Arrested Development: Bob Dylan, Held for Questioning under Suspicion of "Autism"

By Lubet, Alex | Fordham Urban Law Journal, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Arrested Development: Bob Dylan, Held for Questioning under Suspicion of "Autism"


Lubet, Alex, Fordham Urban Law Journal


This Article discusses an encounter Bob Dylan had with the law and its meaning in the context of the social constructions of mental disability, in general, and on autism in particular. I do not, need not, and should not speculate on Dylan's autism status--something few people could possibly know and that is a private matter.

On July 23, 2009, Bob Dylan was taken into custody by police in Long Branch, New Jersey, after complaints from residents that he was "suspicious" and perhaps "homeless." (1) According to arresting officer, Kristie Buble (twenty-two years old at the time of the incident), "We see a lot of people on our beat, and I wasn't sure if he came from one of our hospitals or something." (2)

Buble's remark implies that Dylan had a mental disability, rather than a physical disease. She continued, however, "He was acting very suspicious.... Not delusional, just suspicious. You know, it was pouring rain and everything." (3)

While Buble claimed later to have known who Bob Dylan was and simply not to have recognized him from photos she had seen, one of her colleagues offered a different account. After Buble asked Dylan for identification, which he was not carrying:

   He assumed she would at least recognise [sic] the name if not the
   face. But she ordered him into the back of her car and took him to
   his hotel to check his story. Then she radioed her older colleagues
   at the police station to ask if anyone knew who Bob Dylan was. "I'm
   afraid we all fell about laughing," said Craig Spencer, a senior
   officer in Long Branch, New Jersey. "If it was me, I'd have been
   demanding his autograph, not his ID. The poor woman has taken
   rather a lot of abuse from us. I offered to bring in some of my
   Dylan albums. Unfortunately, she doesn't know what vinyl is
   either." (4)

Race was also a factor:

   He was strolling along a residential street in the Latin Quarter of
   the seaside town when police received a call reporting an
   "eccentric looking old man".... It was an odd request because it
   was mid-afternoon, but it's an ethnic Latin area and the residents
   felt the man didn't fit in. Let's just say he looked eccentric. (5)

I would be remiss not to note that someone was arrested and commanded to produce identification because he did not look Hispanic. It is just too funny.

Dylan was driven to his hotel, identified, and released without charges being filed. Many reporters, readers, and commentators on the numerous online accounts of this incident were outraged that anyone could be arrested and asked for identification simply for taking a walk in the rain and being unusual or even shabby looking. It seems that Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart would have concurred. (6) In a landmark decision concerning the forced confinement of the mentally disabled, Justice Stewart wrote for a unanimous court:

   May the State fence in the harmless mentally ill solely to save its
   citizens from exposure to those whose ways are different? One might
   as well ask if the State, to avoid public unease, could incarcerate
   all who are physically unattractive or socially eccentric. Mere
   public intolerance or animosity cannot constitutionally justify the
   deprivation of a person's physical liberty. (7)

This story chronicles an important Dylan narrative that has persisted over the years, though mainly through oral tradition. Let me begin, though, with what this narrative is not.

Many authors working on Dylan pursue themes that cast Dylan as their kindred spirit or at least someone with common interests. For Seth Rogovoy, Dylan is a Jewish sage; (8) for David Pichaske, Dylan is a Midwesterner; (9) and for Steven Heine, Dylan is a Zen master. (10) Even Sean Wilentz sees Dylan as a New Yorker and fellow student of history. (11) These authors also tend to be "Dylanesque" by using language far more cleverly than their projects demand. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Arrested Development: Bob Dylan, Held for Questioning under Suspicion of "Autism"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.