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May 4, 2010

Your Government Will Kill You
Posted by Patrick at 03:00 AM * 139 comments

RIP Allison Krause, Jeffrey Glen Miller, Sandra Lee Scheuer, and William Knox Schroeder. Killed by the Ohio National Guard forty years ago today.

Krause and Miller had participated in antiwar protests. Scheuer and Schroeder were merely walking from one class to another. Nine other students were wounded; one was permanently paralyzed. The volley that struck them all consisted of 67 bullets fired by 29 Guardsmen over a period of 13 seconds.

The previous day, Ohio Governor James Rhodes, responding to riots in downtown Kent, had described Kent State antiwar protesters as “the worst type of people we harbor in America, worse than the brownshirts and the Communist element” and promised that “we will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent.”

Minutes before the shooting, a number of the Guardsmen were seen conferring in what was described by onlookers as a “loose huddle.”

None of the people hit by bullets were closer than 71 feet to the Guard unit. Of the people killed, the closest, Miller, was 265 feet away. Later, several of the Guardsmen who fired their weapons claimed to have been in fear for their lives.

Comments on Your Government Will Kill You:
#1 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 08:24 AM:

Fear for their lives, yeah. It's the person-to-person variety of the philosophy that every few years you just have to go grab some little country somewhere and beat the crap out of them.

It's kind of creepy sometimes to think about how many unpunished murderers walk among us. Especially when the murder was witnessed by so many people, as it was in this case.

#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:04 AM:

Coincidentally, yesterday I was reading about Yoshihiro Hattori, the Japanese exchange student who was killed in 1992 when he showed up at the wrong house for a Halloween party. The shooter was acquitted, but later found responsible in a civil trial. Robert Ressler (former FBI profiler who testified in the civil trial) had some tart things to say about a guy with a .44 being "in fear for his life" of an unarmed teenager dressed in "Stayin' Alive" style on Halloween.

#3 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:32 AM:

Of possible interest: The 1970 Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest can be read online via ERIC. This report includes accounts and analyses of the Kent State shootings of May 4, and also of the Jackson State shootings which occurred less than 2 weeks later, and which killed Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green.

Photographs from Kent State have been omitted from the online report, due to copyright concerns. There apparently aren't any known photographs in existence of the Jackson State shooting itself. But there's a lengthy textual account of both incidents, along with related events. I'm listing the report tonight on my Online Books website.

#4 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:34 AM:

After all these years, that picture still has the power to bring instant tears to my eyes.

#5 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:34 AM:

Lila @ 2: That was in Baton Rouge, and I remember that incident quite well. Most people in the area were horrified by the murder, because not only was Yoshi not armed, they were walking away from the house after attempting to ask for directions to their party. The wife apparently screamed, woke her husband, who reached for his gun and ran to the front door. There was no way that any reasonable person would have found "fear for his life" to be possible.

The following year in BR, an accused child molester was shot by the child's father while being led into the police station and while being filmed by television crews. The DA declined to prosecute the father, even though they knew he'd driven around with his gun for at least 45 minutes before the shooting.

Kent State was so shocking that I've never forgotten their names. It's hard to believe that it's now 40 years later. Those kids would have been grandparents by now.

#6 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:22 AM:

If that happened today, there'd be a full-scale inquiry at the very lowest levels, and they'd find three of the bullets guilty of a civil rights violation and suspend the sentences.

We'd find out about it in 2014.

#7 ::: salvador dalai llama ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:31 AM:

Indeed. It's interesting how "fear for your way of life" glides into "fear for your life." Jim Adkisson was afraid for his way of life when he walked into my church (TVUUC, Knoxville TN) in July 2007 and started shooting. I have to wonder what people like James Rhodes, back then, or Sean Hannity and Michael Savage more recently, think to themselves after something like this happens. "I didn't mean *that* to happen?" Sirs, I offer the suggestion that you *did* mean it, even if you didn't think that was what you meant. I ought to write a modern version of Mark Twain's "War Prayer."

Remember, guns don't kill people. Guns being used by people who are whipped up on eliminationist rhetoric kill people.

#8 ::: salvador dalai llama ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:33 AM:

Kip @ 6: Now, now, we need to move forward. There's no sense in bringing the architects of murder and torture to justice. That would just embolden the tortured and murdered.

#9 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:34 AM:

What do you mean, if, Kip? The victims at Kent were white. This happens to non-whites far more often when the murderers are the police.

#10 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 11:00 AM:

Hard to believe that 40 years have passed. The compression of time, viewed in hindsight.

I was 19 years old, at Antioch College which is not too far from Kent State in Ohio, and far, far more radical. I was working at the campus radio station, and we were doing a lot of coverage of the nation-wide demonstrations. We heard about the shooting before it hit the wires, and the station news staff pretty much moved into the studios.

There was a lot of fear at Antioch that Rhodes had decided to deploy the Guard on all the Ohio campuses to quell demonstrations. And we were pretty sure that if he had, they'd be marching into Yellow Springs soon. So there was a lot of anxiety, as well as a great deal of exhilaration that maybe the Revolution was starting now.

It wasn't, obviously. But the murders at Kent State did change the way the country thought about the war, and about the peace movement. Those four deaths had exactly the opposite result from what Rhodes and Nixon intended.

#11 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 11:05 AM:

I was living in Chicago, IL, when it happened: I was very involved with the anti Vietnam war movement, and had been active in that movement for about 5 years, first at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where I attended one of the earliest anti-war "teach-ins," and in Chicago. I was a member of SDS. I had friends who were or had been students at Northwestern. I remember, I think it was only a few days later, we marched across the Northwestern campus with mock coffins painted with the names of the dead students: I was one of the four people carrying Alison Krause's mock coffin.

As I recall, we didn't blame the soldiers who shot; we blamed their officers, and of course the civilian authorities who had ordered the National Guard out to confront and kill their own children. The town of Kent was placed under martial law after the shooting.

#12 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 11:15 AM:

What also has been forgotten is that the Kent State shootings triggered a national student strike, shutting down colleges and universities -- and a fair number of high schools also.

Love, C.

#13 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 11:17 AM:

When we spoke of that national strike to our honors course students they couldn't believe that students could or would do such a thing, btw.

That's what's so different between now and then.

Love, C.

#14 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 11:21 AM:

John @ 9: Indeed. For that matter, unlike some of the soldiers at Kent State, no one involved in the Jackson State killings was ever indicted, as far as I'm aware. (Jackson State was a historically black college, and the victims there were black.) There had also been the Orangeburg massacre the previous year (where the victims were also black), which didn't get nearly the same degree of attention as Kent State.

Part of the significance of the Kent State shootings, from a cultural standpoint, was that you had white middle Americans reading about it, and looking at that famous photograph at the top of this article, and realizing that it wasn't just funny-looking riffraff who had to fear government violence, but people who looked like them. Which made it a lot harder to push it aside, as too many do with similar problems today, as a problem that only affected those Other People.

#15 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 11:22 AM:

I talked to an eyewitness, who described the leader of the troops giving a signal, after which, the troops fired a volley. Not at all the "nervous guy fired and everybody else shot too" of the Official Version.

Politicians can't seem to tell the difference between cops (who are trained to use the minimum amount of force to defuse bad situations) and soldiers (who are trained to kill people and blow stuff up). They always seem to try to use soldiers as cops, with unfortunately predictable results.

#16 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 11:29 AM:

"Never frighten a little man. He'll kill you." --Robert A. Heinlein

#17 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 12:24 PM:

We definitely learned some important lessons from that time. Now, when we send frightened teenagers with guns to confront hostile crowds, we make sure they're overseas, and make sure the US media covering the whole thing is absolutely dependent on the military for their access to information, so relatively few uncomfortable images or stories make their way back home. This works out much better for those giving the frightened teenagers their orders.

#18 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 12:35 PM:

Kent State is one the reasons I get irritated -- make that downright pissed off -- at those who think that today we have unprecedented problems and evil times are upon us.

Jesus, study a little history.

#19 ::: joel hanes ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 12:44 PM:

Fox News today is pushing a narrative that the protesters may have fired on the National Guard troops.
Not only fired, but fired first.

It's enough to make a robot cry.

#20 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 12:52 PM:

Fox News has thoroughly encompassed the Orwellian doctrine that the present can be changed by rewriting history.

However, I do recall that there was considerable speculation in the press that there must have been someone -- a student or an "outside agitator" who was armed and fired on the Nat'l Guard troops. Because no one wanted to believe that Ohio kids fired unprovoked on Ohio kids.

But there wasn't any such person.

#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 12:53 PM:

From the Faux News story:

Among the strongest pieces of evidence was a pre-dawn conversation -- never before reported -- between two unnamed men overheard inside a campus lounge later that night. Their discussion was witnessed by the girlfriend of a Kent State student and conveyed up the FBI chain of command 15 days later.

Wow. Urban legends (my uncle's friend says it happened to him!) are more strongly sourced.

I remember that event. And I'm pretty sure that if any shots had been fired at the Guardsmen, that people who had a very, very deep need to provide a defense for them would have been shouting about it at the time.

And how are you going to keep gunshots secret in a crowd?

#22 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 12:53 PM:

joel hanes @19: That article does not say what its headline claims it says. Not that that's surprising from Fox News. And they would push that view, wouldn't they. Us damned dirty hippies.

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 01:01 PM:

Again I have occasion to be grateful that I long ago swore an oath never to do baneful magic. Otherwise I'd be burning nasty herbs and chanting "Landslide, whirlwind, fire, and flood..."

Instead of that, may I just say that I hate Faux News with a consuming passion and that if any of their evil bozos dies a painful death I will dance with happiness? Thank you.

#24 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 01:03 PM:

From the Washington Times story that the Faux News story references:

Absent the declassification of the FBI's entire investigative file, many questions remain unanswered — including why the documents quoted here were overlooked, or discounted, in the Justice Department's official findings.

"Because we looked at them and found they were bullshit" is the most likely reason the documents were discounted.

There were powerful people right there at the time who needed the sort of justification that reports the Guardsmen had been fired on would provide. They didn't get it. Why not? Because it wasn't there.

#25 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 01:18 PM:

Constance @ 13: When we spoke of that national strike to our honors course students they couldn't believe that students could or would do such a thing

Of all the facts and conditions of the US in 2010 that give me pause for concern, THIS is what fills me with the most abiding dread. Because there are moments when I believe that the progressive idealism of the next generation coming of age is the only thing keeping us from sliding sideways into fascism.

#26 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 01:57 PM:

had a next door neighbor in a duplex once, back in the early '90s, who had been in that contingent of national guard, that day. hadn't fired, he said, and i believed him. he had a drinking problem--not a bad guy, but came in at all hours, and was pretty clumsy with the front door lock.

he saw the whole thing as a pathetic cock-up by a bunch of amateurs. not really your battle-hardened soldiers trained to kill and blow stuff up. just guys called out on guard, who never should have been issued bullets.

neil young wrote a good song about it, anyhow.

#27 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 02:09 PM:

Xopher, include the Washington Times with Faux, please. I hope their (still impending) bankruptcy and sale is sooner rather than later.

#28 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 02:13 PM:

Student strikes are about getting media attention, right? It doesn't sound like they'd have any significant real-world effect unless they're at the point where they start burning down buildings, which would have an economic impact on the town. Not nearly as effective as, for example, a strike in a vital industry or service where scab replacements are difficult to train in a reasonable amount of time.

#29 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 02:18 PM:

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

~ Neil Young

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 02:29 PM:

I was in high school, and had been to various protests for a while. The shock of this event was pretty amazing at the time. And, as beth pointed out above -- the result was not what the spinmeisters wanted out of it. Which says something small and good about the way things can go.

#31 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 02:36 PM:

Willingness to stand up and be counted, to take an unpopular stand or a stand with which various powerful people will be annoyed, is strongly associated with having a relatively stable position in the world.

If you live in a world where p-ssing off the wrong people can get you added to a no-fly list with no appeals process, or where your permanent record will follow you everywhere and be used to decide what school you may attend and what job you get, you're naturally a bit more careful about getting labeled a troublemaker.

And it seems like (maybe this is my lame understanding of US history) over time, the decision of what kind of troublemaker deserves to be screwed over has become more centralized, while more and more established adults are in a position to need to avoid being labeled as such.

There's a kind of measure of a society that would be interesting to have to compare between different times and different societies: What fraction of people can basically get away with taking public positions that really offend the neighbors or the authorities? (By that, I mean maybe the neighbors will be annoyed or even stop inviting the offender to their parties, but he'll keep his job and be able to get future jobs, not have to worry about being hassled by the authorities, etc.)

My intuition is that the fraction of adults in this set has gone down over the last 20-30 years. In many ways, the boundaries for offending the neighbors or authorities are probably wider now than 20-30 years ago. But the consequences seem like they're worse for more people.

#32 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 02:52 PM:

This weekend alone an estimated 20,000 people took to the streets of Denver to protest Arizona's attempt to outlaw being brown. I also saw a contingency of teachers with picket signs trying to stop a law that will not allow teachers any defense should they be found wanting (or their students ill prepared.)

And the pot contingency took to the streets to protest that marijuana remains illegal. (Of course, the PD ticketed the potheads, even though Denver has a law telling them not to bother.)

All in all, it brought back the sixties for me and gives me hope for the younger generation.

#33 ::: John David Galt ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 02:59 PM:

Albatross has one part of the answer right: it's an important human right to be allowed to dissent without having your life destroyed (and I don't just mean arrest but the possibility of losing your job, home, credit, etc.)

But equally important is a right he didn't mention: the right to have authorities give you the benefit of the doubt. It used to be widely accepted that "innocent until proven guilty" meant exactly that. Police officers didn't just act "friendly", they really didn't divide the world into police and suspects. They behaved like Andy Griffith (remember the show?).

Now all the Andy Griffiths have retired and all the cops that are left are Barney Fifes: panicking and whipping out their guns any time a car's engine backfires a block away.

I don't believe the public has really changed anywhere near enough to justify this total change of attitude by the cops. It's the cops who have changed. They have chosen to become our enemies. "Serpico" illustrates this perfectly (and I doubt there's a department left in the US which would not have hounded him out).

The system needs to force them to change back, and that means making them personally liable to both jail time and lawsuits when they misbehave. If it takes constitutional change, then let's call a convention and get 'er done.

If you're a cop and you don't think you could do your job under those conditions -- Andy could, so don't try to tell me it's impossible.

#34 ::: Catherine Crockett ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 03:03 PM:

Constance @12: Actually, it was an international student strike. A lot of Canadian universities were closed for a day of mourning and didn't need to strike, some struck, but I don't think that there were any here that stayed open.

I remember hearing about it. My mother picked me up from school by car [which was unusual] and I remember sitting in the passenger seat hearing the news on the radio. I was five. I imagined my school getting shot up.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 03:09 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom #14: The Jackson State police riot cum massacre has never had the same level of commemoration as the Kent State killings. Since I've been in the US, however, people have mentioned it to me in the same breath that Kent State is mentioned.

#36 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 03:20 PM:

Four years ago I wrote up my memory of those events. It bothers me that I have no memory of the Jackson State shootings.

#37 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 04:05 PM:

The cops got paranoid all the way up to the top quite a while ago. Here's a report on Daryl Gates in LA, with his international spy ring. Fascinating reading.

#38 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 04:23 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 16:

"I remember that event. And I'm pretty sure that if any shots had been fired at the Guardsmen, that people who had a very, very deep need to provide a defense for them would have been shouting about it at the time."

Well, there was some talk about snipers at the time, in fact, among other rumors, and some officials did cite that in defense of the Guard's actions. It's mentioned in the 1970 report I linked to @ 2. But the numerous investigations of the incident didn't find anything solid to back it up.

I don't see anything in James Rosen's articles for Fox or the Washington Times that make it more credible. The types of allegations he raises have been known about for a while, but he presents them as something fundamentally new.

This gets particularly silly in the Fox article, which breathlessly states "a review of hundreds of previously unpublished investigative reports show that the demonstrations that enveloped the northeastern Ohio campus actually began three days earlier in downtown Kent." Um, why would you need to review "hundreds of investigative reports" to find out that there were protest-related disturbances in downtown Kent on the night of May 1, something that everybody in Kent, or who read local newspapers, knew at the time?

