Stranger Danger: The Infiltration of Dissident Communities by Freedom House’s Sarah Kendzior

Stranger Danger - Not A Game

Stranger Danger – Not A Game

I can forgive you if you can’t recognize a hustle when you see one, let alone identify when you yourself are being targeted by that very hustle. Con artists, after all, rely on your confidence and trust in order to get what they want from you.

Cons, however, are something I know a little bit about; I once made my living playing poker – a game where exploiting the confidence of your opponents is crucial to survival.  To win at poker, you need your opponents to have confidence in their own hands, to overestimate their odds against you and to believe so much in your weakness that they’ll actually put their own survival on the line against you – when, in fact, you’re actually in a position of strength. You want to “get it in good;” to manipulate your opponents to ensure that you do and then hope your odds hold up. There is no other way to win. Eventually, everyone has to go “down to the felt.”

In poker, recognizing the tricks, feints and gambits that your opponents use against you, as well as, of course – their “tells” – is an indelible part of the game. Constant observation is key to differentiating a trick from a tell and also discerning their meaning. After all, trusting the way an opponent presents oneself is never a good barometer of who they are or what they’re doing. The only thing one knows for sure is that everyone is an enemy. A good poker player, then, is always asking herself, “What does that mean? What is my opponent trying to tell me?”

Overwrought flattery, wry smiles, winks, trembling hands, a tremulous voice, belabored breathing, heavy sighs, the shuffling of chips and other tells (both deliberate and incidental) are all part of the mystifying tapestry collectively woven at a table that a player must rend – thread by perplexing, individual thread – if they’re intent on winning the game. The woman in the Cartier bracelet spinning yarns about her wealth may be overplaying a bad hand with the very last dollars to her name, while the guy with dirty fingernails in the grungy hoodie who hasn’t said shit all night is often a professional shark sitting on a monster hand and waiting for his chance to clean you out. It takes studied observation over time to identify who is trying to trick you and who is telling you information you can use to win.

Performance of identity is an integral aspect of poker itself – and that performance is all about deception. Who am I today? Am I presenting as the brash, overconfident rube – the backwards-hat-wearing frat boy that I’m not – but am performing in order to agitate my opponents so they go “on tilt?” Or am I really that asshole? Who is to tell? A good player will keep you guessing.

While deceit is an inextricable part of poker, poker players have agreed on certain parameters; secret collusion amongst players is forbidden, for example. Furthermore, the goal of the game is apparent to everyone playing at the outset: win the last pot and take home everyone else’s money. There’s no confusion there. That’s why everyone came to the table to begin with.

Activists and organizers who use Twitter or other social media tools as part of their strategy to organize against power aren’t so lucky. The myriad ideological or personal goals of the many players involved in this space aren’t openly agreed upon or even known and, in fact, they may actually be in very real conflict, even if they don’t seem so at first glance. Let’s face it – we’re not all here for the same reason. There are, as there always have been, strangers amongst us on the internet.

So, without conclusive evidence that a player in the game isn’t playing above board – that they may, in fact, be working against your interests – it’s crucial to consider the patterns of behavior and the results of those behaviors themselves rather than to speculate about the motives behind them. Of course, if a player at the table openly says they work for the fucking casino itself, it’s probably important to consider that information, too.

 

– – – –

 

“All these scattered Uzbek dissidents began having blogs, began using social media, began having all these political conversations they’d never been able to have in a public space before and so I thought that was, you know, that was very interesting, and I wanted to continue to track that.– Sarah Kendzior

We’re not playing a game, here, folks – this isn’t poker – and those who continue to treat online organizing as a game (or merely as something to paternalistically observe, “track” and comment on exclusively when it services their personal, career trajectory) put those of us arrayed against the state at very real risk. Their professional distance and detachment from struggle itself and their far-too-often, far-too-cavalier attitudes about our collective security (our reputations, our ideological coherence, our pseudonymity and our ability to effectively organize) should be cause enough for alarm.

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Inept Empire

Highly Recommended Reading:

Stupidity Tries

During Obama’s latest address to the nation in which he reminds us that he’s going to keep bombing MENA no matter what we think about it, Intercept journalist Jeremy Scahill was busy firing off a flurry of tweets noting some of the omissions and outright lies in the speech. Some of it is worth reading, but this was the tweet that really caught my attention:

Before Scahill really got started, he offered this increasingly popular vision of the ruling class in the form of Sideshow Bob continually stepping on a rake, seemingly unable to grasp the basic relation of cause and effect. The implication is, of course, that the ruling elite are a bunch of fucking morons. They cause problems with their right hand that they try (and often fail) to solve with their left. They endlessly pursue their most…

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The People v. Charlie Beck: An Indictment of Five Years of LAPD Abuse

Charlie Beck, William Bratton 

Shortly after LAPD Chief Charlie Beck submitted formal notification of his intent to serve another, 5-year term atop the United States’ third largest police force, the sycophantic, Los Angeles media – long-storied and ever-faithful propagandists to the city’s powerful interests – began churning out glowing hagiographies of him. Observing that Beck had not been embroiled in any major controversies,”  the Daily News’ Rick Orlov intimated at the failure of LA’s access-obsessed journalists themselves to hold Beck accountable for the many controversies that a less power-beholden media might have blown wide open.

Controversies – the brazen favoritism, longstanding “blue line” unaccountability, wanton brutality and institutionalized corruption that have long plagued the LAPD – still fester like old sores just behind the highly-polished facade of Beck’s department. That shiny veneer, however – much like the edifice of the sparkling, police headquarters that reflects a crooked City Hall – remains sadly unscathed by the journalists we still mistakenly rely on to do real, investigative digging.

