A Volunteer’s Artistic Inquiry into the Case of Reality Winner

March 6, 2018

Nick Keisel-Stagnone attended our online webinar “Case of Reality Winner” in January and when we asked people to step up and volunteer, he offered his graphic design knowledge to make images for the campaign (something we always need more of! hint hint).

Nick approached the task as an artistic inquiry so we asked him to explain some of this process . . .

“I tried to combine some aspects on the history of the Espionage Act using historical images that showed what public reaction was like during the passage of the initial bill. I had also wanted to include the reasoning Congress used when passing the legislation – but thought it would be better reflected in looking at how the law was applied, and then interpreted during the time period between the initial passage of the bill (1917) and how it became modified over time into the sedition act.

This is made all the more interesting when looking at how the enforcement of the Espionage Act in 1919 (two years after initial passage) during Schenck v. United States led to the famous ruling:

     “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. […] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Personally, I feel the same methodology can and should be applied to how laws are enforced. If the weight of a charge / sentence like the Espionage Act can be applied to someone like Reality Winner, then it is essential that the public be informed of all the facts surrounding the trial. If a democratic government is drawn from its citizenry, then (in my view) a well-informed and educated public is essential to a healthy and functioning democracy.” – Nick Arecibo

Images used in “Censored”

Eugene V. Debs – “Debs’ speeches against the Wilson administration and the war earned the enmity of President Woodrow Wilson, who later called Debs a “traitor to his country”.  On June 16, 1918, Debs made a speech in Canton, Ohio, urging resistance to the military draft of World War I. He was arrested on June 30 and charged with ten counts of sedition. His trial defense called no witnesses, asking that Debs be allowed to address the court in his defense.”

Censored/Monitored – The Espionage Act also gave the Postmaster General authority to impound or to refuse to mail publications that he determined to be in violation of its prohibitions.

“United States of America v. Reality Leigh Winner”


“For the defendant’s brief image, I used the top part of the document, usually a half box at the top of the first page – then just worked from that as a template for something that could be used as a flier/graphic. Most DB documents I’ve seen have used a solid line for the section containing the plaintiff / defendant, but the DB for Reality’s case looked like it used asterisks in century school book font.” – Nick Keisel-Stagnone

A Call for Artists and the Creative!


Can you volunteer your artistic skills? We need images, graphic design, memes and visual inspiration! Videographers and those of you with video editing skills, we need short campaign videos. We have footage, audio and access. Check out our current Images & Memes and Photo Album for resources or create something entirely new! We’d love to help you with direction, further resources, information or answer your questions. Just contact us!

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