Department of Homeland Stupidity: Fair Use, Parody and Satire vs the Government

The Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency are using their muscle and copyright law to threaten a novelty store dealer with a lawsuit if he doesn’t stop selling items satirizing the snoopy bureaucracies.

Several offending to the gubmit (but I-am-12 funny to everyone else) hats, tee shirts and coffee mugs sport the words

Department of Homeland Stupidity

and the DHS logo, altered to give the eagle a dunce cap holding a bottle and a pot leaf, while the NSA parody tee shirts use the agency’s logo, altering the slogan to read

Peeping while your sleeping

Below the NSA logo is the slogan

The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens.

Another design bears the NSA’s official seal with the slogan

Spying on You Since 1952

In 2011 the NSA sent cease-and-desist orders to claiming that Dan McCall’s parody images in his Zazzle online store violated laws against the use, mutilation, alteration or impersonation of government seals, so McCall moved the images over to his store which is a redirect from his own website, He updates images based on news stories, and shows a distinct tongue in cheek libertarian attitude, billing his gear as

Freedom Products for Liberty Lovers.

Now McCall is suing the NSA and DHS on constitutional grounds, in Federal Court. In his eight-page lawsuit seeking declaratory judgment, the satirist entrepreneur claims:

use of images of the NSA and DHS seals, whether unaltered but in combination with critical text, or altered in parodic form, did not create any likelihood of confusion about the source or sponsorship of the materials on which they were available to be printed. No reasonable viewer is likely to believe that any of the materials is affiliated with or sponsored by defendants. Nor were the seals affixed to the items to be sold with any fraudulent intent.

McCall further claims that

his images make fair use of the NSA and DHS seals “to identify federal government agencies as the subject of criticism,” and are protected by the First Amendment. And he claims it’s unconstitutional for the government to forbid him from displaying and selling his parodies to “customers who want to display the items to express their own criticisms of NSA and DHS.”

Oddly the TSA has not complained about the image parodying them:




Hat tip:

Late Night: Is Your Cat Registered to Vote? Rick Scott Wants to Know


Governor Rick Scott filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration over access to a database that the Florida Secretary of State believes will provide more accurate information on the citizenship status of Florida voters, though the DHS says looking at the database isn’t gonna help him in his cockamamie hunt for ee–lee-gull voters. Here’s what Florida’s governor is spewing to justify his suing–and even Fox’s Neil Cavuto seemed awestruck by the insanity:

The Florida’s Secretary of State office will be filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to give us that database.We want to have fair, honest elections in our state and so we have been put in a position that we have to sue the federal government to get this information.

Okay, Rick, we get it. In Florida, cats can’t vote. In fact, no matter where you live, cats can’t vote. Not even Mr. Bruce.

Is Department of Homeland Security Cracking Down on Art?


I just learned something new today, that the Department of Homeland Security issues permits for the City of Santa Ana, CA to host events, according to a letter sent by Vicky Baxter, Executive Director of Downtown Incorporated of Santa Ana, to the Cacophony Society, who are providing installations and amusement during the Art Walk at Grand Central Santa Ana, the city’s large arts complex. The February 4th Art Walk celebrates the premier of Into the Zone: The History of the Cacophony Society, which will be our subject on Movie Night, February 13.

The Cacophony Society, with lodges in thirty-six U.S. cities and nine countries around the world and whose motto is

You may already be a member

is a group of post-Dada, post-modern, chaos and art creating, urban, urbane Erisians. These disciples of Dischordianism and neo-Anerisia–whose members were instrumental in organizing Burning Man–have long staged events like the Art of Bleeding (faux educational programs in health and safety); mock protests over ludicrous causes; the placing of cement filled teddy bears in public places; painting chalk outlines of bodies on sidewalks; and other

experiences beyond the mainstream.

The Cacophony Society’s antics inspired Project Mayhem in  Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club and organized the earliest  flashmobs. And they are  known to be savvy media hoaxsters/culture jammers. But really, would anyone stage this kind of a prank falsely claiming to be from a city official which cited (teh horrors) the Department of Homeland Security? According to a post by Reverend Al Ridenour of Cacophony Los Angeles (who, full disclosure, I have known for years), Cacophony received a letter from Vicky Baxter, Executive Director of Downtown Incorporated of Santa Ana stating:

Today I received a call from Mike McCoy, Homeland Security who issues permits for events from the City, with concerns about the February Art Walk and the association with the Cacophony Society. He spent some time looking at the website and is concerned about what will be presented to the public because the City of Santa Ana is co-sponsor of the First Saturday Art Walks. He is asking for a detailed description of what will be presented to avoid any issues with public complaints or controversy. I did not anticipate this but he is right. We do co-host the First Saturday Art Walks with the City.

Please send me the details of what is planned so we can inform Mike.

I called Mike McCoy, who is based out of DHS’s Sacramento office where he works in Logistics Management as a pay grade GS15 level employee, and left a message. (BTW, the DHS doesn’t list their local numbers; you have to call the DC headquarters and get patched through. Scary!). Mike McCoy didn’t call me back.

I wanted to know the how and why of DHS issuing permits for Santa Ana’s events. Do those permits cost money? What types of events must must be permitted? What happens if Santa Ana holds an event without a DHS permit? And does this apply to every city in the USA? Is DHS present at the Downtown LA Art Walks? And what exactly about the Cacophony Society’s website is so darned disturbing? What are his concerns about the Cacophony Society? For how many art events throughout the country has the DHS requested additional information, and what were those shows? Are Cacophony members going to fall under surveillance now, and for what exactly?

Cacophony LA responded to McCoy with the following letter:

We understand the Department’s domain over public complaints and controversy in the arts as well as the precedent setting crowd control issues and threat of civil disturbance raised by the April 3, 2004 GCAC’s exhibition of art by Thomas Kinkade “Painter of Light.” In cooperation with your request for further information, we are providing the attached list of public art and performance scheduled as part of our opening.


These are playfully customized cars typically decorated both with thrift store finds, and other colorful detritus, generally free of sharp edges or objectionable content. … It should be pointed out that the visual and sculptural references in Reverend Linville’s “Ass Car,” are exclusively confined to parts of canine anatomy freely displayed throughout our country wherever dogs are found. …


One of the iconic activities engaged in by the Cacophony Society is mock protests over ludicrous causes. Honoring this tradition and as a satiric nod toward the controversial and ultimately dangerous nature of public discourse, we provide a soapbox, poster board, and markers to Society Members as well as enthusiastic passersby.   These activities and limited use of bullhorns will be conducted in accordance with our understanding of issues of pubic nuisance and noise abatement and/or guidelines issues at DHS discretion.


Comedian-magician Bieno Svengali as well as comedian Eric Cash will perform.  Exact content of their sets is not confirmed at this time, though Cash is expected to preside over a mock raffle “giveaway” of an Afghani war orphan.

And to show there are no hard feelings, Cacophony added this bonus attraction:


In the spirit of free discourse and rapprochement, The Cacophony Society will dedicate a table to the display of introductory literature on the CS as well as whatever literature or materials DHS would care to provide.  A live representative will be available for discussion. Coffee and donuts provided.

Oh I have one last question for Mr. McCoy from the Department of Homeland Security: Am I on a list now for writing about this?

image #2 Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, drawn by Pamela Coleman-Smith, 1909; public domain