Sunday, March 4, 2012

What's This Then?

Screengrab from the F29 March in Portland, OR
A bill passed Monday in the US House of Representatives and Thursday in the Senate would make it a felony—a serious criminal offense punishable by lengthy terms of incarceration—to participate in many forms of protest associated with the Occupy Wall Street protests of last year. Several commentators have dubbed it the “anti-Occupy” law, but its implications are far broader.

The bill—H.R. 347, or the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011”—was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, while only Ron Paul and two other Republicans voted against the bill in the House of Representatives (the bill passed 388-3). Not a single Democratic politician voted against the bill.

The virtually unanimous passage of H.R. 347 starkly exposes the fact that, despite all the posturing, the Democrats and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate and financial oligarchy, which regarded last year’s popular protests against social inequality with a mixture of fear and hostility.
Yes. Well.

This is news? In a sense, yes, it is, because it represents a significant ratcheting down of the very concept of "protest" and "petitioning" and "redress of grievance." It's like the "violence" debate: ultimately, anything, any action at all, under the right circumstances, can (and no doubt will) be defined as "violence" by Authority and used as an excuse (as if one were needed) to unleash whatever force is deemed necessary to stamp out the threat to the peace and security of the pillage and looting class that rules us.

The entirety of our elected government in DC agrees that "protest" and "petitioning" and "redress" shall not be allowed to take place during any sort of national security event, nor shall it be allowed in the presence -- or within some arbitrary distance from -- the High and the Mighty.

This measure would be deemed unconstitutional on its face -- if the Constitution still meant anything. But the Constitution was cancelled long ago and its protections are weak sauce at best. What we have now is a hybrid state between a nonfunctional representative democracy and a full on Imperial Autocracy.

I assume the President will give his assent to this law.

What does it mean?

One thing it means is that it shows just how strong the Occupy Movement is in the eyes of Our Rulers. They're freaking out. This law -- which essentially allows and codifies the arbitrary criminalization of any action the Authorities deem to be troublesome, any time, anywhere, and oh, criminalizes strikes by Federal workers (not that they can actually do it anyway) -- is of a piece with the consistent ratcheting down of the societal control mechanisms that began soon after the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle.

Many people noted how odd it seemed that the Patriot Act was ready to go the moment President Cheney called it forth. How could that be? Easy: it had been written well in advance by people and interests unknown, and it only needed the right trigger to push it onto the agenda. They (whoever they might be) were just waiting for the day. It came.

But note, there was some opposition back then, opposition that was dealt with promptly and efficiently with the Anthrax Scare. It was amazing to see how Tom Daschle's mind was concentrated and how easy it was to pass this very complex bill that probably no one to this day has read in its entirety.

It was much the same with the establishment of the bloated DHS. Same with ICE. All these measures and restructurings of the National Security State were ready to go when called forth by the appropriate officials -- because they have long been planned for by Our Rulers.

There was no opposition to this measure, except for the token and completely ineffective "Nay" of the ever token and ineffective Ron Paul.

Occupy is strong? Good heavens! And here are all these people running around with their megaphones claiming Occupy is DEAD! It's not a pleasant thing, but it is hilarious to witness. Our Rulers are afraid that Occupy is going to make a ruckus while many of those who claim to support the Occupy Movement claim it is well past its sell-by date.

Which is it?

One of the wonders of the Occupy phenomenon is that no one really knows; no one can say with authority and certainty whether the Black Bloc "cancer" has killed it, whether the constant internal wrangling has paralyzed it, or whether the encampments were a good thing or a bad one. The Occupy Movement baffles Authority. It baffles many of those most intimately involved as well.

But I digress.

This measure, that the WSWS (a very important source for news analysis, btw) is making such a stink over -- almost alone among news outlets -- is of a piece with the Patriot Act, the NDAA, the numerous efforts to curb and contain protest demonstrations nation wide that have been fast-tracked and implemented for years.

We live in a police state.

Those who continue to argue that "it's not quite a police state yet" I think are trying to hold out hope that somehow the tide can be turned, but it's a wan hope at best. Our Rulers are not going to back down on their obsessions with overpolicing everything anytime soon.

One observation made in the article, however, struck me as a bit odd.

Under the ancien regime in France, steps were taken to ensure that the “unwashed masses” were kept out of sight whenever a carriage containing an important aristocrat or church official was passing through.

That may have been the case in the Provinces, but the Palace of Versailles was open to the public -- unwashed or anyone else -- and it was possible, by hieing oneself to the the Palace, to petition the King directly, or to present ones plea to any noble there one could track down. The situation was quite unlike the situation we face now in which gaining access to Our Rulers is typically out of the question, and the whole apparatus of government is placed behind walls and barricades.

The government's horror of The People is manifest daily, as is their fear of confrontation with the masses.

