Society drives you to suicide but when you go pull the trigger, they tell you your life is worthwhile and that we need you. Maybe society needs to stop sending so many mixed messages.
Not for the first time nor the last, the U.S. has recently been hit by a wave of political violence by right-wing political extremists. People are stunned; aren’t far-right groups like the KKK and Nazi Party relics of history?
Clearly not. Package bombs mailed to Democratic politicians and celebrities, the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, another mass killing at a Florida yoga studio and the double murder of African-Americans in a Kentucky grocery store have Americans asking two questions: who’s to blame, and why didn’t the people we pay to keep us safe see this coming?
The answer to the first question can be answered in part by digging into the second: law enforcement and intelligence agencies have long had a dismal record of tracking the activities of right-wing extremist groups, much less disrupting violent plots before they can be carried out.
Considering that the right is responsible for three out of four political terrorism-related deaths, the police are failing to do their job of protecting the public from the biggest threat. (The other fourth are almost all attributable to radical Islamists. In the U.S. the political left hardly ever kills anyone.)
Turning a blind eye to right-wing violence isn’t new. “Law enforcement’s inability to reckon with the far right is a problem that goes back generations in this country,” Janet Reitman wrote in The New York Times, referencing the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
Why don’t the authorities infiltrate and eavesdrop upon the “alt-right” with as much vigor as they dedicate to disrupting peaceful left-leaning organizations like Occupy Wall Street and the anti-nuclear nuns? Why do cops spend more time monitoring political cartoonists than Klansmen and neo-Nazis? Why do they pepper-spray pacifists while “standing down”—refusing to interfere—when a Klansman shot a gun at a black counterprotester at Charlottesville?
The answer is as obvious as it is terrifying. America’s state security apparatus, military and civilian police, alike, view the left as enemies. To the police, right-wingers are political allies.
Which is why the police routinely creates “safe spaces” for white nationalist violence. Crazy as it sounds, they even form working partnerships with racists and anti-Semites.
Washington D.C. police conspired with far-right groups Project Veritas and the Oath Keepers to use doctored evidence to prosecute people arrested for protesting Trump’s 2017 inauguration.
There is evidence that the California Highway Patrol is working with the Traditionalist Workers Party, a neo-Nazi organization.
In June 2017 U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers at an alt-right rally in Portland, Oregon worked in tandem with right-wing militia goons to arrest liberal counterprotesters.
“With the extremes of the American political spectrum squaring off nearly every week in tense rallies and counter-protests, where violence erupts not infrequently, police are drawing outside aid from only one side: the far-right,” The Intercept reported. “The relationship works both ways: Police get help, and alt-right demonstrators are seemingly put above the law in return.”
Violent right-wing extremists don’t just work with the police. Many times they are the police.
Most cops are conservative. Quite a few are far, far right. “Federal law enforcement agencies in general — the FBI, the Marshals, the ATF — are aware that [right-wing] extremists have infiltrated state and local law enforcement agencies and that there are people in law enforcement agencies that may be sympathetic to these groups,” said Daryl Johnson, lead researcher on an Obama-era DHS report. The FBI was concerned, Johnson said last year, but local police departments don’t seem to care.
“For some reason, we have stepped away from the threat of domestic terrorism and right-wing extremism,” Samuel Jones, a law professor at the John Marshall Law School, told The Intercept. “The only way we can reconcile this kind of behavior is if we accept the possibility that the ideology that permeates white nationalists and white supremacists is something that many in our federal and law enforcement communities understand and may be in sympathy with.” It’s more than a “possibility”—police unions overwhelmingly endorsed Trump.
The military leans right too. A 2017 Military Times survey found that one out of four servicemen and servicewomen have personally observed white nationalist activist among the ranks. According to a 2018 Pro Publica report a secretive neo-Nazi group called the Atomwaffen Division, a paramilitary organization accused of five murders, has infiltrated the armed services.
