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Articles on this Page
- 04/22/17--07:35: _Worst. Ancestors. E...
- 04/22/17--18:46: _Posting this for th...
- 05/02/17--15:03: _A Nation United...
- 05/11/17--14:27: _Two bike boxes and ...
- 05/19/17--16:51: _"Maybe electing a c...
- 05/22/17--13:08: _Putting Impeachment...
- 05/30/17--20:20: _Darrell Issa Cannot...
- 06/14/17--16:24: _Mr. Trump, you say ...
- 07/16/17--16:55: _Karma Alarm! The Pe...
- 07/18/17--09:15: _Rich New York Playb...
- 07/21/17--11:20: _PEOPLE GET READY! ...
- 07/24/17--06:48: _History is Being Ma...
- 05/02/17--15:03: A Nation United...
- 05/11/17--14:27: Two bike boxes and a dime's worth of paint.
If you’ve got four minutes and could use a bit of comic relief, click here.
Roy Zimmerman is one of my greatest inspirations: probably the funniest, most prolific and hardest working activist songwriters of our time. For the fifteen years I’ve known him, he and his wife Melanie have traveled the country practically non-stop - playing house concerts, churches and coffee shops in every corner of the U.S.A. - red states and blue. Check it out.
Because frankly I was thinking of just slacking off. After all, people all over the world are already protesting today, and I could use a little R&R. But your comment stuck in my head, and when I hit LA and saw my favorite “sealed” overpass standing silent, I could not in good conscience let it remain thus. Who, after all, knew better how to take advantage of this incredible resource if not me?
I checked into a motel, broke out the projector and had this traced and painted in about half an hour. Twenty minutes later it was up. So this one’s for you, RationalinSouthCarolina. You and the other sixty or seventy thousand people heading east on the Santa Monica Freeway before the the sun goes down and then God-knows-how-many-more tomorrow. Tonight I’ll paint up some more signs and tomorrow I’ll post them on freeways around LA. I just wanted to make sure you saw this one and knew that I said “thanks.”
In case you missed it, here’s the song that goes with the message.
I was working on the curtains sign when someone on the TV asked if Trump would be able to bring our nation together and I laughed so hard I started to cry. The above sign came to me sometime after I’d finished wiping the tears from my eyes. Because of the recent left vs. right protests I figured Berkeley was the perfect place to put it.
It’s a mixed blessing I suppose, but one thing I’ve come to enjoy about Trump and his supporters is how completely they’ve confirmed every one of my very worst prejudices about conservatives and their hypocrisy. Just about every position they’ve ever taken, every political, economic, social and moral stance they’ve ever claimed has now been exposed as complete and utter bullshit. Most of this I already expected… but collusion with Russia? I’ve got to admit that one took even me by surprise. The pictures below I caught while driving or were sent to me via e-mail. If you have any feel free to send them to freewayblogger - at - yahoo.
I painted a couple of these the day before yesterday thinking “Lock him up.” would look good in simple Times New Roman. This was before the Comey firing, and I was probably inspired more out of graphic/aesthetic curiosity than politics. I’d just put the one below up over the Pasadena Freeway, taking pictures and thinking “Y’know, that does look pretty good…” Understated and to the point, with the simple but delicious political jiu-jitsu of using the bastard’s own words against him. When I got back in my car and turned on the news it wasn’t long before I was thinking hell, that sign looks great!
I put the two below on my favorite hard-to-get-into overpass over the Santa Monica and headed up for San Francisco. I’ve had great success putting relatively small signs in difficult places. They can be passed by literally millions of times before someone goes through the trouble of taking them down, and I love being able to go about my daily life knowing I’ve got signs out there doing my patriotic duty for me. (Anyone in LA who takes the Santa Monica between La Brea and Crenshaw, feel free to let me know how they’re doing…)
Once in SF I painted the headline picture sign on a bike box and a couple of smaller ones for this morning’s rush hour. I love hanging signs on news days like this - with the radio telling me exactly why I’m doing it. Although I was a bit blasé at first about “Lock him up.” in TNR, I’m really beginning to like it a lot now, and I’ll probably do a lot more. For personal reasons I’m stuck in California for awhile, but imagine how cool it’d be if these things started showing up in other places.
Some signs and how they got there. These particular fences and overpasses are in the San Francisco Bay Area, but equivalent ones can be found just about anywhere. Next time you’re driving, look around at everything you can see, fencing in particular. Those are places you can put signs that’ll be read. The harder they are to reach, the longer they’ll stay up. This knowledge will become more and more important in the days and weeks ahead.
