Archive for the 'News Media' Category

And no good police state is complete without its propaganda wing

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

I just about threw my computer across the room when I read this article:

Twitter got a lot of attention from the various press outlets today for its value in following yesterdays rampage by anarchists and the response by police.

One aspect of the social networking service is getting less mention: Its being used to coordinate the violence.

You read that right: Twitter was used to coordinate the violence. Now, let’s set aside the absurdity of this notion that anarchist violence even registered on the same chart as police violence. Maybe they’re confused by incriminating messages, since they usually, you know, have sources for their reports?

Well, there’s this one:

sector 2 requesting backup at kellogg and wabasha, massive amounts of riot cops

And this one:

bringing in delegates at st peter and kellog WIDE OPEN

And this one:

Cops near Excel are searching people’s bags for goggles and gas masks– hide them!

Of course, none of that is violent - and I know there were no others because I monitored the feeds all week (I was a bit obsessive about it). But what are we to make of MPR’s interesting standards for what qualifies as “violence”? Apparently, it’s only ok to have a protest as long as:

  • the people at the event you’re protesting don’t hear you,
  • you don’t protect yourself from the chemical weapons the police deploy indiscriminately,
  • you don’t show solidarity with your fellow protesters.

So what’s the point? Maybe MPR disagrees ever so slightly with Alix’s analysis of this past week’s debacle:

Were they protesting that they have no right to protest?

No, they were committing violence because they have no right to protest. If they had the right to protest, it wouldn’t have been violence!

In order for protests and civil disobedience to work, the media has to capture and disseminate to the public the evidence of the system’s brutality. It was the stories, photos, and newsreels of repression that made the struggles of Indian independence and African American civil rights successful. But if the media really is fully integrated into the authoritarian establishment, then we can expect the tactics of Ghandi and King to fail.

It’s time for us to discard a decades-old tactic that has long since been neutralized by the establishment. We need a new strategy, and many of us need an altogether new goal. We need creativity, innovation, courage, focus, but most of all we need a passion for freedom that can guide our desperation. From now on, let’s stop mourning the passing of the old order, however outraged and angered we are by it. Let us start building the organizations and structures that can move our work forward into new territory.

Responding to totalitarianism on demand

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve been witnessing a huge leap forward towards a police state over the past week. In addition to the preemptive raids, extralegal break-ins, illegal detentions, disappearing citizens, news media harassment, and general displays of unprovoked violence by law enforcement, we’ve witnessed a very aggressive strategy of mass arrests. Here’s some choice documentation on their strategy for trapping and processing as many people as possible - protestors or not.

While apologists for cops may represent indiscriminate arrests as necessary, it’s actually incredibly sloppy police work. They just declare a “national security event” and suddenly there is no need for self-discipline or judgement whatsoever. Why should people take cops’ authority seriously when they prosecute their jobs so carelessly? If national security is truly at stake, why sweat a few broken windows?

Imagine if this was their response to any suspected crime: just arrest everybody near the scene! Why not just arrest everybody in the city, or the state - surely if everybody’s under arrest, there’s nobody to get in the way of the convention. Cities are a lot safer if you get rid of the people, law enforcement seems to think.

Yet isn’t this the modus operandi of any totalitarian state? By denying everybody freedom and granting police maximum prerogatives to detain, surveil, and otherwise harass citizens, a government blurs the distinction between being under arrest or being free. People under despotic governance experience a sliding scale of captivity, to be moved up or down at the discretion of unaccountable bureaucrat/captors.

It is important to correctly recognize this trend towards a police state. The myths of freedom, civil rights, and the rule of law must be maintained. So instead, the government institutes the police state on demand - invoking it when necessary, and then dispersing it without a trace and shrugging, “what fascism?” You’re never free, really - you just enjoy perpetual probation until the next time the government flips the switch. Under arrest? That’s a relative term; just check the threat level.

