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May 16, 2013 7:56 AM   Subscribe

You're at a Broadway or off-Broadway show. Suddenly, a cell phone goes off, or the person next to you starts texting. If you're on stage, you could do what Patti LuPone did at Gypsy. You could write an open letter to the offender. Or, you could do what Kevin Williamson did last night.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (441 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
From an ethical standpoint, I am opposed to vigilantism. From a civility standpoint, though, I do not blame this guy in the slightest.

However, about the only thing I'd have done differently is to take the phone from her and then bring it out to the lobby and asked the coat check to hold it for her for the rest of the show. No charges need be filed, security gets involved with her instead of me, everybody wins (except the harridan with the phone).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:01 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have to wonder if his conversation and actions were more or less disruptive than someone using google on the phone. It's not like the phone was ringing and she was talking.....

Feels more like a stunt than anything else.
posted by HuronBob at 8:02 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


The show I'm currently working on is crazy strict about cell phones. They actually take them away. Crew members, however, do not have to turn them off. I live with my phone on vibrate since forever, I rarely turn it off. But once in a while a writer or someone will have a phone go off, and the looks they get from producers and talent are incredibly withering. It is very much like "dick. Amateur. What the fuck." And rightly so.
posted by nevercalm at 8:02 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I should also note that my husband and I see probably 50 Broadway/off-Broadway productions a year. (It’s part of what he does for a living). The performances where there are zero cell phone disturbance, no texting and no talking are extremely, extremely rare. And most of the time, it’s from older adults.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:03 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not like the phone was ringing and she was talking.....

If you're in a dark theatre, and the person next to you or in front of you is using Google, that is as bad as ringing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:04 AM on May 16, 2013 [65 favorites]


The stellar production—a swinging cabaret-type musical adaptation loosely adapted from Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace—takes place inside a luxuriant carnival tent

The tent was hairy? Or grew lushly?!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:05 AM on May 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


"Take your hat off."
posted by leotrotsky at 8:05 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Williamson needs to file an assault charge.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 8:06 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I saw someone do the same thing about twelve years ago, at a midnight screening of one of the Once Upon a Time in China movies at the Prince Charles cinema in London. The phone hit the wall and shattered, and the cinema erupted into applause.
posted by Hogshead at 8:06 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm torn. On one hand, fuck that person for using their phone during a performance, even if they're just texting. On the other hand, you don't mess with someone else's shit, even if they're bothering you. I mean, smokers annoy me but unless they're lighting up in my living room I'm not going to tear their cigarette out of their mouth, no matter how much I want to.

Responding to rudeness with more rudeness isn't the answer. I'm not sure what is.
posted by bondcliff at 8:07 AM on May 16, 2013 [20 favorites]


And though I will cut people in a movie theater a bit more slack than most when this topic comes up, a live performance, particularly one with close seating like this one obviously has, is pretty much only outranked by, say, a funeral in places where you should put your fucking phone away.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:07 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


More of this, please.

If those in charge of the show/theater don't like vigilantism among theater-goers, then maybe they should start enforcing their own rules and throw the idiots and their in-tact phones out themselves.
posted by General Tonic at 8:07 AM on May 16, 2013 [22 favorites]


"If you're in a dark theatre, and the person next to you or in front of you is using Google, that is as bad as ringing." Looking at that photo of the production, it doesn't look like a dark theater. Personally I find the tinkle and noise of glasses and plates at a "dinner theater" more annoying than the light from a screen. I can ignore the screen, I can't ignore the noise.
posted by HuronBob at 8:07 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it something about New York? Because I've never seen or heard anyone use a cell phone during a performance in Toronto. Maybe I don't go to enough stuff, but the worst I've ever witnessed is the embarrassed quick-turn-off-the-ringer-I'm-so-embarrassed scramble of someone who sincerely forgot to turn off their phone.
posted by jb at 8:10 AM on May 16, 2013


Williamson needs to file an assault charge.

She's probably going to sue him first. He tortiously battered her when he wrenched the phone from her hands (and also embarrassed her in front of an audience).
posted by resurrexit at 8:11 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's what Dame Helen Mirren recently did (the offenders weren't even in the theater).
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looking at that photo of the production, it doesn't look like a dark theater.

...Uh, there are generally lights on the stage during a play. The audience is darkened, however.

If those in charge of the show/theater don't like vigilantism among theater-goers, then maybe they should start enforcing their own rules and throw the idiots and their in-tact phones out themselves.

Oh, some of them do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't people know how to be passive/aggressive anymore? You don't throw the phone, you knock over a drink into their lap..."Opps, I was blinded by your screen..."
posted by 445supermag at 8:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [30 favorites]


What is it about goddamn cell phones that makes them impossible for people to turn off and put away for two hours? Why is that such a fucking burden to everyone around me? If you're so goddamn bored at the movie or theater, leave. Go somewhere else. The world is not your goddamn living room.
posted by Legomancer at 8:16 AM on May 16, 2013 [109 favorites]


In my day, we didn't have fancy internet phones; the performers had to get upset about the audience talking, coughing, and opening crinkly lozenge wrappers during the show.

And we liked it! /grumpyoldman
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:16 AM on May 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm making this face about this:
:D
posted by Greg Nog at 8:18 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I like how the theater owner tried to citizen's arrest Kevin but didn't do anything about the prohibited cellphone usage.
posted by DU at 8:18 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


See, this could be a play...The first E-play. Tech and audience participation weaved into astage performance...say a cross between "Waiting for Godot and The Pirates of Penzance"
posted by clavdivs at 8:18 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The lit phone screen. Oh, the lit phone screen.

No, no, it's okay, I don't mind having paid x amount of money for my evening out only to get seated behind you and instead of you paying attention to something you also paid x amount of money for, you opt instead to TEXT YOUR FUCKING FRIENDS OR GOOGLE SOMETHING OR PLAY ANGRY BIRDS.

I had cash to burn anyway, so thanks for letting me know that I am made of money and this is no big deal for you to crap all over my night out.
posted by Kitteh at 8:18 AM on May 16, 2013 [33 favorites]


opening crinkly lozenge wrappers during the show

I hardly go to the movie theater at all anymore, but every time I do, a signal is sent to some person to go sit near me with a plastic fucking shopping bag and fidget with it for the entire movie. I have moved because with only six people in the theater Plastic Shopping Bag HAS to sit right behind me. Is this some gypsy curse on me or do others encounter this?
posted by Legomancer at 8:20 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another thing to try is to stand and yell at the top of your lungs "Put your God damn phone away asshole".

Seriously, fuck people and their phones.
posted by bongo_x at 8:21 AM on May 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


Thanks, Gothamist, for thinking I am too dumb to know about Thoreau.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:22 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasn't it here on the blue (maybe elsewhere?) where there was a recent argument over cellphone owners videoing concerts and shows and the annoying sea of LED screens in the audience? It seemed a lot of people were defending the phone owners in those audiences.

Williamson did the right thing.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:22 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


As an officer of the Court, I cannot condone vigilantism. I sure can enjoy it, however.

My personal enjoyment is not intended as supporting vigilantism. I do not support vigilantism, no matter how personally satisfying. Play nice, and play by the rules, kids!
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:24 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hardly go to the movie theater at all anymore, but every time I do, a signal is sent to some person to go sit near me with a plastic fucking shopping bag and fidget with it for the entire movie. I have moved because with only six people in the theater Plastic Shopping Bag HAS to sit right behind me. Is this some gypsy curse on me or do others encounter this?

The sound at movie theaters is so loud these days that I'm genuinely surprised that you can hear people unwrapping and eating stuff.

Confession: I am one of those people HAHAHA
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:24 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasn't it here on the blue (maybe elsewhere?) where there was a recent argument over cellphone owners videoing concerts and shows and the annoying sea of LED screens in the audience?


Right here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on May 16, 2013


I'm just struck by how this is pretty much what I'd expect from Williamson.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:25 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the photo, I was kind of hoping he shot the phone..
posted by Ahab at 8:25 AM on May 16, 2013


As they say in “Chicago,” "Nobody’s got no class.”

Because I've never seen or heard anyone use a cell phone during a performance in Toronto.

Probably an idiot American v. nice Canadian thing.
It's certainly bad here in Detroit. And this is not new. In the 90s at an art theatre showing of Casablanca some douche in my row took a call during the LAST COUPLE SCENES! I still wish I’d leaned over and shut his phone off.

BTW In my current office all the conventional rules about *work* etiquette also seem to be out the window. Lengthy personal calls at desks, ongoing chatter, loud political rants, religious items prominently on display in cubes. When I complained about noise to a manager I was told to wear headphones.
posted by NorthernLite at 8:30 AM on May 16, 2013


If you're in a dark theatre, and the person next to you or in front of you is using Google, that is as bad as ringing.

Well, not really. But there are plenty of people who will claim it is or treat is like an assault. And that's a collapse in public manners as much as ringing cell phones and talking during a performance. These outbursts from stage and audience are even more disruptive. I would personally leave a performance where that occurred. The cell phone use is annoying enough. But to escalate the disturbance is not helping either, obviously as after several years of these incidents, they continue. The applause is simply misdirected mob behavior. It is an inappropriate expression of frustration that performances are not better ushered, with cell offenders being removed by venue management. That's where performers and audience members need to start directing their anger outside the performance.

It did not surprise me to learn the heroic Kevin Williamson is a writer for the National Review. It would be nice if he got as mad and offered to spend a night in jail over more important things.
posted by 3.2.3 at 8:31 AM on May 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was hoping for a different Kevin Williamson*. Then maybe we'd get some Ghostface or Dawson Leery or Salvatore brother action.



*This one's Twitter makes it pretty apparently he's just like any other National Review asshole.
posted by kmz at 8:31 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


I try not to use my phones in theaters, but I promise you if I was - for whatever reason, for all this guy knows she was checking in with her cancer-ridden mother or whatever - and someone ripped the phone out of my hands and threw it across the theater, that would be cause for a /brawl/, not just a slap in the face.

That is destruction of property, which, unlike being annoying in theaters, is actually illegal.
posted by corb at 8:31 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


...for all this guy knows she was checking in with her cancer-ridden mother or whatever...

This is what lobbies are for.
posted by DU at 8:32 AM on May 16, 2013 [77 favorites]


someone ripped the phone out of my hands and threw it across the theater

You forgot the part where he asked her to stop several times.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:34 AM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


Nope. Vigilantism is completely unacceptable. Doesn't matter how annoying she was being, or the cannon of annoyance that came before her. Private property is a fundamental pillar of Western society. Not being annoyed in a theatre is not. The endorsement of his actions here is ignorant and foolish. I hope he is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
posted by nickrussell at 8:34 AM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well, not really. But there are plenty of people who will claim it is

Gosh. Do you swear to use your mind reading powers solely for good?

Hint about life in general: just because something doesn't personally annoy you doesn't mean that other people who claim to be annoyed by it are liars who are making trouble just for the fun of it.
posted by yoink at 8:34 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was hoping for a different Kevin Williamson*. Then maybe we'd get some Ghostface or Dawson Leery or Salvatore brother action.

Damon's eyebrows all waggling the phone right out of the theatre. "I used to be able to turn into a crow for some reason," he'd mutter. "Sshh," Stefan would mutter, slouchingly.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:37 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


That'll teach her to annoy a KIND OF FAMOUS WHITE MALE.

They will just take your expensive shit and wreck it in righteous fury, and the world will write columns celebrating their actions. After all, you inconvenienced them, and they were a KIND OF FAMOUS WHITE MALE. Rules like "you do not grab people's expensive shit and wreck it" do not apply to them, whereas rules like "you do not do things that annoy kind-of-famous white males in the theater" do apply to you.

Seriously, what a shithead.
posted by edheil at 8:38 AM on May 16, 2013 [39 favorites]



There is no right to not be annoyed and if there was it would be really annoying.
posted by srboisvert at 8:39 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is it about goddamn cell phones that makes them impossible for people to turn off and put away for two hours? Why is that such a fucking burden to everyone around me? If you're so goddamn bored at the movie or theater, leave.

QFT.
posted by King Bee at 8:40 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I read it in a Heinlein novel (!), but the author theorized that the end of a civilization was in sight around the time rudeness because commonplace, and rudeness in response to rudeness was cheered.

Both people are wrong, but I think if you're running a public establishment, it's on you to police that establishment for rudeness and deal with it. If you can' t do that, running a public establishment is not for you.
posted by Mooski at 8:41 AM on May 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


They will just take your expensive shit and wreck it in righteous fury

But you know what else was expensive? Those $175 tickets.
posted by cazoo at 8:41 AM on May 16, 2013 [25 favorites]


So yeah, throwing the phone across the room was a dick move. I'm at a real loss though, to explain why a live theater is so unwilling to police this. It would seem like a simple disclaimer on the ticket that cell phone use during the performance is grounds for removal--and then following through on it--would work. I know that there would be several performances interrupted for removal of patrons, but word would get around.

It's either something like this, or just giving up alltogether, because right now we're letting the assholes set the standards of behaviour.
posted by Ickster at 8:41 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was hoping for a different Kevin Williamson*. Then maybe we'd get some Ghostface or Dawson Leery or Salvatore brother action.

Me too. BTW did it bug anyone else they spelled Dawson's last name like that? Why couldn't it just be Leary like it's supposed to be?
posted by sweetkid at 8:42 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is it about goddamn cell phones that makes them impossible for people to turn off and put away for two hours? Why is that such a fucking burden to everyone around me?

A friend's mother who is a practicing psychotherapist describes an increasingly common phenomenon among new clients: the inability to sit for a 50-minute session without using a phone. She calls it "device attachment disorder" and it becomes the thing she has to treat first, before any of the official presenting issues.
posted by stuck on an island at 8:42 AM on May 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


More seriously, basically both people here were assholes, and the theater's ushers/rules are clearly inadequate, and basically everybody came out of this smelling like shit.
posted by kmz at 8:43 AM on May 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


A friend's mother who is a practicing psychotherapist describes an increasingly common phenomenon among new clients: the inability to sit for a 50-minute session without using a phone.

One of the first therapists I tried ANSWERED HIS PHONE during the session. To make appointments. I was new to therapy and I was like...this doesn't seem right...
posted by sweetkid at 8:44 AM on May 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


A friend's mother who is a practicing psychotherapist describes an increasingly common phenomenon among new clients: the inability to sit for a 50-minute session without using a phone. She calls it "device attachment disorder" and it becomes the thing she has to treat first, before any of the official presenting issues.

I mean, I kind of get that. Mostly during TV shows. I find sometimes I want to grab my phone so I can... do... something vague and undefined - play a game, check Twitter, check my e-mail - something! and I have to actively fight that urge because I pay less attention to the TV show and I miss things and it just seems... bad... like, I can't be occupied by just one thing for an hour? What the hell? So, I make it a point to try to force myself to just forget about the fucking phone or tablet or whatever.

But with my therapist?

I can't imagine in a million years.

Anyway, good for him. When I go to the movies, I pay $12 for a ticket, and that fucker in front of me on his fucking Facebook feed the whole time can seriously eat shit, because it's super distracting. Had I paid $150 for theater tickets, I can't even imagine.

Put.

The.

Phone.

Away.

PUT IT AWAY.
posted by kbanas at 8:45 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


How about public shaming? If vigilantism is bad (and it is), is public shaming okay? Can the performer ask that a spotlight be put on the idiot with the phone so that ushers can easily find them in order to escort them out?
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


One of the first therapists I tried ANSWERED HIS PHONE during the session.

I would have insisted that he prorate his bill for that session and then never taken another one.
posted by elizardbits at 8:45 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Williamson has class out the ass.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:45 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the important takeaway here is that this woman has apparently found a way to check on her sick mother via Google.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:47 AM on May 16, 2013 [18 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I read it in a Heinlein novel (!), but the author theorized that the end of a civilization was in sight around the time rudeness because commonplace, and rudeness in response to rudeness was cheered.
“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot...”
Then again, he also said:
"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life."
so take that for what you will.
posted by corb at 8:47 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


One of the first therapists I tried ANSWERED HIS PHONE during the session.

I would have insisted that he prorate his bill for that session and then never taken another one.


He was horrible in many ways. Luckily I somehow figured out that stuff wasn't the norm and got the heck out of there.
posted by sweetkid at 8:48 AM on May 16, 2013


One of the first therapists I tried ANSWERED HIS PHONE during the session. To make appointments. I was new to therapy and I was like...this doesn't seem right...


My therapist sometimes forgets to the turn the ringer off for his office phone, and occasionally it will ring during a session - maybe once every 3 or 4 months - and he's always very sheepish about it and quickly goes and turns off the ringer.

There was once.... once.. in our 8 year history where he told me ahead of time he might have to take an urgent call during our session, and he did, and I was still sort of annoyed about it, even though it was super brief.

Your attention! Give me all of it! (Especially for that much money.)
posted by kbanas at 8:48 AM on May 16, 2013


I think the important takeaway here is that this woman has apparently found a way to check on her sick mother via Google.

Well, we all know that Eric Schmidt personally reads everything written on GMail, so it's possible...
posted by kmz at 8:48 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm at a real loss though, to explain why a live theater is so unwilling to police this.

That's the real key. I went to see Blue Man Group a while back with my family and some friends. They have a strict "no photography" policy. After the show was over, when the lights came on, I grabbed my phone to take a picture of my son and his friend covered in toilet paper. No sooner had I lifted the phone up to my face when some usher came out of nowhere and yelled at me. This was after the show was completely over. It was some damn impressive rule enforcement.

More theaters should be that good.
posted by bondcliff at 8:51 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I try not to use my phones in theaters, but I promise you if I was - for whatever reason, for all this guy knows she was checking in with her cancer-ridden mother or whatever - and someone ripped the phone out of my hands and threw it across the theater, that would be cause for a /brawl/, not just a slap in the face.

I am surprised that you were not taught that the polite thing to do in such an instance is to go out to the lobby.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:52 AM on May 16, 2013 [37 favorites]


Yeah, Williamson has class out the ass.

So? Just because he's an asshole doesn't mean he might not on occasion be right. It's not a zero-sum game.
posted by Windigo at 8:53 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


We need to set up some sort of silent beacon, perhaps via Twitter, so the patrons may alert theater staff
posted by benzenedream at 8:54 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Nope. Vigilantism is completely unacceptable. Doesn't matter how annoying she was being, or the cannon of annoyance that came before her. Private property is a fundamental pillar of Western society. Not being annoyed in a theatre is not. The endorsement of his actions here is ignorant and foolish. I hope he is prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Yeah, yeah, her ability to use a cell phone is the only thing keeping us from a failed Somalian state. Ignorant and foolish?
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


What if theaters set up EMPs and just disabled all electronic devices at the outset of the show? With, y'know, some handwavy warning for pacemakers or whatever.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I try not to use my phones in theaters, but I promise you if I was - for whatever reason, for all this guy knows she was checking in with her cancer-ridden mother or whatever - and someone ripped the phone out of my hands and threw it across the theater, that would be cause for a /brawl/, not just a slap in the face.

I am surprised that you were not taught that the polite thing to do in such an instance is to go out to the lobby.


No, but you don't get it, I am the most important person! You fuckers are all my supporting cast!
posted by grubi at 8:55 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


and someone ripped the phone out of my hands and threw it across the theater, that would be cause for a /brawl/, not just a slap in the face.

Not to be sexist, but most women are seldom going to jump right in to a brawl with a strange man. I wonder if Williamson would have pulled this stunt on someone 6'2" and 250 lbs. And I wonder how much Williamson relied on being wealthy and white to know that the cops weren't going to beat the crap out of him for it.
posted by tyllwin at 8:56 AM on May 16, 2013 [35 favorites]


I favor having black-clad ushers about, lurking in the back, armed with bolt-cutters. When the movie comes on, if a glowing rectangle appears, the phone goes crunch! The film is paused and the rest of the audience may pelt the offender with JuJuBes for not more than sixty seconds. Print a EULA to this effect on the back of the ticket. Good to go.

Best cell phone ring story I have: One of my nursing friends was just about to start her shift and go through the usual drill of turning the phone off, etc., when someone codes right there and of course everyone plunges in to help. She's busily doing her manual thing while waiting for the cart when her ring tone goes off: The Rolling Stones, "Start Me Up." The rest of the staff couldn't stop laughing long enough to reprimand her.
posted by adipocere at 8:57 AM on May 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wonder how much Williamson relied on being wealthy and white to know that the cops weren't going to beat the crap out of him for it.

He probably didn't even think about being wealthy and white, invisible backpacks being what they are.
posted by sweetkid at 8:57 AM on May 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


What if theaters set up EMPs and just disabled all electronic devices at the outset of the show? With, y'know, some handwavy warning for pacemakers or whatever.

I've actually heard serious suggestions of things like Faraday cages or cell phone jammers for theaters. With the usual counterpoint of "what about that one heart surgeon who's on call 24/7??" which always seems a bit fishy to me, but what do I know about doctors' schedules?
posted by kmz at 8:58 AM on May 16, 2013


Holy shit you can still buy JuJuBes?!
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 AM on May 16, 2013


I don't think race or class have anything to do with this. I am pretty poor and a white girl, and I have often wanted to do this, and often do tell people to shut up.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:00 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


The lit phone screen. Oh, the lit phone screen.

