Opinion
Image of Mikael Thalen speaking to a police officer in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on July 4, 2013. (Source: YouTube) Image of Mikael Thalen speaking to a police officer in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on July 4, 2013. (Source: YouTube)  

Libertarian activist should really have just rolled down his window

Photo of Patrick Howley
Patrick Howley
Political Reporter

Conservative writer Mikael Thalen featured a viral video over Independence Day weekend in which a young activist refused to do a bunch of things that a hard-working police officer told him to do at a DUI checkpoint in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The video, in which the young man refuses to roll down his window and give his age to a highway cop — actions that lead the cop to assume he has drugs in his car — has been viewed more than 2.5 million times, presumably by a largely libertarian audience. The video has also been featured on InfoWars.com.

“How old are you?” the officer asks the young man after he initially refuses to roll down his driver-side window.

“Is that a required question to answer?” the man asks.

“Yes, sir, it is,” the officer responds, and the man quickly gives his age (21).

The officer eventually becomes suspicious enough of the man’s behavior that he asks our hero to step out of the car, which is searched. The man claims that the cop intimidated him.

While the activist featured by Thalen may, in fact, be correct that he was not legally required to roll down his window and give his age (my knowledge of the Tennessee statutes is admittedly thin), his behavior in this video speaks to some of the worst tendencies of modern conservative-libertarian activism.

As a general rule: When a cop has a yellow vest on and he’s pulling you over on a highway at night on Fourth of July weekend, just roll down your window and tell him your age. Remember: James Gandolfini (RIP) taught us that most shootings take place at night on or near highways.

The young conservative-libertarian movement is rapidly gaining popularity in the aftermath of Rand Paul’s #standwithrand anti-drones filibuster and the Obama administration’s IRS and NSA surveillance scandals. Commentators often criticize the movement for being too extreme. And there is a genuine insurrectionist spirit in the conservative-libertarian movement — a spirit that, if taken too far, can cause young people to disrespect men with a badge, and to disrespect their elders.

There’s a marked difference between expressing a political viewpoint and engaging in conduct that disrupts people’s lives and makes adults who don’t care about politics feel threatened. Lest this young small-government activist forget, the Occupy movement didn’t start losing public support in Washington, D.C., until Occupiers blocked the Key Bridge at rush hour. Libertarians need to be careful not to alienate the public with disrespectful stunts.

And I say this as someone who has reason to fear that the police will search his car.

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