Order, Not Law and Order

by Bill Astore | Apr 27, 2024

Pro-Palestinian encampments on U.S. college and university campuses are an outrage to America’s owners. So they do what owners do: they send in the police to put an end to the protests. And the police do what they do: they use brute force, tear gas, Tasers, rubber bullets, and whatever else it takes to remind the protesters who’s boss.

An economics professor at Emory learned this the hard way, as she is stapled to the ground by two bruiser cops for the offense of questioning their brutal arrest of another person. Watch the video here:

In this case, the professor admits to acting impulsively, taking a swing at the officer who wanted her on the ground, for which she was charged with battery. Really, though: two burly guys need to pin her to the ground and cuff her?

She should have watched “Blade Runner,” which provides a telling reminder of what it’s all about: “If you’re not cop, you’re little people.”

It’s worth reading the comments that accompany the video. Most support the police and take pleasure in the discomfort of this woman. The usual comment is made: if she had only obeyed the police, nothing would have happened to her.

Paraphrasing Rosa Luxemburg: You only realize you’re wearing chains when you decide to strain against them.

Students and professors are truly getting an education into how America works. As George Carlin noted, “You have no rights.” Just ask Japanese-Americans in 1942, he reminded us, as they were stripped of their rights and forced into concentration camps in America. The owners, Carlin quipped, own us. You are supposed to remain willfully ignorant, and if you do happen to acquire some education and critical thinking skills, you are still supposed to remain an obedient worker.

Step out of line and you end up like that economics professor.

Again, this isn’t surprising. I wrote about warrior-cops for TomDispatch in 2020. America’s forever wars are coming home, and heavily-armed and -armored police forces will ensure order. They are here to protect and serve those who give them their orders which, if you’re reading this, probably isn’t you.

This is what I wrote in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests in 2020:

Cops are to blame for much of this mayhem. Video clips show them wildly out of control, inciting violence and inflicting it, instead of defusing and preventing it. Far too often, “to serve and protect” has become “to shoot and smack down.” It suggests the character of Eric Cartman from the cartoon South Park, a boy inflamed by a badge and a chance to inflict physical violence without accountability. “Respect my authoritah!” cries Cartman as he beats an innocent man for no reason.


So, let’s point cameras — and fingers — at these bully-boy cops, let’s document their crimes, but let’s also state a fact with courage: it’s not just their fault.

Who else is to blame? Well, so many of us. How stupid have we been to celebrate cops as heroes, just as we’ve been foolishly doing for so long with the U.S. military? Few people are heroes and fewer still deserve “hero” status while wearing uniforms and shooting bullets, rubber or otherwise, at citizens.


Answer me this: Who granted cops a specially-modified U.S. flag to celebrate “blue lives matter,” and when exactly did that happen, and why the hell do so many people fly these as substitute U.S. flags? Has everyone forgotten American history and the use of police (as well as National Guard units) to suppress organized labor, keep blacks and other minorities in their place, intimidate ordinary citizens protesting for a cleaner environment, or whack hippies and anti-war liberals during the Vietnam War protests?


Or think of what’s happening this way: America’s violent overseas wars, thriving for almost two decades despite their emptiness, their lack of meaning, have finally and truly come home. An impoverished empire, in which violence and disease are endemic, is collapsing before our eyes. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” America’s self-styled wartime president [Trump] promised, channeling a racist Miami police chief from 1967. It was a declaration meant to turn any American who happened to be near a protest into a potential victim.


As such demonstrations proliferate, Americans now face a grim prospect: the chance to be wounded or killed, then dismissed as “collateral damage.” In these years, that tried-and-false military euphemism has been applied so thoughtlessly to innumerable innocents who have suffered grievously from our unending foreign wars and now it’s coming home.


How does it feel, America?

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