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One More Time on the John Kerry/Taser Incident

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When I wrote a post last week about campus cops attacking and tasering a student at John Kerry's University of Florida speaking event, I criticized Kerry's behavior during the incident. The post drew some strong reactions and I want to follow up.

I was startled that so many people read the original post. Most disconcertingly, Kerry's communications manager, perhaps thinking I'm an actual political pundit (I'm not; I'm a novelist), emailed to ask for my contact number and say that the Senator had, "believe it or not," seen the post, gotten "upset," and intended to "let [me] know what really happened because [my] post is rife with mistaken assumptions." He never did, though.

Maybe some of my assumptions were mistaken. I have no doubt that some shit went down before and after the events we see in the videos. Maybe it changes things, sheds new light on it. (I've read that Andrew Meyer, the kid who got tased, was cutting the line and being noisy beforehand, etc. But in the videos he's doing absolutely nothing -- nothing -- wrong, and the police attack him.) What I see in the videos, though, is Kerry directly inviting the kid to speak, the police attacking him before he can finish his question, people crying "Let him go!" and Kerry making some ineffectual noises to settle things down ("Officers, can we... Hey folks... I think..."), then apparently blithely soliloquizing onstage while six cops go apeshit on this one guy and taser him and he screams in pain.

I've watched the videos again -- my earlier post was an immediate, visceral reaction -- since I first saw them and my opinions haven't changed. Meyer wasn't dangerous, Kerry displayed about as much moral initiative as a fencepost, and the cops behaved like ignorant animals. (Kerry deserves criticism because his intervention would have mattered more than anyone else's, but it's clear that the cops are the real wrongdoers here. They are absolutely disgusting.)

By the way, go read the self-serving/self-congratulatory police report (download from here) if you haven't. It's full of distortions (he was "punching" the officers? come again, Ofc. Nicole Lynn Mallo?) and omissions that are undermined by what can be seen in the videos. And man, it makes those cops seem prudish about the phrase "blow job."

Back to Kerry, who has apparently said that he didn't know until after the incident that the kid got tasered. Maybe it's true he didn't know a taser was actually used. Did he really not hear the scream of pain, though? Seriously? The more you think about it, the more bizarre it is that Kerry continued answering the question while all this was going on. It's not just bizarre because the guy was being attacked at the same time...it's bizarre because at that point Kerry was speaking to an audience that obviously wasn't listening to him because there was a guy bellowing his lungs out and getting pinned down in the aisle. When you consider it that way, it's almost like he was deliberately trying to distract the audience from what has happening (and would, ideally, soon be over) in the back of the room... restore order and calm things down while the noisy guy was dealt with.

Or, more charitably, maybe it's just that Kerry's done this stage stuff so often he's become a robot... pull the string by asking a question, and then it'll just talk and talk and talk no matter what is happening around it.

Still (and I say this as a 2005 Yale grad who's well aware that most of the creepy rumors are bullshit) I would've liked to hear him answer that Skull and Bones question.