September 20, 2007

Andrew Meyer Kerfuffle

A couple of words on the Andrew Meyer media kerfuffle.

For those of you who missed the story (not sure how you could have) a guy made a ruckus at a John Kerry event and when he refused to comply with the authorities at the scene he was forcibly removed and then, as he continued to both resist and act in a combative way towards police, he was tased.

I am always very wary of excessive use of force by authorities. I think that when we give the state and police too much free rein they will naturally, eventually, squelch individual freedoms. That said, it is a function of police to keep the peace. The laws they enforce are often concerned with protecting your individual freedom from being trampled by another person’s individual freedom. In the case of Andrew Meyer, I’m afraid he crossed the line from expressing himself to convincing the people at that forum that they were possibly in danger from him.

I quote from this story.

“For a question to be met with arrest, not to mention physical violence, is completely unacceptable in the United States, especially in the halls of education,” Mr Dictor said.

I agree completely with that statement. But this is not what I am seeing in these videos.

I’ll let others argue the evidence that Meyer went to the event specifically to cause trouble. But I will tell you what I see that differs from Mr. Dictor’s statement. Meyer didn’t really seem to have a question. He attempted to hijack the forum, and claimed he had three questions. But after he ran on in a manic fashion for a while and finally uttered something like a question, he refused to give Kerry the opportunity to respond. Eventually he degenerated into conspiracy theory and someone decided he’d taken up enough of people’s time. I don’t know if police asked him to stop, but I doubt he would have heard them; they started to remove him. He played to the crowd (who appeared to be happy to see him go) and was combative with police, even though he claimed he was cooperating. Once they had him on the ground, they tried to reason with him. It did seem like he would start to cooperate at first, after they threatened to tase him. Then suddenly, he started to fight with them again and they tased him.

Also, throughout, he claimed he was being arrested when clearly they were moving to eject him.

Key points here:

  • He hijacked the forum. You have a right to free speech, but you don’t have a right to be rude, obnoxious, and waste other people’s time1. He had plenty of time to say something dramatic if that’s all he wanted. He could have asked a question and listened to the answer. Instead he escalated the situation, and to my eyes it appeared intentional.
  • The original shaky-cam obscured the extent to which he was fighting the police. He was not cooperating. It doesn’t take a genius to know what’s going to happen if you don’t cooperate with the police. But even if you didn’t know that, you can’t claim to be cooperative and continue to scream and fight.
  • What was your point? Andrew Meyer didn’t say anything that you can’t already read on the Internet. He didn’t reveal any shocking truth that was being hidden from society. He didn’t risk getting tased to bring you some heroic message. If he had been standing on a street corner yelling that stuff, nobody would have cared, except the neighbors — so this wasn’t about free speech.

In conclusion, I am not going to say that the police couldn’t have handled this better. But they were in a pretty tough situation, because this guy was acting dangerous. It really appears he just wanted attention. Well, he’s gotten it. But let’s give him the right kind of attention; he deserves our scorn. There are legitimate complaints about our current government, and all Andrew Meyer did was make people who have complaints seem crazy. That’s not the way you raise awareness, it wasn’t necessary in this case, and it hurts, rather than helps.

Mr. Meyer, I don’t know if the cops should have tased you, but it certainly looked like you deserved it.

One more note: how this story has played out is an interesting example of our current Internet/media culture. People were outraged that he was tased, and the first video was really unclear. But we’ve had the chance to see different views of the same event, and see the extent to which he was fighting with police. That’s a good thing. But we see in the online media cycle and the initial CNN saturation that this video got that this is now the age of attention junkies. Act outrageously enough and you’ll get plenty of people giving you sympathy; at least until the details are revealed.

I was really happy to hear Keri on WSAR this morning criticising Meyer. I miss her show, not being able to listen to it here at work. It was the first I heard someone in the professional media actually cutting through all the BS surrounding this story.


1 Well actually you do. This came out wrong. See later post. I really mean that you don’t have the right to turn any venue into a forum for your rudeness. There is a balance to be found between your individual rights and others.

Posted by James at September 20, 2007 11:37 AM
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Comments

Wow, James, if your daughters are rude and obnoxious do you beat them?

Posted by: David Grenier at September 20, 2007 11:48 AM

Are you trying to tell me the government should treat citizens like children?

Posted by: James at September 20, 2007 12:11 PM

BTW: If Andrew Meyer is 10 years old, and those two police officers were his parents, then I apologize for my confusion.

Posted by: James at September 20, 2007 12:17 PM

It is actually possible to ask a pointed question at a political rally without also behaving like a disruptive asshole. Andrew Meyer could have defused that situation at *any* moment, and probably could even have gotten an answer to his question if he had conducted himself accordingly.

