Yesterday's story about an irate theatergoer who smashed an obnoxious audience member's cell phone struck quite a nerve, not just on Gothamist but on websites around the world... wide web. And although most of us declared cell phone tosser Kevin Williamson a hero, others were uncomfortable with glorifying what was, on one level, an act of violence. The Washington Post's Alexandra Petri argued that, "The way to fight rudeness is not with vigilante rudeness of your own." Gawker suggests he "committed criminal mischief in the third degree, which is a class E felony." And Daily Kos sees deeper political implications:
How to handle cell phone boors! What you do is snatch the cell phone out their hand, throw it across the room, busting it into little pieces! This is from someone who has recently written a book, is on television quite a bit as a conservative commenter, and by the way, is a fan of concealed carry permits for firearms. (short bio here)
Now, it would seem to me that a person who wants people to pack heat as much as possible should be able to control himself when confronted with a boorish theater patron.
In that case, maybe Williamson should be also congratulated for not squeezing off a few rounds? Others have suggested that Williamson was right to snatch the cellphone but wrong to destroy it—what he should have done is brought it to the theater's management and let them deal with it. (One of the show's producers worries he could have seriously injured someone, a fair point.) That, we have to agree, is probably the MATURE thing to do. But it wouldn't have made for a very fun blog post.
So what is to be done about this nagging problem? NYC passed a law in 2003 making cell phone use in theaters illegal, but it's not enforced. Can't theaters just install cell phone jammers like they do in Russia? The FCC says no. But Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress has a simple solution: require audience members to check their cell phones upon entering, like the movie theaters sometimes require at advanced screenings for big blockbusters.
Theaters for staged plays have two advantages on movie theaters: they already have coat checks, for the most part, and they’re dealing with far fewer performances, so handling the volume of checked phones, whether patrons have to put them in lockers or hand them over directly, shouldn’t be impossible. If the slight inconvenience protects well-intentioned patrons from both cell phone use and the squabbles over it, it’s well worth it.
Or, you know, people could just start acting like considerate members of society ha hahahahaa.