George Mason University

Economist Tyler Cowen Pepper Sprayed While Teaching Class at George Mason University


Tyler Cowen/Wikimedia

Economist, author, and George Mason University (GMU) professor Tyler Cowen was pepper sprayed in his classroom today by a man trying to place him under citizen's arrest. reported on the incident, which took place at GMU's Arlington, Virginia, campus this afternoon.

Police say the man entered the classroom and attempted to place the professor under a citizen's arrest. The professor tried to get the man—described as a white male in his 20s or 30s—to leave, at which time the man pepper sprayed him and a scuffle ensued, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

The professor did not know the man, Sternbeck said.

The account didn't identify the professor, but several commenters said it was Cowen.


Tom Roussey, a reporter with D.C.'s ABC7 news, then confirmed with GMU that it was Cowen who was pepper sprayed.

According to Roussey, the man entered Cowen's classroom this afternoon, jumped on a desk, said he was placing Cowen under citizen's arrest, and pepper sprayed Cowen in the face. Cowen ran, the intruder chased him, and students in the hallway caught the suspect and held him until the Arlington Police arrived and arrested him. The man wasn't a student, Arlington County police officers say, and charges are pending. 

A few hours after the incident, at 6:35 p.m., Cowen tweeted


Cowen and the dozen or so students in his classroom were affected by the pepper spray but not taken to the hospital. No word yet on what motivated the intruder. 

Update: Here's an account from ABC7's broadcast last night, which ever-so-slightly expands on what Roussey was tweeting out earlier. It seems Cowen was teaching a class on vigilante justice at the time of the incident, and some students assumed at first that the intruder was part of the lecture. 

Update 3/27: Cowen's attacker has been identified as a man named John Pendleton. 

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  1. GMU teaches Austrian economics. To progressives that is a crime.

    1. sadly, I suspect this may in fact have something to do with it.

      Progs really are going Full Metal Retard these days.

      1. Yeah, the mask is mostly off. They are full on fascists.
        It is no longer over the top to Godwin any discussion of them. Their rhetoric and behavior is identical to you know who.

        1. You mean Warty? Or Warty lite?

    2. But Professor Cowen is not an Austrian.

    3. Cowen was only Austrian in the vaguest sense. The Mises crowd has been unhappy with his views for many years. He goes to great lengths to reach out to liberals and never makes it personal, even to economic commentators who deserve it. This sounds like an attacker who’s probably got a daily kos blog and is incapable Of processing those kind of details, however.


    1. If a real cop had pepper sprayed the prof for whatever reason, the cop would not have been arrested and charged.

      1. A real cop would have used lead.

  3. If only someone would do this to Michael Bay.

    1. He produced ‘Black Sails’, which I thought was a pretty good show on Starz.

      1. I liked Black Sails too. I’m reading that pirate economics book that came out a few years ago and the pirate behavior on Black Sails seems pretty close to how it’s described in the book.

      2. I like Black Sails quite a bit. It started out a little rough, and the lesbian stuff was really clumsy, but once they got going with hunting the Spanish galleon, things fell into place. Which reminds me I have another episode of it on the TiVo.

        1. The finale is great, definitely makes you want to come back next year for season 2.

          I like how they accurately depict how democratic pirate ships were ran and the importance of being able to actually unload your pirated goods at port.

          The only weak sport for me has been Eleanor. I think it might be the actress, but I just don’t buy her. Max was similar, but she actually got better when she went into business with Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.

          1. Huh, I like Eleanor. I just found the thing between her and Max to be utterly forced, and I think the writers did too because they pretty much dropped it after a bit. The stuff between her and Vane seemed more promising and then he goes off and has a vision quest. At least Flint is reliably insane.

            1. It kind of felt like they worked backwards from where they needed Jack to be at the end of the season and realized they didn’t have a great reason so their solution was girl on girl.

              1. “We’ve got to out-HBO HBO! More lesbians and penises!”

                I do have to say I love the cable TV arms race of nudity and sex.

                1. As long as the penises are flaccid and non-threatening.

                  1. We’ve been joking about the pre-show warnings, like when it just says “Nudity” instead of “Brief Nudity”, you know they won’t be fucking around.

                2. Did you watch Spartacus? That was the best.

                3. I’m already predicting that Max is the woman of African descent that Long John Silver is said to be married to in ‘Treasure Island’.

                  We also get to look forward to Silver losing the leg.

                  1. Black Sails was great, and if anyone else had played Assassins Creed 4 it was like watching a movie of the game. Even the island locations are the same.

                    They also did a fantastic job with the nautical battles and sailing scenes in general. The sniper from Flint’s ship in the first battle was a great twist and the boarding scene where Dufresne gets his first “kill” was…….unexpected.

