Thursday, August 14, 2008

Police State 2.0

I don't have any outrage to report today about the use, mis- or ab-use of the Portable Instant Torture Device more commonly referred to as "taser".

This of course does not mean that such has not taken place, which it most certainly has. A toy like tool such as this, with the predicate of "harmless" (when used as directed), will of course be used with a certain promiscuity.

But the taser is only symptomatic of larger developments which broadly are known as "crowd control". Ostensibly, "crowd control" should be "humane" -- that is in the sense that the technology should not leave (long lasting) physical marks or (heaven forbid) trails of blood or dead bodies. Such is okay for outright tyranny, but not in free and democratic societies.

However, the purpose of crowd control is to keep people from demonstrating their dissatisfaction or anger over something. The problem is that crowd control cannot distinguish between citizens who have a legitimate bitch or authority which feels itself threatened.

When I was a young fellow, I remember scenes in Asimov's "Foundation and Empire" where the Imperial Police dispersed crowds with "neuronic whips" which, leaving no marks, left people (temporarily) writhing in agony.

Today, we have goo-spray, pepper spray, rubber and plastic bullets, water cannon, heat ray, sonic dispersal and many others. Combined with CCTV, face recognition and many other computer supported technologies to identify and/or red flag undesired activity, the ground work for tyrannies of behavior and even thought control has been laid. The problem is that "the bulwark against tyranny is dissent" as Amy Goodman succinctly puts it.

Naomi Klein points to this development in the 2008 Olympics in her essay Police State 2.0. As always, she's worth a read.

No comments: