10.04.2009

the police state i am from

Did you see this?
G20 protesters blasted by sonic cannon

Only a few hundreds protesters took to the streets of Pittsburgh to mark the opening day of the G20 summit of world leaders, but the police were taking no chances.

Sonic weapons or long-range acoustic devices have been used by the US military overseas, notably against Somali pirates and Iraqi insurgents.

But US security forces turned the piercing sound on their own citizens to widespread outrage. Pittsburgh officials said that it was the first time the "sound cannon" had been used publicly.

Video here and here.

This has been sitting in my inbox for a few days, sent to me by James. I think it's pretty horrifying, and I planned to post it.

Then late last night after work, mindlessly flipping channels looking for some "fall asleep" TV, I caught Jon Stewart skewering it on The Daily Show. ("Dudes, they're anarchists, they'll be downloading that for their ring tone!") So I thought, I guess everyone knows about this already, and I missed it.

But after doing a few searches this morning, I think it's more likely everyone but Jon Stewart missed it.

It was reported by The Guardian in the UK - that's linked in the blog post above - and the same post post made its way into BoingBoing, fortunately. Progressive and protest sites wrote about it, specialized websites (law enforcement, prison, technology) picked it up, and a few wingnuts cackled about protesters getting what they deserved. Local Pittsburgh media reported on it, which is often how we find out about these things (thank you, internet).

BoingBoing linked to this New York Times story, but the story doesn't seem to come up in any search. (Does it for you?)

I found nothing on CNN. For CNN to report that protesters were hit with sonic cannons would mean that (a) CNN would have to acknowledge that there are protests, and (b) they'd have to acknowledge those protesters are not always granted their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Much safer to stick to celebrity gossip and Where The White Women At.

Just another day in the police state.

29 comments:

rww said...

And what about their constitutional right to carry guns at protests or does that only apply when black presidents are in the neighbourhood.

redsock said...

Related:

The small town of Hardin, Montana, may soon be under the influence of a private police department ("American Police Force"). APF appears to be affiliated with Blackwater. Discussion.

deang said...

It's also disturbing the way the articles merely mention that the sonic weapons are used in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no tone of outrage or consideration of the effect the weapons have on Iraqis and Afghans. Wording like that causes Americans to think, "Of course, in war this is to be expected. Anything goes in war," as though war is an uncontrollable weather phenomenon and not something determined by human choice.

And the fact that even now supposedly respectable university researchers are producing new and more painful ways of harming people is troubling, too. In the 60s and 70s there was public opposition to such research; not today.

impudent strumpet said...

Aside from all the usual problems, do they know/care whether there are innocent civilians/G20 workers/dignitaries within earshot?

L-girl said...

And what about their constitutional right to carry guns at protests

RWW, that's one of the few "rights" (not) that is seldom impeded in the US.

It's also disturbing the way the articles merely mention that the sonic weapons are used in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no tone of outrage or consideration of the effect the weapons have on Iraqis and Afghans.

Right! What's newsworthy about the story is that this particular weapon of war is being used against protesters for the first time. Other than that - whatever.

Aside from all the usual problems, do they know/care whether there are innocent civilians/G20 workers/dignitaries within earshot?

Apparently not.

I'd only add ^other^ innocent civilians. (Which I know you took in under "all the usual problems", just being nitpicky.)

James said...

There was another small town, I don't remember where, where the mayor was threatening to disband the police force and replace them with private contractors because the police wanted to unionize. I don't know if he made good on his threat.

johngoldfine said...

Internal passports, identification numbers, work permits, travel permits, residence permits. State-sponsored stigmatization of certain groups, classes, religions, ethnicities, belief systems. A class of internal enemies of the state and criminalized relatives of enemies of the state. Institutionalized paranoia. A national police force. A web of concentration camps, often secret. State-sponsored spying on citizens, using both secret and open, acknowledged informers. Regular use of torture for confessions. Judiciary subordinate to ruling party. Government organization subordinate to ruling party mechanisms and functionaries. Secret police. Quasi-militarized regular police. Internal exile. State-sponsored assassinations and disappearings of dissidents. Mass relocations of stigmatized groups. State-organized internal terror. State-sponsored genocide against internal groups.

In no particular order, those are some of the things I'd expect to see in police states. God knows we USians have our problems and see some of these things advocated or initiated in a weak way.

But "police state" makes me think 1984, USSR, Czarist Russia, Hitler's Germany, Communist China, Chiang's China, fascist Japan, present-day Iran, Saddam's Iraq, Pol Pot's Cambodia (maybe that's unfair to police states; Cambodia might have to have its own category of horror.)

We may not be the frippin last best hope of man, the shining city on the hill, or very close to anything at all that our ideals proclaim we are supposed to be. But "police state"?

L-girl said...

But "police state" makes me think 1984, USSR, Czarist Russia, Hitler's Germany, Communist China, Chiang's China, fascist Japan, present-day Iran, Saddam's Iraq, Pol Pot's Cambodia

That's a huge part of the problem. You and many other people think of those examples, look around you and don't see that, so you conclude it's not there.

We may not be the frippin last best hope of man, the shining city on the hill, or very close to anything at all that our ideals proclaim we are supposed to be. But "police state"?

Yes.

I won't recreate my entire argument here, but if you're interested, you could do two things.

1, you could click on the category "fascist shift", scroll to the beginning, and read every post.

And 2, you could read Naomi Wolf's The End of America. There are many other books making the same point, but I recommend that one because it's short and to the point.

L-girl said...

If a society is only free if you follow orders and conform to the norm, it is not free.

redsock said...

Of John's list, I'd quickly list the following as absolutely practiced by the US:

State-sponsored stigmatization of certain groups, classes, religions, ethnicities, belief systems.

Institutionalized paranoia.

A web of concentration camps, often secret.

State-sponsored spying on citizens, using both secret and open, acknowledged informers.

Regular use of torture for confessions.

Judiciary subordinate to ruling party.

Quasi-militarized regular police.

State-sponsored assassinations and disappearings of dissidents.

State-organized internal terror.

johngoldfine said...

Thanks for the links.

I can't read Naomi Wolf but I have read a lot of fascist shift in the past but never commented because, really, what's to say, agree or disagree: you're mostly reporting items that shock, distress, astound, infuriate. No argument there.

You've moved to Canada for real reasons that ought to be respected. (I didn't say 'I respect' though I do, because that would somehow imply you've been sitting around waiting for the jag stamp of approval....)

L-girl said...

Let me put it this way. When I saw John's list, I thought he was agreeing with me.

johngoldfine said...

I forgot agents provocateurs and public show trials as well as secret trials or trials in absentia--generally signs of an emasculated judiciary, shades of Gitmo....

johngoldfine said...

"Let me put it this way. When I saw John's list, I thought he was agreeing with me."

Whoops, and I teach communications, supposedly.

L-girl said...

I forgot agents provocateurs and public show trials as well as secret trials or trials in absentia--generally signs of an emasculated judiciary, shades of Gitmo....

Check, check, check, check. All present.

Thanks for your other comment. It wasn't until I left the US that I saw (what I think is) the bigger picture of how it all fits together. As global resources become ever scarcer, I think the shape will become more apparent.

L-girl said...

Whoops, and I teach communications, supposedly.

Oh no, that is no reflection on your communication skills, but on how I view the US.

redsock said...

AP, October 3, 2009:
Big city police chiefs are backing an anti-terrorism community watch program to educate people about what behavior is truly suspicious and ought to be reported to police.
Police Chief William Bratton of Los Angeles, whose department developed the iWATCH program, calls it the 21st century version of Neighborhood Watch.

L-girl said...

Bratton, that scumbag.

Not that he's the problem in the big picture. If it weren't him it would be someone else, obviously. I just can't help myself when I see his name.

L-girl said...

John, why can't you read Naomi Wolf? Did she do something to offend you? :)

johngoldfine said...

l-girl: I can't take book-length polemics, though I'll make an exception for a writer like Vicki Hearne, whose polemic 'Bandit' we once cross-mentioned, but she's an extremely talented writer and animals are a topic I can't get enough of. Otherwise, give it to me in a blog, article, or book review.

I did read a little of Naomi Wolf's book on beauty years ago. so I'm speaking from at least a tiny base of knowledge.

johngoldfine said...

Los Angeles has a longstanding tradition of creepy police chiefs, maybe a simple reflection of its longstanding tradition of being a creepy place....

L-girl said...

My thoughts on Bratton come from his experience in NY, with NY's head fascist, Giuliani.

Interesting re Wolf. It's such a short book, no more than an extended essay, IMO. I can see disagreeing with her but not being unable to read it. But each to his own.

I'm amazed that you would count Vicky Hearne as as more talented writer than Naomi Wolf. But that's down to taste, I suppose.

redsock said...

Wolf's book is quite slim and very easy to read. It seems like it was written for an average reader, not a political/history junkie.

deang said...

Let me put it this way. When I saw John's list, I thought he was agreeing with me.

Me too.

johngoldfine said...

Let me put it this way. When I saw John's list, I thought he was agreeing with me.

Me too.


First I lull you into dozy acquiesence--then when you are defenseless, I drop the hammer!

You have been Communicated With by a Master!

L-girl said...

Whoops, and I teach communications, supposedly.

. . .

First I lull you into dozy acquiesence--then when you are defenseless, I drop the hammer!

You have been Communicated With by a Master!


Hmm, first you apologize for it, then you claim it as strategy. That might make you a master at something... ;)

johngoldfine said...

This discussion yesterday has been on my mind all day. I've been looking at the most apparetnly innocent phenomena on my daily round with a slightly different perspective, saying to myself, "Hmm, is there some different reality behind the tale we tell ourselves about that...."

If you asserted that the USian public school systems were a police state, I'd agree with you in a flash. In fact, I've got a piece in my course syllabuses about school and jail similarities.

L-girl said...

This discussion yesterday has been on my mind all day. I've been looking at the most apparetnly innocent phenomena on my daily round with a slightly different perspective, saying to myself, "Hmm, is there some different reality behind the tale we tell ourselves about that...."

I'm honoured, and glad to hear it. Thanks for letting me know.

If you asserted that the USian public school systems were a police state, I'd agree with you in a flash. In fact, I've got a piece in my course syllabuses about school and jail similarities.

Yes, and I'd venture that that is indoctrination and inculcation (not sure that's the right word, and can't look it up right now) into the larger police state.

The US is a "free" country in the same sense that it is a "democracy". It says it is, it is sometimes for some people, and it maintains the appearance - and a thin veneer - of both.

redsock said...

I've been looking at the most apparetnly innocent phenomena on my daily round with a slightly different perspective, saying to myself, "Hmm...

Oh, wouldja just go look at Wolf's 150-page book already?

:>)

Seriously, her book will help/complement your perspective. I will add that it is a near-perfect primer/overview on the direction the US is heading that everyone should read (esp. students).