Troy, NY Sued Over City Shutdown of Video Game Exhibit

May 2, 2008 -

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal's controversial video game exhibit, which culminates in the player attempting to shoot President Bush, has triggered a lawsuit against the city of Troy, New York, according to the Albany Times-Union.

As GamePolitics readers may recall, Bilal, a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to present his Virtual Jihadi exhibit at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in March.

RPI's Republican Club, however, objected to Virtual Jihadi, which Bilal said was designed to show how US policy in Iraq has encouraged terrorism. School officials subsequently ordered the exhibit off campus. A local venue, the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, then offered Bilal the opportunity to display his work.

On opening night local Republican leader Robert Mirch, who also happens to be Troy's Public Works commissioner, led a protest outside the exhibit. The following day, Troy code enforcement officials (who work for Mirch) shut the Sanctuary down over building code violations involving its doors.

The Sanctuary, assisted by the New York Civil Liberties Union, has notified Troy that it will file a lawsuit against the city as well as Mirch. Said Melanie Trimble executive director of NYCLU's Capital Region chapter:
 

City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful... City officials cannot chill free speech in this city by using their official powers.

Bob Mirch is the head of Public Works which oversees the code enforcement. Code enforcement came the next day and shut the building down even though they had approved the building's opening the day before. It's no coincidence.


Sanctuary co-founder Steve Pierce added:
 

There is a climate of fear in the city.


For his part, Mirch said:
 

This is nonsense. And a publicity stunt. At no time was the sanctuary closed. The two situations are not connected. Not connected.


Capital News 9 has a video report.

Comments

"but in this game you kill not only the president, but a real person."

No you don't. I doubt he rigged a radio transmitter to a device to kill the real president.

Somebody should right a song about this. "oh they be going down the mountain when the lawsuit comes.." And mail this to him.

What is this the 30's?
You just cant get away with things like this anymore.

Ok, not connected. Thanks for clearing that up for us.

I hope they take him to the wire.

how can he say the sanctuary wasn't closed? it was, and it was closed down by the public works people, there is video evidence!

404 - First Amendment not found

You know, it's really not a good idea to lie in the answer to a lawsuit. Does he think a judge/prosecuter will not look at the public record to verify these facts?

"Facts" should read "statements."

I pretty much agree with the school on this one.

I don't believe the government should censor it, but schools have no obligation to allow a 'kill the sitting president' game on campus, especially if it's causing protests. Next time, tell him to make anti-war propaganda without a mission where you attack the president and I'm sure it will go over better.

I'm kinda torn here...

Chalts, the controversy over the school was that they accepted his work knowing full well what it was about (in fact, they invited him), and then decided to cancel it after the Young Republicans started accusing the school of "fostering terrorism". Then tried to blow it off, all the while pretending they are all for fostering academic and artistic freedom.

The school administration's complete about-turn in the face of moral panic is what irks most people.

As for the Sanctuary, I hope they sue Mirch into the ground. That was censorship, pure and simple. He should have been suspended as soon as the allegations came up.

@Chalts

they arn't actually suing over the incident at the school, as you stated, they really didn't do anything illegal, their finacial backers complained threated to pull funding so they folded, sucks for the exhibit but nothing really wrong there

however, when the building inspectors clear a private building for holding an exhibit and then return 2 days later, more then likely at the behest of their employer who is opposed to the exhibit, to close it down, it reeks of illegal censorship

@Conejo, it wasn't closed. They just forbid it from holding events for the general public.

It's a fine line, eh?

I remember this story, and I'm glad Mirch is getting sued. Something tells me he won't be the PW Commisioner for much longer.

Chalts, the controversy over the school was that they accepted his work knowing full well what it was about (in fact, they invited him), and then decided to cancel it after the Young Republicans started accusing the school of “fostering terrorism”. Then tried to blow it off, all the while pretending they are all for fostering academic and artistic freedom.

The school administration’s complete about-turn in the face of moral panic is what irks most people.


Exactly.

I was just up there last weekend for a function at RPI, I'm annoyed with myself for failing to look into how this was playing out.

