phynedyning

Dead dogs and the emerging American fascist state

In General Information, Intro to Libertarianism on April 17, 2012 at 10:30 am

How did we get here from there?

Late yesterday, I learned that an Austin, Texas police officer shot and killed a man’s dog while responding to a domestic disturbance at the wrong address. I spent several hours following several news sources and I finally managed to watch video footage of the incident shot from the responding officer’s dashboard camera.

I was appalled. Sure, “It’s just a dog.” But what has happened in the minds of our protectors when it becomes excusable for an officer to respond to the wrong address, point his firearm at the first person he encounters there, destroy an innocent person’s property (a dog), shrug his shoulders, and walk off without so much as a “by your leave”?

And then, worst of all, to untruthfully reconstruct the incident to his supervisor to create a picture where the officer’s unreasonable use of force would be justified.

Rather than re-hashing the now well-covered incident, I think it is time to ask ourselves the question with which I opened.

How did we get here from there? Where are we going?

Step One: The new police culture.

Whether a police officer works in a one-horse town or in a major metropolitan city, a new culture has replaced the old police philosophy that officers are public servants. Today, a fawning mainstream media has imbued today’s officers with a mentality that they are “front line troops” in Americas “war on crime” or “war on terror”.

This enculturation has replaced an older, but only slightly more benign police attitude of “us versus them” with one where officers regard citizen encounters as an encounters with an enemy on the battlefield of “the mean streets”

The “police” are no longer the police. The mainstream media prefers to use “law enforcement”, “officials”, or “special emergency response units”.

Step Two: The militarization of the civilian police forces.

Shortly after September 11, 2001, I was living in a small, dusty West Texas town of about 6,000 souls. I chuckled heartily at local newspaper coverage showing its small police force, decked out in full ninja attire, huffing and puffing their overweight bodies around a converted ice cream truck during “training exercises”. The local prison staff posed for news photos while wearing chrome helmets as they stood in front of a parked Blackhawk helicopter.

Every city, small and large, now has an arsenal of “special weapons” and assault vehicles. Regular patrol officers swagger around in tactical cargo pants, web gear, the obligatory polo shirt, and wrap-around sunglasses. Officers groom themselves in Marine Corps “high and tight” haircuts or Airborne Mohawks.

Military-Speak has crept into the police vernacular. Officers “deploy” and “safeguard the mission initiative”. Their speech is clipped, sharp, and commanding.

American law enforcement has become a banana republic in search of a military junta led by a man in a funny moustache.

Step Three: Unreasonably fearful officers.

In the late 1980s, a new boogeyman began to haunt police departments. His name was “Officer Safety”.

Officer Safety murmurs to young police cadets that, once they are awarded a shield and weapon, they may act and respond in any manner they see fit…once they recite their diligent observance of the principles of “officer safety”.

When I graduated from my first police academy, my father-in-law passed to me a handgun that once belonged to an East St. Louis police officer during the 1940s. In those days, retiring officers often boasted “I did my twenty (years) and only drew my gun once.

Today’s officers are trained, in the interest of officer safety, to keep their hand in close proximity to their weapon, or to unholster the weapon whenever there “could” be a threat to officer safety

Prior to the late 1980s, police officers were told in training that they were expendable. If a citizen was in mortal danger, a police officer should put him/herself between the citizen and the threat. Lone officers would try to apprehend dangerous criminals; all in a day’s work…there were no S.W.A.T, S.T.A.R, H.U.R.T. or other acronym-bedecked paramilitary units for such work.

Police work has always been dangerous. It is no more dangerous today, than it was forty or fifty years ago. Police apologists quickly point to a “war on drugs” and the nebulous terrorists that threaten the daily lives of officers to justify their hyper-vigilance and over-aggressive tendencies. The young officers sincerely believe they are under siege by nefarious evildoers on par with the likes of those whom only Superman or Batman could subdue.

Americans as a whole are fearful. Evil lurks everywhere. Americans have grown to expect that life will be fair and that one should expect to feel safe at all times. We are repeatedly cautioned about events that “could” take place or warned about events that “could” have been tragic. Neighbors are recruited to spy on each other and “report suspicious activity” (whatever that is). America’s population has become terrified of life.

Easily frightened citizens join the ranks of police departments where they become easily frightened police officers.

One cannot train fear out of human beings, but you can train them to suppress and control their fear. In the past, much of the time a police officer spent in academy training involved simulated stress provided by screaming instructors who (sometimes) actually struck a candidate.

Today, fear of lawsuits has suppressed such police training to the use of occasional harsh language. Instead, recruits are imbibed with fear of the population they are to serve.

Step Four: The root of dishonesty.

Why do people lie?

Nearly every respected authority on the subject points to the same cause…fear.

