end-of-the-year writing roundup: domestic violence survivors in prison and more

I didn't intend my end-of-the-year writing to focus so much on abuse survivors behind bars, but it did.

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Did Cig Taxes Kill Eric Garner? And Thoughts On Sin Taxes

Rand Paul recently suggested that cigarette taxes played a role in the NYPD killing of Eric Garner. This has sparked much ridicule from people supportive of cigarette taxes and taxation in general. Are they right? Is Rand Paul right? This post seeks to offer an opinion on that question.

To begin with, the confrontation might never have happened without Eric Garner selling loose cigarettes. And that would not have been considered a crime without taxation on cigarettes. It’s true that the cops may have still stopped him for another reason or just to harass him, but the likelihood was increased by cigarette taxes.

It’s true that cigarette taxes didn’t literally kill Eric Garner. They did however contribute to the context in which he was killed. When you empower police through compulsory taxation laws; you set up a situation where they may have to forcibly subdue violators. And the act of tax evasion is not a violent one. A person may resist the imposition of a tax with violence, but that doesn’t mean the initial act of refusing to pay a tax is itself violent.

The reason we libertarians oppose compulsory taxation is that we object to the use of force against peaceful people. If the analysis above is correct; tax evaders fall into the category of peaceful persons qua tax evaders. And therefore cannot be justly coerced into paying taxes. Not even taxes with good intent and cause in mind.

The sin kind of taxes leveled on cigarettes are also a particularly loathsome form of taxation. It financially penalizes people who choose to keep buying large quantities of the good being taxed. It’s usually motivated by puritan standards too. The notion that people should meet a state enforced standard of moral or health purity.

Using force to impose such a standard is particularly galling. It would be bad enough for people to receive undue nagging social pressure to enforce purity standards, but the use of physical force to enforce them is even more odious. Such a thing needs to be opposed by liberty lovers everywhere. And we left-libertarians can lead the way.

Some suggestions for working on this issue include peaceful agorist black market activity, educational work, and civil disobedience like occupying congress person’s offices. All of which have been done before with some success. I encourage people to get started on this project today. And to help bring sin taxes to an end. You can trying hooking up with the Alliance of the Libertarian Left or this site, The Center for a Stateless society to assist in the efforts mentioned above.

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TPL · Rebecca Destroys Toll Gates in Glasbury

From the Cambrian:

More of Rebecca’s Freaks.

On , the gate situate in the village of Glasbury, on the Radnorshire side of the river Wye, was removed from its position, the posts sawn off about 18 inches above ground, and the gate thrown into the river, after having been sawn in two, and so far mutilated that it will be of no further service. It appears that only three individuals were employed at the work, who were seen by the aged female who collects the toll, and advised her to keep quiet, as they would not injure her; but it is said that upwards of fifty persons were close at hand. Having completed their job, and given three cheers, they marched off through the village in the direction of the Woodlands, towards the hills lying above that place, shouting “Becca forever,” and discharging fire-arms; some of the inhabitants hearing the noise arose to see what occasioned it, but could not recognise any of the party. It appears the road on which the gate was placed is repaired by the parish of Glasbury, and a petition very numerously signed by the inhabitants, and those of the adjoining parishes, was some time past presented to the Radnorshire Turnpike Trust, to remove the said gate, but it was never done. The toll board has also been taken down; there were two gates adjoining the toll-house, the one in the road leading into the village, which is destroyed, and the other in the road leading to Clirow and Rhydspence, which was not molested, as they consider it a turnpike-road. No clue has been obtained as to who were the perpetrators of this lawless act, although a reward of 50l. has been offered by the Magistrates acting in the hundred of Paincastle, on conviction of the party or parties by whom it was committed. A chain is erected on the spot, and the regular tolls taken, as if nothing had occured. — Silurian.

, burglars (a Francis Davies was later accused of being one of them, but acquitted by a jury trial) broke into the home of William Williams, a farmer, and stole some money from him. Williams later testified that the burglars “told me to open the door or else they would break it and fill the house with ’Beccas — ‘we are sixty on the road.’… They had their faces blackened, and had worsted caps on their heads.” So by this time the Rebecca persona was being adopted by ordinary criminals as a sort of weapon.

Uma história da trégua de Natal

Novos indícios de derramamento de sangue na “trégua de Natal” da Primeira Guerra Mundial fortalecem — em vez de enfraquecer — seu exemplo de paz.

O jornal Telegraph do Reino Unido relata o incidente (“A trégua de Natal de 1914 foi quebrada quando francoatiradores alemães mataram dois soldados britânicos“, 22 de dezembro) a partir de registros históricos. Na linha de frente na França, o sentinela britânico Percy Huggins foi morto por um francoatirador alemão; o líder de seu pelotão Tom Gregory retaliou e foi abatido por outro atirador.

Isso pode não se encaixar na imagem sentimentalizada da trégua, mas tirá-la do pedestal a torna mais relevante ao nosso mundo imperfeito. Bertrand Russell observou que “admitir em teoria que há ocasiões em que é apropriado lutar e que na prática que essas ocasiões são raras” produz muito menos guerras reais do que a ideia de que “em teoria não há ocasiões em que é adequado lutar e que na prática essas ocasiões são muito frequentes”.

A quebra da trégua neste caso permaneceu como ponto isolado; ela permaneceu em vigor nos dois lados, mesmo quanto as tropas estavam a menos de 1,5 km de distância. A influência de uma Brigada de Guardas “extremamente profissional” manteve as tensões locais altas desde o começo, com a rejeição imediata do pedido alemão de cessar-fogo.

Também é instrutivo observar o aspecto “olho por olho” do caso, impulsionado por retaliação a agressões específicas e não pela situação geral de guerra (a indicação de um dos francoatiradores que agiria fez com que uma terceira morte fosse inevitável). É necessário alguma coisa para fazer com que as hostilidades se espahem mais rapidamente que a tolerância, sem observar a regra do “olho por olho”. O que seria essa coisa? A política.

Emma Goldman argumentava que sem a rejeição do movimento socialista à ação direta em prol de uma dependência de meios políticos, “a grande catástrofe teria sido impossível. Na Alemanha, o partido tinha 20 milhões de adeptos. Que poder para evitar a declaração de hostilidades! Mas, por um quarto de século, os marxistas haviam treinado os trabalhadores a serem obedientes e patriotas, a dependerem de atividades parlamentares e a confiar cegamente em seus líderes socialistas. Agora, a maioria desses líderes deu as mãos ao Kaiser (…). Em vez de declarar greve geral e paralisar as preparações para a guerra, eles aprovaram o orçamento governamental para o massacre”. Somente o detonador da rivalidade entre líderes nacionais poderia transformar o assassinato de um arqueduque numa disputa que multiplicaria os três mortos causados pela morte de Percy Huggins em 15 milhões de vítimas.

Em sua carta final, Huggins disse a sua família: “Eu anseio pelo dia em que este terrível conflito acabará. Vocês consideram a guerra uma coisa terreível, mas a imaginação não consegue captar os horrores do conflito que podem ser vistos no campo de batalha e são indescritíveis; rezo para que esta seja a última guerra da história”. Um século de avanços em comunicações globais e comércio dá aos soldados Huggins de hoje ampla base com a qual coexistir sem políticos e meios de verificar a confiança alheia. Não devemos esperar mais um século para chegar à “última guerra da história”.

Traduzido por Erick Vasconcelos.

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MOLINARI REVIEW: New Journal and Call for Papers

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL]

molinari-review-logo

The Molinari Institute is pleased to announce a new interdisciplinary, open-access libertarian academic journal, the MOLINARI REVIEW, edited by me.

We’re looking for articles, sympathetic or critical, in and on the libertarian tradition, broadly understood as including classical liberalism, individualist anarchism, social anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcha-feminism, panarchism, voluntaryism, mutualism, agorism, distributism, Austrianism, Georgism, public choice, and beyond – essentially, everything from Emma Goldman to Ayn Rand, C. L. R. James to F. A. Hayek, Alexis de Tocqueville to Michel Foucault.