There is one person responsible for Andrew Meyer getting arrested and tasered. His name is Andrew Meyer.

Posted by: Chuck S. at September 20, 2007 12:52 PM

Meyer was definitely being obnoxious and trying to cause a scene. He deserved to be arrested.

That said, six police officers could have easily restrained and removed him from the auditorium without using a taser. In my opinion that part was overkill.

Posted by: Mike at September 20, 2007 1:13 PM

I wrote about this on a discussion forum last night, so I was interested to read your opinion btw James. I think we came to fairly similar conclusions. I reprinted my discussion forum article on my blog if you are interested.

Posted by: Chuck S. at September 20, 2007 1:27 PM

Also, just say no to CNN and other junk TV. I'm sure my blood pressure went down when I started getting my news from other sources.

Posted by: Mike at September 20, 2007 1:32 PM

Something else I didn't mention above. When I saw this the first time I thought it was ridiculous that the gut was tasered after they already had him down. I was pretty outraged.

After I saw more video of the event, I got really pissed off. I hate being manipulated by dishonest people with an agenda, whether they're in the government or elsewhere. And this whole thing reeks of insincere manipulation.

There are police overreaction stories *at least once a day on Reddit* which are far more convincing than this story.

In the second video, around 1:50 or so, is when he starts getting belligerent again yelling "get the fuck off me!" as they are restraining him, and that's when he tried to get up again. After they told him they would taser him. What happens next at 1:59? Taser.

I don't want police to taser people. But you can only remove someone peacefully if they cooperate.

If conscientious people don't object to behavior like this, we'll just go to our respective corners and shout: Down with the police! vs. Protesters are crazy moonbats! And dissenters lose.

Posted by: James at September 20, 2007 1:41 PM

The one thing I felt fairly sure of when I finally saw the video in its entirety - that he wasn't there to ask a question. He wanted to make sure everyone watched his little altercation on youtube, and he stretched out the beginning as long as he could to ensure that everyone would have time to get their cameras running.

He milked his x minutes of fame for all they were worth, and then some. His cries of "ow! ow!" reminded me of the way NBA players act when they've received a minor foul - "I want to pour on the dramatics and make sure I get my free throws!"

Posted by: Julie at September 20, 2007 2:08 PM

"Something else I didn't mention above. When I saw this the first time I thought it was ridiculous that the gut was tasered after they already had him down."

This was my initial reaction, also. Bob rightly pointed out that we didn't know the entire story because we didn't know what led up to this.

I was pretty pissed off to know that he's some sort of "merry prankster" (though I doubt he knows who the Merry Pranksters were) who actively sought to create a disturbance so he could add it to the many videos he has of himself doing similar stupid shit.

What an asshat.

Posted by: Patti M. at September 20, 2007 2:13 PM

Just for the record, if our daughters are rude and obnoxious, they do not get positive reinforcement. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, they get their TV taken away (because I figure that's the model for the behavior) after they're told how disappointed and embarrassed I am by their behavior.

I've seen the headlines for this story but I only read one story about it a day or two ago (whenever it happened), and that story implied that the kid had set the incident up. I haven't seen any videos or read further. I'm generally opposed to violence, but there are situations where you need to physically restrain somebody to protect others. I think this meets those criteria. A taser seems like a relatively safe way to remove somebody who's a danger to the people who are trying to remove him.

And I'm with Mike -- if you just turn the crap off, the people don't get the attention. The trick is getting everybody to turn the crap off, and demand decent media.

Posted by: Maggie at September 20, 2007 2:40 PM

I watch a lot of this crap when I'm working at home. (I prefer sitcom reruns on TVland, but during certain hours all they show is Gunsmoke.) Strangely enough, I find that the background noise helps me concentrate.

What got me about the frequent, long-winded, yet extremely shallow TV coverage of this incident was the initial spin. I had already read that this kid had a history of pranking, but evidently the professional journalists (Boston and Providence stations) that I watch were completely unaware of it. They were still describing the scene as a case of police brutality even though the full video was already available on youtube and you could see that he knew what he was doing.

A few years ago, say in October 2001 up until Katrina, I believe the coverage would have been very different. The tone would have been "look at these lunatics who follow John Kerry around with their conspiracy theories - why can't they just blindly agree with the rest of us." Now the tone is "look at this poor kid who is attacked when he dares to ask serious questions."

Posted by: Julie at September 20, 2007 2:55 PM

I loved the picture of the campus protest that graced pate A2 of my Boston Globe the next day.