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Couldn’t help feeling nostalgic while I was painting these: “Impeach.” using good old Times New Roman. Vertical lines first, then the curves, then the seraphs, just like I did so many times all those years ago. Although it’s more subtle than things like odors or music, muscle memory has a definite transformative effect on the mind, and I couldn’t help drifting back to those crazy days and long, lonely nights when I was first sacrificing my quiet, normal life for what I thought was something greater. Hell of a story actually… someday I’ll try to tell it.
As much as I’ve tried to mainstream such behavior, freeway signposting will probably always remain on the fringe, something I should’ve known from the start. The first two interview requests I got after launching Freewayblogger.com were, get this, The Mensa Society’s newsletter and High Times magazine. The first two people to send me pictures were a fifteen year old boy and a 93 year old woman. Yes, you read that right. The kid called himself “Atticus” and his sign was spray-painted on plain cardboard. I forget what it said, but it was quite large and readable and I think he had to transport it on his bicycle to get to the freeway. The woman went by the name “Granny D.” Her real name was Doris Haddock and possibly the most inspiring person I know.
When I first started putting up “Impeach” signs Granny D. wrote me asking if impeachment at that time was really such a good idea. There was an election coming relatively soon, the country would be even further divided and “President Cheney” sounded even worse then than it does now. I wrote back saying that the signs weren’t meant to actually bring about impeachment, which even then I knew was way beyond my feeble reach. Instead the signs were meant simply to put the word in front of people’s eyeballs: to do the job the media wasn’t. She wrote back with glowing approval, which meant a lot to me. And back then I didn’t even know who she was.
This time around the decision to start putting “Impeach.” signs on the freeway was a lot easier. I had some cardboard that was the right shape and figured “What the hell, let’s see how it looks…” So far I think it looks pretty good. God knows it’s easy enough to paint and post, and with American flags (now plentifully available at 99 Cent and Dollar Tree stores) it looks even better.
To be honest the idea of President Pence scares me even more than President Cheney did. Having a rapture-ready president in charge of the nuclear codes is practically the scariest thing I can think of, and theologically speaking, Mike Pence is little more than David Koresh with a haircut.
From the way things are shaping up I’m pretty sure we can get rid of Trump and Pence too. In fact, once we see just how deep Russia’s meddling was, we might be able to get rid of the whole damn clown show. We’ve just got to make some noise.
Granny D. passed away in 2010 at the age of one hundred, and I guess by now Atticus is well into adulthood. I can’t help thinking he’s a lawyer for the people somewhere down south… but the courtroom’s all black and white and he looks and sounds just like Gregory Peck. Anyway Atticus, thanks for helping me get things started all those years ago. Yours was the first of several thousand signs that were sent to me during the Bush years. Maybe, just maybe, we can do it again. If you’re reading this, drop me a line.
Hilarious. With his office surrounded by protesters, Darrell Issa went to his rooftop and tweeted this picture. I can think of no better argument for the freewayblogger method of protest sign making than the picture above. I linked up with fellow Kossack kck in the comments of my last post and paid a visit, showing how easy it is to make Really Large Signs with cardboard, paint and a projector. Originally the sign was supposed to read “We demand healthcare policies based on morality and compassion.” We decided to distill it down to “Issa: Google ‘Compassion.’” Good thing too, because there’s a few dozen signs down there, but only one you can read if you’re hiding on the rooftop.
Our right to free political speech is far and away the greatest weapon we have, and it’s time we started using it to it’s fullest potential. Apart from advocating violence, there’s practically no constraint on what we can say, how many times we can say it, or how large we make our words.
Hopefully some San Diego Kossacks will post more about this. It was great meeting with y’all and I hope to return soon. In the meantime, consider starting your next sign with the words “Hey, Rapunzel…”
Here’s the thing that gets me about Trump: after spending his whole life telling us how successful and happy he is, why the hell is he so goddam angry? Both his brand and his entire personal ethos were based on the notion that everything in his life was the best it could possibly be. Why would a guy like that be so pissed off about illegal immigration? It’s hard to imagine Trump, a man whose entire career was a celebration of luxury, had really suffered too much at the hands of immigrant Mexicans. Or Muslims or liberals or even Rosie O’Donnell. One of the Donalds from Good Trump/Bad Trump had to be faking it and for me it had always made more sense, at least politically, that it was the bad, angry one. Now though, I’m not so sure…
For me the low point was pulling out of the Paris Accords: rock bottom was watching Trump’s “Fuck You” speech to the world. I’d honestly thought there was no longer anything Donald Trump could do that would shock me, but when I heard him talk about other nations “laughing at us…” I absolutely lost it: Jesus Christ,who the hell talks like that? Who even thinks like that? The idiocy of the words, the ugliness of the sentiment behind them… the sheer damage he was doing to our country… it was just overwhelming to me. On top of it all Trump had managed to turn even laughter into something ugly. I wondered bitterly if Trump even knew what laughter was - if he had any idea it was supposed to be something good, an expression of joy… It was a ridiculous thought of course - just a gut-level reaction and my trying to dehumanize someone I hated or just couldn’t understand. But just as I was dismissing it, I wondered if it might at least partly be true? I tried to picture Donald Trump laughing normally or benignly… acting silly perhaps, or playing peek-a-boo with a child… and found I simply couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried I came up blank. Go ahead, try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean… try to imagine the man who’s supposed to be our President laughing, or even smiling for that matter, with any sort of genuine warmth or mirth… it’s practically impossible. (For a quick, heartbreaking reminder of how much we’ve lost lately, now try it with Obama…)
Over two years now of constant exposure and I can’t think of a single time I’ve seen Donald Trump laugh or genuinely be happy except at the expense of someone else. Or, for that matter, remember ever seeing him relaxed or casual at all - he’s always been posing, on stage or otherwise on his guard, so that every expression I’ve seen on his face has been calculated in some way. While this is the case generally for any politician, Trump’s the only one where the rule seems absolute. Every other politician I can think of, even Mitt Romney or Nixon, I can picture at least once with their guard down, relaxed, speaking and responding more or less casually… you know: human. While I’m sure Donald Trump is probably capable of looking and acting normally, I still can’t say I know what it looks like. Likewise Trump may be capable of things like joy or laughter that isn’t somehow cynical or cruel. It’s just that again, I’ve never personally seen it, and frankly won’t believe it until I do. If the only thing you really care about is “winning,” what pleasure could you know that didn’t come at someone else’s expense? And if all you’ve ever known of laughter was either crowing or derision, what pleasure, honestly, could you really know at all? Maybe the reason Donald Trump could be so successful and yet still be so unhappy was simply that he’d never been anything else?
The first time I remember seeing Donald Trump was in an interview back in the 80’s. He was young and relatively good looking, with just a trace of the arrogance that would become his trademark (and as we’re now witnessing, his destruction.) He talked about his philosophy of seeing everything in life as essentially a zero-sum game. Whether it was business or romance or any other sort of relationship - the world was a place where there were only winners and losers: nothing else mattered and there was no in-between. He said he was determined to be the winner at everything he did, and that the trick was being careful in deciding what to get into, but that once he was in something he was in it to win. I wasn’t particularly impressed by him too much one way or the other. His view of the world sounded cynical to the point of being stupid though, and I think the only reason I remember any of it was odd it was hearing something so negative being used as a selling point. I remember doubting that he actually believed what he was saying and that I’d feel sorry for him if he did. But I guess the guy I saw on TV all those years ago wasn’t bluffing, and the life of empty, mercenary ambition that followed is what’s put him back on my TV now, standing in White House Rose Garden and screaming at the world.
Future historians, if we’re lucky enough to have any, will probably end up working pretty closely with future psychologists when trying to understand the phenomenon of President Trump. Now, with things reaching literally lunatic proportions, it’s pretty easy to see he’s always been at least somewhat if not profoundly disturbed. This Frontline documentary does an excellent job covering his early life and ascendency. Trump’s worldview and work ethic come straight from his father, a Type A workaholic who was emotionally cold and could never be pleased. The intensity of both Donald Trump’s drive and his need for attention are likely the result of trying to fill the emotional vacuum left by his father. To make matters exponentially worse, Trump’s mentor and stand-in as a father figure was Joseph McCarthy’s sidekick Roy Cohn.
Living in, and largely for, the spotlight of the media, Trump’s psychological problems should’ve been much easier to spot. But since narcissism and capitalism seem to share so many of the same values, what we should’ve recognized as sickness was hailed as success. Now that it’s all blowing up in our faces though, it does seem more obvious that something was wrong. In his continual need for attention and constant bragging about his wealth, the buying sprees and bankruptcies, and just the sheer relentlessness of his need for more and more of everything… we should’ve recognized at least a touch of desperation. How someone with so much could still be so needy… how emphatically he publicized his own success and practically demanding us to envy him… so desperate for respect he was willing to beg for it… let’s face it, any behavior that generates that much irony is probably a cry for help. It’s hard to find anything about Donald Trump that doesn’t seem rife with irony and contradiction. Practically all of it can be traced to the same tragic flaw beating at the heart of the Donald Trump story: the cruel irony of all the ugliness that comes with narcissism. All the bragging and bluster meant to inspire respect that makes him look like a buffoon… his constant craving for admiration… all the posing and scowling trying to look fierce or heroic but instead makes him look like a clown… how someone so consumed by their image can be so utterly clueless to how they actually appear? Culminating in what’s become the ultimate Trump Irony, that the man who fears ridicule more than anything else would become so absolutely the laughingstock of the world.
