Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What would you do?

I read this article today in the Philadelphia Daily News about a hammer-wielding "psycho" who almost killed a man on the subway:

As the SEPTA subway train rocked forward, a thirty-something guy leaned over near the doorway and gently planted a kiss on the little boy at his side.
When the train neared the Fairmount Avenue stop shortly after midnight on Thursday, the man reached out like an adoring parent and directed the 3- or 4-year-old tyke to an open seat.

Then he flew into a monstrous rage.

Without uttering a word, police said, the unidentified man whipped out a double-claw hammer and began bludgeoning a 20-year-old man who was dozing off in his seat.

For five long minutes, SEPTA surveillance cameras captured the deranged attacker - who was still on the loose late last night- digging his hammer into the man's head and neck.

Through it all, disgusted investigators said, at least 10 passengers stood by and did nothing as the random attack moved from the train to the platform, when the hammer-wielding maniac tried to push his victim down onto the train tracks.

I remember riding the subway in Manhattan when I lived there and how many obnoxious people there were on the train. Sometimes people would come up and scream in my face as well as others and no one would do a thing. I once looked around for help during one of the episodes and everyone kept reading their newspaper making clear that no help would be forthcoming.

However, one day I saw a brave act of courage that changed my perception of how cowardly I thought people in NYC were at that time. A man was trying to steal some possessions from what looked like a homeless man and a small woman, maybe 5 feet tall and 90 pounds grabbed her umbrella and hit the predator and knocked him off the train at the next stop. A large well-dressed man went to help her but only after she had already successfully defended the homeless man. My jaw dropped in awe. Once the incident was over, the woman put her umbrella down by her side and seemed nonchalant, as if it were no big deal. If only we had more people like her.

On a positive note, it seems that they caught the predator responsible for the hammer attack, naturally he had a long criminal history. The police say that it might have been best not to intervene and just to call for help or be a good witness to an event like this. What do you think?

Update: Commenter randian points out that there is video of the incident. One thing that struck me is just how methodical the perpetrator was, just sort of like he was at another day at work. He puts his bag down, takes out the hammer and starts wailing away.



Blogger jabrwok said...

What do I think?

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Whether Burke is the actual source of that quote or not, the sentiment still stands. People have forgotten about Kitty Genovese apparently:-(.

The sad part (one of the sad parts) is that this sort of thing isn't exactly incomprehensible or unpredictable. A society that denigrates the capability for violence will inevitably find itself the victim of violent predators. Filled with Men Without Chests, and plowing for those who did not beat their swords into plowshares.

I just hope we come to our collective senses before we end up with pre-Giuliani NYC (or current Washington DC) as the nationwide norm.

11:30 AM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was working in Saudi Arabia, there was a British lady (of Polish extraction) who was a force to be reconed with (think Chuck Norris with a lead handbag). Wonderful lady, full of charm and ready to snap your neck like uncooked pasta if you p*ssed her off.

One day a member of the Mutawah (Saudi religious police) was harassing a young South African woman on the compound because her slacks showed her ankles. In Saudi, a woman's ankles apparently have the same effect as Cialis and Viagra, and this causes Saudi men to burn on hell for seeing the ankles of someone who is not their wife. So here comes the 60-year old British lady with more steam coming out of her nose than Margaret Thatcher with a case of full-blown PMS. Screaming at the top of her lungs in a crowded supermarket, she ran the religious zealot out of the building and back into his GMC Suburban (which they all drove). The Saudi God Gestapo can brutalize Arab women because Arab women are cowed by their sexist society; mess with the older generation of England and you'd better be wearing a titanium athletic cup.

People in big cities are cowed by a legal system that always looks for victims to exploit and the next case of Bernard Getz syndrome. If you don't wear a badge, you have no right to be a hero. Heroes without badges are called "vigilantes." We are collectively trained to mind our own business because it's best not to get involved with other peoples' affairs.

And that makes a sick society.

"Don't take the law into your own hands."

So whose hands was the law intended for, anyway? The Nanny State?

When predators are more afraid of the man walking down the street than of the policemen they avoid like the plague, then you'll see less violence...a lot less. When there are no more "gun-free" zones (also known as "fish-in-a-barrel" shooting galleries), they will be less violence.

The legal system, a moronic media and institutionalized cowardice are all at play here.

I will always admire that 60-year old British lady. And, yes, she was staunchly Tory.

11:32 AM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Mike said...

I think you'd best be sure to win if you're going to intervene.

You need a trump card of some sort- another weapon or a group of friends.

Number one rule in rescue situations, as I recall it, is to not become a victim yourself.

If it's just you against Mr. Hammer, and you don't have any weapons or friends, that first blow better really count. There's no need to make another hammer-blow victim on the platform.

