In the past year or so, citizens of the US have been paranoid about the increased surveillance through emails, phone calls, etc. that the NSA has been performing for years. It’s understandable. People don’t want their own personal conversations and information out there, and for the most part people won’t be affected. As a writer though, it can be even more disconcerting especially for one satirist, Cracked head writer Daniel O’Brien, where his fun and games landed him in a secret service interrogation.
The time was 2009. O’Brien on his own website posted an over the top article entitled 6 Helpful Tips for Kidnapping the President’s Daughters. In one section of the article, the writer joked about kidnapping one of President Carter’s daughters; however, she ended up getting away when he didn’t think of the possibility that she could swim.
This section of his piece was brought into question not long after when O’Brien was called into a meeting with the Secret Service, who had obviously read the article but didn’t understand the goofiness of it. In the description of the above section the writer wrote how the girl could swim like a dolphin.
Just from the lines just mentioned, one would think the officers would get the joke and that it was a form of entertainment. If they had ever seen a real article, they would have known just by the goofy language used that the writer certainly wasn’t being serious. Secondly, they should have done their research on his website, which is all satirical. Instead, the writer had to legitimately explain that he put colorful anecdotes to make sure the reader knew it was a complete parody.
The interrogation didn’t stop there though. In fact, it went on for over two hours as the Secret Service interrogated the Cracked satirist where it got down to the climax by asking him if he had the skeleton of Pocahontas in his closet like he described in the satirical article. Of course he replied no.
The recount of Daniel O’Brien is a ridiculous one. In fact it seems to be something from one of his online articles. The sad fact is that his encounter is true, which begs the question when is enough going to be enough? A humorist shouldn’t be questioned about a piece that obviously wasn’t based on real events, nor should the government have to waste their precious time to deal with an innocent writer.
As a matter of a fact if you read the constitution, what the Secret Service did here was completely illegal. As we all know the first amendment explains that all US citizens have the freedom of expression, which includes speech, press, assembly, etc.; of course this article that O’Brien wrote would be in the press category.
Additionally, the first amendment in conjunction with the 14th amendment states that it prohibits interference from any government office or department. Considering the government ordered the satirist to come down to be questioned by the secret service and as a result was interrogated for his writings for a length of time, this also was something that went against human rights.
One thing this whole situation reeks of in the heart of it is a lack of common sense. The fact that the Secret Service even questioned this writer if what he wrote were facts when in actuality mathematical skills and logic would have done the trick. It’s a waste of time and an improper use of government power.
Daniel O’Brien is one of the leading satirists and the government should have read his work thoroughly not only in this article but on his website to understand this man was a humorist. Instead, this Cracked satirist was subjected to a world of fear when the Secret Service brought him down under the lights for an extensive interrogation that shouldn’t have happened. It’s a scary world now through the NSA’s abusive power, which possibly could lead to more busts in the ever-populating satire industry.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey