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The Future of Protest In Panopticon Nation 566

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-world-is-a-stage dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "James Fallows writes that you don't have to idealize everything about the Occupy movement to recognize the stoic resolve of the protesters at UC Davis being pepper sprayed as a moral drama that the protesters clearly won. 'The self-control they show, while being assaulted, reminds me of grainy TV footage I saw as a kid, of black civil rights protesters being fire-hosed by Bull Connor's policemen in Alabama. Or of course the Tank Man in Tiananmen Square,' writes Fallows. 'Such images can have tremendous, lasting power.' We can't yet imagine all the effects of the panopticon society we are beginning to live in but one benefit to the modern protest movement is the omnipresence of cameras (video) as police officials, protesters, and nearly all onlookers are recording whatever goes on bringing greater accountability and a reality-test for police claims that they 'had' to use excessive force. 'What's new is that now the perception war occurs simultaneously with the physical struggle. There's almost parity,' writes Andrew Sprung. 'You have a truncheon or gun, I have a camera. You inflict pain, I inflict infamy.'"
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The Future of Protest In Panopticon Nation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:49PM (#38141452)

    First Post

    "There's almost parity,' writes Andrew Sprung. 'You have a truncheon or gun, I have a camera. You inflict pain, I inflict infamy.'""

    haha come on, parity?

    Has this guy ever been pepper sprayed or beaten up before?

    People shouldnt have to endure this to receive justice

    Its a sad day our society thinks this is some kind of achievement or "balance" of power

    • by causality (777677) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:03PM (#38141652)

      People shouldnt have to endure this to receive justice

      No, they shouldn't, but this is the way it has always been.

      You can read the autobiography of Mohandas Ghandi (a really wonderful book) and see the same patterns. You can read some Henry David Thoreau and understand why he would have preferred to remain in jail instead of having a well-meaning but less-principled individual pay his poll tax for him.

      As long as the masses, the majority of people, are largely passive and indifferent to the injustice around them there will always be a need for exceptional individuals to take this kind of abuse to effect any real change. What people like Thoreau and Ghandi realized was the error of violence, the way it makes it so easy for those who control perception and use propaganda to make the violent (however justified) into evil bogeymen who will always be demonized in the popular mind.

      I heard this one time and I never forgot it. It is a saying of Ghandi's: "the good that violence appears to do is temporary; the harm that it does is permanent." I suppose there are a lot of low-brow, smarmy types with nothing to contribute so for them maybe I should add "within the context of protest and trying to change society" so the fact that war sometimes is quite necessary is irrelevant. There was a time before it became necessary and that's when peaceful change was possible. I'm tired of that small-minded crowd, so I don't consider it a total waste to deny them the slam-dunk "victory" they so desperately crave.

      At any rate, doing it peacefully means you absolutely must maintain the high ground. If you want to expose the establishment for the bunch of power-hungry thugs they tend to be, you cannot use their tactics. It provides no contrast. The unwise, reactionary, direction-less types who tend to attach themselves to any major movement are the biggest problem the Occupiers currently have. Do you not notice how the media reports with glee the rapes, murders, etc. that occur on the Occupied territory? That's exactly what they want -- for you to be no better. If you want to be effective, don't give it to them.

      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:21PM (#38141916)

        Exactly.

        The general populace understands that the State is the only entity that has a legitimate right to project force. Whether via the military (hopefully outside the country) or the police (inside the country). I include the CIA / FBI / etc in those categories.

        Anyone else using force (particularly outside their social group) is IMMEDIATELY identified as a criminal. A threat to society.

        There may be problems in society. And the majority of the population may even AGREE with you about those problems. But they do NOT want to have to deal with non-State violence. They see enough of that (and its effects) from criminals.

        • by Genda (560240) <mariet@go[ ]et ['t.n' in gap]> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:38PM (#38142106) Journal

          Even from "State Authority" we demand that violence be tempered and that force be fair and proportional to the threat. When a Bull Conner unleashes attack dogs on people quietly walking or a National Guardman shoots an unarmed girl with a high powered rifle standing in protest on a campus lawn or Police assault people up to and including deadly force for no apparent cause, we are rightly dumbstruck and appalled. Because they have the charge of using force, they must be all the more responsible for using it as the last possible way of managing a circumstance, and at that in strict measure according to the threat.

          Mayor Bloomberg had terrible force unleashed on the Occupy protestors. He knew this is his last term and he would have to return to Wallstreet after his term was over, so we can all clearly see whose interest he protected and protected savagely. This is exactly the kind of misuse of power, that makes good Americans want to take their government back from from death grip of the 1%. Sadly some are willing to use violence, and sad as that may be, it too is something that is sometimes justifiable.

          • by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @07:45PM (#38142860)

            Sadly some are willing to use violence, and sad as that may be, it too is something that is sometimes justifiable

            Justifiable violence is my fear. Passive resistance, civil disobedience, and jury nullification are all wonderful examples of making your point without violence and exposing the tyranny and rationale of those in power.

            However, I can fully admit that if it came down to it, I would kill another human being without a seconds thought if it was required to protect me, my friends, or my family. If rational discourse is not possible, and the environment so extreme that conflict resolution requires deadly force, I am going to survive.

            I do truly admire those that have the courage to be passive and forgiving even while dying painful deaths at the hands of others. I just don't have it.

            Sadly, I think we are heading towards justifiable violence as the only means to take back control of our countries and our lives. Protests and legislative bodies are accomplishing next to nothing and the situation is getting so bad, that my only choice will ultimately be violence or incarceration.

            As for leaving the US, just where would I go? Every country seems to be getting progressively worse and worse for their citizens, or is in economic slavery to the 1st world super powers.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:57PM (#38142320) Homepage Journal

        Do you not notice how the media reports with glee the rapes, murders, etc. that occur on the Occupied territory?

        And don't report that the perpetrators were not associated with the OWS protestors?

      • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @07:00PM (#38142350)

        You can read some Henry David Thoreau and understand why he would have preferred to remain in jail instead of having a well-meaning but less-principled individual pay his poll tax for him.

        Thoreau's essay (search for "Civil Disobedience" online) is excellent and should be required reading of every high school student in America.

        (Preferring to remain in jail is a little less impressive when it's only overnight, until Emerson comes to bail him out in the morning. Kinda like how his whole self-reliance theme is a little less powerful when he's squatting on land owned by Emerson. But still, considering the essay that came out of the overnight stay in jail, and its subsequent influence, it was pretty awesome.)

        • by causality (777677) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @08:01PM (#38143018)

          You can read some Henry David Thoreau and understand why he would have preferred to remain in jail instead of having a well-meaning but less-principled individual pay his poll tax for him.

          Thoreau's essay (search for "Civil Disobedience" online) is excellent and should be required reading of every high school student in America.

          (Preferring to remain in jail is a little less impressive when it's only overnight, until Emerson comes to bail him out in the morning. Kinda like how his whole self-reliance theme is a little less powerful when he's squatting on land owned by Emerson. But still, considering the essay that came out of the overnight stay in jail, and its subsequent influence, it was pretty awesome.)

          I especially loved and appreciated the part about the level of consciousness from which the State's response came. I don't remember the description exactly, but he wrote about the way it was his thoughts, beliefs, principles, and meditations that they found so intolerable, yet they took out their vengence on his body by locking it up. He said they did this just as boys who, unable to get back at their enemy, will abuse his dog. The jailor shut and locked the cell door, imprisoning his body, but his meditations went right through and out the door behind him.

          This was not someone you could intimidate by the usual methods and he did not need violence to achieve that status. This is what I admire.

      • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @07:04PM (#38142404)

        The unwise, reactionary, direction-less types who tend to attach themselves to any major movement are the biggest problem the Occupiers currently have. Do you not notice how the media reports with glee the rapes, murders, etc. that occur on the Occupied territory? That's exactly what they want -- for you to be no better. If you want to be effective, don't give it to them.

        Your problem is, and I have this information directly from people who participated in this very same activity in the 1960s, is that the unwise, reactionary, direction-less types, as well as those looking to party, do drugs, and hook-up with the opposite sex, are 99% of your protest numbers. Without them, the true reactionaries would be seen as too small a group to even care about. So they have to invite everybody else in in an attempt to show numbers that they don't truly possess. Running a fine Kitchen and giving out lots of free stuff at the Comfort Tent gave OWS the appearance of numbers far beyond the true reality of the dedicated.

        • Maybe. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @08:02PM (#38143036)

          Your problem is, and I have this information directly from people who participated in this very same activity in the 1960s, ...

          Maybe. But I think the situation may be a bit different today.

          ... is that the unwise, reactionary, direction-less types, as well as those looking to party, do drugs, and hook-up with the opposite sex, are 99% of your protest numbers.

          There are probably better places to "do drugs" that a place with, literally, dozens of cops standing around you. Who can come in at any time and knock your tent over.

          The same with "hook-up with the opposite sex". Not to mention that the ratio is rather slanted to males. Unless you're a woman looking for a guy ... in a cold tent ... in a public place ... with lots of cops around. And while I'm sure that those women do exist, I think we've wandered into fantasy territory.

          The party people, sure. As long as there's a party. But there are other parties out there. In warm places. With a lot lower police presence (because the cops are all at the protest).

          Running a fine Kitchen and giving out lots of free stuff at the Comfort Tent gave OWS the appearance of numbers far beyond the true reality of the dedicated.

          Again, maybe. They've claimed that the cops were pushing the homeless and regular vagrants to the protest. So there is at least some people there who would not be called "dedicated" to the general cause.

          On the other hand, not many people would choose to live in a cold tent in NYC if they had any other options. So those who aren't "dedicated" are indicative of the overall problem.

      • The unwise, reactionary, direction-less types who tend to attach themselves to any major movement are the biggest problem the Occupiers currently have.

        Yep. Because the 'occupy' movement is quite thoroughly unable or unwilling to deal with them - thoughtful people are asking why. Not so thoughtful people are blaming the media.

        Do you not notice how the media reports with glee the rapes, murders, etc. that occur on the Occupied territory?

        Why shouldn't they? That the 'occupy' movement can arrange for

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:10PM (#38141746)

      History always repeats itself. Swords and pens have become guns and cameras. The balance between them remains the same.

    • by Fjandr (66656) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:35PM (#38142076) Homepage Journal

      Not to disagree with the outrage expressed, but:

      Has this guy ever been pepper sprayed or beaten up before?

      Yes, he has. It's part of the training in the use of pepper spray by police forces. He's been sprayed at least once in the face with it.

  • by infolation (840436) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:51PM (#38141480)
    With the proliferation of video and photographic 'evidence', people seem much more ready to believe an event didn't happen nowadays if there isn't visual 'smoking gun' evidence to prove it.
    • by Aryden (1872756)
      [proof or it didn't happen]
    • by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:14PM (#38141814)

      Which is a good thing. The public being sceptical about what they hear unless shown proof is a huge step forward.

      • by Genda (560240) <mariet@go[ ]et ['t.n' in gap]> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:56PM (#38142304) Journal

        Sadly or perhaps frighteningly, there is a growing movement among police departments and the law establishment in general to criminalize filming police under any circumstance including the police committing criminal acts of violence. One of the great dangers we're now encountering is our government indulging in dark and immoral ventures and it can only participate in these ventures if its not being watched. The last administration used our fear and rage to twist our government into something truly unholy. The current administration hasn't seen fit to dismantle what was created and put things right. It is time for the American people to demand from all its leaders that our nation be returned to us the people, and that unfair influence through wealth and power and greedy self interest be mitigated,

        In a vital move towards that future, Government must become COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT... I no longer trust my government to act in my best interest (not that I ever did, but now I'm certain they are working against us), and unless I can see both hands all the time, I am deeply concerned that it labors busily, stealing my future and perhaps all our futures.

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:52PM (#38141492)

    Look for more incidents involving agents provocateurs in future protests. It's easier to "justify" whatever actions are taken if they can show footage of a "protester" acting in an "unreasonable" fashion.

    The public footage is having a huge impact right now because people are seeing people like themselves at the protests and NOT causing problems ... and hearing the official reports contradicting the footage.

    • by causality (777677)

      Look for more incidents involving agents provocateurs in future protests. It's easier to "justify" whatever actions are taken if they can show footage of a "protester" acting in an "unreasonable" fashion.

      The public footage is having a huge impact right now because people are seeing people like themselves at the protests and NOT causing problems ... and hearing the official reports contradicting the footage.

      This is what bothers me about the average person. If it isn't undeniably smacking them in the face, they have no clue how much and how often their media lies to them on a daily basis.

      People need to seriously wake the fuck up and they need to stop waiting for some leader to show them how. It is and has always been an individual realization based on a real love of truth.

    • by Saxerman (253676) *

      It's actually even more complex than that. Police are now basically being required [hometownstation.com] to do their own recording merely to provide evidence of their own side of the argument, to prevent any 'provocateurs' from rabble-rousing.

      This leads to pressure in law enforcement to deploy even more invasive surveillance. We could have officers then being required to keep their own personal cameras running constantly merely to prevent them from self blatantly self censoring footage that is not advantageous to their own p

  • by Quila (201335) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:52PM (#38141494)

    The blacks and Tank Man couldn't be sure the government wouldn't kill them on purpose. They faced down the very real threat of death for participating in their movements.

    For the OWS movement, any deaths caused by the government will be accidental.

    • by Riceballsan (816702) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:02PM (#38141630)
      True, but accidental in a horrendous way. "We only intended to hurt him by bashing his head into the pavement with the club, we had no intention of killing him". I agree the death toll will be negligible if it even exists, but at least a few people have taken some serious beatings that could cause permanent damage
    • by Nadaka (224565) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:06PM (#38141698)

      You have far to much faith in the system. As long as this massive inequity exists these protests will continue. As long as these protests continue those in power will become increasingly forceful in suppression of freedom.

      There really are Americans publicly saying that they should just roll over these protesters with tanks and shoot all the dirty hippies without any fear.

    • like when veterans are hit in the head with a tear gas cannister on video by a polieman firing at them while they are already on the ground receiving medical attention? Yeah, total accident.

      Fuck you, and take your bullshit out the door with you.

      • Yes, accident (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Quila (201335)

        No intent to kill.

        The Chinese shot them, drove over them with tanks. The Democrat KKK killed civil rights activists with impunity under the tacit approval of local governments, even having victims handed to them by the police (who were often KKK themselves anyway). Khadaffi used snipers and helicopter gunships to kill dozens of people in just one protest. The protesters in Syria know full well their protesting is very likely to be deadly, with thousands dead so far.

        An OWS protester has no real fear for his

      • by fishbowl (7759) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @07:37PM (#38142776)

        Even that incident is totally different from the UC Davis one. Main point: Those particular individuals were in a place where they had a specific right to be because it was their domicile. Orders to vacate could not be lawfully given in the first place, at least not without specific and valid reasons (they were not trespassing, they were not blocking ingress or egress, or creating any other specific hazard.) They weren't under arrest, and there wasn't a warrant for their arrest or even a judicial process through which their arrest was sought. If the police had authority to make arrests, they could have done so with the handcuffs and 45ACPs. It is exactly _because_ they didn't have this authority that got Pike upset enough to cease being a law enforcement officer and become a vigilante, disobeying orders, ignoring California law and the policies and procedures of his department, and take out his aggressions against these individuals. He treated them as though they were the same people as some group of Oakland rioters or whatever. When the lawsuits inevitably come, the university is going to have to settle them quietly because there are serious risks they face if they have to admit either that they lied about not giving orders to use force, or if they have to admit that Pike disobeyed orders. Either way, ugly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The blacks and Tank Man couldn't be sure the government wouldn't kill them on purpose. They faced down the very real threat of death for participating in their movements.

      Not sure about the blacks, but it's not true with Tankman, even though I understand your general sentiment.

      I grew up in China, and was a freshman in college when Tankman emerged, so in a sense I was his contemporary. For better or for worse, the CCP had maintained a very effective propaganda up to that point, that the army and the people were a family, hence the name PLA, or "People's Liberation Army". There was a popular saying and it roughly translates: the relationship between the army and the people i

  • by fragfoo (2018548) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:54PM (#38141532)
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:56PM (#38141554)

    You inflict pain, I inflict infamy.

    That's nice. I will never meet or deal with the police officer who maced those protesters. I've already forgotten his name. When 90% of the population sees these things, they think "huh, sucks to be them. glad they're out there fighting the good fight and not me. What's for dinner?" When the sadists and psychopaths see them, they say to themselves "wow, they take the punishment and stay put for more."

    • Re:Ooooo, Infamy. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @07:27PM (#38142662) Homepage

      And then very quietly, a shift happens. They see a cop who seems a touch nervous and somewhere in the back of their mind, they think danger. Then they think they shouldn't have to think "danger" when they see a cop. After a while, they tell their kids to avoid cops entirely, even if they're lost. Slowly but surely, the population comes to think of the police as an enemy. An invading force they don't want in their neighborhood.

      Minorities are way ahead of the curve on that one for various good reasons, but the rest of the population is catching up.

      Even though I obey the law, the more stuff like this I see, the more I regard the police as a potential enemy.

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:56PM (#38141556)

    We all know the 1% (or "powers that be," if you prefer) are tracking us now and will continue to expand the scope and depth of how they track us.

    But we in the 99% (or "little people/hoi poloi/peasants," if you prefer) have access to most of the same technology at an affordable price point. There is no technical reason we cannot track them as much or more than they can us, especially if we use our vastly superior numbers to crowd-source the most difficult part of tracking: making sense of the deluge of data.

    If we repeat what we did with searching for Steve Fossett's plane using Google Earth crossed with FoldIt and SETI@home we can develop a real-time picture of exactly what the 1% are doing, where, and when. That's a tremendous amount of intelligence we can leverage in many ways.

    So, for example, if we map radio transponders used by our friendly neighborhood shock troo, er, police then we can equal the spying they're already doing on peaceful protesters (Google "NYPD spying protest groups." What would they do if we knew exactly where they keep their LRAD cannons and pepper spray depots and stage sit-ins at the entrances before they can deploy? What if every single Lt. John Pike gets followed home by the protesters who surround his home, quietly sitting and linking arms?

    Or, more to the point, what if we made sure that the puppet masters never have a moment's peace and that they know we all know them exactly for the scum they are?

    That, I believe, is what needs to happen next to break the back of this beast.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .retawriaf.> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:04PM (#38141662) Homepage

    From the summary:

    "'What's new is that now the perception war occurs simultaneously with the physical struggle. There's almost parity,' writes Andrew Sprung. 'You have a truncheon or gun, I have a camera. You inflict pain, I inflict infamy.'"

    No, what you inflict is spin - because all you have to is show a carefully focused video showing the police swinging their truncheons or spraying pepper spray, and those who believe video bites represent the entire truth will defend your interpretation, and forward it, and 'like' it, etc... You'll hang 'em in the court of public opinion, but that's much more important than reality.

    • You mean that, before the policeman took a while showing the spray can to the people, and spayed them on the eyes, without any display of violence from their part, something important happened that is not displayed on the video?

      Would you care to tell what is that important part of the truth that isn't represented on the video? I mean, how can the policeman be threatened if during the entire video there wasn't a single threatening movement from the students?

    • by itchythebear (2198688) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:51PM (#38142246)

      You make a very important point about how video bites don't always show exactly what happend, and can often appear to support the party who was actually in the wrong. However, this does not apply to this specific case.

      Many videos that show the event start well before the actual pepper spraying occurs and continue well afterwards. Additionally, the students who were sprayed were simply sitting down, not resisting arrest. The students should have just been arrested, pepper spraying was totally unneeded.

  • by InitZero (14837) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:12PM (#38141774) Homepage
    My father was a college student and newspaper photographer in Ohio circa May 1970. His photos of student protest and civil disobedience [capecentralhigh.com] remind me of what I'm seeing with the Occupy movement.

    A year or more ago, I commented that I didn't think the Tea Party would have a long-term affect because they weren't motivated enough to burn down an ROTC building nor were the police scared enough of them to hit them with tear gas.

    Agree with them or not. Understand them or not. The Occupy movement is going to leave a mark upon this country because they are willing to have skin in the game.

    Cheers, Matt
    • by w3woody (44457)

      It also helps that the protesters are playing an asymmetrical game with reporters who are sympathetic to their cause.

      Meaning the various transgressions taking place in the Occupy movement (the rapes, the thefts, the public masturbation, shitting on cop cars, lobbing human waste at street vendors who don't give them freebees, etc) are all being ignored and will be ignored because they don't play into the story of the downtrodden standing up to The Man. But the handful of cops who lose their cool and snap, or

  • by Stirling Newberry (848268) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @06:26PM (#38141972) Homepage Journal
    In the present, police departments are already arresting people for video tapping them. [kdvr.com]
  • by maxx_entropy (869755) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @07:18PM (#38142546)
    The Ninth Circuit has already ruled on this sort of situation.. the courts will and must revoke the police's qualified immunity against claims of excessive force. Let the lawsuits begin: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-9th-circuit/1332957.html [findlaw.com]
  • Astonished (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wdef (1050680) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @09:35PM (#38143800)
    The amount of belligerent, right wing disgust for people trying to assert their democratic right to protest astonishes me. Yet I suppose these right wind nut jobs are the same people who keep ranting about the right to bear arms to defend oneself against the government.

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