                    Great show, fingers crossed for season two since they left it well set up.

                  2. Nah, my bet is that crazy Randall (who is already missing a leg) is the only one who lives. He just assumes Silver’s identity for some reason.

      3. I also liked Black Sails. Though I’m assuming Epi is referring to Bay’s directorial efforts not production. Production can mean anything from assembling all of the talent for a production to happen all the way to absolutely nothing. So either he should be a producer or, rubber stamp other people’s good ideas. Either way it’s an improvement.

    2. “I’m placing you under citizen’s arrest for crimes against CGI!”

  4. Was another poor soul triggered? Maybe he went to UC Santa Barbara and really looks up to one of his professors.

  5. A tolerant society can not allow such intolerant people like Tyler Cowen to have a platform to teach hate speech.

  6. Paul Krugman says this wouldn’t have happened if the stimulus was bigger.

  7. “Citizen’s Arrest”?

    Isn’t that when someone is in the midst of committing a crime, and there is no law enforcement available?

    Even in the ‘someone mugging an old lady’ scenario, I was under the impression that it was considered ‘illegal’ to attempt ‘arrest’ rather than simply deter said criminal. In all cases I’m aware of, the person being ‘arrested’ must be in the act of committing a crime On The Spot.

    in short = dude was nuts. Was he planning to take Cowen to his “Citizens Jail” and try him under ‘Citizens Jury’?

      1. The link isn’t working for me, but I’m guessing that has tips from Curtis Sliwa, the NYC Guardian Angels’ founder.

        I grew up with that guy on TV with Morton Downey Jr.

        1. Did you ever see his obnoxious ex-wife? I think it was a really old episode of Politically Incorrect that she was on, and her entire shtick was to accuse anyone who disagreed with her of having the hots for her. Seriously. And she’s not even that hot.

      2. What if the person you wish to apprehend is packing and you’re a prog who doesn’t?

        1. They haven’t thought it all the way through yet.

      3. I think the first criminal found something he wasn’t expecting…

      4. I feel like they skipped over an important step where they go from the guy with AK to subdued criminal.

    1. No, no, he was going to take him to the People’s Court. With Judge Wapner. I wonder if he gets his boxer shorts at K-Mart in Cincinnati.

    2. IIRC – For misdemeanors the offense must have been observed by the arrestor.

      Felonies need not have been observed by the arrestor but you’ll need to prove that you had a reasonable cause for both believing that a felony had occurred and that the person you are arresting committed that felony.

      A big one – a felony *must* have been committed. To arrest someone for committing a felony that you did not witness, but it turns out they only committed a *misdemeanor* will get your arse in some hot water.

      You may not arrest some one for investigatory purposes (ie while trying to find out what happened and/or who did it – if you don’t already ‘know’ then you can arrest).

      Holding someone ‘until the police get there’ *is* a form of citizen’s arrest.

      Details vary state by state.

      1. I’ll add in that private citizen’s have much the same arrest *power* as police officers – they do *not* enjoy the same protections. Police are entitled to protections for mistakes of fact which private citizens are not.

        1. “You may not arrest some one for investigatory purposes”

          How do they hold people for shoplifting?

          1. They are already technically under arrest at that point. For example, Target nails a lot of shoplifters, and they already have them cuffed and the paperwork filled out on the PPA form before they even call the police. Fry’s electronics security does the same thing.

            P.S. don’t ever fuck around with Fry’s security. Ever. I have seen some crazy shit there.

            1. So a Frys security guard will come over and shoot either your…or more likely your neighbors dog?

              Good to know.

              1. Surprisingly, They’re unarmed, at least when roaming the store. It’s part of the reason for their tackling policy. They don’t want any armed shoplifters getting the drop on them.

                1. The shoplifter is often an ubergeek, too.

                  When I see them in the parking lot, it’s usually five security guys pressed up around one geek with a game stuffed down his pants.

            2. I’ve seen that shit at Fry’s, too! I’ve seen it in the parking lot at that one on Sepulveda.

              I’ve read their managers talking about that being a big part of their business model. They spend heavily on security and make their reputation for nailing shoplifters known–and apparently it pays off.

              They heavily scrutinize their own employees for shoplifting, too.

              1. I go to Fry’s at least twice a week, and spend around $50K a year there for work. A few of the security there are ex-special forces and they dress up like gangbangers. Very clever.

                Half of the arrests are their employees. I always wondered why I needed 5 signatures to return anything there, and the obvious conclusion is that they don’t trust their employees. Any of them.

                And they always wait until the right time to pounce. They don’t arrest at the exit, the stairs, or the sidewalk. They always wait until the parking lot, and then they tackle. I’ve seen sooooo many people tackled in that parking lot.