From the same story linked above:

----
Students at the university organised a protest yesterday and marched on the police station shouting “Don’t Tase me, bro” and demanding that stun guns were banned from campus.
----

We've had the March of the Penguins. We have now also had the March of the Pinheads.

Marching on campus is all well and good when it's something worthy--say, divesting from South Africa, racial preducice, etc. Did these sheep realize they were an extended part of this moron's "Don't tase me bro" YouTube video?

Again, I say: asshats.

Posted by: Patti M. at September 20, 2007 3:16 PM

As you can see, my spelling has been negatively affected since I've been tased.

Pity me and put me on YouTube, won't you?

Posted by: Patti M. at September 20, 2007 3:17 PM

As Pattis stated I was dubious of this from the start. When i saw the first video my first thought was " I bet he deserved it". I think what I've learned since then has proven me right. As far as when to use a taser goes, he was not going to allow them to drag him out of there without a fight. In years past they would have gone at him with batons. He should feel fortunate that all he has are a couple of burn marks and not many broken bones. the cops did their jobs and in my opinion did it well. They tried to get him out of there with as little as possible trouble. He's the onewho wouldn't comply.

David- what do you suggest? That they allow the jackass to throw a fit on the floor and delay the forum until he grows up? Charge a US Senator (in which case the secret service detail that I'm sure Kerry has would probably have shot him)?

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at September 20, 2007 3:30 PM

You know, that's nothing to fool with. That kid put himself in real danger.

I rememer an incident from an insurance company my sister & I worked for. A few years before I started there, but while my sister worked there, Ted Kennedy came to the company to speak.

Now, remember--both of his brothers have been shot to death by loonies.

The company photographer--who really wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed--clibmed up on a desk to get a better photo and was tackled by the Secret Service.

Dumb. Don't do shit like that, or like what this moron did. Had he continued on down the aisle, he might have put his life in danger.

Where are his parents, please?

Posted by: Patti M. at September 20, 2007 4:00 PM

One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is that the whole arrest was pretty much illegal. The officers should have told him to leave or be escorted out, when he resisted they should have placed him under arrest. It was poorly handled in every way. The police actually escalated that event. An officer is not supposed to lay his hands on you unless he places you under arrest first. I don't recall them ever mirandizing this guy, or officially arresting him. They just walked up behind him, grabbed him and dragged him off.

So, you can't claim resisting arrest when an arrest was not taking place. You can claim disregarding an officer, or something else. He was an ass, but I can't fault him for feeling his rights were being infringed upon. I can fault him for not having the common sense to just comply with the officers and fight it in court later.

"An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right to use force in defending himself as he would in repelling any other assault and battery." (State v. Robinson, 145 ME. 77, 72 ATL. 260).

A police state requires you to unconditionally accept police actions. Our laws claim that resisting arrest is acceptable in the case of illegal arrest. So that means it's all up to interpretation, really. When we forget these kinds of protections just because someone is being an ass, we are treading dangerous territory. Honestly, people get more worked up at school board meetings!

It's interesting to compare this to the types of things that happened in the 60's. I guess, these cynical days, Abbie Hoffman wouldn't have had a chance.

Posted by: Rui at September 20, 2007 4:57 PM

He was claiming he was being arrested, but the officers weren't necessarily arresting him at first. They wanted him to leave. Did they say "you're under arrest?" All I can hear is him starting to scream "why are you arresting me?"

I'll give you that they did seem to put their hands on him awfully quickly. They should have asked him to leave verbally first. Instead they gently grabbed him by the elbows -- but it wasn't gentle for long because he started to fight with them.

I'll look into what lawyers are saying about this. However, saying Abbie Hoffman wouldn't have had a chance ignores that not only did this guy his couple of minutes with the senator, he's all over the news and YouTube.

Posted by: James at September 20, 2007 5:19 PM

Sorry; I hate to respond without reading all the other comments first, but I don't have time to read them right now.

I just had this conversation with someone here at the office, and we both said the same thing James has. This is the kid's fault, not the cops' fault. It's become a fad of late (just as with the "Rev" Yearwood) to challenge the authorities, cross the line into inappropriate behaviour, get them to respond aggressively, record it, and upload it to YouTube.

Sorry, this is just "dumbf---s behaving badly". And the dumbf---s, in this case, are NOT the cops.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at September 20, 2007 5:40 PM

In 1968, three anti-segregation protesters were killed by local police at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg.

Two years later, the Ohio National Guard killed four students and injured nine more at Kent State in as a result of protests against the bombing of Cambodia, which Nixon had tried to keep secret. Some of the victims were bystanders on their way to class.

Ten days later, two students were killed and twelve injured by state and local police at Jackson State College in Mississippi. One of the students that was killed was on his way home from work.

Not tased, but shot. Dead.

