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Police Killings Won't Stop

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Reprinted from Truthdig

Protests Resume in Charlotte
Protests Resume in Charlotte
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The corporate state, no matter how many protests take place in American cities over the murder of unarmed citizens, will put no restraints on the police or the organs of security and surveillance. It will not protect the victims of state violence. It will continue to grant broader powers and greater resources to militarized police departments and internal security forces such as Homeland Security. Force, along with the systems of indoctrination and propaganda, is the last prop that keeps the corporate elites in power. These elites will do nothing to diminish the mechanisms necessary for their control.

The corporate state, by pillaging the nation, has destroyed capitalism's traditional forms of social control. The population is integrated into a capitalist democracy by decent wages and employment opportunities, labor unions, mass-produced consumer products, a modest say in governance, mechanisms for marginal reform, pensions, affordable health care, a judiciary that is not utterly subservient to the elites and corporate power, the possibility for social, political and economic advancement, good public education, arts funding and a public broadcasting system that gives a platform to those who are not in service to the elites. These elements make possible the common good, or at least the perception of the common good.

Global capitalism, however, is not concerned with the cohesion of the nation-state. The relentless quest for profit trumps internal stability. Everything and everyone is pillaged and harvested for profit. Democracy is a mirage, a useful fiction to keep the population passive and compliant. Propaganda, including entertainment and spectacle, and coercion through state-administered surveillance and violence are the primary tools of governance. This is why, despite years of egregious police violence, there is no effective reform.

Propaganda is not solely about instilling an opinion. It is also about appropriating the aspirations of the citizenry into the vocabulary of the power elite. The Clintons and Barack Obama built their careers mastering this duplicity. They speak in words that reflect the concerns of the citizenry, while pushing through programs and legislation that mock those concerns. This has been especially true in the long campaign to curb excessive police force. The liberal elites preach "tolerance" and "professionalism" and promote "diversity." But they do not challenge the structural racism and economic exploitation that are the causes of our crisis. They treat the abuses of corporate oppression as if they were minor administrative defects rather than essential components of corporate power.

Naomi Murakawa in her book "The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America" documents how the series of "reforms" enacted to professionalize police departments resulted in placing more money and resources into the hands of the police, giving them greater power to act with impunity and expanding legally sanctioned violence. All penal reform, from President Harry Truman's 1947 Committee on Civil Rights report to the Safe Streets Act of 1968 to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 to contemporary calls for more professionalization, have, she notes, only made things worse.

The fiction used to justify expanded police powers, a fiction perpetrated by Democratic politicians such as Bill Clinton and Obama, is that a modernized police will make possible a just and post-racial America. White supremacy, racism and corporate exploitation, however, are built into the economic model of neoliberalism and our system of "inverted totalitarianism." A discussion about police violence has to include a discussion of corporate power. Police violence is one of the primary pillars that allow the corporate elites to retain power. That violence will end only when the rule of these elites ends.

The calls for more training and professionalization, the hiring of minority police officers, the use of body and dash cameras, improving procedures for due process, creating citizen review boards, even the reading of Miranda rights, have done nothing to halt the indiscriminate use of lethal violence and abuse of constitutional rights by the police and courts. Reforms have served only to bureaucratize, professionalize and legalize state abuse and murder. Innocent men and women may no longer be lynched on a tree, but they are lynched on death row and in the streets of New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, Charlotte and dozens of other cities. They are lynched for the reasons poor black people have always been lynched -- to create a reign of terror that serves as an effective form of social control.

The wreckage left behind by deindustrialization created a dilemma for the corporate state. The vast pools of "surplus" or "redundant" labor in our former manufacturing centers meant the old forms of social control had disappeared. The corporate state needed harsher mechanisms to subjugate a population it condemned as human refuse. Those on probation and parole or in jails or prisons grew from 780,000 in 1965 to 7 million in 2010. The kinds of federal crimes punishable by death leaped from one in 1974 to 66 in 1994, thanks to the Clinton administration. The lengths of prison sentences tripled and quadrupled. Laws were passed to turn inner-city communities into miniature police states. This had nothing to do with crime.

Amiri Baraka, the author of the incendiary poem "Somebody Blew Up America," understood. In that poem he called us to examine the epicenters of capitalist power and the dark heart of imperialism. He knew the organs of state security served not only a corporate system but also a dehumanizing ideology. It is the system and the ideology that are the evils. The police are only its most visible and public instruments of oppression.

In this excerpt from the poem, Baraka asked:

Who stole Puerto Rico
Who stole the Indies, the Philippines, Manhattan
Australia & The Hebrides
Who forced opium on the Chinese

Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers

Who owned the slave ship

Who run the army

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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