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INTERMITTENT NOTESXML

Zombie Police

Antique Swedish matchboxA lot has been made of the psychological mindset behind police brutality/police riots. See, for example, James Fallows. And, quite deservedly, police assaults are to be condemned. But I'm less inclined to see the question in mainly personal terms. Think back, for example, to Philip Zimbardo's work in The Lucifer Effect, or to the earlier Milgram experiments. Isn't it reasonable, and, indeed, much more fair, to assess police behavior as an expression of the constraints their own system imposes on them? Seen in that light the important question really is: Why does "the system" want to deploy indiscriminate violence against protesters?

To answer my own question I think it's fairly obvious — "the system" is most threatened by non-violent mass action so, to "defuse" the threat, so to speak, the police must instigate counter-violence. If they can manage to do that, because they have a virtual monopoly on force, they will win. But if they fail, the non-violent mass movement has a chance at reaching a point of overwhelming dominance. That, at least, is the theory, and in fact it's been shown to work in many, many cases around the world.

This is why I believe some leadership among the Occupy movement is necessary. To preach and to constantly uphold the central priority of non-violence. Others may argue that a leaderless, unorganized movement can adhere just as well to non-violent action. Color me skeptical.

« Civil Disobedience | Main | Happy Thanksgiving! »



Comments


Leadership is inevitable in political movements. If authentic American dissidents and patriots do not take up that challenge of guiding the Occupy movement, the System will parachute its own people into that role so as to subvert it from within. [Excellent point, Jonathan — thanks! g.]


Hiya, George. Happy Thanksgiving!

I must disagree with your provocative post. Been downtown quite a bit these past 2 months, and the people there are the few honorable, who try to do their best and to do good. They are fine troops.

Your post reminded me of a sign I saw: "The Revolution Will Be Playful." That stunned me. We are after all trying to take down the most vicious and selfish money class in world history, protected by the most sophisticated and deepest police state. Since this class and its pig protectors have successfully delinked all political action from intended consequence (the Wall Street pimp in the WH being the best example), I truly see no cracking of the corporate walls without starting to make Jamie Dimon, Ben Bernanke, Lloyd Blankfein, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Brian Moynihan, Hank Paulsen, Dick Fuld, John Mack, John Thain and all their apparatchiks very physically uncomfortable.

One year later, the permanent Egyptian comprador class is stronger and more entrenched than ever. And whatever happened to all that jumping and yelling in Wisconsin? (Besides the carceral anti-union laws going into effect.) As you wrote earlier this month, the USA is Murder Inc, born 48 years ago tomorrow. Look what just happened in Libya, and that just to open up energy flows and to stick it to China and India. It's true that all violent force is on the side of the vampires. But that was also true in France, Russia, Mexico, Cuba, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, the Congo, China, Iran, Algeria, Nicaragua, and the antebellum South. Not one of those revolutions were playful.

The Dimons & Blankfeins of the world are physical cowards (with really ugly wives). Until they start to sweat, like each time their chauffeurs start up their limos, nothing will change.

[Tut, tut — Eddie, you are getting carried away. The key thing here is non-violence. The movement must be non-violent or, I guarantee you, it will not succeed. But a lot of people of my generation, and older, still don't get it. The other day, for example, Mike Davis had an essay at Truthout, "Ten Immodest Commandments," which supposedly helps impart wisdom from the 1960s to today's activists. Now, Mike is one of the smarter of the old lefties (you may remember, I've interviewed him), a brilliant writer, and so forth. But in his essay, among other silliness, he laments having a Martin Luther King Day instead of a "Civil Rights Day." Well, the reason we have a Martin Luther King Day can be summed up in one word: non-violence. If Mike thought about it some more he probably would get it... But if he doesn't get it you can be sure that a whole lot of the older generation don't get it either, and a whole lot of the current generation also. Sure, it's kind of cool and all not to have a leader, but I fail to see how the movement can stick strictly to a non-violent strategy without one. g.]


Interesting aspects.

Some comments of mine:

Milgram/Zimbardo apply to closed systems. So the 'system' has to devolve into some semi-closed structure like lets say the American south of the 1950s, like "In the Heat of the Night", or the SS/SA in Nazi-Germany. This seems to be not yet the case in the current US, but it rapidly seems to devolve.

There is a worrying tendency, like Glenn Greenwald showed in his recent essay 'The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying'.

As to Jonathan's argument, I would see this as improbable, that the movement could be corrupted from the top.

Why?

There are lots of decent people on the other side, like Chris Hedges, David De Graw, Michael Hudson, Bill Black, to name a few. Their bullshit detectors are well adjusted. The intellectual firepower, so to say, is quite impressive.

Question is: Would the community listen, and where is the borderline, when aggression hits a limit, say ten deaths in one protest.