I am still somewhat amazed by the time that I was sitting directly behind someone who was staring at a particularly large glowing rectangle for nearly the entire show. Even when numerous naked people were singing and dancing on stage.

That was the dawning of the Age of Turn Off Your Fucking iPad.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:00 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of the first therapists I tried ANSWERED HIS PHONE during the session. To make appointments. I was new to therapy and I was like...this doesn't seem right...

*Light bulb* This is why therapists have answering services. Cause they are with clients all day! I was so annoyed that no therapist would answer their phone.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:01 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is it about goddamn cell phones that makes them impossible for people to turn off and put away for two hours?

They had Tamaguchi's as children and were thus trained to respond to electronics wanting attention.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:01 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Holy shit you can still buy JuJuBes?!

You can, but they've been harder to find ever since they were reclassified by the FDA as a "shipping/packing material"
posted by theodolite at 9:01 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm on call for my job (and often enough that "just don't go out when you're on call" isn't a very useful solution), and the few times I've had to deal with my phone or pager vibrating, I've pulled my phone and arm and head inside my sweater (hoodies are great for this) to be able to look at it without lighting up the area. I figure it's less intrusive than getting up to deal with it, since most of the time my pages are advisory in nature, and generally people around me don't seem to notice i'm doing anything more than maybe taking a sweater on or off.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:02 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]



One of the first therapists I tried ANSWERED HIS PHONE during the session. To make appointments. I was new to therapy and I was like...this doesn't seem right...

*Light bulb* This is why therapists have answering services.


Maybe in 1969. My therapist (not the guy who answered his phone) just gets messages on his cell.

Yeah, the friend who recommended the phone-answering therapist was like, "he's always available by phone" and I realized it was because he answered it during appointments.
posted by sweetkid at 9:03 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am still somewhat amazed by the time that I was sitting directly behind someone who was staring at a particularly large glowing rectangle for nearly the entire show. Even when numerous naked people were singing and dancing.

If the spectacle of dancing and singing and nakedness isn't enough to capture your attention (at $200 a person), then go the fuck home. I'm ADHD llike a muhfuh (diagnosed, medicated, and everything) and I don't understand that level of distractedness.
posted by grubi at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can, but they've been harder to find ever since they were reclassified by the FDA as a "shipping/packing material"

you shut your blasphemous mouth
posted by grubi at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


What if theaters set up EMPs and just disabled all electronic devices at the outset of the show? With, y'know, some handwavy warning for pacemakers or whatever.

About ten years ago I heard on NPR about a church in Spain that did this.
posted by brujita at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2013


Is this actually vigilantism? Using your cell phone in a theater doesn't actually break the law.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:05 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's times like these that make me feel grateful that I am not a house manager anymore.

There's a weird sort of entitlement culture that happens with cell phones in theatres. I know of an instance where a board member of a non-profit theatre was reprimanded for using her cell phone during a performance and was astounded that anyone would have a problem with it.

However, to the Mom dying of cancer issue -- there is a polite way to handle that situation. Once when I was house managing, a woman came up to me and let me know that her sister was close to her due date and might be having a baby. She asked to be re-sat in the back, kept her phone on vibrate, and let all the ushers know that if she left during the performance, it had nothing to do with the show, and everything to do with becoming an Aunt. We placed her in some unused usher seating in the back of the house, and her sister didn't have a kid that night. There are ways to handle the "I spent a lot of money on this thing and I want to enjoy it if I can, but I might need to leave due to big family thing" without destroying the experience of your fellow patrons.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 9:07 AM on May 16, 2013 [41 favorites]


Is this actually vigilantism? Using your cell phone in a theater doesn't actually break the law.

YES IT DOES! Shame it's not enforced. This guy did both what he should not have done and what I'm glad he did (although a glass of water would have been awesome, too).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:07 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I rather like the idea of civil vigilantism. Don't grab the phone, though. Engage the asshole offender, turn the lights up and shame him out of the theater.

Troupers are supposed to stay in character even if the stage is collapsing, so, there's that, yet I've seen stand-uppers do good things about cellphone users: Paula Poundstone, for example, once did a twenty minute bit when an audience member's phone went off. I believe I've seen her do this more than once.

Yelling Asshole at them may seem okay, but then all you have are two people having an asshole contest, and it'll usually end up in a tie.

The message here, snowflake, is turn your goddam phone off at public perfermances unless the venue actually encourages it.
posted by mule98J at 9:09 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is fantastic and should happen more often. Sometimes fear is what's needed to change the behavior of unbelievably rude people.
posted by shivohum at 9:10 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder if he'd be so heroic if the cell phone user was a guy who's bigger than he is? Or maybe he just saw an easy target for his impotent rage.

This was stupid, vicious and inexcusably rude. A far worse breech of ettiquette than phone use during the show, disrupting and violent.

The right way to deal with it would be to go to management, and demand your money back because they aren't enforcing their rules on cell phone use. Don't complain, or ask them to intervene, straight up punch them right in the pocketbook. I've done it. It's surprising how quick the ushers move on the phone users after that...
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:11 AM on May 16, 2013 [15 favorites]


No sooner had I lifted the phone up to my face when some usher came out of nowhere and yelled at me. This was after the show was completely over. It was some damn impressive rule enforcement.

Oh no, that’s a completely different phenomenon that I have observed as both a volunteer usher and a patron. You put some people in a “uniform,” even an usher’s outfit, and they get a power rush.

There was no need to scold you after the performance was over. THAT was just rude.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:11 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I am pretty poor and a white girl, and I have often wanted to do this, and often do tell people to shut up."

Have you grabbed something from the person and thrown it across the room?

I think the issue that some of us are having with Williamson is not at all that we think that the phone-user was in any sense in the right, but that Williamson's response was excessive and violent. There is something entitled in the way that he is so smug about his decision to respond to rudeness with violence.

And I find it ironic but not at all surprising that a noted arch-conservative would take and damage someone else's private property as a response to someone's violation of etiquette.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


The Shakespherian actors at the Stratford Festival were quite adept at breaking the fourth wall with improvised line changes when necessary, after which all the performers could stop and glare at someone being disruptive in the audience. The play would stay "on hold" while an usher escorted the offender out.

I wish I could remember some of the good lines. If they were really on the ball, someone in character would "remove the offender from the royal court".

Anyway, no need for violence, just eject the person without refund (surely you were about to leave to rush to your dying relative's bedside anyway), maybe rewind a few lines and continue.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:14 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Google needs "professional grey".


Nope. Vigilantism is completely unacceptable. Doesn't matter how annoying she was being, or the cannon of annoyance that came before her. Private property is a fundamental pillar of Western society. Not being annoyed in a theatre is not. The endorsement of his actions here is ignorant and foolish. I hope he is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.


You mean "personal possessions", not "private property", right? Freedom from physical violence is even more important, which is why I hope she is prosecuted for slapping him. Adhering to reasonable norms of a community with which one has voluntarily affiliated oneself (by joining an audience) is also very important, which is why I hope her phone shattered.
posted by kengraham at 9:14 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am surprised that you were not taught that the polite thing to do in such an instance is to go out to the lobby.

You may note that I stated that it is not my preferred practice, but if I were to be in such a situation that is how I would react?

Or maybe you meant that the polite thing to do is to go out to the lobby for the brawl. You are absolutely correct, and I'm sorry I forgot to add it to my comment.
posted by corb at 9:14 AM on May 16, 2013


Best cell phone ring story I have: One of my nursing friends was just about to start her shift and go through the usual drill of turning the phone off, etc., when someone codes right there and of course everyone plunges in to help. She's busily doing her manual thing while waiting for the cart when her ring tone goes off: The Rolling Stones, "Start Me Up." The rest of the staff couldn't stop laughing long enough to reprimand her.

My own "best cell phone" story wasn't bad - this was in a show I was stage managing. The offendor clearly just forgot to turn off her phone, and it went off during a quiet scene during the play. And it was clear that she was wildly embarrassed, and sort of panicked - she just let it go on, and you could tell it was a sort of panic response, where the thinking was "it would be bad if I answered the phone so I will let it go to voicemail" and the whole idea of silencing the ring just didn't occur to her in her shock.

So that bit wasn't bad. The thing that made it bad was, her cell phone ring tone was the sound of a clucking chicken. So the whole audience, and even the cast onstage, and me in my booth, was looking around wondering what was going on as this woman's bag was saying, "bawwwwwwwk buk buk buk b-gawwwwwk buk buk buk b-gawwwwwk....."

We dealt with it by my making a second polite reminder, in person, before the second act started to please, everyone, double check that your cell phones are switched off. Thank you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:19 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am really surprised that there is so much support for a man destroying a woman's personal property just because she has been rude and annoying. If you can't enjoy the show and the theater won't do anything about it, then you leave and demand your money back, you don't go breaking other people's shit. This guy isn't a hero, he's a fucking thug.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:19 AM on May 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


"Freedom from physical violence is even more important..."

Yes, and I think Williamson crossed that boundary when he forcibly took the phone from the woman.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:20 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


You may note that I stated that it is not my preferred practice, but if I were to be in such a situation that is how I would react?

If it is what you think the offender should have done, then I wonder why you were defending their property rather than condoning their rudeness.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on May 16, 2013


I'm at a real loss though, to explain why a live theater is so unwilling to police this.

Cellphone use? Simple, if yer average theatre starts to enforce these bans they'd lose more customers than they'd gain, or so they believe.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:21 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I especially can't believe this woman brought that giant metal chicken in with her.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:23 AM on May 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


You don't fight uncivility with uncivility. He had a choice. He could have requested his money back if the theater wasn't enforcing its own rules. Apparently this fellow was a reviewer and may have gotten tickets for free. In which case, his review could have included a mention of how the theater doesn't enforce these policies.

Instead, he fought rudeness with an even bigger example of rudeness. Very not cool.
posted by inturnaround at 9:23 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the issue that some of us are having with Williamson is not at all that we think that the phone-user was in any sense in the right, but that Williamson's response was excessive and violent.

Being happy that an inconsiderate asshole got her comeuppance (and that this might possibly discourage a few other inconsiderate assholes and make theater management think about stricter policing) doesn't logically entail approving of Williamson's action. If someone randomly fired a gun in a crowded street they would definitely be in the wrong and deserving of punishment, but it wouldn't imply--at all--that we couldn't be happy that the bullet prevented someone from igniting a terrorist bomb.

Williamson was definitely wrong to smash her phone, but that doesn't make me any less happy that she got her damned phone smashed.
posted by yoink at 9:24 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Instead, he fought rudeness with an even bigger example of rudeness. Very not cool.

Agreed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 AM on May 16, 2013


Well put. Jerks on all sides on this one.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:26 AM on May 16, 2013


If you grab someone's phone (even if they "deserved" it) and fling it across the room, I find it hard to believe that any judge in any court would even hear a case for assault if that person then slapped you.
posted by sideshow at 9:26 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


What if theaters set up EMPs and just disabled all electronic devices at the outset of the show? With, y'know, some handwavy warning for pacemakers or whatever.

I know people who have wanted to do this, there are commercial phone blockers available. They couldn’t because they didn’t want to deal with lawsuits.
posted by bongo_x at 9:29 AM on May 16, 2013


It's not even dark in that room. People are seated in a well-lit venue at tables with food and drink on them. How is someone silently typing on a cell phone disruptive in this context? I don't get it.
posted by Hoopo at 9:29 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


commercial phone blockers available

None are legal in the US.
posted by ryanrs at 9:30 AM on May 16, 2013


It's not even dark in that room.

You know what else is happening in that room at the time that photograph was taken? A photographer is standing in the middle of the stage taking a photograph for promotional purposes. I'm assuming that the photographer isn't actually there on stage during normal paid performances. By the same token, I imagine that the lighting conditions are probably not exactly the same as they are during normal paid performances. You know, because they are having photographs taken.
posted by yoink at 9:33 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't get it.

You know this is a press photo, right? And not actually what it looks like during the performance?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:35 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


How have we concluded the photographer is on the stage?
posted by Hoopo at 9:35 AM on May 16, 2013


I can confirm, based on 10 years of theater experience, that the theater leaves the lights on when they are shooting the promotional photos, and that the light conditions of the promotional photos do not match the light conditions of the actual performance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


This guy is a jerk. From his National Review note about this:

The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical.

Ew.
posted by sweetkid at 9:36 AM on May 16, 2013 [18 favorites]


The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical.

Well, the attention span thing is right on.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:39 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cellphone blocking is in general illegal in the US and elsewhere.

My understand for doctors and other on-call professionals that they can give their device to the theater staff beforehand and then be quietly informed by an usher if there's an emergency.

And while I think both people in this sub-drama are assholes, it is perhaps telling that despite the main drama taking place in and among the audience (they are, indeed, sitting "on stage"), the play still couldn't hold everyone's attention. I would dearly love to see a time-traveling Dorothy Parker review with lovingly crafted, vitriolic descriptions of the action.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am all for black clad ushers who are trained in the delicate martial art of asking offending audience members to turn off their devices and escorting them from the theater if they do not comply. However -

Oh no, that’s a completely different phenomenon that I have observed as both a volunteer usher and a patron. You put some people in a “uniform,” even an usher’s outfit, and they get a power rush.


There is a general assumption by an alarmingly large section of the population that anyone in a uniform asking you not to do something (even something incredibly selfish and rude) is a Powertripping Funwrecker out to trample upon your inalienable right to do whatever the fuck you want becuase this is America and you are Important. These people will scream and threaten to sue you and are not even remotely above physically attacking someone who asks them politely to stop being a such tremendous asshole. I am not sure if this makes theaters reluctant to enforce rules against phone usage, or if this reticence encourages further violation. But it kind of sucks for everyone, except the shitty people who don't care.

Somewhere along the line, we have lost the gentle art of saying NO, and accepting that sometimes it is the best thing.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


OTOH, I'm awfully sympathetic to Williamson's rage. I'm even a little sympathetic to his taking the problem in his own hands, so to speak. OTOH, as far as the rest of audience—not to mention the cast—is concerned, Williamson probably disrupted the show more than the Google lady. If I'd been there I'd have wanted to beat both their asses.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2013


So, to sum up: pretty much everyone involved with this situation was wrong and bad, and some were more wrong and bad than others.
posted by elizardbits at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


How have we concluded the photographer is on the stage?

I shouldn't have said "on stage" because if you really want to be literal about that the photographer might well not be. However, you can see that the photograph is taken facing the rear of the theater. You can see that the photographer is between one of the principal actors and the part of the theater towards which the audience is looking. The photographer, then, is in the midst of the action, whether literally on the "stage" or not. Again, the point is that the lighting conditions during this promotional photography shoot are no indication of the lighting conditions during a normal performance.
posted by yoink at 9:41 AM on May 16, 2013


So, to sum up: pretty much everyone involved with this situation was wrong and bad, and some were more wrong and bad than others.

Boy, that sure describes a lot of modern news stories. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:41 AM on May 16, 2013


In my limited experiences with live performances, the number of "phone disturbances" seems to be inversely related to the number of ushers.

I was at a show in Las Vegas with repeated announcements of no phone nor camera use, and there seemed to be one or two ushers for every section. As soon as a phone or camera appeared, an usher would be there to shine a little red flashlight at the offender and silently wag their finger in a tsk-tsk no-bad-dog way.

At a comedy show back home, with approximately the same number in attendance, it seemed there were only enough ushers to man the doors and direct people to sections containing their seats. Despite the comedians themselves repeating the oft-stated warnings, there were dozens of lit-up iPhones all recording the performance, some as close as the front row.

Now, maybe there's a difference in the make-up of an audience for a Las Vegas show versus a local comedy concert, but I think those on stage feel the same way in the face of such blatant rudeness. And I'm fairly sure there really is a "special Hell" for those people.
posted by CancerMan at 9:44 AM on May 16, 2013


I think people are sympathetic to Williamson (even if they do not agree with what he did in practice because we would never do such a thing ourselves OF COURSE) sweet jeebus do we fantasize about doing it every time one of those people is near us in a theater. I know I have often thought of reaching into car windows to grab a texting driver's phone to hurl it into the path of an oncoming garbage truck so it will crunch in a most satisfying manner. In reality, this would result in my imminent demise. But I have a little dream.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:47 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that Williamson is aware there may be legal repercussions to his actions, and he is willing to live with that. So, wench with phone gets lesson in manners, and jerky rich writer guy gets publicity and (probably) sued. I am OK with this, and I applaud the man for his action (thugish as they were) as long as he lives with the consequences.
posted by Vindaloo at 9:47 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


What he did is is not cool. It's telling that he did it to a (ostensibly weaker but what do I know) woman.

What you do is, you go to the lobby once and seek intervention. When nothing happens, you return to the lobby and demand a refund of your ticket price and/or a rain check. You escalate with the venue, not with the offender. It's the venue's responsibility to engage assholes, not yours.
posted by Infinity_8 at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


This was stupid, vicious and inexcusably rude. A far worse breech of ettiquette than phone use during the show, disrupting and violent.

My personal read on social interactions that escalate to conflict goes something like this.

Once I do something that's selfish and rude (and probably stupid), I fast become culpable with regard to what others might do in response to my initial transgression(s), even if it's an acceleration of the rudeness and stupidity into the realm of "viciousness" ... because I'm the one who first contravened the social contract, (and in this case, when called on it, refused to make amends).

Maybe a court of law would find Mr. Williamson guilty of something here. But the court of public opinion seems to be tilting the other way ... and that's a good thing, I think. Yup, even the violence toward the phone. Because sometimes, the point needs to made in broad strokes.

Excuse me, but could you PLEASE SHOW SOME FUCKING COURTESY!!!!!!
posted by philip-random at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2013


Williamson is evidently an advocate for concealed carry. Too bad he wasn't packing, he could have brought a much more satisfying end to that terrible situation.

/end sarcasm
posted by HuronBob at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2013


Williamson is evidently an advocate for concealed carry.

Wait, really for reals? Because if so, that makes his actions somewhat more questionable to me.
posted by elizardbits at 9:50 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck Williamson. Doesn't surprise me a bit, knowing his schtick.

I might applaud the guy if the phone was snatched from someone built like Mike Tyson. But he chose to escalate the rudeness by outdoing the phone using woman with a drama that was worthy of a news story.

If the theatergoers are rude, and the theater won't do anything about it, you ask for your money back and leave. He chose thuggery instead, far exceeding the original offense.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:51 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ridiculous, but shoring up the support for recent research into the conservative brain.

"Taken together, our results are consistent with the view that political orientation, in part, reflects individual differences in the functioning of a general mechanism related to cognitive control and self-regulation. Stronger conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with less neurocognitive sensitivity to response conflicts. At the behavioral level, conservatives were also more likely to make errors of commission."

the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels

Hm. This incident was not solely about cell phones.

Once I do something that's selfish and rude (and probably stupid), I fast become culpable with regard to what others might do in response to my initial transgression(s), even if it's an acceleration of the rudeness and stupidity into the realm of "viciousness" ... because I'm the one who first contravened the social contract, (and in this case, when called on it, refused to make amends).

So when you cut me off on the highway, I'm allowed to speed around in front of you, and then slam on my brakes? That's MAD, man!
posted by mrgrimm at 9:52 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, really for reals? Because if so, that makes his actions somewhat more questionable to me.


Why do his views on the right to carry a concealed weapon play into his actions in this scenario?
posted by kbanas at 9:52 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


guy if the phone was snatched from someone built like Mike Tyson.

Again, what the person looked like has nothing to do with their behavior or repeated refusal to you know, obey the law.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:53 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Concealed Carry
posted by HuronBob at 9:53 AM on May 16, 2013


"Why do his views on the right to carry a concealed weapon play into his actions in this scenario?"

Because he seems to advocate for an escalation of violence?

Someone upstream called him a bully, someone else referred to him as a thug. I had never heard of this individual before today, but I'm starting to suspect that they are correct in their assessment.
posted by HuronBob at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


So when you cut me off on the highway, I'm allowed to speed around in front of you, and then slam on my brakes? That's MAD, man!

I'm not saying I'm in the right when I accelerate the "violence". I am saying, it's somewhat inevitable, because that's the nature of conflict. It proliferates. So instigators need to be called on their shit more often, made aware that they are not operating in a vacuum. Even if it hurts a bit.
posted by philip-random at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2013


It'd be so much more satisfying if it was Fred Williamson III.
posted by grubi at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "Looking at that photo of the production, it doesn't look like a dark theater.

...Uh, there are generally lights on the stage during a play. The audience is darkened, however.
"

And luxuriant.
posted by Splunge at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]



Concealed Carry


From that link:
But there's no place like DC to make you miss your concealed-carry permit.

Uggghhh I really dislike this person.
posted by sweetkid at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


What you do is, you go to the lobby once and seek intervention. When nothing happens, you return to the lobby and demand a refund of your ticket price and/or a rain check.

