Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Taser Guy: Free Speech Martyr or SuperDouche?

Whoo boy, my back hurts. Lower back. It's been varying degrees of not good since mid-to late August. I think I exacerbated things this afternoon while folding shirts. Now in addition to bending down, standing up straight is a dicey proposition. But anyway. I remember how bored and annoyed I was when my brother so much as alluded to his back pain, (he tells me, "just do like ten sit-ups a day. It'll go away." What he forgets, of course, is that sit-ups are exercise, and I don't do that), so I'll quit whining about it now. [Update: I stayed in bed today, the 20th, to give my back a rest. We'll see how it feels tomorrow.]

Anyway, I've been seeing a bunch of stuff on the internets (you may have noticed that calling the internet the "internets" has become de rigueur for "hip" blogs and websites when referring to the internet, alluding, I guess, to Bush's famous verbal slip-up from the 2004 campaign; so I'm succumbing to "peer" pressure, just this once), and I wanted to share some of that stuff with y'all.

1.) Taser guy. Did you guys hear about the University of Florida student who got tazed by campus security because he was being obnoxious at a John Kerry event? Here's a video of that. After seeing it, I felt conflicted. On one hand, this guy's one of those ass-holes who go to events and ask questions primarily to hear themselves speak. There's one at almost every author signing, though never this egregious. They don't care about the answers, they just want to be the center of attention. This guy seems like that kind of guy to me. But when the campus cops arrive on the scene after he's managed half a question, standing just to one side with arms crossed as though waiting for him to ask what they might deem an "inappropriate" question, it gets my dander up. Why did the campus cops need to be there? He was being annoying, but not yet disruptive. He asks his 3 questions, all of which seemed worthwhile, if not articulately stated (though being inarticulate is still legal I believe), and then at the mention of Skull and Bones, they just start hauling him away. The crowd applauds because the punk is going away, but the question he keeps asking the cops, "Why are you doing this?" seems pertinent, and "Because you're annoying the crowd," doesn't seem like a good enough answer.

On the ground, he says, "Please don't taze me, bro." And then they taze him.

I'll spare everyone my cheap outrage. I think it was a clear overreaction on the part of the campus cops, and I think that overreaction is endemic of a more pervasive atmosphere of clamping down on speech that comes right down from the Bush administration. If it's okay to confine protestors to so-called "free speech zones", if it's okay to boot people from public places for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts, then it's not a stretch that some campus cops would think tazing an obnoxious but non-threatening questioner would be a-OK. These are not happy times for people who enjoy civil rights. Is it January 2009 yet?

On the other hand, there's this. This makes him a less-than-palatable free speech martyr, particularly the part about him barging suddenly to the front of the line. I don't know what else preceded what the video shows, but the fact that four campus cops appear alert and ready to go so soon after he takes the mic makes me think Andrew Meyer was, perhaps, up to some serious douchebaggery prior to the clips. Not that that excuses what the cops did, but it might help explain it.

One other thought: what if these cops did not have a taser? What would they have used to "subdue" Meyer? Would they have used their billy clubs a la Rodney King in front of John Kerry and all of those students and cameras? Doubtful. I think they would have done what they'd begun to do, namely carry him bodily out of the room. But when Meyer made that too difficult, the campus cops decided to pin him down and make use of the handy-dandy, non-messy, non-lethal zappy toy that makes people do what you tell them. If I dared talk back to a cop with a short fuse, would I rather be billy-clubbed into submission or tazed? Kind of a shitty choice, sure, but though a taser doesn't pose the same threat of undo concussions as a enthusiastically-wielded nightstick, I think the advent and rapid adoption of tasers by law enforcement is a real danger to we, the unarmed citizenry. (sigh) Oh, cops.

2.) The New York Times Book Review has a blog now. Called Paper Cuts, it's updated by Dwight Garner, the senior editor of the Book Review. It's cool because the blog offers a glimpse into what one important institution of the New York literary scene thinks is worth posting up about on any given day. Every now and again, Garner talks to a novelist about what music they're listening to. In this post, Garner asks Joshua Ferris, author of recent much-discussed novel (written in the first person plural -- "we did this", "we did that") "And Then We Came to the End", this question. The question I have after reading these posts, is "where are they exposed to all of this music?" Where do they get their super-awesome taste? I, for example, listen primarily to film soundtracks. This excludes me from most cool-guy music conversations, which makes me sad. Stephen King is always talking about what new music he's listening to, but a.) he's rich and could buy whatever CDs he wants, and b.) he gets whatever CDs he wants for free anyway. Is it internet radio? I know it can't be regular FM radio, so what is it? Are they just spending their money on CDs as opposed to books? Me wantee new music, the liking of which will make me cool.

