Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Ken Krayeske Show

A good part of Ken Krayeske’s adult life has been one of provocation. There is nothing unseemly in this; the same is true of some journalists and other adult provocateurs – artists, for example. Andres Serrano who, several years back, dipped a crucifix in a vial of his own urine, dubbing the final product “art,” was robustly provocative. Serrano, implausibly, was surprised at all the fuss he had caused. Sometimes, when you provoke, the provocation is successful. There is nothing alarming in all this; it’s simply the way the world works. You set out to insult Catholics; your provocation is successful; Catholics are insulted. So then Serrano, non-artists and people with ordinary sensibility said, you are surprised? Come off it.

On Sunday, in front of the courthouse in Hartford, the Ken Krayeske show was in full flower. A picture in the Hartford Courant – there have been dozens in Connecticut newspapers since Krayeske was detained by the Hartford police, shuttled off to a holding pen and penalized with an unreasonably high bond, later withdrawn -- is worth a thousand words. It shows the Krayeske ensemble, a half dozen protestors, one on a mountain bike, stretched before the courthouse holding several placards celebrating their First Amendment rights. Congress… Shall Make… No law… Abridging… The Freedom... Of Speech... Or Of The Press.

The most judicious piece on the Krayeske show was written by Stan Simpson of the Hartford Courant. Simpson allows that Krayeske was not a bomb thrower, but he also gently suggests that provocateurs, encouraged by the equivalent of a roiling peace-in-our-times-mob, may sometimes go over the cliff. To the Hartford police, Krayeske’s actions on the day of his arrest certainly seemed alarming enough to cause them to intervene. But then, Simpson perhaps has a more just appreciation of life on the blood stained streets of Hartford than, say, the guy on the mountain bike and racer hat featured in the picture who came to lend his support to the cause. Simpson noted that one of his fellow ink stained wretches at the paper had compared Krayeske’s plight to that of Martin Luther King’s and commented, “Wow!”

The police were right to intervene, Simpson said – it’s always better to be safe than sorry – but let’s call the whole thing off anyway. We now know that Krayeske was on that day packing nothing more harmless than a camera in his carrying pouch and that he was racing toward the front of the parade on his bike to snap a fetching picture of Governor Rell as she marched down the street to her inaugural ball. Krayske was detained, according to the arrest report, as he ditched the bike and stepped off the curb. Can’t we back away from this?

All very sensible.

But, to vary a phrase of Tina Turner, what’s sense got to do with it?

Krayeske, and the crowd that now surrounds him, are in the provocation business, and they do not plan to discard the lemon until they have rung out of it the last drop of bitter juice. What’s the point in making a point if you are unwilling to shove it’s sharp edge into the breast of your enemy?

In an early blog on Krayeske, I had inadvertently misspelled his name. I received from him a polite note noting the misspelling in the title of the blog and asking for a correction. I was happy to oblige – his name was spelled correctly in the text – because mispronunciations of proper names send me into minor tailspins. Before Joe Pesci started stuffing bodies in trunks, my own name was mauled by a thousand tongues. I wrote back that in the days ahead no one would ever again misspell “Krayeske.” I will treasure that note: It marks the point when Krayeske passed from the usually allotted fifteen minutes of fame into celebrityhood.

Before he’s sucked totally into the vortex, a direct appeal may not be out of place. So then Ken, if Simpson is successful in persuading the cops to drop the charges, can we back away from this one?

Ken Replies


Blogger's comment are down, otherwise I would reply to you. I just may
do so on my blog at some point this weekend.

And, uh, I hate to say this again, but you've got a few more name
misspellings (not just one instance of mine, but you leave a P out of
Simpson's name in one spot).

Whatever the case with copyediting (and I understand the difficulties of
one man copyediting, trust me on this), I enjoyed the column and thought
it was a well-written, reasonable exploration of the situation.

And one small question: Is Samuel Adams - one of the premier Sons of
Liberty - not inviting his countrymen to provocation in the quote on top
of your blog? "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of
servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We
seek not your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that
feeds you; may your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity
forget that ye were our countrymen!"

According to wikipedia: "Samuel Adams is best remembered for helping
organize the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, in
response to the Tea Act — a tax law passed in London that was simply an
increase in the taxes on tea paid by American colonists. As British
tea-ships sat in Boston Harbor waiting for payment of the import tax,
Samuel Adams energized a large crowd that was gathered at the port and
sent several men to dump all of the tea from the three ships into the
Boston Harbor to the delight of the assembled spectators on shore. In
response to this escapade, Parliament passed the "Intolerable Acts"; which called for the
revocation of the colonial charter of Massachusetts and the closing of
the ports of Boston. The angry reaction from all the colonies was to
expedite the opening of a Continental Congress, and when the
Massachusetts legislature met in Salem on June 17, 1774, Adams locked the doors and made a motion for the formation of a colonial delegation to attend the
Congress. A loyalist member, faking illness, was excused from the
assembly and immediately went to the governor, who issued a writ for the
legislature's dissolution; however, when the legislator returned to find
a locked door, he could do nothing."

If what is happening to me isn't the animating contest of freedom, well
then I'm a monkey's uncle, or maybe I'm a flea bit peanut monkey (and
all my friends are junkies - but that's not really true (h/t mick
jagger)). Or as John Lennon said, everyone's got something to hide
except for me and my monkey. Or perhaps this is all just shocking to us

Peace (and plenty of rock and roll primate allusions),


Surely you don't think I have anything against provocation. Me???!!!

But when you do provoke intentionally, you ought to leave both your innocence and your surprise at the door. What, me arrested!!! Sam didn't do it that way. And by the by, I noticed in your reply that you did not answer the question for which this piece was written. Your lawyer says you are directing the course of events here. So, if charges are dropped, are you going to pack it in -- maybe listen to a few Beatles records, or what?
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