All of this begging the obvious question: How in the fuck did this guy ever get to be President?
Back on the TV he continued ranting in the Rose Garden, the camera panned-in to where his face almost filled the screen. I saw a few flecks of spit fly from his lips and considered for a moment the possibility that our President could actually be literally rabid. It was another one of those dehumanizing thoughts that would’ve normally been fleeting but reverberated instead with a semblance of truth. Even if it wasn’t the actual diagnosis, rabies might at least to work as a decent metaphor … so much anger along with so little explanation, the way it possessed and consumed him like a parasite does a host.
More than that though is how the virus, like our President, is so successful by the way that it thrives on the manufacture of rage. Once inside your brain it performs a gradual lobotomy that eventually kills you but first drives you insane. The uncanny parallel between rabies and our President is the specificity of the insanity they inspire in their hosts: creating the delusion that there are enemies all around them, and that in order to survive that they have to attack.
I thought back to his rallies and the way he worked the crowds up with his speeches. Apart from vague sweeping promises about jobs and the economy, how the real energy came from resentment and fear: endless jeremiads lashing out against all the enemies… all the threats and the rip-offs and the insults being suffered by Real Americans, meaning of course, the audience. How theirs was a nation in absolute peril: constantly threatened by radical Islamic terrorists, while hordes of rapacious, murdering Mexicans poured across our borders. The rest of the world was just ripping us off, stealing our jobs and destroying our economy with unfair trade deals. The real venom, however, was always directed towards the enemy within: President Obama, who was supposed to protect us was weak and ineffectual, either blind to or actively assisting our enemies, draining the treasury, destroying our military, and turning us into the laughingstock of the world. The rest of the government, and especially Hillary, were just free-spending liberals and snobbish intellectuals who hated and looked down on the common working man. Blaming the powerful in other countries and the government will only take you so far though, ultimately they’re too distant and exotic to be truly effective as scapegoats. Trump understood the need for an enemy that’s familiar, a scapegoat in the neighborhood that could be seen every day. That’s why the people who were really destroying America could be found just about everywhere: they were the parasites on welfare, the protesters and gangsters… they were tree-hugging hippies and whacko environmentalists, Democrats and liberals and the ACLU… they lived in Hollywood, San Francisco and the rest of California, along with New York and the east coast and all the inner-cities too… they were the immigrants, the Mexicans, the Muslims and the terrorists… they were big-city lawyers and the liars in the media, they refused to learn English and wouldn’t find a job… they were the perverts and homos and the people who stood up for them… they were criminals and rapists and they were out there, they were everywhere, and they didn’t have any values because they didn’t go to church…
Like the virus, it’s doubtful Trump shares much of the fear he spreads, but the anger and resentment seem awfully sincere. My guess is the bond that they share is disappointment - the sense that their lives were supposed to be better by now, that they should be happier, and that someone’s to blame. In a way though, his supporters are richer than their leader: they can still dream that money can save them somehow.
Dear American Friends…
Please know it’s with our deepest sympathy, full support and best of intentions when we say, Payback’s a Bitch, ain’t it ?
The transition from sovereignty to servitude isn’t an easy one. As citizens of your former client states, we know all too well the suffering, indignity and embarrassment that accompany it. We’re happy to answer your questions and hope you’ll consider our knowledge and years of experience just as historically you’ve considered our agricultural and mineral wealth: valuable resources yours for the taking. We know this is all very new for you, that some of you are probably confused and even a little scared. Many of you are no doubt experiencing feelings of moral outrage, injustice, helplessness, etc… Trust us, we’ve been there.
We understand it’s a difficult time and while we don’t want to preach, we do hope you’ll take some advantage of this opportunity to reflect a bit on how your own behavior may have effected the rest of us over the years.
We’re not going to lie here: living under a puppet regime can be nasty business and there’ll be a lot of things you’re not going to like. Although far less rewarding materially than your previous role, you’re bound to find life on this side of the puppet strings to be very rich in terms of being a learning experience, and discover as we have, at least a few silver linings. In that spirit we offer the following bits of advice and random observations we’ve picked up along the way hoping you’ll find them useful.
