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Pike the Peppering Policeman and the Parody Proliferation
November 21, 2011 10:52 PM   Subscribe

Lt John Pike, mustached UC Davis campus police officer, now finds himself the subject of the "Casually Pepper Spraying Cop" meme, where the nonchalant Pike is inserted into famous works of art such as the "The Creation of Adam," "The Scream," and yes, the cover of "Sgt Pepper."

It's been less than a month since the last mega-meme, the endless Herman Cain "smoking ad" parodies. If Pepper Spray Cop had Mark Block in his sights, would there simply be matter-antimatter-like annihilation?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing (210 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's really weird, at first I saw a couple of the images and I thought it was kind of amusing for such a horrific event, but that was before I watched the video of it (I'd only seen the photos). The video is so viscerally horrible that I sort of lost the ability to laugh at this event. It's shocking and could really make the OWS stuff turn a corner and go mainstream since the police actions were so over the top, I wonder if making a mockery of a horrific event will do anything but hinder OWS efforts.

/wet-blanket
posted by mathowie at 10:59 PM on November 21, 2011 [37 favorites]


Meanwhile, at Amazon.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:59 PM on November 21, 2011 [34 favorites]


Sergeant Pepper.
posted by Chuckles at 11:00 PM on November 21, 2011


Depending on your point of view, Photoshop has a lot to answer for, or, thanks heaven for Photoshop.
posted by vac2003 at 11:02 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This one is really great.
posted by Chuckles at 11:03 PM on November 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


Chancellor Katehi is done, it' just a matter of time.

California State Senator Leland Yee just issued a press release today calling for an independent state probe.
Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) says the actions by Yudof and Katehi are not good enough. Yee wants students involved in Yudof’s meeting and he called Katehi’s task force a sham and that waiting 30 days was an unacceptable amount of time for accountability.

Two years ago, Yee asked Yudof to rescind Katehi’s contract offer after evidence showed her involvement in a University of Illinois scandal. While she was campus provost overseeing the admissions department, students of influential people were admitted despite weak academic records.
posted by amuseDetachment at 11:09 PM on November 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wonder if making a mockery of a horrific event will do anything but hinder OWS efforts.

I honestly can't see how it would, unless you mean that the endless shopping does more to laud this guy than ridicule him, which I can see. But the first time I saw a photo of this guy the first thing I thought was "exploitable". He's got that piggy face, cartoonish cop-stache, a bit of a paunch contrasting with his paramilitary outfit, and striking a morning stroll pose while unleashing searing pain in a can. That he became a meme was pretty much inevitable, regardless of what a terrible human being he is.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:10 PM on November 21, 2011 [33 favorites]


I'm sure if there isn't a pic of him pepper spraying Mark Block, there will be one eventually.
posted by The Thnikkaman at 11:10 PM on November 21, 2011


This showed up on my G+ stream earlier.
posted by mannequito at 11:10 PM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


May the excessive force be with you is probably my favorite, but I think it would be better if appeared to be in more pain Yoda did.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:10 PM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


This one at least has some polemical point to it.

Though I also find them funny, a lot of these images concern me in something like the way that mathowie expressed; even if they're well-intentioned agitprop, they seem like a too-easy joke in response to something that's well and truly not funny, like a way of using cheap humor to take the edge off and familiarize an image that should probably retain their power to shock us a little longer. Seeing stuff like this, even while I too laugh at it, I wonder whether memeification isn't the Internet's way of assimilating everything to some baseline level of thoughtlessness before it has a chance to make us genuinely, productively uncomfortable.
posted by RogerB at 11:10 PM on November 21, 2011 [27 favorites]


It's shocking and could really make the OWS stuff turn a corner and go mainstream since the police actions were so over the top, I wonder if making a mockery of a horrific event will do anything but hinder OWS efforts.

Every version of this meme I've seen could easily be taken as being on the victim's side, it's the officer who is being mocked I think not the event, so I think it's mostly helpful.
posted by JHarris at 11:11 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I liked the spraying Iwo Jima one. Feels more powerful than funny.
posted by Houstonian at 11:12 PM on November 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Like JHarris said, I don't see how one can read these as supportive of the event. At least not any of the shops I've seen. They're gallows humor, making light of that which isn't really funny at all to help cope with the horror of it. If there are any Pepper Spray Cop images mocking the protestors, I haven't seen them.

There's no possible way to dull the edge of the actual, unedited images/footage any more than the endless, tasteless (but occasionally funny) 9/11 joke shops (most recent one I saw was Nyan Cat flying into the towers) take the edge off that event.
posted by sparkletone at 11:15 PM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sen. Yee and the university can bicker about timelines, but the ACLU has given them 10 days to fork over all the paperwork.
posted by Houstonian at 11:15 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, this remains my favorite version. Says it all, I think.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:16 PM on November 21, 2011 [46 favorites]


By the way, if you don't think pepper spray is a completely fucked up and wrong thing to be using on non-violent protestors, read this.
posted by sparkletone at 11:17 PM on November 21, 2011 [40 favorites]


Oh my

now all we need is Bambi
posted by infini at 11:18 PM on November 21, 2011


If UC Davis wants this to go away, all they have to say is "For me pepper, I put it on my plate. Next!"

Anyway, does nobody see that there was another COP doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time as Pike.

Also, this needs to be linked a lot: "This is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population"
posted by Chuckles at 11:23 PM on November 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


Remember Officer Bubbles? Being an internet meme was only temporary shame - I bet he's back on the lines right now. As this person will be.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:24 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I get that the meme is supposed to make a mockery of Pike but the overall effect is that it makes him into an inverted "hero" figure, albeit a paunchy, asinine one. He becomes the central character of consideration. This is why the meme misses the mark.

The real heroes are students of UCDavis. They were betrayed by an unwarranted act of excessive force from a group of officers whose mandate is to serve and protected them. The students collectively respond with non-violent protest. It must have taken incredible self-control and trust in each other in that moment to believe that the higher road, passive resistance, would send a more powerful message.

But that kind of symbolism isn't well suited to a one-off joke. Instead, it puts you face-to-face with your own level of commitment to non-violence. I don't know if I would have had the will to sit there and take it . . .
posted by quadog at 11:29 PM on November 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


Funny you should use the world viscerally. My gut instinct - to put this clowns eyes out with my thumbs, which would probably do a lot more to hinder the OWS effort.

Not that in my heart I don't think he has it comming.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:31 PM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I get that the meme is supposed to make a mockery of Pike but the overall effect is that it makes him into an inverted "hero" figure, albeit a paunchy, asinine one. He becomes the central character of consideration. This is why the meme misses the mark.

The ones that put him in random paintings, maybe. But the ones having him macing the fallen Ken State student, Ghandi, Thich Quang Duc and the Constitution? I think those hit the mark pretty well.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:34 PM on November 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


[a couple of comments removed; let's not do the dox thing here, okay?]
posted by taz at 11:35 PM on November 21, 2011


I wonder, on the other hand, if this mockery may lower hte any fear factor of uniformed authority thus gaining some advantage for those who are on the streets?
posted by infini at 11:35 PM on November 21, 2011


Chuckles' link is right. Lt. Pike is just the blunt end of a bad system. If we demonize Pike too much, then when he gets fired everyone will go whew, thank goodness that one bad apple is gone. But the use of pepper spray and other such devices such as tasers by police forces is far from rare.

In one of the other Occupy threads the point was brought up that the use of pepper spray is actually illegal in warfare. Chew on that for a while.
posted by JHarris at 11:36 PM on November 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


"If we demonize Pike too much, then when he gets fired everyone will go whew, thank goodness that one bad apple is gone."

I won't. He should be fired, together with all those up the chain of command who bear any responsibility.
posted by mikeand1 at 11:38 PM on November 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I thought this was a good read on why the meme is important and positive:
Protect Democracy, Remix A Cop

(We're moving toward a future in which we are all Banksy!)
posted by naju at 11:39 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, but where's Keyboard Cat to play Chancellor Katehi off?
posted by FrauMaschine at 11:40 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I won't. He should be fired, together with all those up the chain of command who bear any responsibility

I agree; certainly there are bigger villains here, but his complete detachment as people vomit in his wake - well, that's unbelievably disturbing.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:41 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still insist pepper spray is NOT a vegetable.
posted by jackspace at 11:42 PM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Guernica. (My favorite. It also seems to retain its political punch.)
posted by massless at 11:43 PM on November 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


"Okay, but where's Keyboard Cat to play Chancellor Katehi off?"