(We see exciting affiliations among these strands of the libertarian tradition; but you don’t have to agree with us about that to publish in our pages.)

Disciplines in which we expect to publish include philosophy, political science, economics, history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, theology, ecology, literature, and law.

We aim to enhance the visibility of libertarian scholarship, to expand the boundaries of traditional libertarian discussion, and to provide a home for cutting-edge research in the theory and practice of human liberty.

All submissions will be peer-reviewed. We also plan to get our content indexed in such standard resources as International Political Science Abstracts and The Philosopher’s Index.

The journal will be published both in print (via print-on-demand) and online (with free access); all content will be made available through a Creative Commons Attribution license. We regard intellectual-property restrictions as a combination of censorship and protectionism, and hope to contribute to a freer culture.

We’re especially proud of the editorial board we’ve assembled, which at present includes over sixty of the most prestigious names in libertarian scholarship.

The journal’s Associate Editor is Grant Mincy (a Fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society), whose pathbreaking work in the field of anarchist environmentalism you should check out here and here.

For more information on the journal, including information on how to submit an article, check out our website. (Information on subscribing, or ordering individual copies, will be available later.)

We’re excited about this new publishing opportunity, and we hope you’ll help us make it a success!

MOLINARI REVIEW: New Journal and Call for Papers

The Molinari Institute is pleased to announce a new interdisciplinary, open-access libertarian academic journal, the MOLINARI REVIEW, edited by me.

We’re looking for articles, sympathetic or critical, in and on the libertarian tradition, broadly understood as including classical liberalism, individualist anarchism, social anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcha-feminism, panarchism, voluntaryism, mutualism, agorism, distributism, Austrianism, Georgism, public choice, and beyond – essentially, everything from Emma Goldman to Ayn Rand, C. L. R. James to F. A. Hayek, Alexis de Tocqueville to Michel Foucault.

(We see exciting affiliations among these strands of the libertarian tradition; but you don’t have to agree with us about that to publish in our pages.)

Disciplines in which we expect to publish include philosophy, political science, economics, history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, theology, ecology, literature, and law.

We aim to enhance the visibility of libertarian scholarship, to expand the boundaries of traditional libertarian discussion, and to provide a home for cutting-edge research in the theory and practice of human liberty.

All submissions will be peer-reviewed. We also plan to get our content indexed in such standard resources as International Political Science Abstracts and The Philosopher’s Index.

The journal will be published both in print (via print-on-demand) and online (with free access); all content will be made available through a Creative Commons Attribution license. We regard intellectual-property restrictions as a combination of censorship and protectionism, and hope to contribute to a freer culture.

We’re especially proud of the editorial board we’ve assembled, which at present includes over sixty of the most prestigious names in libertarian scholarship.

The journal’s Associate Editor is Grant Mincy (a Fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society), whose pathbreaking work in the field of anarchist environmentalism you should check out here and here.

For more information on the journal, including information on how to submit an article, check out our website. (Information on subscribing, or ordering individual copies, will be available later.)

We’re excited about this new publishing opportunity, and we hope you’ll help us make it a success!

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A Christmas Truce Story

A new finding of bloodshed in WWI’s “Christmas truce” on the cusp of its hundredth anniversary strengthens, rather than undermines, its example for peace.

The UK’s Telegraph reports (“Christmas truce of 1914 was broken when German snipers killed two British soldiers,” December 22) the incident, pieced together from historical records. On the front lines in France, British sentry Percy Huggins was felled by a German sniper; his platoon leader Tom Gregory retaliated against that sniper, only to be outgunned by another.

This may not fit the sentimentalized image of the truce, but taking it off such a pedestal makes it relevant to our messy world. Bertrand Russell noted that to “admit in theory that there are occasions when it is proper to fight, and in practice that these occasions are rare” yields far less war in practice than to “hold in theory that there are no occasions when it is proper to fight and in practice that such occasions are very frequent.”

