Olympics and the Conventions: an Un-shocking Doctrine

Ride of the future.  from derfasaurus flickr photostream

Ride of the future. from derfasaurus' flickr photostream

Naomi Klien quite brillianty documents the rise of a disaster industrial complex in her book the Shock Doctrine. The Chicago School of Economics and their hangers on have crafted an ideology that uses political, ecological or military crisis to ram through the creation of a neoliberal-military hybrid state.

Now, the process is continuing with un-shocking events of political stagecraft.

First, there was Miami in 2003, where the Miami PD turned an FTAA meeting into a police riot, funded by millions of dollars in Homeland Security funds, spent on weapons that no doubt remain in the hands of the department today.  Handling of the protests became a “model for Homeland Security,” in the words of Miami’s mayor.  He was right.

Then, there was the 2004 RNC, an event still echoing through New York’s legal system and political consciousness.  The convention and protests surrounding it involved a mind-numbing abuse of police power, and the pretext of convention security provided the excuse to bulk up on security devices still in use today – cameras, riot gear, tasers and more.  More importantly, it provided a pretext to break down convergence points in New York’s activist networks, creating capacity building problems that

More recently, there was the Olympics, where China spent $12 billion on security measures.  That’s about 10 times more than what was spent in Athens, and 20 times more than what was spent in Salt Lake City.  Almost none of that will disappear after the Olympics end – those cameras, weapons, personnel, etc., will become permanent features of China’s police infrastructure.

Now we have the 2008 conventions.  Each will incur about $50 million in security costs.  At Denver, we saw the use of pepper-spray bullets, as well as those shiny new police-truck things pictured above.  At the RNC in the Twin Cities, tactics borrowed from New York have begun – illegal detentions, arrests, and raids have been carried out against the anti-authoritarian and anarchist presence, doubtless using technology bankrolled by the DHS and taxpayers.

I say ‘illegal’ because I think there is a conscious effort on the part of the police to make arrests that they know to be unauthorized: since it remains illegal to resist an illegal arrest, and police accountability is so so broken in this country, police can make arrests without fear of serious retribution.  Any legal ramifications down the road are minuscule compared to the millions in free equipment and more in publicity cities earn from hosting these conventions ‘trouble free.’

The Miami Model and its inheritors risk not only the right to free speech and vital civil rights, but also a severe backlash.  Using overwhelming force to execute the whim of police administrators and politicians leaves no recourse to serious protesters except a violent response.  That’s not a threat: that’s a fact of how people will respond to this strategy.

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