“. . . they’re not warring on drugs. . . . They’re warring on neighborhoods. They’re warring on people who can’t stand up to them.” –Ed Burns, co-creator of The Wire
Conservatives like to see themselves as upholders of law and order, morality and decency. But they tend to focus obsessively on marginal phenomena- Hollywood or illegitimacy among the underclass. Paul Craig Roberts is a notable exception, who denounces not only our foreign empire, but the domestic one as well (otherwise known as the “criminal justice system”), as thoroughly immoral:
In the United States, the country with the largest prison population in the world, the number of wrongly convicted is very large. Hardly any felony charges are resolved with trials. The vast majority of defendants, both innocent and guilty, are coerced into plea bargains. Not only are the innocent framed, but the guilty as well. It is quicker and less expensive to frame the guilty than to convict them on the evidence.
Many Americans are wrongfully convicted, because they trust the justice system. They naively believe that police and prosecutors are moved by evidence and have a sense of justice. The trust they have in authorities makes them easy victims of a system that has no moral conscience and is untroubled by the injustice it perpetrates.
He says that “law and order conservatives” are largely to blame, for becoming so hysterical about crime and terrorism that they give the State the kind of license which generates brutality and abuse. But the sad thing is that you rarely hear about prisons or the war on drugs from the left anymore, who have abandoned themselves to narrow identity politics and postmodern nihilism, neither of which does a thing to help the underclass that makes up nearly 100 percent of the prison population.
I often watch shows like “Cops” and “Lock-Up” with my girlfriend, and we laugh at the ridiculous behavior of the hapless, intoxicated bumblers and quail at the unreformable psychopaths who end up going through the system. But something in me consistently screams that this is an insidious way to deal with crime, that nobody should ever have to live in the dark satanic mill that is the American prison.
The conservative writer Sam Francis, with whom I would have to say I disagree with about most things, came up with the concept (in a different context) of “Anarcho-Tyranny”: you get all of the tyranny associated with government and all of the chaos associated with anarchy. Perhaps we should no longer speak of “law and order” conservatives, but “anarcho-tyranny” conservatives.
Who supports which part of the national security/police state often depends on whether or not one sympathizes with the victims, which in turn depends on one’s political disposition. The war on drugs has mostly affected inner-city minorities (masterfully dramatized in the HBO series The Wire, focusing on the city of Baltimore), inducing sympathy with liberals but not conservatives. But when the victims are rural white religious nuts*, well . . .
"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold, and his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold."
Anthony Gregory has a couple of interesting articles at Lew Rockwell.com on the incidents in Waco and Oklahoma City, and how the events and public response mirror that of 9/11. In the former, many conservatives saw the Oklahoma City bombing as a “blowback” from the criminal government attacks at Waco and Ruby Ridge, while liberals supported the government and Clinton, accusing anyone who dared bring up government atrocities as justifying terrorism. In the latter, as we all know, the situation reversed. Gregory writes:
Waco should remind us that Democrats are no more restrained than the Republicans when it comes to being “tough on crime,” if all that entails is using the bludgeon of state power against all social elements the ruling class has deemed less than human. It should also remind us that that bludgeon is no more surgically precise or benevolent no matter who wields it, and how corrupting it is for those who do. This should really be obvious by now, as the Bush government has turned Iraq into one big Branch Davidian compound and now appears poised to give the Waco treatment to Tehran.
Any reasonable person knows that the longer a right-wing government is in power, the closer we get to fascism. But apparently many democrats wouldn’t mind living in a police state- so long as it’s a liberal police state (call it “Clintonia”).
But am I not out of order in placing blame for Ruby Ridge and Waco at the feet of the feds? I recommend skeptics check out a brilliant documentary called Waco: the Rules of Engagement, which inspired as staunch a liberal as critic Roger Ebert to write: I am more inclined to use the words “religion” than “cult,” and “church center” than “compound.” Yes, the Branch Davidians had some strange beliefs, but no weirder than those held by many other religions. And it is pretty clear, on the basis of this film, that the original raid was staged as a publicity stunt, and the final raid was a government riot–a tragedy caused by uniformed boys with toys.
First they came for the religious weirdos, but I said nothing, for I was not a religious weirdo. . .
But of course a government investigation found- surprise surprise- the government was not at fault. Scenes featuring New York senator Chuck Schumer badgering the victims of this tragedy are particularly revolting- from the evidence of this film, that man is a moral cretin. Hans Hoppe has critiqued this aspect of the State. It claims justification on the fact that there must be a final judge in disputes between any two parties, or else we have a war of all against all- but who is to be final arbiter in disputes concerning the state itself? Well, we see the results.
Mutualist Kevin Carson has an interesting post as well on an oft-ignored constituency for the liberal police state: soccer moms.
It is not my intent in this article to blast conservatives or liberals per se, only to show how commonly accepted attitudes on both the left and right contribute to the decline of liberty and allow the State to torture and murder with impunity. Of course there are good people on both sides as well.
Apparently Edmund Burke did not say “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” But it is no less true for that.
* Actually, a significant number of the Branch Davidians were black, a fact I did not know until watching the documentary. Did you? The government loves to play the race card at times like these, but it simply won’t wash in Waco. At one point during the siege, there was a banner put up by the Davidians on the side of the house (notice how different it seems when you don’t say “compound”) that read, “RODNEY KING WE UNDERSTAND”. The question is, did those outraged over the King beating understand what was happening in Waco? Similarly, while nobody would deny a presence of anti-semitism among militia types, particularly those subscribing to Christian Identity beliefs, Adam Parfrey wrote in his article “Finding Our Way Out of Oklahoma” that, “the presumption of anti-semitism in the militia movement is overstated, especially when a number of Jewish libertarians, including Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership, are movers and shakers within the militia movement.” The militias would have done well to adopt the slogan, “BLACK PANTHERS WE UNDERSTAND”.
P.S.- If you’ve never heard it, check out Bill Hicks’ great bit about Waco and Koresh.