The truce’s breakdown in this case remained an isolated flashpoint; it held on both sides, as close as under a mile away. The influence of an “incredibly professional” duty-bound Guards Brigade kept local tensions high from the beginning, with immediate rejection of Germans’ bid for a cease-fire.

Also instructive is the clear tit-for-tat aspect, driven by retaliation for specific aggressions rather than by general warlikeness. (One sniper indicating more made a third death inevitable.) Something needs to tip the balance to make hostility spread faster than toleration. That something, in one word: Politics.

Emma Goldman contended that without the socialist movement’s turn away from direct action and toward a reliance on political means, “the great catastrophe would have been impossible. In Germany the party counted twelve million adherents. What a power to prevent the declaration of hostilities! But for a quarter of a century the Marxists had trained the workers in obedience and patriotism, trained them to rely on parliamentary activity and, particularly, to trust their socialist leaders blindly. And now most of those leaders had joined hands with the Kaiser … Instead of declaring the general strike and thus paralysing war preparations, they had voted the Government money for slaughter.” And only the tripwire pitting of national leaders against each other could turn the assassination of an archduke into a feud that would multiply the tripling of Huggins’s death five-million-fold.

In his final letter, Huggins told his family: “I long for the day when this terrible conflict will be ended. You consider war a terrible thing but imagination cannot reach far enough for the horrors of warfare that can be seen on the battlefield are indescribable and I pray this may be the last war that will ever be.” A century of advance in global communications and commerce gives today’s Hugginses ample basis to coexist without politicians and the means to verify trust. It should not take another century to reach “the last war that will ever be.”

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Beyond Whistleblowing

1a

Citizenfour is just the latest expression of public fascination with the figure of the whistleblower. Jesselyn Radack, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden—the whistleblower defects from within the halls of power to inform us about how power is being misused, delivering forbidden information to the people like the holy fire of Prometheus.

But can the whistleblower save us? Is whistleblowing enough? What limitations are coded into a strategy of social change based around whistleblowing, and what would it take to go beyond them?

Certainly, whistleblowers look good compared to the institutions they expose. Faith in authorities of all stripes is at an all-time low, and for good reason. In a news clip in Citizenfour, we see Obama claim to have ordered an inquiry into the NSA before Snowden’s revelations surfaced, petulantly implying that he was Snowden before Snowden. The President calls cynically for a “fact-based” discussion—when the only useful source of facts has been the illegal leaks of the man he is decrying. It is difficult to imagine a starker contrast between courage and cynicism.

Yet it’s one thing to unmask tyrants—it’s another thing to depose them.

“The greatest fear that I have… is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society. But they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight.” –Edward Snowden

The theory of social change implicit in whistleblowing is that if the crimes of a government are revealed, popular outrage will force the government to fix itself. “I believed that if the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans was known,” Snowden said, “it would not survive the scrutiny of the courts, the Congress, and the people.” Yet Snowden’s greatest fear has been realized: reforms to restrict NSA surveillance programs have been defeated by the elected representatives Snowden pinned his hopes on.

Snowden and other whistleblowers have succeeded in discrediting governments, but not in halting the expansion of the surveillance state. They have revealed how invasive and unaccountable our rulers are, but they have not equipped us to defend ourselves. Is it possible that the same factors that position whistleblowers to achieve such an impact also hinder their revelations from bearing fruit?

Why does the whistleblower make such a compelling protagonist? Above all, because he is positioned to speak from within the system: he is invested with all the legitimacy of the institutions he exposes. He did not begin as a rebel or an outsider; he believed in the system, and felt betrayed when he learned it did not adhere to its own regulations. Whistleblowing is premised on a democratic discourse: if people know enough, they can “speak truth to power,” and this speech itself will somehow catalyze change.[1] Of course, this presumes a political system based in dialogue.

