Monday, December 22, 2014

Political violence in the post-Ferguson era

After the murder of two New York police officers assassination-style, the usual suspects treated it as another chapter in the "culture war."

Nancy LeTourneau provides several examples in Flame Throwers and Fire Fighters Political Animal, including Rudy Giuliani and NYPD Union Chief Patrick Lynch.

The Giuliani quote to which she refers continues with the authoritarian, white supremacist stance he has struck lately (Igor Volsky, Rudy Giuliani: 2 NYC Cops Were Killed Because Obama Told Everyone To ‘Hate The Police’ Think Progress 12/21/2014):

“We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” Giuliani said during an appearance on Fox News on Sunday. “The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, all of them lead to a conclusion. The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.”

Giuliani then argued that most of the city’s violence is centered in the black community through so-called “black against black” crime and heralded the police for keeping African Americans safe. “Actually, the people who do the most for the black community in America are the police,” he explained.
LeTourneau contrasts the flame throwers like Giuliani to the "fire fighters" like President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, who condemned the killings without reservation and sought to discourage further violence.

But there is a notable asymmetry between the two positions. The "flame throwers" are encouraging the kind of reaction described by Masoninblue in It’s Just a Shot Away Firedoglake 12/21/2014:

Yesterday’s murders by ambush may freak out many cops who, if not already, will become paranoid hyper vigilant drones with automatic trigger responses.

The ambush was a tragic but predictable and inevitable push-back to the epidemic of murders committed by our militarized police who will in turn increasingly react like a besieged occupation army. The only certainty is an escalating death rate for citizens and police.

White supremacists are seeking to present peaceful protest as a murderous threat to police, surely knowing it will encourage and legitimize the kind of police violence that Masoninblue describes.

When it comes to the murder of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who committed suicide afterward, was it an act of political violence?

Apparently so. But here is where the radically contrasting approaches the press takes to murders of police compared to murders of young black men by police. And also how they treat acts of terrorism.

The press with astonishing consistency treats even blatantly political acts by white rightwing terrorists as deeds committed by the proverbial "lone nut." Brinsley apparently has a history of being in trouble with the law, shot his girlfriend before killing the cops and then killed himself. If this were a white militia guy, the standard "lone nut" narrative would have likely swung into usage right away.

As we see from the statements by Giuliani and the other "flame throwers," they are willing not only to treat this as a political assassination but as one instigated by the President of the United States.

But however great or small a role rational calculation may have played in Brinsley's attack, it still serves as a good example of why political assassination is virtually always counterproductive as a political act.

Obviously to anyone who has paid any attention to the anti-police violence protests knows, they are demanding that the police do their jobs by enforcing the law against rogue cops who murder people for no good reason and by doing their duty to protect the citizens they serve instead of acting like an army of occupation that have to put "force protection" first at all times - including when they are dealing with a child with a toy gun. They are also demanding that police address the painfully obvious white racism that results in disproportionate violence against black citizens, including children.

Anyone who considers those demands to be "anti-police" is not a supporter of the rule of law and certainly has no business being on a police force.

We've seen that when a white cop murders a black man or boy, police are eager to make public any aspects of the dead person's life that make them look threatening. So far, the NYPD doesn't seem to be eager to make the murder victims Liu and Ramos look sinister. Instead, they have seemingly every public figure in the country praising them to the high heavens.

This report by the New York Daily News goes out of its way to link Brinsley's action to the Sixties, which appeals to rightwingers who seem perpetually stuck in 1969 (BY Tina Moore and Bill Hutchinson, Police believe New York City cop killer was a member of the Black Guerrilla Family: sources 12/2ß/2014):

The cold-blooded cop-hater who gunned down two police officers in Brooklyn on Saturday is suspected of being a member of a notorious prison gang that has declared open season on the NYPD.

Detectives were headed to Baltimore on Saturday night to probe Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s ties to the Black Guerrilla Family, sources told the Daily News.

One source said Baltimore police were already investigating Brinsley’s connection to the gang, which started in California’s San Quentin Prison in the 1960s by Black Panther member George Jackson.
As we've seen with the police leaks in the Michael Brown murder, it's worth taking a careful and critical view of such anonymous leaks. Especially when they fit so nicely into the rightwing "culture war" frame.

Chauncey DeVega offers this harsh judgment on the public dialogue on the Liu-Ramos case (The Lives of the Two Police Killed in Brooklyn on Saturday are No More Valuable Than That of Eric Garner WARN 12/21/2014):

Contemporary America is a society that is sick with torture, white victimology, gross wealth inequality, and other illnesses that together have created a culture of delusions and lies. Plain spoken truths by people of conscience are a partial antidote.

I will attempt to offer one here: the lives of the police are no more valuable than those of Eric Garner or any other human being.

Human rights trump the "unique", particular, and somehow imagined as "special" lives of the police. We are all human beings with universal rights. The public good will be much better served when the police as a social institution (many of whose members feel empowered to violate the rights of non-whites, the poor, the mentally ill, and those others who society has marginalized) internalize and act upon such a basic and foundational principle. [emphasis in original]

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