August 16, 2011

Caught Up in Nightmare: Killing Jack Rabbits

This post took shape in my mind over the last week, as I read and listened to further reaction to the riots in England. I didn't want to write what follows, and I thought about jettisoning this essay altogether more than once. The reason is very simple: the thesis I offer here, and the connections I will make, are profoundly disturbing. If we -- and by "we," I refer in this context to the West generally -- continue on our current path, our future will be increasingly bloody and murderous. But this shouldn't surprise us: the ruling class now visits on its domestic populations the same fate it has delivered for hundreds of years to those deeply unfortunate peoples who lived in targeted foreign countries. In their pursuit of power, wealth and dominion, the ruling class systematically brutalized, tortured, "relocated" and murdered those foreign peoples in vast numbers. (All this continues today, of course; see Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, et al.) This is the program that the governments of the United States, England and other countries now bring home. I think it is of some value to look ahead to see what awaits us; among other things, you may take such precautions as are possible.

In my article last week, I mentioned the repeating pattern in the reaction of the ruling class and its defenders to popular uprisings. The current protests are condemned as "lawless" and "criminal," as representing the actions of what are almost certainly (in the ruling class's view) irredeemably "bad" elements of society. But the elites insist that some protests arise out of what the elites will kindly grant are "legitimate" grievances -- but all such valid protests are always those safely tucked away in the past. The elites neglect to mention that at the time those past protests occurred, the elites similarly condemned them as "lawless" and "criminal," as representing the actions of what were almost certainly (in the elite's view) irredeemably "bad" elements of society.

Ashley Dawson amplifies this theme:
The killing of [Mark] Duggan took place within the context of Operation Trident, a special arm of the MPS established in 1998 to investigate gun crime in London’s black communities. More recently, the MPS launched Operation Razorback in order to crack down on “troublemakers” planning to attend this year’s carnival in Notting Hill. As British activist Darcus Howe explained in a recent interview, these police operations come on top of a broader transformation in police-community relations facilitated by the war on terror that has allowed the police to engage in unimpeded stop, search, and arrest operations in Britain’s Black communities.

Despite the fact that most British police do not carry guns, being arrested in the UK is no joke. As Caroline Davies reported in an article earlier this year, 333 people have died in or following police custody in the UK over the last eleven years; not a single member of the police has been convicted for any of these deaths.

This pattern of police dragnets in Black communities has deep historical roots. As I discuss in my book Mongrel Nation, Black communities were targeted during the 1970s and 1980s by very similar special operations. In 1981, for example, Operation Swamp deployed huge numbers of police into the predominantly Black neighborhood of Brixton in South London. Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government oversaw the revival of Victorian “sus” laws that allowed police to detain anyone who they suspected might be either breaking or about to break the law. Not surprisingly, young Black men were disproportionately targeted, and a significant number of deaths in police custody ensued. In 1981, riots broke out in Brixton and quickly spread to Black, Asian, and white working class neighborhoods of cities such as Birmingham and Manchester.

Exactly the same pattern is repeating itself today. Given this fact, it’s worth remembering how these uprisings were framed at the time. The most trenchant account of urban unrest of the time, Policing the Crisis, suggested that urban “criminality” needed to be placed in the context of the organic crisis of the British state and society. For Stuart Hall and his fellow contributors, public fears about “mugging” (which anticipated and legitimated draconian tactics such as Operation Swamp that sparked the Brixton riots) were a moral panic that condensed much broader fears and redirected those fears onto the scapegoated figure of the “immigrant.” For the contributors to Policing the Crisis, that is, fears about crime helped authorities contain a much broader crisis in Britain.

In response to these interwoven economic and ideological crises, elites in Britain, the United States, and other developed countries gradually cobbled together the hegemonic project we now know as neo-liberalism. The lineaments of neo-liberalism of course included smashing institutions of working class power, shrinking and/or privatizing the redistributive arm of the state, and beefing up the state’s security apparatus. Hall and his colleagues called this approach popular authoritarianism.

