Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Batman Eats Sushi?

I had heard from some guys from Virginia who I have done costume events with that it is illegal for adults to wear masks in public except on Halloween. That seemed like a crazy law to me and I wondered about its constitutionality and how often it was enforced.

Well, it appears there is such a law in Florida, and it is, indeed, enforced. A guy dressed as Batman was arrested in Tampa while eating sushi sitting on a curb. Apparently the law, which dates back to 1951, had its origins in wanting to keep the KKK from wearing their hoods. From the article: "The law is part of a section of Florida Statutes relating to criminal anarchy, treason and other crimes against public order."

In what sense is the wearing of a mask, and masks are, after all, terribly comfortable,* "criminal anarchy" (whatever the hell that is), treason, or a "crime against public order?" By simply hiding one's face one creates lawlessness? One gives aid and comfort to one's country's enemies? One somehow creates chaos? Just because someone chooses to cover his or her face?

The modern argument, voiced elsewhere, is that people can commit crimes wearing a mask and not be identifiable on video. So, I guess, anonymity is bad because someone could commit crimes and be difficult to identify, so therefore, despite the absence of criminal intent on the part of any particular person choosing to wear a mask, the wearing itself must be criminalized. How, exactly, is that different than prior restraint in terms of freedom of speech? It may be more difficult to catch someone wearing a mask if he or she commits a crime, but how is it consistent with freedom to then forbid anyone from wearing a mask, just in case?

Further, if the argument is true that gun-control opponents regularly make about guns, that if we make guns illegal criminals only law-abiding citizens will obey the law and criminals will end up being the only ones with guns, then why doesn't that logic apply here? After all, criminals won't leave the mask at home when committing crimes because of this law, so the only people who won't be able to wear masks are law-abiding citizens. Only criminals will have masks. But I wonder how many NRA supporters would be willing to defend the right to wear a mask, even though the principle is no different.

I mean, heck, we might as well go whole-hog, right? Not wearing your name and address barcoded on your forehead might make it hard to catch you if you commit a crime, so why not require that? Or a chip implanted in your butt cheek that radios your location to the police 24/7 in case you do something wrong? If we're all possible criminals whenever the police don't know exactly who we are and what we're doing, then why not? Why not require everyone to wear a sandwich board with their name on it in neon letters? Or just put a 24/7 webcam on every single person so that the police can know who you are and what you are doing in case you do something wrong.

This guy should tell the court that Batmanism is his religion and he has to wear the Batman suit as part of it. That'd make it more difficult for them to nail him on this stupid law. I doubt police would arrest a Muslim woman with her face covered and I'm pretty sure no court would rule that you can arrest a woman just because she covered her face in public for religious reasons.

And no, BTW, I don't know why this guy was wearing a Batman suit in the middle of the day to eat sushi on the curb. And yes, it is weird, but weird and criminal are not (and should not) be the same thing. What kind of freedom do we really have, seriously, if you can't wear a stupid Batman costume when you want? Jeesh.

* In The Princess Bride, when Fezzik asks Wesley, wearing his Dread Pirate Roberts outfit, why Wesley is wearing a mask, Wesley replies, "They're terribly comfortable. I think soon everyone will be wearing them."


At 6:43 PM, Blogger R. Paul Wiegand said...

Lawful anarchy I can take, but criminal anarchy is inexcusable.

I guess you can hide your gun but not your face. He should have taped a gun to his face. Didn't the original Batman tape a gun to his face?

Oh the quandary ... what to do, what to do ...


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