@ tony selby
they arn’t actually suing over the incident at the school, as you stated, they really didn’t do anything illegal, their finacial backers complained threated to pull funding so they folded, sucks for the exhibit but nothing really wrong there

See above. They didn't do anything illegal, technically, but it was definitely wrong. They had no "moral outrage" or "discomfort with the exhibit" when they invited him, KNOWING the content of said exhibit. They canceled after the fact, after the Young Republicans club saw the exhibit and started in with their demented bleating about RPI being a "terrorist haven".

I'm a former student of RPI, and I would just like to say that I still haven't received a response to my letters that I sent to the RPI alumni relations and art department about Bilal's treatment.

Not that it's related to the City of Troy lawsuit, but still, it needs to be said that my calm, well-worded letter sent from an alumni email account was ignored. Again.

School officials subsequently ordered the exhibit off campus.

Not that I'm agreeing with anything the guy is doing - I don't know enough about how the presentation was made.... So I'm not taking sides..

But that's all too typical for schools now - they don't stand for open minds, free thought, free information, or providing evidence and facts that allow a person to make up his/her own mind.

They are about agendas, narrow-mindedness, grinding their axes, conforming to politics and political correctness.

More like indoctrination camps than Universities of Free Thought now.

Though I am against censorship, this is different. In games like GTA, you're not killing anyone specific, but in this game you kill not only the president, but a real person. No matter how much you may hate the president or disagree with his policies, it crosses the line to say you want him dead. And really, there are so many other ways to spread a political message without looking like a terrorist in training. Stuff like this only gives fuel to your critics.

@ Overcast

"indoctrination camps"

Keep your eyes open for laws that would make homeschooling your children illegal... then ask..'Why?'..

Wait... I thought the exhibit was against Terrorism...
I thought the whole point of the exhibit was to show American's a "Mirrior" that we think it's okay to make an Iraqi killing game, but get uncomfortable when its an Iraqi killing American game. The games not really about Terrorism... did GP readers forget: http://gamepolitics.com/2008/03/13/gp-reader-offers-first-person-account...

While the idea that our policy in Iraq is solely responsible for the nutbar fundi anti-american stance is absolutely ludicrous, this game has to be allowed to exist. That's the first amendment, people.

@ Overcast - Actually, schools are so terrified of losing the tiny amount of federal and state funding that they do get to overzealous plantiffs that they feel they have to take a hard-edge stance against anything that might get them sued, which is why they cow-tow to every minority that wants anything at all, but ignore the same issues when it pertains to white males. They have to detach themselves from anything that might cost the university millions in frivolous lawsuits issued by people who simply can't take responsibility for themselves, blaming actions on someone else's message.

@ Mirrikat45
Wait… I thought the exhibit was against Terrorism…

The purpose of the exhibit was to illustrate how American policy and involvement in the Middle East was fueling anti-American sentiment and facilitating the recruitment of terrorists.

@ TheStripe
While the idea that our policy in Iraq is solely responsible for the nutbar fundi anti-american stance is absolutely ludicrous

No one said this. The claim is that it contributes, not that it is the sole cause.

@ TheStripe

But the same applies to views and material that the government approves, if a school disagrees, NP.. find funding elsewhere. I agree with you, but I still think Overcast's feelings weren't unfounded.

My brother was telling me about how they taught him the 'official' version of the Gulf of Tonkin incident recently. Well that was declassified, and even prior to that, was all but confirmed to be a staged attack. So why is he still being told this propaganda? Seems pretty important to make the distinction between real and fake history.

I just hope Mircc gets buried.

Seriously, a door violation? They could have gotten a door in working order, used that during the exhibit, and repaired any others while it was going, but since that wasn't even made an option, yes, I do call foul play.

I'm happy they're pushing this through.

"Not connected," lol. No, you did an about-face when you saw even the slightest bit of resistance.

You could have let people protest outside the exhibit.

kurisu7885, the actual issue was width. The Sanctuary was doing reno to widen the doors, and had approval to host the show while the doors were being upgraded. Then Mirch overrode the temporary approval.

"In games like GTA, you’re not killing anyone specific, but in this game you kill not only the president, but a real person. No matter how much you may hate the president or disagree with his policies, it crosses the line to say you want him dead. And really, there are so many other ways to spread a political message without looking like a terrorist in training."