A key element of popular authoritarianism, according to Policing the Crisis, was pinning the cause of the organic crisis on the figure of Black immigrant. Black communities had of course been hyper-exploited and, in tandem, economically marginalized for decades in Britain. Nevertheless, the underground economies that developed as a result were taken out of context and classified as criminal in a process that tended to pathologize entire communities and to treat criminality as a purely racial issue. Policing the Crisis elaborates a theory of Britain’s Black communities as part of an international surplus labor population whose outsider status allowed them to be demonized by British authorities in order to explain away their inability to establish a socially and economically just society. Both the Tories and the Labour Party cooperated in this scapegoating of Britain’s Black population, as a survey of the increasingly racialized elements of immigration legislation demonstrates.
The "broader crisis" of the 1980s to which Dawson refers has returned today with a vengeance. England and the United States are hollowed-out societies, with their former productive capacity vanishing at an ever-increasing rate. In close alliance with the State, the most powerful and wealthiest corporations continue to amass record profits, but only by siphoning up every last bit of wealth held by the numerically greatest, but otherwise weakest and most defenseless, part of the population. Every significant piece of legislation must be viewed in this context. This is true even of legislation which styles itself as concerning matters which would not appear to be directed to policing the "undesirable" elements of the population. Thus, Obama's heralded "health reform" bill, which I dubbed The Fuck You Act, has very little to do with providing health care, but everything to do with brutally controlling the weakest segments of society and extracting what little money they have left for the benefit of already vastly wealthy insurance companies and their constant partner, the State.

Although it is perilous to make such judgments as events continue to unfold, the evidence strongly compels the conclusion that we have entered the death spiral for the West's ruling class. The disfavored members of society have less and less economic resources of their own to be extracted, and fewer (and often non-existent) opportunities for improving them. Simultaneously (and inextricably connected to this point), the same disfavored members are increasingly unable to defend themselves in any area of their lives. The growing surveillance State watches over them day and night, privacy approaches the point of complete eradication, and the State continually adds to the weapons it uses to harass, intimidate, brutalize and imprison them. The State's methods of control are increasingly, brazenly explicit and crueler by the day.

As the society's resources continue to dwindle, the problem of the "surplus population" becomes more acute for the ruling class. The State now controls a population which is far larger than the ruling class finds useful for its purposes. What do States do in such situations? As much as we understandably resist stating the obvious conclusion, we would be well-advised to face it now: the State kills the especially disfavored parts of its population -- those who cannot work, those who are old and/or sick, those who produce nothing the ruling class finds of value.

If we broaden our perspective, and if we look beyond particular developments and attempt to grasp what is happening over a longer period of time, the nature of the horror that awaits us takes on a clearer shape: The West's ruling class is embarked on a program of killing and elimination. A general caution should be kept in mind. I'm not suggesting that this program is one that the ruling class has explicitly identified, even to itself, at least not necessarily. The ruling class is intent upon increasing its own power and wealth; in one sense, that is its only concern. I suppose, in some fantasy world, the ruling class would be content to enjoy its immense power and wealth while "ordinary" people pursue their own lives of contentment. This, of course, is the goal which the ruling class announces, and which it desperately tries to convince both itself and us is true.

But we don't live in that fantasy world. In this world -- and, I would argue, in any world where brute power is the final means of settling every dispute, especially when that power is consolidated in the State -- the ruling class seeks power and wealth by dominating and controlling the weaker segments of society. The ruling class may not set out to kill those people it finds unnecessary for its aims, but if the ruling class can maintain and increase its power and wealth only by eliminating them, it will eventually eliminate them. This is the logic of the ruling class's desires. It is certainly true that the ruling class could change much of this if it wished to: the productive capacity of both England and the United States could be reinvigorated, and much new wealth could be created and enjoyed by many more members of society. But the ruling class believes that would necessitate the diminishment of its power and wealth, so they will not consider the possibility seriously.

The ruling class dreamed a nightmare, and made it real. We are now caught up in it. For many of us -- certainly for me, and very possibly for you -- the end result is clear: the ruling class intends to kill us. Not today or tomorrow, the ruling class hasn't reached that point of desperation quite yet, but they'll kill us soon enough. We have no value to them; we're superfluous; we're not needed.