Given any sort of upper hand that makes it unlikely for me to be a victim, then yes, I would intervene.

I wouldn't need 100% assurance, but maybe 60 or 70. And i'm the sort that would drum up bystanders.

It really depends on the situation, there might be times when I would intervene without a good chance of victory.

Offhand, that's the first thing that comes to mind.

11:36 AM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger pdwalker said...

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

That really says it all.

My father would say that if you did nothing to help, you were just as guilty as the attacker.

11:44 AM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Words Twice said...

Everyone has to figure out where their particular threshold for action lies.

As with most situations like this, the situation will dictate. Since my concealed carry permit is valid in Philadelphia, if I were on that train, the chances are very good I would be armed with a handgun. This changes the dynamics a little.

This might sound callous, but I have decided long ago that unless there is some compelling reason for me to intervene on the behalf of strangers, I will not. It is not a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, I do not want to fight other people’s fights for them. The stakes can be very high and Good Samaritans are not always hailed as heroes.

Before I am condemned as a coldhearted bastard I will add that last year I did intervene in a situation where a young woman walking her dog was being harassed by a drunk on a dark city street.

I guess the short answer is: it depends.

11:46 AM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Hammer attack? Intervene. Hammers are deadly; police are distant. This isn't calculus.

Yes, I understand that some day I will risk, or endure, jail time for defending the defenseless. So be it.

12:23 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger holdfast said...

I like to think I would do better, but that sort of thing is so shocking that your brain doesn't really process it at once. Another factor is that the only way to take down the guy with the hammer is to launch an attack that is so hard and fast that you immediately disable the target, so you better be sure that your target really is the perp.

A few years ago a friend of mine got into a fight on a public bus - there were four punks harassing a young woman and he intervened. Although he's a strong guy, he knew that if he got swarmed he'd be in trouble, so he decided to open with an attack so shocking that it would stun all of them. He grabbed one of the punks and smashed his arm against one of those vertical grab-poles so hard that the guy got a compound fracture - bone sticking out and everything. He fainted immediately, and my friend was able to keep the others at bay until the cops showed up.

12:30 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

Words Twice,

I do not think you are a cold hearted bastard. I do think it depends on the situation. I also think that what is good for society may be bad for an individual. Sadly, our society teaches people not to fight back when the victim of a crime and punishes those who defend them at times in ways that may not include jail time. Case in point, 7-11 has a policy that one cannot have or use a gun while working there. I saw a show about a clerk who defended another female clerk from a man who put a gun in her face. The hero clerk was fired and the ingrate female clerk had the audacity to say that was the right thing to do as the clerk should not have had a gun. I hope no one ever defends her from anything again, she did not deserve his help. This mindset, however, is not good for society for it leaves people with no incentive to try and help in some situations that call for action. Eventually, such a society will dissolve into the chaos that was NYC in the 80's.

12:38 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hammer attack? Intervene. Hammers are deadly; police are distant. This isn't calculus."


I knew the Real Men(TM) would be turning up on this thread.

It's not only easy to disarm hammer-attackers and bazooka-bearers on the subway (well, for Real Men, anyway), it's even easier to write about how you'd send them to the moon from behind your keyboard.

12:50 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Thom said...

There are some good, valid points here. As much as I'd like to think I'd intervene, I suspect it would take some time for me just to overcome the shock at what I'm seeing. And, having had no combat training, I wouldn't have a clear plan in mind. Instincts would take over, and I have no idea what those instincts are, having never faced something like this.

I suspect in a lot of cases it's not a matter of not wanting to help, it's just not being prepared to do so. So at the very least we should be slower to condemn those who don't act.

That said, I'd much rather people--myself included--intervene. Witnesses are only helpful if the suspect is caught. And there's nothing to say the witness won't became the next victim. If no one acts, that psycho could have killed everyone on that train, one by one. And who could say he wouldn't? How many people would have to be beaten before people would wake up to that fact?

12:50 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me, I would only pound the hell out of the armed attackers if a Little Lady was at risk. Any Little Lady gets looked at funny, I kick butt.

I usually start off by opening a can of spinach with my bare hands and then wait for my muscles to rip out my shirt.

12:53 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I ain't just talking about my babymama Olive Oil.

12:54 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger delagar said...

OT but I'm certain this is a story you'll want to follow up on:

1:05 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Nihimon said...

I've made this point before on one of Dr. Helen's posts, but it bears repeating.

It is absolutely vital that those with the ability (whether training or natural advantages like size) act in these situations whenever they have the opportunity. Otherwise, they put those who don't have the ability to resist in danger of being next.

Kevin M said it right, when the predators are as afraid of the citizenry as they are of the police, then you will see a serious decline in this kind of behavior.

