This week, our minds have been consumed not with the catastrophic violence and unrest occurring both at home and abroad, but a much more localized form of strife: Airplane seat recliners verses the Knee Defenders.

Last week's midair incident, in which two passengers were ejected from their Denver flight after brawling over the right to recline, has sparked bitter debate over who is to blame for airborne misery: Is reclining one's seat rude, or is it obnoxious to deny a fellow traveler their airline-sanctioned freedom to lean back?

James Beach, one half of the people forcibly dumped in Chicago after last week's scuffle, told the Associated Press he flies between 75,000 to 100,000 per year for work, and has used the $21 Knee Defender in the past with no harm done.

"I put them in maybe a third of the time. Usually, the person in front tries (to recline) their seat a couple of times, and then they forget about it," he said. "I'd rather just kind of let them think the seat is broken, rather than start a confrontation."

This time, he said, his seat mate to the front complained to a flight attendant, who asked Beach to remove the Knee Defender—which, he said, he did. But:

"As soon as I started to move it, she just full force, blasted the seat back, right on the laptop, almost shattered the screen. My laptop came flying onto my lap," he said.

Beach complained, saying that he couldn't work like that, but the flight attendant informed him that the woman had the right to recline. Both passengers were sitting in United's Economy Plus section, which offers 4 more inches of legroom than the rest of coach.

His reply: "You asked me to let her recline a few inches, and she just took 100 percent of it."

That's when Beach's anger boiled over. He said he pushed the woman's seat forward and put the Knee Defender back in. The woman stood up and threw a cup of soda — not water, as previously reported — at him.

"It was really just surreal and shocking. Did that just happen?" Beach recalls. "I said, 'I hope you brought your checkbook because you just threw your Sprite all over my $2,000 laptop.'"

The woman was moved to another seat, but it was too late. The pilot grounded the plane in Chicago, and both Beach and the woman were escorted from the plane. Beach flew Spirit Air home the next day—its seats remain fixed in place.