This is not what a police state looks like
Back in my early days, when I was a queer journalist in the queer press, I was even a bit queer for the queers. I ran into all kinda trouble all the time because I just wouldn’t take what somebody said to me as the gospel truth simply because they, like me, happened to be gay.
Call me crazy, but it just seemed to me that being gay had nothing to do with one’s ability to tell the truth, or, more to the point, to understand what the truth is. Sometimes, man, you’re fired from your job because you suck at it or you’re so obnoxious nobody wants to work with you, not because you’re gay.
Now, as in the case of Cheryl Summerville and Cracker Barrel, back in the day, sometimes we have what we call an open and shut case. Summerville’s manager actually wrote on her termination slip that she violated company policy because she was gay. OK, now that’s pretty obvious. Sometimes it’s not so obvious. But when somebody comes to me and says “Such and such company fired me because I’m gay,” the first thing I’ll do is ask, “How do you know?” And if that somebody doesn’t hand me a pink slip a la Cheryl Summerville, then I’m gonna have to do some investigating.
It’s not that I don’t trust you … oh hell, it is because I don’t trust you. I don’t trust anybody. I’m a journalist, for christ’s sake. I’m not supposed to trust anybody.
So when I see Occupiers marching down the street chanting “This is what a police state looks like” because the cops are making them march on the sidewalk instead of the street, I groan a little bit. For the record, THIS is what a police state looks like:
Now, that first night in Oakland looked a lot like this, especially when the idiot cops shot tear gas cannisters into a group of protesters trying to help a former Marine who’d been wounded. But that behavior got plenty of condemnation, and hasn’t been repeated to that extent. A little pepper spray? Inappropriate, yes, but good lord people, this guy was shot in the face with a tear gas cannister, from the back of an army vehicle, distance just a few yards. He died.
Really a far cry from what most Occupiers have had to put up with, not to say that police haven’t been out of line. They have. Municipal leaders have been utterly stupid, ordering cops to break up these protests. It’s not looked good for them, but it’s not looked like Egypt and the Palestinian territories.
And as if that’s not enough, we also have third tier “journalists” (and others) whining that they’re being censored on Twitter, apparently not understanding that when one floods the timelines with the same hashtags over and over, spam-catching robots will suspend the account. Same type people claim YouTube is doing the same thing by vanquishing things lik, oh, Occupy videos, although I can tell you from my own experience — I regularly monitor these things in my actual job — that I can find any Tweet and any video, not censored unless it violates terms of service — like, you know, copyright violations — any time. Twitter and YouTube don’t have the manpower or the inclination to play those stupid games. They’re run by software, which actually can screw up and require a human to do something like de-suspend accounts.
But even the people who live in an actual police state aren’t immune to getting carried away, as if the truth isn’t bad enough. In the first video up there, a woman is brutally beaten and kicked, along with a male protester. When this photo was released, protesters seized on it to claim the soldiers sexually assaulted her. If they did, the video didn’t show it, unless it’s a cultural thing — she was wearing a hajib, and she was uncovered in the course of the soldiers dragging her around. But they also tried to cover her back up. Doesn’t excuse the savagery with which they beat and stomped her, and seriously, that’s enough. That isn’t how an army should treat its own people.
Which brings me to the National Defense Authorization Act. My, but the Twitterers have gone apeshit over this bill, which pretty much sucks. It enshrines Bush policies of indefinite detention and other such unconstitutional behavior toward terrorist suspects. But unlike what you’ve been told by those Twitterers, it does not authorize the military to indefinitely detain American citizens. Quite the contrary. It specifically exempts Americans from such bullshit.
You’re safe, Occupiers.
Do we need to maintain diligence to prevent the complete destruction of our liberties? Hell, yes.
But far be it for some of our more, shall we say, excitable progressives to acknowledge that fact. Instead, they’re all about how they’re not gonna vote for Obama because he’s gonna sign the bill and allow the military to come in and arrest American protesters and hold them in Gitmo until the cows come home.
I won’t pretend to say I know why they’re doing this. And yes, I would have liked to see a Democratic president undo the nonsense that George W. Bush foisted upon us. But frankly, we don’t live in an atmosphere that would allow that right now. Can you imagine the House ever agreeing to such a thing? The Senate, where a Republican minority prevents a vote on any bill they don’t like, which is anything Obama supports?
Not gonna happen, my friends. This is what we like call “reality.” And baby, it sucks. Big time. And still so called progressives would rather rip apart each other than focus on the real political problem we have, and that is simply this: There aren’t enough of us yet to affect the change we need. And that’s really, really frightening. If we don’t get those changes soon, we’re not gonna like where we end up.
But we’re gonna end up there as long as we waste all this time and energy denegrating the people who still have a shred, small as it may be, amount of decency left in their tiny little money-sucking hearts and let the real bad guys off scot free.
Here’s a crazy idea: Forget politics. It’s hopeless. Seek out people instead. Real people. Not rich assholes caught up in a permanent and continuous re-election cycle. Talk to the people, the American people. The ones who vote for those dicks. The ones who wouldn’t vote for those dicks if they really understood what’s going on.
And stop whining about the media. The media is just a mirror, and a cracked one at that. That’s why we get distorted news, warped messages and incomplete ideas. Teach the people not to rely on it. Teach the people to think for themselves. When they do, then we’ll see change.
And for god’s sake, be real. And pay attention, really close attention.
Take Bradley Manning, for example. He’s the guy accused of leaking all those cables to Wikileaks. His defense? He has gender identity disorder, and it affected his judgement. But what do I see out in Twitter-land? That it’s the government blaming it on his orientation. No, folks. It’s not. It’s his defense attorneys.
Seriously, it’s bad enough out there without having to try to make it look worse. We lose credibility when that happens.
And without credibility, we have nothing.