I guess I'm suffering from new music withdrawal. Since downloading music off of Morpheus essentially shut down my laptop with viruses, I haven't gotten back into the practice of stealing music since the computer guy cleaned it off. Score one for the RIAA, I suppose.

3.) Did you know Richard Russo has a new book coming out next Tuesday? A review was published in the Boston Globe this past Sunday for Russo's first novel since his brilliant "Empire Falls", which won the Pulitzer in 2001. I've read everything this guy's put out and this is, for a book nerd, pretty exciting news. Pity me.

I guess that's enough for one post.

Have awesome Fridays tomorrow, all of you. I demand it.

13 comments:

harwell said...

If you want to know about music for the sake of being cool, then you probably want to go here:

http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/

Every new indie darling is discussed and reviewed in detail and a thumbs up from pitchfork is a stamp of approval among the coolios (not to be confused with THE Coolio). They'll also throw up mp3s every now and then so you can listen without buying. You can pimp out your iPod over the course of a couple months at least before you then realize how boring and uninspired a lot of that music is. But you'll be cool, dude! Woot!

I think Jon Stewart made the exact same comment about the line between protester and douchebag the other night in regards to this Florida guy. I think one could take it further and make a strong argument that in fact MOST people who get tased are probably tapping the douche supply pretty hard. But I like your "what if" question. If the cops don't have tasers this is a non-event. And, hell, if there weren't cell phones with video cameras and YouTube, this would probably be a non-event. And actually, I'm still not convinced that even with these things this isn't a non-event. The cops have weapons because the rest of our society is overflowing with weapons, and that unfortunately includes college students as we all know from recent events. With this instance though, I think one campus cop just made one bad decision. The kid didn't need to be tased, but I really have a hard time seeing this as evidence of a larger problem at hand. Because again - without the internets is this even news, let alone something worth politicizing?

I think this story has less to do with what the kid was asking and more to do with how he was asking it, less to do with free speech and more to do with aggressive, douchebaggy speech. If the kid had been asking Bush if he could literally kiss his ass and had done it in the same way with which he asked Kerry critical questions, I expect the results would have been the same.

Now, about your back. If you find a miracle cure let me know. I'd like to use it.

Craig Moorhead said...

Your back: it probably does come down to core exerices and maybe the bed you sleep on. Do those sit ups, Crane, or risk never picking up your grandkids.

Music: Also, CMJ.com is good for reviews. KEXP.org streams their radio programs, which is cool AND they have a Song of the Day podcast that will load up your iPod with bleepy buzzy lo-fi jamz before you can say something cranky and curmudgeonly.

Taz-hole: when I read his website was called "theandrewmeyer.com", I stopped caring about what happened to him.

blankfist said...

Crane, have you seen this yet? There's also a part II you can watch. Interested to hear your thoughts.

I think it's clear this guy Meyer is an utter douche. He's been known in the past to do stunts similar to this to draw attention to him. He's probably a Seib on the tenth degree. He's probably a real jerk and no one likes him. He's probably the real Harasshole. With all that said, when did being a jerk become illegal? To think it started with the Bush Administration is wrong. We're worse off now than we've ever been in our lifetimes, I think, in terms of it getting close to becoming a police state, and it's been like this for a long time. People think with simple, popular concision, which is why you can imagine why Germany gave into the Nazi party, or that America thought it okay to have waterfountains for whites and "coloreds", and why "Communist Sympathizers" were imprisoned and blacklisted for ideas. Our government should be set up to protect us from popular groupthink, and that's where liberties need to be protected, I believe, so even if we change our group minds on what is the popular "thing" to be against, at least we're protected from having action being taken against us. Today, I can walk through the streets saying I'm a Communist Sympathizer and I couldn't get myself arrested because no one cares anymore. I think this has nothing to do with us being more enlightened now that we were during the McCarthy era - I just think public think changes.

I could go on for a bit longer, but I think it may be wasted thoughts. I'll just leave it with this: Woot!

nathan said...

I've been watching this UofF thing for a week. The guy is a free speech martyr AND a superdouche.

Isn't that always the way it turns out though.

harwell said...

Nathan just called Jesus a "superdouche."

Anonymous said...

