Idiot Joy Showland

This is why I hate intellectuals

Tag: race

Breaking the law

America has a cop problem. Black people everywhere have a cop problem. Humanity has a cop problem.

More than ever. In the last few days, cops in Cleveland murdered the 12-year-old black child Tamir Rice for playing with a BB gun in a public park. A grand jury in Missouri failed to indict the cop that murdered the 18-year-old black teen Michael Brown as he held his hands above his head and shouted Don’t shoot. A grand jury in New York failed to indict the cop that murdered (on tape) the 43-year-old black man Eric Garner as he repeatedly gasped I can’t breathe. There’s a lot to be said about all this, but I’m not the one to say it. There are plenty of essays by black writers and activists that expose these travesties with far more anger and elegance than I ever could; among the most powerful are The Parable of the Unjust Judge or: Fear of a Nigger Nation by Ezekiel Kweku and Not another death: Black Lives Matter by Wail Qasim. What I want to talk about is something very specific: the process and the meaning of the failure to indict the murderers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Under the grand jury system a failure to indict isn’t the same as a court finding a defendant innocent; by failing to indict the two grand juries have found these killer cops to be so utterly and impeccably innocent that there can be no actual trial on any charge. Something is seriously wrong here. Grand juries usually function as a rubber stamp for the prosecution; it’s hard to imagine a grand jury throwing out a case against someone accused of plotting an act of terrorism, for instance, however spurious the evidence. These cops appear to have broken the law and got away with it. Faced with this travesty, a few familiar slogans are being thrown around: even if you don’t agree with the outcome you have to respect the decision; justice is a process, not a result; we live under the rule of law. It’s time to clear out this bullshit. Despite appearances, the law is not broken when white cops kill black people; it’s strengthened. The law is a fetish, a piece of hocus pocus magic, a ceremonial mask for power, a primitive superstition for white folk. The law is a transcendental secret, the centre of a mystery cult. It’s not a normative ideal to which actual events must conform themselves: all signifiers refer only to other signifiers – and never more so than in the case of the law, in which most pieces of legislation primarily refer to and amend other pieces of legislation. Instead the law is the hidden core of an institution of differences; more than anything, it’s an object of veneration.

The founding scene of legality is pretty familiar. Moses climbs up a Mount Sinai wreathed in fire and lightning to receive the gift of the law as a divine inscription on tablets of stone. As he descends, he sees that the Children of Israel have abandoned their faith and melted their earrings into a golden calf for them to worship: in his fury he breaks the tablets, and only when the idol is destroyed and three thousand of the Israelites have been killed can he return to the mountain and bring back the law. It’s a myth that conforms to the Benjaminian theory of law-founding violence: before the law can begin to function, the sons of Levi must first, by virtue of might, slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. There’s something else too: what’s objectionable about the golden calf is that it is a graven idol, a representation of a tangible thing. The true object of worship (see how even now the Torah is kissed and venerated) must be what Deleuze calls the paranoid, despotic, signifying regime of signs; an abstract and unknowable code for an abstract and unknowable God.

Given that it’s an idol, what the law says is of little importance when compared to what the law does. After smashing the tablets Moses divided the Children of Israel into those on the side of the Lord and those with the golden calf; the former to be saved, the latter to be slain. The law institutes an othering system based on a principle of proximity, in which this proximity to the law becomes an ontological attribute. Michael Brown was a criminal, a thug, a menace, because he allegedly shoplifted some cigars – because he was black, because he was distant from the law. Eric Garner was a criminal, a thug, a menace, because he allegedly sold some roll-up cigarettes – because he was black, because he was distant from the law. Without a modern-day Moses to draw the lines of distance and demarcation, this role has fallen to the police. The role of the cops isn’t to enforce or uphold the law, but to set the order for its worship. Something is legal because a cop does it, or illegal because a cop forbids it. Cop action constitutes legality. The law is a function of the cops, and cops are a function of privilege.

The word privilege comes from the Latin for private law, but (as dramatised by Kafka) the law is always a secret and always private: privilege is the law, and the law is privilege. More accurately: white supremacy is the law, and the law is white supremacy. The founding documents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, to which all US laws refer, spoke of the inalienable right of all to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while millions of black people were enslaved. This isn’t a contradiction, or at least not a meaningful one; the thetic content of law is irrelevant. What these texts did was to form a political subject, one which had life, liberty, and happiness, one that was landed, male, and white, one that would be protected by the holy magic of legality.

Why won’t grand juries indict cops that break the law? Because it’s impossible for a cop to break the law. White people – those close to the law – are taught from an early age to see cops as living embodiments of legality, and in a way this is true. (Black people are taught from an early age to see cops as an imminent danger to life, and this is true in every way.) The law can’t break itself; by letting killer cops go free, jurors are just acknowledging its catechism. But the law can still be broken: Moses broke it once, shattering the tablets of stone on his way down from Sinai. It can be done again. Breaking the law means eradicating its system of distances and divisions: overturning capitalism and demolishing white supremacy, so that no more innocent people will have to die.

How to spot an illegal immigrant: a UK Border Agency guide

Beyond what I am, I meet a being who makes me laugh because he is headless; this fills me with dread because he is made of innocence and crime.
Georges Bataille, The Sacred Conspiracy

A series of public UK Border Agency raids in the last few days has attracted the usual furore from the usual quarters, with various pious lefties throwing around accusations of racism based solely on the fact that officers deployed at various train and tube stations were only stopping commuters from visible ethnic minorities. Meanwhile, the publicisation of the raids on the Home Office’s Twitter account has attracted criticism for supposedly being ‘totalitarian,’ ‘a blatant Tory election ploy,’ ‘some serious Children of Men shit right here,’ and ‘a further demonstration of the chimerical and ungodly union between racialised state violence and the pseudo-democratic spectacle of social media.’ In the interests of combating such nonsense, the Home Office has released to the general public this guide, which lays out the criteria by which trained officers can distinguish potential illegal immigrants from ordinary people of colour on sight.

Illegal immigrants, who are known to derive perverse enjoyment from stealing the jobs of British workers, may be identified by their sadistic grins, or expressions of haughty contempt. They may also have bulging pockets, a large rucksack, or a burlap sack printed with a pound sign, in which stolen jobs may be stashed.

While legal British residents tend to have a stoop, hunch, slump, limp, crimp, clob, grag, bort, or other psychologically induced musculoskeltal deformation, illegal immigrants typically display the upright bearing and proud stature of one whose back has not been broken under the weight of labour regulations or union representation.

Many illegal immigrants have been trafficked in to the UK to work in the sex industry, often in positions of indentured servitude. Such offenders can be distinguished by their bed-tousled hair and the healthy sweaty radiance of someone who is definitely getting a lot more action than you are.

Recent illegal immigrants may not have fully adjusted to the social codes that govern life in the UK. Telltale signs include sartorial choices (a swan’s neck worn as a stole, corgi slippers, a lucky red squirrel’s head pendant), food (curry that is not masala, korma, balti or jalfrezi), or suspicious behaviour (any deviation from the mandated autism and perpetual embarrassment of British public life).

Any person who appears at all disturbed or frightened by the presence of officers in stab-proof vests demanding documentation from passers-by is behaving suspiciously and should be immediately handcuffed to a seat on the next flight to Lagos.

Funny moustaches on men, pregnancy on women, an expression of existential bewilderment on the faces of children. Tweeds in unusual colours. Any honest hope that tomorrow might be better than today. Joy, vitality; misery, real misery, black and incandescent. Anything whole and total. Any sense of vastness, any ocular gleam betraying the faint memory that the edge of the firmament does not curve in a shimmering curtain from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

The illegal immigrant’s lack of papers is an innate rather than a contingent attribute. As such, officers should be aware of any persons on public transport who appear unwilling to pick up or carry copies of the Metro or Evening Standard, or whose hands seem unable to even touch them, as if repelled by a strange magnetic force.

When show a picture of the Queen, illegal immigrants may hiss, recoil in horror, spontaneously burst into flames, or collapse into ashes (helpfully saving the Home Office and its private-sector partners the costs of repatriation).

As entering the country illegally is against the law, and breaking the law is cool, anyone exuding an aura of charismatic nonchalance and cheerful self-assurance should be apprehended. They are almost certainly an undocumented worker; and even if their papers are valid, they’re definitely up to something. Anyone meeting these criteria and also wearing sunglasses should be tackled to the ground with no warning and with entirely disproportionate force.

Some police dogs have been trained to pick up the scent of intrinsic bodily illegality. Due to the high levels of background illegality, which has been known to confuse the dogs or send them into a frothing omnicidal fury, it is recommended that the UKBA not deploy them in the City of London or Canary Wharf areas.

After crossing a national boundary, the ontological and material status of the illegal immigrant is permanently altered. Many are subsequently able to move through solid objects at will. Be alert for persons emerging out of walls, passing through doors without opening them first, holding a briefcase through its centre, walking ankle-deep in the pavement as if it were no more substantial than a fragrant early dawn mist, etc.

Remember above all that these people are not criminals; they are crime itself, their existence is crime itself.