Snowden’s own revelations show how naïve this conception is. The departments that built this surveillance infrastructure—that now seek to imprison Snowden alongside Chelsea Manning—hold power by virtue of coercive force, not persuasive arguments. Merely speaking truth is insufficient; we are not in a dialogue, but a power struggle.

Likewise, it is a mistake to treat the backroom machinations of politicians and bureaucrats as temporary malfunctions in an otherwise transparent and egalitarian order. These are not excesses, but business as usual; they are not exceptions to the rule, but essential to rule itself. Since the heyday of whistleblowing in the 1970s—Daniel Ellsberg, Deep Throat, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI—investigative journalists have exposed scandal after scandal. Treating all of these as anomalous implies that the state itself is inherently legitimate, and simply needs reforming. But it’s backwards to think that citizens can police the state. The stronger the state, the more power it will bring to bear against its citizens—not to mention everyone else.

There are other drawbacks to framing the whistleblower as the primary protagonist of social change. Not only can this imply that the system is fundamentally legitimate, it also presents those who hold privileged positions within the system as the agents of change. Yet for the most part, these people are the least likely to step out of line; a thousand mechanisms of selection, insulation, and incentive ensure that they are not susceptible to crises of conscience. It should be no wonder that Mannings and Snowdens are so rare, relative to the faceless thousands who collude in the functioning of the state apparatus. The problem is not that human beings are naturally selfish or insensitive, but that the infrastructure of power promotes selfishness and insensitivity.

It is a mistake to stake the future of humanity on those within the halls of power. Instead, we should be asking how people from all walks of life might work together to disable the infrastructure of oppression.

System administrators like Edward Snowden do indeed wield disproportionate influence over the fate of our species, but sysadmins cannot create a solution by themselves. Centralizing a few computer experts as the subject of social struggle only obscures all the other demographics whose participation is essential in any movement for liberation. This oversight explains the despair Julian Assange and Jacob Appelbaum hinted at in their 2013 talk at the Chaos Communication Congress, when they described sysadmins as a class that should organize to defend its own interests, warning that it would soon be too late to halt the descent into digital tyranny. In fact, people outside the institutions of power will go on fighting against injustice regardless of the consolidation of power on the internet—many frankly have no choice. The rapidly increasing numbers of the marginalized, unemployed, and oppressed must figure at the center of any strategy for change alongside defectors from the programming caste. If programmers conceptualize their interests as distinct from the rest of humanity, and organize to defend those interests rather than to participate in a struggle much greater than themselves, they will be doomed, along with the rest of the species. Programmers should not organize themselves as a class—they should switch sides in the class war.

As Snowden feared, in the absence of proposals for how to fight it, the revelation of state surveillance only exacerbates the chilling effect it is intended to achieve. The average newspaper reader, upon learning that the NSA is tracking his whole life via his smartphone and credit card, is not likely to take to the street in outrage, but to become more guarded and submissive. Yet silence and obedience will not protect us: they only embolden those in power to target ever broader circles of potential enemies. Nor can encryption and other security measures suffice to keep us safe: the government will always have superior technology at its disposal. If we conceptualize resistance as a merely technical issue, we will be defeated from the start. Encryption is important, but the only real security we could achieve would be a movement powerful enough to stand up for anyone targeted by the state. However much intelligence government agencies gather, they can only utilize it to the extent that they are able to bear the political consequences. The sooner we join in an open struggle against them, the safer we all will be.

Let’s return to the figure of the whistleblower. The ideal hero is like us: an Everyman, only endowed with supernatural courage and destiny. Heroes represent a step we could take, but do not—a step we often do not take for fear that we are not gifted the way they are, not chosen by destiny. And this is precisely what is dangerous about heroes: they tend to sideline those who believe in them.

This is not to denigrate whistleblowers. Snowden and Manning have given everything to be true to their consciences, out of the most selfless intentions. But the best way to honor their courage and sacrifice is to step onto the same path. The message they have for us is not just the information they delivered, but above all their conduct itself, their decision to defect from the side of oppressive power to the side of the people. Rather than simply revering Snowden’s exceptional bravery, let us ask ourselves what the equivalent to his deed would be in each of our own lives. It might not be whistleblowing, but something else.