Hate to say it buy... REALLY? So let me get this straight. The tons of little $10 budget release games which have you hunting down Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein are perfectly okay. Because from our perspective, they are evil depite the fact that we put one of them in power and trained the other to do just what he did. Well, okay. Now take a look at an Iraqi citizen who fears the US militaries multiyear occupation and the blatantly police state scenario going on not to mention the private armies in occupation and suddenly it's completely unreasonable to put that shoe on the other foot and maybe reach a conclusion where "Yeah, that man is evil and his actions are actually promoting the negative environment for terrorism to foster?"

Nope, unforgivable. Fucking towelheads should have shit to say besides what flavors of slurpee is available and how much the fare was.... that's the republican way.

@ sheppy

@Sherlock:
No matter how much you may hate the president or disagree with his policies, it crosses the line to say you want him dead.

Having a mission where you kill the president isn't necessarily saying that the creator wants him dead. If my best friend and I mod a fighting game so that our fighters' models resemble our real-life selves, does that mean we want to kill each other?

GG edit button..

@ sheppy

Very well said.

@Sherlock
If you think that the game is saying "I want the president dead" then you have completely missed the point of the game.

@lumi
The game festival and symposium? heh i was there too... though i too did not ask anyone about the exhibit. =/

put him in the poor house :P lol......or allow the full exhibit to be presented on his lawn and the bush mission to be projected on the side of his house........

It's good to see censorship being properly dealt with. The exhibit certainly isn't one I'd be all that interested in seeing, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have the right to show it.

I would suspect that the attempt to kill the President ends with the death of the character, rather than Bush himself, after all, it culminates in attempting to shoot him, which usually means it was a failed attempt. Though I could not say for certain.

I don't accept the matters are not connected, whilst coincidence is always possible, this just seems to 'useful' a coincidence for Mirch.

I suppose you need to look at it this way, if you are sent to America to attack the President, and you are an extremist fanatic, who is it you are trying to kill? This is a story about real-life, and in real life, George Bush is the President of the United States, by using someone else, you are detracting from the message of realism that you are trying to portray, you are moving people away from the realisation that this kind of thing is really happening, in the real world, which is the whole point of the exhibit if the artist is to be taken at his word.

@ Monte

Yep, I was there for GameFest, and the School of Humanities 7 Social Sciences 100th Anniversary Celebration dinner ($25 for filet mignon, seared salmon steak, vegetable-something-or-other, and crusted mashed potatoes...and cocktail hour with an open bar? Yes please! =D)

Unfortunately I missed Friday's exhibit because of work, but I caught Saturday afternoon's panels and presentations (I was impressed by Eric Zimmerman's bit on "thinking like a gamer"), and the awards from VV. Marc needs to put some of the builds for the winners online, I want to see them X.x

I asked him about the exhibit back when this whole thing started and he said that it actually wasn't anything impressive (he said the stuff Bilal did last year was better), but it wasn't really worth all the BS that was raised about it, either.

Awesome. I hope he wins and they have to pay up snd restart the game exibit.

I seriously hope that this lawsuit goes through and Mirch and company get the smack put down. It disgusted me then when they did this and it disgusts me today.

I am glad to see Mirch finally getting his just deserts. He really doesn't have a chance in this lawsuit, as it's clear that the Sanctuary was aware of the aspects of its building which needed renovation, they followed the procedures which were required in order to get the space approved for a public event, and they received approval. Then code enforcement officials shut the building down, after the exhibit is publicly picketed by the head zoning enforcement official. How much clearer can it get?

Also, the article is right about a "climate of fear" - it came out during the flap that Mirch has done this kind of thing before to intimidate political opponents. He deserves all the legal hassle that's coming his way - as ye sow so shall ye reap. Hopefully it will help clean up the city's politics a bit, too.

Not connected.



Not connected.




Not connected after 2 attempts. Retry, Abort, Cancel?

For those who are interested, regarding the pattern of selective code enforcement by the city of Troy:

http://capitalnews9.com/content/top_stories/112573/citizens-protest-shut...

