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As oxymoronic as it sounds, apparently stealing free newspapers can get you in a lot of trouble, at least some places. The University of Florida and the University of Texas have both filed successful criminal complaints against students for taking complete printings of their student newspapers. Recently, David Horowitz of Salon.com has been raising a stink over several incidents at places like Brown University where students collected all the newspapers to prevent his ad against reparations for slavery from running. Here at Tennessee Tech, six freshmen recently made off with all the Oracles to protest what they called an "offensive" editorial that "crossed the line." (At least they took the papers to a recycling center! I got a copy of the paper before they stole them... the article was insulting and a little moronic, but definitely not worth that much trouble.) The police filed a report, but so far the university wants to keep it from being a civil liberties case and is just asking the students to pay for the publishing costs... plus a little, maybe. The newspaper is pushing to press charges, though.

Apparently, the major issues involved in "stealing" a free newspaper are censorship and being fair to advertisers. At least here, everyone is running around squealing about the First Amendment -- by taking all the copies of a badly copy-edited newspaper before everyone got a chance to poke fun at it, the students were violating the editors' right to free speech.

So just remember, don't steal free newspapers!
By the way, I'm not trying to slander our dearly beloved Oracle, often nicknamed the Orifice. You can't call a newspaper with misspelled headlines and run-on opening sentences "well copy-edited."

I suppose this is where the proud tradition of Abbie Hoffmann and Jerry Rubin has led us; pilfering twenty-five cent newspapers and thinking it a ground-shaking act of political sabotage. It would take a year and a half for your collected thieving to even warrant a charge greater than theft under $1000, and even then, for a first offense you're looking at a fine or community service at the most. Ground breaking stuff.

To be fair, Jerry Rubin sold himself out by advocating murdering one's own parents, then four years later, supporting George McGovern for president. Yippies, like the rest, calcify and stagnate. Put down roots. Raise children, cheat on each other and die. Revolutionaries against their own natures.

What, you can't go to cbc.ca/news and get your own news for free? Maybe you like the smear of real news in your fingertips after a reading. The theft is what makes it real, I guess. Fair enough. Stolen beer tastes all the sweeter, after all.

It reminds me of when I was in university. One day, near the end of first year, I was walking through the underground net of tunnels that ran through campus only to find an enraged, mob-like grouping marching through the same tunnels demanding tuition support or some shit. They were carrying banners and chanting slogans, as though they mattered, through the sterile, concrete, unlistening shell of the tunnels. I guess they were heading to the chancellor's office; they might as well have been heading towards the quantum physics lab. Here were people, properly wound up, releasing their anger into tempered shale, the irrelevance of their protest not lost on them. This is a generation of people who want to protest not because of the issues of hand, but because of the glamour and bragging rights that come with protest; thus, the easiest form of protest will be chosen.

Maybe stealing already-free newspapers gets you laid. If so, mission accomplished. But spinning the most minute act of civil disobedience as some earth-shattering act of destruction does nothing but plump the ego of the perpetrator. This is why civil disobedience doesn't work anymore; every participant is mostly concerned with the image of being civilly disobedient, rather than the reality. Water, after all, takes the most efficient route downstream.

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