A Campaign to Mock the Military
In the wake of the AOL Privacy Violation…Annoy.com decided to challenge the military, by mocking its policy. And by using its own ammunition. Clinton Fein, Annoy.com’s editor, published an image of a gay servicemember, who had essentially violated the Don’t Ak, Don’t Tell policy by letting him know that he was gay. “Telling”. Fein removed any identifying information and challenged the military to try and guess who it was.
Not only did they demonstrate what privacy meant, but also will pretend that we too are bound by the military policy, and WE WILL NOT TELL.
Not only because the military has a flawed understanding of First Amendment and privacy issues, but because as electronic publishers, it is our duty to highlight the issues that impact our industry. We will ensure that those responsible for violating the laws that protect our corporate and individual freedoms are held accountable and taken to task. annoy.com was conceived with this purpose in mind, and will continue to chart the untested and frontierless reaches of cyberspace. And to the military’s Naval Investigative Service and Criminal Investigation Department or Naval Criminal Investigative Agency, or whatever the fuck you’re calling yourselves today. A hearty good luck!
Under the sensational header New porno spam scam, both Ziff-Davis News and CNN reported, “To promote its “Who’s That Queer?” protest against the Navy’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay service members, the site sent out E-mail featuring the subject line “Steve Case (email@example.com) has sent you an annoying postcard” and linking to an online “postcard” showing two naked men standing in a shower stall and a man clad in a military uniform standing nearby.”
The report adds, “Annoy.com says the E-mail was sent ‘to challenge the military by mocking its policy.’”
Annoy.com said nothing of the sort. No one at Annoy.com spoke to either news organization, and the alleged email campaign was not an officially sanctioned part of this challenge. We do not know whether or not Steve Case sent the email in question and did reveal information about the users of Annoy.com. Ziff-Davis and CNN did not ask, perhaps wisely, because Annoy.com didn’t tell.
IN RESPONSE TO the Navy’s now-delayed discharge of Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy R. McVeigh for being gay, ApolloMedia’s Annoy.com has launched what it’s calling a “‘Who’s That Queer’ Competition” by posting a photograph of a gay active serviceman and daring the military to identify him. The serviceman’s face and name tag are obscured in the playfully erotic photograph, taken in a shower.
The photo, says ApolloMedia’s Clinton Fein, “is a titillating tease, but ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is not a fun policy. People’s lives are ruined by it.”
Fein ridiculed AOL – which told the Navy that McVeigh owned an account on which one of several user profiles contained references to being gay – as “AO-Tell.” He pointed out that by admitting to the staff of ApolloMedia that he’s gay, the unidentified serviceman has violated the military’s policy, and would be subject to the same kind of disciplinary action as McVeigh. McVeigh was the highest-ranking enlisted man on the nuclear submarine Chicago.
Annoy.com is itself at the center of a legal fight with the federal government. Last year, it filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Janet Reno challenging a provision in the Communications Decency Act that makes it a felony to communicate anything online “with intent to annoy” another person.
— Steve Silverman, Wired Magazine.
To promote its “Who’s That Queer?” protest against the Navy’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay service members, the site sent out E-mail featuring the subject line “Steve Case (firstname.lastname@example.org) has sent you an annoying postcard” and linking to an online “postcard” showing two naked men standing in a shower stall and a man clad in a military uniform standing nearby. The men’s faces are hidden.
The “postcard” page claims to be “From: Steve Case (email@example.com)” and shows the E-mail address of the person it was sent to. Clicking on the photo brings viewers to a page showing a photo of more naked and underwear-clad men, behind text that reads: “All the models in this shot are gay. The service member is a soldier in the U.S. military. Annoy.com does not name names of gay service members. Ever. For anyone.”
Annoy.com says the E-mail was sent “to challenge the military by mocking its policy.”
“We have published an image of a gay service member, who essentially violated the policy by letting us know he is gay,” the Annoy.com site proclaims. “We have removed any identifying information, and challenge the military to try and guess who it is.”
Last week, Naval sailor Timothy McVeigh (no relation to the convicted Oklahoma City bomber) filed suit against the Navy over his pending dismissal from the military. Naval officials said McVeigh violated Navy policy by referring to himself as gay in an anonymous AOL user profile.
The profile was linked to McVeigh, the Navy claims, after an AOL customer service representative divulged his full name, in violation of AOL policy. McVeigh’s suspension has been put off while the legal hearing proceeds.
An AOL spokeswoman said the company had no plans to take any legal action against the prank.
__ Ziff Davis
Fein launched his art career in 2002, postponing his debut in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001, with a solo exhibition at San Francisco-based Toomey Tourell Gallery titled “Annoy.com” based on the images from the website and on the advice of renowned sculptor Lynda Benglis, who coined it “Press Art.”
Clinton Fein’s annoy.com is a visceral response. An in-your-face, bitterly ironic and unapologetically wry interpretation of the events, politicians, consumer brands and media onslaught that encapsulates them and permeates our consciousness in a relentless barrage.
Days before the release of Conduct Unbecoming, the Navy attempted to bar the use of a 1972 recruiting poster featuring the first African American used in a recruiting campaign. Servicemember Ed Graves had been discharged from the Navy a few years later for being gay. Refusing to allow the “Don’t Tell” provision of the new policy relating to gays and lesbians in the armed forces to extend to civilians as well, Clinton Fein, President of ApolloMedia, refused to pull the image.
ApolloMedia, represented by Michael Traynor at Cooley Godward, effectively established the de facto acknowledgment that First Amendment protections must be extended to CD-ROM publishers and, in so doing, helped shape the legal foundations for defining the content of interactive digital media.