Monday, February 11, 2013

Disappeared -- The Pre-Legend of Chris Dorner

Here to Help

Have you noticed that despite the intense media coverage of the Dorner Manhunt, and even despite the $1 million reward offered up by the City of Los Angeles yesterday (thanks to a cohort of anonymous wealthy donors)  the object of all this attention hasn't been seen or heard from in something like a week now.

He's disappeared.

Have you noticed, too, that despite the efforts of the LA and other police forces to provide Dorner with the formal three-name sobriquet always utilized for major league -- and some minor league -- criminals (in this case "Christopher Jordan Dorner") most people seem to be sticking to the informal "Chris Dorner," as if he were somebody they knew or had a beer with on occasion, who they liked and trusted, who was their friend.

Have you noticed that even though Dorner is now designated a Domestic Terrorist by the LAPD (by what authority, I wonder?) the public outpouring of understanding and even support for his cause -- which is widely recognized as a cause of "justice" -- has not diminished; if anything, it's increased. His methods may be wrong, but his cause is just, so goes the reasoning.

I've mostly followed the story online and watched with something close to amazement as the comments about it have gone from clearly in favor of the police doing "whatever is necessary to take him out" to "he's doing what he has to, may not be the right way to do it, but he's already done or tried to do all the right things and has been screwed over." The sympathy/empathy for him and contempt for the LAPD is almost all that appears in comments about the story now. It's nearly universal.

This is, I think, unprecedented at least in modern times. I've heard of outlaws in pioneer days and during the Depression receiving a lot of public support despite their status as outlaws, but the Outlaw Character has practically disappeared from American mythology these days, and people who do things which are counter to the prevailing social mores are routinely denounced, demonized and whenever possible destroyed.

This is something else again.

While the police initially panicked to protect themselves, causing a great deal of collateral damage -- thankfully no one died in the hail of bullets let loose against phantom targets of opportunity -- now they're scrambling merely to hold on to any public good will at all. It's a sight to behold. Step by step, as they have lost the public's good will through many unforced errors over the years and the clearly out of control bolloxing of this case going back to its origins in the official mistreatment of Dorner for daring to complain about abuse he witnessed, the police have tried practically all the PR stunts they can think of -- mass armed assemblies and fruitless searches in the snow at Big Bear, conceding the need for further review of Dorner's complaints while designating him a Domestic Terrorist, fundraising and offering a million dollar reward, moderating press conference statements about him, apologizing to the citizens shot up by mistake, so on and so forth -- they are not winning back the public trust. The more they try to smooth over the PR disaster they have on their hands, a disaster of their own making let it be said, the more the public sees their desperation, and the higher their level of contempt.

The more I see of this Charlie Beck person who is allegedly chief and in charge of the operations of the LAPD, the more repellant and snake-like he becomes. He's been floundering so badly, and yet is still put forth as the face of the agency. Something tells me he's not in charge at all; he's the fall-guy and will be sacrificed at the appropriate moment by those who are really in charge.

Who could that be I wonder.

Is this all an elaborate ruse to get rid of him while preserving the malformed institution he ostensibly heads? The "Chinatown" elements of whatever happens in LA are never buried very deep in any case; things are typically not what they are said to be or what they seem to be, there is always an underlying -- and often very different and very corrupt -- "necessity" being protected and promoted.

The LAPD exists to protect certain interests and certain people and to ensure that the control and exploitation of the rest continues without interruption or hindrance. When things go wrong, as they do every now and then, the LAPD pays for it with another round of "reform." But the "reform" never actually reforms the institution, because its whole point is to protect certain people and interests while ensuring control and exploitation of the rest. That's what the LAPD is for. When you understand that, you understand what their motto ("To Serve and Protect") really means. It doesn't mean they "serve and protect" you you see. Never.

There seems to be a widespread understanding that Dorner tried to do the right thing by bringing abuse that he witnessed to the attention of his superiors and he was punished for it. We can be certain that he is not the only one by any means.  He did what he thought was right and what he was supposed to do, and he was slapped down, hard, by a system that cannot accommodate that kind of idealism and honesty.

For the supposed chief now to reopen his case and pledge honesty and transparency (of course, we can assume it's a fraudulent pledge, but that's another issue, not germane to the matter at immediate hand) in reviewing the facts and Dorner's complaints, tells me that Dorner's "manifesto" has struck a strong chord within the department, that many, many LAPD officers have either hesitated to bring their own complaints about racism and abuse to the attention of superiors for fear of retaliation, or that they themselves have faced similar punishment to that of Dorner for trying to do the right thing, and now they're saying, "Look, this shit has got to stop."

Of course, the purpose of the institution requires that the shit continue. Even redouble. So they'll do what they have to to make it look like they're reforming or changing, but they won't actually reform. They'll fuss with process, they'll declare the matter settled. If you have any doubt about how these things go, look at what the Catholic Church has done in the face of withering criticism (oh yes, and lawsuits, many many lawsuits) of its institutionalized child abuse. Almost every "reform" has been eyewash.

So it is and will ever be with the LAPD.

It is the Iron Law of Institutions, and the only way to really change it is to abolish the institution and start over -- which isn't going to happen. Well, not before the Revolution comes.

Dorner's pre-legend is being put together right now, despite the fact that he is nowhere to be found. Is he even still alive? Who knows? He will become a legend whether or not he is ever found, dead or alive (my own suspicion is that he took his own life, perhaps in Big Bear). He might become a legend as powerfully iconic as the Hugo Weaving character in "V is for Vendetta." Let there be comics and movies and songs and stories.

And let there be masks. He's already got the smile...


  1. They've got drones hunting for him now. Slippery slope anyone? Also see Greenwald's article today.

  2. The Hugo Weaving characters mask in V for Vendetta is based on a real outlaw, Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the British government.

    The mask itself exists because the gunpowder plot so terrified the monarchy that they made the ritual desecration of Guy Fawkes into a national holiday:

    "Remember, Remember the 5th of November. Gunpowder. Treason. And Plot.

    I see no reason why gunpoweder treason should ever be forgot."

    Interesting you bring up the Roman catholic Church, as the Pope announced his resignation today.

  3. I wouldn't be surprised if drones were used either to spot Dorner or take him out or both -- that is, if he were spottable and stoppable. Myself, I kind of doubt he is. So we may wind up with the spectacle of the random burly black man being targeted and pink misted at the mall or what have you because some pimply drone pilot got the go-ahead from an otherwise disinterested superior. The collateral damage will be cleaned up quickly. Life will go on.

    If it happens, it will be marketed to the masses as "the price we must pay for our liberty."

    The Church is the arch-institutional model in the West, and what they have done/not done wrt the exposure of their record of child abuse (and a lot of other shit) has informed many institutions how to deal with crisis and controversy. Protect the institution first and foremost.

    Government does the same thing.

    I was not shocked that the Pope resigned, but I was surprised. It suggests to me that he is being sacrificed -- or is sacrificing himself -- in order to preserve the institution and that the internal problems of the Church are much deeper than we suspect. And then St. Peter's was struck by lightning.

    The gods are not amused...