transcripts off the net. oh, btw, gurl you know my belt is leather”