First of all I think the guy's questions were fine. Problem was that he chose to ask his question at the end of the Q&A session - and instead of asking the questions quickly and concisely - he used it as a platform to spread his ideas. By that time - the cops were quickly there to "do their job" which is to keep "order". Finish by 9pm - finish by 9pm at the dot. In other words this guy overstayed his welcome within the context of the event. Conformity or death! Of course, the drooling Hitler lovers at Fox were just loving it - wanting TASER nation to knock off all "Anti-Americans".

Ok - for that he may been a "douche" but was the level of response of the pigs warranted? And yes, cops are pigs for the man. They are there to protect property and the elite. In other less developed countries they are the first people you try to distance yourself from - how could it be any different in the US? Just more advanced with manners. Ask yourself a question - do police really protect you? I sure as hell hope so! But, in my few instances - I've felt that I've needed a lawyer present just in dealing with these people.

And - what about the students that just laughed and sat there? Maybe their grandparents were extras during the filming of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. I think overall many of the younger Americans are ill-informed, spoiled, reactionary numbnuts who arrogantly believe that our way is best! AMERICA, FUCK YEAH! Yes, the US educational system is working!

Furthermore, I believe Kerry is a bonafied wimp. He could have jumped out there to stop it - but instead stood on the stage like a zombie. Well, since Americans are nothing but instinct noawdays (no brains and no guts except to blow up or rape someone) - they were able to smell the weak from 100 miles away.

After a performance like this you start to wonder if those neo-facists who swift-boated Kerry were actually telling the truth.

Kerry is the manifestation of why American liberals are impotent, a cadre of business class sellouts and ineffectual and will never stop imperialism and usually love uping the ante on wars (watch when they win for an escalation with Iran). Their attempt to reform capitalism will only brew new neo-fascist reactions that would make Hitler and Mussolini envious.

THINGS TO UNDERSTAND

1) There is no FREE MARKET nor can we ever have one. It's impossible, untenable. Go to the root of it and study the history of capitalism and what it took for it to gain prominence.

2) The rich or people who benefit from the capitalist system use the "state" and its monopoly on violence to push for greater profits and new markets. The CIA and military is the tool used to get there. This is the case with EVERY state, including Venenzuela which has its own elite class - Chavistas.

3) Most right wingers who are libertarian are for the end of government as a kind of "oppressive force" to the liberties of man/woman - but have no problem with runaway, unbridled capitalism and "free markets", a powerful military appratus, and suspect immigration controls. They are useful allies in the fight for civil liberties but not much else.

4) You CAN be against the US/World Capitalist structure and also NOT support Islamic regimes (just because they are fighting against imperialism)nor state capitalist countries like CHINA and RUSSIA. It doesn't have to be one or the other.

5) I think that the costs are outweighing the benefits within our commodity based system and we as a species need to devise a better system or even non-system in the next 50 years of living in order to survive. This is imperative.

6) For reality sake - I believe Bush and co. should be tried at the Hague for War Crimes (like Milosovic) and placed in jail for life. Why? For the murdering of 1mill Iraqis based on fucking lies. Not to mention, I think people in Iran, China and other countries must rise up, replace their fundamentalist state capialist neo-liberal regimes - and start on a new project that is egalitarian, green and decentralized. Where people matter most. All people. And too bad for people who like their low prices at Walmart. Prices will reflect the true damage done to the environment and other countries labor force, etc.. We'll just have to think of another way to live, consume, and interact. To abolish the wage.


- PAPA

PS - They say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one.

nathan said...

Sean,

Now now...I think there was plenty that Jesus would forbid us from saying. Therefore, he was a censor...and reason dictates then, that censor does NOT equal superdouche.

nathan said...

Also...Paul, do you teach your kids to call police officers "pigs"?


I prefer "bacon" or "motherfucker" when instructing my toddler, but hey, it's a free country.

Harwell said...

Nathun,

Oh so now you're calling Paul a superdouche???

Anonymous said...

Yes, if I was in trouble I would call them to help - only because my taxes pay their salaries. And, because we live in a capitalist society with structurally created violence based on class antagonisms. Basically, our rotten system breeds or empowers fuckwads.

Look, some people with a super-hero complex or passionate about civil service can be admirable qualities. But, these "heroes" are few and far between.

Lately, I've been meeting some former soliders back from Afghanistan and Iraq who are becoming cops. Talk about bringing the war home.

But, for the most part - yes - they are pigs. Bacon is just too benign.