1) Losing Your Sovereignty Is Not The End of the World. In fact it’s how most of the world lives! Living under a puppet regime will give you a much better understanding of people from places like Nicaragua, Haiti, Panama, Vietnam, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, Vietnam, the Philippines and El Salvador than back when you were the one pulling the strings. You’ll probably be getting lots of letters like this from many, many nations, so be sure to check your mailbox!
2) You Will Quickly Be Able To Recognize Who Can And Cannot Be Trusted. One of the very few advantages of living under a puppet regime is how easy it makes it to recognize traitors. Almost invariably, it’s those quickest to question the loyalty of others and loudest in declaring their own that prove to be the very worst of traitors. And yes, we are talking about FOX News. You are probably already learning, just as we did, an important historical constant: People who are betraying their country always do it while waving the flag.
3) You’re Are About To Learn a Lot of Things And Many of Them Will Be Painful. Listen, it was bad enough when you did it to us, and we were barely even industrialized. Frankly none of us can even imagine how shocking and painful this must be for you. You’re America after all, “Number One!” as you were always so fond of saying… Okay, sorry - we don’t mean to rub it in - but it’s time for a little tough love. There are some things we’ve needed to tell you, and now it’s really important that you listen. Despite everything, we’ve always looked up to you guys, and while many of us are just as appalled by what’s happened to you, none of us can say we’re honestly shocked.
We’re not going to say we told you so, because we didn’t. And the reason we didn’t was because you know just as well as we did that you wouldn’t have listened to us anyway. But don’t think for a second that we didn’t see what was coming. Donald Trump was exactly the same pompous, windbag, idiot clown as the ones you dumped on us… just without the uniform and all the medals. From the moment that pig-ignorant, farcical bastard first opened his ugly hole of a mouth and started insulting and condemning the most defenseless people in your society, we recognized exactly who he was and precisely what you all were in for. Hopefully next time you will too.
4) What You Have Lost in National Pride Will Eventually Be Replaced By An Appreciation For Much Greater Things. We know how mad you must be about this and how much you want to fight back. Normally we’d advise against it since whenever we tried we always ended up getting crushed by the US Military. In your case of course things are a bit less clear-cut… Nevertheless, we suggest you stick with the basic rule of military conflict: regardless of cause, weaponry or terrain, just be sure you’re fighting on the same side as the money.
Which brings us around to the basic point we’d like to make here: the high-minded concepts you so recently cherished - the sovereignty and independence that you now feel so crushed by the loss of - were ultimately little more than philosophical luxuries - their nobility only affordable by having money and power. I know that sounds like sour grapes, but down here with us, that’s a taste you’ll get used to.
We know it sucks right now, but hey… You’re America! You brought us airplanes and cars and you went to the moon! You’re not going to be brought down by some tiny-handed douchebag and a couple of Russian thugs in polyester tracksuits. We know you’re going to make things right again, and when you do we hope you’ll remember us, and maybe we’ll be able to get along a little better in the future. In the meantime though, take this time away from being Number One, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave and all that, to take stock of some of the other blessings that come along with life on this earth. Go home, make love to your husbands and wives, play with your children… Take a little time out to breathe in the air, stare up at the sky and marvel at some of the fortunes we all share, regardless of what country we’re in or who’s running it. With even the most cursory contemplation of your existence you’ll find your current problems rendered meaningless by just a fraction of what you’ve been taking for granted.
We’re all rooting for you America, and we have faith that in no time you’ll be back back on your feet as the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. But first take a moment to join the rest of us in the simple wonder of our humanity… the miracle of just being alive and sentient on this beautiful garden of a planet, spinning through space in this most amazing of times…
After the rich draft-dodging, pussygrabbing, philanderer, who will working-class rural evangelical conservatives choose as the next champion of Republican values? Vote for your choice, or nominate your own in the comments!
1.) Wavy Gravy: Longtime fixture of the Hippie Movement and counter-cultural icon, Gravy’s popularity with conservatives comes from his smile and “sense of irrepressible optimism” claimed by Republicans to be reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. Despite a history that includes Woodstock, the Merry Pranksters and Neo-Paganism, Wavy’s wowing the Red States with a promise to “Make America Groovy Again!”
2.) Existentialist Author Francoise LaFrance: Despite his elusive manner, numerous affectations and refusal to speak English, LaFrance’s inexplicable popularity with red state conservatives has been traced to a poorly translated essay on social isolation that was mistakenly understood as a promise to “build a wall around everything.”