Yeah, but your evening out at the theater is already fucked at that point. That's one of the really irritating things about people behaving like inconsiderate jerks in theaters and concert halls--there's really no way to respond to them without making a bad situation at least temporarily worse. Even shushing someone is A) annoying to your neighbors and B) breaks you out of your engagement with whatever it is you're watching/listening to and C) leaves you feeling wrought up inside at having been forced to play hall monitor when you hoped you were just out for a pleasant evening.

Getting up and going to the lobby, finding a manager, explaining the problem? Yeah, sure, I paid $XXX to watch/listen to "part one" of this piece, skip a random 5 minutes in the middle and then see "part two"! Wheeeee! Oh, and yay, now I'm having to put up with an usher having a half-whispered argument with the asshole involved who insists s/he "knows her rights!" and "wasn't even doing anything!" Oh, what a lovely unscripted obbligato for the crucial scene I'm trying to follow despite missing the preceding 5 minutes.

There's a reason that these assholes can make even otherwise reasonable people get into a blind fury. Sure, it's still wrong to grab their phones and smash them, but boy do they deserve to have their phones smashed by some magisterial and non vigilante-based force.
posted by yoink at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2013 [30 favorites]


tyllwin: and someone ripped the phone out of my hands and threw it across the theater, that would be cause for a /brawl/, not just a slap in the face.

Not to be sexist, but most women are seldom going to jump right in to a brawl with a strange man. I wonder if Williamson would have pulled this stunt on someone 6'2" and 250 lbs. And I wonder how much Williamson relied on being wealthy and white to know that the cops weren't going to beat the crap out of him for it.
THANK GOD someone finally found a way to divert attention away from the FPP to the real problem here: RACISM!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:58 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


"OTOH, as far as the rest of audience—not to mention the cast—is concerned, Williamson probably disrupted the show more than the Google lady. If I'd been there I'd have wanted to beat both their asses."

A few people have mentioned this, but I'm surprised that it hasn't been a larger part of this discussion. I mean, if your outrage is all about someone disrupting a performance, then it's hard to understand how what Williamson did wasn't 10x worse, completely independent of the violence of what he did. He made the problem much, much worse for everyone else.

But not for him. He'd stopped paying attention to the show already. It's in this sort of analysis that his selfishness and sense of entitlement is more obvious.

"Once I do something that's selfish and rude (and probably stupid), I fast become culpable with regard to what others might do in response to my initial transgression(s), even if it's an acceleration of the rudeness and stupidity into the realm of 'viciousness' ... because I'm the one who first contravened the social contract, (and in this case, when called on it, refused to make amends)."

Yeah, I think you're at least partly wrong in theory and almost entirely wrong in practice. In practice, almost without exception people don't really give a shit who started it, they'll blame both parties equally. And for the reasons I describe above — when it's escalating rudeness and disruption in a public venue where it's affecting other people, the only people who primarily care about who started it are the combatants. Everyone else is mostly concerned with the bickering people who are disturbing them. And rightly so.

You can see this in action in pretty much every MeTa thread where a few people get involved in grudge-fests against each other.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:01 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I must say I'm liking the idea of a theater company who, before every performance, make the standard request that cellphones be turned off (yadda-yadda-yadda) ... but then follow it up with. "If you notice a fellow patron is insisting on offending in this regard, we invite you to make it known to everyone and public admonish them. Trust that the cast and crew will be quick to join with you in the shaming."
posted by philip-random at 10:01 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but your evening out at the theater is already fucked at that point.

Yeah, but everyone's evening out was fucked here. I know it's thrilling to imagine oneself as Williamson, dishing out righteousness to the rude assholes of the world, but in this case, Williamson was just as rude an asshole as his tormentor. #OMG I HAVE BECOME THE THING I HATE
posted by octobersurprise at 10:03 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Years ago we saw a performance of Pirates of Penzance. Afterwards the guy who played the Major General told us that in the performance the night before someone's phone had gone off in the middle of his patter song. Without missing a beat he altered the words to "put your cell phone away, hang up your cell phone now" with gestures - and the entire cast immediately joined him. Must have been a thing of beauty and definitely a case where the punishment fit the crime.
posted by leslies at 10:05 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's interesting that this sort of "playing with my phone during a movie or play" thing is ubiquitous, yet whenever a discussion like this comes up, no one, not one person will come in and say, "I use my phone during movies and here's why." SOMEONE is doing this, but it's never anyone in the discussion.

I suspect it's really a case of, "It is undeniably rude and boorish to use one's phone during the movie. Of course, in my case I had to because..."
posted by Legomancer at 10:06 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The number of people here who are ready to give this piece of shit a HIGH FIVE BRO kind of amazes me.
posted by edheil at 10:08 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Basically, I take issue with the whole framing of the story. It shouldn't be "Heroic Theatergoer Smashes Cell Phone, Gets Thrown Out." It should be "Assholes get in fight, ruin show."
posted by octobersurprise at 10:09 AM on May 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


(incidentally, do those emergency warning text message things for tsunamis/tornados/etc override the silent modes on most phones?)
posted by elizardbits at 10:10 AM on May 16, 2013


Here is Williamson's description of his antagonists: "The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical."

Not defending cell phone use at the theater, but Williamson is an asshole.
posted by Eyebeams at 10:10 AM on May 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


THANK GOD someone finally found a way to divert attention away from the FPP to the real problem here: RACISM!

I don't know or care if Williamson is a racist or not. I have no reason to think that he is. My point is that I think he assaulted this woman, then stole and destroyed her property, not because he's brave and careless of the consequences, but rather because he knows there will be none, neither from the police nor from his victim. He's brave because the victim is no physical match for him, and because the cops will treat him with respect.
posted by tyllwin at 10:11 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


I will grant that, at movie theaters, I don't consider the no-cell rule to apply until the trailers have started. I feel perfectly entitled to, say, text my perpetually-late friend to let him know we're in the tenth row closer to the center stairs, while on screen we're being informed how tasty CocaCola is, or that TNT has a new series coming out. Once the actual trailers start, the phone should be silent and off, and they'd darn well better be silent and off by the time the opening credits start.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:11 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


In cases like this, my evening at the theatre was fucked when I had to start figuring out how to deal with someone like this asshole lady. That ship has sailed. I'm talking about effective ways of dealing with her from then on.

But, fair enough, here's another alternative: before escalating individually with the offender or going to management, seek buy-in from those around you. Catch the eye of someone else who is looking annoyed (if there aren't any others -- sorry, you're screwed.) Make a connection. Then ask around to others. ""This is bothering me. Is it bothering you, too?" Or more generally, "Is anybody else bothered by this lady's cell phone?" Get some numbers before you go in. Social bullies like the woman in this scenario rely on the disconnectedness of the audience members.

This technique is generalized from one I learned from Dear Abby, oddly enough (and I tried it once, and it worked.) If you're in line for something and people cut in front of you, you turn around, catch the eyes of some of the people behind you, gauge how much support you can expect from them. Then say, in a loud voice, to the cutters, "Excuse me, I don't mind you cutting in front of *me* of course...as long as it's ok with (with a gesture to invite input from those behind) ALL THESE OTHER PEOPLE."
posted by Infinity_8 at 10:12 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


The number of people here who are ready to give this piece of shit a HIGH FIVE BRO kind of amazes me.

Every single one of my New York theatregoing friends on Facebook has shared this with a "high five bro" message this morning.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:12 AM on May 16, 2013


(elizardbits, my text alerts do not override my iPhone on vibrate, likely because my iPhone just considers them incoming text messages. The screen does light up, though)
posted by CancerMan at 10:16 AM on May 16, 2013


Effective ways of dealing with rude patrons at performance venues:

Chapter 1.

Electric Cattle Prod.

The End.
posted by daq at 10:16 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is one time where RTFA actually told me less than the comments here (I didn't know who the dude was).

So:

1. Cell phones in theaters with the texting and the glowing and occasional beeping and especially talking: bad. For values of bad from "annoying but ignorable" to "HULK SMASH" depenidng on who you ask.

2. Stage actors and musicians: hella annoyed, occasionally to the point of calling people on it mid-performance.

3. This guy: kind of an asshole. Rendering his heroically presented story something to take with a grain of salt.

4. Theaters: not doing their jobs if they don't enforce the no-device rule.

5. Cell phones/other devices: mostly blessing, often curse, possibly making us assholes.
posted by emjaybee at 10:17 AM on May 16, 2013


You forgot:

6. Happy drum circle in the street gets yelled at by a grouchy, Queen-costumed Helen Mirren in front of a gay bar.
posted by chococat at 10:19 AM on May 16, 2013


No, daq: I advocate the Throat Punch.
posted by grubi at 10:20 AM on May 16, 2013


Happy drum circle in the street gets yelled at by a grouchy, Queen-costumed Hellen Mirren in front of a gay bar.

Actually, to Mirren's credit, she released a statement the following day apologizing for losing her temper and expressing support for the event the drum circle was promoting. And finishing with something like, yay drum circles, but just not in front of a theater while there's a show, 'kay?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Generally, I'm against vigilante justice.

But it's very hard to figure out what to do when a polite request is ignored. I honestly feel that if you are doing something that bothers a crowd of others, something that's against the rules, and you ignore polite requests to stop, then really you have only yourself to blame if someone escalates.

In a play I was in recently, one woman did that on the second night. For the remaining shows, the director came on (in character dressed as Sophocles) and warned people, semi-jokingly, that'd we'd destroy any cellphones that came out. He'd never do it - and it was pretty funny - but he's a big guy and we had no more issues.

If I had been there, I would have applauded this.

Here's a favorite story of mine that illustrates how hard the problem is.

I saw an amazing and bizarre band a few years ago called "The Melted Men". They have BIG signs up - "NO PHOTOGRAPHY! NO CELL PHONES."

Some post-fratboy dickhead in front of me kept his phone up (in front of my face) for the first half of the show. One of the performers started yelling at him... "NO CAMERAS! I WANT YOU TO SEE THIS WITH YOUR OWN EYES!" but they guy kept filming. At a certain point, the performer just jumped off stage and started hitting his arm with a drumstick!

Now I expected the guy to either get an attitude and escalate, or stop doing it. What I did NOT expect him to do was shrug and keep going.

I leaned over to his girlfriend and said, "Hey, I thought the drum stick was a pretty clear message." What does this... woman do but start blabbering in my ear, "explaining" why he had to do this (apparently some magazine he's with - but did they really print photos from a 2007-era cell phone?)

I put up with this for a little bit, and then I gave her a big smile, and said, "Sorry, would you fuck off?" She said, "What?" and I gave her an even bigger smile and said, "I'm terribly sorry, would you mind just fucking off?"

They left. I think she thought I was crazy - even though I was scrupulously polite and non-threatening. I was happy all night.

If someone had smashed that phone, I would have physically protected them with my body if it came down to it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:27 AM on May 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


Williamson behaved like an asshole, I should clarify, is my position. I don't contend that it's good that he smashed her phone. That her phone got smashed (if it did) is excellent, though.

5. Cell phones/other devices: mostly blessing, often curse, possibly making us assholes.

Smaller and more portable than a netbook? Very likely an annoying, socially-destructive, attention-span-eroding, Big Brother-tempting, corporate-control-over-personal-autonomy-increasing curse. Get off my lawn.
posted by kengraham at 10:31 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


* snerk* Lupus, I actually made friends with a photographer at a concert by bonding with him over this - he actually was one of the contracted photographers for the concert, but he kept having to fight for space amid all the amateur whee-im-in-ur-space-cellphone-filming-ur-doods idiots. I had a big piece of paper on me, and wrote a note on the back - "Do those people with cell phones piss you off as much as they do me?" And on a break between songs, I handed it to him. He took it, read it, then cracked up, looked at me and sighed. "You have NO idea."

I think he also had just enough time to let me know a couple things about why their cell phone videos and pictures would suck, before he had to get back to work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:32 AM on May 16, 2013


to Mirren's credit, she released a statement the following day apologizing for losing her temper and expressing support for the event the drum circle was promoting

Which was very cool of her to do and definitely mitigated the the vibe of "everyone in the public streets of London please SHHHH while I do my important PRETENDING TO BE THE QUEEN."
Anyway Helen Mirren is awesome in my books.
posted by chococat at 10:37 AM on May 16, 2013


I see a lot of opera and classical concerts, and it never fails to amaze me how horrible people are.

Like the guy sitting behind me a few weeks ago who absolutely REEKED of dirty feet. I mean, it was nauseatingly bad. Wash your damn feet or change your damn stinky shoes before you come to the opera house, for Pete's sake.

Or how about the people who come sick and hack and cough the whole time until the theatre sounds like a tuberculosis sanitorium. I do not want to hear you trying to expectorate a mass of phlegm while Jonas Kaufmann is singing The Flower Song.

The worst was the young woman in front of me (we were in the good seats, too) who was texting during Mimi's death scene at a performance of La Bohème at La Scala. I mean what. the. fuck. are you texting? There's only like five minutes left in the opera anyway; couldn't you just wait til the lights are up? I'm totally moved at the tragedy of the scene, practically in tears and this girl is all like "Not dead yet, be there in 10 k thx!"
posted by ladybird at 10:43 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


There are different approaches to managing this depending on the venue/event. For example, this.

Then there are people like Paula Poundstone who will gladly take your phone and start talking to whoever called and work them into the act.
posted by plinth at 10:45 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Williamson has class out the ass.

There is indeed a little contradiction here within Williamson's attitudes:

1. Being shot in the head by a gun DOES NOT grant one special insight or authority* to pronounce on public policy opinions related to guns, nor to disagree with someone else's opinion on gun policy.

2. Being annoyed by a cell phone user DOES give one the immediate right to grab that cell phone and smash it or whatever.

OK . . .

"special grace" and "moral license" are the precise words Williamson uses.
posted by flug at 10:46 AM on May 16, 2013


Which was very cool of her to do and definitely mitigated the the vibe of "everyone in the public streets of London please SHHHH while I do my important PRETENDING TO BE THE QUEEN."

Okay, see, even here, I totally sympathized with her, and was more bothered by "what in the hell did the guys who coordinated this think was gonna happen holding a drum circle out in front of a theater during showtime?"

My memory is faulty, but when I saw something in London I even remember big signs outside the theater, with a message to the patrons of a nearby bar - there was a football match that day, and the theater was issuing stern warnings to them to not go crazy cheering for the game outside on the sidewalk during the show because we got a play going on in here please you must chill. Who thought a drum circle would be a good idea?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on May 16, 2013


In my opinion, Williamson is not a Heroic Theatergoer by any means. He acted like my 3-year old daughter would have. "NO LIKE!!!! ... [throw]"

Congratulations, Williamson, you're an emotional child. I'm supposed to consider that Heroic? Hrmph.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah my Facebook feed lit up with this due to being in the theater community. I am a bit disturbed by the number of people who think that it's ok for an adult in a civilized society to respond to a breach of social etiquette with violence.
Being impolite does not justify destruction of property.
She was rude, but he was no less rude in response.
Throw them both out please.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


It'd be so much more satisfying if it was Fred Williamson III.

Or Fred Willard.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: ""NO CAMERAS! I WANT YOU TO SEE THIS WITH YOUR OWN EYES!""

That guy sounds like a pretentious douchebag too, though.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:49 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


That guy sounds like a pretentious douchebag too, though.

So, what, that makes it okay?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:50 AM on May 16, 2013


Okay, see, even here, I totally sympathized with her, and was more bothered by "what in the hell did the guys who coordinated this think was gonna happen holding a drum circle out in front of a theater during showtime?"

Meh having sound designed shows in spaces where the L is right outside or one space ON a Metra platform, also two outdoor theaters that were under the approach path for a local airport, you can deal with sound bleeding into your space.
If you can't, then you should either invest in sound proofing or move to a more isolated location.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:50 AM on May 16, 2013


I feel an irresistable urge to re-share my story of seeing Patti Lupone and hearing a cell phone go off.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:52 AM on May 16, 2013


I think it's interesting that this sort of "playing with my phone during a movie or play" thing is ubiquitous, yet whenever a discussion like this comes up, no one, not one person will come in and say, "I use my phone during movies and here's why."

I keep my phone on vibrate in movies, and if it vibrates, I will turn it over and look at it, though I try to hide the light from the screen as much as I can. I do this because I have a 10 year old daughter, and if I'm seeing a movie, that means someone is at my home watching said daughter - someone who might conceivably need to contact me. If they are not that person, I turn it back over and get back to the movie.

I have also had a mother with cancer who was in the hospital post-surgery. Had I needed to take a call, I would have gone to the lobby, indeed, but you're damn right I'm going to peek quickly to see if I have to.
posted by corb at 10:58 AM on May 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


> That guy sounds like a pretentious douchebag too, though.

He put up a sign telling you not to take photographs; then he asked reasonably politely from on stage to stop with the phones; then he says this and he's the douchebag?

Perhaps you don't go to shows, but a lot of people simply never look at the stage at all these days - they hold up a cell phone and look at that tiny screen. It's utterly maddening as an audience member and I can imagine it's just as maddening if you're a performer.

While "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" I note that no one here has actually come up with a good solution when asking them politely to stop fails. Getting up in the middle of a play, going back and finding an usher, and then having an argument in the middle of the play is perhaps marginally better - but a lot of the time in plays the ushers are volunteers who get free seats, so you simply won't find anyone during the performance.

The first or second time a show is ruined this way, you shrug it off. Then you get militant.

I haven't personally had to use violence but I came pretty close at the last Amon Tobin show I was at. We were sitting down, and two people behind me started to have a conversation, a shouted conversation (because it was a loud show) perhaps a foot from my ear. I turned around and said, "I'm sorry, you're pretty loud - could I get you to step back a little?" (They were the last row of seats so they could simply have stood up and walked three feet.) Answers one of them: "No." and they simply go on with their loud conversation.

I turned away, but then slammed my fist into my palm a few times. At a certain point they got the message and left.

Would I have actually punched them? I don't know... I hope not. But really, what are you supposed to do? You're trapped in a seat with two people behind you literally shouting in your ears (about some bullshit that had nothing to do with the show)? I would have had to climb over a lot of people even to get out of my seat, and am I really going to be able to get an usher for this?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:04 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I keep my phone on vibrate in movies, and if it vibrates, I will turn it over and look at it, though I try to hide the light from the screen as much as I can. I do this because I have a 10 year old daughter, and if I'm seeing a movie, that means someone is at my home watching said daughter - someone who might conceivably need to contact me. If they are not that person, I turn it back over and get back to the movie.

When the husband and I go out, we designate one of us to be the phone-on-vibrate person for the babysitter (usually Grandma) and then the other one keeps it on silent. Usually it's me because the husband gets a million text a day and I don't. But yes, I try really hard not to flash it in people's eyes behind me.

Taking a call in a theater (and not leaving immediately to talk outside) is just so incredibly rude that I have a hard time believing that the people doing it weren't raised by wolves. I can get people not understanding how their glowing screen is distracting to others, but actually talking? You fail at living among humans.

Cell phones are really new, and the idea of being able to messages silently while doing other things like watching a play is something that we've only had to think about in the last decade plus. New etiquette is needed, and it will have to include things like the need to be contacted by babysitters or sick family members, etc.

And what if technology changes things again? Say, with not just a headphone, but a device that through some technology-foo, has a screen that is only visible to the person holding it? Would that be ok, or is the distraction still there?
posted by emjaybee at 11:07 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Say, with not just a headphone, but a device that through some technology-foo, has a screen that is only visible to the person holding it? Would that be ok, or is the distraction still there?

Google Glass. The future is now.
posted by sweetkid at 11:08 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Would I have actually punched them? I don't know... I hope not. But really, what are you supposed to do?

Not punch them.

Not seize and destroy their personal belongings.

I agree that this is annoying as hell and that people who do this stuff are assholes of the first water, but having one's entertainment for the evening ruined does not ever justify violent assault, full stop.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:09 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


So instigators need to be called on their shit more often, made aware that they are not operating in a vacuum.

I agree, i.e. calling someone on their shit. But violence, especially violence directed immedately at a person, is always a bad solution, imo. That's how my 4-year-old acts. Adults need to be more mature.

I see a lot of opera and classical concerts, and it never fails to amaze me how horrible people are.

Like the bus or the line at the DMV are any better?

Taking a call in a theater (and not leaving immediately to talk outside) is just so incredibly rude that I have a hard time believing that the people doing it weren't raised by wolves.

'The lady seated to my immediate right (very close quarters on bench seating) was fairly insistent about using her phone. I asked her to turn it off. She answered: "So don’t look."'

This woman was not taking calls. She was using her smartphone silently. Apparently, the glow of it made this broheim go HULK RAGE.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:12 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Threads like this always make me feel weird, like I'm in some parallel reality.

When did everybody get so goddamned spineless? All this talk about 'vigilantism', like this guy was Dirty Harry or something. Jeez. Can we get a sense of scale here, please?

