Friday, September 21, 2007

The Shock Doctrine at the University of Florida


-Howard Beale

If you have not seen this yet, you should.

Every American should see this.

I was so pissed off I felt physically ill while watching it.

Then I felt worse as I watched the public reaction to what I thought was an obvious and disgusting violation of a young citizen’s right to free speech and to redress his grievances with his government.

At the University of Florida, a 21-year-old student, Andrew Meyer, was tasered into silence for asking John Kerry controversial questions at a public forum.

Let me get this straight.

It is a public forum, at a public university, specifically for the purpose of letting the public ask questions of an elected public official.

Yes, the kid is acting like a bit of a jerk while he is asking his questions, but being a jerk is not a crime in itself.

If it were, Bill O'Reilly and Glen Beck would have been tased into silence long ago and Ann Coulter would be court-ordered to wear a shock collar around her neck 24/7… and Barbara Streisand would get to keep the remote. …But I digress.

You can see at the beginning of the video that everyone is just standing around calmly while John Kerry is speaking. There is no disturbance or commotion and everyone is focused on John Kerry. He finishes speaking, looks up, points directly at this kid and says, "You have a question?” giving this kid the floor.

The kid launches into his piece by presenting the context of his questions, a book, Armed Madhouse, by Greg Palast, which lays out the evidence of widespread Republican election fraud in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Senator Kerry states that he has read the book.

Then he asked his questions.

  1. Why did you concede the 2004 election so quickly? There was ample evidence that something was wrong because the exit polls were so far off from the “official” results that if Senator Kerry has waited and demanded a recount, he may well be President today.
  2. Why won’t you support impeaching President Bush? Again, there is ample evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors by the entire Bush Administration.
  3. Were he and George W. Bush both members of the secretive “Skull and Bones Society” at Yale?

His questions are important ones. He obviously did a lot of preparation and thought about his questions. You can see he is very emotional and feels very strongly about what he is saying and asking. Even John Kerry could be heard responding, “Those are important questions.”

The point at which the line was crossed was when the campus police decided to grab the kid and escalate the situation to physical confrontation. Any properly trained police officer knows that in that situation the “fight or flight” instinct will kick in and they always run the risk of the person they are grabbing fighting back reflexively.

When the police grabbed the kid and started pulling him away from the microphone, you very clearly hear John Kerry telling the campus police, "That's all right, let me answer his questions."

Right then, they crossed another line. They should have stopped right when the Senator and main speaker of the event tells them to stop and let him continue the dialogue.

In my opinion it was at that point that it became a crime committed by the campus police.

If the officers has stopped assaulting the kid then and let the Senator answer his questions, there would not have been an “incident” at all.

But they didn’t stop; instead six officers dragged the kid to the back of the room, cuffed him and sat on him.

He was asking repeatedly “What did I do?” But aside from that he was contained and they could have picked him up and carried him outside.

But they didn’t do that either.

Instead, they tortured him into silence with a taser! Right there in front of everyone, with at least three cameras rolling.

A taser is not a toy. A taser is no joke. A taser is 20,000 volts of electricity conducted through your body. Tasers are extremely painful. They have been known to cause people to lose control of their bowels, have seizures and people have even died from having a taser used on them!

Tasers are meant to be a non-lethal means to stop someone who poses a threat to physical safety.

Tasers are not supposed to be used as torture devices to force citizens into silence for asking controversial political questions!

Obviously the kid staged all this on purpose, supposedly to make a video of him publicly confronting John Kerry with these controversial questions so he could post it on YouTube. The talking heads on the conservative corporate media will point to that as if it were justification for the campus police physically assaulting the kid and torturing him into silence with a taser.

They are wrong.

The Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,”

The Bill of Rights:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It is Mr. Meyer’s god given, inalienable right to make a video of him asking questions of a public official in a public forum and to make that video public.

I say God bless Andrew Meyer for having the courage to risk his neck asking controversial, emotionally charged, political questions in such a straightforward and public fashion. We see now how dangerous that simple act is in 2007 America.

What disturbs me the most about this whole situation is number of people who actually defend the campus police in this situation. Are some of us suffering from Helsinki Syndrome?

Case in point, a friend of mine, immediately after watching the video of the confrontation, said:

“That kid was a dumb-ass. Any time someone in a position of authority like that tells you to do something you should just do it. If they don’t want you to speak, you shouldn’t get to speak.”

And I seem to hear that same sentiment being echoed all around me and I cannot understand how people are not rejecting it out of simple common sense.

It sounds like someone who is beaten down, has given up and embraced Helsinki Syndrome, and perhaps that is what propels them to defend such an abhorrent public abuse of a citizens rights.

In her new book, The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein presents a compelling case study of how shock can be used to pacify and manipulate people, not only on an individual level, but also on the societal.

Shock caused by trauma or crisis, real or perceived, causes a person to regress into a primal, childlike state where they are easily manipulated and pacified.

In other words…“Shock and Awe”

We have been conditioned to live in fear.

This has been happening to America increasingly since Kennedy was shot live on national television. It could be argued that they initially noticed the potential for manipulation of the public after Pearl Harbor, but Kennedy’s assassination was even more powerful because it was delivered live on national television.

Then the little shocks started coming in regularly. Vietnam. Reagan shot live on national television. Then an Army Base in Beirut is attacked. The World Trade Center gets bombed, the USS Cole gets bombed, the US Olympics in Atlanta are bombed, 9-11 (again, live on national television), Anthrax being sent in the mail, snipers killing people in Washington D.C. and Ohio, little girls being kidnapped left and right… the constant drum-beat in our corporate media, repeating the mantra: “Be Afraid.”

Andrew Meyer showed extraordinary courage in standing up to all that fear and loudly, assertively asking tough questions that millions of Americans sincerely want to hear the answers to but will never get from the corporate media.

We all have to take inspiration from Mr. Meyer’s example and do what is right despite our fears.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is acting despite fear.

We all need to start taking more action, despite our fear, to regain the freedoms we have lost and to defend the rest, which remain threatened by authoritarians who take advantage of every tragedy and use the shock they create to push their own agendas.

This story and some Americans’ reactions to it are a strong example of how badly we are losing the battle of ideals against the authoritarians. They show how badly we are beaten down, how terrified, how demoralized and how pacified we all are that we not only sit by as a 21 year old kid is tortured into silence with a taser but that some of us actually defend that action instead of the student’s rights and freedoms.

People who believed they had to be quiet or polite when speaking to public officials about controversial politics did not create this country.

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams, speech at the Philadelphia State House, August 1, 1776. Trying to convince them to join the American Revolution.

This goes especially for you Democrats in Congress.

Grow some balls.

As Dorothy Sayers once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” So far you have been falling for everything. The time to stop that is now.

This is your last chance. If you can find the time to condemn for stating an opinion shared by a large portion of America then you damn well better be able to find time to condemn this immoral violation of a young citizen’s rights.

The founders only left us with one piece of advice in the case you continue to fail us.

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”


Anonymous said...

I am a 60 year old moderate Dem. I am thouroughly disgusted with the actions of the police and John Kerry. Kerry had the ability to ask the police to stop. Kerry is on that podium as a public servant elected to protect the rights he watched being taken from that student.


Anonymous said...

Watching this, I burst into tears. I truly cannot believe what we have become both as humans and Americans. I agree that Kerry should have stopped it and I am a solid democrat. But first and foremost, I am a human and that was utterly senseless and painful.