It is most disturbing to me that it is official policy to discourage people from helping others in these situations. This is truly cold-hearted and leads to a very sick world-view.

1:11 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger pdwalker said...

Well JG,

Thank goodness you are there to protect society from predators with your scorn and derision.

You're an example to us all.

1:13 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Quasimodo said...

enter the trolls

1:16 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Thank goodness you are there to protect society from predators with your scorn and derision."


There's a big difference between really taking action in a situation and blabbering on a Web site.

Sometimes there's even an inverse correlation between mouth size (in a figurative sense on the Web site) and actions really taken in an emergency.

I don't see the point of detailed lists of what someone *would* do, with the lists just designed to make the poster look good.

Silly. Stupid.

1:24 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Words Twice said...

Dr. H,

Generally, I agree with you, but like I said, everyone has to decide for themselves what situations call for action. This is a personal choice based on the totality of circumstances. Some people feel the need to intervene in every situation, others never want to get involved; I think they are both wrong.

What I find outrageous is that the Police Commissioner, Charles Ramsey, berated the citizens of Philadelphia for not standing up to a hammer wielding felon.

"They better pray they're never a victim, because if someone was attacking them that way they would certainly hope someone would step forward and help, and it starts with stepping forward and doing something yourself," Ramsey said.

Yet, Ramsey (who you can rest assured is armed) is a proponent of gun control. So, he wants you to confront an armed psychopath with nothing more than good intentions. This is called “stepping forward”. Yes, stepping forward into a hammer blow to the head.

This is not to say that I advocate an “every man for himself” attitude, far from it, but I do not like being told by a gun toting hypocrite that I should be disarmed and then told to risk my neck for a bunch of random strangers.

I am fairly well prepared for self defense but I reject utterly any argument based on altruism that demands that I sacrifice myself for the greater good of the hive. I already did that as a combat veteran.

It is easy to imagine what you might do, but how many of you have actually been in this type of situation? It’s not always as cut and dry as some people seem to think.

1:24 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is easy to imagine what you might do, but how many of you have actually been in this type of situation?"


Right. And usually the big mouths have never been in that situation.

When something occurs suddenly like that, there is also a lack of information as to what is exactly going on. You could be intervening in an arrest or in a situation that is quite a bit different than you think it is. You don't know what the relationships are between the people or between other people on the subway. That does make things more difficult.

1:30 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, with regard to my post above, I agree that a hammer attack from a psycho is fairly self-evident. But that is not the most common type of scuffle on the subway, and others may be more difficult to immediately sort out.

1:31 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also curious:

In this day and age of female equality (you don't dare question it), do women have the same responsibility to intervene?

Does a tall, beefy, strong woman have more of a duty to intervene than a small man?

Do women have any responsibility in this situation in reality?

1:37 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


There are people who protect themselves in the most dire of situations. A reader recently sent me a story about a Texas couple whose home was invaded by two armed gunman. Without a gun of their own, the couple managed to kill one of the intruders and injure the other. Here is a link to the story:,2933,417122,00.html

No one really knows how they will react in an extreme situation. You assume they will react like a wuss. I think some people--they may be male or female-- are much more capable than that. Just because you are afraid and might do nothing does not mean that others will. Some people, like the woman I described in my example in the post, are simply braver and more concerned than others.

1:41 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Jeff Y said...

There's a reason only women will confront people in public. Men and women are judged under very different legal standards.

I've had to sit and do nothing on a bus, while a woman was groped. I've turned the other way, when lost children asked me to help find their momma.

Unless a man is elderly, he is going to jail even if he acts in defense of the weak. As in almost everything else, the law disadvantages men.

Helen, that story mentions the disgust of the "investigators," but they would be the first to arrest a man for intervening. So, screw the police. It's stupid, anti-male policing that's a principle cause of the passivity we see today.

1:42 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Grow up, jg. We're talking about reactions here. The difference between you and me is that I am interested in the attempt to do something right - even if it ends up badly - and you just want to be sure the result is ok before beginning. And by the bye, who in holy hell ever called me a Real Man (TM)? Not me, and that's a fact. I am what I am (O Popeye Fan), and make no claims beyond that. I'm really big, but it's sort of the big, dumb, harmless look of a laborador retriever. Not particularly threatening.


If someone attacks a sleeping person with a hammer, the attacker has to be stopped. Odds are that, like most bullies, simple intervention of any direct kind will end it. Thus the fairly reliable ability of septuagenarian women to stop young thugs with nothing more than moxie and a handbag. Are they Real Men (TM), too?

In related news: Sensitive, much, little jg? Compensating, any?

This may be throwing a bone to a troll (more than likely, really, and with apology to the good Doctor, I won't respond to him again), but there does seem a disconnect, here, and one observable in a lot of places. You don't do something right because you're sure it will work out. You do it because it should be done. And when you get down to the facts and history of it, doing the right thing works more often than seems rational.

1:42 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm asking the question because I have seen a few articles about POLICE women who didn't intervene (there was one particularly gruesome story in Detroit about 10 years ago) - the two women were paired as on-duty police officers and they simply "called it in" (effectively: they called the police). The victim was stabbed to death (a number of stab wounds) right in front of the ARMED female officers.

1:42 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:45 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Words Twice said...

It is interesting that we are having this conversation on the eve of September 11. I hope that everyone will remember the sacrifice of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93.

That is one example of intervention and sacrifice that it’s hard to find fault with.

1:49 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Words Twice said...

The victim was stabbed to death (a number of stab wounds) right in front of the ARMED female officers.

There was a similar case in Chicago not too long ago where a CPD officer was wrestling over a gun with an armed robber and two female officers who were supposed to be helping him fled in terror. They just left him there.

1:54 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:56 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:02 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like it known to all and sundry that if some hammer-wielding psycho attacked any little old lady near me, I'd dash straight into a phone booth, change into my Captain Corcoran costume and burst into a strightly line of song from "HMS Pinafore" until the assailant became incapacitated with mirth, thus allowing the little old lady to poke him in the eye with her umbrella tip!

Tried and tested technique, known only to those of us in the theater.

/ridiculous sarcasm

Now if you will excuse me, I must study to become a pilot or fireman or astronaut.

2:08 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would like to say I would try, but I'm not a very big person and even less intimidating. I'd have to determine whether I'd be of help or another potential victim.

2:18 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Larry J said...

It is absolutely vital that those with the ability (whether training or natural advantages like size) act in these situations whenever they have the opportunity. Otherwise, they put those who don't have the ability to resist in danger of being next.

I've long believed that ability obligates responsibility, but that's a standard I apply to myself. I'd like to think I would've acted but - never having faced the situation - I honestly don't know. A hammer can be a deadly weapon and I'm not so young or able any more.

I've read many times about how it often takes one person stepping forward to get others to also act in an emergency. I have acted to aid others in auto accidents and the like but nothing where my own life could be in danger. If I'm ever faced with such a situation that I'd act.

2:24 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Larry J said...

If I'm ever faced with such a situation that I'd act.

This should read, "If I'm ever faced with such a situation, I hope I'd have the courage to act."

2:25 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is one very important fact missing from the article: what the attacker was saying during the attack. Video with audio is available on the web if you want to know.

3:21 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

jg --

"I knew the Real Men(TM) would be turning up on this thread."

And I knew you'd be jealous when they did.

I second Peregrine's attitude.

"Sometimes there's even an inverse correlation between mouth size (in a figurative sense on the Web site) and actions really taken in an emergency."

And you personify the correlation I guess.

jeff y --

My personal experiences indicate other than you would suggest.

4:06 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Archivist said...

This will sound sexist and my premise might be way off. But I am wondering if our society, through the media, the schools, and other outlets, is sending a subtle or not-so-subtle message to men that the heroism, honour and chivalry that has been a hallmark of my gender from the beginning of time is somehow outmoded. After all, men are being told that they are just the same as women, that girls can compete on exactly the same playing field in sports as boys, that women can do any job that men do and the reason there are no more women working dangerous jobs is "discrimination." Is is a leap to think that, given all that brainwashing, if someone's in trouble, men and boys won't think there's any special reason for THEM to try do anything about it -- given that, as the radical gender feminists insist -- we are all the same except for plumbing? Are our males being conditioned to think that the near monopoly that my gender has had on physical acts of heroism throughout history is accounted for by discrimination -- because we kept women from doing those dangerous jobs?

Luckily there are some heroes left. A recent news story reported that about 30 men lifted a schoolbus to save a pregnant woman struck by the bus, enabling the baby to be born before the woman died of her injuries. But then, shortly after the news story appeared, the wire services changed it to omit all references to "men" -- the revised stories said, thirty "people" or thirty "do-gooders" saved the baby. A TV news report interviewed one of the male do-gooders, who referred to the other do-gooders as male, confirming the initial news stories -- but the mainstream print media just couldn't bear to report that men, and men alone, used their superior strength and aggressiveness to do SOMETHING GOOD. Note that if those same news outlets were reporting a crime, the word "men" would appear in every sentence.