Veterans voted 61%-to-34% for Trump over Clinton.
A 50-50 left-right nation ruled by right-wing cops and soldiers is about as good an idea as a black neighborhood policed by all white suburban cops. But what can we do about it?
Part of the issue is self-selection. As local policing has evolved from a protect-the-public “guardian” model to a military-influenced “warrior” mentality, the personality type of recruits and applicants has increasingly skewed toward those with authoritarian tendencies. Your local PD isn’t hearing from many Bernie-voting hipsters.
But the biggest problem is the message from the top.
I’m not just talking about Trump. Liberal Democrats like Obama and Pelosi and likeminded media personalities like those on MSNBC are no less effusive about supporting the troops and first responders while turning a blind eye to the terrible truth that many of rank-and-file soldiers and police officers, as well as their leaders, are rabid right-wingers who ought not to be allowed to own a gun, much less legally train one on a left-leaning protester at a rally.
Both major parties share the blame for atrocities like Pittsburgh.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Imagine a store that makes its customers miserable. This interior is ugly and uncomfortable. At best the staff is indifferent and slow; at worst rude and incompetent. You pay sky-high prices for inferior goods. Often you pay full price yet leave the place empty-handed.
You don’t have to be a marketing expert to guess what would happen to such an establishment. It would go out of business. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if a mob of ripped-off consumers burned the place down.
I’ve just described the U.S. government.
You interact with government many times each day. How many of those encounters are positive?
Close to zero.
Let’s look at the single-most common connection between governments and citizens: the payment of taxes. Sales taxes on goods and services — painful and annoying. Income taxes — the same. What do you get back for paying for your taxes? Nothing specially for you. Sure you benefit from public schools, roads and so on. But those bennies are shared. And you might not even use those. What if you don’t have kids, or send your kids to private school because the public school isn’t good enough? Aside from the occasional unemployment check, most people never receive direct help from “their” government.
When we interact with agents of the state — the employees of the metaphorical store I described up top — it’s a miserable experience. OK, you’re thrilled when the firefighters show up. But you’ll probably never have to call them more than once in your life. The vast majority of the government workers you meet aren’t there to help you. They’re out to lower your quality of life.
Here, in rough order of frequency, are the government workers you are most likely to come into contact with:
Cops: they exist to give you tickets. Fines for minor offenses are exorbitant: $150 on average, up to $2400 in some states. Points raise your insurance rates. You might even lose your license. If you’re black they harass you; they might kill you. Once in a blue moon, they might save you from danger. Mostly it’s about the tickets.
TSA: the Blue Derps of the airport world delay your trip, mess up your neatly packed luggage and steal your precious fluids and sharp objects. There’s no evidence they’ve ever foiled a terrorist.
Clerks at government offices like courthouses, the DMV or Social Security: unlike the aforementioned they probably won’t take your money or possessions. Instead they waste your time. Sluggish, cynical and uncaring, the typical civil servant drags their feet with no apparent sense of urgency. Many are surly and rude.
Jury duty: in a perfect world, could be interesting. Most municipalities make jury duty as inconvenient as possible, particularly for the self-employed and parents and other caregivers. Why can’t you write a letter to ask to be excused?
IRS: if you hear from an agent, you’re being audited. Be prepared to cough up thousands. If you’re lucky.
Government facilities are as awful as the people who work there.
Government buildings and offices tend to be old and rundown. Given that wait times drag on interminably you’d think they might provide such basics as comfortable chairs with charging stations and work booths for your laptop and wifi, but no. They could pick up a cue from restaurants that give you a buzzer or text you to let you know when your table is ready so you could get a coffee or whatever while you’re waiting — right. Like they give a damn.
God help you if try to call a government office. Crazy voicemail phone trees, brief office hours (they’re open while you’re working), long hold times, arbitrary disconnections and, if you ever get through, probably no help in the end.
