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?

In the social media war the NYPD have been answering back withChief Joanne Jaffe plaintively tweeting from @NYPDCommAffairs ‘The is committed to rebuilding public trust.

However as Daniel Agee responded: ‘ 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?

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  1. David McGill says:

    This behaviour inevitably leads to feelings of insecurity. As a result more people employ security companies and buy personal weapons, and more and more weapons/equipment are required for more and more armed personnel. Ask yourself who profits from all this and you might have the answer?

  2. maxi kerr says:

    Have watched the police becoming a dressed in black private internal army all across Europe and the USA for nearly 20 years now. You need to ask WHY?—–The IQ of most of these ex army thugs that are being employed these days are the same as their waist measurements.I think the “we were born to rule brigade ” know they will need protection from us serf’s when we finally say ENOUGH!!!!.

  3. Brian says:

    Maybe we should be grateful then that the BBC don’t collude in aggressive policing by showing what happened in Parliament Square during Occupy Democracy protests.

  4. oldbattle says:

    “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

    We cannot turn back.

    There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. ‘ 1963 MLK ‘s Dream has turned nightmare?

  5. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Aboriginal men women and children are being locked up at an increasing rate. 60% more deaths in custody in the last fifteen years. Police can be seen every day in Australia acting out without any holds barred. Terrifying future.

  6. Helen says:

    “Who becomes a security guard?” – many times, it’s someone with a family to support. Your assumption that such people are “the most unthinking of society” is crass and offensive.

    I guess many people around the world watched the video you’re referring to, but I doubt many watched it as “entertainment”. The very fact if its existence – the very fact that so many people watched it – has led to the mass demonstrations, the civil rights actions, and hopefully, ultimately, the overturning of the grand jury decision. So to view it – difficult as most if us doubtless found it – is nevertheless necessary in order to effect change.

    His name was Eric Garner, BTW. Not Eric Gurner.

  7. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Not sure about the figures on deaths in custody so discard that information. But the rate of incarceration which includes 12yr. olds has increased 60% and there is no improvement in the number of deaths either even after Royal Commision recommendations nothing changes. There has been three shootings by police in the last few weeks in Queensland. This is the lucky country.

  8. Mark Whelan says:

    A tough question and a difficult call. No answers at this time.

  9. Mark Whelan says:

    Reblogged this on Mark Whelan and commented:
    This violent, policed world.

  10. Gordon says:

    How long before the black man/ethnic minority/protester bite back? There are enough hotheads out there to create a serious backlash. The video is useful in refuting collusion in police evidence and, as has been said, mustering civilised public opinion.

  11. MBC says:

    I’ve avoided those stories for that very reason. Is that a better response? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Society is fragmenting. We are becoming strangers to one another, that’s what’s behind it.

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