A killing by the State was the spark that ignited the London riots; many more killings by the State are where the ruling class's chosen reaction will inevitably lead it. We can note several signposts along the road through the nightmare. As I noted above, the State will exert increasingly brutal means of control and punishment:
Ministers and the security services are planning draconian powers to shut down or disrupt mobile phone messaging services and social networks in times of civil disorder.


Mr Cameron, promising yesterday to do "whatever it takes" to restore order, outlined a series of new security measures, which included:

* Consider further powers of curfew.

* Investigate using the Army to free up police for "frontline" duties.

* Give individual police officers the power to force people to remove scarves, hoods or masks covering their faces or be arrested.

* Extend "gang injunctions" banning teenagers as well as adults from associating with each other or visiting designated areas. The Government will also consult former New York Police commissioner Bill Bratton on further measures to tackle gang culture.

Mr Cameron confirmed that a parliamentary debate would be held on whether convicted looters should lose their benefits after more than 100,000 people had signed an e-petition calling for it. He also backed several local authorities – among them Nottingham, Salford, Greenwich and Westminster – who have said they will seek to evict social tenants who are convicted of being involved in rioting.
Before the ruling class finally eliminates the "undesirables," there is a necessary preceding step: the most disfavored, weakest elements of society must be demonized. I heard the following article first mentioned by Rush Limbaugh; it was quickly picked up by many conservative commentators (including self-identified "libertarians"). Limbaugh praised the article in glowing terms; he thought it identified the crucial issue in especially eloquent terms. For Limbaugh, the crucial issue was one made familiar in connection with history's bloodiest and most horrifying episodes of mass murder, although Limbaugh himself failed to note that fact. I'm sure it was merely an oversight. The crucial issue is, obviously, that the rioters are, as Limbaugh summarized it, "human only by virtue of their DNA." The rioters are not actually human at all; they are sub-human, animals deserving only to be put down.

From the article:
If you live a normal life of absolute futility, which we can assume most of this week’s rioters do, excitement of any kind is welcome. The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorised communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame.


They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong.

They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.

Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it.

A former London police chief spoke a few years ago about the ‘feral children’ on his patch — another way of describing the same reality.
The article offers much, much more in the same vein if you have the stomach for it.

A day or two later, Limbaugh found another article that he deemed equally penetrating. This article speaks not only of London, but of "black mobs" intent on destroying America. This paragraph summarizes the perspective:
Let’s return to the question of why. Many have absolute confidence about what we are witnessing. They can surely imagine the whispers of Wormwood to a thousand Patients. Delighted that the Mob has bypassed the gradual path toward evil, they can imagine him basking in the heat of burning double deckers in Peckham. They know who delights in a father’s dream for his daughter destroyed. Others perhaps imagine Legion, who admits in the Gospel of Mark, “We are many,” before being cast into the maniacal herd of pigs by Christ. No longer simply pigs, the maniacal herd for our times now roams London and stalks families in Milwaukee and Akron.
This leads directly to an entry on the widely-read and influential Instapundit, which reads as follows in its entirety:
IN THE UK, a changed mood.

UPDATE: Reader Brent Salmons emails:
I just got back from a two year stint living in London, and I found that I generally agreed with Allister Heath’s editorials in the City Paper. But I’m conservative even by US standards, so all of my British friends thought that I was an extreme right-winger. Allister Heath is also pretty far to the right by British political standards and, as such, may be fooling himself.

That said, I just spoke with one of my friends in London (a Labour voter) and she said that the rioters should have been shot in the streets and then proceeded to complain about paying taxes to pay for those “do nothings”. So, perhaps Mr. Heath is correct after all.
We’ll see.
I assume I do not need to spell out why I find that "We'll see" far, far beyond abominable.

I began by observing that the West's ruling class has brought home to its domestic population -- systematically and with increasing brutality -- the barbaric, murderous behavior it has visited on much weaker, comparatively defenseless foreign peoples for centuries. You will find a discussion of that argument in, "Terrorist State, Abroad and At Home." (I emphatically note that the West's ruling class obviously has already brutalized and killed huge numbers of especially disfavored peoples at home as well, but I've focused on a separate element of the same lethal compound in this essay. For a discussion of America's treatment of Native Americans and Black Americans, see this article, particularly the second section entitled, "Torture and the American Project.")

To close this admittedly grim analysis -- but then, I did say we were discussing a living nightmare -- let us return to the viciously brutal war the United States waged in the Philippines over a hundred years ago. As I've periodically noted, the Philippines episode established the pattern the U.S. followed in countless subsequent foreign interventions. It is the identical pattern that the ruling class has begun to reenact in England and the United States (and in other Western countries as well, to be sure).

The following excerpt is from Paul A. Kramer's, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines. You will find additional excerpts in, "The Mythology of the 'Good Guy' American."

Here is Kramer:
On the ground, racial terms like "gugu" and "nigger" both reflected and enabled a broadening of the enemy. In their letters and diaries, U.S. soldiers sometimes attached them to descriptions of combat status -- such as "nigger army" -- which, in effect, made them racialized terms for "insurgent." In some cases, they continued to distinguish combatants and non-combatants, referring to the latter as "natives" or "Filipinos." But in other cases, soldiers used both "gugu" and "nigger" to refer explicitly to noncombatants. "At meals [sic] times there are always a lot of little 'gugus' around, each with his tin can, begging scraps to eat," wrote Perry Thompson. Peter Lewis described how "the Niggers keep going to Church" on Easter. ...

Racial terms and exterminist sentiment were at the center of the most popular of the U.S. Army's marching songs, which marked the Filipino population as a whole as the enemy and made killing Filipinos the only means to their civilization....


One Nebraskan soldier boasted to his parents of his comrades' bold, aggressive fighting spirit, restrained only by officers' reticence. "If they would turn the boys loose," he wrote, "there wouldn't be a nigger left in Manila twelve hours later." ...

Racial exterminist impulses were also in evidence in U.S. soldiers' descriptions of violence against prisoners and civilians. The American torture of prisoners -- some fraction of which appeared in soldiers' letters, newspaper accounts, and court-martial proceedings -- was often, if not always, justified as a means of intelligence-gathering. The most notorious form of torture by the American side, if far from the only one, was the "water cure," in which a captured Filipino was interrogated while drowned with buckets of filthy water poured into his mouth. The scale of its practice and the frequency of death remain difficult if not impossible to establish.


Along with torturing them, U.S. soldiers also killed Filipino prisoners. Rumors of "no-prisoners" orders were common. Arthur C. Johnson of the Colorado Volunteers, for example, reported as early as February 1899 that Manila's prisons were already overflowing, and "the fiat is said to have gone forth that no more prisoners are to be taken"; he anticipated that "the Filipino death list promises to correspondingly increase." ...

The ultimate form of exterminist war was the killing of acknowledged noncombatants. As early as April 12, 1899, an entry in Chriss Bell's diary took derecognition to its furthest extension: Filipinos had already "caused so much trouble & murdered so many of our boys" that U.S. soldiers "recognize them no longer but shoot on sight all natives. Natives will not or cannot understand kind & civilized treatment. If you treat them as equals they will think you are afraid of them & murder you."


One of the most banal and brutal manifestations of racialization was U.S. soldiers' imagination of war as hunting. The Manila occupation and "friendly policy" had frustrated martial masculinity; the metaphor of the hunt made war, at last, into masculine self-fulfillment. All at once, a language of hunting bestialized Filipinos made sense of guerrilla war to American troops, and joined the latter in manly fraternity. "I don't know when the thing will let out," wrote Louis Hubbard one week into the war, "and don't care as we are having lots of excitement. It makes me think of killing jack rabbits."


The most notorious orders of indiscriminate killing were Gen. Jacob H. Smith's late October 1901 instructions to Marine Maj. Littleron W.T. Waller, following Filipino revolutionaries' successful surprise attack against U.S. soldiers at Balangiga on the island of Samar, to make reprisals against the entire population of the island. "I want no prisoners," he had directed. "I wish you to kill and burn." Smith ordered "all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States." When Waller had asked the general for clarification, Smith stated that he considered any person over the age of ten "capable of bearing arms." The interior of Samar must be made "a howling wilderness!" The direct result of these instructions was systematic destruction and killing on a vast scale.
I had planned to offer a few final thoughts here. But I find I'm unable to write more on this subject right now.

These matters are too terrible, too profoundly horrifying.