Ahem...

posted by mikeand1 at 11:46 PM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Guernica one is too much. Seriously: no, no, no, a thousand times no. I liked the meme until that one.
posted by freebird at 11:48 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you think this meme is funny, just shop in a cattle prod instead of the can of pepper spray. Then it's just horrible.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:58 PM on November 21, 2011


I think making a joke of this guy is one of the best things that could be (realistically) done to him. Let Pepper Pike go down in history with Officer Bubbles - for the rest of his miserable life.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:02 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is what happens when there are no specific goals to a movement. The whole thing is getting co-opted by the media, and we're starting to see a polarization between "rule-based" conservatives (who say students are spoiled and undisciplined) and "nurturing" liberals who are making it about police brutality. Doesn't anyone see where this is going. mathhowie points to it, but what about the masses.

I was afraid of *exactly* this kind if thing happening, and it's getting worse, not better.

Now, you tell me. How many senior bank executives are feeling heat from this? Politicians? The infamous 1%? Sure, it's getting serialized within the "sell-your-eyeballs-to-advertisers" media world; the media just LOVES this!! "Hey man, just look at our Neilsen ratings last week - wooeee! Maybe we can up our ad rates next month!".

In the meantime, the assholes who helped make this mess - senior bankers, political insiders (bought by the senior bankers), and selected others, continue to increase their pay; continue to maximize capital that's on the wire; continue to fuck people over!

I was hoping that OWS would be a kindling for a larger movement; that may still happen; I hope it does, but there MUST begin to be some very specific elaboration of goals, and ACTIONS toward those goals.

Maybe I'm being too impatient, or too harsh. Perhaps I'm forgetting that most of the young people (the majority of OWS groups) have come up in a culture where they really weren't challenged; where whenever they hollered loud enough, something 'happened'. Maybe they need to keep at it and keep stumbling - and, by stumbling, I mean letting the OWS movement get slowly co-opted until it becomes a best-seller book and movie, or effectively dissolves, or disappears in its own quicksand of non-specificity.

Why isn't OWS at the FRONT DOOR of Chase' CEO's home? Of Wells Fargo? Of the UC University Regents? Of the White House?

Another thing. Yes, there HAS been egregious abuse by police, but those situations are the *exception* among the thousands and thousands of individual encounters between the authorities and the protestors - but the media will play that part up. The media WANTS to explode exceptions - to broadcast them over and over, to make them viral - to create polarization. It's the MEDIA that's winning this goddamn thing!

Why isn't OWS at the home of Rupert Murdoch? At the offices of the Wall Street Journal? At the front door of George Bush? At the office of John Boehner - or at his home? There are lots of people, and institutions, that need to feel some pain, but so far the only pain felt has been the *relatively* few students who have been injured and roughhoused (compared to the great mass), and the *relatively* few cops who went too far. THE BAD GUYS ARE GETTING AWAY!
posted by Vibrissae at 12:03 AM on November 22, 2011 [39 favorites]


Usually when someone is pasted into a ton of random images, it's usually to mock and not to laud (although I can think of one exception).

Seems like more than anything, it's mocking the incongruity of how he's so casual in spraying down a while line of passive people. No force or effort on his part or the protestors'. A humorous context almost seems to make more sense.

I've seen one photo where a grinning Leo DiCaprio (?) is spraying the line of Davis protestors, and that's where the Occupy movement would get taken down a notch. But it's already getting there with all the "Occupy ___" gags now.

I wonder, on the other hand, if this mockery may lower hte any fear factor of uniformed authority thus gaining some advantage for those who are on the streets?

Just a better realization that they're on camera might make them think twice. But I'd imagine most of these officers feel they're in a pretty tough position. I worried if the protestors would succumb to deindividuation as time went by, but in this case, it seems it could affect how the cops see them as well.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:04 AM on November 22, 2011


I still insist pepper spray is NOT a vegetable.

Call your congressional Representative then. For now, the law is the law.

Why isn't OWS at the FRONT DOOR of Chase' CEO's home? Of Wells Fargo? Of the UC University Regents? Of the White House?

