Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Don’t Taze Me, Bro

By now most of you probably have seen thispathetic (but still pretty funny) video of the young man from the University of Florida who rambled on and disrupted the illustrious Senator, John Kerry during a speaking engagement on Monday. Since then, the student and the video have been the butt of many a talk show host’s joke--and some say this may have been his intent all along.

Whatever may be the facts in this case--whether he planned to get on TV or whether he actually was disturbed by conspiracy theories regarding John Kerry’s membership in that "evil" organization for world domination, Skull and Bones, I don’t know. But his behavior and that of Code Pink at last week’s hearings with Petraus--aside from being great comic relief--tell us something important about the left. They point to a kind of childish petulance in them.

Forget all the arguments about "free speech"--who was denying this young gentleman the freedom to talk? He asked many questions--and in a most rude and irritating way. He was tolerated far too long. The audience is clapping in the video--not because they like him or his questions--but because someone is finally doing something to shut him up. His line of questioning was going no where and it was time for him to sit down and yield the floor to someone else. When someone has been invited to speak, as was John Kerry, the members of the audience do not have the freedom to shout him down and deprive the rest of those present the opportunity of hearing him speak. Only the left could imagine such a right. One may, of course, say whatever he likes about the speech on his own time. But the freedom of speech surely does not guarantee one the right to an audience.

But this is to be expected from a generation raised by children of the 60s. When we learned about the freedom of speech, it was always in the context of those protest marches of our parents. We were not taught anything about civil and enlightened discourse--rather it was always about marching around shouting with signs and looking menacing. That’s what I remember from every textbook I ever encountered on the "freedom of speech" question. It was either that or porn.

I remember well my freshman year in college and my first, last, and only experience with protesting. I joined the College Republicans (that’s probably shocking, I know) and a group of freshmen members were suckered, I mean recruited to go and protest outside of the local office of the district’s Democratic Congressman about proposed tax increases. Being young and inexperienced, I thought this was what politics was all about so I was eager to join the effort. The handful of us spent several hours diligently working on signs and slogans. We marched down to the office (since none of us had cars--this took awhile) and we stood outside of the office holding signs and encouraging passing cars to "honk" if they didn’t want their taxes raised. Of course, most people "honked"--but what else came of it? Eventually, a staff person for this Congressman approached our band of protesters and began peppering us with questions. He cited facts and figures, statistics, and quotes from leading politicians and so forth. We attempted to argue with him on the basis of principle, but we were too green. We were just kids and we really didn’t know anything. Our instincts were correct, but we needed ammunition. There had to be a better way of going about this thing. We knew we were beat.

When I went home that evening I had a pile of neglected homework facing me. I gulped down a hasty dinner and calculated that I had spent something like 10 hours that week on this fool’s errand when I could have been learning something instead. So I decided that at 18 years of age, I probably had to do a bit of thinking on things before I again attempted to swim among the sharks. I needed better gear and, more important, a different method. Shouting and marching were pretty ineffective when push came to shove. Our College Republicans never planned another protest (as least while I was there) and instead, we focused on inviting speakers, learning about the issues, and well--to put it bluntly--growing up. I realize that the right has its share of protester/activist types, but there is a reason why you don’t see too many "tazer boys" on our side. At some point, most of us learn that this kind of thing is a game for kids.

Discussions - 24 Comments

The one good thing is that I've heard a lot of real outrage about the amount of coverage this insignificant incident has received.


I know you are busy, but you should post more often. You write some of the most level-headed and reasonable stuff I have seen on the internet. As we say in the Naval Services, BZ!

This guy doesn't represent "the left" any more than Larry Craig represents "the right."


Yes,protests and marches are childish and never get anything accomplished.

Please tell that to the people involved with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with MLK, Jr.

...Or the students at Tiananmen Square

Or the Ukraine people who took part in the Orange Revoution.

I'm sure they'll find such matters "a game for kids".

Maybe, to paraphrase the "illustrious" Chruchill, conservative college students just simply have no heart.

This is a brilliant post. Political "activism" has a place, but that place should be small indeed.

"Political 'activism' has a place, but that place should be small indeed."

If I were a Democrat, David, I would be thrilled to see this comment on a conservative website. One reason why the liberals run this country is that they are far more activist than we are.

There is an enormous difference between a legitimate demonstration and the punk who confronted Kerry the other day. Just because some people find both equally distasteful and equally a waste of time doesn't mean it's true. A demonstration reminds the public that there are people who feel strongly on our side. When, a day or a week later, they see a story on TV about a leftist demonstration, perhaps they won't be so impressed, remembering that anti-statists, anti-pacifists, or whatever have their demonstrators too -- and better-behaved ones. If they see this level of conviction only on one side, they lose confidence, in subtle ways, in the side that doesn't make itself seen and heard. They also become less willing to speak out -- perhaps even among their own families or acquaintances.