The lady was using her cell phone inappropriately. She was asked to stop several times. Tempers flared, because humans. The dude grabbed and smashed her phone. She slapped him.

I don't know, maybe this behavior is a function of social class. From what I've been able to observe, upper middle class people generally are removed from minor acts of violence like this, so they lose their minds when confronted with it, I guess. They seem to think that real life is supposed to be made out of Nerf, or something.

Cops and lawyers do NOT need to be involved, okay? The lady needs to apologize for her rudeness and slapping. The guy needs to apologize for grabbing and smashing. And he needs to buy her a new phone. And that's ALL that needs to happen. Everything else is histrionics and grandstanding and annoying bullshit.
posted by KHAAAN! at 11:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [31 favorites]


The only GOT UR PHONE OUT moment where I haven't wanted to enact violence upon the general vicinity of the asshole disturbing the performance was last year when that one kid started playing Arkham Asylum during the non-action sequences of Dark Knight Rises.
posted by carsonb at 11:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


There used to be a sketch comedy troupe in the Twin Cities called Idiot Box. I saw them once and they were doing a routine, and while they were in the middle of it, some guy's cell phone went off, and he took it out and started talking into it. They valiantly tried to continue their sketch, staring occasional daggers at the fellow, but finally they just stopped the show. With a gesture, a prepared musical track began, and they launched into a full-blown musical number about how tremendously rude it is to talk on your cell phone. By the end of the first stanza, the entire cast was lined up at the front of the stage, screaming the lyrics with rage.

At that moment, the man with the cell phone stood up. "I AM A DOCTOR" he said. "THIS IS AN EMERGENCY CALL. YOU PEOPLE ARE ASSHOLES."

He then stormed out. There was silence for a moment, and then the music started up again. The cast began singing again, but this time quietly, chagrined.

And this time they sang about how sorry they were.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:14 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not punch them.

Not seize and destroy their personal belongings.

I agree that this is annoying as hell and that people who do this stuff are assholes of the first water, but having one's entertainment for the evening ruined does not ever justify violent assault, full stop.


To be clear, there's violence and there's violence. Hitting someone, causing them physical hurt. That's different than grabbing something from them and destroying it. It just is.

I'm not insisting that the latter is immediately justifiable ... but let's just say I could be swayed.
posted by philip-random at 11:17 AM on May 16, 2013


That's funny, but five bucks says the "doctor" was part of the troupe.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:17 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's weird that the doctor's instinct wasn't to go somewhere quiet to answer his emergency call, though.
posted by sweetkid at 11:17 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


At that moment, the man with the cell phone stood up. "I AM A DOCTOR" he said. "THIS IS AN EMERGENCY CALL. YOU PEOPLE ARE ASSHOLES."

What? No, Doctor Asshole, YOU are the asshole. If you're so damn important that you need to answer your phone during a performance you keep it on vibrate and you run out to the lobby when it goes off. Then you answer it. In the lobby. Asshole.

But yeah, he could have been part of the act.
posted by bondcliff at 11:19 AM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


At that moment, the man with the cell phone stood up. "I AM A DOCTOR" he said. "THIS IS AN EMERGENCY CALL. YOU PEOPLE ARE ASSHOLES."

"BECAUSE GOD KNOWS I CAN'T WALK OUT TO THE LOBBY!"
posted by kmz at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


corb: no one cares about a quick peek - even if it isn't a sick parent or child.

prize bull octorok: OK, what are you supposed to do then?

By the way, I didn't actually punch anyone - simply made it appear that I might.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2013


The amazing part of Bunny Ultramod's story is the fact that a live sketch comedy troupe was actually funny.
posted by carsonb at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes I'm a heckler.
posted by carsonb at 11:21 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be clear, there's violence and there's violence. Hitting someone, causing them physical hurt. That's different than grabbing something from them and destroying it. It just is.

Actually, no, that's violence too. In fact, it's one of the most preferred initial forms of domestic and intimate partner violence - grabbing things and smashing them. It has the side effect of making an immediately visceral point about how strong the destroyer is, how angry they are, how likely they are to destroy things, and how the victim could quite easily be next.
posted by corb at 11:22 AM on May 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


You know what's more distracting than people using their phones -

People fighting.

Every ruined performance I've ever seen has been when one person does something annoying and someone else escalates it, distracting and breaking the mood for everyone around them.
posted by Muddler at 11:23 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


> This woman was not taking calls. She was using her smartphone silently. Apparently, the glow of it made this broheim go HULK RAGE.

Do you actually go to shows?

I was playing in the band for a theatre piece - three week run. We were above the audience so I could see everything.

On night three, a woman gets out her phone and "silently" starts using it. I saw everyone behind her - pretty well EVERYONE - look at her. You could literally feel half the audience stop paying attention to the play. All the actors noticed this - from on stage, 30 feet away. Everyone talked about it after the show.

It's really hard in a dark room when someone holds up a bright light not to look at it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:24 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's funny, but five bucks says the "doctor" was part of the troupe.

Let's get this out of the way: He was part of the troupe.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:24 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


cell phones gonna ring in theaters
just like big guy is gonna fart in yoga class.

some people have class, some people don't,
some people are considerate, some people aren't.

but one thing is certain:
everyone is going to bitch about something.
posted by HyperBlue at 11:25 AM on May 16, 2013


This woman was not taking calls. She was using her smartphone silently. Apparently, the glow of it made this broheim go HULK RAGE.

Know what, lemme know the next time you're at the movies. I'll sit in front of you and periodically flash a flashlight at you for funsies.

I'm sure you'll be okay about it as long as I'm not making noise, right? Cool!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:25 AM on May 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


Perhaps you don't go to shows, but a lot of people simply never look at the stage at all these days - they hold up a cell phone and look at that tiny screen. It's utterly maddening as an audience member

Meh, their loss for missing a good show, really. I'm now at the far end of the 18-35 demographic and one of the older people at any show I've been to in the last few years, it doesn't even bother me too much, so I can imagine the crowd is too upset about it. He'll, I took3 photos on my cell at one of the last shows I was at before my daughter was born and my concert-going went on hiatus. Guitar Wolf Seiji was being awesome and rocking out on top of a speaker stack, so I took a couple of snapshots (no flash of course). Plenty of room for that and for thrashing about/moshing/watching the show at most clubs I've gone to shows at.

That said, the types of shows I go to are more of a party-type atmosphere than a "performance" that requires full attention all night. I can see how at some shows it would suck.
posted by Hoopo at 11:26 AM on May 16, 2013


I'd comment on this, but I'm too busy texting.
posted by happyroach at 11:31 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Know what, lemme know the next time you're at the movies. I'll sit in front of you and periodically flash a flashlight at you for funsies.

A much better analogy would be to sit in front of me and blatantly use your smartphone.

Also, I was clarifying for all the apologizers talking about how annoying talking on your cell phone at the theater is. That's not what happened here at all.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:33 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can see how at some shows it would suck.

Or, you know, any Broadway or off-Broadway show that people have paid to see.

I have also had a mother with cancer who was in the hospital post-surgery. Had I needed to take a call, I would have gone to the lobby, indeed, but you're damn right I'm going to peek quickly to see if I have to.

Sorry, this is rude, and if you were checking your phone next to me, I would call you out. If your mother is in the hospital post-surgery, don't go to the theatre.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:38 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


A much better analogy would be to sit in front of me and blatantly use your smartphone.

Why? You implied that the glow of a smartphone wasn't a big deal, so I'm doing one better and going with something that's totally silent and confines itself just to a light element. Won't distract you in the slightest, fret not!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or, you know, any Broadway or off-Broadway show that people have paid to see.

Probably! I was responding to a comment about a concert though!
posted by Hoopo at 11:39 AM on May 16, 2013


Williamson needs to grow the fuck up and get an usher to deal with the situation. That's what adults do.

I'm seeing all these adults, men and women, escalate situations on purpose as though they're entitled to be ragey and angry in public and that it makes them some kind of hero. It's not okay. You need to be an adult and not drag everyone into problems created by your inability to manage your emotions properly.

What that woman did was wrong, but what Williamson did was really, really wrong.
posted by discopolo at 11:39 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


From what I've been able to observe, upper middle class people generally are removed from minor acts of violence like this, so they lose their minds when confronted with it, I guess.

(shrugs) People can brawl all they want. Were it two men getting into a fistfight over it, it wouldn't bother me until the guns came out. Which they might, but that's a different discussion. When a (younger, I think) guy physically assaults a (smaller, I think) woman, whether by grabbing a cell phone out of her hand, or by any other means, I'm not so much OK. It surprises me that so much of MeFi is.
posted by tyllwin at 11:39 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


And WHAT was the guy right behind me at the movie theater last night doing that produced a flash of light every 20-30 minutes through "Iron Man 3"? Taking flash pictures of the 3-D movie screen?

Seriously, dude, don't think this thread didn't occur to me... but I settled for a dirty glance, and he cut that shit out.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:39 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Meh, their loss for missing a good show, really.

Except that they're standing in front of me, so I miss the good show, too.

I have a photo I took (I took ONE photo) of the recent Animal Collective show in New York (which wasn't really very good so I didn't get bent out of shape) - a forest of cellphones held up in front of me.

I actually like to go to shows with moshpits too - except that the same people who are staring at their phones are not looking around and often standing right in the center. It really damps the fun, unless you actually like accidentally klonking into people who aren't expecting it, which your average mosh crowd does not.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:41 AM on May 16, 2013


"Sorry, this is rude, and if you were checking your phone next to me, I would call you out. If your mother is in the hospital post-surgery, don't go to the theatre."

Seriously? You need calibration.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:42 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


You implied that the glow of a smartphone wasn't a big deal, so I'm doing one better and going with something that's totally silent and confines itself just to a light element.

No, I think that comment was just explaining that it was not a phone call, as another commenter had suspected? Wasn't it?
posted by elizardbits at 11:43 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


prize bull octorok: OK, what are you supposed to do then?

Talk. Leave. Complain to the manager. Apply social pressure.

Sometimes, some or all of these options will fail to achieve the desired results. That still doesn't make it okay to escalate to violence.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:43 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


If Williamson had been wearing a badge this discussion would have been all "oh noes, police brutality!!!!"
posted by HuronBob at 11:43 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously? You need calibration.

Sorry, no, I don't. Having your cell on in a NY theatre has been illegal for 10 years. It's not cool to break the law. If you anticipate a call from your mother in the hospital, perhaps it's better to stay home.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:43 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Alan de Botton's show on Seneca and anger is pretty good. He says the crystallizing event in Seneca's thought on the topic of anger was he was at a fancy party at some rich Roman guy's house and a servant dropped a tray full of glasses and broke them and the host got pissed and threw the servant into a pool of crocodiles to vent his rage. He claims the key to holding your temper in this situation is to anticipate on entering the theater that there will be some rude assholes amongst the crowd. The sequence is Expectation of smooth sailing ---> Surprise roughness ---> Lost temper.

A pessimist is never disappointed!
posted by bukvich at 11:44 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If your mother is in the hospital post-surgery, don't go to the theatre.

That may be a little harsh. Just don't pull out your phone in the middle of a performance (or film) - go out into the lobby. I mean, people leave shows to go to the bathroom all the time. It's way less of an interruption.
posted by troika at 11:44 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Folks we don't do that "Wish death on people" thing here and I think a lot of people could maybe take a step back for a bit?]
posted by jessamyn at 11:45 AM on May 16, 2013


Right, troika, that's what I meant, sorry.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:45 AM on May 16, 2013


No, I think that comment was just explaining that it was not a phone call, as another commenter had suspected? Wasn't it?

The exact comment I responded to was this:
This woman was not taking calls. She was using her smartphone silently. Apparently, the glow of it made this broheim go HULK RAGE.
If mrgrimm was just clarifying "smartphone, not call," then why the "broheim" quip and the "Hulk rage" snark?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:46 AM on May 16, 2013


I don't know, dude, I didn't make the original comment, which is why my comment was phrased as an inquiry and not the accusatory statement you seem to feel that it was.
posted by elizardbits at 11:48 AM on May 16, 2013


You implied that the glow of a smartphone wasn't a big deal

No, I think that comment was just explaining that it was not a phone call, as another commenter had suspected? Wasn't it?

It was, but I'll own up to the implication and state it directly: the glow of a smartphone is not a big deal.

When did everybody get so goddamned spineless?

Indeed. Oh noes, my night at the theater has been "ruined" by 7 inches of artificial light.

OK, what are you supposed to do then?

You lose. It's not like there is always a solution to a problem. Sorry, this is real life.

It's not cool to break the law.

Well, it can be cool.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:48 AM on May 16, 2013


> What that woman did was wrong, but what Williamson did was really, really wrong.

Well, here's the point. In one sense, yes, he went too far. But in another sense, you'd better believe that anyone who saw that is going to think twice and more than about using their phones in a theatre the next time.

This isn't a recent problem - it's been going on for ten years now or more - and it's only getting worse. And the people who manage the venues simply don't have enough personnel to enforce the rules.

I note that no one has had any suggestions about what to do - we're just being told what not to do. But seriously, what are you supposed to do? Get up, disturbing everyone in your row, go and get the manager and have an argument with the patron? I've seen this - it completely destroys the show, and I don't think it teaches the people anything at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:49 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Except that they're standing in front of me, so I miss the good show, too.

Fair enough, I am pretty tall I guess so seeing through the cellphones hasn't been an issue for me. I didn't even have to raise my phone above my own eye level to take a picture of the people on stage.
posted by Hoopo at 11:50 AM on May 16, 2013


I keep wanting to make a joke about reading this thread in a theater. (Ok, that's done).

You don't grab some stranger's phone. Simple. You also don't use your phone in the theater. Also Simple.

I was at my kid's school today, doing a project with a bunch of nine year-olds and saw pretty much this exact same thing happen.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:50 AM on May 16, 2013


It was, but I'll own up to the implication and state it directly: the glow of a smartphone is not a big deal.[...] Oh noes, my night at the theater has been "ruined" by 7 inches of artificial light.

Cool, meetcha at the movies next time you go. I'll have my LED maglite. It'll be fun!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could everyone in here do me a favor and start taking more things personally and responding aggressively?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:51 AM on May 16, 2013 [19 favorites]


How fucking dare you, shakes.
posted by elizardbits at 11:51 AM on May 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


You know what, I have never understood the cell phone rage, it always comes off to me like people who are actively looking for something to be angry about, or people who are angry about something else in their life and trying take it out on seeing a 3 inch light square.

I don't use my cell phone in movie theaters because I know how much it bothers some people, but if I see another person's screen I don't think my give-a-shit meter has ever gone beyond a 2.5 out of 10 (like, "that's stupid, they should be watching the movie...oh well"). I am not "blinded" by anything. I am not distracted by this tiny square of light. It's not strobing, it's not an LED flashlight pointing directly at my face.

Talking on your phone, now that's a whole different story.

I mean, people leave shows to go to the bathroom all the time. It's way less of an interruption.

You don't seriously believe this do you? You'd rather have someone (or multiple people) do the whole little hushed "excuse me" dance, making everyone get up from their seat while they obstruct what's happening, knowing that they'll be back in 3 minutes to do the whole thing over again?

I'd rather they just whip out their phone and keep their light down, or keep it dimmed. Maybe people should get in the habit of putting their screen on the dimmest setting, though I still think that would make people angry, because again, I don't think this is really about being "distracted" as it is about looking for a reason to be angry: "Goddamnit why are they on their phone why aren't they enjoying this properly like meeee."
posted by windbox at 11:52 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Could everyone in here do me a favor and start taking more things personally and responding aggressively?

Was that directed at me?

YOU WILL ANSWER TO MY SEVEN STAR PRAYING MANTIS KUNG FU
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:52 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's really hard in a dark room when someone holds up a bright light not to look at it.

I don't disagree that it's rude to play with your phone during a show. I guess I just think that short of patting people down and taking the phones at the start, the avenues available to stop them provide a diminishing return pretty quickly. Like car alarms and TVs in bars, that's just the way things are now.

I'm not theoretically opposed to getting up in someone's grill at an event. I can imagine circumstances when it might be necessary, or even the least bad choice, but unless it's a football game or a loud rock show or a monster truck crawl or something, then you're likely going to disrupt the event for everyone else also. If you're cool with that, then, well, cool. But the notion that a ruckus at a quiet event is strictly between the two people making a ruckus is part of the problem here. In this particular case, it would've been much less rude of Williamson to have just gritted his teeth and tried to ignore the glowing screen. There's always time for heroic confrontations after the show.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:53 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


mrgrimm:

> the glow of a smartphone is not a big deal.
> Oh noes, my night at the theater has been "ruined" by 7 inches of artificial light.

Please read this.

OK, so we've found someone who approves of this. Even though it's almost certain that at the start of the show someone asked you not do to this, even though it clearly bothers a large number of people, your argument is just "get over it".

Well, let's ask you then. How do we stop this? How do we convince people to let us watch the show that we spent a lot of money to go to? If your argument is, "You can't, deal with it," you aren't leaving us much room to negotiate rationally, are you?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:53 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno, shakespeherian. I'll try:

Stop telling me what to do, or I'll come snatch that keyboard out of your hand and stomp it! And your little dog, too!
posted by tyllwin at 11:55 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't seriously believe this do you

I can't imagine anyone who doesn't think that. Having to go to the bathroom is something you don't normally control. I had to leave Cinderella on Broadway a few weeks ago in the middle of the act because I literally could not hold it any longer (tmi). Someone deliberately surfing on their phone or checking a text? Much ruder.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2013


(I think they were referring to it being disruptive of your enjoyment of the performance, not rudeness)
posted by Hoopo at 11:58 AM on May 16, 2013


> Like car alarms and TVs in bars, that's just the way things are now.

"Life is shitty, so it's no big deal if it gets shittier."

There was some guy a few weeks ago on my local street corner with a projector beaming Adidas ads onto a building 40' tall and more - with a noisy generator, no less. I asked him if he had a permit and he wouldn't answer. I told him I was going to call the cops and he yelled at me, "Why do you care? Williamsburg is full of ads already. Mind your own business!"

I think the police cleared up his misconception - I haven't seen him since.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:59 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the whole cell-phone-rage is primarily directed at the willful defiance of a venue's societal norm. I'm fairly certain attendees are fully aware of the many warnings to not use phones nor take photographs at events. And while inevitably some will try to sneak something in, for the most part when they are called on it they fall back in line and the minor disturbance is over.

However, it seems when it's such a blatant act that demonstrates this one previously-unimportant individual somehow requires a higher priority than the event itself, it pushes a few buttons. I think we all go to shows with an inherent trust that the performance will be decent and we can derive some enjoyment. The performers trust that the audience will remain engaged and absorb the show's content. When that trust is violated to the degree that the violator continues to abuse and disrespect it, I think people start to take it very personal.
posted by CancerMan at 12:00 PM on May 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


But the reason for the disruption is a huge part of it, at least, to me. It doesn't ruin my enjoyment to let someone go pee.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:00 PM on May 16, 2013


> for the most part when they are called on it they fall back in line and the minor disturbance is over.

For the most part? I'd say it's less than 50% of the time.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:02 PM on May 16, 2013


But the reason for the disruption is a huge part of it, at least, to me. It doesn't ruin my enjoyment to let someone go pee.

Just so we're clear: someone physically getting up and blocking the view so they can pee, totally ok. Someone briefly flipping a phone over to a dimmed screen and checking it so they can check on their cancer-ridden mother in the hospital, OUTRAGE. (I'll also note it's a lot easier to say you shouldn't go to the theatre when your mother is sick when it's a one time incidence. With cancer, not so much.)

Having your cell on in a NY theatre has been illegal for 10 years.

Illegal? Citation needed.
posted by corb at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the whole cell-phone-rage is primarily directed at the willful defiance of a venue's societal norm.

Yeah, take this combined with the fact that she was (allegedly) politely asked to stop and blatantly refused, and it's not that hard to imagine getting righteously enraged about it. But then again, it's also a willful defiance of societal norms in general to fly into a toddler tantrum rage and smash shit.
posted by elizardbits at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please read this.

I did read that and thought it was helpful as the person who mefi'ed me simply to ask "Do you hate women?" ... Do I go to shows?! WTF? That's trolling, or a not-so-sneaky way of trying to impeach my credibility.

But yes, even with the slanderous intent, I read your post. So what?

OK, so we've found someone who approves of this.

I don't approve of using a cell phone in a theater. I also don't approve smashing phones of people who use them.

Well, let's ask you then. How do we stop this? How do we convince people to let us watch the show that we spent a lot of money to go to? If your argument is, "You can't, deal with it," you aren't leaving us much room to negotiate rationally, are you?

I would say talk to the management during or after the show and tell them they need to police their cell-phone policy or you won't attend shows there anymore.

I think that's about all you can do.

I'm guessing the whole cell-phone-rage is primarily directed at the willful defiance of a venue's societal norm

Exactly. This is more about conformity than it is politeness. It's like people who take bikes on BART during hours they're not allowed. It's not a huge hassle, but "I can't do it so why can they?!" I understand the frustration, but I still wouldn't approve of a passenger taking a bike and throwing it off the train.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2013


But the reason for the disruption is a huge part of it, at least, to me. It doesn't ruin my enjoyment to let someone go pee.