Because they will be beaten and pepper sprayed away.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:05 AM on November 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


They gather at their own school. They get pepper sprayed into submission. Concerned individuals scream from the rafters that they need to shut up about being pepper sprayed into submission, demand to know why they aren't at the WHITE HOUSE instead of their own school.

WHY, OH WHY COULD IT BE?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:09 AM on November 22, 2011 [60 favorites]


most of these juxtapositions are "good" in that they highlight the absurdity of the initial situation. that's what makes some of them funny. i see no harm in it.
posted by cupcake1337 at 12:12 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Side note: Some people will go quite mad if they're not allowed to laugh in the face of tragedy.

Dark humor happens for a reason. Though I don't know how I'd feel if I was someone that had been pepper sprayed.

Seriously, it's not uncommon for people to laugh when confronted with death and violence. Even though they don't mean or want to. Sometimes just a little, sometimes uncontrollably, sometimes hysterically.
posted by loquacious at 12:19 AM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


A viral meme is a really powerful way to call attention to the incident.

People always say "The world is watching," but usually it's not true...
posted by destinyland at 12:23 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seems like more than anything, it's mocking the incongruity of how he's so casual in spraying down a while line of passive people

Well, yeah, obviously. But isn't it also trivializing it? Outrage has turned to laughter.

This MEMELOL-ification of a violent crime is so distracting that the person who made the fpp forgot to even link to the open thread about the actual incident.
posted by finite at 12:25 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like it. One, cultivating an appreciation of the darkly absurd is part of political awareness. Just consider the practice of robo -signing peoples homes out from under them.

Two, throughout the nineties and oughts this happened over and over again at demos, summits, and conventions, and was portrayed over and over again with the deathly seriousness of people who are dead certain of everything. Remember "fourth world war"? Frankly, it's a relief to laugh at it now, as sick as everything has become.

as a organizer of countless "film showings" of humorless riot porn from the summits where this policing strategy was fermented, I even think the humor allows it to spread to fence sitters who wouldn t ordinarily watch riot vids; and they might accidentally think about it later.
posted by eustatic at 12:30 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


loquacious is right, of course; I just wish that that tumblr or this fpp or countless other carriers of this meme also would have thought to include some informative links like Ten Things You Should Know About Friday’s UC Davis Police Violence or the Interview with a pepper-sprayed UC Davis student or the youtube clip with four of the videos combined. I sort of get the impression that a lot of people are just laughing at these images without ever seeing the videos or learning any details.
posted by finite at 12:47 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


The meme to contrast this with is "Don't taze me, bro!", and I think when you do that it is clear the target and tone of the mockery is entirely different.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:51 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's shocking and could really make the OWS stuff turn a corner and go mainstream since the police actions were so over the top, I wonder if making a mockery of a horrific event will do anything but hinder OWS efforts.

This is my problem with the Jon Stewarts of the world, who make a career out of laughing off these abuses of power. I think back to Hannah Arendt's The Origins Of Totalitarianism:

The insane mass manufacture of corpses is preceded by the historically and politically intelligible preparation of living corpses. The impetus and, what is more important, the silent consent to such unprecedented conditions are the products of those events which in a period of political disintegration suddenly and unexpectedly made hundreds of thousands of human beings homeless, stateless, outlawed and unwanted, while millions of human beings were made economically superfluous and socially burdensome by unemployment.

Watching Pike attack his victims without any thought for their suffering, I'm still at a loss for words.

But the banality of his evil, despite the calm manner in which his violent psychopathic episode plays out, I can't see how people yucking it up is all that much different, on a certain level. In the end, perhaps, we're shutting away what we've seen, either because it is too horrific, or we're too numb with 24/7 satire to give a shit any more.

I don't know if mockery will hinder OWS efforts, but I wonder if it is a symptom of a larger disease afflicting the public, a disease that Arendt was wise enough to put into words for us: We're laughing ourselves to death.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


i think it would be pretty arrogant for me to assume that other people can't, as well as I do, simultaneously get the absurd humor and the outrage behind these images. we're capable of experiencing something on different levels. i think these pics are both hilarious and infuriating.

and then: if someone is able to view the images as simply a cheap laugh, that person wasn't going to be outraged anyway. how many news cycles would the outrage have lasted absent the whole meme aspect of this thing?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 12:59 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think we're all missing a crucial point here: a meme is, by definition, an emergent property of the current social environment. It can therefore be neither "missing the mark" nor "supposed" to do anything. It just is. If you don't like it, don't contribute to it. It'll be over in a few minutes, anyhow.
posted by Mooseli at 1:00 AM on November 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


I wonder if making a mockery of a horrific event will do anything but hinder OWS efforts.

Mocking horrific people and their actions is precisely what should be done, every single time. In doing so you show two things. One, that they are worthy of contempt. Two, that they have not intimidated you into either respect or silence.
posted by Decani at 1:14 AM on November 22, 2011 [34 favorites]


PedoStache Demands Compliance
posted by R. Schlock at 1:14 AM on November 22, 2011


If you think this meme is funny, just shop in a cattle prod instead of the can of pepper spray. Then it's just horrible.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:58 AM on November 22


I don't understand this at all.
posted by Decani at 1:16 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


This ain't your grandfather's counterculture memetic propagation, son.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:41 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


meanwhile, at Amazon

yeah, very cute and not-so-original mockery. What a lot of people are missing is the ad that's served up on the page - boy-o-boy, commercial interests and the media already OWN OWS. What has Amazon done lately for the 99%? Sell us shit? Think about it.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:07 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is my problem with the Jon Stewarts of the world, who make a career out of laughing off these abuses of power

When the abuses of power are as truly absurd as we see today, I don't know how else to do it. Stewart, for his part, seems to genuinely care. I never see him laughing off abuses of power, but rather expressing his anger and frustration through humor. If some of the audience cares only enough to laugh, at least he's placed a few crumbs in their brain, which is more than would likely happen otherwise.

The way I see it, one of the most critical facets of the problems we face today is that the public feels entirely irrelevant. No matter who's in charge, big companies will find a way to use their lobbyists to fight regulation that hurts them, even if it helps the vast majority of the public. And if you wanted to inact change entirely via votes, you now need to have 60% of the Senate, the least equitably distributed elected governmental body, agree with you more or less completely in order to do anything. And now that a purely civilian group managed to dent the media narrative by force of will, the powers that be are clamping down violently on them.

I have to think that one of the ways to maintain interest in the face of such frustration is to couch it in humor and take ownership of the iconography, as in this meme. You can't control the messages that people take home from events and images, but at least this meme highlights the bizarre incongruity and callousness of the police response. This officer would just saunter over and pepper spray anyone — protesters, Beatles, or God — with indifference. Even if people don't feel outraged I hope that the subtle associations leave their mark.
posted by Schismatic at 2:10 AM on November 22, 2011 [23 favorites]


I thought this one was pretty on point.

People aren't "laughing this off." I'm not. This man's actions were appalling and sadistic.

Just because we're deriving some humor from it doesn't mean we think the action itself is funny. We cant just scream in outrage all the time. Sometimes anger is more eloquently expressed in humor and satire, and sometimes it's also the most effective way to preach to someone besides the choir.

He's a bully and a coward, and he deserves to be mocked and humiliated. Early and often.

Especially since whatever "punishment" he gets won't be nearly in proportion with what he's done, and it certainly won't teach him not to be a piece of human garbage.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:16 AM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've been posting links on my Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus for ages. Even my friends and family who are interested aren't all that interested. But now, with this, well, everybody wants to get the joke.

I think this is one of the many brilliant moments of the times we are living. It's a perfect example of how events get seamlessly woven into what's relevant to our (internet) culture. And that wet blanket gets passed around, and around, and around...until if you don't know...HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW???

Also, I want my silent heroes to not be the butt of the joke. It's ok that they don't get the recognition. They are the driving force behind all this and they will not be forgotten. They will be respected and left alone. Pike, on the other hand...let the public shaming and accountability become the greatest meme EVAR. Let it touch every piece of art, every cultural referent, every trope...bring them all in, let every single person be drawn into this discussion through the things that matter to them.