The Democratic aide who tried to intellectually slap down Julie and the Republican demonstrators -- apparently with success -- should not have scared or discouraged anyone. He should have been anticipated and answers should have been ready. To the extent the encounter was embarrassing to the young Republicans, they should have considered it a learning experience, not a demoralizing experience or an excuse to draw back into their shells. While it is very important to learn from speakers and study whatever issues we feel strongly about, it is also both educational and politically productive to demonstrate. Certainly this shouldn't take up much time, but
most college students waste a lot of time.

There are also other kinds of aggressive activism besides picketing in front of an office. But my guess is that many people who think picketing in front of an office is silly will
find excuses for not doing much of anything else, either, except going to a conservative lecture now and then.

6: "Interested," that's an excellent point. It is usually best not to extrapolate from one's own, minuscule, not necessarily typical experience to a whole category. Julie appears to dismiss and despise all political demonstrations just because one went sour, which is just silly. Even her experience should not have been considered entirely negative. After all, most of the motorists honked. (I would assume it was a surprisingly large number, not "most," but that's a quibble). Some of them may have contacted the congressman or a senator because they saw kids demonstrating against tax hikes. One or two may have written a letter to the editor. Another may have sat down with a neighbor, or a college-age son or daughter, and tried to explain big government and free enterprise. A few others may have felt better for seeing these active kids, after being insulted by some liberal in an argument, or losing an argument with a liberal. Someone else may have decided: Yes, I'll go to the next City Council meeting after all and make a comment on a related issue. To view a political activity purely in terms of one's own immediate experience, and not in terms of its possible impacts on others, is frankly a failure to apply political imagination. And if there's one thing Republicans and conservatives -- damned near all of us, may I add -- sorely need, it's more political imagination.

Regardless of what he was saying--and I do agree that he was being an unnecessary annoyance--the officers did not have a reason to taze him, in my opinion. He was already cuffed and on the floor; all he was doing was being loud-mouthed. Tazing at that point was a bit over the line.

Utter, unadulterated BS. The guy's previous behavior, before he was on the floor, was clearly very determined resistance. They had every right to zap him, hard.

In addition, being loud-mouthed at that point is further evidence of resistance, and of possible physical violence. Keep in mind, too -- this is a big kid.

Actually, I'm with those who think the guy staged the whole setup so that he could get talked about on late-night television. This isn't about the 60s protest generation; their kids are long grown. This is the product of today's celebrity-made culture, in which, thanks to YouTube, anyone with a camcorder can be a star.

From David Frisk: "One reason why the liberals run this country..."

Say again?

Mr. Frisk - I'd be resisting too if I thought I was being arrested (or forcibly removed) for asking a hostile question (which implied no threat, no violence, and was considered, and commented on, by Kerry as "very important"). He's making it very clear to the camera (I'm not even going to pretend he's not an attention hog) that his hands are raised in the air and he's just trying to get out of their grip.

Resistance to police is appropriate when they do something stupid (like they did here). If the police tried to pull abortion clinic protesters away from the clinic, restrain them, and taze them because they were causing a "disturbance", I wonder whether or not you'd be singing the same tune.

Of course, this was a "big kid" . . . who was lifted and moved to the back of the room by a single guard . . . and then held down by six of them . . . and then tazed. Yeah, he was a real big threat at that point.

The great pop-guru Dr. Moser hits the nail on the head here. My problem with this whole situation is that it trivializes real protest and real freedom of speech. This kid didn't care. He wanted to be on the news. I hate television . . . and mass culture . . . heh . . .

Does Interested really want to equate what this kid did with Selma or Tienanmen? OK, I guess there's an argument to be made there if you spend only 30 seconds thinking about it. If you spend a few more minutes thinking, I think the differences become apparent.

I disagree with Moser that the kids of the 60s generation are long grown up, there are still plenty and the effects of that generation extend well beyond their actual children anyway. But he's right to point out the impact of the media culture and that guy's obvious desire to get on YouTube or TV. But that's not really new either . . . just easier to do than it was 10 or 15 years ago. It's just narcissism writ large and the approval (or rather, excuse) of that kind of motivation for doing things really took hold in the 60s.

I don't know whether the kid deserved to be tazed or not. I was not there and I don't know what the protocol for tazing is. But I do know that this guy did not have the right to disrupt a meeting after he had already spoken for his allotted time and the microphone had been turned off. His speech rights were not being violated; the speech rights of everyone else in the room were being violated bulldozed by that obnoxious kid.

D. Frisk . . . ?! Do you really think I've ever drawn back into a shell? I don't have a problem with thoughtful political action (by all means, write or call your congressmen, senators, and local legislators). Read, learn, and think about political affairs. But running around shouting and picketing is probably not the best use of your time--especially when you're 18.


I make no such claim to equate the specific incident of an attention-hogging, immature young man with the horrors of Tienanmen Square.

What I do claim is that your disdain for what some would call strong political activism, but you refer to as a "game for kids", is strongly misplaced...

