Friday, January 30, 2015

The Menace That Is (Lt. Col.) David Grossman

I've mentioned this man on these pages a number of times since I was clued to his ravings about "sheep, wolves and sheepdogs" last year.

Once I dug into some of his arguably puerile if not completely whacked out writings and statements -- after resisting for months because I considered him a crazy-maker -- I began to see him as the primary source of the quasi-religious "philosophy" of policing which is at the root of so much police violence and killing in this country, and forms the principle belief-system which justifies the various overseas military operations the country has engaged in since 9/11.

Apparently in the wildly popular (?) movie "American Sniper" released at Christmas last year, one of the characters expounds about the "sheepdog" theory without attributing it to Grossman, telling the character of Chris Kyle, American sniper, of his calling as a "sheepdog."

Chris Hedges puts it this way in his polemic against the film at TruthDig:
The camera cuts to a church interior where a congregation of white Christians—blacks appear in this film as often as in a Woody Allen movie—are listening to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians. The film’s title character, based on Chris Kyle, who would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, will, it appears from the sermon, be called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers.
The scene shifts to the Kyle family dining room table as the father intones in a Texas twang: “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators.”
The camera cuts to a schoolyard bully beating a smaller boy.
“They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.”
The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.
“I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”
I haven't seen the film and I won't -- at least not for quite a long time. As a rule, I don't get off on violence, and because so many American movies are saturated with blood and violence, I don't often go to the movies or even watch them on the teevee. But when I read that these words and attitudes are attributed to characters in "American Sniper," I recognized immediately the influence of Dave Grossman and his peculiar notions of "Killology."

Killing being the highest achievement of the... "sheepdog."

I don't know if Grossman is ever mentioned in the film, but he's been selling his claptrap quasi-religious nonsense to military and police forces around the country for decades, conducting hundreds of seminars a year with recruits and seasoned veterans of military and police forces, and he is regarded as something of a guru -- if not a god -- in the police and military fields.

Until recently, Groosman's existence seems to have been overlooked by the mainstream, though he is well-known in the circles in which he runs. I seriously doubt that Hedges has ever heard of him or has any knowledge of his beliefs.

Most Americans seem to be oblivious to him and the menace he represents.

Years ago it was routine to attribute some of the worst aspects of American behavior and government to specific individuals, whether it was Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney or whomever.  Individuals actually were the ones behind the appalling policies that were causing so much destruction and bloodshed around the world, especially after 9/11. But somehow, Grossman escaped notice.

A few days ago, though, Slate ran an article that exposed the connection between Grossman's claptrap and the lines in American Sniper that are taken from that claptrap -- claptrap which is, by the way, believed by many Americans in the police and military forces. It's still sort of their secret religion.

The Slate article puts it this way:
Grossman crafted this analogy in response to 9/11 and the war in Iraq. And it’s not enough to classify the human race into these three simple categories; Grossman—and those who parrot his metaphor—are issuing a call to action to defend yourself against your enemies. In a country where innocent, unarmed, mostly black Americans keep getting killed, it’s a pernicious worldview to hold.
In Grossman’s original essay, now available on his website, he credits an “old war veteran” with first telling him about wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs. He writes:
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.    
In Grossman’s telling, the wolves will do anything they can to hurt sheep. Grossman variously identifies wolves as school shooters, terrorists, criminals, and anyone looking to hurt the innocent. Internationally, think ISIS, al-Qaida, and Boko Haram.
Domestically, think gangsters, criminals, and thugs. Grossman makes it clear that, no matter how much society fears its sheepdog protectors, the sheep need their sheepdogs. That means that a sheepdog cannot “take out its teeth.” In gun rights terms, this means that gun owners should never go anywhere without a concealed firearm: “If you are a warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today.”
And the wolf will come, says Grossman. “If you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path,” he writes, “then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.” He emphasizes practicing “when/then” thinking as opposed to “if/when” thinking. He encourages sheepdogs to view their surroundings with fear and paranoia. 
The authors describe Grossman's perspective as toxic, and it is. It's toxic, it's pernicious, and it's lethal. It is due to beliefs like this that people like Tamir Rice and James Boyd -- and so many, many others -- have been killed by police in the recent past, and why so many are still being killed.

It's not because of any actual threat, either to police or the public -- certainly Tamir Rice, John Crawford and Darrien Hunt didn't represent a threat -- it is because of the belief that killing is the highest achievement for an officer of the law or a sniper... They kill to be fulfilled, they kill because they must, they kill because it is who they are -- or who they have been convinced to believe themselves to be.

I've said Grossman is a cult leader, a guru not unlike the various Maha and Raj -Neeshi and other religious cult leaders who have come and gone throughout recent American history. His devotees and acolytes are in the military and the police forces throughout the land. And they kill, mostly without conscience or in many cases without even consciousness, because that's what they've been told they are there to do. It is their mission in life. They are told that killing is their highest achievement. They are convinced -- like Chris Kyle apparently was -- that every kill is a "good shoot." Every one is a "good shoot" because they have done the killing -- which is their highest achievement. It's circular, it's insane, but that's the belief.

Everyone they kill needed killing or they wouldn't be dead. You can't get much closer to a religious faith than that.

I've said that it's going to take a massive level of deprogramming to undercut and eliminate this faith-based killing spree by domestic police forces, and I don't know what it will take to turn the military around.

When even the killing of little Tamir Rice does not move the police to reform themselves but only leads to ever greater levels of rationalization and justification, we should recognize how deep-rooted this faith is among police forces and how difficult it is to change those deep-rooted beliefs.

Part of it will require exposing Grossman and what his nonsense has done to police forces and the military. Grossman must be exposed and rejected before there can be serious reform of police forces.

And then a very carefully designed and implemented de-programming effort will have to get under way at nearly every police department in the land.

It's a huge task. I don't know whether there is the will or the ability to carry it out.

The killing must stop. Stopping it -- when police are inculcated with the belief that killing is their highest achievement -- will be a monumental task.

But I'm glad others are recognizing how pernicious Grossman is.

He is a menace.

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