When I saw the headline of Brian Thompson’s opinion article that appeared in this space Wednesday (“Video leaves us asking: To tase or not to tase?” 9/26), I imagined I would be subjected to some sort of boring diatribe about the dangers of placing Tasers in the hands of overzealous, undertrained campus cops. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised.
Watching the University of Florida tasing video, in which student Andrew Meyer is tased while resisting officers who tried to remove him from the podium at a John Kerry question-and-answer session, Thompson writes, “I couldn’t wait for the kid to be tased, and even wished there was a way to pull the trigger myself.” I wholeheartedly agree. Like Thompson, I enjoy watching people who I find irritating suffer physical agony.
But there is one thing about videos of tasing incidents that really does upset me: the conduct of the so-called “victims.” Consider the case of UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad, as seen on YouTube and reported in UCLA’s Daily Bruin last November. Tabatabainejad was turned away at the library because he didn’t have his student ID card, and was accosted by campus police as he left the building. I remember Tabatabainejad’s arrest video, and I did not find it amusing in the least bit. I blame the “victim” for this.
The Bruin reported that as the handcuffed, limp student was being repeatedly tased, he screamed things like, “I’m not fighting you,” and “I said I would leave.” To me, this shows a depressing lack of foresight. Tabatabainejad had to know that footage of the incident would eventually appear all over the Internet. Couldn’t he at least have done something to make the video more entertaining?
At the very least, he should have chosen more amusing exclamations to use while being tased. “Great googly-moogly!” is an old standby in these situations, and makes for excellent television. Also acceptable are “Ay caramba!” “Holy police brutality, Batman!” and “You’ll never take me alive!”
I have a similar problem with Andrew Meyer’s conduct in the University of Florida incident. Yes, “Don’t tase me, bro,” was a pretty funny thing to say, but after the actual tasing, Meyer mostly just whined. “What did I do?” he moaned, his jaw slack and his eyes filled with tears, as if some sort of actual harm had been visited on him. Yet, as Thompson wisely points out, Meyer had not actually suffered a single cut or bruise from the incident. He should consider himself lucky that an officer was there to apply 50,000 volts of screaming pain before he placed himself in a situation where he could have been seriously hurt.
Furthermore, Thompson notes favorably that “while it probably wasn’t fun to be zapped, [Meyer’s] mouth was moving just a few seconds later.” This is where Thompson and I differ. Frankly, the fact that the kid continued talking showed a degree of laxity on the part of the police. Wasn’t the entire purpose of subduing and tasing the kid to get him to quit annoying the speaker and the audience? Since he continued talking, he should have been tased again until he stopped. One of the supreme joys of the widespread adoption of Tasers is to see them used on people that we consider obnoxious or out of line. Heck, one version of the video footage even seems to show one of the police officers gathered around Andrew Meyer grinning after the tasing. That’s how much fun it is!
Yet even a law enforcement tool as totally awesome as the Taser is not without its opponents. Some people might argue that Tasers are glorified torture devices, or that their perceived safety lowers the bar for a violent police response. Others are viscerally disturbed by footage of a student, already subdued by police after having committed a trifling infraction, shrieking in anguish as painful electric shocks course through his prostrate body. It is my personal hope that all of the opponents of police Taser use will find it in their hearts to have some sort of unruly protest, so that I can watch them get tased, as well.
Yes, as Thompson writes, “we should be thankful for Tasers.”
Michael Zink is a junior in Saybrook College.