Friday, September 21, 2007

Kerry Triangulates New Failure.


In a widely publicized incident, there was a confrontation between University of Florida campus police and one Andrew Meyer who may well have been intending to "provoke a scene."

Still, it's difficult to imagine that he anticipated the sheer, overwhelming and vicious nature of the assault upon his person - and his constitutional rights, which included being knelt on and tasered while handcuffed.

Video is all over the web and it is covered in many places with many different spins. But my story is not about the incident per-se, it's about the public reaction to the incident, a reaction distressingly evident in the discussion thread following the story itself.

Here's one such response:

As usual, we get a distorted synopsis from the distorted, liberal media.

This kid deserved what he got, and MORE!

There is a line between dissent and 'healthy discussion' as Kerry misspoke, and breaking the law. This kid, obviously a spoiled brat, learned a good lesson: Obey a lawful police order.

John Kerry also has a great deal to learn, because when a U.S. senator cannot distinguish between inciting a riot and a 'healthy discussion,' we're all in trouble.

Reminds me of the melee at Columbia University -- another bastion of liberal assininity.

Posted by: Ed | Sep 18, 2007 1:52:44 PM



Political Radar: Kerry Condemns Heckler Arrest

I felt obliged to add my own reaction, and then realized it was more of a post than a response, so I repeat it with some revisions and tweakings.

I come late to this story - but then, in my mind, the real story is the reaction to the story. I think the young man probably did try to "provoke an incident" in order to illustrate and provoke this very discussion.

And THIS is what it's about. Yes, the young man was provoking a response. But the specific response - that was under the control of "handlers" and the police themselves. And the response he provoked was ineffectual butt-coverage on Kerry's part and a violent police assault on the provocateur.

It does not matter that he was "disrespectful." There is no citizenship duty to respect ANYONE - unless that disrespect rises to actual violence.

And to me "resisting arrest" is not the same thing as refusing to quietly take your lumps. I saw resisting assault, and quite frankly, given the level of threat presented, I do not think the young man would have been unjustified in resorting to deadly force.

It would have been the wrong call, but police have been given passes for equivalent mistakes - that's why you can't find a black water-pistol in toy stores anymore.

Indeed, even the manner of the arrest itself - a "shock and awe" swarming of a supposed "perp" - is a tactic developed in prisons (to the best of my understanding) to safely restrain a very violent, hardened offender. It's also designed to strip the dignity from the target, to force submission and to extract a price in pain and humiliation - a lesson to inspire future compliance.

From the reactions here, the lesson has not been lost so much as taken for granted. And yet nobody on either side has asked what "rules" were in existence that would trump Andrew's constitutional right to free speech, and consultation with someone who wants to be his elected representative.

It was a not very metaphorical rape, a public punishment for a trivial "offense" of "disrespect for authority."

That itself should make you not just question, but to presume that such authority is unworthy of such respect - and more tellingly, knows what a hollow shell of pure bluster it is and how tenuous their grasp on society's willing compliance has become that their first response to a lack of immediate compliance is overwhelming force.

I find calls to treat anyone who does not immediately submit to any police command this way to be appalling. This was not so much an arrest as it was a summary judgment and execution of sentence.

It was a very effective demonstration of the respect ordinary citizens are given by the police in the United States.

I should add that, while this might well be the result of training and police doctrine, there are quite different training and doctrine sets that result in VERY respectable and appropriate security without unavoidably offending anyone's dignity, that in fact rely strongly on our social conditioning to avoid making a scene as a primary tool.

I'm pretty sure I know how the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) would have handled this, ideally. They probably would have stepped up, right at the edge of his comfort zone, and loomed at him until he ran down, simply making him aware of their presence, and their expectation that he would govern his own actions.

Then, if that were insufficient, with appropriate Sirs and polite deferences, they would have respectfully led him away - in a manner designed to be polite but inarguable - and without making an embarrassing scene for everyone.

Canadian police are not feared, nor do Canadians expect them to act with predictable violence to any challenge. Their job is to maintain the peace, not to breach it.

They ARE widely respected and trusted, even though Canadian cops are in enough violent confrontations that get in the news for the average Canadian to be aware that there is but one predictable outcome for the drunk, the stupid and the violent.

(One great advantage of the RCMP way is that if a confrontation does escalate, it's in such a way that there is no serious doubt as to who's being the ass in the equation.)

But their attitude towards the public is quite different from police here - as is the willingness to accept a degree of risk in order to resolve a situation peacefully. And yet, generally they do.

There is another fact illustrated here that has gone largely un-addressed.

The initiator of violence is the one who has lost control of the situation, and it's that sheer funk that I smell here - the idea that one weedy college student is somehow threatening our society by asking awkward, pointed questions. He was "being disrespectful" and "deserves" to be beat down for "running his mouth."

As it happens, there is no Constitutional exception to the First Amendment for speech that is rude, embarrassing, disrespectful or awkward.

Even the ranting of the clearly mad is protected speech - and there is no "right to not have to put up with it." The only constitutional remedy to offensive speech is more speech, or of course, to walk away.

Kerry - both for failing to realize that he was both in charge at the time and responsible for this outcome and for failing to acknowledge a publicly embarrassing leadership failure - has lost any remaining benefit of my doubt.

He's triangulated himself into impotence, lost any sense of command authority he may have one time had, and as such, has demonstrated his lack of qualification to be a leader, for his failure to restrain this clear abuse of authority.

And for this service, you should be thanking Andrew Meyer. He may be an idiot - but yes, he has been a very useful one.

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