Selwyn Duke
Airline passenger detained for being a jerk
By Selwyn Duke
May 1, 2013

The bigger the government, the greater the opportunity to seek revenge by state action. This has been demonstrated throughout history, and now current events are teaching the same lesson.

The latest example involves 52-year-old California businessman Salvatore Bevivino, who was detained after a Virgin America flight in April, 2013 for, he reports, refusing to flush a toilet and arguing with a stewardess over a soda. Writes The Smoking Gun:
    A flight attendant told cops that Bevivino argued with her over the ordering of a soda via a computer touchscreen. "My time is precious, you are here to serve me," Bevivno [sic] said, according to the flight attendant.

    Following the soda confrontation, the flight attendant told police, Bevivino "went to the restroom, came back out with a smile on his face and began using profanities." When the flight attendant passed by the lavatory, she "saw that Bevivino left the door open and did not flush the toilet."
Despite the airplane captain saying that "at no time did he or his flight crew feel threatened regarding this passenger," Bevivino was detained upon disembarkment and questioned by six uniformed officers. He is now suing the airline for $500,000 minimum damages for the inducement of "apprehension, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, fright, shock, mental anguish and emotional distress."

Now, first let me say that I wouldn't give Bevivino a dime. I'm also quite sure that he acted like a jerk and that those who really suffer mental anguish and emotional distress are the people unfortunate enough to be in his sphere of effluence. Yet the real issue here isn't Bevivino, but something else: do we want a government that detains citizens for being jerks?

The truth is that, increasingly, Americans are using the state to exact vengeance on people who rub them the wrong way. And we've seen this before. In Nazi Germany or any number of communist countries, claiming that a neighbor criticized the leader or state could be a good way to cause him serious anguish – or worse.

Of course, we're not at that point yet, but our ever-metastasizing government brings us closer to 1984 every year. For the more laws you have, the more opportunities there are to snitch on a neighbor for violating the law. Have an axe to grind with the guy down the street? Just report him for child abuse to CPS. Aren't getting along with your ex? Accuse him of abuse or making threats and perhaps get a restraining order. Or maybe there's an annoying boss you could accuse of sexual harassment or racial discrimination or someone you could report to the IRS for tax evasion. And New York has now even instituted a tip line through which you can finger fellow residents who violate the state's new gun-control law – and get 30 pieces of silver ($500, actually) in the process. It's the grown-up equivalent of "telling daddy."

But when you do grow up, you're supposed to be able to live as a true adult. This means that we shouldn't create a paternalistic government that a person can run to every time he has a squabble with his brothers. Unfortunately, this can't be avoided when a good part of the electorate are nothing more than children in oversized bodies.

As for airline employees, they now know that they can leverage the hair-trigger apparatus created to combat terrorism to retaliate against difficult passengers. This is highly unprofessional, and, frankly, there should be consequences for it. This doesn't mean the Bevivinos of the world should receive monetary awards, but shouldn't filing a false police report be a crime no matter who does it? Shouldn't we take the wasting of limited law-enforcement resources seriously, especially in this age of terrorism? And if the authorities really are acting based on nothing more than a passenger being a jerk, then the onus belongs on them.

But don't hold your breath waiting for common sense in this uncommon time. When too many jerks are voting, the inevitable result is knee-jerk reactions and a government of the jerks, by the jerks, and for the jerks.

© Selwyn Duke


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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