This is exactly how police states arrive historically - in easily ignored, irregular spurts. Those are perfect opportunities to train officers in their new attitudes towards citizens, gather data on the effectiveness of tactics, and experiment with new strategies for oppression. The trick is always for the people to wake up before the slow metamorphosis passes the point of no return.

Sadly, it’s clear to me that we’ve probably missed our last chances to reverse these trends. With the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act granting the legal cover for whatever our rulers want to label as “terrorism” and impenetrable secrecy about anything else, there’s no recourse in “the system” for citizens to air legitimate grievances. Meanwhile, any direct action is dealt with in the most brutal manner possible (yes, they could be more brutal - but that would impact the efficiency of their actions).

So if we’re in a police state now, what do we do? Obviously, there was a point at which the citizens of Germany in the ’30s gave up on speaking out. There was a point at which the Soviet citizens stopped protesting the Bolshevik treachery. Throughout history, people who found themselves under a totalitarian government had to face a terrible fact: that the modes of democratic society were no longer tenable.

But to admit to yourself the horrible truth, that we have lost our country, that is the truly difficult thing. Keep in mind, however, that it has always been through denial, self-deception, and lack of honesty on the part of the people that totalitarianism has gained a foothold. We must be courageous, pragmatic, and most of all careful. The rules have changed, and if we’re going to play this game we do well to use our time-outs to strategize, not simply to feel sorry for ourselves. In other words, as much as I hate to say it, we’re going to have to unlearn the bad habits of citizenship in a democratic republic.

The silver lining in the police brutality at the RNC this week is really that the activist movement might finally see themselves on the other side of the rubicon. As John Robb explains:

Very cool demonstration from Minnesota of how police forces have been militarized. In addition to the five fold growth in SWAT forces since the 90’s, there’s been a shift in attitude. All likely due to a misdirection of GWOT Homeland security $$ and thinking towards domestic protest. The side effect: the heavy handed approach here will cause a quick shift protest to the open source/disruption model if things deteriorate. Protest is dead. (my emphasis)

It’s time for the activist movement to modify their tactics to reflect the new environment. Flaunting our outrage in the hopes of media attention and citizen backlash has failed. Throwing our bodies on the gears of the machine has not slowed it, let alone stopped it. Protesting every violation of our rights just demonstrates in spades how vulnerable and dependent we are. Demonstrating and organizing just provide easy targets for agent provocateurs, infiltration, and extralegal, preemptive harassment.

Protest doesn’t work in a totalitarian police state. Acknowledging that condition is the first step towards fixing it. Whatever we’re going to do, it’s time to start doing it underground. It doesn’t have to be violent, but it does have to be realistic about the threat.

The L.A. May Day Protest

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

If you’re looking for the other side of the story, check out Nick Napolitano’s report at Los Angeles IndyMedia:

Rampart division officers harass and illegally search and detain a peaceful protestor for 15 minutes because the protestor was documenting the march and had decided to take a photograph of the wrong officers. The protestor is released when a crowd starts to gather and take pictures of the incident. (Please note that event #1 occurred when all was calm and peaceful and the march was slowly winding its way into MacArthur Park)

(Approximately 30 minutes after the first event) Officers start to push a protestor at the corner of Wilshire & Parkview. This results in the Los Angeles chapter of Copwatch quickly moving into action to document the incident. A crowd quickly gathers and the street starts to fill up with people of all ages and backgrounds. A protestor was shown the true force of a police baton in blunt force trauma to the head. Organizers start to plead with people to leave the street for fear that the officers will declare this an illegal assembly because of people being in the street. People remain in the street simply because they are trying to protect those that they love and care for. LAPD was now fully mobilizing at this point getting riot gear ready and forming a defensive block. Bear in mind; this all started with LAPD attacking peaceful protestors.

LAPD Chief Bratton called some of the responses “inappropriate”, even though officers in full riot armor were “provoked” by “anarchists” (read: people wearing bandanas) throwing plastic water bottles. I guess assault and battery, reckless endangerment, and other unlawful actions get different names when the police engage in them for the slightest provocations.