The Voyeurism of State Violence
The horrific cases of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Ramarley Graham (amongst many thousands of others) seemed to confirm that there’s an epidemic of police violence in the black community in the USA.
In a chilling realisation of 2000 AD comic style law enforcement where the police seem to function as judge, jury and executioner, operating, seemingly beyond the law, we all watch as new atrocities unfold each day. These most recent cases should not be seen in isolation but have come in a new wave that includes Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was shot in Cleveland, or Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old who was murdered in California or Eric Garner who was strangled to death in the streets of New York or John Crawford who was shot to death in an Ohio Wal-Mart after he bought a toy gun.
But there’s another aspect to this that the whipstorm of social media and phone cameras have created a new phenomena whereby millions of us, even in solidarity and condemnation, seem to be viewing state murder and assault on a daily basis.
This is true of the now routine tazer assaults or use of CS spray or other non-lethal weapons (see yesterdays assault on peaceful student protests in Warwick) and endless and continuous examples from round the world – ‘A video showing three Sydney police officers brutally beating a young woman has gone viral’ – or – ‘Police shoot homeless man during camping arrest’.
The commonality between these events is the assault is often against the most vulnerable members of society and the routine ineptitude and everyday barbarism of the state operatives, themselves no doubt recruited from the lowest educated and most unthinking of society. Who becomes a security guard?
Again and again we see the blurring of official sanctioned ‘state police’ and private security firms assisting and abetting in this new violence. This is a new politicization – a form of repression of peaceful protest and a new emboldened physical violence.
The ‘epidemic of police violence in US’: with a black person killed every 28 hours, is horrific and of a higher magnitude, but is part of a wider pattern of state violence in Western society as austerity digs deeper and consciousness and political responses rises.
This is intimidation and brutalisation accelerated by technology and magnified by the spectacle.
Something in this process also serves to satisfy our thirst for voyeurism, invasion of privacy and our fascination with the obscene. Is there a sadistic element to taking pleasure in watching the sufferings of others at work as well?
However as Daniel Agee responded: ‘#wehearyou isn’t the best choice for a hashtag since this is about the police murdering a man who was shouting “I can’t breathe!’
We’re not immune to the issues of police brutality, kettling, centralisation and arming here in Scotland. But this – the voyeurism of state violence – is a global phenomenon.
Yesterday I watched a man be murdered by the police online – we all did. I feel violated by that experience but I also feel empty and impotent.
How can we show solidarity against police violence and stop colluding in it by treating it like entertainment?