Obviously there are dedicated public servants who view taxpayers as valuable customers and work hard to help them. But these saints are exceptional. Here we’re discussing your typical interaction with government and government workers. Those interactions suck.
By global standards of injustice and inconvenience these problems pale next to getting blown up by a Hellfire missile or being raped or succumbing to cancer. Nevertheless they have serious repercussions.
Lousy customer service by government inexorably creates and grows contempt not merely for specific government agencies like the police but for government in general. Particularly on the right opportunistic politicians exploit the resentments of people who feel mistreated and neglected by a government that supposedly serves them. I get nothing from the government and I work hard, get rid of welfare for lazy slobs! Hell, as Ronald Reagan said, government is the problem, not the solution — get rid of it entirely!
Anti-government sentiment is a major motivation for Donald Trump’s Tea Party base. Liberal entreaties that we ought to appreciate such important “socialist” government services as a military that protects our borders and public universities that educate our children fall on deaf ears (and not just among conservatives) because those positives are psychological abstractions.
Our material day-to-day interfacing with government is as I describe it above: relentlessly negative. They suck away our cash, slow us down and disrespect us.
Crappy government is more of a feature than a bug. Offices are poorly maintained and uncomfortably furnished for a reason: budget planners don’t prioritize renovations. Financial cutbacks in the public sector mean below-market salaries and dead-end jobs without opportunity to advance so it’s hard to attract the best and smartest workers. You can’t blame those who get stuck there — even the good ones — for turning surly.
Bureaucratic dysfunction is so entrenched it’s hard to imagine an improvement. But the blowback will come.
Look at images of revolutionary uprisings throughout history. Crowds of people consumed with rage roam the streets destroying everything in sight.
Look at images of collapse. Hollow expressions from years of being beaten down.
Whether by revolution or implosion, a system that ladles out as many industrial-sized buckets of contempt-provoking annoyance and oppression as the United States government must inevitably go the way of that suicidal, idiotic store.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
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Freshman orientation, Columbia University, New York City, Fall 1981: Now as then, there were speeches. A blur of upperclassmen, professors and deans welcomed us, explained campus resources and laid out dos and donts. At one point, the topic of the campus drug policy came up. “You can do whatever you want in your dorm room,” we were told, “just make sure it’s OK with your roommate.” A ripple of surprise swept the audience. Several students asked for elaboration of this don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy on illegal narcotics, and were told that they’d heard correctly.
One of my friends, who grew pot plants in his window, proved the wisdom of that advice. My pal’s Born Again Christian roomie, not consulted about his grow house scheme, attacked him in what became a legendary fistfight out of a Western.
No one was arrested, though there was a stern talking-to courtesy of the R.A.
(Columbia has since changed this policy.)
The weird alternative universe of law on campus is in the headlines again due to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ announcement that the Trump Administration plans to rewrite Obama-era Title IX rules to give male students accused of rape on college campuses more rights to defend themselves.
Under a 2011 directive university administrators were advised that their institutions could lose federal education funding unless they reduce the evidentiary standard for finding a defendant student guilty of sexual misconduct from “beyond a reasonable doubt” (the same as in criminal courts, in which jurors are asked to be roughly 90% or more certain of guilt to convict) to the lower “based on the preponderance of the evidence” standard used in civil courts (50% or more).
Victims rights advocates say campus rape is an epidemic problem, that local police can’t be trusted to take rape charges seriously or prosecute them aggressively, and that the relatively friendly campus tribunals of administrators operating under the lower standard of proof mandated by Title IX are necessary to encourage victims to step forward.
Men counter that those accused of rape shouldn’t lose their rights when they step on a college campus, and that innocent defendants have been railroaded by kangaroo courts in which they’re not allowed to have a lawyer or, in some cases, to present their full defense.
DeVos referred to the bizarre case of a USC football player expelled for abusing his girlfriend even though she insists there was no abuse. This followed the news that the rape defendant in the notorious 2015 “mattress case” in which his alleged victim carried her mattress around campus and to her commencement ceremony had earned a measure of vindication earlier this year when the university paid him to settle his lawsuit and issued a statement declaring that, after years of being publicly rape-shamed in international media, he had done nothing wrong after all.
Like students at colleges and universities across the United States, I was stunned to learn that college campuses are sort of like Native American reservations: zones where the law applies theoretically but in practice is systematically ignored or enforced at significant variance to the way things go in the outside world.
The shooting of a motorist on a city street off campus by a University of Cincinnati police officer highlighted the fact that two out of three colleges have armed police forces — and that some of these campus cops are told they have the right to arrest, and even shoot, non-students in surrounding neighborhoods.
At least today’s colleges aren’t brazenly stealing land from public parks, as Columbia did in 1968 when it began construction on a gym in Manhattan’s Morningside Park. (The land grab sparked a riot and iconic student takeover of campus.)
The debunking of that big Rolling Stone piece about a supposed rape at UVA aside, it doesn’t take a statistician to grok that college campuses, with their witches’ brew of young people out on their own for the first time, minimal adult supervision and free-flowing booze set the stage for date rape as well as sexual encounters where consent appears ambiguous. The question is: should college administrators substitute for cops and district attorneys in the search for justice? Emily Yoffe’s Atlantic series on DeVos’ proposal strongly suggests no.
Yoffe portrays a system that encourages males to feel victimized by being considered guilty until proven innocent. “To ensure the safety of alleged victims of sexual assault,” she writes, “the federal government requires ‘interim measures’ —accommodations that administrators must offer the complainant before any finding of responsibility, including steps to ensure that she never has to encounter the accused… Common interim measures include moving the accused from his dormitory, limiting the places he can go on campus, forcing him to change classes, and barring him from activities. On small campuses, this can mean his life is completely circumscribed. Sometimes he is banned from campus altogether while awaiting the results of an investigation.” This is an injustice, and saying it’s necessary in order to protect victims doesn’t change that.
The New York Times recently published an op-ed that embodied the glib view of defendants’ rights au courant on college campuses. “Of course, being accused of sexual assault hurts,” wrote Nicole Bedera and Miriam Gleckman-Krut. “And there are things that we can and should do to help accused students — namely, providing them with psychological counsel.” Seriously? Men accused of rape face expulsion, felony charges (schools can refer cases to the police) and blackballing from other colleges if they apply. They need more than therapy.
It’s easy to see why colleges, and many parents of students, want to maintain their personal on-campus legal systems outside the bounds of adult law and order. 18-year-olds are legally adults but psychologically still kids, the thinking goes. Sending even serious matters like rape charges to the police can seem like a second brutalization of victims, and perhaps even unnecessarily harsh to the accused who, if innocent, may be able to assuage doubts with a simple explanation of their actions to friendly university staff members.
Though largely well-intentioned, and despite the fact that it is opposed by the despicable Donald Trump, this Title IX-based paternalism has no place in a society that purports to respect the concept of equal justice under the law. If there’s an alleged crime on a campus, students should call the cops.
The answer to nonresponsive police who disrespect victims isn’t to truncate defendants’ rights under a parallel facsimile of jurisprudence. The solution is to reform the police and the courts so that victims aren’t traumatized all over again. Let law enforcement do its job, and let educators do theirs.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
The Clash sang-advised: “know your rights.” But few people do.
President Donald Trump is hell-bent on deporting millions of people, including kids who came to the U.S. so young that they’re Americans in every way but their immigration status. He even signed an executive order that would allow the arrest and deportation of fully-vetted green card holders the authorities say are suspected of any offense — including a traffic ticket.
I don’t believe in open borders. A country that doesn’t control who enters its territory hardly qualifies as a nation-state. But let’s get real about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. They’re not criminals. They’re victims.
Corporations strive to keep the wages and negotiating leverage of American workers low. They’ve pressured their pet politicians — both Democrats and Republicans — to increase the labor supply with immigrants both legal (e.g. the much-abused H1B visa program) and undocumented. Illegals are powerless and scared. Business can’t get enough of them.
If you’re un- or underemployed, illegal immigrants are your comrades. Your joint struggle should be fought against your mutual enemy, the cheap and greedy employers who deploy divide-and-conquer propaganda like Trump’s.
Like the people of Nazi-occupied Europe, we will someday be judged for our actions (and inactions) in response to the Republicans’ inhumane mass deportations. But what should we do? Unlike Europeans, white Americans never developed a culture of resistance or a system of ethical standards to which decent people are expected to adhere.
First, know your rights. Even if you’re here illegally, you have rights under the Constitution. However, the police and their colleagues in Immigration and Customs Enforcement don’t want you to know that — and they’ll lie straight to your face. So get educated about the basics.
If an ICE agent comes to your door, don’t answer. They can’t come in without an arrest warrant signed by a judge. If you talk to them, the ACLU advises, don’t open the door. If you do open the door, they may ask if they can come in. Say no. If they present a warrant for your arrest, don’t physically resist. Go with them. Simply demand to speak with an attorney and declare that you will remain silent. Then shut up. Always carry contact information for an attorney with you, and memorize his or her name and phone number since a card or phone will be taken away from you in jail.
If you are here legally, spread this information to people you know who are not.
Second, don’t snitch. If you know or suspect that someone is here illegally, do not tell the authorities or anyone in contact with them. At the bare minimum, discretion requires limiting your contact with members of law enforcement and, of course, ICE agents. Talking to cops or ICE agents is always fraught but never more so than now — so ethics-minded American citizens should break off contact with anyone they suspect of working for the deportation squads.
Morality dictates that you lie to police or ICE agents if they ask you for information about an undocumented neighbor. But be aware of the risks: Trump’s mass deportation order provides for criminal penalties for Good Samaritans “who facilitate [illegals’] presence in the United States.”
Finally, if you’re a deportation thug you must quit your job. Needing to earn a living does not absolve you from accountability for wrongdoing. Death camp guards and slave catchers had bills to pay too. They could tell themselves that what they were doing to get by was lawful. But it wasn’t right — and a lot of people knew that at the time.
Consider, for example, the case of Guadalupe García de Rayos. After 22 years in the U.S. — her parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 14 — she was arrested by ICE agents in Phoenix, who deported her in 24 hours. She left behind two U.S.-born children, both citizens. How can those ICE idiots live with themselves?
It is better to sleep under a bridge and starve to death than to participate in a mass-scale deportation program targeted at the most vulnerable members of society — and the most law-abiding (except for their presence in the U.S.). On the other hand, there is incredible power in refusing to obey an immoral order. How long would Trump’s mass deportations — or his presidency — last if thousands of police officers and ICE agents were to call press conferences and resign rather than deport an innocent family?
(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
After years of no one – at least not the white people who control the media – giving a damn about what happens to black people at the hands of white cops, suddenly the terrible relationship between people and the police is a huge problem.
This is what happens when the power dynamic gets reversed, when aggressors find themselves in the unhappy role of victims. First, five policemen were assassinated in Dallas, as payback for police violence in general. Now three more have been killed in Baton Rouge, apparently to retaliate for the murder of another unarmed black man, Alton Sterling, by local police.
Cops are getting shot. So the media is finally paying attention.
Airing the issue is long overdue, but as usual it’s playing out in hackneyed catchphrases that are unlikely to lead to meaningful improvement.
What we need, liberal wise men of the media tell us, is more community policing. Cops and the community need to get to know each other. Cops should get out of the squad car, walk around, talk to the locals before they shoot them.
Conservatives have a different answer: they think people, especially black people, need to have more appreciation for the extremely hard job the police are asked to do. Except that being a cop isn’t really that hard or that dangerous. You are far more likely to die on the job if you are a logger, a pilot, a steelworker, a garbageman, a construction labor, a farmer, or president of the United States. The reason so many people join the police is that it’s actually a sweet gig: pretty well paid (especially with overtime), and you get to retire after 20 years.
Fixing people’s terrible relationship with the police who are paid to protect and serve them will require radical rather than incremental change.
(Notice that I said “people,” not “minorities.” The racial dynamic between police and minority neighborhoods that they patrol like occupied enemy territory in a war zone captures the headlines, but not the reality of a country in which many people, not just blacks, view the police with a mixture of fear and contempt. 41% of whites, for example, don’t have a high degree of confidence in the police or view them as being honest.)
Three major structural changes would go a long way towards fixing the problem.
First, the police should stop carrying guns.
In many countries, including countries where citizens have the right to bear arms, the police generally don’t carry a weapon on duty. Places like Norway, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Britain, and Ireland haven’t disintegrated into anarchy as a result. Nor have many policemen lost their lives. There are, of course, many reasons why disarming the police works, but there’s one that jumps to mind right away: when you get pulled over by a cop here, you know that the only way you’re going to get away clean is by shooting the police officer. Traffic stops often turn deadly. Taking guns away from the police reduces the stakes in confrontations between law enforcement and suspects. It makes everyone, including the police, safer.
If someone is robbing a bank, there’s the option of picking up some guns at the police station and waiting outside. That’s what they do in Britain.
Second, cops shouldn’t be writing tickets.
As school children, we learned that Officer Friendly is here to help us in the event that we run into trouble. In other words, the police are our guardians. But how do you reconcile that image with getting pulled over for a minor traffic infraction like a broken taillight?
If the police were really here to help us, if they were here to protect us, the policeman who tells you about your broken taillight wouldn’t write you a ticket. He certainly wouldn’t use that traffic stop as an excuse to search your vehicle for drugs or other contraband, much less steal it through “asset forfeiture.” He would tell you about the problem so that you could fix it. Period.
For the vast majority of Americans, the typical interaction with law-enforcement – indeed, their typical interaction with their government – is a police officer issuing them a parking or a traffic ticket. The role of government shakedown thug/municipal revenue enhancement is incompatible with the role of a guardian. A guardian wants you to drive safely. He doesn’t sit cleverly behind a tree at the bottom of a steep hill, where the last speed limit sign was hard to see, in order to extract a few hundred bucks from your wallet. Ask a kid who wants to be a police officer one day whether she wants to catch bad guys or write tickets. You know the answer.
At bare minimum, municipalities should create separate agencies for parking and traffic enforcement. It would be better, of course, if traffic safety had nothing to do with fines. Raise taxes on the rich if you want to replace the billions of dollars collected annually from tickets.
Third, we need a federal agency to appoint independent federal prosecutors to replace the current system of local district attorneys.
When the police are charged with wrongdoing against civilians, the odds are that they will get away with it. In fact, the odds are that they will never face an indictment. In 2015, 85% of police shootings were handled by DAs who work closely with the officer’s own department.
Which isn’t surprising considering the fact that the DA who decides whether or not charges get filed has to have a high conviction rate in order to get reelected or reappointed, which requires him or her to have a friendly relationship with law-enforcement. It’s a ridiculously brazen conflict of interest that ought to have been done away with a long time ago.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 26th and is now available for pre-order.)
Racism is complicated. When America’s most brilliant thinkers set out to explain its nature in terms as clear as the English language allows, as Michael Eric Dyson did in his searing July 7th essay “Death in Black and White,” even the relatively sophisticated readers of the New York Times didn’t get it. Commenters didn’t understand that Dyson wasn’t criticizing every white person, but “white America” — shorthand for a dominant power structure that is fundamentally racist while (of course) not every white person is.