3.) Marilyn Manson: Despite his spooky, androgynous appearance, controversial lyrics and uneven relationship with the church, Manson’s strong support of free market capitalism and angry attacks on current international trade deals have made him a hero for isolationists and fiscal conservatives. Once widely condemned for albums like Antichrist Superstar, Manson has redeemed himself among Republicans as a new Anti-NAFTA Superstar!
4.) Charles Manson: In what’s considered to be the comeback of all time, Republicans are angrily demanding parole for the serial killer once universally seen as the embodiment of evil. This remarkable turnaround came from a closer reading of “Helter Skelter” that had conservatives hailing Manson’s “No-Holds-Barred” approach to race relations. Along with his legendary svengali-like charm on Republican women, social conservatives seemed pleased by Manson’s view that a woman’s place was “Barefoot and in the kitchen… stabbing people to death in order to start a race war.”
5.) Homosexual Satan-worshipping Abortionist Charles Smith: His simple message of “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” has made Smith irresistible to Red-State evangelicals. Contending that “Sometimes God uses imperfect men to do his will…” allows them to see past a sexuality, faith and livelihood they admit might normally make them uncomfortable. His support faltered when his inability to say anything except for “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” led to criticism of being a one-issue candidate. But his popularity came roaring back when he put the issue to rest by calling Mexicans rapists.
6.) Vladimir Putin: Strong Leadership, name recognition and close association with Donald Trump are cited as some of the reasons behind the Russian strongman’s popularity with Red-State conservatives. Also the recent addition of treason and hatred for the founding principles of America as “Family Values.”
7.) Hillary Rodham Clinton: Citing her lifetime of public service, dedication to social welfare and defense of women and children, Republican voters were quick to cross party lines and dismiss past investigations of Clinton as “a shameful witch hunt and waste of time and money.” Practically with one voice they said her experience and impeccable record as First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State made her the “obvious choice for President of the United States.” (Because, having now added Treason to the list of things they’re okay with, there’s literally nothing they can do that will surprise me anymore.)
Things seem to be happening very quickly now and we have to be prepared to respond. The first amendment right to full and unfettered political speech is far and away the most powerful right we have, and when the founders of this country gave it to us it was precisely for the kind of situation we’re in now. Remember, for the purposes of political expression, public property is YOUR property, and any fence, wall, tree or post is a place you can put up a sign expressing your political opinion. I have done it on freeways literally thousands of times and never been charged or arrested. (Link is to my weblog where you can browse through the photographic evidence of my work over the years. Signs posted: 7,250. Number of times caught by law enforcement officials and asked to take a sign down: roughly ten. Charges, fines or arrests: 0)
Here are the rules: You can’t advocate violence or otherwise threaten or harm people. Signs must be easily removed: anything permanent or damaging like carving or graffiti is considered vandalism and illegal regardless of the message. You can’t sell anything: commercial speech is not protected. People who’ve held signs on overpasses will be familiar with police claiming their lawful and patriotic act to be a hazardous distraction to drivers. This is a bullshit argument on any freeway that has billboards or any advertisements, and while it’s easily argued against in court, I’ve found it easier to simply avoid entirely by not being there in the first place. Signs should be placed against the inside of the fencing and strapped in place with bungee cords and duct tape, as shown below. Ten seconds and you’re gone.
It’s obvious Trump knows by now that he and his family are in deep, deep trouble, and whether it’s firing Mueller, starting a war, or declaring martial law, we’re fools to think there’s anything he won’t do in order to save himself. And while we’re all getting ready to take to the streets, at least some of us need to be willing to take to the freeways. Traditional organized protests are good as far as they go, but severely limited in terms of broadcasting a clear message. Apart from bystanders, they still require media coverage to reach a significant audience. This not only gives the media final say on the message, but the ability to give a handful of counter protesters on a street corner coverage comparable to the thousands in the streets. Not to mention their unfortunate tendency to label as “violent” 10,000 peaceful protesters if one guy breaks a window. Without the media, one person putting signs on freeways is more effective semiotically than thousands holding signs in the same place at the same time. And, as I’ve said time and time again, it costs almost nothing and is a hell of a lot of fun.
Along with the freeways, I’ll post here as often as I can and we can discuss the pros and cons of various messages, calling for impeachment (I say yes for now, we can take care of Pence next...)
I’ve been doing this for years and have learned a lot. Follow me on twitter for progress and other bits of how to, strategy and tactics.
The framers of the Constitution gave us the First Amendment for precisely the kind of situation we’re in now. By making our right to political expression so fully protected the founding fathers weren’t just allowing us to protest, they were practically demanding it. In both the amendment itself and other writings, they made it clear that free political speech wasn’t just the heart of democracy, but also its safeguard. And if you think the ability to protest still isn’t going to be enough, remember there’s over 300 million of us, and we’ve all got it.