What would it mean for the rest of us to defect from the power structures that we participate in? To identify what is intolerable in our own mundane complicities, and break them off once and for all? This is a step each of us can take, wherever we are situated in the architecture of power.

Whistleblowing alone will not bring about social change. That takes direct action. Remember, there was no whistleblower in Ferguson—it was not a revelation of police misconduct that triggered the most important wave of protest against police brutality in two decades, but the fact that people acted on their outrage. The killing of Michael Brown was understood nationwide as a tragedy because people protested, not because a video recorded it, nor because an insider revealed that his killer violated some statute. Objecting to government activity on the grounds that it is illegal or corrupt leaves us powerless against all the forms of brutality and abuse that are already legal. We need to develop the capacity to stand up to the authorities, regardless of the laws. Otherwise, all the whistleblowing in the world will be futile.

Today, we don’t lack awareness of the surveillance state so much as we lack concrete examples of how to take action against it. In the spirit of Jeremy Hammond, we might hypothesize that what we need is not just to reveal the misdeeds of the state, but to identify its strategic vulnerabilities. From protecting Tunisian activists against surveillance to revealing the names of members of the Ku Klux Klan, Anonymous has demonstrated the tactical advantages of hacking in concert with social movements. Richard Stallman himself has pointed out that denial-of-service actions are simply a new form of blockading—just as protesters from New York to the Bay Area blocked interstate highways, online activists blockade the information superhighway. Protests that combine online and offline direct action offer opportunities for new alliances cutting across class, race, and geography.

Meanwhile, the functionaries who keep the surveillance apparatus running operate out of offices in placid suburbs from Fort Mead to Hawaii. Following the lead of the protesters who targeted Google in San Francisco, we can imagine offline demonstrators opening a new front in the struggle. Perhaps this could turn the tables on those who consider themselves the masters of the digital universe from the comfort of their desks.

So whistleblowers, sysadmins, and hackers of all hats must make common cause with other movements and populations, understanding whistleblowing as one of many tactics in a much larger struggle. Alone, whistleblowers and other digital dissidents will be tracked down and imprisoned like Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond, or trapped like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Together, with all our diverse abilities and perspectives—from programming skills to the clarity that comes of having nothing to lose—we will be more powerful than any of us could be alone.

“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” Snowden insisted in his more innocent days. Today, any real pragmatist must acknowledge that it would be easier to dismantle the NSA and all the unaccountable institutions it defends than to reform them. The simple desire to be granted privacy and left in peace brings us into direct conflict with globally networked state power. This is a daunting prospect, but it’s also a good time for it, as millions of other people around the world are being propelled into the same conflict by the ecological, economic, and racialized crises produced by this top-heavy power structure.

And here we arrive at the heart of the matter. The chief target of the NSA has never been so-called “terrorists,” but grassroots movements that challenge the distribution of power. In this light, the decision to broaden the scope of NSA surveillance to include the entire population of the United States is not surprising after all. The goal never really was to find the proverbial terrorist needle in the haystack. The real targets of the surveillance apparatus have always been the activists in Tunisia, the revolutionaries in Egypt, the anarchists in Greece, #M15, #occupy, #blacklivesmatter, the revolution in Rojava—and all the social movements yet to come, as crisis begets crisis.

It is no longer realistic to imagine social change as a matter of policy discussion, if it ever was. We need to be thinking in terms of revolution. Whether you act from behind a keyboard or a barricade, let’s find each other and learn to be powerful together.

Footnote

[1] The idea that the mere revelation of some hidden truth could somehow awaken people into freedom is most evident in the 9/11 Truth movement and similar purveyors of conspiracy theory. But those are simply extreme manifestations of a narrative that is pervasive in our society, in which millenarian powers are ascribed to information itself.

