Why So Serious?

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Does violent art inspire violent deeds? The Roanake Times is reporting that 18-year-olds Justin Colby Dirico and Bryan Eugene Stafford have been charged with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism after allegedly leaving playing cards inscribed with threatening messages scattered around town, a stunt inspired by Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight. From the story:

[Police Chief J.C.] Martin would not say how they identified the suspects but said the teens admitted Tuesday during police interviews they were responsible for the cards, which they patterned after elements of "The Dark Knight." Both were charged with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

[…]

Four cards were also found at the Christiansburg Kmart between Aug. 7 and Sunday, Reid said. The cards had "Joker" written on them and Reid said police considered them threatening. The threats on the Christiansburg cards were less specific than the ones found in Pearisburg, but they also referred to Aug. 15.

The teenagers "were real remorseful. They said they never had any intentions of harming anybody," Martin said after talking with them. He said it appeared to be "a prank that kind of got out of hand."

Obviously these guys are morons and jerks, but conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism? Seems a little steep. I'm assuming the authorities will dial back the charges after these idiots have been sufficiently spooked.

Whole thing here. For more on the funny books, check out reason on the long, gory life of EC Comics and on Marvel Comics and American plenitude.

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  1. If it’s not FOR TEH CHILDREN, it’s AGAINST TEH TERRORISTS.

  2. Terrorism? WTF?

  3. It’s a good thing Mooninites weren’t involved.

  4. The police thought that “Joker” sounded like a Muslim name. Al-Joker?

  5. Zero Tolerance! We must make an example of these people, so the terrrists[sic] will know we mean bizniss!

    I mean, if you treat this as a simple police matter, you might think these guys are just immature simpletons, and let them go with a slap on the wrist, and a warning to, “smarten the fuck up, son.”

    And then where would we be? We’d be inviting terror into our homes, schools, and churches, that’s where.

  6. The Roanake Times is reporting…

    Where the hell is Roanake? Is it anywhere near Bostan?

  7. Burn them at the stake!

  8. I’m assuming the authorities will dial back the charges after these idiots have been sufficiently spooked.

    Haven’t you been reading your Balko?

  9. I’m assuming the authorities will dial back the charges after these idiots have been sufficiently spooked.

    I’m really not sure that’s a reasonable assumption anymore.

  10. The police thought that “Joker” sounded like a Muslim name. Al-Joker?

    Yeah, but if you even attempt to pronounce “Al-joker” in a vaguely Semitic way, you end up with [Al Roker]. And Al the weatherman doesn’t scare anyone but Lewis Black.

  11. These kids just bought a one-way ticket to Gitmo.
    No habeous corpus for them in Bushco’s AmeriKKKa.
    One more reason ALL Libertarians should vote for Barack Obama and free these poor kids.

  12. This actually took place in Pembroke, Va which is the definition of middle of nowhere. It’s a tiny little town with maybe 4 or 5 stoplights, if that. I expect the cops were looking for any excuse they could find to use the word “TERRORISM” in the police blotter since shoplifting and domestic violence gets old after a while.

  13. People should just ignore these anonymous prank “threats”. The false alarm rate is so high that giving them any attention at all is an over-reaction. Unfortunately, people are irrational and freak out about them. But because everyone knows that people will be stupid and freak out about things like this, doing this intentionally does make you a terrorist in that you knowingly conspired to produce terror. But this doesn’t mean you need to punish anyone for it, otherwise we would need to ban halloween and april fool’s pranks.

    And why do I suspect everyone would be bashing the TSA if these kids had intentionally put these cards in their luggage? We’d be saying that the TSA were a bunch of stupid paranoid dolts instead of calling these kids a bunch of stupid miscreants.

  14. It’s never been proven that the Joker wasn’t working in concert with Ra’s al-Ghoul.

  15. The most interesting part of the story is that the kids weren’t caught by the cops. Instead, they were found dangling from a bat-rope outside the police commissioner’s office.

  16. Something tells me this podunk little town is going to get some nice grants from Homeland security after this is all over.

  17. JustSayNOMcSame,

    Why are there three K’s in AmeriKKKa? Wait . . . Kanye West? Is that you?

  18. Maybe they made a pencil disappear or something.

  19. Occam’s Toothbrush,

    Just be glad they stooped the Scarecrow from poisoning the town’s water supply.

  20. Bruce Wayne: They told me there was nothing out there, nothing to fear. But the night my parents were murdered I caught a glimpse of something. I’ve looked for it ever since. I went around the world, searched in all the shadows. And there is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge… Me.

  21. Yes, this is an overreaction.

    But also for context, Virginia Tech is about 6 miles up the road from Christiansburg (and if the K-mart* is near the New River Valley Mall, even closer)

    *there was only a walmart there when I was a montgomery county denizen.

  22. The cards had more than just a mere “joker” written on them. The story does say “they also referred to Aug. 15”, so there definitely was more on them. Without knowing what exactly was on them I can’t judge whether it was just a harmless prank. The story tries to make it seem harmless, but there’s more to it.

    Did they deliver a bunch of cards with threats of violence on them? That’s pretty serious, and not something to be dismissed as a mere mooninite prank. “Terrorism” might not be the right charge, but “threatening to commit mass violence” could be.

    Yes, they kids probably meant it as a harmless prank, but that doesn’t mean they should be shielded from the consequences of their actions.

  23. There just isn’t much to do in Giles County. Pearisburg is the home of 2 of the county’s 4 stop lights. Montgomery County’s New River Mall is downright cosmopolitan by comparison.

  24. Life would be so much easier if terrorists actually left playing cards with clues laying around.

  25. Brandybuck,

    So you believe it should fall under a “yell fire in a crowded theater”? Or simple malecious mischief charge?

  26. Naga, Brandybuck thinks those durn kids should get off his lawn, already.

  27. Citizen Nothing,

    Does he shake his fist and wave his cane as you’re running away after toilet papering his house?

  28. Oh look! My hometown makes a name for itself.

    The reason Roanoke is involved is that it’s the closest Federal court if I understand correctly.

    Fucking ridiculous. Honestly I think the prank is a bit hilarious. I would love to leaflet my town with Joker cards, not really leaving threatening messages. But I might put the “Why so Serious” motto on them.

  29. They just need to put a smile on their face.

  30. kinnath wins.

  31. This town deserves a better class of criminal…and I’m gonna give it to them.

  32. I’m assuming the authorities will dial back the charges after these idiots have been sufficiently spooked.

    Damon meet Radley Balko.

    Radley…hit Damon with a clue bat.

  33. kinnath wins.

    Just like when the bench warmer puts up a shot from half court at the buzzer.

  34. Just like when the bench warmer puts up a shot from half court.

    Bench…? shot…? court…? sounds like this guy just threatened a judge! Lock ‘im up!

  35. Baseball been bery bery good to me.

  36. Episiarch,

    No fair! I haven’t seen “The Dark Knight” yet!

  37. Naga, get thee to a cinema, post-haste.

  38. No fair! I haven’t seen “The Dark Knight” yet!

    Oh for the love of…

    GO SEE IT!

    Consider this your daily peer pressure announcement.

  39. Naga, get thee to a cinema, post-haste.

    Gotta wait until its on DVD so I can pause it every time I gotta go to piss.

  40. So you believe it should fall under a “yell fire in a crowded theater”? Or simple malecious mischief charge?

    Probably malicious mischief.

    But I really don’t know what was on the cards. Everyone here is acting like the only thing they said was “joker”. But from the story we don’t know what they said. I do know, however, that if I called in a fake bomb threat to a school, I would be in a world of hurt if I got caught. That’s the category I would place this in.

    The mooninite gag was a complete misinterpretation by the Boston police. But I’m not sure this one was a misinterpretation. The intent could have been to get the cops all riled up over fake terrorist evidence. Charging them with terrorism is out of line, as I said before, but a good swift kick (metaphorical only) in the nuts might be in order.

  41. Charging them with terrorism is out of line, as I said before, but a good swift kick (metaphorical only) in the nuts might be in order.

    Da yutes are 18, so dey is adults. Best thing to do is a perp walk wid lots o’ cameras just before da six o’clock news.

  42. Elemenope,

    Peer pressure doesn’t work on me. Kinda how jedi mind tricks don’t work on you.

  43. Brandybuck,

    It’s always in the authorities interest to exaggerate as much as possible though. I was thinking the same thing as you I guess.

  44. These young men should be sent to the gas chamber. We owe it to them.

  45. Naga, get thee to a cinema, post-haste.

    Oh, yeah. Great movie.

  46. Does violent art inspire violent deeds?

    Sometimes, yes.

    Are violent acts inspired by violent art?

    Sometimes, yes.

    Does this mean we should have laws against violent art?

    No.

    As for these jokers and their threatening cards…same as calling in a bomb threat…but that has been covered.

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