Other documents made public by the Home Office include plans to capitalise on the impact of the ‘racist van,’ a mobile billboard that drives through multicultural areas with a sign telling immigrants to ‘go home.’ In addition to racist rickshaws, racist hydrofoils, and light racist aircraft, the next steps in the mechanisation of racism will include an airport security gate that beeps in the presence of melanin rather than metal, a phone that makes automatic calls to the council whenever ‘those people’ next door play that dreadful dancehall music, a toaster that burns a carbonised transcript of the ‘rivers of blood’ speech onto every slice of bread, and a coin-op laundromat that asks visible ethnic minorities where it is that they’re really from. These innovations are expected to be highly popular, as people will be able to enjoy all the benefits of living in a structurally racist society without having to go through the whole tiresome rigmarole of having to be outwardly racist themselves. Further Border Agency initiatives include a contingency plan in which uniformed UKBA personnel will invade and conquer the eastern Balkans and impose a murderously appropriative colonial regime so as to dispel positive illusions about Britain, and an ongoing project in which the education, healthcare, and labour protection systems are comprehensively wrecked in the hopes that the UK will then become a less attractive destination for migrants.

LOL. Fuck Muamba he’s dead !!! #Haha

University of Swansea student Liam Stacey is currently serving a 56-day prison sentence for a series of racist posts made on Twitter after Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field from a heart attack. Nobody in the UK press has yet reprinted the tweets in question, which I think demonstrates an astonishing level of cowardice. Here they are:

LOL. Fuck Muamba he’s dead !!! #Haha

@porcavacca owww go suck a nigger dick you fucking aids ridden cunt

@SamParishPR go suck muamba’s dead black dick then you aids ridden twat! #muambasdead

It’s pretty obvious that Liam Stacey is, to put it kindly, a bit of a twat. I don’t think that his twattishness necessarily earned him 56 days in jail, but that’s not really what I want to talk about. That angle’s been covered plentifully, by everyone from cryptofascist American ‘libertarians’ to the outgoing EU commissioner for human rights. (Although as someone who spends slightly too much time writing stupid and inflammatory nonsense on the Internet, it’s not as if it’s not a concern.) What really struck me about this story is the way the British judiciary appears to have claimed for itself the right to determine what is racist, and to punish accordingly. This is, after all, the same British justice system that in West London was 79% more likely to jail black defendants after the summer riots, the same British justice system that sends black people to jail for driving offences 44% more than white defendants, the same British justice system whose officers suffocated a young black man last year and told him that ‘the problem with you is you will always be a nigger.’

Is Laim Stacey a racist? Maybe. To be honest, that’s not the real problem. The problem is that 44% of black Britons aged between 16 and 24 are unemployed, as compared to 20% of their white peers. If we take racism to be a simple matter of Bad Racist People saying Bad Racist Things, it allows us to cover for the pervasive institutional and systemic racism that suffocates our society. If we can all jeer at the Nasty Bad Racist, the rest of us are let off the hook.

Take another case: earlier this year in Sanford, Florida, community watch co-ordinator George Zimmerman made a 911 call in which he described a ‘guy look[ing] like he is up to no good or on drugs or something.’ He then proceeded to chase down, shoot and kill Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year old described as ‘an A and B student majoring in cheerfulness,’ who had been in the area to buy some skittles and a can of iced tea. Is George Zimmerman a racist? Obviously, and the fact that he has not yet been charged with any crime is indicative of the horrific institutional racism still subsumed in American law enforcement. But the far bigger problem is  the place where the shooting occurred: The Retreat at Twin Lakes, an overwhelmingly white gated community where gates and security guards keep its rich residents in a state of suburban bliss, safe from the churning multiethnic chaos of the outside world. The problem is that places like this, where the presence of a black teenager on the street could constitute a cause for alarm, exist – and not only in Sanford; they’re ubiquitous, with up to eight million Americans living in similar communities. Zimmerman’s personal racism didn’t emerge from a vacuum; it’s a product of his politico-geographical milieu, a product of the vast underlying substrate that is American class and racial segregation.

Republican strategist Lee Atwater described perfectly the way racial issues have become masked over the course of the 20th Century in an anonymous interview:

You start out in 1954 by saying ‘nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now that you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘nigger, nigger.’

What, then, happens to the people who, in 2012, are still saying ‘nigger, nigger, nigger’? They become homo sacer, they’re a horrifying reminder of the actual content of the society whose mode of appearance is one of racial equality. The must be clamped down on, because they expose our hypocrisy. In the UK, where a high level of abstraction has been reached, Liam Stacey was clamped down on near-immediately. In Florida, where a lot of people still seem to be living somewhere between 1954 and 1968, the power structures are dragging their heels, but I’m sure George Zimmerman will be clamped down on too, eventually. He’s a monster; he certainly deserves it. But it won’t signify an end to the problem. It’s just another of its manifestations.

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