What difference does it make whether they're going to the bathroom or texting in the lobby? People here are saying "well if the text is that important, they should go to the lobby" (ie the above mentioned "what if her mom was in the hospital" theory).

I'd really rather they just try to stay in their seat, if *everyone* got in the habit of getting up and "excuse me"-ing their way through their row every time they simply had to send a text - because for whatever reason that was the polite thing to do - I think that would be a hell of a lot more distracting.
posted by windbox at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Why do you care? Williamsburg is full of ads already. Mind your own business!"

I really love that he asked you to "mind your own business." That guy is projecting an ad. The whole point is to make his business everyone's business.
posted by troika at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2013


Illegal? Citation needed.

Did you even bother to google it?

nb question is rhetorical
posted by elizardbits at 12:04 PM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Having your cell on in a NY theatre has been illegal for 10 years.

Illegal? Citation needed.


Indeed, it's been illegal since 2003. I believe it's a $50 fine. I don't know if or how it is enforced. CNN.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:04 PM on May 16, 2013


There seems to be some serious failures of a sense of proportion in this thread.

I get that really rude people who make voice calls or blithely use their smartphones during movies and plays are extremely damn annoying and that this is a real problem that begs for a solution.

But that doesn't in any sense, any sense, make Williamson's response acceptable or defensible and it doesn't mean that it's okay to compare someone quickly checking their phone when their mother is in the hospital to boorish people talking on their phones and it doesn't mean that someone disagreeing about these things here is rightly a target for all that grawr we've been saving up as a result of those jerks talking on their phones in theaters.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:05 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just so we're clear: someone physically getting up and blocking the view so they can pee, totally ok. Someone briefly flipping a phone over to a dimmed screen and checking it so they can check on their cancer-ridden mother in the hospital, OUTRAGE. (I'll also note it's a lot easier to say you shouldn't go to the theatre when your mother is sick when it's a one time incidence. With cancer, not so much.)

Except this instance is about a woman who wouldn't put away her phone. It wasn't a quick check, she was looking at it for a prolonged period of time.

Also where is the sick mother thing coming from? Williamson's description makes it sound like she was just bored.
posted by troika at 12:07 PM on May 16, 2013


But in another sense, you'd better believe that anyone who saw that is going to think twice and more than about using their phones in a theatre the next time.

See, I have a feeling that for every person who is thinking "I better not use my phone or some dude might smash it" there are two more people going "Oh man, I'm totally gonna use my phone and DARE some little snot rag to try to take it from me!"
posted by bondcliff at 12:08 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I would say talk to the management during or after the show and tell them they need to police their cell-phone policy or you won't attend shows there anymore.

OK, we've had a decade of doing that. Now what?

As I have mentioned, most venues simply don't have the manpower - or the interest.

In New York City, Terminal Five, for example, obviously doesn't give a flying fuck about this issue. I don't even bother to complain any more.

At Le Poisson Rouge, on the other hand, I've simply NEVER seen a cell phone. I assume that the demographic is different but I'll bet that if you did it, they'd stop you pretty fast... they clearly care a very great deal about your sound and lighting environment. But they're simply at a different scale.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:09 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indeed, it's been illegal since 2003. I believe it's a $50 fine. I don't know if or how it is enforced. CNN.

Thanks mrgrimm, I was overseas in 2003 for the war, so probably missed a lot of the hoopla at the time. Well, that makes me think less of the City Council, definitely. I'd still take the 50$ fine in the above mentioned reason, but I find it to be a little bit of an unreasonable use of power.

That said, though, if the remedy is a fine, it really makes no sense not to alert the theater owner and have it dealt with before you reach the point of smacking it out of someone's hands.
posted by corb at 12:09 PM on May 16, 2013


I get that really rude people who make voice calls or blithely use their smartphones during movies and plays are extremely damn annoying and that this is a real problem that begs for a solution.

But that doesn't in any sense, any sense, make Williamson's response acceptable or defensible and it doesn't mean that it's okay to compare someone quickly checking their phone when their mother is in the hospital to boorish people talking on their phones and it doesn't mean that someone disagreeing about these things here is rightly a target for all that grawr we've been saving up as a result of those jerks talking on their phones in theaters.


Listen, you're either on the side of the CELLPHONES or the side of ART and APPROPRIATENESS. No time for your nuance.

(this is sarcasm, I agree with all of what you said).
posted by sweetkid at 12:10 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't use my cell phone in movie theaters because I know how much it bothers some people, but if I see another person's screen I don't think my give-a-shit meter has ever gone beyond a 2.5 out of 10 (like, "that's stupid, they should be watching the movie...oh well"). I am not "blinded" by anything. I am not distracted by this tiny square of light. It's not strobing, it's not an LED flashlight pointing directly at my face.

And obviously some people don’t mind talking through a movie, what’s that got to do with it? It bothers most people. Thinking you’re one of the special people to which the rules don’t apply is the problem. It’s funny to me that people keep pointing out the writer’s sense of privilege.
posted by bongo_x at 12:10 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Taking the phone and smashing it ain't cool. Taking the phone and grudgefucking it? Aces.
posted by dr_dank at 12:11 PM on May 16, 2013


Well, let's ask you then. How do we stop this?

I don't know. Management can take phones at the door. Or management can provide ushers to eject people at the first sign of their use. That's about the only avenues I can think of. I'm listening if you have other suggestions. I mean, knock yourself out if you just can't resist confrontations, but I think it's foolish to believe that a solution to noise is more noise.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:14 PM on May 16, 2013


Giant orbital lasers are another option.
posted by elizardbits at 12:16 PM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


From my experience in SCIFs, I hear if you threaten to send someone to jail for possessing a cellphone, it works pretty well.

Actually, in seriousness, having a cellphone check area where people CAN check their cellphones and get tickets and stuff isn't totally crazy.
posted by corb at 12:18 PM on May 16, 2013


This also relates to a big problem in movie theaters; many owners are convinced that people stay away because of the rude people. This becomes self fulfilling, and you have more rude people in the theater. I know people wrestling with this problem and it’s a bottom line issue, not just an abstract manners debate.
posted by bongo_x at 12:20 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


" It’s funny to me that people keep pointing out the writer’s sense of privilege."

I am amenable to the claim that the woman using her phone was doing so partly out of a sense of privilege. I don't take it for granted, because it could just be rudeness.

But
  • taking it upon himself to make an example of this particular woman (one thing that's not been discussed in this thread is that Williamson presents this as an example of rudeness that was going on all around him and he finally chose the woman next to him as the focus of his ire)
  • by doing so via physically taking her phone from her and throwing it
  • and in complete disregard for the fact that he's instantly, himself, created a far larger distraction than the one he's protesting
  • that he did all this without any thought that he, himself, could become the target for retaliation (by the woman, by the other audience members he was disturbing, by the theater management)
  • and that he was, without question, deeply self-righteous
... all that just drips of privilege lacking self-awareness. Was the woman acting like a privileged jerk? Possibly. Was he? In spades.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:26 PM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


As a person who would prefer not to have a chunk of metal and plastic accidentally pitched into my skull by a self-righteous guy whose aim is purportedly "not as good as it should be," I'm going to say that Williamson is pretty far from heroic. There might be situations where escalating a civil disagreement to outright violence is a heroic thing to do. If there are, they are few and far between. And this sure as hell wasn't one of them.
posted by koeselitz at 12:37 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


There might be situations where escalating a civil disagreement to outright violence is a heroic thing to do. If there are, they are few and far between. And this sure as hell wasn't one of them.

Don't even get why this would be up for debate.
posted by sweetkid at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Management can take phones at the door.

Try thinking through, for even a second - how would this conceivably work? It would not.

Cell phones are valuable. And they're somewhat delicate. You'd need to provide a lock-up. What happens when there's a mixup? What happens when someone gives you a crappy phone and then claims they gave you a good one? Are you going to glue tags onto each phone?

If I tell them I don't have a phone, are they going to search me? Would anyone comply with this? I'm not even sure I'd comply with this.

We're talking at least one full-time employee to do this - if it were at all possible.

> Or management can provide ushers to eject people at the first sign of their use.

But they aren't - and it's been a really long time. I suspect that they know that these people, people who aren't really interested in the show, are also providing a disproportionate amount of their revenue from the bar.

Or, when you see plays, even in places like LaMama, there simply aren't enough workers to handle that sort of thing.

Broadway at least has enough money they should be able to afford it...


We seem to have two schools:

1. People who care passionately if people are breaking the rules and using cellphones in concerts.
2. People who say, "You can't make me follow the rules."

I should add that people in category 2 just don't give a shit about the performance and people in category 1 know it, so there's additional resentment well.

So I don't see this ending well.

Small numbers of arrogant entitled people will continue to spoil many other people's concert experiences until people take matters into their own hands and nothing anyone has said indicates that there's any possibility of a negotiated settlement.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:41 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


and in complete disregard for the fact that he's instantly, himself, created a far larger distraction than the one he's protesting

I'm not sure this is true, actually. Kurt Andersen, who I cannot imagine has any particular reason to be biased in favor of a writer for the National Review, says he was there and the only distraction was "her huffy theatrical exit."
posted by dsfan at 12:44 PM on May 16, 2013


Small numbers of arrogant entitled people will continue to spoil many other people's concert experiences until people take matters into their own hands

...or until theater ushers enforce rules as written. It kind of makes me want to take out a loan and start a theater with a big sign out front that says "Crying babies and smartphones result in a visit from Rocco, who, while polite, is insistent that you take your shit to the lobby."

I'd be frigging rich, I tell ya.
posted by Mooski at 12:45 PM on May 16, 2013


By the way, here is the allegedly heroic guy who threw and smashed the cell phone of the (admittedly rude) woman whom he described as one of a party of "women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels".
posted by Eyebeams at 12:46 PM on May 16, 2013


Oh of course, because to some men (and women, frankly) women can be ridiculed for aging, but men can't. Because women are for looking at and judging, see.

Love ya, patriarchy.
posted by sweetkid at 12:48 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Crying babies

People bring babies to plays?
posted by Hoopo at 12:49 PM on May 16, 2013


> ...or until theater ushers enforce rules as written.

I get a little bored explaining that in most cases they don't have the resources to do this.

> the [...] woman whom he described as one of a party of "women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels".

Heh, I like that.

I used to have a small house in front of a huge apartment building. Every day, people would "walk" their dogs on our porch - I mean that I was cleaning up dog shit from people who would walk down our front stairs to do so.

One day I came out and a woman was smoking right in front of our door while her dog shit on our porch. "Hey, that's my front door, don't do that!" (no response). "Look at all this shit - and we don't even own a dog." (no response).

Then finally, "If you didn't smoke so many cigarettes, you wouldn't look so old." It's been almost 20 years, but I still relish her reaction to that.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:50 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


People bring babies to plays?

Yes. They do. I even once had someone bring a dog to a play I worked on one night.

(Although, to be fair - it was a seeing-eye dog, and the biggest challenge was only figuring out exactly where to seat them in our theater, which was kinda weirdly laid out; I also ran backstage and told the cast that "by the way, there is indeed a dog in the second row house left, you are not seeing things". ...The dog was well-behaved - it just slept through the whole show - and it was more of an odd-but-adorable kinda thing.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


People bring babies to plays?

And movies, and concerts, and any other venue that holds an audience. I once sat through a 22:00 showing of Marvel's Avengers with a crying infant in the back row somewhere.
posted by CancerMan at 12:52 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


People bring babies to plays?

Yeah, I don't get it either, but I'm not a parent so I can't really judge motivations there.
posted by elizardbits at 12:53 PM on May 16, 2013


I think it's usually "couldn't get a sitter" not "baby will love Mamet"
posted by sweetkid at 12:54 PM on May 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Lupus, that's the kind of story that makes me sympathetic to widespread gun ownership.
posted by shivohum at 12:55 PM on May 16, 2013


I am a parent with a baby, and that is simply not something I would ever dream of doing. People are weird.
posted by Hoopo at 12:56 PM on May 16, 2013


People bring babies to plays because they can't get a sitter.

I see it all the time. And they're usually extremely considerate. Most of the time the baby is completely quiet. Or if the baby cries, they leave.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:56 PM on May 16, 2013


> Lupus, that's the kind of story that makes me sympathetic to widespread gun ownership.

Really? That's the reason I support gun control - because even though having your dog shit on my stoop is annoying, it shouldn't lead to anyone's death - particularly not mine (because what if she's carrying??)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:58 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope my baby would love Mamet, but they can't go until their 8 or 9.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:59 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really? That's the reason I support gun control - because even though having your dog shit on my stoop is annoying, it shouldn't lead to anyone's death - particularly not mine (because what if she's carrying??)

I support broad gun ownership for reasons not connected to that at all, because no, really, having a gun should have nothing to do with that story at all.

Really, is there relevance to that? Do we have to bring in the gun debate here? Are there not enough threads where that fight is going on?
posted by corb at 1:04 PM on May 16, 2013


Do not turn this into a gun control thread folks, just don't.
posted by jessamyn at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


OK, we've had a decade of doing that. Now what? ... In New York City, Terminal Five, for example, obviously doesn't give a flying fuck about this issue. I don't even bother to complain any more ... At Le Poisson Rouge, on the other hand, I've simply NEVER seen a cell phone

Uh, spend less time at Terminal Five and more time at Le Poisson Rouge?

2. People who say, "You can't make me follow the rules."

It isn't clear to me what you want here. You really can't enforce etiquette on people determined to be assholes (that's why they're assholes) unless there are consequences for misbehaving. Now I think we agree that, ideally, there should be consequences for misbehaving at a quiet show, but I don't think "possible assault by random angry person" is A) a consequence proportional to the misdemeanor or B) a solution to noise at shows.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2013


I have a photo I took (I took ONE photo) of the recent Animal Collective show in New York (which wasn't really very good so I didn't get bent out of shape) - a forest of cellphones held up in front of me.

So I am really guilty of this at concerts as well ("just this one picture!") but isn't the problem that if everyone wants to take just one picture, that adds up to a forest of cellphones?
posted by naoko at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2013


There is a general assumption by an alarmingly large section of the population that anyone in a uniform asking you not to do something (even something incredibly selfish and rude) is a Powertripping Funwrecker out to trample upon your inalienable right to do whatever the fuck you want becuase this is America and you are Important.

Exactly how "alarmingly large (a) section of the population" is this?

Come now, you must have a number and a %age this is. So nut up - and inform us all how many of the "large" actually is.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:07 PM on May 16, 2013


lupus_yonderboy: While "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" I note that no one here has actually come up with a good solution when asking them politely to stop fails.

Equip each seat in the theater with a silent "call usher" button, hooked up to a system that has tiny LEDs embedded in a seating chart. A single light is a single annoyed patron. When a cluster of lights appears, send a theater employee to that location to identify and remove the culprit. This employee's job description should include "ability to intimidate without having to lift a finger or become violent." Their title can be Schmuck Subduer.

That, or trap doors under each seat that lead to a slide that leads to the exit alley that can be remotely controlled from the box office.
posted by tzikeh at 1:07 PM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Smashing the phone was not violence, and calling it that is hyperbole. It was certainly wrong, and he should buy the woman a new phone. You could make a case either way that it was an assault; definitely not battery. I tend to think not assault because it wasn't really a threat to follow with violent contact.

People get used to the idea that they can act like assholes without getting called out. The only answer to that which is going to work is to call them out. I'd agree that Williamson crossed a line and needs to be called out himself, but in all honesty I'd probably have applauded if I'd been there.

The last time I had to do such a callout was the opening day of one of the Harry Potter flicks. As soon as the movie started a little girl right behind me started giving Daddy a very thorough analysis of each scene, how it differed from the book, what was skipped, and what should happen next. She wasn't extremely loud but she wasn't whispering either, and the theatre was otherwise pin-drop silent as the other kids were glued to the screen, and instead of responding to the dagger eyes from eight or ten people in the immediate vicinity Dad just nodded encouragingly as his little precious demonstrated her scholarship of the work at hand.

Finally, after ten or fifteen minutes it became clear that this was going to go on for the entire movie, so at a quiet point in the movie I very loudly and clearly proclaimed, "Wow, I got so lucky! I only paid twelve bucks for this ticket and I didn't realize I was getting the bonus commentary track."

When a handful of people applauded Dad finally shushed his daughter a couple of times, and the rest of the movie was peaceful.
posted by localroger at 1:11 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe we get one of those flying dildos that attacked Gary kasparov to hover over the seats of anyone being a dick until they stop being a dick.
posted by bondcliff at 1:11 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I google Kevin Williamson the results returned to me seem 100% on "his side". Do other people get this? Am I getting personal search results targeted for an etiquette rage tending dude?
posted by bukvich at 1:12 PM on May 16, 2013


This employee's job description should include "ability to intimidate without having to lift a finger or become violent."

The year I was an usher off-Broadway, we were an odd lot - about 4-5 high school students, and 4-5 "Friends of the house manager". One of our number was my roommate, who at the time was about 6'5", built like a rugby player, with ICE-COLD blue eyes, and had his hair long enough to reach the middle of his back.

He was the one we always sent to deal with it if we saw someone trying to take photos during the show. He would march to their row and loom over them, glaring, and repeating over and over, "give me the camera. Give me the camera. Give me the camera, we will return it after the show. Give me the camera. Give me the camera. Give me the camera or come to the lobby with me now. Give me the camera...." until they complied. ...Most actually complied very quickly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:13 PM on May 16, 2013


Finally, after ten or fifteen minutes it became clear that this was going to go on for the entire movie, so at a quiet point in the movie I very loudly and clearly proclaimed, "Wow, I got so lucky! I only paid twelve bucks for this ticket and I didn't realize I was getting the bonus commentary track."

You really showed that little girl.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 1:14 PM on May 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


Showed her not to talk during a movie? Yes.
posted by troika at 1:15 PM on May 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


You really showed that little girl.

I'm pretty sure you're being sarcastic, but the comment made Dad show the girl how to behave at the movies.

For the record, I think there are exceptions to everything. I normally glare or ask people to stop talking at a show. When we were at Matilda, there was a young man behind us who obviously had a special need, and made repeated loud outbursts during the show, showing that he loved what was going on. I thought it was fine.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:16 PM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Finally, after ten or fifteen minutes it became clear that this was going to go on for the entire movie, so at a quiet point in the movie I very loudly and clearly proclaimed, "Wow, I got so lucky! I only paid twelve bucks for this ticket and I didn't realize I was getting the bonus commentary track."

So you skipped the whole polite request stage and went right for the public shaming? On the opening day of a kid's movie? Really?
posted by bondcliff at 1:19 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's usually "couldn't get a sitter" not "baby will love Mamet"

Yeah, I'd assume so, but still. A baby doesn't know or care that you're supposed to sit and be quiet at a play. You have to know this when you bring one to the theatre. There's a chance mine would be quiet I guess, but personally I don't think I'd risk it knowing there's an equally good chance she would be upset and cry or get bored and decide it's time to make all kinds of funny sounds. My own preference when I can't get a sitter for something not-really-baby-appropriate (so far, anyway) is to stay home or do something else. At least until she's old enough to understand how people behave there. I mean, it's not an unforeseeable outcome that your baby could be disruptive at a play, and nothing says I have to be there.
posted by Hoopo at 1:20 PM on May 16, 2013


So you skipped the whole polite request stage and went right for the public shaming? On the opening day of a kid's movie? Really?

Yeah, seriously, this was kind of a not-awesome thing to do. They may not have been aware of how loud it was, given you said it, well, wasn't really loud. Unlike your own self-admittedly loud utterance. Everyone was giving the dad "dagger eyes" but no one said anything quietly and you think that's the way to go about it?
posted by corb at 1:22 PM on May 16, 2013


You have to know this when you bring one to the theatre.

There is definitely a small but undeniable section of the population who will not remove their crying baby from the movie theatre; I assume this has something to do with an acquired sense of grim determination to ignore shrill cries that one develops as a first time parent with a tiny baby. Although it is also possible that the exhausted parents have passed out and are unaware.
posted by elizardbits at 1:23 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, I agree with you, Hoopo, I'm just saying that I don't think people are bringing babies to shows so the baby can get some Art in before the walking starts.

Not even the e-trade baby would like Mamet.
posted by sweetkid at 1:24 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


> ...or until theater ushers enforce rules as written.

I get a little bored explaining that in most cases they don't have the resources to do this.


Honestly, though. How much resources are required? Is it they can't, or they don't want to?

At Le Poisson Rouge, on the other hand, I've simply NEVER seen a cell phone. I assume that the demographic is different but I'll bet that if you did it, they'd stop you pretty fast...

What's the difference at Le Poisson Rouge?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:24 PM on May 16, 2013


I'm surprised the father didn't attack you for shaming his child.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:25 PM on May 16, 2013


How much resources are required? Is it they can't, or they don't want to?