I'm sure the recent FBI files are interesting, and if Rosen or anyone else wants to upload them to the Net, they'd be valuable to look at. But I don't see any actual facts in the story as reported that would fundamentally change our understanding of what happened on May 4, much less exonerate the Guard or implicate the victims.

#39 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 04:32 PM:

lightning @15

I am reminded of the scene from Men In Black, where America's finest, all military, shoot the shit out of the mockup street full of monsters. The experienced street cop, studies, watches, takes aim and fires one bullet.

John David Galt @33

Someone did an editorial/report/blog on why cops changed. The premise was that the "War On Drugs" turned every non-cop into a potential enemy. It was well written, and explained much. When you approach everyone who isn't "me or mine" as an enemy, it's hard to stay friendly.

#40 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 05:26 PM:

albatross @31 - this is a pretty intriguing idea. Even more interesting, though, is asking how many children nowadays can get away with talking out of turn. They're not even allowed to walk to the store by themselves, let alone have a political opinion that might contradict The Authorities.

Xopher, I know this is inappropriate, but if you ever consider breaking that oath in the case of Fox News or anything else unholy in the USian establishment, I'll PayPal you $100 to cover the cost of herbs. Does doing minor evil to avert major evil count as evil? (Sigh. I suppose it does. Durn it.)

#41 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:10 PM:

xopher 23:
Looks as if we've already got some of that anyhow. Earthquakes, hurricanes, &c

#42 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:42 PM:

PJ Evans @ #27:

Xopher, include the Washington Times with Faux, please. I hope their (still impending) bankruptcy and sale is sooner rather than later.
Depends on who buys them, doesn't it?

#43 ::: donna n-w ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:50 PM:

I try not to discuss politics with my dad anymore, but years ago he told me the students at Kent State got what they deserved.

I couldn't believe he actually felt that way. He was never a warm and fuzzy guy, but that was colder than I thought he could be. Now he is a Faux News true-believer and can't discuss politics without sounding like a troll, even with his own family (all Democrats, including one former Senator - I don't know where Daddy went wrong).

I try to pretend I don't hear him when he talks about stuff like this now. It wouldn't do any good to argue. I just nod and go "hmmm" like I do when my kids talk about Pokemon.

#44 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:52 PM:

Lin D@39

I'm not particularly convinced that cops HAVE changed. I would not be particularly surprised if the perceived difference is entirely due to selective memory.

#45 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:57 PM:

Michael@40 -- children talking out of turn is never particularly popular. Kids spend a lot of time testing the limits of what they can get away with, and have for a long time indeed. Parental assessment of what's really unacceptable dissent is an interesting question, but I'll bet you a dollar that the parents of '60s protestors weren't all backing their kids' choices.

I do think that this issue is separable from the increasing and disturbing trend of limiting children's freedom of motion, actually.

More generally:
I think you can easily overplay the reluctance of high school honors students to rebel. High school has undoubtedly changed since the late 50s/early 60s -- a far greater proportion of the population will go on to additional schooling, among other things -- but the honors students were never the natural protesting class. My calculus class's mass rebellion in favor of pizza delivery aside, that is.

Now -- set those same students down in their respective colleges for 6 months, and you'll see them protesting perfectly well. If they're not protesting what, or how, you expect them to... well, that's a different issue.

I recall various protests, in various forms, all non-violent, addressing: investment in South Africa, the new student body/faculty constitutions at the college, the (well outside health code) practices of the Mariott-run cafeteria service, nuclear weapons testing, a new and considerably over-engineered bridge on campus, Dan Quayle, and gender stereotyping in action figures. Points for those of you who can name my college and approximate years of attendance. Bonus points if you can describe those last two events, which were both creative enough to make the national news and linger on.

#46 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 07:50 PM:

Lin D @39:

I think the police have changed over the last 50 years or so, at least in the sense that a kind of Overton Window has been dragged over towards "tilt". But I think those changes started before the War on Drugs began. To some extent the changes began because a lot of Vietnam veterans joined police forces after they came back, but were not properly retrained, so they retained their habits of the use of force and the absolutism of the political justification for their actions..

#47 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 08:06 PM:

I'm skeptical, Bruce, though I don't offhand have a lot of evidence to introduce. The '68 and '72 national conventions are prominent events suggesting otherwise, at least in major cities. The relationship between the press and the police, however, shifted considerably between, say, 1960 and 1975. Could it be that we're getting more and better substantiated reportage of police misconduct, rather than an underlying change in police actions?

#48 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 08:15 PM:

I notice that, even though the Faux News article references the WA Times for "the full story," the story is really from a Faux News correspondent.

I remember a "Brass Tacks" editorial by John Campbell, trying to excuse the Guardsmen because they (the Guardsmen) felt they were some kind of warriors in a class war. Up to that point, I thought Campbell actually worked hard on writing his columns.

#49 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 08:26 PM:

NPR's Talk of the Nation devoted 34 minutes to the Kent State shootings yesterday, with guests Jerry Lewis, professor emeritus of sociology, Kent State University

Dean Kahler, undergraduate at Kent State University in 1970. He was shot and paralyzed during the student demonstration.

Gene Young, former professor at Jackson State University

Mr. Young got relatively short shrift; only about 4 minutes at the end of the segment.

The link is to a transcript with a link to the audio.

#50 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:18 PM:

#45 - was the Barbie/G.I.Joe voice chip switch one of them?

#51 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:46 PM:

Victor S. at #45:

Sounds like it could be Oberlin, except that I can't imagine where they would build a bridge there.

I remember Oberlin had protests when the president fired the campus minister. Cynical people made much of the fact that the crowd left as soon as the news truck left. Cynical people generally make much of the fact that protests tend to happen when the weather gets warm.

#52 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:50 PM:

John David Galt @ 33: "But equally important is a right he didn't mention: the right to have authorities give you the benefit of the doubt. It used to be widely accepted that "innocent until proven guilty" meant exactly that. Police officers didn't just act "friendly", they really didn't divide the world into police and suspects. They behaved like Andy Griffith (remember the show?)."

I'm thinking that was probably heavily dependent on the color of your skin and the quality of your wardrobe--more so than now, I mean.

VictorS @ 47: "Could it be that we're getting more and better substantiated reportage of police misconduct, rather than an underlying change in police actions?"

I think you've put your finger on it. There didn't used to be cellphone cameras running when police officers beat citizens--moreover, it there's a lot less tacit acceptance of police violence against "undesirable elements" than there used to be.

#53 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:51 PM:

#18 ::: Steve C. @ 18:
"Kent State is one the reasons I get irritated -- make that downright pissed off -- at those who think that today we have unprecedented problems and evil times are upon us.
Jesus, study a little history."

During the Bush-Kerry Presidential campaign, I sat down to lunch with some coworkers, one of whom commented on a newspaper article that said something like "Americans most polarized they've ever been." Another harumphed, and said "I think things were pretty polarized during the Civil War."

#54 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:52 PM:

Erik Nelson, I think that's a record.

#55 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:53 PM:

so sorry about the multiple postings. I kept getting what looked like a message from the service provider saying page not found, so I thought I wasn't getting through to the server.

#56 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 09:59 PM:

I usually open the different new threads each in their own tab. Then, after I comment, I go read another thread for a while. So far, though I've gotten what look like server errors many times, my post has always gone through, and I've avoided double-posting that way. If it ever took a Very Long Time, I'd open a new copy of the thread from the main page, and have a look there.

#57 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:19 PM:

I'd already absorbed the lesson that if you try and make a difference, and become very good at it, bad men will shoot you and no one will do much about it. (John, Robert, Martin.)

This just stunned me into sitting down and thinking things were totally hopeless, they were shooting students that didn't really even have anything to do with the protest.

(I was 14)

#58 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 11:09 PM:

'It used to be widely accepted that "innocent until proven guilty" meant exactly that. Police officers didn't just act "friendly", they really didn't divide the world into police and suspects. They behaved like Andy Griffith (remember the show?).'

Do you have more to base that on than TV shows? Because I've got views on the matter, but I don't really have the data to back 'em up.

#59 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 01:55 AM:

I've removed five of Erik's sextuplets.

#60 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 04:16 AM:

Sarah E. @50 -- yes indeed, the voice swap. Erik Nelson: not Oberlin, though you're in the right class of colleges. Our campus has a rather silted-up lake in the middle, with beaver and herons.

#61 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 07:27 AM:

Re fictional police and excessive use of force, I'm less willing to believe in Andy Griffith than in the cops in James Ellroy's novels Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential, et al. They whaled the tar out of suspects, especially anyone of color, and were happy to be deployed as muscle for further entrenching entrenched interests. But then, I believe a priori that everything on teevee is propaganda.

Regarding who gets to wear the uniform, I can report that the one kid who beat me up the most in high school subsequently joined the force in my old home town. I think it was the case that he entered the family business.

#62 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:07 AM:

Someone did an editorial/report/blog on why cops changed. The premise was that the "War On Drugs" turned every non-cop into a potential enemy. It was well written, and explained much. When you approach everyone who isn't "me or mine" as an enemy, it's hard to stay friendly.

It was Howard "Bunny" Colvin:

"This drug thing, this ain't police work. No, it ain't. I mean, I can send any fool with a badge and a gun up on them corners and jack a crew and grab vials. But policing? I mean, you call something a war and pretty soon everybody gonna be running around acting like warriors. They gonna be running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, slapping on cuffs, racking up body counts. And when you at war, you need a fcking enemy. And pretty soon, damn near everybody on every corner is your fcking enemy. And soon the neighborhood that you're supposed to be policing, that's just occupied territory."

#63 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:58 AM:

#45 VictorS

Um, our students are in a college senior honors course. They are smart and articulate and conscientious. But they are not imaginative or innovative. They question nothing, and take all sorts of social cliche as a matter of course, and this means, despite their tremendous diversity, they are deeply bigoted against the cultures that aren't their own. But they have no idea that this is so. So part of our job is to open them up a little and get to them to look at their many unexamined presumptions about each other's cultures.

As the program describes them, "They are obedient." He didn't say this with pleasure.

Love, C.

#64 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 12:17 PM:

Tom Whitmore@37, there's a book called "LA Secret Police", authors Rothmiller and Goldman, ISBN: 0671796577, 1992, about Gates's empire.

I have met part of the Philadelphia Red Squad back in the early 90s. I went to an anarchist convention at the Friends School there, and there was a large car parked outside with four guys in ties. After the daytime part of the convention, things moved to a coffeehouse some distance away, and the same car was parked out front. I did the obvious thing, which was to walk up to them and ask if they'd like coffee, but they'd brought their own.

#65 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 12:44 PM:

Today a book releases, an exhibit at the Museum of New York opens, and a PBS film broadcasts tonight about John Lindsay's terms as mayor of New York.

Lindsay ordered the flags at City Hall to be flown at half-mast in sympathy and solidarity with the students killed at Kent State and the students protesting the Vietnam war. This set off what is known as the Hard Hat riot.

#66 ::: John Mellby ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 02:46 PM:

I find it interesting that Rosen, a Fox News Correspondent, put the story in the Washington Times. Fox then reported on their own story, as if to give it credibility.
Still four dead in Ohio.

#67 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 02:57 PM:

VictorS @45: Reed College, mid-1990s. Gorilla Theatre of the Absurd protested Quayle's fundraising visit to Portland by barfing in technicolor outside his hotel.

Does the cross-canyon bridge still have road reflectors down the center?

#68 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 03:11 PM:

As regards political protest, think about what the likely reaction from those in power would be to black people doing what the Tea Partiers are doing.

Actually, you don't have to imagine it. It's already happened. They were called the Black Panther Party (and their rhetoric was often less inflammatory, insulting, and plain insurrectionist than what those (*&(%%s are saying right now).

I can tell you, they wouldn't get away with spitting on sitting legislators and shouting racial slurs while holding guns, that's for sure.

#69 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 04:25 PM:

"I try not to discuss politics with my dad anymore, but years ago he told me the students at Kent State got what they deserved."

This was not an uncommon sentiment at the time. Rick Perlstein, Nixonland, at 488-89:

When it was established that none of the four victims were guardsmen, citizens greeted each other by flashing four fingers in the air ("The score is four / And next time more"). * * *

It was the advance guard of a national mood. A Gallup poll found 58 percent blamed the Kent students for their own deaths. Only 11 percent blamed the Naitional Guard.

* * * Townspeople picketed memorial services. "The Kent State Four!" they chanted. "Should have studied more!"

Americans have not gotten uglier over the past 40 years.

#70 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 04:40 PM:

Americans have not gotten uglier over the past 40 years.

I was overhearing some of my fellow-commuters last night, talking about the insane woman who attacked several people the other day, her in Los Angeles. Their opinion was that the police should have shot and killed her and saved the cost of a trial.

#71 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 05:49 PM:

Anderson @69 and P J Evans @70, that's kind of what has seemed a bit off to me about this post's title since I first saw it: The problem isn't just that governments do that kind of thing. That's a big part of the problem, but if it was all of the problem, the problem would be a lot smaller. The fact that so many of the common people support this kind of thing is a big part of the problem, too.

#72 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 06:43 PM:

John David Galt (#33) -- Ah, the Golden Age Theory of American History -- how I love it. Not so much, actually.

I was there. I was a child in the 40's, a young married person in the 50's, and I can tell you, there never was a time when the police were all warm and cuddly and stuff. Never a time when it wasn't a police state any time the police wanted it to be.

And it's not just the police. I remember roaring with laughter when I heard Joseph Campbell on the radio saying that when *he* was young, no one would ever *think* of stealing a book from the library. Oh deary me, how *crass* we have all become!

Things have gotten better, surely, but not nearly so many things as people tend to think. And especially, not the police.

#73 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 07:43 PM:


I vaguely recall a column in the Washington Post some time back (probably around 10-15 years) commenting on a poll of (I think) teens in which (I think) somewhere around 40% said they had shoplifted.

There had apparently been much commentary about how this indicated a serious honesty problem among the youth of the nation.

The columnist remarked that he thought the poll did indicate an honesty problem, just not the one everyone else had been talking about. He said the percentage of shoplifters sounded unrealistically LOW because back when he was their age the percentage was close to 100%.

#74 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:05 PM:

Constance @63 -- Oh. That's depressing. I hope you managed to broaden their world view during the class.

Mattias @67 -- Score two points. Correct, though early '90s rather than mid. I expect the reflectors and I-5 highway signs have come and gone several times since, though I haven't kept up.

The first time, though, the students did a superb job with the reflective markers, the high-quality reflective lane and margin paint, the bicycle and turn lanes, and the official signage. The bridge really was rather overbuilt for foot traffic.

A wiser administration would have left well enough alone and toughed it out through the dedication ceremony -- and in fact the next year we got a different college president.

#75 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:06 PM:

Older @72 said: Ah, the Golden Age Theory of American History -- how I love it. Not so much, actually. ... Things have gotten better, surely, but not nearly so many things as people tend to think. And especially, not the police.

I heard it once convincingly argued that the reason so many (conservative) people are prone to thinking the past was a simpler, safer, more wholesome time is the same reason 11 is the golden age of science fiction.

It's not that it was ACTUALLY simpler then, it's that the person doing the remembering was a child, and naturally it all SEEMED so much simpler, safer, nicer, etc. They didn't see the nastier bits of the time period that their parents were dealing with.

#76 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:16 PM:

VictorS: Any thoughts on this year's Renn Fayre kerfuffle?

#77 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:17 PM:

Elliot Mason @ 68: "As regards political protest, think about what the likely reaction from those in power would be to black people doing what the Tea Partiers are doing."

Isn't Kent State evidence that even middle-class white people can't get away with what the Tea Partiers are doing if they are doing it from the left while young? Not to say that black people wouldn't get it worse.

#78 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:34 PM:

Elliot Mason @ 75... Ah yes, the child's perspective... This reminds me of an exchange a co-worker from Minnesota once had with his mom, who was arguing there used to be a lot more snow when she was young. To which he objected that it's not that there was more snow back then but that she had been shorter.

