The Corrupting Power of Blue
I must say, the media has done an excellent job at controlling and subduing the minds of a majority of the American population. Most Americans find out what is important when it comes over the TV or when they read the newspaper. They find out which country they should hate, what they should wear, what it means to be beautiful, successful and happy. And when something enters the media that is not in line with the brainwashing efforts, the media always downplays its significance. No, the public shouldn’t concern themselves with the conflicts in East Timor or the domestic labor issues in the Midwest. There’s no need to investigate the legitimacy or efficacy of U.S. involvement. People should just trust that the government is right and has the situation under control. The only participatory activity the public need enter into is the absolute approval of the government’s action.
But what can be done about the minority of the population that isn’t controlled by the media? What about the free thinkers who observe and act against injustice? Well, you bring in a system to suppress these people. A system that appears to stand for justice and democracy for a brainwashed majority, but in reality functions to maintain a status quo where the elite are in charge, and the people have no power. You bring in the police. The demonstrations in Seattle several months ago were a good example of this practice.
Trade ministers from 135 governments converged in Seattle a couple of months ago for the World Trade Organization ministerial to negotiate the terms upon which trade would become globalized. Fortunately, thousands of protesters brought the harmful policies of the WTO to the world’s attention by staging rallies in Seattle and blocking the entrance of the building in which the conference was to be held. These acts of civil disobedience closed down the opening ceremonies of the conference and effectively impeded the progress of the entire meeting.
While it could be argued that the actions of the protesters were “dangerous” and warranted the large police presence, the actions of the police indicate that the protesters were not a threat to anyone but the elite who would profit from further unjust trade practices. One may point to the fact that the breaking of windows by the anarchists occurred after the police began gassing the demonstrators. Although the protest was peaceful, the police still found it necessary to shoot the protesters with rubber bullets. And even though it is every American’s right to assemble, the police still tried to disrupt the event by hurling can after can of tear gas and concussion grenades at the protesters.
Why? These people didn’t want to harm anyone; they only wanted to change what they deemed to be (and what have historically been) harmful trade policies. But that is exactly why the police were brought in. The police merely demonstrated a continuing principle in America: that people who truly care must be made to look like dangerous radicals and thus must be dealt with harshly.
This principle was enforced when President Clinton spoke in Seattle a few days after the opening ceremonies. Of course, he first gave token gratitude to the protesters to whom he was speaking. He went so far as to say that the protesters’ presence was needed at the conference. But a representative from the demonstrations was never allowed into the conference, as the protesters had demanded -- so in what manner were the protesters “needed?” It is also interesting that such a needed group of individuals was shot at, gassed, and arrested throughout the week.
Clinton then found it necessary to admonish the actions of a small group of protesters that had broken store windows. Not only was this admonishment detrimental to the demonstrations (it served to paint all the demonstrators as “criminals” when the actual criminals were not even affiliated with the main protest), but the lecture about violence somehow failed to reach those with the guns. Evidently, the police are able to display as much violence as it takes to either make the protesters leave or to paint them as a group of violent radicals that truly needed to be subdued.
This is not a new activity of the police, of course. The 1970 shooting at Kent State University showed how necessary it was to open fire on a student demonstration. The “riots” at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago proved that police beatings of defenseless demonstrators were truly peacekeeping missions. These incidents and thousands like them show that the police function to maintain the existing rule, no matter how unjust it may be. It doesn't matter if a law is ethically wrong; it will be upheld as long as police exist.
This is not because police officers as humans are necessarily evil; it is because humans, as police officers, are given a ridiculous amount of power to enforce unjust laws. This power is corrupting enough when it is exerted by those who are merely following orders, but it is even more corrupting when it is wielded by racist or otherwise corrupt cops who chose not to follow orders (as in the Rodney King beating).
I do not mean here to suggest some alternative to the present law enforcement (not enough space), nor do I mean to say that our society doesn’t need the police at all. It’s quite obvious that there are “bad” people (e.g., murderers) who need to be taken out of society, and cops are there to do just that. What’s not as obvious is the other function police serve -- a function that doesn’t get coverage on the eleven o’clock news.