For me, it was Guernica. Probably my favorite piece of art of all time. I didn't get it until that one got me. For others, it may be Star Wars, or Pink Floyd, or The Creation of Adam. Whatever. Let people relate to this however they can and want to. I think the breadth of this meme is a testament to the myriad ways it can be done.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:35 AM on November 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


The Guernica one, I think, is the best one, simply because (unaware of how to use photoshop, sorry) it looks like they actually took time with it, rather than just plopping the picture in there. The stylistic blend is awesome, and, well, no, this isn't the firebombing of a town full of civilians. It is, however, a shocking act that should be showing us how much we've lost in the last couple decades in terms of the basic rights we were all raised to believe were inviolate.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:08 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


JHarris: Lt. Pike is just the blunt end of a bad system. If we demonize Pike too much, then when he gets fired everyone will go whew, thank goodness that one bad apple is gone.

Vibrissae: How many senior bank executives are feeling heat from this? Politicians? The infamous 1%?

I laughed, but...based on the "war for public consciousness" goal, I'd rather these images somehow included a 1% fatcat pulling Pike's strings, much as this one lays bare the fatcat's responsibility for leaving everybody else nothing but cookie crumbs. I suppose that'd make the graphic unwieldy, but how else to make layers upon layers transparent?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:31 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is gorgeous. He should have thought about that before doing his david copperfield impression with pepper spray.

Misfeasance.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:33 AM on November 22, 2011


It works. Out of top ten Google results for Lt. Pike, six are about this Lt. Pike and three of these are about the meme. We see it differently because virtually everyone here knows who he is and what he did. But for most other people this will be the first contact with him and obvious reaction is "wait, what this guy did to deserve this?".
posted by hat_eater at 3:35 AM on November 22, 2011


"Okay, but where's Keyboard Cat to play Chancellor Katehi off?"


At the rate she's moving to resign, we need the 10 day long version of Nyan Cat.
posted by spitbull at 3:42 AM on November 22, 2011


Wait...

Nyan Cop?

Someone has to do it.
posted by spitbull at 3:44 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've watched the video, and it was horrible.

That being said, I think to some of the signs in Tahir Square -- which I could remember them -- but they were really fucking funny about Mubarak, you might say 'Jon Stewart funny.' And these were people getting showered with molotov cocktails and camels and careening cars.
posted by angrycat at 3:52 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


(although given recent events, not sure how many funny signs there are in the square at the moment)
posted by angrycat at 3:54 AM on November 22, 2011


I find it interesting that the LAPD are taking a very different, non-confrontational approach with the Occupy LA protesters.
posted by Conductor71 at 4:04 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of all places for this to happen, UC Davis seems so unlikely. Frequently sleepy, agricultural, studious, bike-filled, flat, non-controversial Davis. And the virus spreads.
posted by telstar at 4:11 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


1) There must be both outrage and humour. Outrage at the use of excessive force, and humour to unite those in opposition to excessive force. I was in session with one of Google's senior leaders yesterday discussing how technology enables cultures to generate common symbols -- memes were specifically mentioned.

Memes are lightweight, often amateur-generated, cultural currencies that identify like-minded individuals. As memes are lightweight, it is not a single meme that creates identities, but rather the collection of memes.

The 'excessive force' meme promoted here with our chap Yoda, represents a common cultural carrier -- Star Wars -- mixed with a power contemporary event -- toxic pepper spray cop -- with a fundamental value of our society -- appropriate (or inappropriate) use of force. Those elements are combined into one image, in which the viewer finds both delight as well as identification.

Delight not in the sense of simply pleasure, but rather delight in abstracting the meaning from the event (the police image) and then taking ownership of that image and reconstituting it in a more personal form. Whilst we can call that 'humour', it is humour in the sense of draining the incident of it's horror and recasting it as a piece of communication.

Having watched the video, it is abhorrent and -- frankly -- terrifying in the asymmetry of incident to response of force. But that's the next point.

In this point, when the community takes ownership of that image and reprocesses it into memes, the community is taking ownership of it and turning it into the mentioned cultural currency. It's more manageable that way.

I have forwarded a few memes images to friends back in the Bay Area. I had already forwarded the video previously, but in sending the memes, we are discussing the event without going back to the event -- that is, where are discussing the meaning of the event, and forming a shared idea around the event, whilst doing so in our own way, and not continuing to give credence and power to the event itself.

Point being, that the event should not have happened, thus let's not continue to revisit it. However, let's extract the key pieces of meaning from that event, make it our own, and use that remix to retrench the boundaries of our shared identity.