Case in point: read about the history of police -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police

"Development of modern police was contemporary to the formation of the state, later defined by sociologist Max Weber as detaining "the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force," primarily exercised by the police and the military. Despite its differences, this definition was not completely alien to the Marxist definition of the state as a "repressive apparatus" guarding the bourgeoisie's interests."

More on Police Power....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_power


OTHER THINGS TO REALIZE:

Some great historical facts from Kristian Williams book, "OUR ENEMIES IN BLUE."


DID YOU KNOW....

That the Police in US have linkages to the long history of American racism, maintaining white supremacy, supporting capitalists against workers, and repressing protest?

Also, on the institutional side we see the Police as agents of ‘machine politics’ in cities, through professionalization and unionization, through the recent emergence of the police as an autonomous political force

The first moves towards modern policing in the US was in Southern cities, such as Charleston and New Orleans, who were apprehensive over the prospect of slave revolts. Laws that instructed patrollers in Charleston to ‘use their utmost endeavor to prevent all caballings amongst negroes, by dispersing of them when drumming or playing, and to search all negro houses for arms or other offensive weapons..’ bear an uncanny, not so coincidental resemblance to the practice of contemporary policing of ghettos.

Furthermore, as the police developed in tandem with urban industrial America, they acted as instruments of political machines which dominated city politics, and employed their resultant political strength to run extortion rings and other enriching practices.

This began to change with the progressive assault on machine politics, which demanded ’professionalism’, including higher educational standards for police, and greater bureaucratic centralization.

But the Police Unions also became a more potent force in producing an autonomous police force. Police unions cemented an alliance between those at the top of the police force and officers against outside interference, and helped them lobby city governments for improved wages and larger arsenals.

More recently, police have emerged as an autonomous political force that can shape municipal politics. Trends of militarization and community policing have expanded the capability and sophistication with which the police can act.

All of this occurs in the context of a highly unequal society along racial and economic lines, with the police actively participation in the maintenance of these inequalities.

In the cases of racial and class inequality, the shift of repressive power activity from private forces such as the Ku Klux Klan and private security guards to the police involves more a shift in the locus of authority than in the function of the exercise of force.

Racial profiling simply offers a more modern name to practices that date back to the Charleston slave patrol; the crime-fighting function, rather than the racism, is the more modern innovation. For the working class, “the law creating the Pennsylvania State Constabulatory intended the new body ‘as far as possible, to take the place of the police now appointed at the request of various companies.’ … Whereas strikers had previously had their heads cracked by guards in private employ or police leased to the company, which comes to the same thing, they increasingly had the honor of having their heads cracked by impartial public servants, authorized by the government and paid for by the tax..[thus] at least some of the costs shared by the workers themselves.” On no small number of occasions, police actively collaborated with right wing vigilantes to repress African Americans or workers.

The history of policing protests presents a similar picture.

Massive demonstrations of force, employed in the nineteenth century, to ‘escalated force’, in which force was only used as a last resort (although when used, as at the 1968 Democratic Convention, it could turn into a police riot), to negotiated management, where the police work with protesters to arrange for sedate displays of civil disobedience (this last technique was exploded by the WTO protesters in Seattle, who refused to settle for a managed display of dissent).

All these techniques, however varied in the amount of force deployed, seek to neutralize the impact of protesters.

Additionally, the many efforts of the police to spy on and infiltrate movements are noted.

Far from the liberal notion of protest playing a role in democratic debate, occasionally disrupted by the excesses of particular political regimes, lies the reality of the policing perspective, deeply suspicious of and trying to undermine or neutralize movements for social change.

The most recent phase of policing is characterized by the seemingly contradictory impulses of militarization (with its increasing firepower and increasingly sophisticated capacity to deploy massive numbers of officers) and community policing (in which the cops learn to get along with the communities they are embedded in). Both are shaped by the philosophy of counterinsurgency; efforts to nip potentially disruptive movements in the bud. Communities are enlisted as the spies and collaborators of the police, while recalcitrant face the spectacle of the SWAT team. Those hoping to transform American society should note that the police are now far more sophisticated in their understanding of social movements than the obsessive focus on ‘outside agitators’ of the sixties.

Power is knowledge man....

- PAPA

blankfist said...

Did anyone ask Paul for his Vagina Monlogue? In any event, because this is like the new millen collective/myspace for everyone, here's the link I promised you paul.

cop shoots burnt injured man

The editing is attrocious! You've been warned.

blankfist said...

Crane, your God is going to prison! Not jail. Prison.

harwell said...

Stephen King is going to prison???

Finally.

I'll say it again:

Finally.

(heath = superdouche)