Artist Harassed & Censored in Troy NY
The video installation is a spin on a spin on a spin. There is a video game called "Quest for Saddam," which allegedly Al-Queda spun into "The Night of Bush Capturing" and that Bilal spun into "Virtual Jihadi." The names of the initial video games are self-explanatory. Bilal, who has lost relatives in the current American invasion of Iraq, explained that he inserted himself into the virtual hunt for Bush. His aim is to highlight the way Iraqis might respond to the vulnerability and risk and loss they've experienced due to the Bush Fiasco. The RPI administration (apparently egged on by right-wingers on campus and in the community) seems to think that "Virtual Jihadi" amounts to terrorist propaganda. Hence their inexcusable censorship. See stories here and here and here.
In any case, the exhibition was subsequently moved to a new venue The Sanctuary for Independent Media, also in Troy, where it was met with protests. The Sanctuary, just coincidentally, now has been shut down for code violations (having to do with the width of doors). According to the local newspaper The Albany Times-Union      this harassment is being orchestrated by one Richard Mirch - a Republican county legislator and all around right-winger who is (surprise!) in charge of code enforcement in Troy. According to The Times-Union Mirch sees nothing wrong with holding not one, not two, but three government posts. What is a right winger to do but eat at the public trough? In this instance, it seems, he is intent on assuming the role of arbiter of acceptable public speech.
The RPI administration has acted in a reprehensible manner here. No excuses. And the local Republicans are doing the same with respect to The Sanctuary. Not content to argue back, to criticize, to call Bilal's work into question, these institutions are shutting him up, or trying to do so. At the same time they are harassing cultural outlets in the city in authoritarian ways.