My Supreme Covert Failure


Grey Man jpeg from the Liberty Under Attack blog

The Liberty Under Attack blog last week had an essay on “Blending In: The Art of the Grey Man” –

“Given the fact that American dissidents are unjustly profiled by the government, it stands to reason that direct action must be taken to stymie the creation of political prisoners. Whether these injustices are due to malice or stupidity, the fact of the matter is that the answer to security theater is security culture, and the foundational basis for security culture is the practice of being a grey man. A “grey man” is defined as: ‘A man who can blend in to any scene or situation without standing out, hiding his skills and qualities.’”

The blog article cited my experience as an example of what not to do:

Distinguishing the line between appearance and behavior is not as sharp and defined as you would initially assume. Back in 1995, James Bovard was evicted from the press section of the United States Supreme Court’s courtroom during oral arguments for the Bennis v. Michigan [516 U.S. 442] civil asset forfeiture case, simply because he laughed too loudly, although the “official” reason was that he was inadvertently violating the dress code. Whether it be due to appearance or behavior (or both), Bovard’s experience is invaluable for demonstrating that when you go visit the government, discretion really is the better part of valor.

I wish I got a funny writeup in the Washington Post every time my subversive tendencies were exposed (as happened with that case in 1995). At least Liberty Under Attack didn’t suggest that I shave.  The only way that my laugh could fly under the radar is if I stop drinking beer. And if I have to start exercising discretion when I visit federal agencies,  my job satisfaction could take a helluva hit.



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10 Responses to My Supreme Covert Failure

  1. Robert Cheeks January 18, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    I suspect there may be a lot to laugh about at a SCOTUS gathering?

    • Jim January 18, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

      Exactly! That’s the problem. Plus, my laugh sometimes frightens both small children and policemen.

      • The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit January 19, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

        My corgi whines and tries to hide under the couch when I listen to your interviews at home. I’ve also caught him gnawing on computer cables in a desperate attempt to save himself…..

        • Jim January 19, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

          Your comment does nothing to improve my opinion of Corgis.

          • The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit January 19, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

            Whereas I see it as a stunning demonstration of their deep and true understanding of the world around them! 😉

          • Jim January 19, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

            Which explains why, in many jurisdictions, dogs are permitted to double as judges – at least as far as providing the tail wags that substitute for a search warrant.

  2. Kyle Rearden January 19, 2016 at 4:27 am #

    Mr. Bovard,

    Thanks for commenting on my article! I always appreciate feedback from my readers, and anything that can be learned in order to do things better is time well spent, in my book.

    You may be also interested in reading a tutorial I contributed to the LUA website entitled, “Political Fieldtrips: How to Experience Government Directly” []

  3. Jim January 19, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    Mr. Rearden – I appreciate y’all mentioning that court ejection – good luck with your blog & hell-raising!

  4. John M January 20, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    Somehow I don’t think it was the dress code.

    Just 4 years later in 1999, during the Microsoft antitrust show trial, WaPo writer David Ignatius wrote admiringly of David Boise appearance before the court in “…his usual studied shabbiness in black sneakers and a mail-order suit. … Boies’s rumpled suit only accentuated the well-pressed creases in his argument.”

    By now I should think you could appear before the court in an Adidas warmup suit without causing a stir.* That is, if your paychecks and views on the role of government, especially the courts, are both suitably large.

    * Especially if your name is Frito:

  5. Jim January 20, 2016 at 10:07 am #

    Good ol’ David Ignatius – he has been shining the light of truth for many years.

    I have been accused of many things over the years but not “studied shabbiness.” Hmmm… “studied rusticity,” perhaps? I had a hoot when Wash. Post’s Al Kamen suggested that I might not have been ejected from the press box at the court if I’d been wearing Brooks Brothers attire.

    Thanks for the link to the Idiocracy film clip. Actually, the Supreme Court justices seem more imperious than the southern judge in that movie.