I mean, really. A Web cam or 2 on the ceiling silently broadcasting to an usher's tablet device. No?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:25 PM on May 16, 2013


Thanks to the pacifying magic of breast feeding, I can say I saw the original Star Wars in the theatre while touching a boob.

Bow to me, nerds.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


So you skipped the whole polite request stage and went right for the public shaming?

The polite request was given by the dancing ticket before the previews started.
posted by ryanrs at 1:27 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks to the pacifying magic of breast feeding, I can say I saw the original Star Wars in the theatre while touching a boob.

"That's no moon..."
posted by bondcliff at 1:27 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


A baby doesn't know or care that you're supposed to sit and be quiet at a play.

Play - attack by another tribe where quiet matters.....

Really? You want to stake out that there is no way to keep a baby from crying?

If you have some kind of "control" over a sobbing young child - take your thumb and forefinger and close the nose. Let the Blue know how much crying happens.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:27 PM on May 16, 2013


what?
posted by sweetkid at 1:29 PM on May 16, 2013


uh. no.
posted by elizardbits at 1:29 PM on May 16, 2013


right for the public shaming

With all the public pictures of others and facial recognition, how did you thing such would all turn out?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:30 PM on May 16, 2013


I'm surprised the father didn't attack you for shaming his child.

Most fathers wouldn't be that stupid. When you recognize someone who does not have normal social boundaries and your children are present, why would you escalate? Discretion is the better part of valor.

If you have some kind of "control" over a sobbing young child - take your thumb and forefinger and close the nose. Let the Blue know how much crying happens.

Um, wasn't that the scene in the finale of M.A.S.H. that made Hawkeye go crazy?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:30 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


...take your thumb and forefinger and close the nose.

Williamson should have politely tried this first.
posted by General Tonic at 1:31 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


"That's no moon..."

... that's a double moon system!
posted by octobersurprise at 1:31 PM on May 16, 2013


I am a Technical Director of a theatre and I will tell you, unreservedly, cell phones and smart phones are a serious pain in the ass for our patrons. Unfortunately, there is actually very little that can be done to curb it outside of applying some judicious or clever societal pressure (an usher shining a red flashlight at you and wagging there finger would be an example of this).

People will not check there cell phones with a courtesy desk or with Front-of-House Manager. You're as likely to get them to check their wallets or credit cards as you are to get them to check their cellphones. This is completely reasonable. I would definitely have reservations handing over an item that may contain any degree of personal information.

EMP, Faraday Cages, Cell Phone Blockers and the such are right out of the question. Not only is it illegal to disrupt communications with these devices, a great many theatrical systems require the use of delicate electronic signals and wireless bandwidth that would be equally affected by these devices ( Unless they were shielded, but that would come at a financial cost that would be unrealistic for most, if not all, theatres)

Ushers are usually the most effective deterrent for curbing intrusive cell phone use, unfortunately the sheer number of ushers necessary to make this effective is a bit unwieldy. In my theatre the ratio for effective usher intervention is between 1:30-1:60. (depending on then type and demographic of the show ). If you have a 1000 or 2000 seat house, this is a lot of ushers.

Not to mention ushers are a reactive solution to the problem. A disruption has to occur before an usher will intervene. Ideally, we would like to our patrons to not be disruptive with their phones in the first place.

So, you need to get creative. One tactic we use in my theatre (that I shamelessly stole from another theatre) is to mix in random recordings of various cell phone ring tones into the walk-in or pre-show music. The volume on the cell phone rings is then gradually increased over about 5 minutes until it is uncomfortably loud, drowning out both the walk-in music and casual conversation. Once the volume reaches it apex, we go silent for a couple of seconds and then we play a recording of a very pleasant voice informing our patrons that cell phones can be very intrusive and annoying during a performance and it would be very much appreciated if they could attend to theirs. We then play our standard pre-performance greeting. I am always shocked at how well it works, and I'm always amused to see the exodus of our regular patrons to the lobby as soon as they hear those first few cell phone rings.
posted by Isosceles at 1:32 PM on May 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


> Honestly, though. How much resources are required? Is it they can't, or they don't want to?

I did in fact explain this a couple of times above - you could look at those.

Small theatre organization and small clubs are usually run on a shoe string. And large clubs simply don't care. As I said above, they likely believe that the people who are loud and not paying attention to the show are buying a lot more drinks.

I also pointed out that most clubs would strongly prefer to avoid throwing people out who aren't obviously intoxicated because people call the cops surprisingly often and if you get too many police calls you are going to have serious issues. (There are some clubs, like Warsaw in Greenpoint, who clearly have an "arrangement" with the cops and will drag you out bodily for pretty well anything. I have not personally been dragged out, but I did have two guys grab me physically from behind for dancing - not even jumping around, I was 47 at the time! - and they do indeed have a cabaret license. I did convince them to let me stay, but it spoiled the show for me considerably, watching them continuously throw people out of the space...)

> What's the difference at Le Poisson Rouge?

A different crowd. Somewhat older, but much more into so-called "serious" music. A smaller space. Much of the audience sitting down at tables. Higher ticket prices. Actually, no, they seem to be comparable to the bigger venues...

By contrast, Terminal Five frisks you as you go in the door. (They do a terrible job, too, they've never once found my pot pipe, but then I am a trained sleight-of-hand artist... :-D) It's a different crowd.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:33 PM on May 16, 2013


Smashing the phone was not violence, and calling it that is hyperbole.

bullshit.

You're walking down the street, not doing anything illegal, someone bigger and stronger than you yanks something worth up to $600 out of your hand and smashes it to the sidewalk, and then glares at you? Really, that's OK with you?
posted by HuronBob at 1:33 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seriously how did we get from rude theater patrons on their cellphones to killing babies in this thread? Man.
posted by sweetkid at 1:34 PM on May 16, 2013


> You're walking down the street, not doing anything illegal, someone bigger and stronger than you yanks something worth up to $600 out of your hand and smashes it to the sidewalk, and then glares at you?

And this is the same... how?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:35 PM on May 16, 2013


I am a Technical Director of a theatre and I will tell you, unreservedly, cell phones and smart phones are a serious pain in the ass for our patrons. Unfortunately, there is actually very little that can be done to curb it ....EMP, Faraday Cages, Cell Phone Blockers and the such are right out of the question.

EMP is out due to the energy level. Cell phone blockers are illegal.

Faraday cages are an option but when you have a $10 a seat income - how can you afford a proper cage?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:38 PM on May 16, 2013


they've never once found my pot pipe, but then I am a trained sleight-of-hand artist... :-D

This, like the cell phone photo thing, is something you're technically not supposed to do inside the concert but people do and it bothers me not one bit. Particularly if you are generous with it.
posted by Hoopo at 1:39 PM on May 16, 2013


What if your baby snatched it out of someone's hand and smashed it though.
posted by elizardbits at 1:40 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have to think that part of the urge to defend the woman in question is tied to people’s attachments to their phones. Let’s take it back to the 90’s and say this was a man with a laser pointer. It’s just a little red spot, right?
posted by bongo_x at 1:40 PM on May 16, 2013


What if your baby snatched it out of someone's hand and smashed it though.

Then that baby must love Mamet.
posted by sweetkid at 1:41 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


And this is the same... how?

The big guy then breaks into "Stars" from Les Miserables.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:41 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if your baby snatched it out of someone's hand and smashed it though.

What if Hawkeye stole your pot pipe out of your baby’s hand right as you were going into the club?
posted by bongo_x at 1:42 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Then my baby would beat up Hawkeye.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:43 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't defend someone snatching, throwing, and breaking someone else's lazer pointer.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:43 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


(My baby is Iron Fist.)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:45 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Acting takes a certain degree of concentration (even for as experienced and excellent an actress as Helen Mirran, as discussed in this thread). You spend a certain amount of time getting yourself into a mental space where, through use of imagination and focus, you make yourself believe you are feeling emotions that are appropriate for the show. Extrapolating a bit, most performers (including but not limited to singers, dancers, musicians and stand-ups) also need to use a good amount of concentration and imagination to do the things they do.

When something breaks that focus or concentration, it destroys the moment and can rip you out of character. Yes, you can get back into character, but its very challenging for the show to have the same vitality (or sometimes even the same tone or meaning) once its been disrupted.

This, in turn, effects an audience's ability to receive the full impact of the show. If one or more of the actors can't do their best work, the audience isn't going to have the intended experience.

Speaking from experience, when I perform and see little lights flashing on and off in the theatre, it makes it harder for me to maintain focus. That doesn't mean I lose focus most of the time, but it adds one more layer of difficulty to my ability to do my best work. If its really egregious - like if I can see the little lights flashing on and off and realize that the other patrons are getting irritated an the ushers aren't doing a thing about it - its almost impossible to remain committed to the character or moment or emotion or what have you.

To whit, even if the only disruption is the glowing phone screen, that phone screen is making the performers have to work harder to do their jobs - the jobs the person who has the phone (and everyone else there) has paid them to do. Why would you pay money to somebody and then make it harder for them to do the thing you paid them to do? Its not just rude, its illogical.

I understand people have life problems that sometimes require communication, but isn't part of the reason people come to the theatre (or film) to forget about those problems for a little while? To be transported to another place and believe in it enough so they can feel something? Doesn't having a little digital chain to those problems that they have to constantly check prevent them from really fully engaging in the imaginary world of the play (or film)?

All those problems will still be there after the show is over. Yes, the cell phone distracts the players and the audience and lessens the experience for them, but the people on the cell phones aren't even giving themselves a chance to really be engaged. If a person can't disconnect from social media (including text messages in this) for the length of a show, they should consider watching something at home on Hulu or Amazon or Netflix so they can at least pause the action or rewind the scene. Their doing themselves and everyone else a disservice by being distracting at the theatre.

And, yes, when there are ushers who are paid to ush (and much of the time they're not) they should do something about it. It pisses the performers off as much - if not more - than the audience members when something disruptive is happening and nobody appears to be doing anything about it.

Oh, somebody asked if there came a time when patrons could message or google in public without anyone knowing if that would be all right. As somebody whose on stage more often than in the audience, I would argue that if they're at a point that they can check stuff without anyone knowing, hey, they should knock themselves out. Text away. I still don't understand why you'd want to spend all that money on something that you're not really interested in experiencing.

And, finally, yeah, on stage, I'd be way more distracted by some asshole hurling something across the room than I would be by some asshole with a lit screen. But both things are distracting.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:45 PM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


And this is the same... how?

Other than the street/theater difference, it's pretty much the same. the point is that forcibly stealing and destroying valuables is a form of intimidation and violence. I don't know how it could be defined in any other manner.
posted by HuronBob at 1:45 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did anyone else not know who (this) Kevin Williamson was exactly and saw the picture of the dashing blond man looking defiantly back toward the camera as the audience looked on and think that was a picture taken after the phone was broken and the guy was being thrown out, and said dashing man was Williamson? Just me then?
posted by sweetkid at 1:46 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hilarious stoned babies aside, I actually kind of think this is an okay way of looking at the situation: imagine both the phone lady and the rage dude were little kids. Imagine phone lady had a toy she was banging loudly during naptime and rage dude was like HAY STOP THAT IT'S BAD. Imagine phone lady refused, so rage dude smashed the toy. We'd lecture them both equally on being little monsters and that would be that, right? I mean, presumably. And tbh considering the behavior of both parties I don't think that comparing them to toddlers is that far off.
posted by elizardbits at 1:46 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


yeah, that was just you.
posted by HuronBob at 1:47 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And this is the same... how?

The big guy then breaks into "Stars" from Les Miserables.


As long as it's Philip Quast, I won't be filing charges.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:47 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Then that baby must love Mamet.

That goddamned baby fucking loves the shit out of Mamet.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:48 PM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not just you.
posted by naoko at 1:48 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


the point is that forcibly stealing and destroying valuables is a form of intimidation and violence. I don't know how it could be defined in any other manner.

self defense?
posted by philip-random at 1:49 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


That goddamned baby fucking loves the shit out of Mamet.
posted by octobersurprise


But only Zosia Mamet, because the younger demographic really can't get enough of Girls.
posted by COBRA! at 1:50 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


> > You're walking down the street, not doing anything illegal, someone bigger and stronger than you yanks something worth up to $600 out of your hand and smashes it to the sidewalk, and then glares at you?

> I don't know how it could be defined in any other manner.

To start with, you're in a theater and you ARE doing something illegal - something you've been asked to stop doing and that you continue.

I don't condone smashing the cell phone, but you're claiming that a. losing your temper with someone who's deliberately being a total asshole and breaking their phone, and b. coming up to a random stranger on the street and smashing their phone, are the same thing - but they are not, not even close.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:50 PM on May 16, 2013


That goddamned baby fucking loves the shit out of Mamet.

A: Always.

B: Be.

C: Crawling.

Always. Be. Crawling.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:52 PM on May 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


"Juice is for closers."
posted by octobersurprise at 1:54 PM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


Mamet has pissed me off so much in the past few years with his crank politics and his increasingly crappy scripts that I would like to encourage everyone to bring a baby or two to productions of his plays.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:58 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


If we do not have access to babies can we just cry loudly ourselves?
posted by elizardbits at 1:59 PM on May 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


"To start with, you're in a theater and you ARE doing something illegal - something you've been asked to stop doing and that you continue."

I think it's really weird how you keep harping on how using a cell phone in a NYC theater is illegal with nary a word about how forcibly taking someone's property out of their hands and throwing it is also illegal.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:07 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, this thread got...dark.

Listen, I don't condone Williamson's actions--especially when it is not the Williamson who brought me the Salvatore brothers to my screen--but I easily understand being driven to do such things. It isn't right, but I understand the white-hot rage people can feel when the event they have paid for is ruined by thoughtless folks.

Frankly, my takeaway from this is both of them were assholes, the world is full of assholes, and I should never leave my house so I don't have to interact with assholes.

Oh, and some babies fucking love Mamet.
posted by Kitteh at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2013


Taking the phone out of her hand was robbery, slapping him was an act of self-defense.
posted by yonega at 2:10 PM on May 16, 2013


> I think it's really weird how you keep harping on how using a cell phone in a NYC theater is illegal with nary a word about how forcibly taking someone's property out of their hands and throwing it is also illegal.

Say, what? Of course it's illegal. That's been clear from the original article. No one disputed that.

My claim is that this analogy is completely wrong:

> You're walking down the street, not doing anything illegal, someone bigger and stronger than you yanks something worth up to $600 out of your hand and smashes it to the sidewalk, and then glares at you?

IF you are actually doing something illegal.

Address what I am saying, don't complain about obvious things that I'm not saying.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:14 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some babies are indeed tired or his political nonsense and his repetition. Some babies think he needs to set his motherfucker to recieve.
posted by bongo_x at 2:15 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


You're walking down the street, not doing anything illegal

when suddenly

you see him

david mamet, actual cannibal
posted by elizardbits at 2:21 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Let me also add that "legality" is not the gold standard of "right action".

Quite a few years ago, I was watching someone play unamplified cello and sing (at Mo Pitkins, long gone now) - but then a man in the front row started to have a conversation at a normal conversational volume on a cell phone. She stopped playing and asked him to stop - and he told her her, "You should be thankful! I'm trying to get people to come to your show!"

After some more pointless discussion, two big guys just got up from the audience, picked him up, and carried him outside - which is definitely assault, even though he wasn't injured.

That was the correct action, I completely supported it at the time and I do now, even though it was "illegal."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:24 PM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Since there's no argument that both parties fucked up to some degree or another, I feel free to just go ahead and note which one disgusts me more.

The smugness emanating from this Williamson asshole is so repulsive to me I'm (almost) surprised he's getting defended at all. Yeah, I'm going to take a woman's cell phone and smash it, then I'm going to go online and portray myself as a hero. Really? Ugh. Just... what a nasty thing to do. The bragging afterward is what really gets me. I wonder if he was picturing the media reaction when he decided to go and do it?

And I don't care that this statement is impossible to verify, it's true: "I'm going to wreck your phone and then go online to brag about it" is wealthy white male behavior. This could not have happened with anyone else.
posted by a birds at 2:37 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


And I don't care that this statement is impossible to verify, it's true: "I'm going to wreck your phone and then go online to brag about it" is wealthy white male behavior.

To be clear, it's asshole behavior. I know any number of wealthy white males who would not have behaved so.

This could not have happened with anyone else.

You really need to meet some of the women in my life.
posted by philip-random at 2:44 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: “Then finally, ‘If you didn't smoke so many cigarettes, you wouldn't look so old.’ It's been almost 20 years, but I still relish her reaction to that.”

Every time I hear a story like this, I wonder to myself: why in the world do people live in big cities, where they're virtually guaranteed to be surrounded by wretched people no matter what they do?

And then I remember: people live in cities so they can do interesting, intellectually-engaging things, like go to live productions of musicals.
posted by koeselitz at 2:46 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'm going to wreck your phone and then go online to brag about it" is wealthy white male behavior. This could not have happened with anyone else.

If it were someone else, maybe they would have done it but they would have been called "entitled," "slut," "bitch," and/or many ethnic slurs online instead of all the "you go bros"
posted by sweetkid at 2:48 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if the genders had been reversed it would've been "that hysterical psycho phone-smashing bitch," not necessarily here on mefi, but prolly the general online consensus, instead of the "high five bro!" thing going on Out There.
posted by elizardbits at 2:50 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Let me also add that 'legality' is not the gold standard of 'right action'."

Well, yeah. Except that you've given a strong impression that the illegality of her action is some sort of gold standard for her being in the wrong and that it somehow justifies his response. Do you want me to count how many times you've mentioned it?

If you're going out of your way to repeatedly emphasize that what she did was illegal, then of course it's relevant that you never once mention that what he did was also illegal. Don't turn around and say that legality isn't ethics — you're the person who not only brought legality up in the first place, you've mentioned it again and again and again and again. Except only with regard to her and never him.

This is not a complex issue. There's approximately zero debate in this thread about the acceptability of her use of her smartphone. She was being a jerk, there's unanimity here on that point.

What's in contention is the defense of his actions — actions which you agree were illegal, were excessive, and were at least as much an intrusion on the performance as the phone was. And yours is not merely a defense of his impulse to do this, a defense of his loss of temper at a common rudeness, because I don't see anyone here disputing the truth of that, either. The criticism of him is of his actual behavior, and then a criticism of those who defend his actual behavior (as opposed to his frustration and anger). And if you think his actions were illegal, excessive, intrusive, and wrong, then why the hell are you defending those actions?

You work in the theater and because of this you especially hate people that use their phones. You're not alone. Everyone here shares your sentiment to some degree or another. A criticism of Williamson is not a defense of the woman, but a defense of Williamson is a defense of rudeness and aggression — the very behaviors that you decry.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:51 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, Ivan. I guess I have to write in caps now.

AS I SAID TWICE BEFORE, THE ONLY REASON I MENTIONED THE LEGALITY IS BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE STARTED THEIR COMMENT "You're walking down the street, not doing anything illegal" AND THIS WAS A RIDICULOUS ANALOGY. I HAVE ONLY MENTIONED LEGALITY IN THIS CONTEXT.

Are we all clear? I really don't care whether her phone use was legal or not - I'd frankly have a very similar reaction if she was doing this in some other city where it was legal - but that was a unfair and ridiculous analogy.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:58 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


[lupus/Ivan, please take this to MeMail.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:59 PM on May 16, 2013


*blush*

Okay, well, I did actually search the thread and I see that I was wrong — lupus_yonderboy only mentioned the illegality of cell phone use in the theater in that one time, which I quoted. It was brought up first by others and discussed repeatedly by others, on both sides of the argument.

That'll teach me how important it is to not fail to pedantically scrutinize someone else's words to buttress my argument against them. Er...
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:01 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite defense against people using their phone screens at the theater is aiming a laser pointer at their screen. Just as annoying, no violence or property destruction necessary, and if they stop, you stop.

I'm working on a focused sound canon for talkers (preferably with a directional microphone and amplified force-feedback; say ×1,000 of whatever noise you're making). (Also working on a directional EMP for car alarms, ah NYC).
posted by Eideteker at 3:07 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd frankly have a very similar reaction if she was doing this in some other city where it was legal

Wait... I had no idea it was illegal under local/state/federal law to use a phone in a theater where this happened. Is that what you're saying? If that's the case 1. you're right, my analogy was off pitch a bit and 2. REALLY, there's someplace that codified that? If that's the case, why didn't he just call the police.
posted by HuronBob at 3:08 PM on May 16, 2013


What are the odds that, prior to taking that action, someplace in the back of his mind was the thought "...hey, Kevin, if you throw that phone, you've got a nifty little blog post for tomorrow... think about it buddy... you could be a HERO!"
posted by HuronBob at 3:14 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


You really showed that little girl.

Oh, no. I surmised -- correctly as it turned out -- that the same parental guidance which had not clued her in that she was making a nuisance of herself had probably also taught her by example to be oblivious to other people doing the same thing. I expected my comment to sail completely over her pretty little head, which it did because she picked up the MST3000 commentary as soon as the new scene started.