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Disciplina e Sorveglianza

Sulla scia della rivolta di Ferguson, Barack Obama ha chiesto centinaia di milioni di dollari per armare la polizia di videocamere da installare sulla divisa. Questo, pensa lui, è un modo di responsabilizzare la polizia. E ha ragione. Aumenta la “responsabilità” che già si vede nella giustizia locale. Rende la polizia responsabile agli occhi del sistema, che è ed è sempre stato a loro favore. E fa crescere la responsabilità dei cittadini agli occhi delle forze eteree addette alla sicurezza e alla criminalizzazione della vita di tutti i giorni.

A settembre, il dipartimento della giustizia ha pubblicato un rapporto sull’efficacia di queste videocamere. Lungi dall’avere un effetto disciplinante sugli agenti, le videocamere incentivano la prepotenza. Lo sceriffo Douglas Gillespie commenta così:

Durante l’esperimento [con le videocamere], alcuni poliziotti di carriera hanno voluto indossare le videocamere per provarle, e la loro reazione è stata molto positiva. Dicono cose come: “È incredibile come le persone rigano dritto quando gli dici che questa è una videocamera, anche quando sono ubriachi.” Sappiamo anche che la stragrande maggioranza dei nostri agenti fanno un buon lavoro, e le videocamere lo dimostrano. ~ Douglas Gillespie, Sceriffo, Dipartimento di Polizia Metropolitana di Las Vegas.

Secondo questa analisi, involontariamente foucaltiana, dal punto di vista dell’agente il cittadino “riga dritto” quando è sorvegliato.

Da notare l’espressione “dal punto di vista dell’agente”. Ciò che non viene preso in considerazione, mai, è il punto di vista del cittadino. Il cittadino esiste come persona soggetta al potere del punto di vista dell’agente, perché il punto di vista dell’agente è considerato, in primo luogo, giusto. È il cittadino che dev’essere sorvegliato e tassato. Questa mossa serve a sorvegliare noi. È un sistema che parte dal principio secondo cui le istituzioni rappresentano il bene, e il cittadino che disobbedisce si oppone sempre a queste istituzioni. Obbedire alla polizia: esiste una descrizione più banale, più semplice dell’applicazione della legge? Loro sono gli agenti della legge, l’istituzione evidente della giustizia penale.

Si informa il cittadino della registrazione, e con questo semplice fatto l’agente impone il suo punto di vista su tutti quelli che poi rivedranno la scena. Ma chi la vedrà? Sempre che non venga distrutta, sempre che non scompaia miracolosamente, sarà il sistema della giustizia penale a vederla. Un uomo in stato di ubriachezza sta già violando la legge. Già questo lo condanna per oltraggio a pubblico ufficiale. Ciò che viene fuori dal video non è una prova neutrale. Non esistono prove neutrali quando il sistema indaga su uno dei suoi agenti. Non osserviamo lo svolgersi dei fatti da un punto di vista obiettivo e neutrale. Altrimenti non sarebbe possibile determinare la giustizia in un senso o nell’altro. Al contrario, noi osserviamo i fatti attraverso il resoconto che ci viene dato. Quello che è aggressione per uno, è difesa della legge per un altro. L’autodifesa di uno diventa la resistenza all’arresto dell’altro.

Quando diciamo che questa sorveglianza porterà gli agenti a comportarsi entro i limiti delle procedure legali, dobbiamo aggiungere che porterà anche i cittadini a comportarsi entro i limiti del comportamento così come permesso dalle leggi. Questa tecnologia può essere usata, e sarà sicuramente usata, per condannare persone colpevoli di crimini senza vittime. Sarà usata per controllare il nostro comportamento. La videocamera vede le cose in una sola direzione, sospetta preventivamente di noi, ci invita a vedere i fatti attraverso gli occhi dell’agente. Gli occhi dell’agente sono quelli della legge. Purtroppo per il cittadino, ciò che limita la sua libertà è la massiccia, smisurata opera della legge. Ciò che limita la libertà dell’agente, invece, è l’indagine interna, il pubblico ministero amico, i giurati, e la convinzione che, come è stato spesso dimostrato, la vita di tutti i giorni è diventata un’attività in gran parte criminale. Tutti corriamo il rischio di infrangere la legge perché la legge riguarda una grossa parte del nostro comportamento e perché è codificata in una montagna di libri che non abbiamo né il tempo né la pazienza di leggere. Alla fine, tutto ciò ci porterà ad interiorizzare il punto di vista del poliziotto. Saremo coscienti non solo di essere osservati, ma anche di essere osservati da un sistema che ha dichiarato illegale gran parte della nostra vita.