Apart from the violent overthrow of the government, you can openly advocate just about any cause, say whatever you want, however you want, using whatever means are at your disposal to reach to as many of your fellow citizens as you possibly can. If your free speech breaks other laws you can still defend it in court, but only if they catch you. If it involves vandalism, violence or threatening people they’re probably going to come after you. If you’re violating traffic codes by putting signs on freeways, they’re probably not — at least that’s been my experience so far here on the west coast. By making my signs easily removable and putting them on the inside of fencing so they can’t fall into traffic, my transgressions are relatively harmless so there’s little impetus to catch me. Also, since I can strike anywhere at any time and be gone within seconds, I’m not that easy to catch. Nevertheless, given plenty of evidence and at least a dozen opportunities to arrest me, the State of California (and to a lesser extent, Arizona, Oregon and Washington,) has shown no interest in bringing me to court. I think that’s at least partly due to understanding the strength my constitutional rights have versus the relative insignificance of my infractions.
Putting aside the whole signs-on-freeways thing, think about how much is covered by the scope of the First Amendment and how you might be able to take advantage of it. There’s an old saying that goes “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission...” meaning it’s better to just do something assuming you have the right than to forego the benefit of the doubt by first asking permission. While there’s a lot of things where that philosophy is probably both wrong and dangerous, the First Amendment isn’t one of them. The way I see it, pushing the free speech envelope isn’t just our privilege, it’s practically our responsibility. And so long as we’ve got a congress seemingly blind to the mounting evidence that the President of the United States is acting as an agent of a hostile foreign government, it’s not just our responsibility but our goddam sacred duty as citizens to push that envelope as far as we possibly can.
Can protesting get you hassled and arrested? Damn right it can - happens every day at demonstrations. But it ONLY happens when you’re doing it in front of police. The disorderly conduct and “failure to obey” charges police stick on demonstrators are understood by the courts as primarily as a form of crowd control and almost always thrown out. Still, in any kind of protest done in front of police exposes you to a dangerous, and in my opinion unnecessary, degree of hassle and risk, both legally and physically. I’m especially doubtful about getting arrested as a means of political expression. Although it makes a powerful statement, being held captive reduces your political agency to little more than just being a body, whereas freedom and the first amendment allow you to do practically any and everything your mind, hands and heart can come up with.. the sorts of things you should probably be thinking of right now.
I have at least a hundred reasons why I put so much time and effort into putting signs on freeways, but mostly it boils down to numbers. The ability to reach hundreds of thousands of drivers for so little cost would be irresistible even if it wasn’t so politically satisfying and so much goddam fun. Although I was first inspired by the Bush V. Gore decision in 2000, the real necessity of reaching that many people came from listening to talk radio after 9/11. For a week or two the bad guys were Bin Laden and the Taliban, but after that they went back to blaming the Real Enemies of America: The Liberals and Democrats. Although I always knew this was the case in talk radio, it was the first time I’d really listened to it and recognized how truly dangerous it was. Beyond the falsity and sheer evil of the rhetoric, what frightened me was how constant it was and the number of people that it reached. And it’s not hard to see the ubiquitousness of hate speech on the airwaves as largely responsible for the mess we’re in now..
I saw signposting on freeways as a way of evening the score, at least numerically, and was disappointed by what I’d seen done with it so far, which was “No War” or “Stop the something-I’m-not-quite-sure...” spray-painted on bedsheets. I thought that adding legibility to a medium that was mostly unreadable might help make it more socially acceptable as a means of political discourse. In other words, putting signs on freeways made more sense if people could read them. Beyond just the aesthetics: using a stiff medium allows you to put a sign up almost anywhere, quickly and securely, with the simplest of tools and the greatest of ease. Using a projector for the lettering allows far more thought and precision in your language, while spray, or even hand-painted messages can rarely go beyond polemics. The difference between white-washed cardboard over bedsheets is so profound and comprehensive I should, and will, write a whole post about it later, but for now let’s just say it’s like the difference between our last President and the one we’ve got now.
Although I succeeded in some ways, my efforts were largely a failure. Although I’ve spent years contemplating all the reasons why, I won’t bore you with all of that now. I think the main reason it hasn’t caught on yet is because people are afraid it’s illegal, and I’ll be the first to admit that technically they’re right. Before I explain why that doesn’t matter to me and shouldn’t matter to you, I’d like to suggest that ultimately the legality of it isn’t really the problem. The thing that keeps people from doing things that others aren’t is probably little more than a fear of looking foolish. Short of physical limitations, whatever reasons you have for not putting a sign up today would probably melt away if you knew ten thousand people had just done it yesterday.
