When Epistemology Kills
Taser International, “market leader in advanced electronic control devices”, have released their inevitable press release in response to the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport.
Taser has been remarkably good at dodging lawsuits. As far as I know, they’ve never even been stuck with a civil suit for injury or death.
Their press release, helpfully reproduced in unedited form as a news article by CNN, scolds media outlets for rushing to blame Dziekanski’s death on his being tasered. They insist that
“We are taken aback by the number of media outlets that have irresponsibly published conclusive headlines blaming the TASER device and / or the law enforcement officers involved as the cause of death before completion of the investigation. These sensationalistic media reports completely ignore the earmark symptoms of excited delirium shown in the video.”
Yes, they’re shocked. Shocked. Furthermore,
“TASER International is transmitting over 60 legal demand letters requiring correction of these false and misleading headlines and will take other actions as appropriate.”
Which suggests an explanation for the lack of successful suits against them: they spend a lot of money on their justice.
So how come people die after getting tasered? It’s the tasered’s fault, not the taser or the taseree.
“This tragic incident appears to follow the pattern of many in-custody deaths or deaths following a confrontation with police. Historically, medical science and forensic analysis has shown that these deaths are attributable to other factors and not the low-energy electrical discharge of the TASER(r).”
Cause-and-effect is a slippery thing, sure enough. When is a thing a cause of another thing, and when are they just correlated in space in time? It’s a question that has vexed philosophers and ecologists and taserologists for centuries. The RCMP are very clear in their own philosophy, as noted previously.
After watching the video of the man dieing at the same time and place as he was being tasered by police I’ll tell you this: if that man hadn’t been tasered, he wouldn’t be dead now. Therefore the taser caused his death. I’ll tell you this too: the police also caused his death.
You know who should get a tasering? The philosophy department at TASER International of Scottsdale Arizona. What’s a low-energy electrical discharge among pure intellectuals?