The hilarious sight of the Portland RoboCop Brigades in full riot armor facing off against unarmed demonstrators is the iconic portrait of the reality of our times. It's not simply that Our Rulers don't like the People, they are petrified of them.

This seems ironic given the fact that the Ruling Class simultaneously believes that they don't have to listen to the People, nor in fact, do they believe there is anything wrong with governing contrary to the public interest or the People's Will. They sincerely believe they are supposed to do that, in fact. Our Rulers also believe that the People will do nothing about it that the Rulers need pay attention to.

And yet they are full of fear and dread of what the People could and might do.

So they send in the horse police and the RoboCops. They hide their official selves and official business behind layers of secrecy, high walls and barricades. They order their Cossacks to fire on unarmed protesters again and again, wounding hundreds. They send their infiltrators to spy, their disruptors to disrupt.

They do everything they can to undermine effective protest and especially effective demonstrations of alternatives to the present corrupt and decadent social, economic, and political systems short of all out military operations.

This bill is part of that process of self-protection Our Rulers are obsessed with.

And to think. Even after an assassination attempt at Versailles on Louis XV, the palais stayed open to the public. Soon enough, "le deluge" came. The Bastille was stormed. The Fishwives marched on Versailles. The King and his Court were taken to Paris, and the rest as they say is history.

Of course, we're much more civilized than the fishwives and sans coulottes of 1789 Paris, and Our Rulers have long since learned how to head off (in a manner of speaking) their own Apocalypse.

Yet you'd think they'd learn by now that the more the ratchet of oppression and repression tightens on the masses, the less secure the Rulers become.

You'd think a lot of things...

[Note: there are supposed to be some big honking protests and demonstrations today at the Capitol. The propagandists are out in force to ensure... disharmony. I think I shall... bear witness... ]


  1. Thanks for the link to WSWS. I hadn't been there before.
    It's very interesting to see they hyper-militarization of the police now combined with a law that prohibits people from publicly assembly near the plutocrats. If this is signed by Obama then I think we've entered a new era. The plutocracy has realized they can't keep the people down using the usual propaganda techniques via control of the media and such. Occupy has changed the dialogue in this country and it scares the shit out them.

  2. WSWS may not get a lot of notice, but it does get a good deal of respect for their extensive coverage of worker and labor issues, foreign policy, and other important matters, and for some of the sharpest and most insightful news analysis on the internet. Since they are completely up front about their Trotskyist biases, those who read WSWS are not being deceived that they are getting something else.

    The fear Our Rulers have of The People is paradoxical. They are petrified of Occupy Oakland, for example, and they want you to be afraid of them, too. But they do not believe they need to listen to or act on public interests or the public will. Prohibitions are protests are bound to fail. They will seen as ludicrous.

  3. A very dangerous bill. Fascist storm clouds are accumulating, and damn fast.

    A rate of acceleration I don't recall ever seeing before.

    Did you hear about the protest in Virginia about its draconian, neanderthal personhood and forced ultrasound laws? Extremely civil, polite and peaceful women tried to march on the capitol, had permits, but were met by SWAT teams. Dozens arrested.

    . . .

    Amazing that some Americans think protecting the so-called rights of Catholic bishops to discriminate against their employees is more important than the rights of "the people" to assemble, etc.

    The so-called "war on religion" is a figment of the right's psychotic imagination, but there truly is a war on women. Rather, an acceleration of one going back thousands of years.

    I haven't figured it all out yet, but I think the war on Occupy and the war on women is related. As in, most of the plutocratic freakout in America is a white male freakout . . . and there is a truly bizarre web forming here. Top-down class war, gender war, a war fomented by the Christian right against science, history, pluralism and minority rights, etc. We are slipping backwards, rapidly.

    All of this is severely testing my Zen path!!

  4. I saw a number of videos of the Arrests in Richmond. Overkill much?

    Jeebus, what are they so afraid of? I'm in the process of writing a post about the Incidents at the California Capitol that I witnessed (and partially documented) today. Not quite like what happened in Virginia (Occupy Oakland and the Oakland Commune were involved... ahem ;-) but still...

    I think your analysis is right: there is a very concerted top down war on the People. All of us are targets. There is no escape. The categories targeted at any given time may shift, as they seem to do with increasing rapidity, but eventually none of us is immune.

    So what do we do?

    "Stand up, fight back!" Our Rulers cannot deal with it. I witnessed some things today that terrified some of the other witnesses... they were so afraid somebody was going to get hurt. I said, "No, that's not what's going on. It's a whole different game being played." And sure enough, the state police not only backed down, they rode off on their fine looking horses. Of course there would be several other encounters, but every time, they backed down. Whether that will hold through the rest of the day and into the night (there are more demonstrations in the evening) remains to be seen.