                1. I didn’t realize your mom was such a big Fry’s shopper. Or, shall I say, “shop-lifter”.

                  1. You’re mistaken. They sell every make and model of electronics except for sex toys.

                    1. What about Realdolls?

                    2. I’ll check tomorrow, as soon as I figure out what that is.

                      They do carry neck massagers, which can be misused.

                      You probably already know all of this. There is a Fry’s in Renton.

      2. In CA, the arrest must take place a soon as practical after the offense was committed in your presence. You can’t citizen’s arrest somebody the next day or later in the week for a misdemeanor. Also, the arrest must take place somewhere you have legal right to be.

        This dude is probably good for assault, battery, and false imprisonment…

        1. He’ll probably plead insanity.

          If he were in California, they’d have already 5150’d him.

          1. Unless they are extremely crazy, Harbor General usually cuts them lose after about 45 minutes, with cab fare and money for In N Out.

            1. I used to work in the nut house in Hawthorne on 133rd street.

              This guy is a danger to others.

              1. Probably, but I’d rather he face the consequences.

    3. If you’re making a citizen’s arrest, do you get to shoot any dogs in the vicinity?

    4. I think the students detained the “citizens arrest” guy for the police. Is this ironic in the non-Alanis-Morrisette sense?

  8. Let me guess. Another proggie was triggered by being assaulted with non-proggie ideas and the proggie had to defend himself by arresting the prof.

    Professor Cowen, just look what you made him do!

    1. That’s my guess, too.

      Reality sets in with another Occupy type every day, and his mind is blown.

      Can you imagine what would happen to Tony if he ever saw the world around him the way it really is?

      Identity crisis! Total meltdown.

      1. Sort of like Roddy Piper in Them?

        1. I guess the assailant here was all out of bubble gum.

    2. Suthen…you kill me!

      Proglodyte is merely employing the Ike Turner defense.

      Why you make me hit you baby!

  9. What did you expect? This is what happens when you pay people a minimum wage.

    Has CNN tried to pin this on a teabagger yet?

    1. Dunno, but the commenters in the link have.

  10. Like the professor who took the abortion sign, this isn’t assault. It’s Direct Action. Totally different!

    It’s sad and stupid that Cowen suffered this. And of all the people out there – hell, of all the people at GMU – Cowen is the one to be targeted? Maybe the suspect is a zero marginal product worker.

  11. Like the UCSB incident, I suspect this will only be reported by conservative media because Cowen is an evil pseudo-libertarian/conservative and the perpetrator might be an angry prog.

    1. Just wait ’til some of the prog faculty side with Cowen’s attacker.

    2. He had a moral obligation!

  12. I have to say the reactions I see here are about as coherent as the left’s response to Jared Loughner’s shooting of Giffords.

    Crazy dude is crazy.

    1. Except that we are basing our reactions on an observed pattern of behavior instead of an imaginary one.

    2. “I have to say the reactions I see here are about as coherent as the left’s response to Jared Loughner’s shooting of Giffords.”

      We’re not using this incident to justify denying average Americans their constitutional rights.

      We’re not even using it to defend them.

    3. Joshua|3.26.14 @ 8:12PM|#
      “I have to say the reactions I see here are about as coherent as the left’s response to Jared Loughner’s shooting of Giffords.”

      I have to say your reach for straws is impressive!

    4. Have you even read the comments? Most are about citizens arrests, or Michael Bay, or jokes. Gilmore named the perpetrator a crazy person. A few people jumped to the conclusion that it was a progressive, yes, but that’s not representative of “the comments”.

      1. The problem with the reactions to Loughner’s shooting of Giffords was that people wanted to use it as an excuse to violate our constitutional rights.

        In comparison to that, calling libertarians names is a non-issue. It’s calling people names and using that as a justification to strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights that’s the problem.

        1. There’s also stronger indication that this was a political act, while people assumed that Loughner’s was political because he shot a politician. This person chose a professor for a citizen’s arrest; it’s not as large a leap to assume that it’s due to some strange ideological disagreement.

          Still crazy, and not necessarily some progressive, but likely a political action.

          1. Well, Giffords did attract Loughner’s attention because she was a politician, but he shot her because she wouldn’t answer “If words have no meaning, what is government?”

            Obviously that isn’t a political issue, and it may turn out that this idiot’s motivations were similarly fuzzy.

            1. I wonder if he still would have shot her if she had responded “If words have no meaning, how do you expect me to answer that question?”

              Or better still, “If words have no meaning, banana chainsaw keyboard bookworm cylon honkytonk?”

        2. Yes, that was a problem. But the issue here is about jumping to conclusions about the motives of an attacker based on the identity of the victim.

          When Giffords was shot, I said “Krugman’s going to blame this on the Tea Party.” And I was right.

          Blaming this on a progressive without further information is jumping to conclusions. I get that. But the commenter was exaggerating the extent of it here.

          1. “The issue here is about jumping to conclusions about the motives of an attacker based on the identity of the victim.”

            Maybe that’s your issue.

            Progressives’ inability to deal with the American people rejecting their ideas isn’t exactly undocumented.

            Have you seen the way they demonize the Koch Brothers? They think I’d be perfectly happy with Obama using my future paychecks to reimburse Wall Street for its losses–if only the Koch Brothers hadn’t confused my ignorant little brain.

            Seriously, when progressives see the American people reject their ideas, their first reaction has been to look for a scapegoat to demonize. They blame the Mormon Church for Californians amending the state constitution to stop gay marriage!

            Speculating that the guy who went after the libertarianish professor was probably a progressive ideologue is hardly baseless speculation. It’s actually a pretty good bet.

            1. And yet walking into a classroom and attempting to citizens-arrest an economics professor is a very weird thing to do. It is, in fact, a crazy thing to do. I think it’s a better bet that it wasn’t a progressive ideologue, but someone with an even more tenuous grasp on reality, and with an incoherent mishmash of ideas, like that guy who flew a plane into an IRS building, or the Giffords shooter, or the shooter in Norway. If that happens, watch for everyone to treat the whole thing like some kind of ideological Rorschach test.

              Anyway, let’s place our bets and wait for the dice to land.

  13. Cowen isn’t even that much of a free-marketer. Bryan Caplan is much more spray-worthy by the party of common sense.

    1. Caplan wasn’t available….he needs to be requested in advance for your pepper spraying festivities!

    2. That’s why I’m putting my money on “nuts”. He probably picked Cowen because he’s relatively famous, not for any particular thing he believes.

      1. Or it could be based on GMU’s reputation as a libertarian/free-market school when it comes to economics.

        1. Or maybe GMU was just near where the crazy-man lived, and Cowen was the nearest person of some fame. We don’t know. I’m awfully curious though.

  14. The fuck is wrong with people? From the comments:

    Chris ? 2 hours ago
    When you turn your school into an Ayn Rand worshipping fortress of libertarian wackiness, crazy things are bound to happen.

    Garden City ? 2 hours ago
    Ah, those wacky tea partiers.

    Floyd ? 4 hours ago
    In our golden age of bottomless Second Amendment freedoms, who wouldn’t be grateful for just a random pepper spraying?

    Wayne LaPierre ? 4 hours ago
    If only everyone in the room was armed, surely the assailant would have been among the dead in the inevitable bloodbath that ensued.

    1. Uh…they’re sociopaths? Inability to empathize with other humans sort of makes you a sociopath.

    2. Sounds like victim blaming! Aren’t leftists always complaining about victim blaming?

    3. Now that’s how you write incoherent comments.

    4. This one is obviously a conservative or libertarian:

      Garden City ? 2 hours ago
      Ah, those wacky tea partiers.

      He’s making the same joke I did, which is that this is clearly a leftist and yet we’re always being told the Tea Party is violent.

      This one:

      When you turn your school into an Ayn Rand worshipping fortress of libertarian wackiness, crazy things are bound to happen.

      Doesn’t seem to exist on the page anymore. I wonder if it was deleted.

      1. I think it spontaneously erased itself from the universe out of shame.

      2. “Doesn’t seem to exist on the page anymore. I wonder if it was deleted.”

        I still see it, but I clicked earlier so it might be cached.

    5. Oh, but *we’re* the unhinged ones.


  15. “There’s two sets of laws one for the po-lice and another for the ordinary citizens”


  16. Man, those Tea Partiers sure are scary and violent.

  17. That dude jsut looks like a major tool.

  18. Is TI on tonight?

  19. A friend of mine commented something that’s probably related the other day:

    Apparently the Koches are controlling this school, replacing their text books with GMU/Mercatus ones and are choosing which professors to hire and fire. That might be what inspired this bit of crazy.

    There was a firestorm about it in one of the political forums he trawls. And he described it as uncovering a Koch conspiracy.

    1. So… the people handing over the money to hire the professors would have a say in who they are?


  20. I bet the guy was a waiter. Cowen didn’t leave a tip.

  21. Prior Approval finally lost it.

  22. Remember when greasy little leftard shitstains just hit people they didn’t like with pies?


  23. Keynesianism motivate the attacker.

  24. Expect more of this. What I’m getting from non-Reason debates online is that the Left is becoming increasingly hysterical and moved to violence.

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