The Terrorist You KnowNovember 12th, 2016

It’s possible that the killing of non-white citizens by police is not so much racism as terrorism. The point of terrorism is to use fear to control large numbers of people. Police are officially charged with the task of controlling large numbers of people. If it is possible to bring large numbers of them into compliance by “making an example” of a few noncompliant–or even innocent–individuals, why wouldn’t police naturally employ this tactic?

There may have been a time when respect for law was sufficient to allow police authorities to exact obedience on the part of the general public, but that time has passed. The legal immunity of the rich and powerful and the particular legal vulnerability of unpopular minorities have eroded public respect for law to the point that all standards of conduct are at serious risk. It’s possible that, in the absence of respect for law, fear is the only means of control available to police.

Alongside the erosion of respect for laws and other standards, there has evolved a wholesale rejection of authority and authority figures, compounding the problem of control. Even schoolchildren now revolt against unfairness or perceived unfairness in their treatment at the hands of grown-up school personnel. By way of response, heavily armed officers now patrol the halls of some schools with gun butts clearly visible to the youthful, regulated public. The potential for the use of force is implied. On the rare occasions when force is actually applied, all are frightened, in theory, and the object of the terrorist is achieved.

There may be readers who recoil at the idea that authority figures use fear to control us, but most of us tend to applaud when we see the tactic in day-to-day practice, typically in fictional accounts of crime and punishment. We’re likely to be in favor of law enforcers’ application of force until they use it on us.

Not so long ago, it was easy to ignore the excessive use of force by police. Instances of police misconduct rarely made news. Today most people are equipped with miniature video recording devices, and new episodes of police bullying, sometimes lethal, are recorded with some regularity. As the video record demonstrates, there are victims of all skin colors, but dark-skinned people are targeted disproportionately. Why? Because it’s cheaper. The cop is more likely to find contraband on the target if he’s black or brown, and he’s much more likely to be believed if he has to plant contraband on the target to justify his use of force. On those rare occasions when courts become involved, the abuser stands a better chance of acquittal or leniency against a dark-skinned victim. Terrorism is particularly effective when it’s done at minimal cost. It may not be that cops hate black people. It may be simply that blacks make the most convenient terrorism targets.

It isn’t just police who use terrorism to control us. Political figures have better luck gaining our trust when we’re scared. They make it their business to find enemies for us and duly target the designated enemies for punishment. They come and go, our enemies. When we stop feeling threatened by one–we had Castro for decades, but he’s old and harmless now–they give us another one. These days, if we credit our leaders at all, we’re supposed to be very afraid of Kim of Korea and Putin of Russia.

If we credit our media and most of the political establishment it’s Donald Trump we should be afraid of. The political campaign on behalf of the Democratic nominee was a stream of character assassination designed to evoke fear of Trump among voters. The tactic didn’t work to swing the election, but it did leave a residue of terror in a sizable swath of the population, including many hapless schoolchildren, victims of their parents’, teachers’ and newsmongers’ unabashed reign of terror.

Newsmongers could well be the biggest purveyors of terrorism. Fear is known to attract audiences, and that’s what the current events branch of the entertainment industry is meant to do: attract an audience for exposure to the epidemic of food, drug and cosmetic advertising that generate revenue for them. It’s not just Trump, but Russia, tropical viruses, Arabs, urban violence, and transexuals in our children’s bathrooms that they want us to fear. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, they left many people in a state of panic. Over the years, they’ve scared a dumbed-down populace into more wars than we can count, into a draconian, profit-generating penal system, and, most recently, into authoritarian government.

So if you’re looking for terrorists, don’t look in Afghanistan or Syria. Look over your shoulder. Terrorists in law enforcement, politics, and the mass media are using fear to manipulate us every hour of every day.