Io credo che il dipartimento della giustizia abbia visto correttamente. Le videocamere porteranno i cittadini all’obbedienza. Quei cittadini terrorizzati all’idea di infrangere la legge. Cosa accadrà ai video in cui sono ripresi gli atti violenti della polizia quando questi saranno resi pubblici? Accadrà che diventeranno parte del sistema, e da quest’ultimo saranno controllati e mediati. Diventeranno una nuova forma di spettacolo. Mostreranno cosa può accaderci in qualunque momento se non facciamo il nostro dovere. Man mano che la polizia sarà sempre più esonerata dalla necessità di fornire prove filmate, la gente capirà qual è il proprio ruolo: quello del sospettato, della minaccia, della prova.

Il mio non è un discorso contro la sorveglianza. È un discorso a favore della distruzione delle istituzioni che ci sorvegliano, e a favore di istituzioni nostre, di un nostro punto di vista. È la polizia che dev’essere sorvegliata: per chi fa parte del nostro movimento, niente potrebbe essere più chiaro. L’assassinio di Eric Garner, documentato da un cittadino giornalista, sollevò questioni diffuse su un inaccettabile abuso di potere. Non ci fu un filtro. Non come negli altri casi, almeno. Non fu affidato ai pubblici ministeri, ai giudici e altri sociopatici istituzionali, ma alla discussione pubblica. Il risultato fu la messa in discussione non solo del comportamento dell’agente, ma anche delle leggi meschine usate per giustificare l’aggressione. Certo i giurati sono protetti dall’influenza del pubblico perché il sistema vuole imporre solo il suo punto di vista. In teoria ci sarebbero due punti di vista, e qualcuno dovrebbe difendere i cittadini dagli agenti spietati. In pratica non è quasi mai così. Il sistema non ammette il sospetto che ci siano leggi considerate ingiuste nella vita reale. In un tribunale, la legge ha valore assoluto, almeno quando usata contro i cittadini.

Dobbiamo abbattere questa mediazione avvelenata. Le videocamere non lo fanno. Appartengono al dipartimento di polizia, e ciò che ritraggono è passato al setaccio di una versione dei fatti accuratamente di parte. Dobbiamo togliere potere alla polizia. Le videocamere non lo fanno. Queste servono solo a togliere il potere a chi disobbedisce, o si sospetta che possa disobbedire, alla legge. Dobbiamo sempre fare in modo che sia presentata la nostra versione dei fatti. Le videocamere non lo fanno. La nostra voce è ignorata, considerata ostile da un sistema giudiziario criminale, per il quale questa è l’unica cosa logica da fare.

Dobbiamo armare i cittadini di videocamere, di piattaforme proprie per la diffusione dei video, di argomenti critici che sfidino il potere dello stato. Queste risorse le abbiamo già. Sarebbe un errore dare milioni alla polizia per queste videocamere, che poi loro useranno per assolvere se stessi mentre ci controllano e ci impongono la loro disciplina. Che lo stato compri pure le videocamere, ma non pensate che siano uno strumento neutro. La legge non conosce neutralità. Puntate le vostre videocamere contro di loro. Puntate i vostri punti di vista contro di loro. Ora avete il potere di combattere lo stato di polizia, di sfidarlo secondo i vostri termini.

Traduzione di Enrico Sanna.

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Quotation: women’s mysteries

Under patriarchy... there are no words or rituals that celebrate the connection between a woman's physiological initiations and spiritual meaning.