Russ Kick, ‘Rogue Transparency Activist,’ Is Dead at 52

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Working connected his own, helium utilized the Freedom of Information Act to people suppressed documents, sometimes making front-page news.

 “I can’t absorption   wholly  connected  immoderate  1  happening  for excessively  long. My idiosyncratic   marque  is simply a mess.” 
Credit...Chris Richards

Katharine Q. Seelye

Oct. 14, 2021, 12:52 p.m. ET

On the eve of the American-led penetration of Iraq successful March 2003, the Pentagon banned media sum of the instrumentality of the remains of dormant soldiers to Dover Air Force Base successful Delaware.

By November, arsenic the decease toll rose, Russ Kick, a self-taught adept astatine digging up information, filed a petition nether the Freedom of Information Act for each the images of coffins arriving astatine Dover since the warfare began.

His petition was rejected. The subject said the prohibition was intended to support the privateness of the dead; critics called it a governmental maneuver to sanitize the war.

True to form, Mr. Kick did not instrumentality nary for an reply and filed an appeal. “I figured I was tilting astatine windmills,” he told The New York Times successful 2004.

But successful April 2004, by which clip much than 830 Americans had been killed successful Iraq and Afghanistan, his petition was granted. Mr. Kick received hundreds of photographs, mostly of flag-draped coffins, which helium posted connected his website. They rapidly recovered their mode to tv and to the beforehand pages of newspapers astir the world, bringing location the quality outgo of the struggle and touching disconnected a nationalist statement astir the usage of emotionally charged images successful wartime.

Mr. Kick, a prima successful the satellite of activistic researchers, was renowned for utilizing the Freedom of Information Act to exquisite effect. He spent 2 decades publishing tens of thousands of pages of authorities files, tribunal documents, firm memos, technological studies and covert enactment reports, each portion of a lifelong ngo to clasp authorities and institutions accountable.

He died connected Sept. 12 astatine his location successful Tucson, Ariz., astatine 52. His sister, Ruth A. Kick, confirmed the decease but declined to place the cause.


Credit...Associated Press

A self-described “rogue transparency activist” and “investigative archivist,” Mr. Kick worked connected his own, without organization support, and posted his findings connected his website. He initially called the tract the Memory Hole successful grant of the disposal chute done which the authorities successful George Orwell’s “1984” destroyed embarrassing documents; it yet became

One of his astir notable postings progressive an interior Justice Department report, written successful 2002, that criticized departmental efforts astatine diverseness hiring. Officials released a heavy redacted version; Mr. Kick downloaded the report, highlighted the achromatic redaction bars and deleted them, making the archetypal substance instantly visible.

He was among the archetypal to station documents successful full, including each 16,000 pages of the F.B.I.’s record connected the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (The bureau had released lone a fraction of them.)

“The enactment helium was doing was phenomenal,” David Cuillier, a University of Arizona prof who studies authorities transparency and public-records access, said successful an interview. “He showed that anybody successful this state could get nationalist records retired of the government, adjacent erstwhile the authorities didn’t privation to springiness them out.”

But Mr. Kick’s life’s enactment went mode beyond digging up documents.

Skeptical by quality and mistrustful of authority, helium besides produced guides and books that punctured myths, with in-your-face titles similar “50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know” (2003) and “You Are Being Lied To” (2001), updated successful 2009 arsenic “You Are Still Being Lied To.”

Despite the assertive quality of his enactment and the bold imperatives of his publication titles, Mr. Kick successful idiosyncratic was soft-spoken and introverted.

An intellectual, a bibliophile and a relentless seeker of knowledge, helium was a writer and anthologist who immersed himself successful classical literature, cuisine, quotations, the ocular arts, mysticism, old-school daiquiris and, much recently, the attraction of animals.

“I can’t absorption wholly connected immoderate 1 happening for excessively long,” he wrote connected his website. “My idiosyncratic marque is simply a mess.”

His preferred format was the anthology, successful which helium could service arsenic curator and commentator. Perhaps his best-known enactment was the magisterial multipart “Graphic Canon” series. He started with the three-volume “The Graphic Canon: The World’s Great Literature arsenic Comics and Visuals” (2012) and went connected to nutrient “The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature” (2014) and “The Graphic Canon of Crime and Mystery” (2017), a 2nd measurement of which is to beryllium published successful December.

Instead of simply reproducing the afloat texts of these classics, helium engaged successful a collaborative process with hundreds of graphic artists, commissioning caller worldly from some, similar Molly Crabapple and Robert Berry, to exemplify excerpts from each piece. In different cases, helium repurposed enactment by artists similar Will Eisner and Robert Crumb that had already been published.


“Kick’s preface to each portion introduces america to the creator and coaxes america on with enticing tidbits of antithetic accusation astir the archetypal text,” Annie Weatherwax wrote successful reviewing the archetypal 2 volumes for The Times Book Review successful 2012. “Every leafage sends you further down the rabbit hole, and earlier you cognize it, hours person passed.”

Ms. Crabapple, successful a tribute posted aft his death, called Mr. Kick “a punk-rock Virgil” whose ain transgressive, subversive enactment had guided her done a hard younker and “showed the possibilities of life.”

Mr. Kick, a rapacious reader, had absorbed galore anthologies of poesy connected an array of subjects, but helium said helium was unaware of immoderate large compendium of verses astir death. And truthful helium produced his own. His “Death Poems: Classic, Contemporary, Witty, Serious, Tear-Jerking, Wise, Profound, Angry, Funny, Spiritual, Atheistic, Uncertain, Personal, Political, Mythic, Earthy, and Only Occasionally Morbid” was published successful 2013.

“Time is ever moving out,” helium wrote successful the introduction, “and the poets cognize that this casts beingness successful an wholly antithetic airy than if we were immortal.”

Russell Charles Kick III was calved connected July 20, 1969, successful Tuscaloosa, Ala., wherever helium spent his youth. His mother, Jane (Woody) Kick, was an enforcement adjunct and aboriginal a homemaker. His father, Russell Charles Kick II, became president of the section of accounting and concern astatine Tennessee Technological University successful Cookeville; Russ enrolled there, majoring successful psychology, and graduated successful 1991.

A little aboriginal marriage, to Kimberly Gannon, ended successful divorce. Mr. Kick is survived by his sister and his mother.

As a youth, Mr. Kick vacuumed up information. His sister said successful an interrogation that they grew up surrounded by books — including a dog-eared transcript of “An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn’t” (1987), by William Wilson and Judy Jones — and played competitory rounds of Trivial Pursuit.

After college, helium started a doctoral programme successful nationalist argumentation astatine Vanderbilt University successful Nashville, wherever helium received a afloat scholarship. But helium mislaid involvement and dropped out, enrolling alternatively astatine Nashville State Technical Institute, present Nashville State Community College, to survey connection arts.

Attending the method college, from which helium graduated successful 1995, was a turning constituent successful his life, his sister said. The programme developed his innate interests and taught him however to make websites and plan books. While inactive a student, helium produced his archetypal book, “Outposts: A Catalog of Rare and Disturbing Alternative Information” (1995), which offered tidbits connected topics similar sex, drugs, censorship, and spiritual and taste extremism.

“He was a existent polymath,” Michael Ravnitzky, a nationalist records researcher and a person of Mr. Kick’s, said successful an email.

Mr. Kick, helium added, was “interested successful each taxable nether the sun, hunting down factual accusation and fictional look crossed the scope of quality existence.”

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