The last time I jammed electrodes into the spine of a potential assailant, I thought, Boy, I sure wish I was listening to Britney Spears right now. Thanks to paranoia and corporate opportunism, my wish has come true.
At the 2008 Consumer Electronics Association show in Las Vegas, Taser International introduced a leopard-print Taser C2 gun with a gig of music memory embedded in its holster. Now you can rock out to your favorite MP3s whilst incapacitating goons with twin probes capable of digging into two inches of clothing from up to 15 feet away. All for less than $450!
When Andrew Meyer disrupted John Kerry’s rally at the University of Florida in late 2007, witnesses uploaded his foibles on YouTube. Hours later, Meyers’ “Don’t tase me, bro!” became an internet meme. As the video spread, guided by grinning news anchors and dedicated web-addicts alike, Taser experienced a 56 percent increase in revenue.
Self-defense is considered an important component of living in the modern age, but this iPod wannabe has little to do with holding onto your purse. This is marketing at its cultural worst. This is about young Americans’ susceptibility to buy into whatever fad comes skidding across the ice of our hell frozen over.
Between 2001 and 2007, Amnesty International reported at least 245 cases involving Tasers that resulted in death. In November of last year, the UN Committee Against Torture decreed Tasers as a “form of torture” that can “even provoke death.” In light of the controversy stemming from Justice Mukasey’s refusal to label waterboarding as torture, this type of pandering should be condemned. This is life and death, serious business, not just some pixilated loser shrieking on YouTube.
Taser usage supposedly lessens other, more lethal crime deterrents such as firearms and police batons. This reasoning is produced whenever the words “excessive force” enter the equation, especially post-Rodney King. However, statistics on this claim are murky. Firearm usage did not decrease last year after the Houston police force introduced thousands of Tasers into its arsenal, according to the Houston Chronicle. On a more obvious note, Tasers can be deadly, so the claim to “non-lethal force” does not apply. Just ask Robert Dziekański, Tasered until his heart stopped by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Vancouver Airport.
But we’re not even talking about officers of the law. We’re talking about commercially manufactured weapons. We’re talking about 18-year-old college kids handed a Taser as a graduation present because mom and pop fear for their baby’s safety in the big bad city, yet still have the fashion know-how to ensure the gadget accessorizes. We’re also talking about those same kids fearlessly wandering down dark alleys, unaware of their surroundings because the C2’s holster is blasting Rihanna too loudly.
The practicality of this device is backwards. Imagine a pistol that shoots miniature fireworks as you attempt to aim, or a katana that screams like Jamie Lee Curtis when unsheathed. Where’s the fucking logic in that?
While I somehow doubt Tasers will catch on as the hippest new accessory—call it hopeless eternal optimism—the potential that’s there could yield disastrous results. Tasers in the hands of untrained youths, purchased for vanity, would easily jolt the device’s death count up to Friday the 13th levels.
A leopard-print MP3 Taser—like the scantily clad bikini-assassins in girls-with-guns calendars, is an attempt to make weapons, not to mention violence, sexy and fashionable. Popularizing casual vigilante violence pushes our cultural progress back decades. It makes no one safer or stylish.