Wednesday, September 19, 2007


A lot has been made of a University of Florida student who police stunned with a Taser when he started grandstanding at a John Kerry town hall meeting. The 64 million dollar question has been: "Were Andrew Meyer's free speech rights trampled by jackbooted government goons?"

I've come to the conclusion that maybe a different question should be front and center: "Why is it that free speech issues only come up when someone's perceived as being critical of someone in government?" Had Meyer been pestering Bruce Boxleitner at Comicon or something, this would have "simply" been an issue of the police over-reacting. And it should still be that here.

And why not call a spade a spade? Six police officers and a stun gun is a little much to deal with one college student - especially one as scrawny as Meyer. Unless he was packing some Underdog Super Energy Pills somewhere, they shouldn't have needed a whole squad of people to handle him. Treat this as you would any other over-the-top police response to a minor incident. If you're of the opinion that this method wouldn't put a stop to such episodes, then that's a problem all it's own. A sanction that doesn't have any demonstrable deterrent power is basically a waste of everyone's time.

Part of the issue is the pervasive opinion that "the government" acts secretly, and in bad faith. So no-one is ever "officially" arrested or hassled for saying things that the government doesn't like. Instead, they're charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace, or unlawful use of a cucumber. They may or may not be beaten up or zapped during apprehension, depending on the zeal of the chosen goon squad, just who they were dumb enough to make angry at them and how good an example they'll make. So the response is always to the perceived attack on criticism. But maybe a more WYSIWYG approach to these sorts of events will do a better job of limiting their occurrence.

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