Don't Tase Me, Bro!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Boston Globe reporter Sasha Issenberg talks about the fallout from the use of a taser on a heckler at a John Kerry talk at the University of Florida. He’s joined by investigative journalist Greg Palast. The heckler was holding a copy of his book Armed Madhouse.
Sasha Issenberg has a new book out: The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy (Gotham, 2007).


Sasha Issenberg and Greg Palast

Comments [32]

Laura from new york, state of

And, if all else fails, remember that every single one of these students is paying for an education, one way or another. Some will pay for one education at least 4 times over, after many years of debt and financial struggle. When I pay for a service, I expect to receive that service without worry of injustice or injury. And whether they like it or not, universities and colleges are part of the ever expanding service industry, and therefore are to be held accountable to the same standards as any other service provider.

Sep. 22 2007 06:41 PM
Laura from new york, state of

It probably doesn't matter much if this was a stunt or an act, impassioned or obnoxious; it was necessary.
This sort of thing happens at colleges and universities far more frequently than is reported, also at theoretically open forums. Students have actually been arrested and sent to jail, court and have criminal records in some cases.
The thing to remember here is that many of these students are deciding whether or not to become active participants in the political theater that drives our government, local and national. This is not the initiation that a free people can tolerate; because if you educate an entire generation to live in fear and never question the status quo, the status quo all too soon evolves into exactly what this nation is supposed to be fighting around the world.
This game of "if I were dictator, I would..." cannot be played on college campuses anymore, or we will find that we have created the next generation to vote a dictator into office and give him/her the legitimacy to steamroll our Constitution and with it the remainder of rights that have been etched away over the last 60 or so years in the first place.

Sep. 22 2007 06:41 PM
Peter from Park Slope

This student was practicing a Michael Moore-type stunt which included non-violent behavior and insistent questions. He spoke out of turn and some would say he was obnoxious as well. After being thrown to the floor, handcuffed, held down and completely restrained by six campus police, he was tortured with electric currents. Should journalists, activists, students, or any others who ask tough questions be treated this way? Should law enforcement officials have the right to administer torture? Should a high-ranking member of the United States Senate stand by and say nothing while another human being in the same room is being tortured? No, no and no.

Sep. 20 2007 11:25 AM
Lenore from Upper West Side, NYC

I've been to many talks and speeches where the questioner went on and on in an obnoxious or annoying way. I have NEVER seen cops cut the mike and arrest and assault that person. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this is creeping/galloping fascism or dictatorship.

And yes, Kerry drones on in that way of his...I don't believe that he didn't know what was going on. Is he deaf? Many of the audience also just sit there.

We are really in trouble.

Sep. 20 2007 02:35 AM
Lamont from Harlem, NY

I tip my hat to this kid, saying these things that need to be said while we sit back and think them. It took balls to pull off a stunt like that, yet I'm glad to hear we still have people out there informing the public while this government tries hard not to. Someone needs to start talking, because we need to know what's going on in the world. I'm tired of the lies, tired of the BS, I need to start hearing some deep truth.

Sep. 19 2007 09:55 PM
ab from nyc

He "planned" to be tasered? What????? That's pretty much the most idiotic and ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life

Sep. 19 2007 05:03 PM
Zen Sutherland from South Salem Ny

John Kerry had agreed to answer the questions, there was no need for anyone to have put their hands on this student, no matter how excited his questioning was.He posed no threat, nor did he ever show signs of agression. Completely out of line by the police.

Sep. 19 2007 01:16 PM
Muriel from Brooklyn

I was just surprised to find the video you linked to on YouTube is not the same as that, the audio of which was played today on the show. In the audio played on the air, the student's questions could be heard in full. The linked video, however, is truncated as to remove all of the student's comments except his mention of the Skull and Bones question, which changes the context entirely and one's sense of the student entirely.

The student's original questions regarding the election and disenfranchised voters are legitimate and necessary to properly understand what happened here - he's not a prankster or lunatic, as this truncated version of the video seems to suggest. In fact, guards appear to first approach him the moment he mentions the disenfranchisement of black voters - which of course is not apparent in this edited version.

I hope WNYC will link to a more complete version of the video.

Sep. 19 2007 12:27 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

Exploitation and incompetence. One side does the former, the other side performs the latter.
(In the case of the Bush regime, the one side does both.) Believe me, it's going to get worse and the result is going to bring a lot more pain than an electric jolt.

Sep. 19 2007 12:19 PM
christopher from NYC

This is an absurd conversation. So what if it was planned? So what if he handed a camera to a friend? So what if he's a journalism major. SO WHAT? Who ARE you "he got what he deserved" people? He was asking several very important questions, questions I would have liked to have asked myself. What, there are acceptable questions and unacceptable questions? That is not open discourse. He was not being overly obnoxious in my opinion. He came off as passionate and as someone who had not one but several questions. If only more people shared his outrage/curiosity/passion this country would be a far better place. Kerry claims he didn't see the tasering -- you can't tell me he didn't HEAR what was going on. Plus, should it take a tasering for him to be disturbed? How about DENYING A PERSON THE RIGHT TO SPEAK THEIR MIND IN A SUPPOSED OPEN FORUM? I am shocked he didn't say something -- anything -- to stop what was happening, calm everyone down, and answer the question, as he claims he wanted to do. THAT would be the way to neutralize the situation. He was practically murmuring "I want to answer the question" -- so half-hearted. I've defended Kerry in the past, but man, what a wimp. Very, very disappointed in him.

Creeping fascism indeed.

Sep. 19 2007 12:17 PM
Caroline from Rutgers Univeristy

Kerry is just like the "other" guy: quiet and unhumain. My vote was truely wasted.