Then the blame-game starts. CONSIDER THIS A 'GAME', BECAUSE THE 'OTHER SIDE' WILL PLAY IT LIKE A GAME!

In the US it seems, that some ritual plays out, which is, checking out, where the limits of the opponents are. Sort of a prelude to a possible battle. One side pointing to the constitution, the other trying to keep the impression, but promoting a fascist agenda in disguise.

As Hitler said w.r.t. Poland: 'Since 5:45 we are fighting back'.

Fake aggression. An easy one.

The arsenal of the PTB still is vast. Far from exhausted.

Talk about agents provocateurs and other paid shills. So the 1% still have 70% or so of all the trumps.

This to me is the most important aspect: Know the strength of Your cards.

The one side, sorry to say, has to count its blood and intellectual firepower plus integrity as a 'currency', the other side its money-power and its corruptible shills, which money can buy. Congress down to the foot soldiers, who have to keep their face in their family and neighborhoods.

EJK, good comment.

Interesting times indeed.

And: George: Keep up the good work!

[Thanks for commenting! I had, btw, a rather long exchange with a friend of mine this morning about Glenn Greenwald's article — the gist being that Greenwald misconstrues the language of "rights" in such a way that makes him and his readers much more likely to misconstrue the nature of the problem. If, indeed, all that the protesters want is to have their "rights" restored then they may as well pack up and go home. And though one might allow a conventional argument about the protean nature of the Constitution such that as society discovers "new" rights (like racial equality) those "new" rights then get enshrined in law, it seems to me the overriding fact is that the Constitution has never, and quite deliberately so, allowed or does allow for the kinds of democratic processes that would produce a fair system. To the contrary, the Constitution was designed by a narrow elite solely to cater to the needs of themselves, so much so that it is quite impossible for the Constitution as it exists today to meet the public's needs. Is Greenwald prepared to recognize this argument? Are other intellectual leaders? Are the demonstrators? I have cautious hopes that in the long run a majority of the demonstrators may be brought around. But I fear that a large majority of our intelligentsia are far too vested in their own prolix apologia for an ideal version of the status quo. g.]


I must agree with J. Even if the "occupy movement" were totally non-violent, a few agents provocateurs added to the crowd and, of course, seen on TV is enough to discredit any non-violent nature. The System knows all too well how to protect its own interests.


EJK,

The contemporary US and other similar Western societies are far more of a "closed" system than the Italian Fascist, German Nazi or even Soviet Russian regimes. Atomized consumer capitalism is the most perfect "totalitarianism" that has yet developed because it penetrates far more deeply into the psyche than the old totalitarian systems did and has created a degree of self-censorship and self-delusion far surpassing anything achieved under Mussolini, Hitler or Stalin. That is why those regimes feared dissidents enough to shoot them, whereas the current ruling system can usually banish them into public non-existence via the media alone.

"It's true that all violent force is on the side of the vampires. But that was also true in France, Russia, Mexico, Cuba, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, the Congo, China, Iran, Algeria, Nicaragua, and the antebellum South. Not one of those revolutions were playful."

Many if not all of those revolutions have had rather mixed results to say the least and are still trying to work the excesses out of their systems. There is no point in desiring to repeat everyone else's mistakes.

That said, on the bright side, the US Occupy movement, unlike similar protest movements almost everywhere else in the world, does not have to worry about foreign military intervention on the side of its enemies.

[I completely agree, Jonathan, that the U.S. has a very "totalitarian-esque" system. Which reminds me of the saying: 'It's better to learn from someone else's mistakes than from your own.' g. ]


Dear G, J, RG and g:

Great thread.

Of course, Richard is correct about agents provocateur being implanted in order to open the door to extreme repression. (And J's description of our current Designer Totalitarianism is about the best I've seen.)

So, as an old leftie once wrote: "What is to be done?" The destruction of everything public in the country has occurred because the Privateers feel absolutely safe in what they can do. (This week's contretemps over the collapse of the budget-cuts Star Chamber is almost funny, if it were not so obvious that it was designed to collapse.) The more private everything becomes the more the society is based on insider knowledge, fixing, and the talent for secrets & intrigue. (And murder.)

If the public realm has been destroyed, how else can one effect change other than by attacking the private realm, which is deaf, dumb & blind to all outside-the-boardroom appeals? We can't get to it. But we can begin thinking about how to disrupt the private lives of those in the boardroom.

And George is dead on. A personality-cult culture needs a leader, a face, a voice. But who?

How 'bout George Clooney?


To EJK... perhaps the way to go, the method of the future can be found in the action and plot of my novel THE KNOWLAND RETRIBUTION. When I wrote it I wondered why this doesn't happen all the time. And I apologize for the shameless plug, George.

[ :) g. ]

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