In short: if there has been little more than“friction” during Beck’s first term, it may be because today’s journalists – and even our own Civil Rights leaders – are too busy parroting talking points spewed by Eric Rose – of the high-powered-and-well-connected PR firm Englander, Knabe and Allen – than actually challenging power. As Tom Hayden has said of former LAPD Chief William Bratton, Beck’s predecessor and model, “the cooptation of his critics… eroded a once-aggressive civil rights community.”  When even Civil Rights legends Connie Rice, John Mack and Earl Hutchinson are too dizzied by the public relations spin to see the truth behind the same old, LAPD lies – what chance do the rest of us have?

After all, even when local journalists make an effort to expose systemic police abuse – as Los Angeles Times reporter, Joel Rubin, once did by revealing the way LAPD statistics are used to mislead the public – the results are often so decontextualized they don’t lend themselves to broader, systemic critiques for all but the most attentive readers. So while Rubin had written about police manipulation in 2012, it remained beyond his ken as a writer to tie his more recent story about an ambush of the LAPD that never happened or to a subsequent op-ed where Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) President Tyler Izen promulgated the non-ambush within a larger, more purposefully fallacious narrative about“a trend that shows an increase in attacks on police officers,”  a narrative that is easily dismissed by facts. The truth, that cops in the United States today are safer from firearms than they have been since 1887 – and safer from any “in the line of duty” fatality than they have been since 1959 – is sadly something you have to do your own research to know.

So who will make the case against Beck? It’s up to the people. It’s up to us.

“Good old boy” Charlie Beck, considered a “cop’s cop” who “has not changed one bit as chief and who – as the son, husband and father of cops – is about as fully inculcated in the noble lieof institutional policing as anyone alive, is the embodiment of our “new” LAPD. “A natural actor,” Beck has been perfectly cast as LAPD Chief in a post-Bratton era where “public relations” are exalted as the essence of reform – and no matter what the police do –  ‘cum hoc ergo propter hoc’ propagating media lackeys will uncritically hail falling crime rates as incontrovertible proof of Beck’s success. As Uzma Kolsy observed of Beck in The Nation shortly after 2013’s crazed, bloodlust-inspired LAPD manhunt for Chris Dorner ended:

“Upright, self-deprecating, and with a gentle face one can’t help but trust, Beck has strived to wear a uniform of a more honorable hue. Beck has committed to weeding out corruption and racism, increasing transparency and, most ambitiously, admitting when his police force makes a mistake.”

In that sprawling-but-far-from-comprehensive piece, however, Kolsy presciently continued:

But as comforting as Beck’s [public pronouncements] sounded, a closer look at other accusations of police brutality at the time rendered his message hollow.

A year after Kolsy’s article, Beck’s hollow messaging would again echo through his media mouthpieces after the LAPD’s pro forma “investigation” into the multiple, mistaken assaults on civilians by police during the Dorner pursuit itself concluded. As we noted then, despite the absurdity of “an officer [who] mistook the sound of [a newspaper] hitting the pavement for gunfire” and sparking 7 other officers to fire 103 rounds at two unarmed women, Beck maintained he had “confidence in their abilities as LAPD officers to continue to do their jobs.”  None of the officers involved in that attempted murder were disciplined or even publicly named, let alone charged for nearly killing the women who were spared only by poor, panicked shooting.

Long suspected to be “a pacification gift to the LAPPL,” however, failing to follow up after “admitting when his police force makes a mistake”  with any actual accountability has been the hallmark of Chief Beck’s first term. While Beck may seem contrite before cameras, that contrition rarely translates to substantive accountability. In fact, the LAPD’s “policing for the camera” strategy itself was exposed when Commander Andy Smith, Beck’s ranking public relations officer, accidentally hit ‘reply all’ on an internal email that urged officers to “make a few arrests for illegal animal purchasing so we can avoid negative coverage.“ At this point, even good old boys would probably call Beck’s tenure “all hat no cattle.” But there’s far more…

Despite the“political motivation in order to please the cameras” that Ron Kaye described as “dangerous” in the Smith incident and that plainly guides Beck’s LAPD across the board, on the long list of high-profile police abuse incidents in Los Angeles under Beck, very few have resulted in a criminal prosecution. To list a few of them:

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“While Their Eyes Were Watching Don: On the Systemic Supremacisms That Really Run LA”

Do warriors do anything but make war?

 

“It is an easy matter for many to be shut up in the hands of a few.” – 1 Maccabees, 3:18

 

A racist, real estate tycoon and a beautiful young woman far his junior enjoyed prime, courtside seats at a Clippers game recently. Their relationship was purely transactional – and the publicity that it garnered left many of us scandalized by the appalling nature of such a brazenly open arrangement. Yet it was truly a timeless, LA Story – the kind the modern city is, in fact, actually built on.

Not interested in reading more about Don Sterling? Well, you’re in luck. I’m not talking about “kooky,” (recently vocal but wrongly individualized) racist shitlord Sterling – I’m talking about a brazen PR stunt elaborately orchestrated by strip mall magnate, “civilian” Los Angeles Police Commission President and full-time, settler-colonial & LAPD booster-in-chief Steve fucking Soboroff. I’m also talking about how both of these incidents reflect the larger story of our modern, dystopic Los Angeles.

Soboroff – whose twitter feed reads like that of a Comicon fanboy, if Comicon fanboys fawned over murderous-and-unaccountable, real life villains who murder with impunity and then caterwaul about their own bravery (it isn’t a dangerous job, it’s just the most memorialized) – recently conscripted Rihanna into his tireless campaign, not to oversee the LAPD and set better policy, but to exalt, promote and privately bankroll them. At first, hardly anyone was talking about everyone’s favorite “good girl gone bad”  taking a selfie to promote pigs alongside a modern day, racist land baron. Well, except his son, Jacob, who works in media. How Convenient!  (Not that this is new to LA, either. From the Garcettis to the Hahns to the Englanders to the Soboroffs – in LA, having a rich/powerful relative is the surest way to be rich/powerful, too.)

