Young Geoffrey (ed_rex) wrote,
Young Geoffrey

  • Music:

No Longer Preaching to the Choir

colinmarshall's often cryptic somewhat objections aside, I'm not used to my political posts getting too much of a reaction, beyond maybe a few huzzaas from the Usual Suspects. (Actually, I'm not used to getting too many responses to my Words of Wisdom(TM) at all, but that is no doubt more of comment on your Humble Author than it is upon the attention paid by my Gentle Readers. And also, I digress.) And so it is refreshing, disconcerting and frustrating (yes, all at once) to suddenly find among my LJ-Friends someone as consistently contradictory and argumentative as paul_carlson.

But I actually do like a good debate, if only because it often forces me to think through more thoroughly my positions — and even, sometimes, to change them.

For the past week or more I've been struggling with a piece on the intellectual deficits of certain feminists, minority activists and others with whom I am in general philosophical agreement, but with whom in large part I disagree about such things as group vs. individual rights, the importance of language and other matters I'm not going to get to in this entry — but which I do intend to get to soon. I expect my enemies to use falsehoods, half-truths, irrelevant innuendo and old good old-fashioned shouting down to support an agenda they know would be rejected if the mass of the people actually understood that the interests of the likes of Blackwater and General Motors are not their own, but those on my side are supposed to be the Good Guys and so willing to face facts, to admit to truths, even when they are uncomfortable ones, and not to behave like the enemy.

But that's going to have to wait, because paul_carlson has asked me some questions that warrant more than just a reply to his reply to my last substantial post, concerning the demonization of protest in the United States (and elsewhere).

(But first, click the link below and Let the Music Play. What Neil Young's song lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in appalling accuracy. Also, it makes a good soudtrack for what is to follow.)

I had said that protest was being routinely treated as synonymous with treason in the US and Paul quite rightly called me me on it.


Okay, rhetorical over-kill and not technically true (or at least not proven) — but I stand by the statement as indicative of an authoritarian — if not quite a gloves-off fascist — trend, both here in Canada and (especially) south of the border.

When the "free world's" treatment of protesters starts to resemble that of China, I simply find it unbelievable that any freedom-loving man or woman can just shrug their shoulders indifferently. When the police are used not just to protect the peace, but to instigate violence and to pre-emptively arrest not only protesters but observers, something is very wrong with a nation's democracy.

Certainly my impression from the press is that the police here in Canada are far more likely to use agents provocateurs and other nefarious means than they were when I was more often out on the street in the (my) "good old days" of the 1980s. As an example, please see this article from last year or the related video below.

Or this one, in which the Sureté admit the agents were cops but ludicrously maintain they were there to "maintain the peace".

Speaking of the good old days, back in the '80s I was involved in numerous protests, some of them numbering in the 10s of thousands of people, yet the cops were dressed in standard uniforms, not the anonymous storm-trooper masks and shields they routinely don today. Who started wearing masks? In this country at least, it was the police, if memory serves, around the time the Berlin Wall came down.

Prior to that, protest was seen (or at least tolerated) by the powers-that-be as more or less a right (fancy that!) that went along with citizenship. I was never tear-gassed, nor was I bludgeoned or arrested. In fact, the police tended to be little more brusque and were sometimes known to smile at a camera instead of smashing it.

But in the wake of the Soviet collapse and the subsequent neo-conservative triumphalism that saw Pinochet's murderous dictatorship as a as a good thing (a "miracle", even!) not a war crime by a government against its own people, western "leaders" became more open about their "if you're not with us, you're with the terrorists" vision of democracy.

Police confronting protesters and demonstrators like masked and shielded storm-troopers is a recent trend and one — to the best of my recollection — which was not started by so-called "anarchists" but by the police themselves, somewhere around the time the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the neo-con triumphalists were brooking no opposition to their march to a brave new world of free markets for capital and, er, well, that was pretty much it.

So yes, Paul, to say that protesters are routinely treated like "traitors" was a little strong, but not by much.

Meanwhile, I think that, rather than directly addressing my specific points, you muddied the waters by bringing up alleged help-wanted ads in the San Fran Cisco bay area papers, which, "routinely run want ads for paid full-time protester positions," and then made presumptions about the positions of my "friends" on everyone's hot-button issue, abortion.

But what the hell, I'll nibble, if not bite. Can you document one of these ads for "paid full-time protesters"? I've never heard of such a thing.

As the abortion protests, which specific limitations are you talking about? Are anti-choice protesters in the Bay area routinely harassed, assaulted and arrested before they get out onto the street? When they do make it there, are they herded into "protest zones"?

Please provide some specifics, if you're going to argue the issues are parallel.

Meanwhile, if I recall correctly, here in Canada there have been some restrictions placed on anti-choice protesters, limits such as a requirement that they stay within 50 feet of the entrances, so that women going in for the procedure were not — as they routinely were for quite some time — jostled and screamed at and doctors and nurses were no assaulted and threatened.

And more to the point, the restrictions that were set in place came about about as a result of legal action and court orders obtained by the abortion clinics themselves, not through direct and clearly illegal state activity.

In other words, you're arguing apples against oranges and so evading the issues I was discussing.

(And you think it's bad now -- it was a "private army" of Pinkertons who busted heads, back then.)

Agreed, it isn't as bad now as it was then, but it's worse than it was 20 years ago and I don't like the trends I'm seeing. It's getting bad up here and — from what I read — getting worse south of the border, where mercenaries like those employed (on the tax-payers' dime) by the likes of Blackwater are not only patrolling the streets of Bagdhad but even some of the cities in your own country. Do you really think the employees of a private "security company" — no, let's call a mercenary a mercenary, shall we? — are more accountable to the people of the United States than police officers and soldiers? (Two can play the distraction game!)
Tags: democracy, neo-conservative, pinochet, police, politics

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