Saturday, May 11, 2013


I have attempted to do something here that I think has not been done before and that is to put the following analysis from the Chicago Surrealist Group on the 1992  L.A. Rebellion in a non-PDF form, on the internet.  I did have to leave out some little quotes that were scattered here and there which is too bad, because they were indeed to the point,  but such is life in the world of cutting and pasting.  I've been reading some stuff on Surrealism by the Chicago Surrealist Group of late and that led me to this posting below for Scission Theoretical Weekend.  I am hoping that I got everything pasted in the right order, if not, well, think of it as surrealist poetry or something.  I did my best.

I do thank for the PDF version.

Read on.

Three Days That Shook the New World Order

The Chicago Surrealist Group’s Statement on the 1992 L.A. Rebellion

First published in Race Traitor #2, Summer 1993 


“Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.”
– T-Bone Slim

“We were not able to choose the mess we have to live in – this collapse of a whole society – but we can choose our way out.”
– C.L.R. James

“Don’t be afraid. Just go ahead and play.”
– Charlie Parker

With flames hundreds of feet high and spread out over dozens of square miles, the Los Angeles Rebellion of April-May 1992 lit up the horrible domestic reality of the “New World Order.” Thanks to what is usually the most invisible sector of the U.S. population – the despised “underclass” – the fundamental injustice of American society suddenly became visible to the whole world. In a year of preposterously insipid electioneering and “opinion polls,” as Pogo pointed out that it was not the choices but the lack of choices that made U.S. elections a sham, the vanguard of the non-voting majority stated their fiercely anti-Establishment opinions loud and clear. In a time of massive political demoralization and incoherence, the most down-and-out people in the country changed the complexion and direction of American politics and pointed the way forward for all seekers of real freedom and justice for all.

The ruling-class delusions of grandeur that followed the collapse of the state-capitalist bureaucracies in eastern Europe and the USSR – delusions already interrupted by a steadily worsening recession as well as mounting revulsion against U.S. government corruption and malevolence at home and abroad – burst like a bubble as the unemployed, the homeless and the hip-hoppers of L.A. started reinventing the revolutionary traditions of May Day a couple of days early.

The L.A. rebels showed that a few Black and Latino mayors and police chiefs, a few minority TV shows and token faces of Black and Latino celebrities on billboards are not solving and cannot solve the problems of those who are forced to live in America’s Black ghettoes, barrios and other “bad” neighborhoods. Sons and daughters of the Watts rebels of ‘65, grandsons and granddaughters of the zoot-suiters and beboppers of the ‘40s, the L.A. rebels rapped to one and all that nothing less than a complete transformation of social relations can create a life worth living.

For three full days many tens of thousands of people said “no!” to the slave system known as daily life in America. In the highly educational enthusiasm of mass action, long-established habits and routines of resignation were discarded in favor of improvisation, experiment, and discovery. However briefly, throngs who had been condemned to a living death discovered new reasons for living, new possibilities of life.

Now, almost a year later, the walls of oppression are still shaking.

The bold initiative of L.A.’s daring young rebels has now enabled countless millions to see, hear and feel – as never before – the thoroughgoing crisis of this deadly civilization. In a social order in which the “doors of perception” are systematically blocked, boarded up and covered with barbed wire, the liberation of the senses is an indispensable prerequisite for all other liberation.

“Sending messages” to the people is one of the main functions of business and government. It is an official monopoly of those in power – the rest of us are regarded as mere receivers. When the President of the United States says he is going to send a message, as during the Persian Gulf Massacre and the L.A. rebellion, “message” generally means troops. The L.A. rebels, however, sent strong messages of their own – messages of resistance, revolt and freedom – and these messages were heard by millions, loud and clear.

Revolution is, indeed, first and foremost a question of human expression. Those of us who continue to dream of Revolution –who have not despaired of creating a truly free society – proclaim not only our solidarity with the L.A. rebels and our determination to defend them, but also our conviction that their action has done more to bring fundamental questions to the fore than anything that has happened in years.

Unequivocally we are on the side of the L.A. rebels. Their enemies are ours, as is their scorn for a social order based on inequality and force-propped authority. Ours, too, are their desperation, their rage, their yearning for real life, and their sharp awareness that direct action is the only effective means of social betterment today.

First of all it is important to clear the air of the toxic ideological dust that the government and its news-machines have been scattering everywhere on the L.A. Rebellion and its aftermath. Rejecting the demeaning term “riot,” we recognize the rebellion as a truly revolutionary uprising that has challenged the exploitative foundations of U.S. plutocracy, exposed the fiction of U.S. democracy, and recharged all emancipatory forces in this country and the world. Indeed, far from being an isolated “riot,” the Los Angeles events sparked a wave of rebellion which so surpassed merely local importance that we may ultimately refer to them by date rather than place. Just as there was a May ‘68, there was an April-May ‘92.

In its direct attack on this society’s repressive institutions we recognize a practical critique that is near-total and, as such, a practical refutation of all the ideologists of the Left, Right and Middle whose partial critiques and reformist programs are little more than brand-names of stalemate, defeat and reaction.

Thus we also reject the ruling-class defamation – as set forth by countless politicians and journalists, including Mike Royko in the Chicago Tribune and Stanley “Hanging Judge” Crouch in the New York Times – that the L.A. rebels are merely “gangbangers, thugs, thieves,” “rioting street criminals,” “just another manifestation of barbaric opportunism,” and guilty of “criminal anarchy.” Such abuse reveals the smug hypocrisy of those who salute “pro- Democracy fighters” approved by the State Department, but abhor those who live and fight in the U.S. itself.

People who find themselves in a cop-free environment for the first time, conscious that they are freer than they have ever been in their lives, cannot be expected to be exemplars of free human beings in a free society. For, into their first tentative experience of freedom they bring with them a lifetime’s accumulation of un- freedom. It would be absurd to believe that those who have been bound their whole lives will, at the moment their fetters are suddenly and unexpectedly shaken off, immediately move with a dancer’s grace. No, they will not always do the right thing, and some will inevitably commit terrible wrongs. That excesses are a part of every rising of the oppressed is a truism – the American Revolution of 1776 was full of excesses – and only lickspittles of the status quo could denounce such uprisings because of the excesses of a few.

What is important is not merely to condemn brutality by those who rose up but also, as Sister Souljah observed at the time, to place such excesses in the context of the larger brutalizations which are everyday occurrences in U.S. cities. This alone can help us all to try to avoid them in the future. In any case, let us not lose a sense of proportion. The excesses committed by L.A. rebels were hardly the most remarkable developments in the rebellion there. Hysterical denunciations of violence by those who rule ring especially hollow. America’s CIA President and the news- commentators who followed his orders tried to convince us that four Black men accused of beating a white truck-driver in the first hours of the L.A. uprising are among the most fiendish ogres of all time. To put this in perspective, one has only to consider how many lost their lives in any given hour of “collateral damage” in the 1991 U.S. massacre of the people of Iraq.

False, too, and no less a part and parcel of the oppressors’ apologia, is the “consumerist” view of the rebellion, according to which the “rioters” vied with each other in the accumulation of commodities. The rebels’ principal action, however, was attacking and destroying police stations, government buildings and businesses regarded as symbols of the dominant order. The so- called looting was decidedly a secondary phenomenon for the   “underclass,” moreover, mass-media advertising is a cruel hoax: What you see is what you can’t afford and what you will never get.

We also reject the liberal theory – as advanced by James Ridgeway and others – that Police Chief Gates somehow engineered or managed the Rebellion: that he knew it was coming, refused (for personal as well as political reasons) to mobilize the L.A. police to stop it, and, in the long run, drew the most benefit from it. To thus elevate any of history’s least significant actors – police chiefs, politicians and other parasites – to positions of power they could never attain, is to reduce the masses to the status of history’s mere objects, inevitable victims of omnipotent authority.

The people in the streets of L.A. suffered many casualties, and for the time being have retreated. But surely it was they, not Gates or any other “prominent personality,” who made history during the last two days of April and the first of May 1992.

Finally, it is impossible to agree with those who pretend to see in the L.A. rebellion only a “tragedy.” That it had tragic qualities no one would deny, but it cannot be written off so simply. Had no rebellion occurred after the L.A. police verdict was announced – had the outrageous decision in the Rodney King case been passively accepted: That would have been a tragedy!

Why Los Angeles? Poet Larry Neal wrote that “America is the world’s greatest jailer, and we are all in jail.” It is characteristic of the New World Order that America’s most prison-like city, a veritable hothouse of institutionalized racism and an incubator of some of history’s most insidious innovations in Capital’s war on Labor, also happens to be what Mike Davis calls the “fastest growing metropolis in the advanced industrial world.”1 Nothing is less surprising than the fact that a major rebellion should break out in the city in which post-industrial misery has reached its highest tension. But the April-May ‘92 events cannot be reduced to the status of a “regional” phenomenon. Indeed, the rebellion revealed, in rough outline, contours and patterns that will go a long way in defining the struggle for human emancipation on this continent for years to come.

Los Angeles is the most militarized city in the United States, and its cops have long been notorious as the most fascistic in the land. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) numbers 8000 officers, and the L.A. Sheriff’s Police adds 8000 more. On the first day of the uprising California Governor Wilson sent in 4000 National Guard troops. President Bush sent in 4500 U.S. Army troops and Marines as well as 1200 Federal law officers from the Border Patrol, Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, U.S Park Police, Customs Service Helicopter Units, F.B.I. SWAT teams, and special teams from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. 1200 officers of the California Highway Patrol were also mobilized. In addition to these 26,900 armed defenders of Capital and the State, several thousand more were “on standby.” Moreover, L.A. has 3500 “private security” firms, all heavily armed.

That it took seventy-two hours for this huge military force to occupy the rebel neighborhoods shows that the uprising expressed the discontent and desire of a large community. Significantly, far more than in the Sixties ghetto uprisings, the L.A. rebellion quickly spread beyond the extensive liberated zones of the ghetto itself, igniting revolts among the oppressed in Hollywood, Long Beach, Pasadena and elsewhere. In all, some 10,000 businesses were destroyed. Damage was estimated at a billion dollars. Some 17,000 “rioters” were arrested. Close to 2000 were deported.

Within an hour or two of the first reports of “trouble” in L.A., police departments all over the United States were put in a state of “readiness.” Reserves were called in, street-patrols increased. And all over the country local police were invited to add their own lies and threats to the non-stop propaganda barrage provided by the obedient media.

Despite this nationwide display of police and military strength, despite an utter disregard for civil liberties by the forces of occupation which reached the proportions of a state of siege in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and elsewhere, and despite the endless half- truths and untruths droned on TV, radio, in the press and from the pulpits, the L.A. rebellion inspired a positive and active response from coast to coast. No matter how slickly the “official” State Department or media commentators – who can tell the difference? – tried to suppress the real news from L.A., or to whitewash it with racist images and innuendo, young recalcitrants throughout the country saw through the smokescreen and took action. Direct- action protests that in some cases turned into full-scale rebellions, sparked by news of the uprising in L.A. and in solidarity with it, occurred in at least forty-four cities in twenty states.2

As is true of the L.A. rebellion itself, few if any of these solidarity rebellions were led, or indeed, in any way affected, by the organized Left. Wholly unprepared for such an uprising, which some “leading theorists” had in fact proved to be impossible in what they like to call this “post-modern” epoch, the Left – with very few exceptions3 – contributed neither to the events themselves nor to their subsequent theoretical clarification. In what passes for a Left press in the U.S., coverage of the L.A. rebellion characteristically oscillated between hand-wringing genuflections on the “tragedy” and cynical self-congratulation derived from the pretense that the uprising, like all events everywhere at all times, once again “vindicated” this or that archaic program. At their best the Left sects lent some support to the post-rebellion demonstrations, on which, however, they too often tried to impose a reformist slant by tying demands for more meaningless jobs to the fortunes of the Democratic Party, whose disgusting presidential campaign addressed the L.A. rebellion by playing the “Sister Souljah card” to reemphasize the obvious fact   that Bill “More Cops on the Street” Clinton is just another white conservative politician behind that saxophone.

Far more interesting and consequential than the flip-flops of the would-be radical intelligentsia was the bold action of the homeless, who went from being on the streets to in the streets with lightning speed, and the revolutionary lucidity and daring of the hip-hop community, and insurgent working-class young people generally, who were of course the heart and soul of the rebellion.

Contrary to those who profess to see nothing but illiteracy and ignorance in the “younger generation,” we argue that America’s poorest teen-agers, most of them high-school dropouts, are in many and fundamental ways far wiser than those who want them kept in school to prepare for (non-existent) jobs. If the best way to learn is by doing, the first thing is to decide what is to be done. There is every reason to believe that in some seventy-two hours of popular, creative destruction, L.A.’s insurgent population learned more than they did in all the years they spent confined in classrooms. Almost in passing, therefore, they proposed the only workable solution to the much-discussed crisis of American education.

That the hip-hoppers and dropouts have much to learn is obvious, but they also have much to teach. It would be wrong to minimize the inevitable confusion and, in some cases, outright misogyny and anti-Korean hysteria, that afflict the hip-hop community and the rappers who are its best-known public expression. It is nonetheless crucial to recognize in this community, and its music, the emergence of a rebellious pride, a conscious rejection of dominant values and the institutions that uphold them, and, above all, a new radical self-awareness rooted in the growing mass consciousness that revolutionary change is possible. The self-organization of these kids in X-caps has helped set the stage for nothing less than the creation of a free society.

In hilarious contrast to the grim Puritanism and “realistic” rhetoric of the Left, L.A.’s new urban guerrillas insisted on having a good time. Queried by reporters as to why they were looting, many replied: “Because it’s fun!” A front-page May 1st Chicago Tribune photo is captioned: “Looters laugh while they carry away all they can.” Ironically, the banner headline above it reads: “A nightmare    of violence in L.A.” One class’s nightmare is another’s pleasant dream.

Coco Fusco has pointed out that “laughing at imposed identity, imposed rules, imposed laws” has long been an element in the struggle against imperialist violence. In April-May ‘92, humor was a major weapon. Those who took what they wanted from unguarded stores could hardly help making jokes about the “free market.” Less than a day after the rebellion began, stickers reading “Support Your Local Police: Beat Yourself Up” turned up on walls, windows and lamp-posts all across the land. Few things are more consciousness- expanding than a good joke at the expense of cops, bosses and bureaucrats. Moreover, as in the movement for women’s reproductive rights and against the Gulf Massacre, humorists – cartoonists, street-pranksters, billboard-revisers and graffiti- comedians – grasped the essential in the L.A. rebellion faster and more consequently than anyone else. Social theory separated from humor can no longer serve the cause of freedom.

The L.A. rebels’ emphasis on humor, and on the pleasure of looting and other forms of rebelling, indicates that their very starting-point was well beyond all reality-principle politics. In one of the most insightful articles on the rebellion, Robin D. G. Kelley called attention to “the joy and sense of empowerment” expressed on the faces of the young Black and Latino poor, “seizing property and destroying what many regarded as symbols of domination.”4 In this joy and sense of empowerment lies the only future worth dreaming about.

The three-day L.A. insurrection of ‘92 was as spontaneous as the workers’ uprising in Hungary in 1956, the Paris rebellion of May ‘68, and the General Strike in Trinidad in 1970, and always will retain its honored place in the company of these and other great leaps toward freedom. Today, when all that’s left of the traditional Left are a few dried-up rinds of long-dead movements, those who have nothing to lose continue to offer us fresh fruit from the Tree of Life.

During the L.A. rebellion it became clear that even the seemingly simplest bits of news were saturated with falsehood. Again and again we were told, for example, that “the violence began shortly after the announcement of the verdict” – as if the racist verdict itself was not an act of violence, and as if the entire King case did not show how thoroughly violence pervaded the LAPD’s daily routine, and the American Way of Life. Another dishonest refrain vented the media’s consternation that the L.A. rebels were “burning down their own neighborhood.” Their own? Does anyone actually believe that people forced to live in these depressed and terrorized communities own or control them?

Indeed, a central lesson of the rebellion was the extent to which the establishment media, and what passes as common sense among racists, encourages white Americans to deny what they see. Thus a juror maintained that King was “directing the action” and “in complete control” as he lay helpless with police raining blow after blow on him. A Chicago Tribune headline, in a rare burst of lucidity, summarized the jury’s (il)logic: “What we thought we saw in the videotape didn’t happen.”

The acquitters of the cops who assaulted Rodney King showed a terrifying ability to construct a white “Semiotext(e)” which enabled them to deny the brutality of those in power, no matter how many times they watched it. Undoubtedly even now a small army of academics is feverishly trying to make the fashions of “deconstruction” fit the realities of Los Angeles. To the extent that such intellectuals fail to see that oppression and freedom (and not just infinitely manipulatable images) are at issue, they will not manage to break from the sorry apologetics characteristic of the Paul de Man(ic) capitulation to fascism by deconstruction’s founder and the craven decision of the Simi Valley jurors.

It was not just the jury’s behavior, but the entire performance of the press and TV commentators which showed how it is possible to be literally blinded by racism. Given the arrest records, and the pictures of the rebellion, there can be no doubt that community reaction to the King verdict was, to use a term that universities have not yet fully emptied of meaning, a multicultural one. 

Latino youth poured into the streets alongside African- Americans and suffered more arrests and deportations than any other group. Many of the rebels had recently come from Central American nations whose recent histories of resistance ensured that the presence of U.S. tanks was not absolutely overawing. Korean- Americans came to Justice for King rallies in great numbers and suffered hundreds of arrests. Whites formed a significant part of rebellious crowds and figured prominently in many of the most striking photographs of the uprising. Police arrested over a thousand whites.

Typically, however, when the New York Times revisited the scenes of the rebellion in November 1992, its writers managed to make this white participation vanish altogether. “The city’s white population,” according to the Times, “while largely untouched by the riot, was shaken by the uprising it witnessed.”

From the moment when a young African-American woman challenged Mayor Bradley at a pre-rebellion protest meeting – “We can’t rely on these people (Bradley et al.) to act. You (the crowd) know what to do” – women played leading roles in the streets. A New York Times photo taken shortly thereafter, but miles away, showed five people shouting, according to the caption, “insults and threats at the police”: four were women. Three of four laughing looters pictured on the front page of May Day’s Chicago Tribune were women. Some young Latina mothers brought babies with them as they looted. A British reporter noticed a Black woman methodically pitching rocks through the windows of the L.A. Times building. In Hollywood, a “mob of little white girls” – as a radio announcer put it – helped themselves to the entire stock of a large lingerie store. An exciting follow-up to the largest women’s demonstration in U.S. history – the march for reproductive rights in Washington D.C. a few weeks earlier – the L.A. rebellion gave real substance to that overworked phrase: “The Year of the Woman.”

Despite all this, far and away the media’s dominant image of the uprising was the beating of the white truck-driver, Reginald Denny, by young Black men. Armed with a small bit of videotape, the press and TV imposed its New World Order on the varied, creative, living activity of the rebellion through an insistent focus on Denny.

Thus the supposedly menacing African-American male, not police brutality, became the media’s central issue. Denny’s victimization, on this view, did not just equal King’s. It explained King’s, and the Simi Valley verdict. Black men, familiarly enough, were the problem. They were, as Quayle’s and Bush’s carefully rehearsed sound bites suggested, the pathological products of the collapse of the Black family and of incendiary hip-hop profiteers. Black women came to be cast, in the television drama of South Central, not as actors in their own behalf, but as seduced spectators, as children bearing uncontrollable children and even as mindless Murphy Brown fans driven to single parenthood by the evil example of a rich, white, forty-something sitcom heroine.

Framing the “riot” as the affair of young Black males, the news could make little sense of the multiracial and multiethnic participation in it. As Mike Davis wrote, “You hear commentators going on and on about Black youth while in fact you’re seeing other ethnicities on the screen.”5 What, for example, were so many white kids doing pouring into the streets, putting themselves in harm’s way? Why were the arrested so largely Latino? These questions were mostly ignored.

Very occasionally, a news magazine briefly quoted an “expert” to the effect that Los Angeles was a “class riot,” with the poor, across color lines, acting out of a common helplessness. This analysis, vastly better than anything else on offer in the popular press, suffers from the tendency of American intellectuals to suppose that if something is about class, it is therefore not about race. The L.A. rebellion’s clear class content ought not to obscure the fact that it came out of a clear demand for racial justice. “Middle-class” African-American youths, including students from the University of Southern California, University of California/Los Angeles and the California State campuses, participated energetically in the rebellion. White youth who joined the action were doing more than just expressing class grievances. They were taking decisive steps toward the abolition of whiteness by joining a “race riot” to attack authority rather than to attack African- Americans. That’s news, but you’d never know it from the newspapers.

When coverage did stray from the “raging Black men versus white society” framework, it usually did so only to emphasize the tensions between African-Americans and Korean storeowners and, more recently, between Blacks and Latinos. Both these areas of tension are of tremendous importance. That the media seems able to locate anti-Asian and anti-Latino (and anti-Arab and anti- Semitic) prejudices only when such attitudes can be alleged to have surfaced in the Black community, must not lead us to ignore real differences among people of color in the United States. But the lesson of the L.A. uprising is anything but the hopeless conclusion that unity is impossible. The outrage at the King verdict was multiracial and the cry “No Justice! No Peace!” went up loudly in several languages.

In the case of Black-Latino relations, there is little evidence that this initial impulse toward unity dramatically gave way to infighting as the rebellion progressed. Jack Miles’ distended exercise in nativism, “Blacks vs. Browns,” which disgraced the pages of the October 1992 issue of The Atlantic, labored mightily to make the events of April-May 1992 fit its title. They don’t, even on Miles’ tortured reading of them. Subheads like “A New Paradigm: Blacks vs. Latinos” are followed jarringly in Miles’ essay by discussions of divisions within the Latino population, and by evidence of the common purpose of Blacks and Central Americans in the rebellion. Clearly there are Black-Latino conflicts in Los Angeles. The recent battles over construction jobs reflect as much. But as in gang rivalries, the experience of urban rebellion did not aggravate Black-Latino divisions so much as it defused them.

The case of Black-Korean conflict raises far more troubling issues. Korean-American merchants suffered disproportionate losses to looters and especially to arsonists. Korean-American ownership of liquor stores, and other eminently lootable enterprises, heightened tensions in the wake of the very light sentence of storeowner Suon Ja Du for the murder of Black teenager Latasha Harlins, and helped account for this pattern. Credit policies, which keep Asian businessmen in the ghettoes (from which white capital has largely fled) and which keep African-Americans from starting businesses, obviously play a role in exacerbating problems between Blacks and Koreans. Day-to-day encounters in stores are virtually programmed to explode with both sides feeling trapped and threatened.

It would be foolish to suppose that in such situations storekeeper-customer problems remain only that, and do not bleed over into larger patterns of Black-Korean relations. It simply is not the case, for example, that anti-Korean hip-hop lyrics are confined to expressing class hatred.

But facing such grim reality is not to fantasize, as the media did, that all reality is inescapably grim where relations among America’s victims are concerned. The larger story of the Los Angeles response, and the national response, and the Korean-American response, to the King verdict refutes such despair-mongering by showing the tremendous pressure that young people can exert to break the chains which hold the suffering under the death- sentence of race and class oppression.

The long-range significance of the L.A. rebellion cannot be appreciated apart from the global ecological crisis. The fact that the largest urban upheaval in the U.S. in this century has been ignored by the environmental press is one more sign – and a definitive one – that middle-class environmentalism is indissolubly allied to the pollutocratic Establishment it pretends to oppose.

Clearly the rebellion, and the nationwide response it engendered, are seething with ecological implications. An extraordinary example of “acting locally,” inevitably it will affect global thinking for a long time to come.

The rebellion provided, for example, a dramatic eye-opening prelude to the Earth-rapers’ orgy known as the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro a few weeks later. The delegates (mostly heads of state) straight-facedly resolved that capitalism – an inherently ecocidal social system – is compatible with a healthy planet. But L.A.’s smoldering ruins and overflowing prisons joined the polluted air that always afflicts the city to give these bureaucrats the lie, and showed all the world that the Land of Capitalism par excellence is one of the sickest societies anywhere.

In this era of massive destruction of rainforests and other wild places, the contradiction between city and “countryside” has become central to all struggles for social change. Anyone who knows the ABCs of ecology knows that massive restoration of wilderness is today an urgent priority, second to none – indeed, the precondition for the continuation of life on this planet – and that such restoration requires, in turn, massive dismantling of industrial society’s deadly cities. In this light, the festive community burning of L.A.’s shopping malls can be regarded not only as a sensible response to unlivable ghetto conditions, but also as an ecologically sound step toward doing away with America’s poisonous urban wastelands. Objectively, in the U.S. government’s war against wildlife and wilderness, the L.A. rebels were on the side of the wild.

Subjectively, however, the rebellion’s ecological dimension stands out in even bolder relief. The fact that Black teenagers increasingly recognize themselves as an endangered species – this was in fact the theme of one of the most popular local rap recordings just before and during the rebellion – is surely one of the major revolutions in consciousness of our time. Equally suggestive, in this regard, is the fact that the planting of new trees – to bring beauty to L.A.’s non-white communities – is a major demand in the program put forth by the Bloods and Crips for the reconstruction of the city.

The rebels’ point of departure, moreover, was light-years beyond the phony “jobs versus environment” dichotomy that miserabilist demagogues of all persuasions use to paralyze the unwary. In demanding not jobs but life, and all the freedom and fullness thereof, the L.A. rebels – among whom registered voters were undoubtedly a rarity – revealed strong affinities with the most radical “no-compromise” wing of the environmental movement.

“Mainstream” environmentalism continues to be dominated by racist corporate-minded executives who, by definition, are unwilling to challenge the interests of white supremacy, Capital and the capitalist State. In the past twenty years, the mushroom growth of the National Wildlife Federation, the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, etc., has coincided with the destruction of more U.S. wilderness than was destroyed in the preceding half-century. These groups, which are run as businesses by bureaucrats who think and act like businessmen, are to the rank-and-file eco- activist what the AFL-CIO bureaucracy is to the working class: a privileged elite whose prime function is to control the fury – i.e., the revolutionary creativity – of those at the bottom.

The L.A. rebels manifested exactly what is needed to turn environmentalism into a real and effective movement: desperation, defiance, energy, a sense of the unbearable boredom and misery of American life today, a readiness to improvise, a willingness to take risks and a beautiful determination to win release from misery. With such outsiders’ perspective to inspire and guide the actions of a new movement, an ecologically healthy planet could become a reality instead of a slogan.

Those who are farthest from the administration of power, no matter how powerless they often feel, retain always the power to disrupt and therefore, potentially, the power to overturn the entire repressive order.

In the solidarity of all those who are outside existing power relations lies our only chance of vanquishing the ecocidal megamachine. Coming at a time when the infrastructures of America’s cities are on the verge of collapse, the L.A. rebellion has opened exciting possibilities for the development of heretofore undreamed-of combat-alliances that could cut across and even destroy the debilitating barriers set up by short-sighted and self- serving “single-issue” groups.

Now is a time of new beginnings, and thus a time to make new connections. There is not an eco-activist anywhere who would not benefit from reading Malcolm X – the favorite author of the L.A. rebels – and radical ecologists and conservation biologists would do well not only to make their knowledge more accessible to those who need it most, but also to find ways of linking their struggles to the struggles of the oppressed people who can really change things for the better. Such links would seem to be particularly feasible –

Outsiders of the world, unite! Freedom Now! Earth First! These three watchwords are for us but one.

- Chicago Surrealist Group, 1992


1 Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (New York: Vintage, 1992). This book provides essential background for understanding the L.A. rebellion.

2 Birmingham, Alabama; Arcata, Berkeley, Davis, El Cerrito, Irvine, Marin County, Oakland, Palo Alto, Pinole, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz, California; Boulder and Denver, Colorado; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Miami and Tampa, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Peoria, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Louis and Warrensburg, Missouri; Jersey City, New Jersey; Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska; Las Vegas, Nevada; New Rochelle and New York, New York; Toledo, Ohio; Eugene, Oregon; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Charleston, South Carolina; Austin and Dallas, Texas; Olympia and Seattle, Washington; Beloit, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Washington, D.C. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver, Canada, as well as in Athens, Berlin, Paris, and Rome.

3 In addition to the writings by Mike Davis and Robin D. G. Kelley cited elsewhere in these notes, important material on the L.A. rebellion also appeared in News & Letters (59 East Van Buren, Chicago, IL 60605) and Against the Current (Center for Changes, 7012 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, MI 48210).

Robin D. G. Kelley, “Straight from Underground,” The Nation (June 8, 1992), 793-796.

5 Mike Davis, L.A. Was Just the Beginning: Urban Revolt in the United States: A Thousand Points of Light (Open Pamphlet Magazine Series, PO Box 2726, Westfield, NJ 07091).

Friday, May 10, 2013


Scission Prison Friday presents a Bill Berkowitz double header.  The Oracle from Oakland (and my old bud) hits the nail on the head twice today with  pieces that discuss prisons' return to the past while marching into the future.  Sometimes it is hard to know what century you are in.  Sometimes it doesn't seem to matter.

The first Billy B piece is from AlterNet   and the second glides our way via BuzzFlash or TruthOut  (too complicated for me).

Cruel Country: Debtors Prisons Are Punishing the Poor Across America

"In the 1990s, Jack [Dawley's] drug and alcohol addictions led to convictions for domestic violence and driving under the influence, resulting in nearly $1,500 in fines and costs in the Norwalk Municipal Court. Jack was also behind on his child support, which led to an out-of-state jail sentence." After serving three and a half years in Wisconsin, Dawley, now sober for 14 years, is still trying to catch up with the fines he owes, and it has "continue[d] to wreak havoc on his life."
Tricia Metcalf is a mother with sole custody of two teenagers. In 2006, Metcalf "was convicted of passing multiple bad checks. The fines mounted into the thousands. Unable to pay the total amount owed, Tricia entered into a payment plan of $50 per month." Although she's worked temporary jobs, a long-term job has been hard to find. "Whenever Tricia missed a payment, a warrant was issued and she was taken to jail."
The stories of Jack Dawley and Tricia Metcalf are only two of several compelling accounts in the ACLU's new report, The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio's Debtors' Prisons Are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities [3].
The jailing of people unable to pay fines and court costs is no longer a relic of the 19th century American judicial system. Debtors' prisons are alive and well in one-third of the states in this country.
In 2011, Think Progress' Marie Diamond wrote: "Federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833. It's a practice people associate more with the age of Dickens than modern-day America. But as more Americans struggle to pay their bills in the wake of the recession, collection agencies are using harsher methods to get their money, ushering in the return of debtor's prisons."
In 2010, the ACLU did a study titled In for a Penny: The Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons, which revealed the use of debtors prison practices in five states, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia and Washington.
In his 1964 State of the Union address, President Lyndon B. Johnson said: "Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope - some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity."
Nearly 50 years after Johnson's address, which launched the "War on Poverty," "poverty in America has not dissipated," the ACLU's report states that "the number of people living in poverty in Ohio grew by 57.7% from 1999 to 2011, with the largest increase coming from suburban counties."
This year's ACLU report - which takes its name from a phrase in Johnson's speech - points out that many poor "Ohioans ... convicted of a criminal or traffic offense and sentenced to pay a fine an affluent defendant may simply pay ... and go on with his or her life [find the fine] unaffordable [launching] the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines."
According to the report, Ohio courts in Huron, Cuyahoga, and Erie counties "are among the worst offenders. In the second half of 2012, over 20% of all bookings in the Huron County Jail were related to failure to pay fines. In Cuyahoga County, the Parma Municipal Court jailed at least 45 people for failure to pay fines and costs between July 15 and August 31, 2012. During the same period in Erie County, the Sandusky Municipal Court jailed at least 75 people for similar charges."
Debtors' prisons are unconstitutional
If you are thinking that debtors' prisons must be unconstitutional, you are right. The ACLU report points out that the U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code "all prohibit debtors' prisons."
"The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether an individual is too poor to pay. Jailing a person who is unable to pay violates the law, and yet municipal courts and mayors' courts across the state continue this draconian practice."
The phenomenon of jailing people because they are unable to pay their fines and/or court costs isn't limited to Ohio. CBS Money Watch's Alain Sherter recently reported that "Roughly a third of U.S. states today jail people for not paying off their debts, from court-related fines and fees to credit card and car loans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Such practices contravene a 1983 United States Supreme Court ruling that they violate the Constitutions' Equal Protection Clause."
Wreaking havoc on ordinary peoples' lives
Jack Dawley: "You'd go do your ten days, and they'd set you up a court date and give you another 90 days to pay or go back to jail... It was hard for me to obtain work, so I fell back into the cycle of going to jail every three months."
"I tried to pay my fines several times in multiple ways," Tricia Metcalf said. "I had even gone to churches and asked if there was any way they could help. There was nothing I could do. I asked the judge about community service." She even sold personal possessions, including her only mode of transportation to keep up with paying the fines. "Since 2006, Tricia has been incarcerated five times for failure to pay fines," causing major disruptions for her family.
There are several other compelling personal stories in the report.
Perhaps the most irrational aspect of the growing use of debtors' prisons during tough economic times when counties are stretched beyond their financial capabilities, is that they "actually waste taxpayer dollars by arresting and incarcerating people who will simply never be able to pay their fines, which are in any event usually smaller than the amount it costs to arrest and jail them."
The ACLU is calling on the Ohio Supreme Court "to institute administrative rules to ensure that all courts properly determine whether a person can afford to pay her criminal fines, in order to ensure that those who are unable to pay are not incarcerated for these debts."
"....Until the state Supreme Court takes action, thousands of Ohioans will continue to be relegated to the outskirts of hope, where the crime of poverty sentences them to a vicious cycle of incarceration, burdensome fees, and diminishing optimism for a better life. Our constitution - and our conscience - demand that Ohio courts do better.

Felon Disenfranchisement: The New Jim Crow

When we think of electoral shenanigans, we often think of blatantly rigged elections with uncounted votes and hanging chads, overcrowded and understaffed polling places, blatant voter intimidation, the purging of voter rolls, pushing false information about when and where to vote, and forcing legitimately registered voters, whose names do not appear on voting rolls, to cast provisional ballots.
More recently we have heard a great deal about new legislative efforts in a number of states to suppress the vote, including, making it harder to register, cutting down on the period for early voting, implementing photo ID laws, and ending Election Day simultaneous registration and voting.
However, when we think of voter suppression, we don't often think about felon disenfranchisement.
According to a 2010 report by The Sentencing Project titled Expanding The Vote: State Felony Disenfranchisement Reform 1997-2010, while things have been slowly changing for the better in a number of states, "more than 5 million citizens ... [were] ineligible to vote in the midterm elections in November [2010], including nearly 4 million who reside in the 35 states that still prohibit some combination of persons on probation, parole, and/or people who have completed their sentence from voting."
In addition, "Racial disparities in the criminal justice system also translate into higher rates of disenfranchisement in communities of color, resulting in one of every eight adult black males being ineligible to vote."

Florida is one of the states with an extraordinarily egregious record regarding felon disenfranchisement. A mid-April report by the South Florida Times' Bill Kaczon pointed out that Florida Governor Rick Scott has "made it more difficult for Floridians with past felony convictions to get their voting rights restored-a situation critics say has suppressed the minority vote and hurt Democratic candidates."

According to Kaczor, "As one of his first actions after taking office in 2011, Scott, as chairman of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, undid automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent ex-offenders that previous Gov. Charlie Crist helped adopt in 2007. Since then, the number of former felons who have had their voting rights restored has slowed to a trickle, even compared with the year before Crist and the clemency board helped make the process easier."

Susan Greenbaum, Professor Emerita of Anthropology at The University of South Florida, recently prepared a briefing paper for Florida Rep. Dan Raulerson (R) on felon disenfranchisement in the state. The paper, titled "Permanent felon disenfranchisement in Florida," appeared in the April 2013 issue of the "LWV (League of Women Voters) Voter."

Greenbaum pointed out that "A bad law that originated for the wrong reasons, not only has negative effects on ex-felons, but their families, communities, and the state budget" also suffers.

Greenbaum wrote:

In a democratic society, "Measures that reduce the size of the electorate are regressive ... and an inability to vote renders ex-felons into what has been called 'civil death.' This outcast status has been described as an 'invisible punishment' that offers no obvious deterrent example, but hinders the capacity of released inmates to achieve successful re-entry [into society]. There is no evidence of harm to elections if ex-felons are permitted to vote, and [there is] considerable evidence ... that this ban increases reoffending, rather than discouraging it."

Further, "There is consensus that these laws (which are unusual internationally) are an historical artifact of Jim Crow restrictions and reflect persistently large racial disparities in arrest and sentencing. Florida, which imprisons a very disproportionate number of African Americans (and Latinos), shares this history, [and] is distinctively harsh with regard to felon voters.

Greenbaum found:

· "Florida is one of only four states that permanently disenfranchise individuals who have been convicted of felonies. (Most states permit immediate or eventual re-enfranchisement.) As incarceration rates have soared, both in Florida and elsewhere, the number of people affected by this restriction has grown very large (about 6 million in the U.S.). Florida accounts for 1.5 million, 1.3 million of whom have completed their sentences (NAACP 2012). Although Florida comprises only 6% of the U.S. population, 25% of disenfranchised felons and ex-felons reside in the state."

· "Criminologists have compiled ample evidence that voting bans do nothing to deter future criminals and promotes recidivism. A recent study by the Florida Parole Commission of ex-felons restored since 2007 found rates of re- offending that are 50% lower than other released convicts."

· "Felon disenfranchisement has direct links to post Civil War 'Black Codes' in Florida and many other Southern states as laws were enacted to prevent African Americans from voting. Other measures followed; poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, etc. The Voting Rights Act outlawed most of these practices, but voting restrictions for felons have survived numerous court challenges. Felon disenfranchisement currently affects nearly one quarter of Florida's black voting age population -- the highest rate in the nation."

· "The scope of crimes falling under the definition of 'felony' is extremely broad, including many non-violent offenses. Minor drug possession accounts for a very large share. The expanding use of plea agreements that avoid long sentences in exchange for shorter ones has been shown too often to convict the innocent. Low-income defendants who may be innocent but have no effective legal assistance are convinced to plead to lesser degree offenses rather than risk almost certain conviction on more serious charges . This practice helps ease court dockets and reduce the costs of jury trials, but is ballooning the prison population and bringing increased numbers of low income minority citizens unjustly into felon status; essentially 'second-class citizenship.' Among the other life-long costs of this awful dilemma is having to forgo the right to vote.?"

· "The right to vote can be restored only by individual considerations of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, an excruciatingly slow and unpredictable process. In early 2007, then Gov. Charlie Crist, eased rules to provide automatic restoration for lesser felonies, with review for more serious cases. Although still a very small fraction, in three years more than 150,000 ex-felons had their rights restored. Almost immediately upon entering office, Gov. Rick Scott repealed Crist's changes and added new restrictions, resulting in fewer than 300 individuals' rights restored during his tenure. Applicants must wait at least 5 years before commencing a process that, if successful, will take another 7 years or longer. In effect, they currently have no path to restoration."

Although several states have initiated legislation that would ease requirements allowing released felons the franchise. "No such legislation has been filed in Florida," the South Florida Times' Bill Kaczon reported. "House Democratic Leader Perry Thurman of Plantation said that nothing short of electing a new governor will change Florida's policy unless [Gov.] Scott has a `'change of heart.'"

Thursday, May 09, 2013


And they applauded for it.  What were they thinking?

It has become clear.  The good old liberal bourgois state is gone away.  The nation of laws is officially dead as a doornail.  Democracy, which was only at best representative democracy, is off the table.  Even the National Security state doesn't cut it.  America has moved on.  It is clearly a soft, sometimes hard, authortarian state on the road toward totalitarianism.  


Boston Marathon.

Lockdown the city.

Why not?  We lockdown schools, offices, factories, even already pretty damn lockdowned prisons and military bases.

Lock em down.

Torture, sure why not, screw the bastards.

Miranda, cremated and cast to the wind.

Civil liberties, no time for that nonsense.

Militarize the police, the neighborhood, the world.

This is what Empire means.  This is the only way to make global capital work, after all.

Terror, thank god for terror.  It makes it all so simple.  Without it though, we'd have found another way, another other, another threat, another evil.

Please, please protect us.  Thank you for ordering us into our homes.  Thank you Mr. policeman.  Thank you Mr. General.  Thank, god thank you, Mr. President.

Some would say it is all over but the shouting, well, even the shouting is silenced, some would say.

I won't say that.

I still believe.

I still believe that the multitude will arise and create its own global world, far, far different from the one the one we have today. 

I still believe the State can be smashed and capital tossed into the garbage.

Call me crazy, but damn, even as the people took to the streets and clapped for the cops who had locked them in their houses, beaten down their doors, trampled on their rights...saving them from one lone boy...even still, I believe.

But it ain't freakin easy.

The following lengthy but very good analysis of all this comes here, to Scission from Alternet.

Read it and weep...and when you are done weeping, get over it, and do something about it.  

The time is now.  Seize the time.

Did the Authorities' Lockdown of Boston Give Us a Taste of the Police State Culture to Come?

A tragedy of errors: nobody knows any more who is who. The smoke of the explosions forms part of the much larger curtain of smoke that prevents all of us from seeing clearly. From revenge to revenge, terrorism obliges us to walk to our graves. I saw a photo, recently published, of graffiti on a wall in NYC: ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.' -Eduardo Galeano[i]

The American public rightfully expressed a collective sigh of relief and a demonstration of prodigious gratitude towards law enforcement authorities when the unprecedented manhunt for the Boston marathon bombers came to an end. The trauma and anxiety felt by the people of Boston and to some degree by the larger society over the gratuitously bloody and morally degenerate attacks on civilians was no doubt heightened given the legacy of 9/11.  Since the tragic events of that historical moment, the nation has been subjected to “a media spectacle of fear and unreason delivered via TV, news sites and other social media;”[ii] it has also been engulfed in a nationwide hysteria about Muslims. Moreover, the American public has been schizophrenically  immersed within a culture of fear and cruelty punctuated by a law-and-order driven promise for personal safety, certainty, and collective protection that amounted to a Faustian bargain with the devil, one in which Americans traded constitutional rights and numerous civil liberties for the ever expanding presence of a militarized security and surveillance state run by a government that has little regard for human rights or the principles of justice and democracy.[iii]
The collective expressions of relief, compassion, and adulation were reasonable and appropriate once the threat from the Boston marathon bombers had ended. But such feelings are short-lived in a country that infamously is losing its capacity to question itself, embracing instead a mode of historical amnesia “in which forgetting has become more important than learning.”[iv]  What is needed in the aftermath of this tragedy is a critical and thoughtful analysis about what the significance of locking down an entire city meant not simply for the present or the future of urban living, but for democracy itself.  Locking down Boston was generally left unquestioned by the mainstream media, though a number of progressive and left intellectuals raised serious questions about the use and implications of the tactic, particularly the abridging civil liberties, squelching dissent, and legitimating the spectacle of the war machine.  For example, Michael Schwalbe argues that he was troubled by what lockdown foreshadows with its connotation of authoritarian control, its expanding use, and its ongoing normalization in American society.  He writes:
"When I hear that authorities have locked down a school, a workplace, a transit system, a cell phone network, or a city, the subtext seems unmistakable: We are now in control.  Listen carefully and do as you are told.  What I hear is the warden saying that communication will flow in one direction only, and that silence and obedience are the only options."[v]
Other critics suggested the lockdown represented a massive overreaction that was symptomatic of a larger social crisis.  Steven Rosenfeld argued that “beyond lingering questions of whether the government went too far by shutting down an entire city and whether that might encourage future terrorism, a deeper and darker question remains: why is America’s obsession with evil so selective?”[vi] This was an important point and was largely ignored by most commentators on the tragedy. Implicit in Rosenfeld’s question is why the notion of security and safety are limited to personal security and the fear of attacks by terrorists rather than the rise of a gun culture, the shredding of the safety net for millions of Americans, the imprisonment of one out of every 100 Americans, or the transformation of public schools into adjuncts of the punishing and surveillance state.
Lockdown as a policy and mode of control misrepresents the notion of security by reducing it to personal safety and thereby mobilizing fears that demand trading civil liberties for increased militarized security. The lockdown that took place in Boston serves as a reminder of how narrow the notion of security has become in that it is almost entirely associated with personal safety but never with the insecurities that derive from poverty, a lack of social provisions, and the incarceration binge. Most importantly, it now serves as a metaphor for how we address problems facing a range of institutions including immigration detention centers, schools, hospitals, public housing, and prisons. Lockdown is the new common sense of a militarized society, the zone of unchecked surveillance, policing, and state brutality.
Security in this instance is reduced to issues of law and order and mirrors a Hobbesian free-for-all, a world  that “reveres competitiveness and celebrates unrestrained individual responsibility, with an antipathy to anything collective that might impede market forces”—a world in which the Darwinian survival of the fittest  ethos rules and the only values that matter are exchange values.[vii]  In this panopticon-like social order, there is little understanding of society as a public good, of the importance of providing public necessities such as decent housing,  job programs for the unemployed, housing for the poor and homeless, health care for everyone, and universal education for young people.
In a society where critical analysis and explanation of violent attacks of this nature are  dismissed as terrorist sympathizing, there is a stultifying logic that assumes that contextualizing an event is tantamount to justifying it. This crippling impediment to public dialogue may be why the militarized response to the Boston marathon bombings, infused with the fantasy of the Homeland as a battlefield and the necessity of the paramilitarized surveillance state, was for the most part given a pass in mainstream media.  Of course, there is more at stake here than misplaced priorities and the dark cloud of historical amnesia and anti-intellectualism, there is also the drift of American society into a form of soft authoritarianism in which boots on the ground and the securitization of everyday life now serve either as a source of pride, entertainment, or for many disposable groups, a source of fear.
Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the marathon bombing, shock and collective dislocation left little room to think about the context in which the bombing took place or the implications of a lockdown strategy that hints at the broader danger of exchanging security for freedom.  Any attempt to suggest that the overly militarized response to the bombings was less about protecting people than legitimating the ever expanding reach of military operations to solve domestic problems was either met with disdain or silence in the dominant media.   Even more telling was the politically offensive reaction to such critics and the intensity of a right-wing diatribe that used the Boston marathon bombing as an excuse to further the expansion of the punishing state with its apparatuses of militarization, surveillance, secrecy, and its embrace of lawless states of exception.  Equally repulsive was how the Boston bombing produced an ample amount of nativist paranoia about immigrants and the quest for an “enemy combatant” behind every door.
In the midst of the emotional fervor that followed the bloody Boston marathon bombings,  various pundits decried any talk about a possible militarized overreaction to the event and the hint that such tactics pointed to the dangers of a police state.  One critic in a moment of emotive local hysteria referred to such critics as “outrage junkies,” claimed they were “masturbating in public,” and insisted he was washing his hands of what he termed “bad rubbish.”[viii]  This particular line of thought with its discursive infantilism and echoes of nationalistic jingoism ominously hinted that what happened in Boston could only register legitimately as a deeply felt emotional event, one that was desecrated by trying to understand it within a broader historical and political context.
Another register of bad faith was evident in the comments of right-wing pundits, broadcasting elites, and squeamish liberals who amped up the frenzied media spectacle surrounding the marathon bombing. Many of them suggested, without apology, that the country should be grateful for an increase in invasive searches, the suspension of constitutional rights, the embrace of total surveillance, and the ongoing normalization of the security state and Islamophobia.[ix]  One frightening offshoot of the Boston marathon bombing was the authoritarian tirade unleashed among a range of government officials that indicated how close dissent is to being treated as a crime and how under siege public space is by the forces of manufactured terrorism.  For example, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) used the attacks in an effort to undo immigration reform, no longer concealing his disdain for immigrants, especially Muslims and Mexicans.[x] Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued that President Obama should not only deny Tsarnaev his constitutional rights by refusing to read him his Miranda Rights, but also hold him as “an enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes.”[xi] As one commentator pointed out, “This is pretty breathtaking. Graham is suggesting that an American citizen, captured on American soil, should be deprived of basic constitutional rights.”[xii] Graham is simply arguing what many Americans have experienced since the tragic attack of September 11, 2001. The boundaries between the military and civilian life have been abolished just as the boundaries between the “innocent and quality, between suspects and non-suspects” have become increasingly blurred.[xiii] The international claim of solidarity that took place in the aftermath of September 11th, in which a number of countries insisted that “We are all Americans”, has given way in American society to the zombie-like notion that “We are all potentially enemy combatants”.  There is more at stake here than hyped-up security or the rise of the surveillance state, there is a militarizing logic of war and authoritarianism that can translate into the death of democracy.
Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) reasserted his long standing racism by repeatedly arguing that the greatest threat of terrorism faced by the U.S. “is coming from the Muslim community” and that it might be time for state and federal authorities to spy on all Muslims.[xiv]  According to King, "Police have to be in the community, they have to build up as many sources as they can, and they have to realize that the threat is coming from the Muslim community and increase surveillance there," adding that "we can't be bound by political correctness."[xv] King seems to think that dismissing the rhetoric of political correctness provides a rationale for translating into policy his Islamophobia and the national hallucination it feeds. Of course, King and others are simply channeling the racism of the cartoonish Ann Coulter who actually suggested that all “unauthorized immigrants in the United States might be terrorists.”[xvi]  This nativist paranoia is not new and has a long and disgraceful legacy in American history.
What is new in the current historical moment is how easily nativist paranoia and a culture of cruelty have become normalized and generated an acceptable public lexicon more characteristic of state terrorism and a military state than a “free and open” democracy.  For instance, New York State Sen. Greg Ball (R), channeling Dick Cheney, took this logic of state terrorism to its inevitable end point, reminding Americans of the degree to which the United States has lost its moral compass, when he sent a message from his Twitter account, suggesting that the authorities torture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As Ball put it, “So, scum bag #2 in custody. Who wouldn't use torture on this punk to save more lives?”[xvii]  There is more at work here than an evasion of principle, to say nothing of international law. There is an erasure of the very notion of a substantive and democratic polity, and a frightening collective embrace of an authoritarianism that points to the final rasp of democracy in the United States. Such unconsidered remarks should compel us to examine the state’s use of lockdown procedures within a savage market driven society that sanctions the return of the 19th century debtor’s prisons in which people are jailed—and their lives ruined--for not being able to pay what amounts to trivial fines.[xviii] The culture of punishment and cruelty is also evident in the attempt on the part of  some West Virginia Republican Party legislators who are  pushing for a policy that  would force low-income school children to work in exchange for free lunches.[xix]  The flight from ethical responsibility associated with the rise of the punishing state and the politics of the lockdown is also evident in the willingness of police forces around the country to push young children into the criminal justice system.[xx]  More specifically, there is a frightening, even normalized willingness in American life to align politics and everyday life with the forces of militarization, law enforcement officials, and the dictates of the national security state.
The lockdown and ongoing search for those responsible for the Boston marathon bombings was an eminently political event because it amplified the dreadful potential and real consequences of the never-ending war on terror and the anti-democratic processes it has produced at all levels of government along with an increasing diminishment of civil liberties. The script has become familiar and includes the authorized use of state sponsored torture, the unchecked power of the president to conduct targeted assassinations, the use of warrantless searches, extraordinary renditions, secret courts, and the continuing monitoring of targeted citizens.[xxi]  Another consequence of the war on terror and the increasing use of military drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan is that many innocent children and adults are being killed and, as Noam Chomsky points, such attacks  are terrorizing villagers, turning them into enemies of the United States-something that years of jihadi propaganda had failed to accomplish…. There was no direct way to prevent the Boston murders. There are some easy ways to prevent likely future ones: by not inciting them.”[xxii]
Since 9/11 we have witnessed the rise of a national-security-surveillance state and the expansion of a lockdown mode of existence in a range of institutions that extend from schools and airports to the space of the city itself.  The meaning of lockdown in this context has to be understood in broader terms as the use of military solutions to problems for which such approaches are not only unnecessary but further produce authoritarian and anti-democratic policies and practices.  Under such circumstances, not only have civil liberties been violated in the name of national security, but the promise of national security has given rise to policies which are punitive, steeped in the logic of revenge, and support the rise of a punishing state whose echoes of authoritarianism are often lost in the moral comas that accompany the country’s infatuation with war and the militarization of everyday life.
Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for The Guardian, succinctly insists that Boston marathon bombings is a political event because it “connects to larger questions about our culture and because it was infused with all kinds of political messages about Muslims, about radicalism, about what the proper role of the police and the military are in the United States.”[xxiii]  While there has been some criticism over what was perceived as the unnecessary imposition of a lockdown in Boston, and especially Watertown, what has been missed in many of these arguments is that the U.S. is already in lockdown mode, which has been intensifying since 9/11.  A number of critics have raised questions about the abridgement of civil rights and the specter of excessive policing after the marathon bombing as one-off events, but few have discussed the continuity and expansion of the logic of lockdown predating September 11 which can be traced back to the massive incarceration of disproportionate numbers of people of color beginning in the early 1970s.[xxiv]
This history has been addressed by Christian Parenti, Tom Englehardt, Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, and others and need not be repeated here, but what does need to be addressed is how the concept and tactic of the lockdown has moved far beyond the walls of the prison and now shapes a whole range of institutions, making clear how the United States has moved into a lockdown mode that is consistent with the precepts of an authoritarian state. While the Boston lockdown was more of a request for the public to stay inside, it displayed all of the attributes of martial law, especially in Watertown where house-to-house searches took on the appearance of treating the residents as feared criminals.
Lockdown cannot be understood outside of the manufactured war on terrorism and the view, aptly expressed by Lindsey Graham, that the Boston marathon bombing “is Exhibit A of why the homeland is the battlefield.”[xxv]  Graham’s comments embrace the dangerous correlate that everyone is a possible enemy combatant and that domestic militarization and its embrace of perpetual war is a perfectly legitimate practice, however messy it might be when measured against democratic principles, human rights, and the most basic precepts of constitutional law.  Lockdown as a concept and strategy gains its meaning and legitimacy under specific historical conditions informed by particular modes of ideology, governance, and policies.
At a time when the United States has embraced a number of anti-democratic practices extending from state torture to the ruthless militarized logic of a Darwinian politics of cruelty and disposability, the symbolic nature of the lockdown is difficult to both ignore and remove from the authoritarian state that increasingly relies on it as a form of policing and disciplinary control.  This becomes all the more obvious by the fact that the lockdown in Boston appears to be a major overreach compared to the response of other countries to terrorist acts. As Michael Cohen, a correspondent for The Guardian, points out:
The actions allegedly committed by the Boston marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, were heinous. Four people dead and more than 100 wounded some with shredded and amputated limbs. But Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. They're right – and then some. What we saw was a collective freak-out like few that we've seen previously in the United States. It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the "threat" of terrorism.[xxvi]
Some would argue that locking down an entire city because a homicidal killer was on the loose can be attributed to how little experience Americans have with daily acts of terrorism, unlike Israel, Baghdad, and other cities which are constantly subject to such attacks. While there is an element of truth to such arguments what is missing from this position is a different and more frightening logic. Americans have become so indifferent to the militarization of everyday life that they barely blink when an entire city, school, prison, or campus is locked down. In a society in which everyone is treated as a potential enemy combatant, misfit, villain, or criminal “to be penalized, locked up or locked out,” it is not surprising that institutions and policies are constructed that normalize a range of anti-democratic practices.[xxvii]  These would include everything from invasive body searches by the police and the mass incarceration of people of color to the ongoing surveillance and securitization of schools, workplaces, the social media, Internet, businesses, neighborhoods, and individuals, all of which mimic the tactics of a police state.[xxviii] At a time when prison, poverty, and a culture of cruelty and punishment inform each other and ensnare more and more Americans, the “governing-through-crime” complex moves across America like a fast-spreading virus.[xxix]  In its wake, Mississippi schoolchildren are handcuffed for not wearing a belt or the wrong color shoes,[xxx] young mothers who cannot pay a traffic ticket are sent to jail;[xxxi] and according to Michelle Alexander "More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began."[xxxii]
These examples are not merely anecdotal. They point to the alarming degree to which lockdown becomes a central tool and organizing logic in controlling those growing populations now considered disposable and subject to the machinery of social and civil death.  The racist grammars of state violence that emerged during and in the aftermath of the lockdown of Boston speak to a connection between the violence of disposability that haunts American life and the increasing reliance on the state’s use of force to implement and maintain its structures of inequality, abusive power, and domination.  Within this system of control and domination, matters of moral, social, and political responsibility are silenced in the name of securitization, even as efforts to pass legislation on gun control are routinely displaced by the assertion of individual rights.  For instance, Americans rightly mourn the victims of the Boston bombings but say nothing about the ongoing killing of hundreds of children in the streets of Chicago largely due to the abundance of high-powered weaponry and the gratuitous celebration of the spectacle of violence in American culture. Nor is there a public outcry and mourning for the tragic deaths of over 200 children killed as a result of drone attacks launched by the Obama administration on Afghanistan and other countries alleged to harbor terrorists. Evil, when deployed by the American media and its complicit politicians, becomes at once too broad and too narrow, but insistently self-serving.[xxxiii] Evil is always lurking out there in some objectively defined place, fixed spaces, and territories but never within those who seize upon the category to distance themselves for the crimes they are complicity with.[xxxiv]
Accordingly, the rush to lockdown must be understood within a wider military metaphysics, informed by the dictates of an increasingly authoritarian society, the ongoing war on terror, and the establishment of the permanent warfare state, which now moves across and shapes a wide range of sites and institutions. As a metaphysic, lockdown is an essential mode of governance, ideology, faith, and practice that defines everyone as a soldier, enemy combatant, or a willing client of the security state. Among the most severe implications is that the war on terror actively wages a war on the very possibility of judgment, informed argument and decision, and critical agency itself.  More specifically, the lockdown mode is hostile to dissent, the questioning of authority, and its disciplinary practices are steeped in a long history of abuse extending from harassing prison inmates, turning schools into prisons, transforming factories into slave labor camps, bullying student protestors, criminalizing social activists, transforming black and brown communities into armed camps, and treating public housing as a war zone.  It is a practice that emerges out of the glorification of war and the appeal to a state of emergency and exception. Moreover, the values and practices it legitimates blur the lines between the wars at home and abroad and the ongoing investment in the culture of war and machineries of death.  Citizens are now produced to serve the national security state and “civic virtues such as freedom, equality and citizenship are threaded into the militarized national narrative of conquest and conversion.”[xxxv]
Tom Englehardt has eloquently argued that the National Security Complex, with its “$75 billion  or more budget” continues to accelerate and that “the Pentagon is, by now, a world unto itself, with a staggering budget at a moment when no other power or combination of powers comes near to challenging this country’s might.”[xxxvi]  Moreover, under the guise of the war on terror, the Bush and Obama administrations have “lifted the executive branch right out of the universe of American legality.  They liberated it to do more or less what it wished, as long as ‘war,’ ‘terrorism,’ or ‘security’ could be invoked.  Meanwhile, with their Global War on Terror well launched and promoted as a multigenerational struggle, they made wartime their property for the long run.”[xxxvii]
The lockdown mode exalts military authority and thrives in a society that “can no longer even expect our public institutions to do anything meaningful to address meaningful problems.”[xxxviii]  One indication of the militarization of American society is the high social status now accorded to the military itself and the transformation of soldiers into uniformly heroic subjects and objects of national reverence. As Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri point out,
What is most remarkable is not the growth in the number of soldiers in the United States but rather their social stature...Military personnel in uniform are given priority boarding on commercial airlines, and it is not uncommon for strangers to stop and thank them for their service. In the United States, rising esteem for the military in uniform corresponds to the growing militarization of the society as a whole. All of this despite repeated revelations of the illegality and immorality of the military's own incarceration systems, from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, whose systematic practices border on if not actually constitute torture.[xxxix]
At the same time, military values no longer operate within the exclusive realm and marginalized space of the armed forces or those governing structures dedicated to defense. On the contrary, the ideas, values, profits, and war talk emerging from the national security sector shape the everyday lives of civilians, creating what Charles Derber and Yale Magrass call a militarized society, which, as they put it,
develops a culture and institutions which program civilians for violence at home as well as abroad. War celebrates the heroism of soldiers who use the same style weapons and ammunition used by the mass shooters at Newtown, Los Angeles or Columbine. A warrior society values its armed forces as heroic protectors of freedom, sending a message that the use of guns [and the organized production of violence are] morally essential.[xl]
Ulrich Beck is right in arguing that the “Military is to democracy as fire is to water.” He writes that military values define: "... the life of a person [as ] worth less than the lump of flesh in which he dwells. If democracy demands the individual’s will, the military demands his subordination. If, in the former case, all power originates from the people, then, in the latter all orders come from above. …Wherever one looks, it is the same: democracy means openness, questioning, power-sharing, transparent decisions. Military is a synonym for secret, command, killing, strictly prohibited. There is no need to recite the rest."[xli]
Military values of pride, heroism, sacrifice, and valor in America have become one of the few sources of civic pride. This helps to explain a few things. First, the public’s silence in the face of  not only the eradication and suppression of civil liberties,  public values and democratic institutions by the expanding financial elite and military-industrial-complex. Second, and related, the transformations of a number of institutions into militarized spheres more concerned about imposing a punitive authority rather than creating the conditions for the production of an engaged and critical citizenry.  Lockdown signals the rise of an anti-politics, the rise of a new authoritarianism--an era of liminal drift in which democracy does not merely get thinned out but begins to morph into dangerous forms of militarization that do not support open dialogue, debate, transparency, or public accountability. Since when are SWAT teams viewed as the highest expression of national honor?
Militarism thrives on the mass produced culture of fear and the spectacle of violence.  It abhors dissent and flourishes in an ever expanding web of secrecy. Both Bush and Obama have used the cult of secrecy and the threat of punishment to silence whistleblowers, allow those who have committed torture under the government direction to go free, and refused those who have been “interrogated” illegally to take their case to the courts. In the age of illegal legalities, the rule of law disappears into a vast abyss of secret memos, personal preferences, classified documents, targeted killings, and secret missions conducted by special operations forces.  Tom Engelhardt rightly argues that America has become a country wedded to the ethical-stripping fantasy that the rule of law not only still prevails but applies to everyone. He writes:
"What it means to be in such a post-legal world -- to know that, no matter what acts a government official commits, he or she will never be brought to court or have a chance of being put in jail -- has yet to fully sink in.  In reality, in the Bush and Obama years, the United States has become a nation not of laws but of legal memos, not of legality but of legalisms -- and you don’t have to be a lawyer to know it.  The result?  Secret armies, secret wars, secret surveillance, and spreading state secrecy, which meant a government of the bureaucrats about which the American people could know next to nothing.  And it’s all ‘legal.’"[xlii]
Pervasive secrecy in the age of the lockdown suggests that the United States has more in common with authoritarian regimes than with flourishing democracies. Yet the American people still believe they live in what is touted in the mainstream media and right-wing cultural apparatuses as a country that represents the apogee of freedom and democracy. As Brian Terrell argues, “prisons and the military, America's dominant institutions, exist not to bring healing to domestic ills or relief from foreign threats but to exacerbate and manipulate them for the profit of the wealthiest few, at great cost and peril for the rest of us”?[xliii] Why aren’t people pouring into the streets of American cities protesting the rise of the prison and military as America’s dominant institutions?
What will it take for the American public to connect the increasing militarization of everyday life to the ways in which the prison-industrial complex destroys lives[xliv] and for-profit corporations have the power to put poor people in jails for being in debt.[xlv] Or for that matter when school authorities punish young children by putting them in seclusion rooms[xlvi] while on a larger scale the U.S. government increasingly relies on solitary confinement in detaining immigrants.[xlvii] When will the American people link images of the “shattered bodies, dismembered limbs, severed arteries …and terrified survivors” to the reports of over 200 young children killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia as a result of drone attacks launched by faux video gamers  sitting in dark rooms in cities thousands of miles away from their targets?[xlviii] In the face of the Boston marathon bombings, the question that haunts the American public is not about our capacity for compassion and solidarity for the victims of this tragedy but how indifferent we are to the conditions that too readily have turned this terrible tragedy into just another exemplary register of the war on terror and a further legitimation for the military-industrial-national security state.
Violence and its handmaidens, militarism and military culture, have become essential threads in the fabric of American life.  We live in a culture in which a lack of imagination is matched by diminishing intellectual visions and a collective refusal to challenge injustices, however blatant and corrosive they may be. For instance, a political system completely corrupted by big money is barely the subject of sustained analysis and public outrage. [xlix] The mortgaging of the future of many young people to the incessant greed of casino capitalism and the growing disparities in income and wealth does little to diminish the public’s faith in the fraud of the free market.[l]  The embarrassing judgments of a judicial system that punishes the poor and allows the rich to go free in the face of unimaginable financial crimes boggles the mind.  The challenge facing Americans is not the illusory dream of winning the war on terror but those undemocratic economic, political, and cultural forces that hold sway over American life, intent on destroying civic society and any vestige of agency willing to challenge them.        
Young people, especially those in the Occupy movement, the Quebec protesters, and the student resisters in France, Chile, and  Greece seem currently to represent the only hope we have left in the United States and abroad for a display of political and moral courage in which they are willing individually and collectively to oppose the authority of the market and an expanding state of lockdown while still raising fundamental questions about the project of democracy and why they have been left out of it.[li]  Salman Rushdie has argued that  political courage has become ambiguous and that the American public, among others,  has “become suspicious of those who take a stand against the abuses of power or dogma” or even worse, are blamed increasingly for upsetting people given their willingness to stand against and challenge orthodoxy or bigotry.[lii] Gone, he argues, are the writers and intellectuals who opposed Stalinism, capitalist tyranny, and the various religious and ideological orthodoxies that transform thinking and critically engaged critics into anti-intellectual fundamentalists and political cowards. In short, willing accomplices of the abused of power.
Of course, there are brave counter examples of brave intellectuals and artists all over the world such as Ai Weiwei, Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Stuart Hall, Arundhati Roy, and others who do not tie their intellectual capital to the possibility of a summer cruise, the rewards provided to those who are silent in the face of injustices or sell their souls to defense intelligence agencies who offer research funds. Nor do they participate in Fox News-like apparatuses that offer anti-public intellectuals instant celebrity status and substantial reward for demonstrating the pedagogical virtues of keeping the public politically illiterate while making it easier to push the informed and thoughtful to the margins of society. An Noam Chomsky has pointed out, these are pseudo intellectuals whose most distinguishing feature is not only “acceptance within the system of power and a ready path to privilege, but also the inestimable advantage of freedom from the onerous demands of thought, inquiry, and argument.”[liii]
American culture powers a massive disimagination machine in which historical memory is hijacked as struggles by the oppressed disappear, the “state as the guardian of the public interest is erased,”[liv] and the memory of institutions serving the public good evaporates.  At the same time reinscriptions of violence define notions of a dangerous and hardened notion masculinity in which men (and increasingly women) have to learn to be tough, deny vulnerability, learn to punish and kill and experience it as pleasure, endure humiliation in the face of military authority, and be willing to sacrifice limbs, mental stability, body parts, and life itself. In opposition to this culture and machinery of death, there is a need to reclaim the memories of diverse democratic movements in order to reimagine a politics capable of resurrecting  democratic institutions of governance, culture, and education;  moreover, the educative nature of politics has to be addressed in order to develop both new forms of individual and collective agency and vast social networks that can challenge the global concentration of economic and political power held by a dangerous class of financial and wealthy elites.
Gayatri Spivak has argued that “without a strong imagination, there can be no democratic judgment, which can imagine something other than one’s own well-being.”[lv] The current historical conjuncture dominated by the discourse and institutions of neoliberalism and militarization present a threat not just to the economy but to the very possibility of imagining an alternative to a machinery of punishment, isolation, and death that now reaches into every aspect of daily life.  A generalized fear now shapes American society, one that thrives on insecurity, precarity, dread of punishment, and a concern with external threats.  Any struggle that matters will have to imagine and fight for a society in which it becomes possible once again to dream the project of a substantive democracy. This means, as Ulrich Beck has pointed out, looking for politics in new spaces and arenas outside of traditional elections, political parties, and “duly authorized agents.”[lvi] It suggests developing public spaces outside of the regime of casino capitalism and developing a type of counter politics, one engaged in the shaping of society from the bottom up.  Central to such a challenge is the educational task of inquiring not only how democracy has been lost under the current regime of neoliberal capitalism with its gangster rulers and utter disregard for its production of organized irresponsibility and injustice but also how the project of democracy can be retrieved through the joint power and efforts of workers, young people, educators, minorities, immigrants, and others. At the present historical moment, lockdown culture is being disrupted in many societies.  A fight for democracy is emerging across the globe led by young people, workers, and others unwilling to live in societies in which lockdown becomes an organizing tool for social control and repression.  The future of democracy rests precisely with such groups both in the United States and abroad who are willing to create new social movements built on a powerful vision of the promise of democracy and the durable organizations that make it possible.
This is an extended version of an essay that appeared earlier on Truth Out [3].
[i].Eduardo Galeano, “The Theatre of Good and Evil, La Jornada (September 21, 2001), translated by Justin Podur.
[ii] Andrew O’Hehir, “How Boston exposes America’s dark post-9/11 bargain,” (April 20, 2013). Online: [4]
[iii] Andrew O’Hehir, “How Boston exposes America’s dark post-9/11 bargain,”, (April 20, 2013). Online:
[iv] Zygmunt Bauman, In Search of Politics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 13.
[v]Michael Schwalbe, “The Lockdown Society Goes Primetime,” Counterpunch, (April 24, 2013). Online: [5]; see also, Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn, “Boston lockdown: The new normal?” Politico, (April 20, 2013). Online: [6] and Wendy Kaminer, “‘We Don’t Cower in Fear’: Reconsidering the Boston Lockdown,” The Atlantic, (April 21, 2013). Online:’t-cower-in-... [7]
[vi] Steven Rosenfeld, “America’s Focus on Terrorism Blinds Us To Everyday Violence and Suffering,” Alternet, (April 22, 2013). Online: [8]
[vii] Guy Standing, The Precariat: A Dangerous Class (New York: Bloomsury, 2011), p. 132.
[viii] William Rivers Pitt, “Random Notes From the Police State,” Truthout (April 23, 2013). Online: [9]
[ix] On the the cost of American  militarism and national security, see Melvin R. Goodman, National Insecurity: the Cost of American Militarism (San Francisco: City Lights, 2013).
[x] Igor Volsky, “Top Opponent Of Immigration Reform Totally Loses It During Immigration Hearing,” ThinkProgress (April 22, 2013). Online: [10]
[xi] David A. Graham, “ Shorter Lindsey Graham: Constitution? What Constitution?” The Atlantic (April 19, 2013). Online: [11]
[xii] Ibid., Graham, “ Shorter Lindsey Graham: Constitution? What Constitution?”
[xiii] Ulrich Beck, “The Silence of words and Political Dynamics in the World Risk Society,” Logos 1:4 (Fall 2002), p. 9.
[xiv] On the question of racism and the response to the Boston marathon bomging, see David Sirota, “The huge, unanswered questions post-Boston,” Salon, (April 21, 2013). Online: [12] and Andrew O’Hehir, “How Boston exposes America’s dark post-9/11 bargain,”, (April 20, 2013). Online: [13]
[xv] Adam Serwer, “5 of the Worst Reactions to the Boston Manhunt,” Mother Jones, (April 19, 2013). Online: [14]. Some critics argued persuasively that the government response to the Boston marathon bombing indicated the degree to which bloated surveillance state failed. See: John Stanton, “US National Security State Fails in Boston,” Dissident Voice, (April 20, 2013). Online: [15] and Falguni A. Sheth and Robert E. Prasch, “In Boston, our bloated surveillance state didn’t work,” Salon, (April 22, 2013). Online: [16]
[xvi]  Ibid., Serwer, “5 of the Worst Reactions to the Boston Manhunt.”
[xvii] Katie McDonough, “New York state senator on Boston suspect: “Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk?”,” Salon, (April 20, 2013) [17]
[xviii] A Report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio,  How Ohio’s Debtors’ Prisons Are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities (Cleveland, Ohio: ACLU, 2013). Online: [18]
[xix] Hannah Groch-Begley, “Fox Asks If Children Should Work For School Meals,” Media Matters, (April 25, 2013). Online: [19]
[xx] See: Annette Fuentes, Lockdown High: When  the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse (New York: Verso, 2011); Erik Eckholm, “With Police in Schools, More Children in Court,” The New York Times, (April 12, 2013). Online: [20]
[xxi] I am drawing from the excellent article by Jonathan Turley, “10 Reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free,” The Washington Post (January 13, 2012). Online: [21]
[xxii] Noam Chomsky, “Boston and Beyond: Terrorism at Home and Abroad,” In These Times (March 13, 2013). Online: [22]
[xxiii] Cited in Bill Moyers, “The Boston Manhunt as a ‘Political’ event,” Truthout (April 25, 2013). Online: [23]
[xxiv] One of the few who made provided this type of analysis was Michael Schwalbe, “The Lockdown Society Goes Primetime,” Counterpunch, (April 24, 2013). Online: [5]
[xxv] Jennifer Rubin, “Sen. Lindsey Graham: Boston bombing “is Exhibit A of why the homeland is the battlefield” The Washington Post (April 19, 2013). Online: [24]
[xxvi] Michael Cohen, “Why does America lose its head over 'terror' but ignore its daily gun deaths?” The Guardian (April 21, 2013). Online: [25]
[xxvii] Guy Standing, The Precariat: A Dangerous Class (New York: Bloomsury, 2011), p. 132.
[xxviii] A number of excellent sources take up this issue, see, for example, James Bamford, The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (New York: Anchor Books, 2009); Zygmunt Baum and David Lyons, Liquid Surveillance: A Conversation  (London: Polity, 2013); Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Declaration (New York: Argo Navis Author Services, 2012). Relatedly, see Stephen Graham, Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism (New York: Verso, 2011).
[xxix] Jonathan Simon, Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
[xxx] Nicole Flatow, “Report: Mississippi Children Handcuffed in School For Not Wearing a Belt,” Nation of Change, (January 18, 2013). Online: [26]; Suzi Parker, “Cops Nab 5-Year- Old for Wearing Wrong Color Shoes to School,” Take Part, (January 18, 2013). Online: [27]
[xxxi] Alex Kane, “Miss a Traffic Ticket, Go to Jail? The Return of Debtor Prison (Hard Times, USA),” Alternet, (February 3, 2013). Online: [28]
[xxxii] Cited in Dick Price, “More Black Men Now in Prison System Then Were Enslaved”, LA Progressive, (March 31, 2011) online at: [29]
[xxxiii] See, for instance, Robert Scheer, “277 Million Boston Bombings,” Truthdig, (April 23, 2013) [30]
[xxxiv] Zygmunt Bauman and Leonidas Donskis, Moral Blindness: The Loss of Sensitivity in liquid Modernity (London: Polity, 2013), p. 7.
[xxxv] Kathy E. Ferguson and Phyllis Turnbull, Oh, Say, Can you See? The Semiotics of the Military in Hawai’i (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1999). P. 155.
[xxxvi] Tom Engelhardt, “Washington’s Militarized Mindset,” TomDispatch, (July 5, 2012). Online: [31]
[xxxvii] Tom Engelhardt, “The American Lockdown State,” TomDispatch, (February 5, 2013) [32]
[xxxviii] Steven Rosenfeld, “What Is the Cause of Violent and Senseless Massacres in America?” AlterNet, (July 24th, 2012). Online: [33]
[xxxix] Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Declaration (New York: Argo Navis Author Services, 2012), p. 22.
[xl] Charles Derber and Yale Magrass, “When Wars Come Home,” Truthout, (February 19, 2013). Onlike: [34]
[xli] Ulrich Beck, The Reinvention of Politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999). P. 78.
[xlii] Tom Engelhardt, “The American Lockdown State,” TomDispatch, (February 5, 2013) [32]
[xliii] Brian Terrell, “Drones, Sanctions, and the Prison Industrial Complex,” Monthly Review Magazine, (April 24, 2013). Online: [35]
[xliv]  See: Mark Karlin, “How the Prison-Industrial Complex Destroys Lives: An Intterview with Marc Mauer,” Truthout (April 26, 2013). Online: [36]. There are many excellent resources on the subject, see, for instance, Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire Interviews with Angela Y. Davis (New York: Seven Stories, 2005); Marc Bauer, Race to Incarcerate (New York: New Press, 2006); Anne-marie-Cusac, Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009) and Michelle Alexander, New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2012).
[xlv] Ethan Bronner, “Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation,” New York Times (July 2, 2012), p. A1.
[xlvi] Bill Lichtenstein, “A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children,” New York Times, (September 8, 2012). Online: [37]
[xlvii] Ian Urbina and Catherine Rentz, “Immigrants Held in Solitary Cells, Often for Weeks,” New York Times, (March 23, 2013). Online: [38]
[xlviii] Barry Lando, “The Boston Marathon Bombing, Drones and the Meaning of Cowardice,” Counterpunch, (April 16, 2013). Online: [39]
[xlix] Joshua Kurlantzick, Democracy in Retreat (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013) and Hardt and Negri, Declaration.
[l] Peter Edelman, So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America (New York: The New Press, 2012); Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012); see also the brilliant article on iequality by Michael Yates, “The Great Inequality,” Monthly Review, (March 1, 2012) [40]
[li] See, Henry A. Giroux, Youth in Revolt (Boulder: Paradigm, 2013).
[lii] Salman Rushdie, “Wither Moral Courage,” New York Times (April 27, 2013). P. SR5.
[liii] Noam Chomsky, The Culture of Terrorism (Boston: South End Press, 1988), p. 21.
[liv] Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance (New York: Free Press, 1998), p. 1.
[lv] Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Changing Reflexes: Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,” Works and Days, 55/56: Vol. 28, 2010, pp. 1-2.
[lvi] Ulrich Beck, Democracy Without Enemies (London: Polity Press, 1998), p. 38.