In his martial arts book, Living the Martial Way, Forrest Morgan, Maj. USAF Ret. provided “A manual for the way a modern warrior should think”.

Morgan says of lying:

When people lie, it’s usually out of fear – fear of the consequences of others knowing the truth. A man lies to his boss because he’s afraid of his superior’s reaction to discovering his failure to meet a deadline or to fulfill some other responsibility. He lies to the IRS because he’s afraid of how much money the government will take from him. He even lies to his wife because he’s afraid of how she would react if she knew he really didn’t have to work late but chose to have a drink with the boys instead of coming home to supper. All of these lies, big and small, are acts of cowardice and are dishonorable.”

Morgan specifically points to the mindset of Japan’s warrior class, the samurai, who (correctly) believed lying was not merely immoral. It was an act of cowardice.

Step Five: Honor the ‘Code of Silence’

Unit cohesiveness is a good thing until carried to extremes. Part of the long-standing “us versus them” police culture is also a “we have to stick together” mentality.

Unfortunately, unit cohesiveness has replaced self-control and self-policing.

Criminal conduct occurs in every population in about the same percentages. This means that police will engage in misconduct in an almost identical percentage to that of the general population.

If, as police apologists insist, there is only a scant minority of peace officers who misbehave, why don’t their peers aggressively cast them out of their ranks?

Bad cops remain cops because of the existence of a police code of silence.

Bolstered by their un-earned hero status and the imaginary ever-present dangers they honestly believe to exist, officers adopt an elitist mentality. They believe they are special, their image is special, the “mission” is special, and that all of those aspects must be protected.

The code of (police) silence exists out of fear. Fear that the citizens will see officers as being mere mortals with feet of clay. Deep in their hearts officers who lie or remain silent when their colleagues misbehave know that they are doing so out of fear.

It’s tough for them to admit it.

The Sum of All Steps

Young officers are given un-earned hero status by a fawning media fed by police romantics. They swagger and strut in paramilitary uniforms and carry (or have access to) weaponry that was once limited to military use. They see themselves as the elite among men.

New officers are told by their trainers that bravery, self-sacrifice, and a serving heart are obsolete today and that the paramount police virtue is “professionalism”.

“Control the environment in a professional manner.” Be aware of how many times “professional” and “professionalism” comes up in the speech of a law enforcement administrator or in a rank officer.

Because America’s enemies are everywhere, officers are taught to put any perceived human threat “into submission”. Because of unit cohesiveness and self-elitism, anyone not wearing an official uniform is a perceived human threat.

Most of us are rational and understand that mistakes happen out of our human failings. When new officers are cultured in their “specialness”, admitting a mistake puts a chink in their godlike image. Again, fear plays a role.

Criminally bent officers lie to conceal their crimes, and this is to be expected of any criminal enterprise. However, it is the concealment of misdeeds by their peers that is most concerning. Here again, fear is the cause.

The end result is that America’s citizens find themselves patrolled by a force imbued with their own sense of specialness, unit loyalty, steeped in a fear culture, and a willingness to lie…rather than to face their fears.

It is how we got to where we are today.

And, unless we (as citizens) are exceedingly brave, the situation is likely to get much worse.

Where are we headed?

Sociologist, Brian Fogarty, writes in his book “Fascism: Why not here?”

“…The public will reward dramatic and revolutionary action rather than incremental remedies, we will demand strong leadership rather than extended debate, and will respond to emotional calls to action rather than to considered analysis of the problems. We will become quick to demonize enemies and to crush dissent at home. We will give the government powers disallowed by the Constitution. And in the process, we will deny to ourselves that we have done any of these things.”

Fogarty wrote his book at the dawn of the Obama presidency and he makes no apology for his gushing praise for the new president:

“Obama’s once-a-generation gift was that he could ignite romantic passions even as he applied Enlightenment principles to governing. If his administration is successful at solving the economic crisis and bringing some resolution to foreign policy, those Enlightenment values may hold sway for some time.”

Subsequent to the book’s publication, President Obama quietly signed the National Defense Authorization Act which allows the US military to indefinitely detain American citizens deemed to be a threat to national security. Under the Obama presidency America’s federal agencies, by the instruction of and under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, brutally put down last fall’s Occupy demonstrations…according to the mayors of eighteen American cities. The “enlightened” Barack Obama failed to turn back Bush-era intrusions (i.e. MIAC, PATRIOT I, PATRIOT II and others).

I bought Fogarty’s book for one dollar in a merchandise liquidation store because Fogarty’s hero, Barack Obama, has turned out to be just as bad as Fogarty’s stereotypically evil George Bush.

While Fogarty’s hoped-for new Camelot failed to materialize, his book eloquently details how the Nazis came to power in Germany through a unification of the left and right ends of the political spectrum and subservience by the population to state authority.

This is not just about a man’s dead dog.

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