So I guess I am having a hard time understanding what's so "cynical" about "these days." As annoying as the credulous, nonstop coverage is, I think it's pretty damn nice that we're now in a place, mentally, where getting zapped can get you an "outrage of the week" spot on every newscast in the USA. In Abbie Hoffman's day, students could get killed by the "government" just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. (And if they were black, their deaths would barely get acknowledged in the national news.)

Posted by: Julie at September 20, 2007 5:52 PM

(I'm not saying it's damn nice that this kid's story upstaged more important things. I'm saying it's damn nice that it's been so long since we've seen a mass-murder in the US as the result of student protests.)

Posted by: Julie at September 20, 2007 5:56 PM

I'm not sure this qualifies as an illegal arrest. They were trying to escort him out. we don't really hear what they were saying, but it certainly appears that they were trying to get him to peacefully desist from his disruptive behavior. When he refused and became more agitated, they tried to escort him out. At that point, he refused to listen or cooperate. He began flailing about and trying to pull away from them, not with the purpose of leaving peacefully, but with the purpose of continuing his rant.

As you saw, three officers trying to remove him peacefully were unsuccessful. Trying to move someone struggling like that is going to get someone injured; most likely an officer. Tasering him enabled them to move him without anyone being seriously injured.

Also, did you see him after he was out of the room? He was shouting to the cameras that they were going to turn him over to the government and the government was going to kill him. He also let them know that people knew he was there. That's classic movie stuff when you want the bad guy to know that if you were to disappear, you'll be missed. So, either he is super-delusional or was putting on a very good act.

And I'm pretty sure the police don't need to read you your rights to taser you. If they feel the situation is dangerous, they can take the action first to defuse the situation and then read him his rights. What would happen if he had a gun? Would they read him his rights before disarming him? I realize that is an extreme example and I'm not trying for a slippery slope argument. But I think they can defuse the situation before making an arrest.

It also appeared to me that they were trying to give him an opportunity to go without getting arrested. I don't think wanted to arrest him. They wanted to avert the disturbance and move on.

There are instances of abuse of power out there. I don't think this was one.

Posted by: briwei at September 20, 2007 6:14 PM

Speaking of secret service stories (sorry I don't have anything to contribute about the legality of the restraint of this person, I simply don't know), my cousin went to school with Susan Ford, and they were at a pool party together. My cousin, like Susan Ford, had long straight blonde hair, 70's style. My cousin's boyfriend playfully dove in and pulled my cousin under the water, and was quickly hauled out of the pool and restrained by the secret service. They had mistaken my cousin for Susan Ford, and thought my cousin's boyfriend was drowning her. I don't believe there was any litigation, screaming "ow," or accusations about the government arresting somebody. But it's a really good point that Patti makes about political figures and the secret service. It's stupid to behave in a threatening manner around public figures, because the police are very alert and will respond quickly. It is a good lesson in general to learn to engage in polite public discourse. But finally it does not seem that this person was intending to engage in discourse at all -- it does seem he intended to cause trouble and be videotaped. It's a shame he's getting any attention at all. I guess YouTube scams are a new variety of internet scam we're going to have to get used to filtering.

Posted by: Maggie at September 20, 2007 9:15 PM

You all realize, of course, that this meathead "wins" because we're talking about him, which, whether he knows of this particular discussion or not, feeds his infantile craving for attention.

Somebody get him a wet nurse--stat.

Posted by: Patti M. at September 21, 2007 8:27 AM

It's true that we're giving him attention, but only to mock him mercilessly in the hope that his credibility is ruined forever.

It'd be different, maybe, if it had been a clever, funny, meaningful, or creative prank. The attention would help him out and he could maybe pull off a few more. Instead, he'll be known as a pathetic drama queen (king? prince? baron?) and never be taken seriously again.

Posted by: Julie at September 21, 2007 10:36 AM

Speaking of being stupid in your quest for attention:

"She said it was a piece of art and she wanted to stand out on career day," Pare said. "She was holding what was later found to be playdough."

Friday, September 21, 2007
MIT student arrested at Logan in bomb scare

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/city_region/breaking_news/2007/09/mit_student_arr.html

Posted by: Patti M. at September 21, 2007 1:00 PM

Whoa, a hairdo worthy of Naruto.

Posted by: Chuck S. at September 21, 2007 4:04 PM

Hey, maybe she's really into manga. Who knows?

Posted by: Patti M. at September 24, 2007 8:29 AM

That cop is totally flipping off a circuit board.

Posted by: James at September 24, 2007 8:46 AM

Hmm...passive-aggressive? I like it!

Posted by: Patti M. at September 24, 2007 8:49 AM

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