It did, however, hit its true mark, and this time Dad did what ten or twelve others before me had not been able to get him to do, and let Princess know that not everyone appreciated her insight. After which she seemed to settle in and happily take in the movie.

Mandeville is the place where the rich pond scum flee to get away from the crime in New Orleans so we have a larger than usual (for the South) concentration of these assholes who think that etiquette and traffic rules are there to keep other people from inconveniencing them. I expect you get a similar concentration of self-important jerks at an upscale event like a play where the tickets are $200.

The thing is, even if your shit don't stink because you live in a gated community and drive a Mercedes SUV, when you are in a crowded venue surrounded by random people who have paid a lot to be there the chances that one of them will be like me or, worse, Williamson, become nontrivial. Some people only get this memo by having it shoved in their face.

So as with lupus_yonderboy's anecdote about the guy who got carried out of the recital, sometimes a thing that is wrong for good reasons is also necessary for a particular individual or situation. If that woman learns from this that maybe she should keep her phone in her purse at future events, Williamson's crime will have done her a huge favor.
posted by localroger at 3:15 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


"If that's the case, why didn't he just call the police."

One reason is probably that if you call the police about someone using a cellphone in the movie theater, even in a jurisdiction where it's illegal, they'll tell you to talk to the theater management (who might then call the police and be taken somewhat more seriously).

In contrast, if you call the police about someone taking your cellphone from your hands and throwing it across the theater, they will probably send a uniform.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:19 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


To my knowledge, I don't believe that the use of a cell phone is actually illegal, although many theatres have boilerplate warnings either posted in their Front-of-House area or as part of the small print on the back of the ticket, that any disruptive behaviour may result in ejection from the performance.

Without refund, of course.

In relation to the discussion at hand, in my theatre the use of a cell phone will either get you a stern warning that you will be asked to leave if you continue, or an invitation to use the lobby or a crying room so you can continue your communication. ( Entirely dependent on the temperament of the House Manager) If you lay hands on another patron (or their belongings) you will be TOLD to leave.
posted by Isosceles at 3:27 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And to reiterate, taking the phone was not violence. It would only be assault under a very technical definition, and I personally think the woman's chance to argue that she she felt intimidated is kind of undermined by the fact that she chose to escalate to battery in response. Williamson could mount a good case that he didn't mean to threaten her at all, only to deny her use of the phone.

Which is in turn most definitely a crime the way he did it, but it's not violence. Whether it might be a felony depends on where the monetary cutoff for that is locally; in some places it's $100, so yeah, in some $1000 so nope.

Using the generic word violence without qualification to describe what Williamson did as if it is on the same plane with actually striking or threatening to strike her with the intent to cause injury is at best disingenuous.
posted by localroger at 3:28 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


To my knowledge, I don't believe that the use of a cell phone is actually illegal

Citation upthread.
posted by localroger at 3:30 PM on May 16, 2013


Aww, Ivan Fyodorovich: Aww, that's nice of you! Now I feel bad.

The legality of cell phone was linked above, here's the link again.

I consider it completely academic - not relevant to the issue.

Heck, the New York City police won't actually charge people with assault unless the victim is hospitalized - I know because it's happened to me and to perhaps a third of my friends. I was was knocked on the ground by a guy in an SUV slowly going through a red light - he didn't even LOOK UP from his phone when he hit me, with thump! - and when I banged on the side of his car he chased me across Eighth Avenue in traffic to Madison Square Gardens and a bunch of cops - who would do nothing at all, even though he'd stopped his car in the middle of Eighth Avenue (and wasn't even coherent enough to tell them that I'd thumped on his car, so they had no idea that I'd done even one thing "wrong".)

Hah, these stories. I've been here a long time now... years go by and there are now negative interactions, but over three decades you get some stories... but anyway, calling the police is just not an option.

Live music and theatre are not in a good state right now. We get pushed further out of the mainstream every day. Almost every venue I played in in the first ten years of being in New York City has closed, and only a fraction of new theaters have re-opened (and it's not much better on the music scene).

Now, in a fundamental sense this is "our" problem. If we can't compete with the Internet or a guy playing records, well, we should be more entertaining. If we end up joining the buggy whip makes, well, this is the natural progression of things

But these phone people - we should haven't to put up with them. They shit on our work. They say, "Your work is so uninteresting I'm not even willing to walk 30 feet to go and do something else." Why don't you just stay at home? Go away!

I can completely understand why someone would break a phone, and say this is symptomatic of a problem that is bad, and still not really approve of breaking the phone - but God, I've thought of doing this so many times... and I can't bring myself to condemn him in my heart even though theoretically I know it's wrong. He might be full of white male privilege and an asshole but I understand where he's at, whereas I have NO idea what the phone people can be thinking.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:32 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, I think if the genders had been reversed, we would probably pay a lot more attention to the woman being hit in the face.
posted by adipocere at 3:35 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah, thank you localroger and lupus, unfortunately there is no such legislation in my province. Although, as mentioned above, I'm curious as to how it would be enforced with any diligence.
posted by Isosceles at 3:36 PM on May 16, 2013


"... is at best disingenuous."

No. Some others may truly and sincerely not share your definition of "violence".

And if you check references, you'll find that many authorities do not restrict the definition of violence as narrowly as you do and that, in any case, many people do not use the word in common usage as narrowly as you insist.

So, from either a prescriptive or descriptive perspective, your implicit assertion that violence is only defined as you define it and that anyone who disagrees with you is necessarily being disingenuous (at best!), are both false.

"Aww, Ivan Fyodorovich: Aww, that's nice of you! Now I feel bad."

Don't. I was definitely in the wrong. I was writing my comment when you wrote yours because, out of a pedantic desire to be kind of a jerk, I actually did spontaneously decide to search the thread. And I discovered that I was 100% wrong in my claims as to what you'd written. I was deeply embarrassed. Thanks for being gracious in accepting my apology.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:38 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Williamson could mount a good case that he didn't mean to threaten her at all

Not really.
posted by Hoopo at 3:40 PM on May 16, 2013


Some others may truly and sincerely not share your definition of "violence".

I was going by this definition.

Look, taking the phone was a lot of bad things, but it wasn't violence and conflating such a thing with actual intent or threat to do bodily harm is misusing the language in a very obvious objective sense.

Different people can think words mean different things, true, but that's what dictionaries are for.

In a similar vein it took me years to get my wife to stop saying "The computer's broken!" when she meant "I can't get on the Internet," and to this day she thinks I'm being unreasonable because I insisted she draw a distinction.
posted by localroger at 3:44 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, it would be good to remember that if this incident were to go before a jury, based on the popular reaction to Williamson's action, your chances of finding a jury that would convict him probably make your odds of winning the Powerball lottery look like a dead certainty by comaprison.
posted by localroger at 3:51 PM on May 16, 2013


"I was going by this definition."

But that defines assault and battery, not violence. Furthermore, that reference allows that assault not even require physical contact and that in many jurisdictions, feeling threatened is sufficient.

If you look at other references, you'll see that many define violence as very much like assault is defined in your reference. At that point, you're now relying upon your wholly intuitive and unsubstantiated claim that his taking the phone from her hands was assault in "only under a very technical definition" and utterly unlike "violence".

It's reasonable that you make such a distinction, it is not reasonable that you assert that anyone who fails to do so is being unreasonable and that the whole matter is unambiguous. When you argue that your interlocutors are being "disingenuous at best", the burden of proof is on you to strongly support the distinction upon which you're basing your accusation. You have not done so.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:03 PM on May 16, 2013


Yeah, come on dude. If the destruction of someone's property by some other stranger isn't "violence," then it only isn't violence in an extremely narrow definition of the word. And if it isn't "violence" by that extremely narrow definition of the word, then it's still vandalism.

it would be good to remember that if this incident were to go before a jury, based on the popular reaction to Williamson's action, your chances of finding a jury that would convict him probably make your odds of winning the Powerball lottery look like a dead certainty by comaprison.

I'm not trying to convict Williamson, I just think he's an asshole. Why is it "good" to remember this?
posted by octobersurprise at 4:25 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


localroger: “Smashing the phone was not violence, and calling it that is hyperbole. It was certainly wrong, and he should buy the woman a new phone. You could make a case either way that it was an assault; definitely not battery. I tend to think not assault because it wasn't really a threat to follow with violent contact.”

This constitutes a fundamental misunderstanding of violence, I think, and of what these actions mean. Taking someone's physical property from them without their consent and then actually destroying it in front of them by a swift and sudden movement that could easily have hurt someone else is indeed violence. I agree with Ivan that there are probably many different definitions of "violence," but in this case there's a misunderstanding, I think, that goes beyond simple semantics.

Theft, particularly physical, bodily theft, is a violation; it's a violation not because objects or property are sacred but because it's a sudden and unexpected incursion into someone else's space a significant alteration without consent of the little world they're living in. Anyone who's ever been (for example) robbed on the street when traveling in a foreign country knows how jarring and hurtful that can be. The simple act of snatching away objects from another person can be painful enough, even if it isn't violent. However, the destruction of those objects in front of someone is a sort of "fuck you" that may seem satisfying in a context where we feel as though an unjust party is being punished, but in truth it can be horrifying and confusing and scary in plenty of unforeseen ways.

I'm imagining if I were an asshole who was haughty enough to sit there using my cell phone during a musical performance, as this woman apparently was. (That's still not a great thing, I want to say. I totally get how frustrating that would be.) And I'm imagining what would have gone through my head if this guy snatched my cell phone, wound his arm up, and chucked it out the side door. It would have been something like this:

1. "Huh? He can't take my cell phone. What the hell?"
2. "Whoa, he's pulling back his arm now. Is he going to hit me? What's about to happen?"
3. "Oh wow – he threw my phone clear out the side door. I'm sure it's destroyed. What else is he going to do? He seems pretty enraged. Do I need to hide under a table or something?"

And in a split second it almost certainly wouldn't be quite as coherent as all that. Basically she has no reason whatsoever to assume this guy isn't a nutter who's about to clock her one good.

I guess what it comes down to is this: we may wish to assume that people treat humans and objects differently, but in a tense situation we can't really make that assumption anymore. If someone comes up to us and willfully destroys one of our possessions, apparently in the interest of teaching us a lesson, then there's very little reason to assume they won't do the same thing to us.

That's why sudden snatching and jarring destruction of a person's property right in front of them is and ought to be classed as "violence." I have been in situations where people were so enraged that they destroyed objects in front of other people to demonstrate their anger. It wasn't some little cute thing, and it was certainly violence. Even if the object is just a little cell phone, it can be a very, very serious thing.

“Also, it would be good to remember that if this incident were to go before a jury, based on the popular reaction to Williamson's action, your chances of finding a jury that would convict him probably make your odds of winning the Powerball lottery look like a dead certainty by comaprison.”

Yes, but it's also good to remember why we have juries. With so-called "vigilante justice," the person having justice inflicted on them never has any reason to believe they're anything but the victim of a crazy person out to injure them badly. The system of justice we've set up, with courthouses and judges and juries, may not be so satisfying; but it is fairer and (yes) less violent for all concerned.
posted by koeselitz at 4:29 PM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


based on the popular reaction to Williamson's action, your chances of finding a jury that would convict him probably make your odds of winning the Powerball lottery look like a dead certainty by comaprison.

eh, the people that you're hearing the most passionate responses from on this are people that go to the theater or are involved in it in some capacity. You can bet a lawyer is going to ask you about Broadway shows in the jury selection process to get an idea of how into this sort of thing you are. One of my coworkers was selected for jury duty a couple of years ago, and actually had the prosecution side chuckling when he told him he worked as an examiner for a liability insurer. Like, NEXT PLEASE! They know what to look out for.
posted by Hoopo at 4:30 PM on May 16, 2013


> "...Do I need to hide under a table or something?"

Followed by her slapping him. I get where you're coming from, but I don't think she was afraid.

this particular she. I do see that in general snatch & smash could be alarming/threatening
posted by morganw at 5:04 PM on May 16, 2013


eh, the people that you're hearing the most passionate responses from on this are people that go to the theater or are involved in it in some capacity.

Here in this thread, yes. Out in the not so blue world, it's a little more general.

And in a split second it almost certainly wouldn't be quite as coherent as all that. Basically she has no reason whatsoever to assume this guy isn't a nutter who's about to clock her one good.

So she of course took the sensible route anyone would do when faced with an unpredictable nutter and fled for her life. Oh wait, she didn't. She actually did what he didn't do, and committed battery in response, which if the genders had been reversed every single person here on the blue would be calling "escalation."
posted by localroger at 5:40 PM on May 16, 2013


I'm not trying to convict Williamson, I just think he's an asshole. Why is it "good" to remember this?

I'm not disputing that he's an asshole. It's good to remember that words have meanings though and using them wrongly has only a very temporary rhetorical upside.

As in The Last Emperor, " If you cannot say what you mean, your majesty, you will never mean what you say and a gentleman should always mean what he says. "

This is not like the situation in the bombing thread where I wigged out on the debasing of the term "WMD." While it's pathetic and shameful that a term coined and gererally understood to apply to atomic bombs and nerve gas is applied to pipe bombs with 5 oz of gunpowder in them, there is in fact a definition that supports that interpretation which has the imprimateur of significant agencies. So that was an uphill battle for me.

This is not. These are words whose provenance goes back nearly a thousand years, and so far they still mean what I say they mean.
posted by localroger at 5:47 PM on May 16, 2013


localroger, to consider robbery by force as a type of violence hardly debases the language.
posted by tyllwin at 5:53 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


" I do see that in general snatch & smash could be alarming/threatening."

Yeah. It's worth repeating what corb wrote earlier about this:
In fact, it's one of the most preferred initial forms of domestic and intimate partner violence - grabbing things and smashing them. It has the side effect of making an immediately visceral point about how strong the destroyer is, how angry they are, how likely they are to destroy things, and how the victim could quite easily be next.
This happens a lot. I've seen it done, I've known lots of people who've had this done to them, and, on one occasion 28 years ago, I did it. People do it because it's very scary. The whole point is that it's threatening. If it were just about Williamson removing the offending object from her possession, he wouldn't have thrown it across the room. It was fundamentally an aggressive act primarily intended to express aggression.

"She actually did what he didn't do, and committed battery in response, which if the genders had been reversed every single person here on the blue would be calling 'escalation.'"

Again, you're asserting that your intuitive judgments are universal. I'd call what she did, at worst, straddling the line between self-defense and battery. I don't think it was that much of an escalation and I feel certain that if you were walking down the street carrying something valuable and a stranger snatched it from your hands and you hit them in response, the authorities would not charge you with battery.

And your hypothetical is unhelpful and needlessly provocative.

...and so far they still mean what I say they mean.

No they don't. The mere fact that we're arguing about it here proves that they don't simply mean what you say they mean. And, again, Google violence, looking for definitions. You insist that it applies to what she did in response to him but not what he did to her, but that's simply not true. It's not authoritatively true with regard to technical language, and it's not descriptively true with regard to common usage.

You want "violence" to only refer to hurtful bodily contact. I'm sure there are many people who will agree with you. I know there are many who do not. You're not the God Emperor of English.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:54 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


and so far they still mean what I say they mean.

Yeah, feel free to quote from whatever you want, but I think it's unlikely that many people will dispute the violence involved in the angry destruction of someone's property by another. If it isn't assault, violence against person, then it's vandalism, or violence against property. Justified or unjustified, either way it's violence. I really don't know why you would even try to assert otherwise.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:16 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Come now, you must have a number and a %age this is. So nut up - and inform us all how many of the "large" actually is.


Well, since I have been invited to strap on a pair following my post graveyard shift rant, accused of running away with my tail between my legs while i was sleeping, I must confess that I do not have a citation, a statistic, or a peer reviewed journal article I can link to. I have worked in uniformed security in one form or another since 1996, and worked in a theater before that. By the time it gets to me, a situation is already fairly escalated (person has already been asked to cease and desist and refused) so perhaps there is a bit of selection bias there.

I can tell you most certainly that wearing a uniform comes with no power rush, especially since it marks one's class. The assumptions people make about your profession and motives are almost universally negative. (Again,I have no statistics to back me up, only the witness I have borne to the way the people around me are treated. )
posted by louche mustachio at 6:31 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's unlikely that many people will dispute the violence involved in the angry destruction of someone's property by another

On the contrary. If you look at other forums there is nearly universal jubilation at what Williamson did. He let the demon out, which he shouldn't have done, but don't kid yourself that more than a very few people generally think he should be sanctioned for what he did.

The mere fact that we're arguing about it here proves that they don't simply mean what you say they mean.

Um, no it doesn't. The mere fact that you might be here making the case for TimeCube, even with twenty of your closest distant associates in tow, would not make that case. When we start disagreeing like this on what the words mean the place where we come to find out who is right is the dictionary or the law. The law is also what would adjucate any penalties deserved for the behavior that has been reported. And the law is quite clear on this, and it is quite clear that I am right, at least in all 50 US states.

robbery by force as a type of violence

I would consider calling what he did "robbery by force" debasement of the language. She contravened a number of social norms, which some would say were ruining thousands of dollars of investment by those ticket holders near her, he took a step of measured force calculated to end her disruption. Hey, lookit what I did there with the language. Kind of the opposite of you are doing. And what every "SWAT team shot my dog" apologist does too, of course.

This is why I get a little ticked about choosing your own meanings for words. Words have meanings. Don't pick the words because they make your case sound better, pick them because they are accurate.
posted by localroger at 6:35 PM on May 16, 2013


Oh and...

You want "violence" to only refer to hurtful bodily contact. I'm sure there are many people who will agree with you. I know there are many who do not. You're not the God Emperor of English.

Violence can also refer to the threat of hurtful bodily contact, which might not involve contact at all. That's "assault."

Snatch and grab is not violence, either under law or common sense. It is a crime, and for good reason. Just not a violent crime.
posted by localroger at 6:42 PM on May 16, 2013


Well, my own personal story about theatre disruption did not turn out nearly so well.

Years ago, I went to go see Candyman and Dr. Chuckles as a double feature at the local budget theatre with an ex.

(Before I tell this story, I want to state I am not a racist and only recount it as I do for the sake of accuracy.)

During the first movie, there were a group of African-Americans that were being extremely loud and raucous. Several people, including myself, were politely asking them to be quiet to no avail. Finally a woman further up the theatre towards the screen (who had a dubious chromosome count, I swear) yelled back "Will you n-words shut the fuck up?!"

One of the African-American men stood up (and by stood up, I mean unfolded himself from his seat, being extremely tall) and loudly questioned "What the fuck did you say?"

The woman yelled back the same request in the same wording again.

Said large man then headed to the side aisle nearest her.

Not being a super hero (or apparently a baby, as this thread would have me believe), I leaned over to the ex and said "We should probably beat feet." Of course, I was teaching at the time and I suspected my bosses would be unhappy seeing me show up bruised and black eyed.

The woman got up and went to meet the man in the aisle. A man in the woman's party jumped up and attempted to interpose himself between them. Said do-gooder ended up sprawling on his back atop a row of seats with assistance from the tall man.

I looked at my ex and said "Now is good." and started heading for the door.

I do not know exactly how this ended as I did not want to regret my lack of health insurance or martial/paediatric arts skills.

So, that happened.
posted by Samizdata at 6:55 PM on May 16, 2013


Dude, despite your repeated attempts to badger everyone into no longer believing this was a violent act, no one is buying it. Why not give it a rest.
posted by elizardbits at 6:57 PM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you look at other forums there is nearly universal jubilation at what Williamson did.

Maybe, but that's not what the sentence of mine you quoted said. There may be jubilation around the world, but I doubt those jubilant hordes want to deny the violence here. As far as I can see, in fact, a lot of them want to insist on the violence, as if that's precisely what makes this little episode so great. So, no, there aren't many, probably, who see Williamson as a champion of non-violence like you do.

Maybe you can persuade your wife that you're right, though.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:57 PM on May 16, 2013


Now that I think about it, while we're all concerned about the maybe-maybe-not assault, why are we not concerned with the actual "someone got hit in the face" battery? Because that's definite violence.

Why isn't that being talked about?
posted by adipocere at 7:02 PM on May 16, 2013


I doubt those jubilant hordes want to deny the violence here

Well we will have to agree to disagree on this.
posted by localroger at 7:03 PM on May 16, 2013


Why not give it a rest.

BECAUSE SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET

Oh fuck I have become an XKCD comic
posted by localroger at 7:06 PM on May 16, 2013


Because that's definite violence.

No shit.

Well we will have to agree to disagree on this.

YES LET US
posted by octobersurprise at 7:09 PM on May 16, 2013


TEA AND CAKE FOR EVERYONE

except the wrong people naturally
posted by elizardbits at 7:19 PM on May 16, 2013


He didn't stick a gun in her face and demand the phone. He didn't twist her arm and threaten pain to get the phone. He snatched it from her hand. This is not a physical threat to her body. Physical threat to the body is what defines violence. He neither made nor threatened to do violence.

He took her phone, by force. Very lllegal. Where's the cops when you need 'em? Oh, and I think she would have a $50 fine coming herself.

