September 20, 2007

Andrew Meyer, John Kerry and Campus Security: Clusterfuck Royale.

I've seen the video. The audio quality is poor, but you can make out what's being said. Then there's all the hullabaloo: Critical Miami is horrified, Stuck on the Palmetto is torn: Alex goes one way, Rick the other.

First, it was a forum for students to ask questions of Kerry.

Andrew Meyer was standing at the microphone, and asking Kerry a question. Well, two or three questions, really. But all he was doing is what the event was specifically set up to do: allow students to ask a US Senator and major US political figure direct questions. Andrew Meyer might have been doing it badly, but he absolutely wasn't breaking any law.

Second, Andrew Meyer really sucks at asking questions.
To be fair, Andrew did have to set up some background to give his question absolute relevance. Unfortunately, in the process he got so wound up that he seemed to forget which question he actually wanted to ask. And then he kept repeating it, cutting off Kerry several times. Andrew, Andrew, Andrew; once you've ASKED a question, you have to let the guy actually ANSWER, or at least respond. Your interview technicque sucks ASS. But you didn't deserve to be manhandled by thugs and tasered.

Third, the audio engineer was asleep at the desk.
I've worked this kind of event. It's boring to run the board. There is supposed to be someone in control of the mic. The Audi Engineer should have cut Andrew's microphone the third or fourth time he cut off Kerry's response.

Fourth, who was running this event?
Where was the moderator? The moderator should have sent a monitor out to explain to Meyer that part of asking a question is letting the man answer. And there is supposed to be someone there to do just that; keep order at the microphone. That person was not evident in any of the video, and they ought to have been. Whoever was supposed to be running this event wasn't doing it. They should be fired.

Fifth, WTF was campus security thinking?
Meyers was participating in the event in the manner the event was designed for. He was passionate, and a little disorganized. The campus cops were completely out of line. The shouldn't have tried to get him away from the mic, they should not have grabbed him, and they absolutely should not have tasered him. They were out of line. WAY out of line.

Conservative detractors have wasted no time to bash Kerry for not jumping in. In fact, Kerry can be heard trying to tell the police to stop. "Please - I'm going to answer his question. Hey! Let me finish!" I think Kerry did the right thing; if he'd gotten emotionally involved in the police brutality, the crowd would have grown agitated, and then we'd have been watching video of "the ensuing riot" instead of "redneck cracker cops beating up a student for no defensible reason."

Rick at SotP felt that Meyer should have capitulated when the jackbooted thugs ordered him to "stop resisting." Rick is wrong, plain as that. While I know that law enforcement has a tough job, and that keeping the peace is a difficult task in a crowd, the public should not capitulate to illegal actions by rogue officers. These "officers" were not arresting a criminal, they were haranguing a citizen engaging in a spirited exercise of his first amendment rights. What was Meyer's crime? Being passionate? Failing to resolve all his questions down to one?

Why did Meyer resist? Because he wasn't doing anything wrong. He was fully within his rights to be there, and to be asking his questions, and he absolutely had the right to stand there and listen to Kerry's response. And Kerry wanted to answer Meyer; and he told the stormtroopers that even as they were assaulting Meyer. Meyer did what a journalist should do: make everyone pay attention.

It's this kind of lack of self control on behalf of law enforcement that lead me to think that giving all patrol officers assault weapons is A Very Bad Idea. A taser is supposed to be used against violent offenders, not students shocked that their rights are being trampled. Give these same bozos the ability to lay suppressing fire? Fuck that. I'd rather they take cover and wait for SWAT to show up, given the propensity for undue escalation.

It is chilling that anyone could defend the UF campus hoodlums. This is the worst violation of free speech and the civil rights of students since Kent State. Law enforcement needs to expel these thugs and condemn their behavior; it's "cops" like these that make the jobs of real cops that much harder.


  1. Like you, my biggest issue with this story is the public reaction, not the event itself. After reading more data, I'm not even convinced that Meyer himself was that outraged at his own treatment. What I find most appalling is how many people seem almost gleeful over him being tased, as if he deserved it simply for being confrontational or asking questions in an aggressive tone.

    For me, the lasting impact of this story will be looking at why the public is reacting as it is to it, which I talk about at my post at Emotional Responses to the Andrew Meyer & John Kerry Incident. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on it if you get a chance. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for your comments, Howard! I have read your take on this, and posted my reply there.