If anti-racist white people take writing as straightforward as Dyson’s personally, if they take offense at his passion and so miss his message, is there any hope of “black America” and “white America” just getting along?
It’s been a hell of a week. Two more black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were gunned down by the police under the usual incomprehensible circumstances — events the media, and thus the government, are paying attention to only because someone invented the smartphone. Then a 25-year-old sniper, a veteran of America’s brutal war against Afghanistan, shot 12 police officers at a march in Dallas protesting the deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana. Five died.
Needless to say, the Dallas cops didn’t have it coming. They didn’t have anything to do with what happened in entirely different states.
Well, it shouldn’t need to be said. But it does. Because, no matter how many times we hear public officials tell us that the police protect and serve us, it doesn’t ring true. Three out of four African-Americans tell pollsters they don’t think police are held accountable for their actions. So do 40% of whites.
The truth is, Americans don’t like cops.
Let’s be honest. If we think about them at all, we don’t mourn the slain Dallas police officers as deeply as we did the children who died in the day care center blown up in Oklahoma City, or the nightclubbers murdered in Orlando.
We need to talk about why that is.
We have been hearing more about racial profiling, how blacks are targeted by police officers more than whites, how they are physically assaulted more often, how they are charged with more serious crimes for the same offenses, how they get longer prison sentences and harsher fines. Good. This discussion is long overdue. Way too many people still don’t get it.
It is right and proper to focus on Black Lives Matter. To say it. To believe it. A retort that All Lives Matter is far worse than pabulum. Because it distracts from a point that still hasn’t received proper consideration in the media or in electoral politics, All Lives Matter is racist. Even the first black president has addressed the racism behind police violence only in “it sure is sad, we should do better” niceties rather than meaningful, sweeping policy changes. (He could start with blanket presidential pardons of black inmates serving ridiculously long prison sentences.) Black Lives Matter. That’s what we need to talk about now. For a good long time, too.
One possible place to start is the reaction of many people to the Dallas sniper attack. Like 9/11, it was shocking. Like 9/11, it also wasn’t surprising. You can’t go on acting like a bully forever. The powers that be can’t pressure their victims forever. Eventually the prey strike back. No, it isn’t justified. Nor is it right. But it is chickens coming home to roost.
Like the Bush Administration after 9/11 (“Why? Why do they hate us?”), the police and the political elites the police actually protects and serves look silly when they pretend that they can’t possibly imagine why anyone might dislike them. “There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement,” President Obama said after Dallas. No justification? Sure.
No possible justification? Before they blew him up with a robot bomb in an extrajudicial assassination (there weren’t any hostages), suspect Micah Johnson told police negotiators that he was “upset about the recent police shootings…[that] he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” You’d have to be especially thick, or really really white, not to see why a black guy might snap after watching the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile snuff videos.
Obama continued: “Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.” Naturally, Obama was referring only to justice for the murdered police officers. There’s never any justice for those murdered by police officers (c.f., Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, etc.).
There’s a lot to worry about in all this. As for me, I’m concerned that the true nature of the police, the roots of its brutality in its role as the armed guards of the ruling classes, has been obscured by the racial divide. Racism is real. It’s complicated.
So is class warfare.
Even if you are privileged as I am – white, male, able-bodied, Ivy League-educated – odds are that your interactions, like mine, with the police are generally unpleasant. Mostly, I run into them when they pull me over to give me a ticket. If I’m lucky, they are merely rude, overbearing, aggressive and condescending. Once in a blue moon, a cop manages to be merely gruff. And I’m lucky. I’ve seen the way cops act in black neighborhoods. It’s much, much worse. They’re disgusting.
I had a bad experience with a Los Angeles police officer in 2001. He arrested me for jaywalking — falsely. He roughed me up and handcuffed me. This being America, I couldn’t help wonder whether he might have targeted me because he was black and I was white. But he never said anything that indicated that. Maybe he had a quota to fill.
Black or white, the police are paid to oppress, not protect. Black or white, citizens have good cause to be afraid of them. That’s the nature of the system. It’s another reason the system has got to go.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)
Police unions are out of control.
Earlier this year, Baltimore cops murdered Freddie Gray by chaining him up and intentionally swerving and repeatedly slamming on the breaks. Rather than telling their members to behave professionally, however, the head of the city’s police union attacked people who protested Gray’s death, smearing them as — of all things! — “a lynch mob.”
About a year ago, the leader of New York’s police union reacted to the assassination of two Brooklyn cops as they sat in their squad car by declaring that newly-elected mayor Bill de Blasio had “blood on his hands” — because he hadn’t been sufficiently pro-cop. (There is no evidence that the killer ever heard of Bill de Blasio.)
Now the Fraternal Order of Police is threatening one of the United States’ most acclaimed film directors.
FOP executive director Jim Pasco, threatened Quentin Tarantino, who helmed “Pulp Fiction” and numerous other major movies, in The Hollywood Reporter. “Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element. Something could happen anytime between now and (the premiere). And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable. The right time and place will come up and we’ll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that’s economically.”
Tarantino’s “crime,” in the eyes of “there’s blue, then there’s you” cops: he attended a Black Lives Matter rally, where he said he was against murderers, and for the murdered.
There’s only one logical inference. According to the police, Black Lives Do Not Matter. By their wicked logic, we should support murderous cops, not murdered civilians.
If you don’t toe the line? “Instead of dealing with the incidents of police brutality that those people were bringing up, instead of examining the problem of police brutality in this country, better they single me out,” Tarantino told The Los Angeles Times. “And their message is very clear. It’s to shut me down. It’s to discredit me. It is to intimidate me. It is to shut my mouth, and even more important than that, it is to send a message out to any other prominent person that might feel the need to join that side of the argument.”
Jacobin magazine’s description of these organizations as “The Bad Kind of Unionism” is putting it mildly. The only people they “protect and serve” is themselves — the people be damned.
It’s ironic that that Tarantino quote comes from the LA Times. The Times, you see, is owned by Tribune Publishing. Whose number-one shareholder is a private equity firm called Oaktree Capital. Which manages the pension fund of the LAPD police union, the LAPPL (Police Protective League).
The LAPPL is one of the free-speech-hating fascist police unions threatening Tarantino. And the LAPPL appears to have gotten the Times to fire me as its political cartoonist — using quickly-discredited evidence — because I criticized the LAPD for the fact that they’re violently militarized and lousy at their jobs.
After I was fired, the LAPPL issued a press release. “So many within the LAPD were pleasantly surprised at the recent firing of Los Angeles Times opinion cartoonist Ted Rall,” the union said. “We hope other news publications will take note…” (They removed it from the Internet after the outcry over my firing.)
They can’t even stand criticism.
So they go after cartoonists. And film directors.
A former journalist — the “former” comes courtesy of the cops who leaned on his cowardly excuse for an editor to fire him — in Baker City, Oregon is suing Baker City and its freedom-hating police chief for making his life miserable. After the Baker City Record-Courier let Brian Addison go as a favor to Baker City PD in 2008, the cops followed his car around, repeatedly stopping him. When he landed another job, not in journalism, in 2014, the cops got him fired again — using a falsified “dossier” that indicated he had a criminal background. He didn’t.
What did Addison do to piss off the po-po?
He wrote an editorial complaining about an incident at a high school girls basketball game, where the fuzz walked a drug-sniffing dog through the stands during halftime. Addison’s editorial pointed out, correctly, that this was a disgusting violation of basic Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.
Unions are an essential bulwark against gangster capitalism. Public-sector unions are just as necessary as private-sector ones. But these police — and their unions — have got to go.
Every police department in the country should be disbanded. All the cops should be fired. It’s time to start from scratch — and replace them with civilian-run organizations designed to protect us.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
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