The UF Tasering and the Right to Be an Asshole:
A few observations from watching three different videos of the tasering of Andrew Meyer at the University of Florida:
1. Meyer asks two reasonable questions and one tin-foil hat one. The campus cops grab him as he is passionately, but not crazily, finishing his third question.
2. The cops are rough with Meyer from the moment they touch him. And at least part of the crowd cheers the cops.
3. The speaker, John Kerry, an actual, you know, Senator, says he wants to answer Meyer's questions.
4. Meyer at one point says he'll leave if they let him up. He keeps asking, "What did I do?" No one will tell him. Perhaps one doesn't need to actually "do" anything. Once just needs to seem as if one is doing something deemed wrong. It's the simulacrum of crime, not a real one.
5. When Meyer pulls away from the cops, they tackle him and about a half dozen lay on top of him.
6. The cops discuss whether or not to taser Meyer. As Meyer begs not to be tasered, one cop says, frighteningly calmly, "Taze him." And they do.
7. At that point, you can hear people screaming for the cops to stop. And you can hear some students laughing, like they're watching Cops or Jackass or some YouTube face-plant video.
8. As he's led away, after being tasered with 10,000 volts, Meyer's worried if the cops are going to kill him.
9. The police tell Meyer he is being arrested for inciting a riot. When Meyer was speaking, it seemed the only other people standing were mostly the cops behind him. Perhaps the riot is the indignation of some students at the tasering.
10. "Don't taze me, bro" is kind of a touching throwback to hippie days when Vietnam War protesters would try to get the cops on their side. It never worked then.
To be sure, Andrew Meyer is an asshole. You get that from his writings. And if being an asshole is all that it takes for some to think you deserve a shot of electricity, well, let's march over to Fox "news" and let the voltage flow. No, no matter how many incidents of assholery are in Meyer's life, this doesn't fly. A prostitute can be raped, you know?
Yes, he did jump to the front of the line to demand to ask Kerry a question, but Meyer was tasered because he wouldn't knuckle under to the authority of the cops. He wasn't a threat, he wasn't violent, he was trying to comply (although you try doing anything rational when you're on the ground with half a dozen cops on top of you, yelling at you and an auditorium of people yelling about, some laughing at, what's being done to you), and he still got tasered.
Our country is so devoid of actual dissent and activism, so filled with citizens cowed by cops and security of all sorts treating us like criminals, that stepping out of line in the smallest way or slightly breaking decorum now seems to deserve a smackdown. Acquiescence is not only expected. It will be enforced. And so many of us are willing to participate in the enforcement, rolling our eyes and laughing at those who would dare misbehave.
Here's a story the Rude Pundit's told before that seems apropos: The Rude Pundit was at the microphone at his university back in the day. There had been a debate about free speech between former Attorney General Edwin Meese and columnist Nat Hentoff. It was one of those speaker's bureau dog and pony shows that tours college campuses: let's get two people who disagree to disagree and see the sparks fly. Hentoff had, of course, taken Meese apart in the formal debate. And then the floor was open for Q&A. Every time Meese was critically questioned, he fell back on talking points and giving props to Reagan, never really addressing the issues. When it was his turn, the Rude Pundit asked Meese about Reagan/Bush I era policies and the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. Meese didn't answer the question. So the Rude Pundit said, "You didn't answer my question." Meese danced again and the Rude Pundit insisted, "No, that's not what I'm asking," and he repeated himself.
Now, should the Rude Pundit have backed off at that moment, figuring that the fat bastard on stage wasn't gonna give a real answer? Perhaps. But the Rude Pundit was tired, even then, of politicians not giving a straight goddamn answer. So he had decided he was gonna get Meese to respond. The Rude Pundit thought, "I'm a citizen; he's a former public servant. Serve me, motherfucker."
Instead, though, the moderator walked over to take the microphone away, security started heading towards him, and a confrontation seemed imminent. The Rude Pundit even wondered if he should fight or flee, tensing up for being grabbed. Luckily, campus cops didn't have Tasers back then. Luckily, Hentoff, an old hand at these kinds of things, intervened and answered for Meese. Out of his deep respect and admiration for the Village Voice writer, the Rude Pundit sat back down.