“There's a pattern that we're seeing and I think it's worth investigating because enough people have come forward to say that they have a problem with the fact that they'll send an email to City Hall complaining about something and then a few days later Code Enforcement is at their residence,” said councilman Ken Zalewski.

While the question of code enforcement or censorship in this instance remains unanswered, the debate did reveal some pressing issues in Troy, including the apparent log jam and lack of consistency in code enforcement.

Weee and sidestep. It was not about the exhibit it was the doors.... wee and twirl. We had mention of problems with the doors but took alternate steps... and pivot. I did not like it, it was not a game it was terrorism, but no I had no trouble with him having the meeting indoors as long as he did not use the doors.

LOL.

I myself might not have even gone to the exihibit, if no one made a big deal of it. Then, cus someone did, my interest to visit was more so, just to see what the issue was first hand, and decide for myself, if the material was agreeable or not. I did not go, since, I was no where near NY when this originally took place.

I believe, individuals (read: US of A Citizens), should have the right, to see and hear the issue, and decide for themselves, whether its good or bad. Banning it, every way possible, only seems to tell educated people, that someone doesnt want a point of view heard.

Not surprisingly, a group of students who are republicans trying to remove Free of Speech from others, because they, themselves are ignorant children. They must get that from President GWB....
 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

How do you feel about Amazon buying Twitch?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
PHX Corphttp://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/27/feminist-video-game-critic-forced-to-leave-her-home-after-online-rape-and-death-threats/ Feminist video game critic forced to leave her home after online rape and death threats08/28/2014 - 9:43am
Uncharted NEShttp://kotaku.com/once-again-atlus-doesnt-want-you-to-spoil-the-new-pers-162782610808/28/2014 - 5:17am
Uncharted NESOnce Again, Atlus Doesn't Want You to Spoil the New Persona08/28/2014 - 5:16am
lomdrPretty much, Andrew. And hell, it helps that it is a bit reasonably priced too. $8 for 1, $12 for both at once08/28/2014 - 3:43am
Andrew EisenMP - Probably not and for good reason. That term holds a lot of deserved negative baggage.08/27/2014 - 10:02pm
Uncharted NESApprently there is still a classic mode, but...08/27/2014 - 9:34pm
MaskedPixelanteSo, there's been massive positive reception to the Mario Kart 8 DLC bundle. Somehow, I doubt it would have gotten as much positive buzz if they called it a "Season Pass".08/27/2014 - 9:34pm
Uncharted NEShttp://m.pcgamer.com/2014/08/27/quake-live-makes-newbie-friendly-changes-in-latest-update-people-get-mad/08/27/2014 - 9:19pm
Uncharted NESQuake Live makes newbie-friendly changes in latest update, people get mad.08/27/2014 - 9:19pm
Uncharted NESAnd here's another article about it.08/27/2014 - 9:19pm
Uncharted NEShttp://kotaku.com/id-software-lives-dangerously-decides-to-change-classi-162774804308/27/2014 - 9:16pm
Uncharted NESid Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake08/27/2014 - 9:16pm
Matthew WilsonI am flying out to pax tomorrow.08/27/2014 - 9:16pm
MechaTama31Haven't been to GOG in a while. Their website reminds me of the old Zune software now...08/27/2014 - 6:01pm
Andrew EisenAlso, I know it's nitpicking but only ONE of the 21 movies on offer goes for $15. Four more are $10 and the rest are $6. But right now, all of them are $6 (except for two that are free).08/27/2014 - 3:22pm
E. Zachary KnightMasked, What are you talking about? I guess you never buy DVDs either?08/27/2014 - 3:21pm
Andrew EisenNot if they've hired more people.08/27/2014 - 3:13pm
MaskedPixelantePlus, now that they're negotiating movies, that's LESS manpower to negotiate true, pre-2000, non-console-port classics.08/27/2014 - 3:08pm
MaskedPixelanteNo rewatch value, once you've seen it there's no reason to rewatch it, and it's 15 bucks down the drain.08/27/2014 - 3:06pm
E. Zachary KnightIndie movies are a great start. They need a great distribution system too.08/27/2014 - 3:04pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician