Please read this whole post before making any assumptions about my interpretation of the recent arrest of Andrew Meyer at the John Kerry event on the UF campus.
1. Talking about the UF taser incident on a blog is, indeed, a large part of why the very non-virtual incident needed to happen to begin with and a huge part of the overall problem with the current trend of "social activism".
2. My hypocrisy is going to be alleviated by the fact that from the ages of 15-22 years old I do have a record of non-virtual activism/conscientious objection that took place in the real world and not on the internet. Amazingly I was never tasered - this is probably because I remember in 1996 that the very idea of a police taser was the punchline at the end of an early Daily Show episode, not an actual weapon carried by cops.
3. The kid who got tasered seems like a real asshole. He has a website dedicated to making himself famous - which, in his future line of work, I can appreciate the need for some vanity. Thus, on it's own, I think I could let that slide. I mean, many of us do have blogs, myspace pages, and family web sites - a page collecting early professional work of a wannabe isn't too vain in context. He also has an irksome email address though (famouswriter@....) and apparently had a track record of writing poorly researched articles aimed at angering the UF student body.
4. It seems pretty obvious the kid was being disruptive, speaking out of turn, and flailing about in front of a current veteran senator and past presidential candidate. Surely, the guy should have been kicked out of the event, right?
5. Yes, he should have been kicked out of the event. At the same time he should never have been tasered. I mean, come on, no matter how much a dorky kid bounces around, 4 or 5 burly cops should be able to handle the situation without much problem. Furthermore, a taser is not a weapon to dismiss lightly. In medicine, we learn the pathophysiology of many diseases that cause much less morbidity and mortality than the 61 deaths reported last year as a result of a police taser.
But now, let's take the argument one step further......
6. We need more assholes like Mr. Meyer. We need more people who purposely set out to cause disruption. We need more people to start flailing about right now.
Especially our 21 year olds on college campuses who don't yet have that weight of real-deal adulthood bearing down on their shoulders with wives and kids and careers always resisting their actions much more strongly than any police taser.
There are millions of blogs like mine and places to go to voice every protest to every speech, every politician and every action in the country. There are TV channels dedicated to every viewpoint.
Does this translate to any change, to any action? Well, if a social faux-pas is committed, than, yes, I will allow that youtube-ostracism does change careers (Howard Dean, Sen. Allen, and Larry Craig).
But how about social justice? The most recent examples of large scale youth movement in the U.S. is probably the WTO protests in Seattle - well before the Web 2.0 revolution. Just after this was the Gore 2000 Washington marches - again, before Web 2.0
I would argue that - if these events took place now - real world action would be eroded by virtual protest. I would offer that the lack of daily large scale protests against the Iraq war are partly due to the prevalence of virtual protest which is doing much more than disseminating information equally. It is eroding a collective nationwide response to injustice.
7. Comedy is an excellent weapon and tool to cope with life but right now we are using comedy to alleviate middle-class guilt. The popularity of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (both excellent programs) demonstrates that people do have problems with the Iraq War and President Bush (both frequent topics on these 2 programs) - otherwise, free market economics wouldn't allow those shows to focus on such issues repeatedly. But this current trend of comedy, and the shared popularity of these themes in our collective conscious, makes us impotent to do anything more than watch and laugh as the world passes by. This is clearly made evident by the quick response to that already-famous line "Don't Tase me, Bro!". Buy your T-shirt now!!!
Although, at least Comedy Central's Mr. Colbert did call for his viewers to stop blogging, stop watching and follow Mr. Meyer's lead.
8. Web 2.0 promised to change the world, and, indeed, it has. But is this the change we had in mind when we envisioned equal information access?