Time to Speak Out for Persecuted Writers... in America?

Hat tip to Allyn Gibson for bringing this to my attention. I kept this post back for a week while I thought on it and sought out more information, and I’ve decided to upload it in the hopes that it reveals more about the story. If the incident described is accurate, then it’s an indictment of the silly overreaction of authority figures in America in response to 9/11.

The story focuses on William Poole, an 18-year-old student at George Rogers Clark high school in Clark County, Kentucky. Two weeks ago, he was arrested on suspicion of terrorism, based on a tip from his own grandparents. As far as I know, he is still in custody, and police are firm in saying that what William has done is a felony.

“Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it’s a felony in the state of Kentucky,” said Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill.

According to the report, what so worried Poole’s grandparents and the police were notes towards a short story wherein a high school (not explicitly his high school) is attacked by zombies.

I’ll leave Allyn to unleash his anger:

Let’s think this through. He wrote a short story about frelling zombies.

Zombies don’t exist. You can’t overrun a high school with zombies because they don’t frelling exist.

And, for emphasis, let’s quote Poole:

“My story is based on fiction,” said Poole, who faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. “It’s a fake story. I made it up. I’ve been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies.”

Now, looking at Google News, I can see that things may not be as clear cut as the first article makes out. Indeed, I can find only this one link that mentions that Poole is being incarcerated for his fiction. I find seven other links (including this one) which don’t mention the fiction but instead say that Poole was trying to organize a gang to take over the school:

“Police recovered writings in which Poole allegedly attempted to convince other students to participate in an armed takeover.”

On other blogs, a couple of individuals have come forward, preporting to be students at Poole’s school. They have claimed that Lex 18’s article is inaccurate, and that Poole was a known troublemaker. However, in this post, Allyn and others cast doubt on their assertions. To quote Bill Leisner:

It strikes me as odd the degree of weasely language Atkins (the principal of Clark High —jb) uses. “It sounded to be kind of an advertisement or recruiting …” That’s awful equivocal for someone who presumably helped convince the police and D.A. that Poole should be locked up as a terrorist, isn’t it? Even though he can categorically state that there are no zombies mentioned, and no school projects that he was writing fiction for, he hems and haws on the point of what, exactly, these writings are, and definitely seems to be keeping open the possibility that his interpretations isn’t necessarily correct. In some circles, this is called “reasonable doubt,” and ideally should prevent trumped up charges from being filed.

If it was really the case that the notes the authorities discovered suggested that Poole was trying to organize a gang to take over the school, why haven’t these writings been released? Why haven’t names of potential recruits been named? Why is it never stated that the high school itself was named? As Allyn notes, a writer’s notes can look very much like a battle plan.

Let’s see: in my many years of producing fan fiction, I’ve written stories about terrorists campaigning against the U.S., bombing Amtrak, public buildings, et cetera. I’m not particularly pleased that what I wrote as fiction has since become the fodder for news, but it was (and remains) fiction. Do I dare show my face in Kentucky, I wonder? How about the writers of 24 which, as I recall, brought a biological weapon into a school, last season?

William Poole is not Salmon Rushdie, and the Winchester Police are not the Ayatollah, but if the facts bear out on this case, they’re on the same ladder. It may be time to start writing letters to the Writers at Risk Program and possibly to Amnesty International.

Further Reading

Note: A follow-up article has been posted here

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