What happened is an example of the government's actions of today. They will silence anyone who has the bulls to question. When will live without fear? When will this country stand up for what is right? When will the next revolution occur? When will we as a country clean this government of ours? At this rate never...

Sep. 19 2007 12:12 PM
Muriel from Brooklyn

I hope you'll provide more coverage of this important event, which many of us regard as symbolic of disturbing trend in this country: unresponsive government, systematic squelching of important questions, and quick resort to unnecessary force by police and security personnel.

The questions the student was asking and the way in which he was 'managed' by security are topics I'd like to see the show address again.

Sep. 19 2007 12:07 PM
j from westchester

Thank you Brian for the attempt at coverage...

CNN plays all day at my job location. Yesterday they played this story repeated all day long. Not once did they bother to provide a context. What was the question he asked? Was he a prankster or hostile? They instead kept showing the tasing with sick, sadistic neutrality.

The guy had a legitimate IMPORTANT question (It was "littered with insults" as a commentator here said.) And Lehrer's show is the only one that bothered to play that audio so we could all hear it.

Get over the taser stuff folks; they guy will live and got some much need attention--now focus on the answer to the question posed.

What's up with the voting irregularities? More important than the machines, why were huge numbers of blacks and Native American's not allowed to vote? Why wasn't it pursued by Congress?

If you think we're safe from it happening again because the passed HAVA; you're fooling yourself...

Sep. 19 2007 12:07 PM
Jim from Bergen Co NJ

To say this student staged this is to imply that he knew that there would be a large force responding and that they would tazer him. The burden lies the security to know how to handle disruptions. Why didn't they just turn off the mike? If he knew they were going to be so forceful than good for him for exposing their methods.

Sep. 19 2007 12:07 PM
Marge from NJ, Red Bank

It is disturbing to say the least when you see police, or campus police dragging a student away from the microphone, had a political gathering where the point at which this for an open and frank discussion of political issues of the day. I don't care how obnoxious, loud, or provocative a questioner might be. It goes with the territory and any political rally pitcher to have opposition and the opposition might not be well mannered. Before secured the two physically drag someone from a microphone and teaser them into submission prior to arrest goes beyond the pale of decency. In a word it's shocking.

Sep. 19 2007 12:05 PM
chestine from NY

even handcuffs are too much - the kid got in trouble for being emotional. he did nothing threatening, even if he was grandstanding. So what? Creeping fascism....

Sep. 19 2007 12:03 PM
Trevor from LIC

No, I wouldn't've voted for Bush, I should've understood how the two parties are virtually one and the same.

Sep. 19 2007 11:57 AM
Chris from NYC

This guy got what he deserved!

Sep. 19 2007 11:57 AM

Trevor: You'd have rather voted for Bush? ;-)

I totally agree though - even if the kid was acting, there was no need to claim he was disturbing the peace. He asked a valid question even if it was littered with insults.

Sep. 19 2007 11:54 AM
Dan Fielding

Notice how the cattle, I mean the audience, simply sit and chuckle; as they have been taught to by a decade of watching the Cops TV show. We deserve the future we are bringing upon ourselves.

Sep. 19 2007 11:54 AM
AWM from UWS

Campus police hate students and look for any excuse to exert their pseudo-authority over them

Sep. 19 2007 11:51 AM
Trevor from LIC

Even if the kid planned it, his actions in no way warranted tasering.

I agree-- I can't believe I voted for Kerry.

Sinclair Lewis, where are you now?

Sep. 19 2007 11:49 AM
AWM from UWS

Campus police hate students and look for any opportunity to exert their "authority" over them

Sep. 19 2007 11:48 AM
barry from Manhattan

That was so hilarious! Great acting kid. I have a 2 year old that would give you a run for your money.

Sep. 19 2007 11:48 AM
Robert from NYC

This guy was annoying, to put it mildly, but was what he did tase-worthy?! That those big cops couldn't just subdue him with out tasing seems very strange to me. I do think Kerry handled it well although he should have at least told the cops to lay off the taser.

Sep. 19 2007 11:47 AM
J.C. from Minneapolis

I look at that video and it seem to me that the police shot their stun gun at this guy when he down on the ground and surrounded by about 6 officers. That's appears to be a clear case of brutality to me.

My fear: if police are willing to bring out the electricity when a guy is already down, what do they do when there are no cameras around and no witnesses?

I thought this was America, not some police state.

Sep. 19 2007 11:45 AM
Trevor from LIC

Good for this kid. One gets the sense it was meant as something of a political stunt, although it went rather out of hand of course after inexperienced police officers decided to silence him.

If only more college kids would speak out in a similar fashion.

Sep. 19 2007 11:45 AM
barry from Manhattan

I'll defend Kerry! The book that was referenced was published when? The day after the election?
I'm sure if Kerry and his guys had know then what they know now he would have acted.
Unless you are suggesting Kerry was in on a conspiracy to let Bush win...?

Sep. 19 2007 11:33 AM
stu in nyc

Did Kerry say if he was a member of the secret Skull & Bones society at Yale?

Sep. 19 2007 11:11 AM
chestine from NY

I think it is appropriate to be frustrated and emotional considering the line of bull being fed to students and adults alike. I think we should all be frightened by creeping fascism that's working up to a gallop AND I would like to know the answers from John Kerry to Andrew Meyer's "very important question(s)" particularly the one about why he didn't protest the election results.

Sep. 19 2007 11:09 AM
barry from Manhattan

It looked like he was begging to be tasered.
He was like a foot taller than all the security gals.
They must have been like "Oh Sh*t this guy is losing it!

Sep. 19 2007 11:09 AM
Bill from NYC

In typical Kerry fashion, he stood by while all this happened. Afterwards, he tried to justify it by saying that after the police intervene "it's a law enforcement issue, not mine."

I can't believe I voted for this guy.

Sep. 19 2007 11:09 AM

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