Kevin Williamson: Hero or Menace? [Phones in the theatre]

Not the Dawson’s Creek/Scream guy, AFAIK, but the National Review writer. He tells the story of how he was thrown out of a theatre. The reason why will strike a chord with many:

(Sorry for the long quote; I thought it was best to use his own words in describing this matter.)

His fellow NR writers call him an “American hero” and tell him, “you rock”. Certainly we get enough threads around here complaining about this exact thing. So he took the action many of us wish we could.

But was he right to do so? What say you?

Nope: two wrongs and all that. Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is still extremism. He performed a criminal act, and is lucky not to be prosecuted. He disrupted the movie screening more than the (idiots!) people using phones did.

Gosh, I think I’ll go to a roller-coaster park and beat up the line-jumpers. And I’m also gonna puncture the tires on cars that are parked taking up two spaces. Yeah, that’s it. And I’ll throw rocks through the windows where people are partying too loudly, too late. Terrorists for Justice! Yeah, that’s the ticket…

He took the law into his own hands and destroyed private property.

When can I buy him a beer?

Stage performance, actually.

I’d be okay with it if he’d done one more step, i.e., asking those in charge to do something about it first.

As noted, this was live theater, not a movie. (The linked article makes this clear, but the mention of an intermission was enough to tip me off.)

Anyone who refuses to turn off their phone during a live theater performance deserves to have it (and/or them) thrown across the room.

And, BigT:

My only problem with throwing a cell phone in a theater is that someone else could potentially be injured.

They were both assholes. I would never use my cell phone during a public performance and I do sympathize with his anger. It doesn’t say if the woman’s phone was damaged when he threw it across the room, but in these days of $500 smartphones, if you grab my phone out of my hand and throw it across the room, you’re paying for that sucker. And possibly some dental reconstructive surgery for yourself.

In my opinion, that actually makes it worse.

If the performance hadn’t yet started up as intermission was ending, then just let the (admittedly rude and obnoxious) person finish her little whatever. It’s only valid as a major complaint if the performance had started up again and . . .

. . . if the performance was underway then HE CAUSED A WAY MORE DISRUPTIVE INCIDENT! There’s a stage performance underway, and he’s going to snatch someone’s phone (which is guaranteed to start an altercation) and throw it across the room to hit whoever in the head!?!?!? No way he could claim accurate aim at a safe landing spot in a darkened theater when he’s grabbing and throwing unrehearsed with heated emotions.

Then there’s the slap, and the woman getting up to storm down the aisle, then the woman brings back management to eject this guy.
Forget the whole “two wrongs don’t make a right” angle, the rude obnoxious phone user was disrupting the show for what, maybe two seats to her right, two seats to her left, maybe six seats behind her in the next row, maybe a few seats behind her in the second next row, so 15 people? Yes bad. Very bad.

But this guy disrupted the performance for the entire audience!

Unless, of course, the performance hadn’t started yet and if the performance hadn’t started yet then the phone user wasn’t being overwhelmingly disruptive.

If he needed to post bail/bond I’d lend him the money.

Eh. While I wouldn’t have handled it that way…

…I gotta admit that I’m not much moved by the argument that “it’s worse to cause a bigger disruption trying to correct bad behavior because the misbehaving person will escalate by fighting back.”

If THAT were true, the police cause WAY more disruption chasing criminals than if they just ignored them. Trying O. J. Simpson caused WAY more disruption – on a nationwide scale – than O. J. caused quietly whacking those two people.

The D-Day invasion caused WAY more disruption than just letting the Nazis occupy France (they were pretty quiet on that front before June 1944).

Device use at public theaters is a plague, and can be mind-bogglingly rude. I dispute that it disrupts the experience of only the people a few seats away – everyone in the theater can see those lit-up screens and glowing faces when the lights go down, just the way Cleveland’s glow can be seen from space.

I don’t think citizens meleeing in the aisles is the answer – but not because “it’s more disruptive to oppose evil than to ignore it.”

