Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Won't You Please Come to Chicago?

Nothing like this, nothing remotely like this, happened in Chicago over the weekend.

Over the weekend we saw some actions in Chicago that had the feeling of reality and yet lacked a certain something.

Even the police overreaction to the crowds of protesters, the few times it happened, had an unreal gloss to it.

What was going on?

The Pre-Crime arrests and the efforts to squelch independent coverage of what was going on were really quite transparent to anyone who has been following this sort of thing for any length of time. Of course -- we know -- the State sets up various participants in real or imagined resistance campaigns as fall guys and patsies through the strategic use of informants, infiltrators and provocateurs. In the case of the pre-crime arrests in Chicago, it appears that the set up may have included planting "evidence" and other tactics utilized when the targets wouldn't go along with the plan.

The strategic stops, detentions and raids of live streamers was an interesting tactic that seemed obviously meant to intimidate and disable the most prominent streamers -- Luke, Tim and Nate in particular -- and to send one of those messages that are always being sent by the Authorities -- to all the rest of them: mind your Ps and your Qs. To the public, of course, goes the message that anyone can be rounded up at any time for any reason or none at all.

For what it's worth, I think the Pre-Crime arrests and the strategic detentions and raids worked rather well and accomplished their objectives.

The intensity of the pre-NATO propaganda campaign asserting the violent nature of the protests to come and encouraging Chicagoans to leave town for the duration was pretty spectacular in its own right.

But the strangest thing to someone who was around in 1968 was the curiously reserved -- yet always in view -- behavior of the Chicago Police. Visions of "1968" were circulating widely in the lead-up to the NATO events, but the upshot was apparently very carefully managed to show to the Whole World Watching that nothing like "1968" was going to happen or did happen. Surprise, surprise. A few noggins were banged by batons to be sure, and there was a limited amount of blood in the streets after a few confrontations between police and demonstrators, but for the most part, there were no clashes evoking "1968".

The Red Zone was rarely breached, and when it was it was almost by accident, quickly corrected by phalanxes of police. The World Leaders were able to do their business unmolested by the crowds in the streets, and undisturbed by the unpleasantry of tear gas wafting into the halls and auditoria of Power.

The demonstrators, who numbered in the tens of thousands at their peak, did their thing pretty much unmolested as well, though it must be noted that they were, how to put it, "guided" by police phalanxes emplaced so as to control the crowds' movements and confine their presence to designated sectors while not significantly interfering with either their spontaneity or their ability to take to the streets. This was a highly sophisticated operation by the police, and it is little wonder the Chief was nearly moved to tears in expressing his admiration for the generally well-executed plan the department had prepared in advance of the NATO summit. Not only was this unlike the by now notoriously brutal behavior of the NYPD and the Oakland Police toward their demonstrators, it was no doubt intended as something of a model for handling the protests expected at the party nominating conventions in Tampa and Charlotte later this year.

The constant repetition of the scenes of police overreaction and brutality toward demonstrators that we've seen almost since the advent of the Occupy Movement has had a cumulative effect on the consciousness of and conscience of America -- to the extent that still exists -- and the constant initiation of violence by the police (regardless of what the "nonviolence" community believes about who started it) has ultimately been counter productive to the interests of the Powers That Be, in part because witnessing leads to radicalization. The more people see for themselves what's going on, the more people are radicalized.

The expectations in Chicago were in some respects for a bloodbath because of visions of "1968" and because of what's been done in so many cases of Occupy protest and demonstration up to now. The crack-downs have too often been harsh and violent. Thousands have been arrested, hundreds injured, dozens of camps destroyed.

It wasn't that way in Chicago where there were a handful of arrests and injuries, and no camps erected to be destroyed.

There was instead something more insidious.

So long as the battle lines in the streets were drawn clearly and actions and their consequences were visible, as was the case from the outset of Occupy until fairly recently, a process of protest and demonstration and police overreaction was in place. It had almost become an institutionalized ritual.

Now with the Pre-Crime arrests becoming standard (following identical patterns to those used against Muslim communities for years, which in turn grew out of standards and practices adopted as far back as the Drug Wars and even earlier with COINTELPRO) , with the overt intimidation of independent media and the strategic decision to "let protest demonstrations happen" as they will, expectations are no longer valid.

The point of the violent crack downs against Occupy, the mass arrests and the brutality was to discourage "good people" from participating, and to an extent it worked, helped along by members of the "nonviolence" community who were obsessed with the dress and demeanor of some activists and made a cottage industry of demonizing and scapegoating bandana wearing and Black Bloc Anarchists. Whether they were conscious collaborators with the State's efforts to discourage and diminish popular participation in Occupy actions and events, I don't know, but they were and are complicit in that effort, much as most of the major churches have been complicit in the establishment of a permanent State of War and the security apparatus that now rules us.

Those violent efforts of the police and the complicity of certain social institutions and communities did their job. Many people are now too frightened of "what might happen" to participate in Occupy events -- because of how the police react, not so much because of what a Black Bloc might or might not do. The camps are mostly destroyed, so there is very little round the clock public awareness of the Occupy Movement and issues (though it does exist), and internal struggles over power, money and purpose have left a lot of disharmony in their wake.

On the other hand, with so many Americans radicalized by conditions and events, protest is unlikely to go away any time soon. The task for Authority, then, is to manage the protests as well and as apparently gently as possible. And that's what we saw in Chicago for the most part. It definitely has a cruel side, aspects of which are only hinted at. It can be brutal, but rarely rather than ordinarily. It can be intimidating and frightening.

But it was nothing like "1968" -- and so, from a psychological standpoint, what happened in Chicago with regard to the NATO protests was "better" than what's happened so many times in so many cities where World Leaders have foregathered for whatever it is they do when meeting face to face to plot the further oppression and exploitation of the masses.

It was even "better" than what has happened dozens of times when Occupy actions have been violently suppressed.

Oh, and then there was the G8 Thing in Maryland. Anybody go to that? Were there protests? Demonstrations? Anything? And does anybody believe anything in the G8 Communique? Hello?

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