I was simply pointing out that the methods which you seem to abhor certainly have both their place and time.

You would recognize this, if you spent more than 30 seconds thinking about it.

Dr Mosier is absolutely correct. The kid was actually asking pointed questions...(which ultimately have a foundation in a rather strange conspiracy theory that is going around youtube...illuminati/one world order that sort of stuff...)The fact that he was arrested and tazered is just going to demonstrate the fact that he was speaking truth to power. In a weird way he had to be arrested and tazered in order to demonstrate that his position was correct. Or so the apparent logic of conspiracy theories goes...

Julie, you have in no way countered any of what I've said. Fine, but this leaves my points well ahead of yours. Just to be clear, I've never suggested that demonstrating is "the best" use of anyone's time. I merely said it can be worthwhile. I thought I also made it clear that there are different forms of demonstration (demonstration, to me, does not include a quiet, though sometimes effective activity like writing your congressman, an action that nobody else ever sees). Nor did I say that you, specifically, had gone into a shell. I said that the fellow students of long ago whom you're talking about and applauding, who "learned" on the basis of one unfortunately ill-prepared demonstration that they should never demonstrate again, can be said, generally speaking, to have gone back into their shells. If you can tell me that more than a couple of them later spoke out at campus meetings, publicly debated leftists on campus (even in print), or something of that sort ... well, OK, I'll take back the remark. But can you? The liberal establishment would be perfectly happy if conservatives did nothing but "read, think, and learn about political affairs." If that knowledge is never put to use educating the public (there are many means and levels of educating the public, which of course includes students and the academic community) or activating or encouraging the public, then I'd say such thoughtful conservatives are very little threat to the liberal hegemony. Being smart ourselves simply isn't good enough.
Your concession that there is no "problem" if someone wants to write his or her congressman is nice, but it sounds like the comment of a person who really likes to keep quiet herself.
Which is your privilege, but don't tar foolish and very crude demonstrators like the punk in the Kerry story, and reasonable demonstrators, with the same brush as immature, pointless, etc. As I said, you're not using your political imagination.

D. Frisk: There were no turtles in our bunch. Not a one. We all just realized that there were smarter ways to employ ourselves in the coming four years than in marching around with signs and getting people to honk horns. There was a reason we were--most of us--freshmen. Seniors didn't want to waste their time doing that. In the ensuing decades many (if not all--I can't say I've kept up with each) of them have gone on to active careers in politics, law and business. I don't think our bad experience, or our subsequent decision to move away from protest-type activity, turned any of us into political wall flowers. Look, as you concede . . . there's a difference between effective political action and ranting. I don't condemn the former but I do (as you do too) scorn the latter. I think there is a reason you see more of the latter on the other side and it's not because conservatives are shy. I think there is a reason why young people today don't understand the difference between the two when they enter college. This has to do with a flawed and juvenile understanding of freedom of speech that has developed and spread in the last several decades, in my view.

Appreciate the response, Julie. You and I probably have different definitions of "political wallflower," but that's a quibble. I would quibble more seriously, though, with your implication -- was it intentional? -- that conservatives in general aren't politically shy. By and large, they are shy indeed. My point isn't that your classmates should have continued to picket and wave signs, but that this can occasionally be a useful political action. Not that they should have done this repeatedly, but that they shouldn't have viewed it as necessarily ridiculous. Better uses of such energy would have been to assist worthy local candidates, and to speak out (not just educate themselves or talk with a few friends) on either national or campus issues.

I didn't, in fact, say anything about whether I think conservatives, in general, are politically shy. I said that the explanation for the greater number of outrageous incidents on the part of left-leaning activists cannot be chalked up to the shyness of conservatives. I have not, in fact, thought about whether conservatives tend to be more shy than liberals about getting into politics. I certainly think that, in general, they are more busy with other things. I think, too, they are less inclined to be excitable. I am agnostic about the question of whether or not they are more shy. But I will say that sometimes thoughtfulness is mistaken for shyness.

Fair enough. But sometimes, too, people seem thoughtful and are mainly just shy. Shy people can in fact speak out and can in fact be activists. Being too "busy" is a wonderful excuse for political non-involvement. It's really kind of a blank check. But busy-ness can be rather subjective. Remember the saying: "If you want something to get done, give it to a busy person." There's a lot of truth to that. There's also a lot of truth to the saying: "I will MAKE time for this." While I don't believe that those who don't speak out are necessarily cowards, General Patton's point is relevant here: The real hero is the man (person) who fights anyway, even though he is afraid. Also, that cowards can become brave.

Yes, David. But sometimes it is also true that busy people are just busy-bodies. Thoughtful action is, I think, the thing toward which we ought to aspire.

No argument there. But I would add that while it's possible for busy people to accomplish little and know less, it's equally possible for thoughtful people to keep intending to act, and keep finding excuses for not acting. And if they never act, they end up lacking a significant part of political knowledge, the part that depends on direct experience of politics.

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