Snatching isn't violence. Pickpocketing isn't violence. B&E isn't violence. I've experienced all of these and would have eagerly committed some violence against the people who did them to me if i could have, before I cooled down.

Violence is wondering how long it will take to heal. Violence is wondering if you will survive. Violence is wondering if what's about to happen to you will make you wonder those other things. Give me a choice between being sucker punched in the face and having my cell phone snatched from my hand, and I will throw my fucking cell phone into a volcano.
posted by localroger at 7:21 PM on May 16, 2013


I would consider calling what he did "robbery by force" debasement of the language.

Did he take her property -- a smart phone worth hundreds of dollars -- or not? In her presence and against her will? How is that anything other than robbery?

Did he wrench it out of her grip because he was stronger than her? Could he have taken it if she were physically stronger than he? How is that not force?

What would it take to qualify?

We don't like her. Fine. We're happy she was stolen from and inconvenienced. Less fine, but understandable. But Williamson? A thief and a coward.
posted by tyllwin at 7:23 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did he take her property? -- absolutely, and a bad thing.

Did he wrench it out of her grip because he was stronger than her? Could he have taken it if she were physically stronger than he? -- Anybody can take anything from anybody by surprise. It doesn't take strength and isn't hard. This is why I don't think it automatically qualifies as violence or assault. Of course if the taker is the slight woman and the takee the powerful man, escape would be a consideration.

On your judgement on Williamson, no dispute on my part. But the viral consensus is different.
posted by localroger at 7:28 PM on May 16, 2013


localroger, I'm mostly with you, but would suggest (as I did a long time ago in this thread) that there is violence and there is violence. By which I mean, yes, there's what you've described, which is magnitudes more intense and likely hurtful than just having something you value snatched from you and destroyed. But that snatch and destroy is also violence, I think. Certainly an invasion.
posted by philip-random at 7:30 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Physical threat to the body is what defines violence."

Bullshit. If that was what defined violence, you'd never hear the phrase "a violent storm."

You're making shit up and then getting shirty because other people aren't taking your made up shit as gospel.
posted by klangklangston at 7:30 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Give me a choice between being sucker punched in the face and having my cell phone snatched from my hand, and I will throw my fucking cell phone into a volcano.

You're beginning to ramble, dude. Take a break before you start threatening to cut off a hand or something, 'k?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:37 PM on May 16, 2013


Bullshit. If that was what defined violence, you'd never hear the phrase "a violent storm."

There is this thing called "metaphor," you should Google it.

Violence involves a threat to the body by definition. Williamson is an asshole and what he did was very illegal but he did not in any way threaten the offensive woman with harm. I realize you could argue otherwise, and that's where the lawyers and juries get involved, and if that happens I think Williamson will get a well justified fine and slap on the wrist which he will smile and pay. And that is justice.
posted by localroger at 7:38 PM on May 16, 2013


You're beginning to ramble, dude.

I gather you've never had any serious dental reconstructions done.
posted by localroger at 7:42 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, in happier news, I have discovered that you can sometimes hurt evil with evil. Which is to say, after that thread yesterday about an absence of crosswalks and cars not heeding them, I have begun to take pictures of drivers stopped mid-intersection. OH MAN does it give people the wiggins to have this chick waving at them and taking photos of them.

Although given I am doing this in West Philly, my phone and maybe body parts will soon be flying through the air while I'm doing my little adventure.

In other news, the final third of Star Trek Into Darkness was ruined for me and a buncha others because two women started talking to the screen during A Big! Sad! Scene! and, in short, humans, fuck 'em.
posted by angrycat at 7:52 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read that some movies are offering subtitles for the hearing impaired, transmitted to their mobile phones. I'd be delighted to see a movie and actually catch the funny asides and low dialog. If that annoys you, that's a shame.
posted by theora55 at 8:31 PM on May 16, 2013


I can say for certain that it was my time as a House Manager that taught me the valuable lesson that patience only really counts when it's being tested. I am glad that my time was before widespread cellphone usage. Beepers were the big disruptors then. Also senior matinee heart attacks, unruly children, drunk patrons and society's great equalizer, farting.

The biggest issue by a longshot was the fact that for a lot of patrons, a nice dinner beforehand and a bottle of wine (or four) is a standard part of going out to the theater. Most nights a good quarter of the crowd would be full on wasted. It's been my experience that there's no worse drunks than sophisticated upper-crust patrons of the arts.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:41 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've done this. Twice. And, I'd do it again.

Both times, I took cell phones from people driving cars who almost hit me. Both times I've smashed them after telling the person they're talking to that their friend is an asshole who almost killed a pedestrian.

Sometimes I find myself fantasizing that I'll almost be killed by our cell-using-while-driving idiot manchild of a mayor.
posted by dobbs at 8:48 PM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


> a thief and a coward

Not a thief. A vandal?

I went out to a show tonight and no one pulled out a phone - not one! It was at Roulette and it rocked.

Please go to Roulette if you get the opportunity. It's really one of the best stages in the city, amazing sound system, but they took a chance and moved to Brooklyn and people just aren't showing up. And I've never seen anything there that wasn't world-class...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:54 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, reading my Facebook feed followed by this thread, all I can say is how glad I am that so many people took a break today from complaining about the inherent white male privilege in this country to praise a popular published millionaire for committing theft and battery by grabbing a woman's cell phone and assaulting her person and property, which is totally justified and awesome because after all, with everything going on in the world where the system could be shattered by popular uprising, extracting disproportionate vengeance on a weaker person because they mildly annoyed you is where we'll make our stand.

Golf clap, internet. Golf clap.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:00 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am so very, very torn.

On the one hand, Williamson grabbing and smashing up someone else's phone was an asshole move. My gods, man, that's what ushers are for.

On the other, I have a great deal of understanding for the impulse to do so.

I love the opera. Love it, have since I was introduced to the whole spectacle of the art form as a teenager. Our local Opera is as poor as a churchmouse, so unless I want to go to Detroit or Chicago (and I do, when I can scrape the money together), I only get two performances a season.

Elder Monster's girlfriend confided in him that she had never been to the opera, and was kind of intimidated by the idea of it, but really wanted to try it sometime. So this past season, I snagged tickets for the three of us to see La Bohème. I thought it would be the perfect starter for the Monsterette, since she's a Renthead and thus already well familiar with the story. We had great seats, so the tickets were spendy, and I decided we'd make it a proper night out.

The night of the performance came, and the three of us got properly tarted up - tux on the Monster, and the Monsterette and I in long formal gowns. We had a fancypants dinner at a great restaurant right next door to the theater, arrived with ample time to take our seats, the lights went down, the music started...and some asshole whipped out her phone and started taking pictures. And texting. And playing on Facebook. Right next to Monsterette.

Monsterette, bless the girl, is just as polite as polite can be. She gently asked the woman several times to please put it away, it was really distracting to her. She was ignored. At intermission, Monsterette had had enough, and took the woman by the hand. She calmly and levelly looked her in the eye, holding the woman's hand in both of hers. "Lady, this is my very first night at the opera ever, and your phone is really spoiling it for me. If you pull it out again, I'm going to lose my temper and cram it in your ear. Which would make me sad, because me getting arrested would make Mum unhappy. Please put it away."

The girl has far more patience than I, seriously, because I really wanted to cram the woman's phone somewhere else, and with much less grace. (The phone did not make another appearance. Monsterette is now in love with the opera, and I couldn't be happier.)
posted by MissySedai at 9:37 PM on May 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


And this is the same... how?

The big guy then breaks into "Stars" from Les Miserables.

As long as it's Philip Quast, I won't be filing charges.


Man, now I'm thinking about that Les Mis movie and I'm getting mad. When Gavroche is your best casting ... man. Quast is excellent. Crowe was so, so, so stinky.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:02 PM on May 16, 2013


"There is this thing called "metaphor," you should Google it.

Violence involves a threat to the body by definition. Williamson is an asshole and what he did was very illegal but he did not in any way threaten the offensive woman with harm. I realize you could argue otherwise, and that's where the lawyers and juries get involved, and if that happens I think Williamson will get a well justified fine and slap on the wrist which he will smile and pay. And that is justice.
"

violent |ˈvī(ə)lənt|
adjective
using or involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something: a violent confrontation with riot police.
• (esp. of an emotion or unpleasant or destructive natural force) very strong or powerful: violent dislike | the violent eruption killed 1,700 people.
• (of a color) vivid.
Law involving an unlawful exercise or exhibition of force.

So, no, "violence" does not exclusively involve a threat to the body by definition. That's a bad definition. You've repeatedly pronounced your bad definition ex cathedra, and maybe you should fucking read a dictionary before you get snippy with the googles.

The dude violently ripped her phone away from her. Some violence can be justified. People are arguing over whether this violence can be justified. Muddying that with a stubborn commitment to a useless idiosyncratic definition makes the conversation worse.
posted by klangklangston at 10:23 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


You're not the God Emperor of English.

Leave languagehat out of this!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:43 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


> My gods, man, that's what ushers are for.

If you read the article, he went in the intermission to talk to management, who promised they would do something, but did not...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:27 PM on May 16, 2013


Violence involves a threat to the body by definition. Williamson is an asshole and what he did was very illegal but he did not in any way threaten the offensive woman with harm.

99 times out of 100 when you've entered the "let's copy/paste dictionary definitions of words because reasons" phase of Internet Argument™ it's time for both parties to back away, but if people are so concerned about the "threat of violence" here, let's keep in mind this Williamson asshole writes for a website that has spent the last several months braying that schoolteachers should be combat trained and that a threatening bag of Skittles justified a guy in Florida firing a handgun at a teenager.

In Kevin Williamson's perfect world the minute he laid a hand on the woman or any piece of her property she had every right to Stand Her Ground and unload her perfectly legal concealed weapon at his face. Or maybe more people should understand this is just another example of how people like Williamson believe the world should always work in a way that personally conveniences them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:08 AM on May 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Williamson (in an article not related to his heroic smashing of a woman's phone): “'Privilege' is one of those handy rhetorical markers that is in itself devoid of substantive intellectual content and identifies its user as suffering an identical condition."
posted by Eyebeams at 6:42 AM on May 17, 2013


I have an interesting question - there've been a number of people in here who've brought up less-than-savory statements on Williamson's part. To those who've done so - would your opinion of this incident and of Williamson's behavoir in it change any if he hadn't had those unsavory statements in his past?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:47 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos - I would still think what Williamson did was wrong, but I admit that the facts that Williamson is (IMHO) a smug piece of crap, and that he never would have done this to a man, are incentives to pile on, as it were.

i completely understand the urge to do what he did, because (if Williamson reported the facts accurately) the woman was incredibly rude and stupid, but any decent person would have resisted the urge, and certainly wouldn't have crowed publicly about his victory over a "vulgarian" who wore too much makeup (???).
posted by Eyebeams at 7:16 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


i completely understand the urge to do what he did, because (if Williamson reported the facts accurately) the woman was incredibly rude and stupid, but any decent person would have resisted the urge, and certainly wouldn't have crowed publicly about his victory over a "vulgarian" who wore too much makeup (???).

Okay, I see what you mean.

Although, I think I may be too cynical to have as much faith that all decent persons would have resisted the urge to lash out, and would also have avoided a little bit of "in your face" dancing-in-the-end-zone behavior. Consider: the reveling that takes place here on the Blue, amongst a lot of decent people, whenever some political person who is generally unliked receives their comeuppance. (We get a lot nastier than calling people "vulgarians", so far as I've seen.)

I'm not condoning that, mind; it's not one of humanity's more attractive qualities. But it is a human quality, and we do do that, despite knowing it's not quite the decent thing to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd be critical of Williamson regardless, but that he is who he is makes me extra disapproving. And not just in an unrelated way, but in that I think it's relevant. I do agree that lots of different kinds of people might do what he did — but what he did, who he did it to (and how he described her/them), how he rationalizes it, and how he's behaved afterward are all very much of a piece with his politics.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:39 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dude violently ripped her phone away from her. Some violence can be justified. People are arguing over whether this violence can be justified. Muddying that with a stubborn commitment to a useless idiosyncratic definition makes the conversation worse.

localroger, if I'm agreeing with both klangklangston and octobersurprise on something, you are clearly so wrong as to make your wronging a neon light in the wrong-glow of wrongnessland.

A possibly more illuminating question might be: why is it so important to you that the act of ripping away someone's property forcefully and smashing it not be classified as violence?
posted by corb at 8:36 AM on May 17, 2013


corb, for the same reason that a small homemade pipe bomb should not be classed with atomic bombs and nerve gas. Because it's not what the word is generally associated with and using that word is a rhetorical flourish intended to make the thing sound like something much worse than it is. It is, to be very blunt, a deliberately calculated lie.

Or as George Orwell didn't say, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a hand snatching and smashing your cellphone - forever"
posted by localroger at 8:47 AM on May 17, 2013


i completely understand the urge to do what he did

I completely understand why millions of people have millions of urges to do things like he did.

Then they don't do them, because they aren't at worse sociopaths or at the very least complete fucking assholes.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:10 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I can't believe how long (and how heated) this thread has gotten. Seriously, are there any significant number of people here who don't agree

A) that the woman talking on the phone was an asshole, and that it's good to see a rude, inconsiderate asshole get his/her comeuppance once in a while

and

B) that while Williamson's anger is understandable, he was wrong to act out on it in that way?

I see a lot of people apparently assuming that if you believe A you must disagree with B, or that if you assert B you don't believe A: neither of which follow at all. In other words, aren't we basically all (or almost all) in agreement about both sides of this story?
posted by yoink at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


corb, for the same reason that a small homemade pipe bomb should not be classed with atomic bombs and nerve gas

again, I mostly agree with localroger here. But I wouldn't go so far as to NOT classify what happened as violence. I'd call it a lesser violence (third degree or whatever).

Which gets us to a CBC radio discussion I heard the other day. The topic was young girls and sexual abuse. An expert weighed in with the stat that eight out of ten (or whatever, I don't recall the exact figure but it was shockingly high) young girls would be sexually abused by the time they were sixteen. The host said, "What!?!?" and dug deeper.

It turns out that the stats the expert was using classified everything from rape to a casual slap on the ass as sexual abuse. Which it is. But to not accept that there's a huge difference in degree is problematic, and ultimately a discussion killer.
posted by philip-random at 9:43 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


In other words, aren't we basically all (or almost all) in agreement about both sides of this story?

I thought so too and then the thread descended into madness and ruin over the definition of a word. So, mefi in a nutshell, really.
posted by elizardbits at 9:49 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


for the same reason that a small homemade pipe bomb should not be classed with atomic bombs and nerve gas. Because it's not what the word is generally associated with and using that word is a rhetorical flourish intended to make the thing sound like something much worse than it is. It is, to be very blunt, a deliberately calculated lie.

Except it's not. This falls very much within the standard definition of violence. It falls squarely in the middle of the definition given by the OED. It's not very ambiguous. I think you are the only person arguing that it is not violence, without much success I might add.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:42 AM on May 17, 2013


I see a lot of people apparently assuming that if you believe A you must disagree with B, or that if you assert B you don't believe A: neither of which follow at all. In other words, aren't we basically all (or almost all) in agreement about both sides of this story?

Because "wanting a person to get their comeuppance" is not the same thing as "cheering assaulting another person because you can get away with it" and supporting the latter action because you yourself didn't do it so you don't have to feel bad about it is only perpetuating a horrible fucking culture in this county.

Every time I read some version of the "oh, I personally wouldn't do it, but I understand why he did" I cringe and imagine how they'd respond if instead Williamson wrote about how he slapped his wife for talking back or burning dinner.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:08 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR - Maybe you're talking about someone else, but what I said was that I understood the urge but that any decent person would resist that urge. Sorry if that's cringe inducing.

For context, this is supposedly a picture of the venue during a performance (from a Balloon Juice thread).
posted by Eyebeams at 11:44 AM on May 17, 2013


For context, this is supposedly a picture of the venue during a performance (from a Balloon Juice thread).

Dude, that's the main picture in TFA.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:06 PM on May 17, 2013


Ha! Sorry, I meant to link to this.
posted by Eyebeams at 12:11 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute ... it's dinner theatre? The whole place looks lit up. No one could be bothered by a phone there unless they wanted to be bothered.

Publicity stunt gets publicity. At least the NRO didn't get our PageRank juice, I guess.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:25 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I see a lot of people apparently assuming that if you believe A you must disagree with B, or that if you assert B you don't believe A: neither of which follow at all. In other words, aren't we basically all (or almost all) in agreement about both sides of this story?"

Yes, but YOU ARE WORSE THAN HITLER to point this out.
posted by klangklangston at 2:27 PM on May 17, 2013


"Wait a minute ... it's dinner theatre? The whole place looks lit up. No one could be bothered by a phone there unless they wanted to be bothered."

Well, the link explains that it's not dinner theater, that once the show starts there are no servers or other distractions and such. And discussion in this thread has asserted that the lighting was low enough for smartphones to be distracting.

So I don't think the woman, or the other distracting folk, get a pass on that basis.

That said, though, the environment is enough unlike a traditional theater and like a dinner theater that it muddies the waters a bit with regard to expectations, doesn't it? Did the linked stories describe any announcements from the management about this stuff?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:39 PM on May 17, 2013




Because "wanting a person to get their comeuppance" is not the same thing as "cheering assaulting another person because you can get away with it" and supporting the latter action because you yourself didn't do it so you don't have to feel bad about it is only perpetuating a horrible fucking culture in this county.

Every time I read some version of the "oh, I personally wouldn't do it, but I understand why he did"


You're radically misreading what I said (and said in pretty plain English, it seems to me). I don't "cheer assaulting another person"--I said, in fact, that "he was wrong to act out on it in that way." I didn't say his actions were understandable, simply that his anger was. He clearly should not have attacked her. But, once again, acknowledging that does not logically entail that I have to feel sorry that this ghastly selfish person had her phone destroyed. It seems weird to me that so many people are confused on this point; if you can unconfuse these two logically and ethically unrelated propositions this whole argument is clearly just a matter of people talking past each other.

Think of it this way: if the story here had been "this woman spent the whole night talking and checking her iPhone and then, HA HA, a small fixture dropped from the ceiling right on top of her fucking iPhone and shattered the fucking thing!" I don't think any of us would have any trouble accepting, in that case, that A) it was satisfying to see a horrible selfish person get a bit of karmic comeuppance AND B) that fixtures shouldn't be dropping from the ceilings of theaters and that somebody should bloody well get in trouble for allowing it to happen.

In the story as we have it, Williamson is essentially the falling fixture. The fact that he was behaving completely inappropriately is neither here nor there from the perspective of whether or not one feels a certain satisfaction in what happened to the woman. And the fact that one feels that satisfaction is, again, in no way to suggest that what he did was acceptable or should be condoned.
posted by yoink at 6:13 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Agreeing with yoink here.
There was a discussion of crosswalks here where someone said that as a pedestrian they had gotten into an altercation with a car. The car then tried to back into them and instead hit some skinheads, who proceeded to accost the car. Thinking this is funny, or karma, doesn’t mean that everyone is pro skinhead street violence.
posted by bongo_x at 7:23 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you read the article, he went in the intermission to talk to management, who promised they would do something, but did not...

I read it. When the ushers don't do their jobs, your next step is to make your dissatisfaction known to the theater management the next day.

Like I said, I very much understand the impulse to snatch the phone and throw it across the room. For that matter, I understand the impulse to set these inconsiderate fucks on fire when they ruin an otherwise lovely evening. But it's an impulse the civilized do not act on, even when they can't get the relevant authority figures to do their jobs timely.
posted by MissySedai at 10:22 PM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


To start with, you're in a theater and you ARE doing something illegal

Which laws of the State/FedGov are being broken?

A contract, sure - I'll give you that. But LAWs?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:26 AM on May 19, 2013


A contract, sure - I'll give you that. But LAWs?

LAWs
posted by Greg Nog at 9:40 AM on May 19, 2013


LAWs
posted by Eideteker at 7:41 AM on May 20, 2013


LAWs
posted by koeselitz at 7:45 AM on May 20, 2013


LAWs
LAWs
LAWs

you guys are dorks.
posted by sweetkid at 7:57 AM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]



LAWs
posted by Eideteker


The laws don't let me have a LAW. :(
posted by corb at 8:01 AM on May 20, 2013


Knowing you IRL, this is probably a good thing. Though it would be spectacular watching you take out an annoying cellphone user... from a safe distance.
posted by Eideteker at 8:32 AM on May 20, 2013


I thought we considered gun control a derail much earlier in this thread...
posted by sweetkid at 8:33 AM on May 20, 2013


Seriously, don't.
posted by jessamyn at 8:34 AM on May 20, 2013


Sorry, I was kidding Eideteker because I know him and didn't think anyone else would grab onto it. Didn't mean for it to be a derail.
posted by corb at 8:35 AM on May 20, 2013


Memail can be very helpful for kidding with people as well, I've found.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:13 PM on May 21, 2013




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