Whenever I go back to the neighborhood of my youth, I am constantly reminded how everything is smaller than I remember.

#79 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:41 PM:

Yes, Serge. Back in Michigan when I was little, the snow was higher than my head. It doesn't get anywhere near that deep now!

#80 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 09:31 PM:

re 77: No.

Seven years later, and instead of arresting people at UMCP, nobody cared. Protest all you like, we saw. By that point it had been worked into this elaborate Kabuki dance, but the real point was to gain rep with your faction. Real change was accomplished elsewhere.

#81 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 10:51 PM:

C. Wingate @ 80: And 1999 WTO protests in Seattle and the 2008 RNC protests in St. Paul? How do they fit in your schema?

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:13 PM:

My mother said that the 1950s was a good time to raise children, but she didn't want to live in it again.

I agree about people remembering childhood as being simpler - children are protected from reality. I try to keep that in mind, whenever people start talking about How Things Were Better Back Then. And I want to ask them how much technology and whatnot they're prepared to live without, because damned little of it was around in that golden age they keep telling us about.

#83 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:18 PM:

In one of the later seasons of "Mission:Impossible," after everything seemed pretty routine, there was a great throwaway line. They were painting something "Fire Engine Red," and Willie (Peter Lupus) said, "Fire engines were a lot redder when I was a kid."

Incidentally, an efficacious antidote to nostalgia is Otto Bettmann's book The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible, with an abundance of reminders of just how crappy things were in the wonderful days of untrammeled capitalism and the simple virtues. Strongly recommended.

#84 ::: ripley ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 04:10 AM:

delurking just to ask if anyone is aware that there is a substantial student protest movement going on right now, in the US and internationally?

from building occupations to hunger strikes, there's a lot brewing

some of the active places are in California (SF State, UC Davis UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UCLA) and in New York (Brooklyn College, the New School, NYU).. but all across Europe and beyond (Vienna, Zagreb, Bern) too, especially over the corporatization of education, but linking with immigration rights, workers rights and other movements..

(also Middlesex University buildings currently occupied!)

there's a lively debate over tactics and directions and strategy.. it's an exciting moment, where people are braving confrontation, even while knowing the awful history of Kent State and the countless massacres of workers and immigrants and others who stood up for what they believed in..

#85 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 04:23 AM:

Matthias -- I'm so out of the loop I didn't know about this. Now, I'm surprisingly vexed by it.

It's clear that the powers that draw their pay from the war on drugs are picking on Reed again. It's happened before, but this is the first time they've threatened college officials with jail time for failing to suppress their students. In this case, somehow the college is getting blamed for a student overdosing, in his home, off-campus, outside school hours. It's pretty clear that Interim U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton would like to keep his corner office, and has decided to make a fuss for that purpose.

I will say that during my years there, Reed students comported themselves considerably better than students at, say, Boston College, Boston University, or UC "Cal" Berkeley. I don't mean to pick on those institutions -- but they may provide some basis for comparison.

Reed has always been more liberal, in a political sense, than the quite conservative state government and local press -- it creates friction that's exploitable by politicians. And overtime for the undercover cops who barge into a private celebration.

Link for folks who may be interested but have no clue what I'm nattering on about:
Oregon Public Broadcasting article

#86 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 07:16 AM:

VictorS #85: Thanks for the link, and "BOOO" for Holton. We've noted elsewhere that "Zero Tolerance" translates to "Zero Common Sense". Hopefully, Reed officials will kick back on this.

#87 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 10:20 AM:

ripley, 84: Thanks for delurking! I was thinking about mentioning here, as the guy who runs it, Angus Johnston, is a good friend of mine. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on student activist movements. Here is his post on the Kent State anniversary, and here is what he wrote on the subject one year ago.

#88 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 11:58 AM:

P.J. Evans #82: My father used to say "Ah not gwine talk about di 'good old days'. Dem was neva good." Growing up black in the slums of empire in the 20s and 30s was definitely not growing up in a golden age.

#89 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 01:01 PM:

I always liked W.C. Field's line: "Ah, the good old days. May they never come again."

#90 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 02:37 PM:

VictorS @85: Noting that there were no drug-related arrests at Renn Fayre (last sentence), one might think that either the talk vastly overstates the reality, or that Portland's finest narcs really aren't all that good. I'm inclined to go with the latter; whenever the narcs' targets are smarter than the narcs themselves, it's going to be an uphill fight for the thin blue line.

I'd like to think that most of Reed is able to see through the patronizing emails from the DA's office, and I would hope that there's been no major damage done, but the entire kerfuffle seems likely, in the near term at least, to discard Reed's efforts in areas of outreach and treatment. Shame, really; so much trust cast aside so quickly, just so some politician can showboat as Tough On Crime.

I wonder if there's a case to be made for prosecuting the DA for slander.

#91 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 02:43 PM:

David Harmon @86: Reed's President already folded; he sent an email equating dope to heroin, which will please the DA but which will paint him as a tool in the eyes of as informed a population as the Reed student body. The student body have been providing the sane perspective to inquisitive reporters. see links above.

#92 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 04:58 PM:

Well, I hope the student body will realize that Diver's memo was sent under duress.

I'll also note that Reed has also been picked on before -- the Reagan administration called out two schools for "condoning" drug use, Reed... and Harvard.

That fuss caused the administration at the time (1986?) to cancel the student handbook and issue a perfectly bureaucratic substitute. The college could then dissociate itself from the 'real' handbook that year, which was produced by the students in the usual manner. The student protests at this high-handed behavior then gave the administration and excuse to "back down" and return to the status quo ante.

You know, those uptight college bureaucrats look a lot more clever now than we thought they did at the time...

#93 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 05:00 PM:

*sigh* That's "an excuse", of course.

#94 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 05:04 PM:

#83: I had a copy of "The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible" as a child. Interestingly ghastly reading at that age. I particularly remember the bits about child labor and the textile mills, though reading that didn't make me any less whiny about doing my chores.

#95 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 05:08 PM:

Ah, the good old days... Provided you were a white male in good health.

#96 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 07:34 PM:

Older @ 72:

I was there too, as a child in the 50's, a student and draftee in the 60's and raised kids in the 70's. You're right that the police in the US have always maintained a police state. The point I was trying to make way upthread was not that the police were less politically oppressive in the mid-20th century; I know better because I grew up in Philadelphia, which morphed the "Red Squad" into a "Civil Disobedience Squad" in the 60's so they'd have someone on call to break students' heads. The head of the CDS later became chief of police and later still was elected mayor. One of many reasons I haven't been back there since 1972.

No, I was taking about the militarization of the police. The notion of training police as if they were combat infantry troops is relatively new. I think it started not so much because of the war on drugs as because of the perceived threat of revolutionaries, especially ones like the Black Panthers who didn't look like the people who ran the police forces and many of whom had had miltary training themselves. Even before that, there were always a few "tactical squads" in the more corrupt cities like LA and New York, where they'd learned the lessons of the FBI's public relations killings of gangsters in the 1930s, but these days every city larger than a single crossroads wants a SWAT team with an armored vehicle and radio headsets.

#97 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 08:22 AM:

Bruce #96:

Yeah, Radley Balko was pointing out that there are more than 100 SWAT team raids per day in the US, and nearly all of them are enforcing drug laws, often on small-time dealers, users, or people named by folks looking for a little mercy from the prosecutor. The result is just what you'd expect--even when the cops on the SWAT team aren't trying to be brutal or nasty, their tactics and the situation they set up almost guarantees brutal nastiness, and often leads to people being killed.

#98 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 09:31 AM:

Here in the UK, what used to happen was that control of a situation was handed over to the military. I'm not sure about the Siege of Sidney Street--that had Winston Churchill as Home Secretary. The Iranian Embassy Siege, once hostages started being murdered, was formally handed over to the SAS.

You can see some of the subsequent history as a turf war between the Police and the military. Essentially, the Metropolitan Police developed their own SWAT capacity. But if I'm ever in a situation that gets that bad, I'd rather have the SAS coming through the walls and windows to rescue me.

Politically, I think the difference is that you expect soldiers to be out of sight, training, until you need them. Police, while they ought to be trained, are supposed to be out there arresting miscreants. And sometimes that compromises the quality of the training. There's a pressure to use that capacity, for something.

And that's quite apart from the other differences. You may recall the difference between a soldier's and a cop's tactics when the instruction is "Cover me!"

#99 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 11:57 AM:

re 94: It's a little ironic that Bettmann's book is 36 years old; OTOH I've yet to see anyone who wouldn't agree that 1974, as years go, was pretty crappy.

re 81: My point is more that there isn't really an overarching schema. Go back a hundred years and the expectation of violence and forceful dispersion is pretty well taken for granted. At Kent State it's pretty obvious from many interviews that there was a perception on the part of the students-- not just the protesters-- that the guardsmen wouldn't shoot them, indeed, couldn't shoot them (the very many people who wanted to believe that they were shooting blanks). In the late 1970s-early '80s a protocol had developed which eschewed violence all around; people protested, arrests were made, and everyone eventually went home justified in their own minds.

The one thing I do see in common with KS and Seattle is that property damage ratchets the stakes up. Well, who does such damage? Well, apparently not the decorous right-wingers who show up in Washington every January. And so far the the worst tea-bag violence I've come across was to throw a box over the White House fence. They haven't burned down any buildings yet; at least, I think I would have heard about it if they had.

I don't say any of this to justify anything. As it should be clear, I am a non-participant, a bystander. But then, that's where a lot of people my age were left standing. Protests when I was in college tended to end up being more about one's standing in one's own subcommunity than they were about effecting real change. When I look back at Kent State, it's into a history that had already receded when I was in school; a few people tried to cling to the glamor of those former days, but the rest of us had moved on.

#100 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 03:33 PM:

There is a certain odd strain in the 'protesting' mindset that expects to threaten public order, and seems to think that the police ought to do nothing in response. I am never sure whether it's naivety or a 'look at what the nasty men are doing' appeal to some imagined bien-pensant observer. Back in the day when workers did the demonstrating, they pretty much knew that heads were going to get cracked, and I expect the same is true of other groups that aren't largely composed of the young, white and 'educated'.

#101 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 04:28 PM:

And yet, workers have reached a point where they can demonstrate, in the same manner that used to be described as threatening public order, without anyone getting shot. We call it a "strike", of course, but it's still a large group of people with signs obstructing traffic.

Alex, could you perhaps have phrased your comment in a less inflammatory manner? It's got the essence of a good question in there, but wrapped in a contempt for student protesters which will likely enrage a large chunk of your audience.

#102 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 06:29 PM:

C. Wingate @99: Okay, I'll bite. What's ironic about the book having come out 36 years ago?

#103 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 07:03 PM:

Serge@78, my wife and I once drove around Southern California visiting places she'd lived or spent time as a kid. At one of her childhood homes, she commented that the house looked smaller, but the wall out front didn't. The owners said that made sense, because they'd built the wall up about two feet taller a few years back...

#104 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 03:57 AM:

I am fairly contemptuous of people who think they can parasitically attach themselves to a long history of real civil disobedience with real consequences, and attract no consequences. I have myself been in my youth on various demonstrations, and have indeed been baton-charged by mounted police as part of a demonstration that had blocked Westminster Bridge. I was appalled at the time - how could they? to US? - but now I reflect on my self-centred naivety.

As shown quite regularly, antiglobalisation demonstrators, for example, seem to think that they should be allowed to smash things up. Many of them seem to be more interested in engineering a confrontation with the police than with having any other effect. Yet they are outraged, outraged! when violence ensues. If they wanted a genuinely disruptive, but non-violent protest, why don't they send 10,000 people to lie down in the road at 10,000 major intersections nationally? And if they're dragged away, go back and lie down again, until they're arrested. Getting the police to arrest 10,000 people at once in 10,000 different places, THAT would be an effective disruptive protest, infinitely repeatable as long as there's an internet and a supply of people willing to acquire a minor obstruction charge. But no, it's punch-up as usual every time. And if by chance there should be no punch-up, then there's no coverage, no significance whatsoever to the protest - so a vicious cycle ensues.

From a different angle, one might argue that the whole modern 'tradition' of marching protest has become entirely futile and meaningless, except to make people feel better about themselves. For example, if more than a million people really didn't want the UK government to take them into an illegal war in 2003, why did they all go home again after their nice walk through London? If only 1% had stayed to perform genuine acts of non-violent civil disobedience, they MIGHT have made more of a difference than the 'absolutely none' that the march achieved.

N.B. I do not, of course, approve of the police beating people up, still less whacking innocent bystanders to death; but as a corollary of the above, I think protest leaders should take a good, hard look at themselves and their responsibility for creating the kind of situations in which those things happen, having failed to think of something more imaginative and potentially significant to do.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 04:08 AM:

Bill Stewart @ 103... Maybe the world IS getting smaller.

#106 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 04:41 AM:

Alex @104:
As shown quite regularly, antiglobalisation demonstrators, for example, seem to think that they should be allowed to smash things up. Many of them seem to be more interested in engineering a confrontation with the police than with having any other effect.

You seem to treat protesters as a homogenous group, all of whom buy into the most extreme actions of the people who associate themselves with the cause. Or you're doing what the media want you to do, taking reports of the actions of a few and using them to disparage the unreported behavior of the larger mass. Or, possibly, both.

And you do discount the fact that activists do more than protest. Protests may be the placebo that makes some people feel better without changing a thing, but for others, they're a way to meet with and build communities, and an energizing force to go and do the boring, difficult and invisible things that move a cause forward, from volunteering through voting and changing their own lives to be in more conformity with their principles. Not all effects of a protest appear on the 10:00 news.

Really, this has the feel of a little rant you've polished and considered for a long time, but I think you've oversimplified the motivations, actions and effectiveness of a huge mass of people somewhere in the process. I, for one, am much more tolerant of that kind of oversimplification when it doesn't lead to contempt for everyone you've just oversimplified.

Also, this? I do not, of course, approve of the police beating people up, still less whacking innocent bystanders to death; but as a corollary of the above, I think protest leaders should take a good, hard look at themselves and their responsibility for creating the kind of situations in which those things happen, having failed to think of something more imaginative and potentially significant to do.

That's just another flavor of she shouldn't have been wearing that dress, no matter how much I don't approve of what he did to her. It assumes all police forces are made up of animals, and that's simply not true. I've seen protests where the protesters behaved badly and the police didn't overreact (Edinburgh, 2005), and I've seen ones where no one was doing a thing wrong and the police came in charging (Berkeley, 1990). Besides if the police really couldn't be trusted to control themselves, that would be more reason to be out on the streets, not less.

#107 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 05:17 AM:

Alex @104: As shown quite regularly, antiglobalisation demonstrators, for example, seem to think that they should be allowed to smash things up. Many of them seem to be more interested in engineering a confrontation with the police than with having any other effect.

Were you aware that often it's the cops themselves who infiltrate the demonstrators and smash things up? Consider this case from a few years back, when Canadian police were caught disguising themselves as protestors, one of them carrying a rock. (The cops deny that they were going to actually do anything with that rock, of course.)

#108 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 05:59 AM:

No, to most of that. I genuinely think that 'mass protest' is an outdated, and effectively counter-productive, means of making any kind of political or social point in the Western world today. One reason, amongst many, is that it makes the individual police involved frightened, and frightened people tend to do bad things. If you want to believe that either some or all police are stupid, violent, reactionary, or the adjective of your choice, that is merely fuel for the idea that, if you don't want a police riot, why are you giving them the excuse to start one? Saying 'they shouldn't behave like that' is the virtuous answer, but not the practical one.

One need only reflect, for example, on the different tactics used by those attempting to block various kinds of road and other development by physically interposing themselves. Such events rarely result in thundering quasi-riots. because they are manifestly physically non-threatening. They rarely have any real effect, however, because the numbers of people prepared to really put themselves out there, even by just lying down, are too small.

People are too willing to put themselves in crowds - which will always look threatening to the authorities, and always have the potential for violence - and not willing enough to commit to real acts of civil disobedience that expose them individually to possible consequences. Fine. I myself am entirely unwilling to run those risks, because I have small children to take care of; but I don't see the point of thinking that a bit of casual marching is an effective substitute for a more determined engagement. Of course, one should have the RIGHT to march through the streets in as large numbers as you like, but these marches will be ignored. If they're lucky. And if the best practical outcome you can hope for is that nothing happens, is 'mass protest' actually a tactic any more, or just theatre? One could argue that it has its 'consciousness raising' functions, but I don't personally think they outweigh the disadvantages.

[Here a sidebar on the surprisingly successful actions of the French 'street left' and their theatre of manifestation, and a note that their relationship with authority really is a peculiar heritage of institutional histories, and that the inhabitants of the banlieue, neither so white, nor so well-entangled with public-sector employment, enjoy no such privileges.]

The analogy with victims of rape is really not worthy of discussion. And Avram - yes, of course. I have been on antifascist actions, and seen the police observers with their very subtle colour-coded rucksacks being walked out when they thought it was going to 'kick off', and I have shared the suspicions of my comrades that that is what they wanted to happen. Very hard to 'infiltrate' the act of lying down in the road, however. What the police do is in light of their recognition of the potentially violent nature of a mass confrontation. Which takes me back to my starting-point. If you really have something to protest about, if you feel so strongly about it that you want to try to force the authorities to pay attention to you, why just go with their playbook? Why give them a situation that looks like 'Riot Control 101' when you could do something more subtle, more complex, MUCH harder to 'define away' as mob-violence, and much easier to sustain - IF people are willing to act as individuals, and not a 'crowd'?

#109 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 08:14 AM:

But alex, our rights don't stop when the authorities get uncomfortable. Indeed, there's a fair argument that that's where they really start. So avoiding marching en masse because it makes the police twitchy is just an invitation for the borders of acceptability to narrow down. Next it's smaller groups, or awkward speech, or asking why you're being stopped and searched.

And moving the means of protest is at best a temporary fix. How well did lying down in front of the bulldozers work for Rachel Corrie? I seem to recall she got killed and then blamed for her own death. I'd expect more such if your ideas took hold and were effective. Any form of protest that can't be dismissed will become provocation to the police. At which point we're back to the victim- blaming, whether you like my analogy or not.

#110 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 09:45 AM:

Of course, one should have the RIGHT to march through the streets in as large numbers as you like, but these marches will be ignored. If they're lucky.

Any planned demo large enough to require redirection of traffic and large and expensive crowd control measures in a major city will attract plenty of media attention and will not be ignored. Of course if things kick off there will be more coverage, and there are sometimes, if not always, elements present who think this is a good idea*. That is not to say that the ideas supported by the marchers will receive the desired amount of attention.

Lying down on the streets and being dragged away by the police was a tactic favoured by CND in the sixties. Individual or small-group acts of protest by organisations like Fathers 4 Justice also attract attention, while their aims may not be fairly, or at all, represented by the reporting media.

*There is an obvious conflict here. The demonstrators who want things to kick off do so either because they want to inflict real injuries on the opposition (uh-huh), or because they know it will get in the papers. The police agents provocateurs do so because they want to beat up the fucking hippies try out their new riot shields.

#111 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Also there are groups (like the LaRouchies) that will show up at any protest of any kind, preferably one with TV cameras, whether it's connected to their particular cause or not, just to get attention.

There were protesters in Minneapolis, during the RNC, who were wearing police-type shoes. They were being pointed out by the other protesters there as the ones who were agitating for action.

#112 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 10:36 AM:

On the topic of the good old days, I recommend a book called "Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears"- it goes back one generation at a time discussing what things were like "when I was a kid" in England. Back to the 1890's, when a policeman was formally reprimanded for using an iron bar instead of a nightstick to break a suspect's leg, and the suspect basically said it was a fair arrest. And when some boys in high spirits did very little damage, which the author describes approximately as 'These days, we would call that rioting, vandalism, and looting.'

I also read a week of the New York Times (July 1-6 , 1906, I think) once, to see what the good old days were like. We had a race riot, several strikes, streetcar power cables coming loose and electrocuting people, and so forth. There was progress- due to better milk technology the number of people who died of diarrhea was way down from the year before. I don't remember the number but it was something horrifying. (70 a week, maybe?) Startling numbers of ships either missing or sinking in the harbor; startling numbers of people falling into the water and drowning, including some where the would-be rescuer drowned as well. You had a burglar getting chased and caught by an angry mob, and some minister in New Jersey was revealed as a bigamist.

Also, in national news, John D. Rockefeller's butler finally let the police in to serve him with a warrant or subpoena, but for a few days it looked like he might actually be more important than the U.S. Government.

#113 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 01:27 PM:

Alex, your comment @108 is a confused jumble. In it, you make the following claims:

  • Large demonstrations provoke violent reactions from the authorities because they are large, and therefore frightening.
  • Small acts of civil disobedience are not threatening to the authorities, but expose the disobedient to danger anyway.
  • Large demonstrations are ignored because they are too large, with too many people.
  • Small acts of civil disobedience "rarely have any real effect" because too few people engage in them.
This makes me suspect that your complaints are motivated by aesthetics, rather than a sense of tactics or strategy.

#114 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 01:42 PM:

VictorS @ 101: "Alex, could you perhaps have phrased your comment in a less inflammatory manner? It's got the essence of a good question in there, but wrapped in a contempt for student protesters which will likely enrage a large chunk of your audience."

I'd just like to note what an elegant out alex was offered to pivot into substantive conversation rather than hipster-bashing, and how readily alex ignored it.

I think it's a very interesting question why marches and rallies have become so ineffective a means of social protest in the US, especially when compared to France. I don't think the difference lies with the protesters, though--I think it lies with the social narrative around them. In the US, the onus is placed on the protesters to refrain from inciting the police to violence, and if they fail to do so, then their cause is immediately discredited. In other places, (it is my impression) it is seen differently: if a protest ends in violence, the blame falls to at least some degree on the police and the government. This creates very different incentives for the police.

(And may I say how tired I am of the "police get scared" argument? Fear is no excuse for dereliction of duty--how would we feel about fishermen who abandoned their ship because they were scared, or a semi driver who crushed a car because he was scared? Keeping the peace and serving and protecting are the police's duty, and tear-gassing and beating up protesters are neither of those things. Danger is part of their job, and they ought to be able to do their duty despite being scared or they ought to have their badges taken away.)

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 02:33 PM:

Wasn't ED-209 designed for crowd control?

#116 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 02:35 PM:

heresiarch, it seems to me that the thrust of your argument is a reasonably legitimate belief that we should be able to expect more of our police in their professional character and conduct. As my somewhat burned-out brain teases out that thought, I pause to note that the societies to which we turn for examples of how police might respond better to mass protest are first world nations, in the main western European ones - the French have come up more than once. Societies, it becomes relevant to add, that regard the US broadly as coarse, violence-soaked and far too much in love with our guns.

The question that leads me to (perhaps the feral pig I'm tossing into the parlor, but what remedy) is, are the police that handle mass protest poorly and get excused for it just the police we deserve for how we've developed as a society? And if so, how do we go from here?

#117 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 05:07 PM:

Serge #115: Wasn't ED-209 designed for crowd control?

Large-scale punitive evictions; "crowd control" is a handy euphemism for that.

#118 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 06:58 PM:

Mark @ 116:

The inevitable conclusion is that the US is not a first world nation.

#119 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 07:07 PM:


As I've mentioned here before, I have participated in demonstrations and other kinds of political actions where the organizers were at great pains to make it clear to all the demonstrators that they should expect to be arrested, and quite possibly physically attacked by the police, and given advice on what to do in those situations. Certainly there were individuals who ignored that advice, or who complained that they "should not" have been arrested, but most understood that one of the purposes of the demonstration was to advertise the fact that the police' response was a malicious, and often planned, overreaction. Can you say that you know what the demonstrators you condemn were thinking or saying?

And I'm curious if you think that the civil rights marchers at Selma, Alabama in 1965 were wrong to "provoke" the police into using billy clubs, tear gas, and dogs on them? Where they wrong to believe the police had no right to do so (which was part of the reason they marched)?

#120 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 08:49 PM:

Mark @ 116: "it seems to me that the thrust of your argument is a reasonably legitimate belief that we should be able to expect more of our police in their professional character and conduct."

Pretty much, yes.

"As my somewhat burned-out brain teases out that thought, I pause to note that the societies to which we turn for examples of how police might respond better to mass protest are first world nations, in the main western European ones - the French have come up more than once."

For me at least, "first world"/"third world" distinctions don't really capture the important variable: tolerance of and support for police violence is, I think, pretty independent of economic development. I think both the jack-booted tactics and the "them or us" mentality of American police culture are (as others have said) more a product of the militarization of the police resulting from the War on Drugs than they are the product of America's overall economics.

"The question that leads me to (perhaps the feral pig I'm tossing into the parlor, but what remedy) is, are the police that handle mass protest poorly and get excused for it just the police we deserve for how we've developed as a society? And if so, how do we go from here?"

In conversations like this, I'm allergic to words like "deserve." No society deserves jack-booted thugs for a police force, no matter how culpable they were in its rise. It's just not a useful concept, in my mind.

#121 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2010, 03:05 AM:

The bankers are not always the crooks, and the police are not always the thugs, but that's the way to bet.

Seems to me that "deserve" is wrong, and "inevitable" may be too pessimistic, but you can't regard the current situation as an unlikely consequence.

#122 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 01:27 AM:

A new analysis of audio tape from that day at Kent State confirms the Guard was ordered to shoot.

"Guard!" says a male voice on the recording, which two forensic audio experts enhanced and evaluated at the request of The Plain Dealer. Several seconds pass. Then, "All right, prepare to fire!"

"Get down!" someone shouts urgently, presumably in the crowd. Finally, "Guard! . . . " followed two seconds later by a long, booming volley of gunshots. The entire spoken sequence lasts 17 seconds.


The order indicates that the gunshots were not spontaneous, or in response to sniper fire, as some have suggested over the years.


The review was done by Stuart Allen and Tom Owen, two nationally respected forensic audio experts with decades of experience working with government and law enforcement agencies and private clients to decipher recorded information.

There's audio at the link.
#123 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 04:09 PM:

For reasons articulated throughout this comment thread, I am increasingly disturbed when I hear calls to call in the national guard to deal with the recent (and almost unreported, outside the immediate area -- even most Chicagoans haven't heard the details) spate of violence on Chicago's south side.

Interestingly, neither of the state legislators who are urging the governor to act represent the districts in question. In fact, one of them represents *me*. Or claims to.

#124 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 05:55 PM:

Calling for martial law, the national guard, etc., in normal crime-wave circumstances always looks like signaling to me--it's a way of saying "see, I take this crisis seriously!"

In truth, I suspect a lot of the craziest, most horrible bits of the war on terror follow the same pattern. If you're calling for all alleged terrorists to be kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned forever, etc., then nobody can claim you're not taking them seriously. Very little the Bush administration did w.r.t. the war on terror looked plausibly like a response to a really serious threat, except the stuff that worked as signaling how serious they were about the terrorist threat.

#125 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 05:59 PM:

As an aside, I think one of the ways you get really crazy, destructive organizational behavior from a bureaucracy or social system is when the signaling kinds of decisions and the deciding kind of decisions get mixed up.

#126 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 07:08 PM:

albatross @ 125:

On that view, perhaps somewhere in Washington a meeting was held where some high-level manager said — sotto voce I presume — something on the order of, "Will no one rid me of these tumultuous progressives?"

No, I'm not joking.

#127 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 05:19 AM:

While I don't want to start (yet another) galavanic thrash I'm a bit surprised, iven the title of this post, that no-one's mentioned this story in this thread.

(Given what I know about this community, I'm guessing that it's more likely to be because other people wanted to avoid a galvanic thrash as well, rather than that they didn't see any sort of connection. But now the conversation has molved on, perhaps it's safe to say something)

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 06:07 AM:

praisegod barebones @127:
While I don't want to start (yet another) galavanic thrash I'm a bit surprised, iven the title of this post, that no-one's mentioned this story in this thread.

A praiseworthy objective.

There was some discussion of it in Open Thread 139, if you want to catch up on what was said. General conclusion: eew. Substantial wishing that there were someone to vote for who (a) didn't do that sort of thing, since both the donkeys and the elephants seem to, and (b) might also get elected.

We can discuss this, but I'm about to go have a look at the galvanic thrash, which clearly needs moderatorial attention (I've been busy, Patrick's in Florida, Teresa's in a work crunch, Jim's got asplosions, and I don't keep Avram's calendar). I'd be especially grateful if no one would thrash here too. Particularly since I'll have the de-galvanizer all warmed up and freshly calibrated, lookin' for trouble.

#129 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 10:00 AM:

I think this, and a couple of post-election incidents in the UK involving photographers, suggests a worrying pattern. Once a bad habit gets embedded in the machinery of government, it needs more than pretty words from the leaders to change it.

There were minor Republicans from the Reagan era who were big names under Bush. Some of them may have been crooks who got away with it the first time, and just carried on.

Here in the UK, we've suffered an authoritarian trend for over 30 years. There can't be many Police Officers serving who were recruited before then.

Talking nice just isn't enough.

#130 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 10:41 AM:

Add in the ones who were minor crooks under Nixon, carried on under Reagan, and became cabinet officers under (either) Bush.

I'd really like to have a government that, when it says 'no one is above the law', means it, including themselves and their predecessors.

#131 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 02:24 PM:

#120 et al.

Police enforcement in a lot of places has changed, and it's changed for a good reason: money.

In the 1980's, Los Angeles was confronted by spreading organized crime problems caused by an infusion of crack money into the slums. They could have dealt with it by hiring lots more police, and by funding opportunities for youth to get good jobs outside of South Central (the crack trade paid surprisingly poorly; most gang members did it because there wasn't anything else). However, that would have cost $$$$ and required raising local property taxes.

So instead, they hired a man who promised to deliver greater law enforcement via para-military techiques with no extra budget except ammunition: Daryl Gates.

The results you are familiar with. I was in the Rodney King riots; I don't blame Gates, I blame the people who hired him, the LA City Council.

If you look at the places where unwarranted force by police is a chronic issue, you'll also find cities and counties where law enforcement is severely under-budgeted: Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, many New York suburbs, etc. Don't blame the police for "becoming more trigger-happy"; turn your attention and voting ire to the folks who hold the purse strings.

#132 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 09:47 AM:

Denver PD is notoriously, well, we'll say, not nice. Why do you think the Democratic Convention went so smoothly? But I read somewhere that we have more police per capita than most places. Lack of funding is only one explanation.

The police are mean here because it's tolerated in the name of peace. (And also because as mean as they are, they're still nicer than our paramedics. In fact, I'd rather deal with DPD than a Denver paramedic, and I'm a doctor.)

#133 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 04:04 PM:

You're a doctor?!?!? I thought you were a muse.

#135 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 06:52 PM:

Collateral damage in Detroit.

#136 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 07:31 PM:

Followup @135: New video confirms Detroit police cover-up

#137 ::: fuzzywzhe ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2011, 01:16 PM:

How a Baby Boomer thinks:

War bad for my generation when we need to fight it.

War good for generation X and Y.

Nixon was forced to leave office for breaking into Democratic head quarters. Bush led us into a war of weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist and over a connection between Al Qaeda and binLaden that didn't exist. The CIA director WHO RESIGNED after taking the blame for the "faulty intelligence" got the Presidential Medal of Freedom, AFTER he resigned. I bet you can't even name him. A *blatant* bribe, and not a peep.

No big deal.

Well, there is some justice, the boomers aren't going to get their Social Security checks, so going along to get along might finally teach them some civic responsibility beyond their own immediate, short term needs.

#138 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2011, 01:51 AM:

Interesting to note the 2010 existence of "" back up at #84. Any relation to the current #OWS/99% group?

#139 ::: P J Evans sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2014, 01:04 AM:

It links to something at - I hope that isn't Miskatonic!

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