However,  when Rihanna later donated $25,000 to the LAPD and Soboroff put his (very theatrically) broken iPhone on eBay, the story made the far-from-arduous jump across Spring Street to the ever-faithful-to-power LA Times. Now, it’s time we all start talking about it.

Acting: Los Angeles Has Still Got It

Ever since trailblazing, Los Angeles booster and USC cofounder Joseph P. Widney declared that “the Captains of Industry are the truest captains of the race war” and gushed that Los Angeles was destined to become the world capital of white supremacy, an endless stream of speculative hucksters and shit-peddling charlatans have converged upon Los Angeles to help the city realize that destiny. They lined their pockets with the money of all those who bought into this pervasive-if-now-more-obfuscated ideal. Today, Steve Soboroff has proven himself to be little more than a neoliberal resurrection of Widney. His position atop the LA Police Commission but a realization of this long-prophesied power convergence.

Having moved on from pumping and dumping controversial development projects like Playa Vista, Soboroff has taken his time-tested template as creative destruction’s most ardent booster to the top of the LA Police Commission. Sadly, what the LAPD destroys – instead of mere investment portfolios, ancient buriel grounds, wetlands or mayonnaise-fed, “planned-community” fantasies – is human life and dignity. When Schumpeter’s Gale billows behind the iron fist of the state, the result is today’s oft-euphemised fascism.

Of course, “this is about Los Angeles,” Mayor Eric  Garcetti admitted, in a recent press conference about real estate titan and Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. But what he said next was pure parroting of the many civic cheerleaders who have served as LA’s Mayor before:  “[Los Angeles is] a name that stands for tolerance and openness. Diversity. It stands for civil rights. It stands for breakthroughs, and most of all it stands for basketball excellence“[emphasis added.]

It doesn’t. It never has stood for any of that. The only truth in that laundry list of lies, of course, is that Los Angeles has stood for “basketball excellence.” But only when the playoffs roll around and fair-weather Laker flags finally bloom.

Thanks, Lakers – for not making a liar out of the mayor.

Like Laurel and Hardy, this duo isn't funny at all...

Like Laurel and Hardy, this duo isn’t funny at all…

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

– The Law of the Instrument, Abraham Maslow

Depending on who you ask, “Maccabee” is either derived from the Aramaic word for “hammer,” makkaba, or some convoluted contortion most likely made by later historians to obscure that fact. But here we find yet another discomfiting convergence: in Los Angeles, where former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates’ infamous Operation Hammer used the CIA-backed, crack cocaine epidemic as a pretext to brutalize South Central, our new Police Commission Presidential (and mayoral appointee) also sits atop a sinisterly-named “Committee of Eighteen” who promote a Zionist athletic festival named… The Maccabiah Games; or, if you speak Aramaic, the ‘hammer games.’  As a “Brigadier General” in the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces ranks, Steve Soboroff’s philosophy becomes even more ominously militant.

In Los Angeles, as with all settler-colonial projects – notably Israel – the square peg of professedly beneficent “redevelopment” has always needed the hammer of white supremacy to push it through the circle heart of our communities. Clearly, only the stylistic flourishes – not the substance – have changed since Rudyard Kipling first articulated “the White Man’s burden”:

“Take up the White Man’s burden And reap his old reward:

The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard

This is all just wordplay, of course – a troubling-but-coincidental reminder of the Maccabeean/Parker-Gatesian historical “hammer” – and might easily be dismissed as the idle fantasy of a “conspiracist” blogger if there weren’t an actual, on-the-ground symbiosis strengthening between the LAPD and Israel. “What’s a Maccabee gotta do with me,” Angelenos might ask?

Well, as recently-promoted, longtime tormentor of Skid Row (and Occupy LA) LAPD Commander Horace Frank recently made clear: “we’re looking at some of [Israel’s] additional solutions … They have a lot of new technologies that we are very much interested in.” (Hey, single-issue anti-drone folks: that’s code for your far-too-belated attention! Commander Frank means “drones.”)

Further, if you’ve read Mike Davis’ exhaustive history of Los Angeles, City of Quartz, you’d be well acquainted with what he called “an unchanging elite agenda of pharaonic redevelopment projects.”  To now conjoin that incredible power with a racial supremacist ethos like Zionism, a philosophy that Max Blumenthal has called “a recipe for ethnic cleansing” in Palestine (as well as the acquisition of the actual, high-tech tools currently being used to implement it there), seems to me like the apotheosis of JP Widney’s wildest, supremacist dreams.

More than the vitriolic words (or black-face selfies by IDF PR managers) of Don Sterling, or even Sterling’s widespread housing discrimination, the idea of having a supremacist-philosophy-espousing land baron like Steve Soboroff in charge of setting policy for the LAPD, of holding Chief Charlie Beck accountable for what happens on his watch, seems preposterous. It certainly hasn’t happened yet.

As we previously posted, the danger of even merely ceremonial police commissions is that they may become “more friendly to cops than victims of police abuse.”A simple scroll down Steve Soboroff’s twitter timeline can plainly reveal that to be the case. Palling around with LAPPL President Tyler Izen and yukking-it-up over a “bread and water” lunch, shilling police-gear for the holidays and now executing an elaborate, fundraising scheme with Rihanna clearly establish Soboroff as “more friendly to cops.” If this isn’t – at least – the “appearance of impropriety” that makes ethicists weep, I don’t know what is.

Of course, as we have seen, “ethics” aren’t even on the list of what Los Angeles is about. But maybe if we put down the Laker flags (hey, the Lakers aren’t even in the playoffs!) and focus on how systemic racism still runs this city (hand-in-hand with a few real estate magnates, a ferocious police force and their ever-present smoke and mirrors publicity stunts) – we can change that together. We must.

Update (Sat. May 17, 2014):

Soboroff’s Rihanna-signed iPhone fetched a $66k, winning bid on eBay. Added to the 25k Rihanna herself donated (as well as some other monies this stunt generated), the total haul for a police department that has participated in the murder of over 300 innocent people since 2007 was well over $100k. Finally, while noting the interaction was “odd,” photographer Noel Vasquez – who took the now-widespread images of the two courtside – thought the bungled smartphone handoff “looked like an accident.” 

This incident, regardless of whether it was manufactured or not, still raises serious questions about Soboroff’s fitness to be the “civilian” overseer of the LAPD. Do we really want a militant supremacist developer, and police cheerleader, determining who can best serve our communities? In the coming weeks, Soboroff’s Police Commission and Mayor Garcetti will be evaluating Charlie Beck’s bid for another, 5-year term as Chief of Police. Of course, so will we.

 

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With Allies Like These… (A report back from the Red/Black Bloc in Chicago)

The SEIU: ignoring over a century of labor history to fawn over "beloved law enforcement heroes"...

The SEIU: ignoring over a century of labor history to fawn over “beloved law enforcement heroes”…

 

[ed. Reports from the streets of Chicago’s May Day march revealed, once again, that the “labor movement” many comrades wax so nostalgic about has betrayed fundamental, historical facts of our movement. While we have long known the SEIU and other liberal power brokers are untrustworthy allies in struggle – and have even had to eject violent, SEIU organizers from our spaces – the fact that unions have historically joined the state “[in] an alliance to crush radical labor groups” can never be forgotten. The following is a brief ‘report back’ from a comrade who was in the streets of Chicago on May Day, 2014.]

 

“No Borders! No Nations Fuck Deportations!” To start the day Wobblies, Anarchists, Marxists, Anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians gathered at Union Park. They discussed the radical history of May Day in Chicago, Emma Goldman, Trans-rights, the War on Drugs. The red and black flags, long symbol of Anarchism , were flying high as we gathered and ate free meals provided by Food Not Bombs Pilsen. A long row of pig cars gathered (predictably) to watch us.

"Show me the working class!"

“Show me the working class!”

 

Hilariously, they put on their flack jackets but scattered when a light right started. As Proposition Joe once said: “Police don’t get wet.” While the Black and Red Bloc gathered and then snaked it ways through the streets on our way to the Haymarket Memorial. The Haymarket Memorial, a memorial to remember the Haymarket Affair an infamous bombing of the Chicago Police Department. Only one police officer died by the bombing and more died at the barrel of police shooting blindly at each other. The enemies of the working-class fired on the crowd and killed four laborers. So we go into the streets in this tradition: against the police, against Capitalism and in solidarity with the working-class.

Immediately our march was stopped for “not having a permit”. Whatever. Fuck off Pigs. We go where we want. We do what we want. We arrive to Haymarket and a comrade asks for the start time of the march. We hang one of a banner  at the Haymarket designed by an PoC anarchist comrade from immigrant parents. Hannah Arendt once wrote:

“Of all the specific liberties which may come into our minds when we hear the word ‘freedom’, freedom of movement is historically the oldest and also the most elementary. Being able to depart for where we will is the prototypical gesture of being free, as limitation of freedom of movement has from time immemorial been the precondition for enslavement.”

This is how to analyze systems of power and domination. None are free until all are free. From borders, from prisons, from the bosses, from the government.

And so the Red and Black contingency marched toward ICE with various leftists groups, NGOs, and others. While the three letter socialist organizations were busy handing out pieces of paper (“Dude nobody wants that fucking shit!”) the anarchists danced and chanted about smashing prisons. “Brick by Brick! Wall by Wall! The Prison System has to fall!” Almost immediately, the march organizers protesters fought with the Red/Black Bloc about who should position where. This is a yearly tradition. On the ground, we had a comrade with a banner denouncing ICIRR’s reformist policies. For example, they are asking the President to stop deporting people until after there is an immigration reform bill passed. This reform bill is primarily about enforcement of the border not eradicating them. It puts more police on the border but doesn’t reduce their capacities for warrantless searches or random searches by the police. So yea, different ideologies, different tactics but similar goals.

And so we are about three rows behind the front of the march. So Comrades is moving up with the banner denouncing ICIRR and they get immediately swarmed by ICIRR “march marshals” as well as SEIU marshals (wanna-be cops). As soon as this happens, the comrades argue with ICIRR and SEIU and try to move on. They make their move back into the crowd and are immediately snatched by CPD thugs.

Immediately the Black/Red Bloc moved to confront the armed violent thugs of the Chicago Police while everyone else yells at us to “move along” and keep the march together”. We don’t roll like that. A few of us get hit by pigs and we try like hell to get to our comrades. Everyone is yelling their favorite ACAB chants. “From Chicago to Greece, FUCK THE POLICE” We record the whole interaction and the police try to detain our comrade for filming them. Cops hit another person from behind. These particular arrests pisses everybody off since one of the arrested comrades is an undocumented person who is fighting deportation proceedings. Yes you read that right, the ICIRR targeted an undocumented anarchist for arrest because they didn’t like their sign. Even worse, they turned over that person to the police. Nice solidarity.

For what it’s worth, the ICIRR categorically denied this on May Day . Videos of that day show that this is not true. Even one of the comrades arrested spoke publicly (en español) against the racist system of power that ICIRR was promoting.

They spoke against the racist enforcement of the political bill that ICIRR was promoting and against ICIRR and SEIU themselves. Ze (one of the arrested comrades) was passing out these zines to connect the dots between racism, the war on drugs, and immigration. And so this is the position we find ourselves in. “Liberal” reformist NGOs like ICIRR push reformist bullshit while putting people they disagree with in the same system they claim to be against. What a nice way to spend your May Day.

Solidarity Forever (and not as some god damn platitude)!

[ed. For more details on yet another betrayal by these collaborators, click here.]

The Labor Aristocracy is not your friend...

The Labor Aristocracy is not your friend…

Posted in ACAB/FTP, Action, Archival, Liberalism, Media, War on the Poor, white supremacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

White Supremacy: Polishing the Police Brass on the U.S. Titanic

“I got my black shirt on/I got my black gloves on/I got my ski mask on/ This shit’s been too long/I got my twelve gauge sawed off/I got my headlights turned off/I’m ’bout to bust some shots off/I’m ’bout to dust some cops off/ I’m a cop killer, better you than me/ Cop killer, fuck police brutality!” – Body Count, “Cop Killer”

pigs!

pigs!

22 years ago, the people of Los Angeles took to the streets to express their outrage after the four LAPD officers who nearly beat Rodney King to death – a vicious attack caught entirely on camera – were acquitted of criminal charges. Despite George Holliday’s legendary video – officers Koon, Powell, Briseno and Wind escaped justice that day – but the people were done waiting for others to “stop police violence” and took action themselves. The country took notice and it took the armed forces to put down the rebellion.

The spirit of “ACAB,” an acronymization of the slogan “All Cops Are Bastards,” was in the air (and bumping from our compact disc players) in the early 90s. Even DC, the nation’s capital, was licked by the flames of a righteous uprising after a DCPD officer, Angela Jewell, shot a Salvadoran, Cinco de Mayo reveler who had allegedly threatened her with a belt. The soundtrack in our headphones reflected our mood, not the other way around: NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” (from 1988) and the lyrics from Body Count’s  “Cop Killer” spoke from a powder keg of resistance fomenting against the emergent, post Cold War carceral state – not to one.

A lot has changed since 1992 – but some things remain the same. Ice-T, whose song “Cop Killer” raised hackles among white pearl-clutching politicos (especially liberals), has gone from singing about “dust[ing] some cops off” to portraying one for a paycheck on television. Mount Pleasant, which once was a hub of Latino culture in DC, has long since fallen to the forces of gentrification that were creeping in on it in 1991. And sadly, Rodney King was found dead in a swimming pool not long after the 20th Anniversary of the LA Rebellion. Yet cops continue to beat and kill black, brown and working class people – as well as the dispossessed and marginalized – with almost unqualified impunity. Everywhere. An ongoing series in The New Inquiry, “The Thick Blue Line”  by Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, documents just how regularly – when it comes to cops – acquittals aren’t even the source of our outrage. What breaks our hearts more often is the tired refrain:  “no charges filed.”

From Orange County to Albuquerque, many white folks are even learning, too, that our“life [is] expendable. It no longer [holds] any value to the state.” As Thandisizwe Chimurenga, a black activist and author from LA announced in an article published after Kelly Thomas’ state-sanctioned-murderers were acquitted, “welcome to our world.”These aren’t aberrations, folks: violence is what police do. This violence didn’t subside in the anti-cop zeitgeist of the early 90s – it just learned better public relations. Of course cops get away with it. With indefinite precaritization, the neoliberal state’s seeming prescription for all workers, we can only expect more of the same violence being applied to an ever-widening pool of immiserated subjects.

However, all need not be lost. As Thomas Wolfe observed in You Can’t Go Home Again:

“Pain and death will always be the same.  But under the pavements trembling like a pulse, under the buildings trembling like a cry, under the waste of time, under the hoof of the beast above and  the broken bones of cities, there will be something growing like a flower, something bursting from the earth again, forever deathless, faithful, coming into life again like April.”

Deathless. Faithful. “ACAB.” “ACAB” – too-long-dormant in the US, but always under the pavements trembling like a pulse – burst from the earth again in April of 2014 in a surprising way. On Twitter. In a country where merely talking about molotov cocktails can get your brought up on “terrorism” charges, we need to seize every opportunity to talk about police abuse. After all, if a single orchard’s “bad apples” had killed this many kids – shouldn’t we have razed the whole damn thing by now?

So while decidedly liberal “hashtag activists” were busy backslapping and self-congratulating about their “radical” ownership of hashtag campaigns that invariably foist themselves – as novelty brands – into the spotlight instead of the issue they purport to champion, a spontaneous counter-narrative to a planned, NYPD PR  campaign emerged collectively from small accounts among the Twitter rabble. Commissioner Bill Bratton, who has probably done more than any man to bring the white supremacist terror of “Broken Windows Theory” into our lives, served up a rare softball in his otherwise spitball-reliant, public relations fuckery. His NYPD asked Twitter users to share pictures of themselves with cops and tag them with “#myNYPD.” But users didn’t flood the hashtag with cozy images of Officer Friendly, peacocking with tourists in Times Square, as Bratton had hoped. Instead, Twitter lit up with images of exceptional and everyday police violence.

Old News Bratton is at it again!

Old News Bratton is at it again!

As one with any sense might have surmised, in a venue like Twitter where mediating messages is difficult, the widely-known truth about policing and its inherent violence quickly escaped into the ether and dominated trending topics. It couldn’t be ignored. Bratton himself eventually had to comment on this public shaming, trying to dismiss the graphic depictions of what his police do – everyday – as “old news.” He even dug deep into his bag of blather to deny systemic violence, saying: “Often times police activities are lawful, but look awful.” Maybe people don’t care so much anymore about what is or isn’t lawful, pig – maybe they just don’t want anymore “awful?”

But Bratton inadvertently opening up the floodgates to truth wasn’t the only thing that burst forth “like a flower” this April. More police violence, too, came on the heels of Bratton’s very public reality check – and it wasn’t unrelated to Bratton himself…

On Sunday, April 27, Long Beach police – with assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – murdered an unarmed black man as he fled from their less lethal munitions down a long staircase toward a wide open beach. According to authorities, Jason Conoscenti, the 36 year old suspect, “allegedly reached toward his waist as he neared the bottom of the stairs and officers fired at him”. Even more troubling than the de rigeuer “waistband”-excuse invocation, the Press-Telegram report continued:

Sunday’s shooting is the first officer-involved shooting involving a suspect and the first fatal officer-involved shooting in 2014. The department and Chief Jim McDonnell, who is running for Los Angeles County Sheriff, came under fire last year after 22 such shootings occurred — the highest number recorded since 2008. Six of the 2013 shootings were fatal; others involved nonfatal hits, missed hits, shots fired at animals or an accidental weapons discharge.

It seems Bratton’s “old news” and “awful but lawful” policing techniques have been an integral part of how his former #2, Jim McDonnell, has been running Long Beach. Interestingly, the man Bratton himself endorsed for LA County Sheriff as capable of “facilitating meaningful change,“ essentially served as a public relations liaison for Bratton’s “lipstick on a pig” gloss at the LAPD:

During his tenure with the LAPD, McDonnell was given the task of helping the department build bridges with the city’s diverse communities and political leaders.

Again – what Bratton does best isn’t fix police – but polish their image. As is the case with his recently renewed efforts in New York – as well as in his press-adored, previous work in Los Angeles – “community policing,” to Bill Bratton, is just a fancy way of saying “smokescreen.” So while the long-simmering “ACAB” sentiment is brought to its inevitable boil in Long Beach, we watch the media and how it serves “racism and criminalization.” In Bethania Palma Markus’ recent Truthout piece, the ever-insightful Chimurenga returns to reveal some more truths:

“The concept of unintentional killing, of a ‘mistake’ or ‘accident’ is being reinforced, drummed into people. But I have yet to see numerous headlines and ledes using the words ‘mistake’ or ‘accident’ when a young Black man is shot in the back while running away from police; while holding his cellphone or his wallet or with his hands raised in the air…

“in my experience and observation, mainstream media treat people of color, especially those of African descent, as criminals, suspects, or as having some kind of character defect when they are victims of crime, and whites tend to receive sympathy and be painted as completely innocent,” Chimurenga observed. “Sometimes it’s blatant and sometimes it’s subtle, but since antiblack bias is so pervasive in this society, subtlety is just as powerful as that which is blatant.”

“Mainstream media gives credence, too much credence, to ‘authority’ figures – government officials and law enforcement,” she said. “In too many ways, media carries their water for them. There is not enough basic skepticism or digging for deeper context and meaning. Many times, media is both cheerleader and megaphone for police terror in how they report on crime.”

Through the bullshit-parsing lens Markus and Chimurenga have provided us, we’re going to have our eyes on Long Beach in the coming days and keep tabs on the media spin that serves the police there, too. When they lie and say Conoscenti “reached for his waistband,” we’re going to call them on it. When they say he “confronted police” or gloss over police gunning him down by calling it “an encounter,” we’ll call them on that lie, too. We’re going to hold Jim McDonnell and all the officers involved in Conoscenti’s murder accountable for what happens on their watch – as well as every other police officer who commits murder in our name.

Finally, we’re going to hope that this country remembers the bold actions it took in the streets in the early 90s, learns from them, and finishes the job of destroying the institution of policing. Only then will our streets know peace.

I’ll be enjoying some old-fashioned Ice-T when we do:

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Through the Looking Glass; Chief Beck’s PR War Machine

Orwellian

 

“Copaganda: An Introduction”

When I read media by or about the LAPD, I often feel a little like Lewis Carroll’s “Alice,” who after reading the nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” in Through the Looking Glass remarked:

“Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate.”

In Los Angeles County, law enforcement officers kill an innocent person once a week, so if you’re reading an article about their flashy, new Lamborghini Gallardochances are you aren’t reading one about the (often unarmed) suspect they killed.

Could a surfeit of nonsense and inanity like the Los Angeles Police Department’s own locally grown, organic word-salad-specialties be obfuscating dirty deeds, done not-so-dirt cheap? Is the LAPD’s intensifying foray into social media and the glut of misinformation those accounts are peddling another example of “[seeking] to influence opinion by attempting to have a message heard in as many places as possible, and as often as possible” in other words: “propaganda”?

It sounds a lot like the LAPD’s bustling media mill these days, doesn’t it; a steady stream of bullshit, distracting us fromeven saying the opposite of  the reality we see every day? When a cop dies, the department declares a tactical alert so they can put more pigs on the parade route. Their dutiful handmaidens in local media wring their hands, adding to the spectacle, and they only rarely deviate from LAPPL talking points about how “dangerous” being a cop is (it isn’t).

Just in case, for those keeping score at home, since 2008, here’s how the cold, sad body counts actually stack up:

LAPD: 3* (*all traffic fatalities)

Civilians: 252* (*all victims of intentional violence by LEOs in LA County)

Yet despite the torrent of nonsense they churn out (including pig-sponsored pseudoscience), and no matter how much spin Eric Rose at Englander, Knabe & Allen dizzies a disinterested media with, I can do something the LAPD seemingly can’t. That is, I can actually quote George Orwell. Orwell actually once said:

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ”

You see, while the LAPD tries to be more Orwellian than George Orwell ever dreamed, a simple Google Search reveals that Orwell never actually said the line the LAPD’s Wilshire division account recently attributed to him. In fact, the only thing similar that Orwell actually said had quite the opposite meaning. When Orwell actually did make a similar comment in Notes On Nationalism, he declared:

“Those who ‘abjure’ violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf.”

By attempting to outdo even the nightmarish ‘Big Brother’ at Orwellian “political language,” misattributing a quote to Orwell that expresses the opposite of his actual politics, the LAPD has once again demonstrated that its distortions and lies are “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.” After all, what Orwell plainly meant in Notes On Nationalism was not to exalt “rough men” who help “people sleep peaceably,” but rather to incriminate those who bury their heads in the sand and pretend the state and policing itself aren’t “violent” ex vi termini . But in case you didn’t know: cops lie.

As I said to the Police Commission myself in February, 2013, “There is an expression for Chief Bratton and Chief Beck’s legacy at the LAPD, and it isn’t “transparency and fairness.” It’s “putting lipstick on a pig.” Increasingly, that lipstick is taking the form of a multi-platform propaganda assault on those not paying close enough attention – or what I call “copaganda.” And this scourge now seems to be spreading to Oakland, too.

Sadly, Orwell’s actual opinion on the police, of course, probably never will find its way into an LAPD tweet. It doesn’t serve their agenda:

“when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Struggle for the Health of Laboring Bodies

and everywhere!

and everywhere!

[ed. this post candidly discusses topics that may be triggering – particularly the institutionalized violence of the health care industry as it is wielded against laboring bodies and other traumatic, first-hand experiences of the author.]

 

I am asked to suffer in silence. I am lied to by my doctors.

I was uninformed going into my first pap-smear at the age of 18. I went into Kaiser for a standard physical for one of my many odd jobs. On my way out I was asked if I’d had a pap-smear. I said, “no, I don’t know what that is.” The woman behind the desk said that they are routine and that I should schedule one while I was there.

I did.

I didn’t have a car and when it was time to go back, my best friend Sam gave me a ride. She asked why I was going to the doctor and I told her that it was a pap-smear. I told her that I had never had one before and didn’t know what it was. She was surprised they didn’t explain it to me when I made the appointment and began to fill me in on what I was about to walk into.

I was scared. I had never had anything penetrate my vagina except for tampons before this and it felt bad to me that the first person to finger me was a complete stranger (no matter what the reason). The young asian doctor thought I was lying when I told him that I wasn’t sexually active. He felt my organs from the inside and I had silent tears going down the side of my face. I felt invaded. Coerced.

Years passed with many pap smears, anti-biotics for clamidia, Birth Control in the form of Pills, an IUD, Implanon, Nuva rings… I tried them all… and my body has rejected all of them except for the pills.

  • IUD – caused horrible contractions, cramping, and bleeding – Once my body finally got used to it – my partner didn’t like the fish wire feel poking out of my cervix… so out it came.
  • Implanon (a small stick implanted right beneath the skin in between the bicep and tricep…with a slow hormone release) – Nice not to think of the pill, but it gave me horrible painful adult acne and dark (almost brown) thick period discharge.
  • Nuva Ring – Yeast infections.

I went into the Planned Parenthood for my colposcopy because of an abnormal pap. I took a pain killer before hand which was stronger than I was expecting. She was really rough with me and my body felt like it had been aggressed against. It was violent and the pressure was uncomfortable and painful even with the strong painkiller. The recovery was more intense than I was expecting (or told) there was extremely painful cramping and prolonged sensitivity long after the clumpy bandage came out. I felt bagged, tagged and processed.

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No H.O.M.E. For Nazis in Beverly Hills

"No Platform" Means No!

“No Platform” Means No!

There has been a long-running, “low-grade street war” against the neo-fascist Golden Dawn in Greece. In the Ukraine’s ongoing Euromaidan demos, it is said that neo-fascists “make up about 30% of protesters.” President Nicholas Madura recently invoked the specter of fascism to describe the opposition in Venezuela. And in October, Raw Story reported that Golden Dawn had even opened a chapter here in Los Angeles. Antifascist forces take all of these developments very seriously.

From as far afield as Greece and Venezuela to even our own backyard here in Los Angeles, what these neofascist groups share – and as a coalition in 2010 initiated by ARA-LA and the Black Riders Liberation Party succinctly pointed out – are their varying stages on a shared quest for their own, political legitimacy:

“open fascist forces seek political legitimacy. They want greater influence within white nationalist, reactionary social forces, such as the anti-immigrant movement, the “tea-baggers,” and the militia movement.”

From those who have paid attention to ARA-LA over the years – to those who read George Jackson (and hopefully the many more who do both), this comes as no surprise. As Comrade Jackson said:

“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.”

One wonders if Comrade Jackson ever imagined anyone might read his words and think the quarrels to “settle” would be with the fascists themselves? Apparently, Los Angeles organizer James Stern, who after the 1992 rebellion organized a summit between Korean grocers and “gang members” and who proudly befriended (and got the film rights to tell the story about) infamous Mississippi Burning killer Edgar Ray Killen, thinks so:  “I think it’s interesting to meet face-to-face with an organization that considers itself a ‘a white civil rights organization.’”

And so Stern, instrumentalizing his previously established – and personally lucrative – connections with open fascists, decided to put on “A National Conversation on Race and Equality: White Civil Rights vs. Civil Rights for All” at a new, Beverly Hills jazz club called H.O.M.E. (an acronym for “House of Music and Entertainment”).

A “HOME” for Nazis in Beverly Hills? Imagine having a pricey meal in a place that hosted Nazis!?! Actual, avowed fucking Nazis!?! And provided security for them! Or, as our comrade who disrupted the meeting inside the restaurant reported H.O.M.E.’s manager saying when he finally demurred and cancelled the event, “I have nothing against any of the groups present,” but “I cannot sacrifice all the work I have done to make it to my current position for my family and my workers.” 

In the end, the only thing H.O.M.E. cared about – it seemed – was money. We have recordings. Of course, we’ve reached out to H.O.M.E.’s management for clarification as well as to part-owner and local NBA star, Ryan Hollins, but no response was offered in time for publication.

Interesting, indeed. Or, as Emma Gallegos at LAist noted, “It’s hard to imagine what kind of productive conversation could come out of inviting the leader of a neo-Nazi group to a discussion on civil rights, much less giving him top billing.”

Symbiosis On The Radio

A grand (re)entrance with restaurant security!

However, regardless of H.O.M.E.’s complicity in hosting the “conversation,” is it possible that hosting such a gathering at all really was just part of the staging of an antifascist action sequence for a forthcoming documentary film by Mr. Stern? You see, what’s interesting to me is the very last passage in the event’s own press release for the event:

Stern was convicted of five counts of wire fraud, and sentenced to 25 years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman in 2007. He was paroled on November 2011. Currently, Stern is fielding book deals and movie offers about his story.

The above quote raises a lot of questions, and those questions are compounded both by film permits reportedly secured outside the location in Beverly Hills that day and the elaborate-and-unnecessary (re)entrance the NSM made to garner attention. You see, when our comrades arrived at H.O.M.E., the fascists were inside the restaurant – only to be escorted by a security detail to a small café a few storefronts (stormfronts?) away while the pot was stirred outside. Then, with truly manufactured pomp, the fascists returned only after a proper pitch had been fomented among antifascists.

I am not oblivious to these possibilities. But also: fuck actual Nazis. Let’s stay on topic: NAZIs. And further, let’s talk about “legitimacy.”

Upon hearing of the scheduled “conversation,” longtime Los Angeles organizer Tiffany Wallace of Struggles United/Luchas United noted, “Self-appointed Black “leaders” are going to sit down at the table and discuss with Nazis “race relations” aka “what kind of cut will you accept, ‘Black leaders,’ to pacify the rage seething over amongst your people?” Mr. Stern’s “cut” seems clear; a payout. Other participants perhaps sought the “legitimacy” conveyed to them by the organizer. But more important than any of this: what does the National Socialist Movement gain? What does this event do for actual, fucking Nazis? Legitimacy. And you cannot legitimate Nazis, no matter who you are – their aims have far too murderous consequences for far too many others.

In discussing this piece privately, another comrade raised another troubling point: “I can imagine a post-racial nazi movement,” she said. “And I think nazis will have to move in that direction. Given demographic shifts (here in the US) – they may already be.”

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Posted in ACAB/FTP, Action, California, culture industry, Liberalism, Los Angeles, Patriarchy, Prisons, Queer, Sex Work, Uncategorized, War on the Poor, white supremacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Blister

the_blister

“The Blister” – a report from 2012’s NATO SUMMIT in Chicago

(ed. find out how you can still support the #NATO3 – here!)

 

 

The city is draped in police. The kings of empires are meeting here. The coalition of new age capitalistic imperialism called NATO is here. Alphabet agencies including Homeland Security, Secret Service, FBI, and others were all very present in the downtown districts of Chicago during this week. Chicago police officers and officers from regional agencies, some from as far as two states away, were getting paid overtime to protect everything of capitalistic value in Chicago. It seemed every other block was filled with a line of police in riot suits blocking the street off.

As my right foot is getting bandaged by a street medic, I’m surprised at the complexity of displeasure a simple blister can expound upon me. Yes, a miniscule blister. I sit in a fold out chair on the fifth floor of a corner brick building a few minutes from downtown. Although the elevator in the building doesn’t work, I know it’s the 5th floor from counting the floors of the building next to us from the roof. The roof of this building holds a powerful awe as it juts up high enough to overlook the menacing, empirically lit Chicago skyline and is a sanctuary we sat for a few nights running down the epic ness of the day’s events and mulling over tomorrows schedule.

I now wonder if I even needed to talk to the medic about my simple blister, as I am flustered at the unimportance, especially in the realm of the events. I’m also ultra-aware of the stale scent of my sweaty feet after 3 days of not showering. She respectfully didn’t show any mind as she speaks to me about the incident in Bridgeport that happened a few days prior to the assembling of the 2012 NATO convention.

Her breakdown of the events is like a broken record as I have heard the story already.  Nine people were pre-emptively detained, three of whom were charged with terrorism charges (the NATO 3). I was also, we ALL were, super skeptical of the real evidence that the police had against these kids. A video released earlier in the week showed the kids getting pulled over and detained by Chicago PD, who claimed that they were watching them. (This, we know now to be true as the under covers were outted soon after the raid took place.) We also lived out the story back in the Twin Cities when there were a dozen or so sites in Minneapolis and St Paul that were preemptively raided by the FBI the day before the 2008 RNC (Republican National Convention) was to convene. Similar entrapment tactics were used as well, as an undercover created the plan and supplied the so-called weapons, which was all then turned and blamed on the protestors. I ponder if and when a documentary, like ‘Better This World’, which was about the setup during the RNC case, will be made about these boys being framed while she continues venting.

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