The “don’t-tase-me-bro” genre of Internet videos has grown in popularity over the years. For whatever reason, people like watching other people getting zapped by tasers or other high-voltage stun devices.
Personally, I think our fascination with these videos stems from two impulses (a) they appeal to this sadistic side of our sense of humor and (b) they appeal to our disdain for police corruption and abuse.
To that first point, in general, tasing is a less-lethal way to incapacitate a threat or to subdue an obnoxious individual. Ergo, it’s okay to laugh at the momentary pain the person experiences because there is, in most cases, no long-term effect.
(It should be noted that tasers could cause seizures or heart attacks, for more on this click here).
So, just like watching an individual walk into glass or a drunk guy bump his/her head into a wall or a reporter fall out of a vat of grapes, watching someone get tased is comical because we understand the pain is fleeting and the subject will be okay in the end.
As for the second point, there are videos of people being tased by law enforcement that underscore police abuse and misconduct. At issue here is the question of, did this individual deserve to be tased?
Was the officer, patrolman, or security guard’s use of force warranted?
If it’s universally recognized that it was warranted, then, as mentioned, we often laugh and say, “good for that S.O.B.” When it’s not deserved, we suppress laughter and turn our ire toward the authority who abused his power.
Which brings us to this video currently trending on the Internet (see below) and the question of, did this guy deserve to get tased? Or, another way to put it, did you find it funny? (At about 8:00 he gets tased)
The back story to this video is, according to local news station KXLY4, the man holding the camera is 21-year-old Robert Peterson of Kootenai County, Idaho, and he was attending a court hearing last month for riding a bicycle at night without a light. To explain his attitude, Peterson considers himself a “Free man of the Land,” a philosophy where people believe that written law is contractual and is only applicable if the individual consents to be governed by it. And since he doesn’t believe in the law or system he allegedly violated, it seems as if he was acting out. In turn, his persnickety attitude about the questions and his general abrasiveness toward the officers made him a target.
When the officers told him, “no cameras allowed,” which is only allowed when approved by the court beforehand, he ignored them and tried to push through. When that happened, the officer pulled out his taser, told Peterson to “step back” and, when he didn’t, the officer zapped him and cuffed him.
Peterson was later charged with three counts of battery and criminal contempt. Another court hearing is scheduled for some time this month.
Again, the question, Was it an appropriate response? Or, Was it excessive force? Should the officer have given the man more of an explicit warning (there was a split second between when the officer said “step back” and when he fired the taser)?
Examining these types of scenarios has particular relevance to gun owners and those who carry tools for self-defense. Answering the all-important question of when to use force, under what circumstances should one use force, can mean the difference between being lauded as a responsible citizen or being called a criminal.
Unfortunately, sometimes the answer to that question isn’t as clear as we’d like it to be.