In contrast, in Canada earlier this summer, a man sleeping on a Greyhound bus was stabbed and beheaded by his seatmate as their fellow passengers -- including all of the men -- ran out of the bus. As one woman writer said: "I'm still dismayed that none of the men on the bus tried to stop this guy. How could they just run away and do nothing while a man is being beheaded? Disgusting."
That writer also noted: "I contrast that with the shoe bomber, Abdul Raheem a/k/a Richard Reid, on the Air France flight to Boston. American men on the plane--including a minor league basketball player--pounced on this guy and beat him black and blue like he deserved, saving the day."

5:29 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nuts!" - General Anthony McAuliffe (101st Airborne)

I'd bet dollars to donuts that somebody on Flight 93 said this, too.

After reading archivist's recent excellent post, I just thought this was somehow appropriate.

5:43 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger DJK said...

Well, I would start with doing SOMETHING. People are still allowed to defend their friends, neighbors, and or perfect stranges, right? And if I was lucky enough to be a CCW holder, I would have shot that piece of filth.

5:51 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You boys that don't risk your lives to save the damsel are going to get a white feather showing your cowardice.

That doesn't apply to Helen, of course, who can call men wusses although she has never and will never risk her life. She's a girl, after all (bats eyelashes). Very, very small pussy pass - Mary Winkler had the industrial sized pussy pass.

You boys don't even consider the possibility of manipulation, do you.

6:04 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Nope. I'm as ashamed of (and very irritated by) women who say things like, "Why didn't any of the men do something?" after ignoring a situation, themselves. Hey, you want equality, you get it. Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

6:09 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Archivist said...

Peregrine John, your views mirror those of many men, no doubt. I also think that many men and boys just take it for granted that there is nothing unique about being born male aside from external genitalia, and that males have no special claim on acts of bravery and heroism and chivalry and honour.

I am completely in favor of equality, but that doesn't mean we should disrespect the unique qualities of either gender. The fact is, our gender - the male gender - is repeatedly demonized in popular culture: all men are responsible for stopping rape because men are the ones who rape; shared parenting is bad because of the inordinate numbers of men who are abusers; men's sexual desires are depraved -- slap a sin tax on strip clubs, don't allow men to sit next to a child traveling alone on a plane, stop and interrogate a man who is holding his daughter's hand etc. etc. The list goes on and on.

Sadly, in our modern culture, the qualities of malenesss that are deemed to set us apart are not our heroism or chivalry or honour or bravery. What is thought to set males apart in today's popular culture is the negative extreme behaviors -- we are painted as aggressive and violent and abusive; our enhanced sexual desires are deemed to be significant flaws to the point that we can't be trusted around kids.

In our zeal to promote women and to make girls "feel good" about themselves, we have allowed the bedrock traits of masculinity that, frankly, built this country to be tossed onto a scrapheap of indifference, and we have let them paint our gender as inherently, even fatally, flawed.

I, for one, think that's tragic.

6:57 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Amy K. said...

I don't think everyone is capable of going up against a hammer-wielding maniac. Some people are just more sensitive and/or fragile. And I think there are more women than men who fit that category.

However, I believe many women are capable of stepping up and protecting others, and often do. As one of the women who has physically protected someone weaker, I don't in any way think that means men are not generally better equipped physically, mentally and emotionally of filling the "hero" role.

Years ago, a couple of friends of my sister's went on spring break to Florida. They ran into a couple guys sometime during the day and went swimming in the ocean. They got pretty far out when a shark started swimming around them. They started to swim back to shore when one of the boys looked back and saw that my sister's friend was paralyzed in fear. So this boy who didn't know her three hours before swam back toward the shark and dragged her back to shore.

That's the kind of man I admire.

8:12 PM, September 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

However, I believe many women are capable of stepping up and protecting others, and often do.

The difference is that nobody will say "she's not a real woman" if she does not. Expectations of protective behavior for a woman, to the extent they exist, pretty much extend only to her children, not to her husband or to strangers.

10:18 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Sparks said...

I'm with P. John above. And I was just talking to my kids about that poor guy on the bus in Canada that was stabbed and had his head sawed off by the psycho there.

You can't tell me that 1-2 other passengers on that bus couldn't subdue that guy.

In both of these cases, you have an attacker focused on a victim. He's not focused on the other bystanders.

So a bystander or two should have no problem either distracting this guy enough to slow or stop the attack, or if he's too focused on the attack, then you should be able to intervene by getting him by surprise.

If all of the bystanders are sitting it out, then it reinforces the notion that maybe we should also sit it out. Everybody else must be doing the wise or acceptable thing. But if one person gets up and tries to drum up support, it's likely that there will be people willing to help.

But I think it also takes somebody who isn't uncomfortable with rough physical contact. I've done some martial arts. Not really all that much, but enough to know that all I need to do is quickly grab that guy, get him to the floor and pin his arm. He's done. If I had more experience, I might take his arm on a backswing and and get him into an armbar

Helen, how's the crav maga? Does that play in to your feeling that if you where there that you might do something.

