This originally appeared in The State News, Michigan State University’s student newspaper, on June 14, 1999.
I was the “community columnist” writing about the conviction of a student for inciting to riot during the MSU riots after they lost to Duke at home during the Spring of 1999:
Judgement shows we are responsible for other’s actions
Eva Roberts, an MSU sophomore, spent 17 days in jail for showing her breasts in public. I think this ruling severely violated her. Her tearful confession of deviancy and willful agreement with the conviction and punishment makes the corruption more pure.
Criminals, in George Orwell’s “1984,” thanked the police for ‘fixing’ them. Police states always run more smoothly with the consent of the enslaved and oppressed, as countless historical figures have proven. I was disgusted and am ashamed that my city did this to her.
The ‘crime’ she committed has no victims, violates no rights and exists because of absurd ‘thinking’ on the part of the Michigan Legislature. The punishment Roberts suffered was due to others’ actions, and its severity was increased because of a crime she was not even charged with–inciting to riot.
Punishment of the innocent for others’ actions has been the hallmark of East Lansing’s strategy with riots. CedarFest was originally killed with police tape and ID checks, which were later ruled unconstitutional. The ironic joke is that it didn’t work–the riots are an out-growth of the same influences and mentality.
First of all, breasts aren’t dangerous, dirty or bad. Baby food, sexual gratification, fashion accessories and advertising are all considered good things by rational, expressive, free-market societies. Many cultures around the world, throughout history, had no nudity taboo. After all, if we were meant to walk around naked, we’d be born that way!
The law [in Michigan] mandates that all females in public must hide their nipples with an opaque covering, unless they are breast-feeding. But in that case, they already are hidden with an opaque covering!
The motivation for the law is simple. Some people thought strip clubs were dangerous. Michigan’s legislators, whether unable or unwilling to simply outlaw strip clubs, instead created the current law, the unjust nature of which is due to a double lie. First a tyrannical law is promulgated which is really aimed only at strip clubs, to be followed by the way it was ‘justified’ by generalizing it so everyone’s rights got trampled.
We were all born with nipples. Men’s and women’s nipples are basically the same, so the law is patently discriminatory. The difference between men’s and women’s breasts is the round, bulbous part, but it’s perfectly OK to show as much of that as you want!
The reason for nudity laws is because of the danger posed by other people’s reactions, originally the creation and patronage of strip joints. District Judge Richard Ball gave Roberts jail time because of the deterrent needed to prevent future riots. This implies that Roberts incited to riot, a far more serious charge than indecent exposure, which requires far more proof.
In reality, she probably distracted people who might otherwise have ignited furniture or barfed in flower-beds. Inciting means willfully getting people to riot. I think Roberts was just showing off.
But let’s say the crowd was egged on, that their power of choice was diminished. If they are in command of their senses, they are responsible for their actions. If they aren’t responsible for their choices–which must have been the case, since Roberts was responsible–then breasts drive people out of their minds! In that case the actual rioters should be not guilty by reason of insanity, and we should regulate the exposure of breasts in private, too.
If it was the atmosphere that made people insane enough to riot, then Roberts should be not guilty as well.
But people’s specific reaction to breasts isn’t the issue. For example, I had my friend Joey read this and he said, “I like breasts.”
That Roberts was held accountable for the actions of others is unacceptable. It supports a pointless taboo, punishes her for enjoying herself in a harmless and festive way and destroys the basis of morality. After all, if our choices do not determine what happens to us, then it doesn’t matter what we do.
And, as long as we are responsible for each others actions, let’s just charge every student $6. Or just bill MSU. We could (virtually) track down all the attendees and charge them each $40. This logic is dangerously flawed. Unfortunately, the rioters and the lawyers both use it.
For example, since East Lansing’s contradictory laws produce injustice, I’ll just break some guy’s window to show how frustrated and angry I am about it. It’s the same principle: Holding people responsible for choices they didn’t make.
At the Gunson Street fracas, tickets were issued to every house on the street, regardless of specific action by the residents. The people who called the cops (twice!) and guarded their couch (from drunks who intended to light it ablaze) received tickets, which means the cops expected them to keep others from damaging things. Their efforts failed to prevent the riot on their street, so they got tickets.
Therefore, East Lansing wants you to take the law into your own hands.
I’ll be the guy in the mask.