If what’s keeping you is the thought it’s somehow too difficult or strenuous, let me assure you that it’s not. Physically what I do amounts to little more than driving around and taking short walks. With tens of thousands of miles of fencing and infrastructure to choose from, it’s not that hard to find signposting spots that require no work at all to get to. If you live in Seattle, for example, there’s a fence that’s highly visible to a dozen lanes of heavy traffic, and signs I’ve put on it have lasted for hours and usually days. All it takes to get there is parking at the end of a cul de sac and walking 200 feet or so through Kobe Terrace Park. Spots like that can be found everywhere once you start to actually look for them.
Why freewayblogging is illegal and why that doesn’t matter: While George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and people like that thought free speech was a sacred, untouchable right, there are thousands of police officers, city councils, homeowners associations and transportation boards who think they know better. So called “free” political speech is subject to all sorts of rules and regulations, and technically speaking, every sign, banner or flag, whether political or commercial, placed without permission within 600 feet of a California freeway is a criminal act and subject to a fine and/or prosecution. Fortunately, the State of California hasn’t shown much interest in enforcing these laws, which is lucky not just for me, but for every gun show, bridal expo and tattoo convention that papers the roadsides with their crappy little florescent advertisements. If I was ever brought to court, those signs would be Exhibit A in my defense. Selective prosecution of like crimes is one thing, but prosecuting political speech that’s Constitutionally protected while ignoring commercial speech that’s not begs at least a bit of explanation.
The only argument that has any merit against freewayblogging is that of driver distraction, which is thoroughly undercut by the signs mentioned above and every billboard, advertisement and jumbotron screen visible to drivers on the freeway. Additionally I’m protected by every single flag that went up on overpasses after September 11th, as argued in the case Brown vs. the California Dept. of Transportation. That case was filed by two Santa Cruz activists, Amy Courtney and Cassandra Brown, who charged that their being denied the right to hold an anti-war message on an overpass was fundamentally unconstitutional for a lot of reasons, but especially so given the state was allowing overpasses to be used for flags, “Support the Troops” signs and other patriotic displays. This led to some back and forth where CalTrans said they’d take down all unauthorized displays, including flags, and were brought back to court by the two women when they didn’t. Ultimately CalTrans determined that all displays were illegal with the punishment being simply that they would be taken down. Since, like all other state agencies, CalTrans is woefully undermanned and underfunded, the turnaround time between placement and removal of a sign can be days or even weeks. That means I can still get a million or more views for my nickel’s worth of cardboard and paint, which is fine by me.
If I ever do get taken to court, I expect the prosecution to argue as they did in Brown that the speed, danger and traffic density of freeways set them apart from other public spaces, and that extra regulations are required for safety. If someone like me wants to use public property to post their political opinions there are plenty of safer and more appropriate places to do it, like in front of the post office or in a city park. Thus prohibiting signs from freeways does not infringe on my first amendment rights so long as these other public venues are available. My defense would center on what the framers of the constitution intended when they gave us the right to free speech. If it was intended as a nicety or some sort of window-dressing for democracy where we’re all allowed to speak out so long as we kept it to a minimum, then yes: the difference between reaching a hundred thousand people or a dozen would be irrelevant and the park or post office would be just fine.
If however, the founding fathers intended the right to free speech to be more than just some nicety or gesture, and that it’s actual purpose was important, possibly even the failsafe for Democracy, then the difference in numbers means quite a lot. With that in mind the court should recognize what I’m doing is my patriotic duty, and rather than punish me they should join me in getting others to do the same. And furthermore, if the founding fathers were to somehow appear and be able to see one of my signs over a planet-killing freeway, they’d say something had to go alright, but it wouldn’t be my sign. (You can probably tell I’ve fantasized this courtroom drama for awhile...)
For now that’s all I’ve got to say about the legal issues of signposting on the freeways. Even if you’re not ready to join me just yet, give some thought to what you can do with your right to free speech. Try to think of the First Amendment less as a right and more as a responsibility, and figure out how you can best live up to your end of the bargain. Go through your talents and find which ones might be useful and, hopefully, that you actually like doing. I’ve found the process of making signs to be quite enjoyable and relaxing no matter where I put them. Think of what you want to say and the best way of saying it, use a bit of artistry and then go hit that park. Send me pictures at freewayblogger -at- yahoo. I’ll keep posting here to convince you all to join me on the freeways though, because I swear, it’d take less than a hundred of us to start turning this whole fucking thing around.