Too many sheeple in the world today. Everybody should take a self-defense course or a year minimum of martial arts IMHO.

10:39 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger DJK said...

Sparks, I'm with you...too many sheeple.

As for the martial arts... I don't know about all that....I'd just beat the piss out of him anyway I could. Elbows, fists, kicks, backpacks, chairs, iPods (1st gen of course), etc. Who knows? Whatever I could do to help.

11:23 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

tether --

"You boys that don't risk your lives to save the damsel are going to get a white feather showing your cowardice."

Nice attempt at spin. The context of this thread is a guy getting his head beat in by another guy with a hammer. It would have been him I would have been trying to save. How's that stack up against your view?

11:31 PM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger cinderkeys said...

The right thing to do: Try to stop the psycho. Absolutely.

What I would have done: No idea. Probably cowered while telling myself I really ought to do something. That hammer-wielding guy was probably much stronger than me, I've never been in a real fight, and I don't carry a weapon.

What I would do if I managed to think clearly in a situation like this: Try to get at least one other passenger to intervene with me.

3:29 AM, September 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one is gonna like this. And someone has already mentioned Getz.

The perp and the victim are African American. I'm not. It is my belief I would somehow have ended up in jail had I intervened, and eventually been sued by both with the help of the ACLU. So I would have done nothing. And for those sad reasons.

5:01 AM, September 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sparks said: "you have an attacker focused on a victim..."

After WW2, the US Navy developed the ISAF (International Shark Attack File) to study the metrics of shark attacks. One thing they found was that in the vast majority of cases where a swimmer tried to rescue another swimmer being attacked by a shark, the shark completely ignored the rescuer.

Focus is worth noting, if you see someone being assaulted.

7:24 AM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


The Kra Maga lessons are going well, thanks. No, I don't think that plays into thinking that I might do something.

I have always thought that it is important to help others in situations that are random attacks in public places but I am starting to understand why some people may not want to help. Our society makes it difficult. We do not not know each other anymore, our society is full of strangers who do not feel any ties to one another, people do not want to get involved for a stranger. People are no longer embarrassed to be cowardly, our society encourages that in order to keep people dependent on nonexistent police protection and the government. There are many variables and they all make for a society full of strangers too afraid to help out. I think some communities are different. For example, at the Unitarian church here in Knoxville, several members went against a man with a shotgun and stopped him. They were a closeknit group who felt it their duty to protect each other.

7:29 AM, September 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"People are no longer embarrassed to be cowardly ..."

Why do you say "people"? Women never were embarrassed to be cowardly.

Your whole tone in this thread has the whiff of "it's men's job to do this".

If that's not the case, sorry for the misreading. If that IS what you really think, don't hide it under a bushel and be prepared for some real questions about "equality" (such as: should women be respected who act like men when it benefits them, but hide behind their husband or society when they have responsibility?).

I'll also bet my last dollar that you have never risked your life to help anyone. Hardly any women have, but they sure are fast at calling men (who may have risked their lives) cowards.

7:35 AM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


You are reading into my words meaning that is not there. I think both men and women should help in situations like the one described. Note that I gave an example of a woman who helped push a man off the subway--so why are you so sure I just mean men? That's ridiculous. I actually think women should learn more about how to protect others and themselves. However, that is a personal decision.

As for your last line, if you knew much about my life (which is none of your business) you would not make such a statement. I know you would like to think all women are cowards, but this is not the case. There are some who will stick up for what is right, try to help in a bad situation and who put their life on the line for others, you are just not willing to acknowledge that, for whatever reason.

8:06 AM, September 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What else are you supposed to say?

Excuse my skepticism, but I will bet my last dollar once again that you have never risked your life to save anyone.

Interesting that you tell an anecdote about a different woman helping someone, though (while you apparently watched). You then stress that the man came in ONLY AFTER the woman did her Wonder Woman thing. One of your comments above also gives me the whiff of gender-assignment thinking.

Otherwise, I don't give two figs about your life - I agree, it is none of my business except when you start spouting crap. People are allowed to then point it out.

And yes, in comparison, women are cowards on the whole. Unquestionably and without a doubt. Just a perk of being "oppressed" I guess.

Yes, I'll leave you alone now.

8:18 AM, September 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering how long your rotation schedule was for this blog, tether. I guess it was only for one day, judging by your final post above?

Kindly tell us what your replacement's "handle" will be ahead of time, so we may all yawn at first post.

You know, speaking of pigs and lip stick, every time I hear Huffington speak, her accent makes the theme song from "Green Acres" run through my head, dahling.