Well, he did:

Now, since he didn’t actually touch her, just her phone. If charges are pressed for destruction of property, could he also press charges for assault?

The linked article notes that his date did talk to theater staff and nothing was done. He asked the woman (I don’t know how politely) to refrain from using the phone and was rudely rebuffed.

At that point I would have gone back to management and asked them again to either fix the situation or refund our money. Grabbing someone’s personal property and destroying it is satisfying (I’d have applauded him if I were in the theater), but it’s wrong. If he broke or destroyed the phone he is liable. Being an asshole (and she was) does not give other people legal grounds to break or damage your property.

I actually fantasize about this type of thing. Not so much with cinemas or performances (which I don’t attend very often), but on my commuter train.

My train has 8 double-cabbed cars. Seven of those cars you can yak yak yak to your hearts content. Cellphone, chitchat with seatmate, whatever. The other car is the QUIET CAR. The QUIET CAR has signs, it’s always in the same place, and every stop there is an announcement that the rules of the QUIET CAR include “cellphones must be turned off” and only brief whispering. I deliberately choose the QUIET CAR for my commute. I like to read and nap.

I realize that some folks new to the train might not realize the cellphone thing, or the chitchat with your friends the whole way thing. That’s why I’m good with a very polite reminder to those folks.

But so many people think the rules of the QUIET CAR do not apply to them. Phones are left on to ring, beep, chirp, whatever. In a blessedly silent car, a sudden loud ringtone is enough to jar folks out of a very much needed nap. And there is no such thing as a “quiet conversation” on a cell phone. Yes, that means you–the whole car can hear you talking. And talking. And talking.

My fantasy is to get up, walk over to the culprit, smoothly remove the cellphone from their hand, walk calmly over to the vestibule, and toss the blasted thing out the door. Return to seat.

I’d never actually do it, but man I *want *to.

Slightly OT: My local paper printed a “cute” blurb about a woman whose 3-year-old son threw her Blackberry into the full bathtub, and just couldn’t bring herself to punish him because his smile was so charming. I’m guessing that she was neglecting her son because of it, and he knew exactly what he was doing.

Someone on another message board said that her boyfriend was neglecting her because he preferred his Xbox over her, so she poured a can of soda in it. :smiley: I was one of the few people who didn’t think she did anything wrong, although I did agree that if the genders were reversed, people would accuse him of abuse.

Interesting new info (at least in this situation): it turns out that this particular show was set up more like dinner theater than a traditional setting. You’re served food and drinks, there’s minor audience “participation” possible, and the house lights are up the entire time.

Still, while it may or may not make a difference in this case, I still think it’s an interesting question to think about in general.

From the article, “The close quarters do, however, bring the show an extra charge of excitement, as we are brought into whispering intimacy with the characters as they pursue their fates, happy and otherwise, in the grand houses of 19th-century Moscow.”

That sounds like the sort of vibe where a douche on a cell phone would be particularly infuriating.

Yes, they should have gone back to management. And that’s the advice I’ve heard when someone is being disruptive in the movie theater. But in some of these big multiplexes, i’d have to walk pretty far to find the nearest employee. So I could easily miss a few minutes of a movie trying to get someone to deal with this. (Even more time if I have to wait for a manager to show up.)

Optimist. A friend’s son was the same way - he could be happily playing elsewhere in the house, but if mommy was on the phone BAM he was there demanding attention. One gag she used to pull? He often ignored being called for dinner/bedtime/whatever, so rather than calling him, she’d adjust her ring-volume, making her phone ring, and fake getting a call. He’d show up in seconds, dropping whatever he was doing. I think he was six before he caught on.

The same woman has a gambit for cellphone abusers in theaters. She interrupts the call (much like her kid, maybe that’s where she got the idea). She pesters the talker with questions and “excuse mes” until they often flee the theater to talk uninterrupted, though she gets some pointed remarks before then.