8:29 AM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

Perhaps we need to bring back the habit of carrying heavy umbrella. Any one know a good, sturdy umbrella one can carry? Perhaps one with a solid spike. I just did a quick look and only saw a golf umbrella.

9:45 AM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

If not a heavy umbrella, then a walking stick with a brass horse harness hame knob from There is no law against a walking stick.

Perhaps a little research will find that in the walking stick's heyday there was no necessary connection between having one and having a disability.

10:28 AM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


Here is an umbrella stick that Glenn and I bought:

10:53 AM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

Dr. Helen
Looks good and so do the brass headed canes.

11:08 AM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

First Tether, you are way off base pal. Some of us have been posting at this blog for years, and you are not talking about Helen. If you can find your manners, stay awhile. You will see that you were quite mistaken and you will appologize.

Secondly, having watched the video, people scattered when that man started his assault. He was busy and despite looking like a healthy, strong man, he could have been taken easily. Certainly he could have been stopped by the 5 people who scattered like insects.


11:10 AM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

What would I do? Whoop his ass. Pin him down, sopmething. Anything, get on the phone to the cops, hit him with a fire extinguisher, pull the emergency handle.

Internet tough-guy stuff aside, my friends can never understand why I stand up for people I don't know.

I tell them I was brought up being told it's the right thing to do. I'm not going to sit by while some bully harms another person.

12:47 PM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

This reminds me of a psychological phenomenon known as the "bystander effect:" A lone individual is very likely to intervene if someone needs help, but the more people are present at a scene, the less likely someone is going to step forward and help. Some think it is a built-in survival mechanism (don't move till the herd moves), or an example of diffusion of responsibility.

Given this phenomenon, how likely are you to drift into a pack mindset if something like this happens next to you? It only takes one individual to break that silence... it took one man to rally the passengers of UA flight 93.

I think having some self-defense training would help, not just for the physical skills, but for the sake of practicing a survival-oriented mindset. If you haven't exercised your ability to respond to danger, then you will likely freeze when under pressure. With very few exceptions, people do not rise to the occasion under stress. They default to their level of training.

10:34 PM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger Words Twice said...

Intervening on behalf of a stranger is not self defense. Your personal survival is not at stake. On the contrary, that is deliberately placing yourself at risk when it could easily be avoided.

I have no problem with the altruists who can’t wait to tangle with the bad guys. More power to them. But they should be prepared to deal with the aftermath. Many people who want to take action often have no idea what they are getting into. Unlike the internet, these situations have real and often permanent consequences.

11:59 PM, September 11, 2008  
Blogger DJK said...

@Words twice

I see that as a reason that people don't get involved in anything involving other people anymore. We've been litigated into submission. We are too afraid that if we help we'll be sued and that it's the police's business not ours.

I'll still fight.

9:20 AM, September 12, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just wanted to leave a final thought for tether and his ilk.

Several times in my life I have interfered with violence being visited upon a stranger. I did this not for some lofty altruistic reason, but because I did not think I could entertain the rest of my life seeing in the mirror someone who stood by and allowed a man to be beaten to death with a hammer, for instance.

Some things are more important to me than mere existence, my self-respect being one of them.

12:33 PM, September 12, 2008  
Blogger DJK said...

Maybe one of these would be sufficient..

1:11 PM, September 12, 2008  
Blogger DJK said...

Now, what if it was a bear?

3:07 PM, September 12, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


What a story--they risked their lives despite their limited weapons.

3:12 PM, September 12, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oligonicella sez:

"Just wanted to leave a final thought for tether and his ilk.

Several times in my life I have interfered with violence being visited upon a stranger. I did this not for some lofty altruistic reason, but because I did not think I could entertain the rest of my life seeing in the mirror someone who stood by and allowed a man to be beaten to death with a hammer, for instance.

Some things are more important to me than mere existence, my self-respect being one of them."


It's just the Internet, don't take it too seriously.

If you really, really want to be the hero here, you can be.

4:00 PM, September 12, 2008  
Blogger Joe said...

Bernie Goetz anyone?

I believe the liberal reaction to Goetz as well as their overall attitude that using violence to protect oneself or others is not just abhorrent, but evil, has had a profound effect on society and this is a result.

5:48 PM, September 12, 2008  
Blogger Cara said...

My first thought when reading this was of Flight 93.

I know that I would not be able to handle this kind of situation by myself. I would want to do something to help, but I don't know whether I would be able to get anyone to cooperate with me. I think that people would take one look at me and blow me off.

It was heartbreaking that no one helped this man after the attacker had fled. Even if I was unable to stop the attack, I can't imagine not helping him as soon it was safe. Tragic.

Things could be different.

7:58 PM, September 12, 2008  
Blogger cinderkeys said...


Good insight, re the bystander effect. A good thing to do if you're in trouble and people in the crowd are ignoring you, is to point to a specific person and ask for specific help. Sometimes people feel like they ought to help but aren't sure what to do.

Maybe this would also work you're part of the crowd when someone else is being attacked. Maybe you could get someone to help you bring down the attacker. Dunno. The bigger question for me is, would I have the presence of mind to think of this in the heat of the moment?

3:19 AM, September 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Litigated into submission may be a concern of mine. Damn the torpedoes seems to be the response of many. And, is probably the right thing to do. In the case of a woman or a child, it is certainly what I would do.

Perhaps I have read too many newspaper and magazine articles.

Sorry about misspelling his name on my first mention, but Goetz comes to mind for me. And he was protecting himself from 4 thugs at the same time, if I'm not mistaken. He had the means, used it, and (rotted) rots for it. Pushing up daisies or being beaten to a pulp may well have ended up his only other alternatives. Is the message then "dead is better than jail time" or, "don't take the law into your own hands, even if it kills you" ?

"Protect yourself, go to jail." That is the message I received when following Goetz' story.

Sometimes, a jury of your peers really needed to be there.

2:23 PM, September 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen seems to be setting up a position of people who would risk a bit to help others versus people who wouldn't. That's kind of the black-and-white setup.

Dr. Helen then places herself on the side of the people who would risk their lives or at least risk a lump on the head. She does it in a self-righteous way, and I agree with a couple of the posters above that there is also a whiff of "men better do this" (but not women).

So far, we just have behavior that kind of resembles that of a self-righteous twit, no big problem, everyone has their quirks.

But the real eye-roller comes when she describes seeing a very small woman intervene in some robbery, with a man coming in later to help.

If she watched it happen, then she was there.

If she was there, why the hell didn't SHE help (especially if a very small woman jumped right in)?

I think the answer is: Because she expects things of other people (I think: men, but maybe just "other people") that she herself doesn't have to fulfill.

BUT she sets herself up on the side of the people who help (along with some other superheroes here) to bask in the warm glow of recognition for siding with the "good people".

Stupid. Hypocritical. And unfortunately, just a tad too obvious this time.

5:00 PM, September 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Goetz was found not guilty of the main charges in that case (but guilty of an ancillary weapons charge that didn't result in a whole lot of jail time).

He got nailed, however, in the subsequent civil suit with a predominantly black jury. That was only for money, and he just doesn't have it (tens of millions).

5:03 PM, September 13, 2008  
Blogger Words Twice said...

Concern over legal action is a factor, and it’s not an insignificant one. Legally, there is no duty to rescue strangers, not even for police. Morally, my primary duty is to my family and my friends. Everyone else is on a case by case basis. Random bystanders or police cannot be relied upon for assistance (and actually, the police don’t exactly always look out for your interests). You can lament the sorry state of society all you want, but it is what it is.

Dr. Helen mentioned the case of Mr. & Mrs. Hoehn, but that was a different situation. They were the victims of a home invasion robbery and were acting to defend their children, which is something that should come naturally to most people. This is completely different then intervening on the behalf of a total stranger on the subway. Bernhard Goetz was not intervening on the behalf of strangers either. He was the victim of an attempted robbery. Both of these situations are clear cut instances of self defense.

If you are witnessing an attack on a stranger, you have to make a judgment call at that moment. Nobody else can make that decision for you. There is a difference between caution and timidity, between courage and recklessness, between being decisive and being presumptuous. Hopefully, we have the wisdom to navigate our way though that. Education and training can help in that effort.

This hammer attack is just another reminder that truly senseless violence does happen, and it can happen very quickly, with little or no warning. Notice that the victim was wearing headphones and was asleep or nearly so. He was being negligent in his duty to defend himself. Alertness is a key component of self defense.

6:14 PM, September 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My thoughts, target, are that he should not have been incarcerated at all. He was, as far as he knew, defending his very life.

The outcome, from my point of view, is he went to jail for defending himself. The perps sued him. The courts let it happen. He still got robbed. It doesn't make a particle of sense.

9:08 PM, September 13, 2008  
Blogger drunk said...

"The stakes can be very high and Good Samaritans are not always hailed as heroes."

Very true, especially when the situation involves a male & a female. As strange as it sounds, the person that intervenes can suddenly be viewed as the aggressor in the situation by both the man and the woman. IE, guy beating his girlfriend. Good Sam comes up and clocks the guy beating his girlfriend. Girlfriend sees Good Sam as the guy that just knocked out the man she loves, so she turns on him too.

(Seen the aftermath - it isn't pretty.)

8:44 PM, September 14, 2008  
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