Memes are very funny, for if you don't like ICanHasCheezburger, that not only tells me about your sense of humour related to that beautiful feline, but more importantly, tells me that we have very different senses of humour. And as senses of humour indicate types of thinking and perception, it's a very quick starting point for establishing whether we have shared values or not.

There is absolutely nothing to be "lost" by forwarding a meme, thus it's almost a subconscious action. Over time, those tiny drips of memes become puddles then lakes then oceans, all resulting in a convenient signifier of who shares which values.

2) American society has a very serious problem on its hands. If the now-important point of the source video and the meme response is not the incident itself (the incident was important) but rather the meaning behind it. The imagery used in the memes is not co-incidental. The cop pepper-sprays the constitution, American war-heros, the spiritual leader from Star Wars. The cop is pepper-spraying core beliefs of both this generation and America itself.

Further, the casualness with which the cop used the excessive force is perhaps the root of the meme and even more disturbing. If we think of Sad Keanu, there was a juxtaposition between someone we considered to have achieved celebrity and personal security, yet the image that we see is not the image that we expect to see.

If we see a police office using pepper spray on a protestor, we expect that to be in a place of heightened tension, where the use of force is commensurate to the provocation. Protestors and police engaged in a melee would be an example where increased force would be understandable (however I will not condone force against protest as appropriate).

In this event, we have a group of protestors sitting on the ground, refusing to move. They are not threatening the police, nor anyone else. They are exercising civil disobedience. The cop's actions -- walking by and literally using pepper spray as a tool to make them easier to remove -- is quite concerning, for it shows that the state is not discriminating between types of force. A defensive tactic -- pepper spray -- has now become an offensive tactic.

Perhaps you will see the groundwork I am laying here.

A significant result of the American doctrine of pre-emptive war is the shift of defensive tactics into offensive roles. That used to be "out there". We were warned a decade ago that what happens "out there" eventually will arrive "in here".

The short version is that 9/11 crippled the American psyche and saw the country act with excessive force, killing up to 1M civilians to avenge 3000 people. Because the numbers never mattered. What mattered was that the American state felt violated, and needed to show a response. That response is one of the core issues dividing the country today. The state is right because the state is right, inherently.

This has fundamental reflections on today's protests in that the police, whether they be in Davis, Oakland, or New York, are no longer exercising the will of the people, they are now exercising the primacy of the state. The feedback loop between the people and power is anaemic, thus the state now acts in the best interest of the state.

The nonchalant manner in which that pepper spray was sprayed is not the action of a cop in a difficult position between the rights of the people, and the need of the police to maintain order. There is no tenuous balance. That is the action of someone protecting power using a tool to make their job easier, as the expense of the health and safety of the citizenry.

Is is similar to what was seen in New York last week, when the police set up check-points around the stock exchange and prevented pedestrian access to the area. When power protects power, something has happened:
1) Power is losing the consent of the people
2) Power has realised it is losing the consent of the people
3) Power is realising it may be incapable of recovering the consent of the people
4) Power acts with naked aggression.

If we are to call the quacking entity a duck, this incident is very concerning for the people as it represents the use of excessive force as standard operation protocol.

Similarly, the meme is concerning for power as it represents a growing community of people in America and globally who recognise that use of force as excessive. If the protests are the physical manifestation of resistance, than the memes are the spiritual and psychological manifestations.

One does have to wonder when the culture will identify a de facto leader. There memes definitely have a hand in that, as one can navigate the emotions of millions of people via a small universe of imagery. And if power is using excessive force now, what will it look like when that leader arrives?
posted by nickrussell at 4:31 AM on November 22, 2011 [25 favorites]


I cringed a bit when I saw the Creation of Adam one but I actually gasped at The Last Supper One. Yikes.

I thought this one was pretty on point.

Yep. That one says it all. Wonder how long it'll take for this issue to cross over into the Downfall meme.
posted by fuse theorem at 4:39 AM on November 22, 2011


Why isn't OWSaren't I at the FRONT DOOR of Chase' CEO's home? Of Wells Fargo? Of the UC University Regents? Of the White House?

Why isn't OWSaren't I at the home of Rupert Murdoch? At the offices of the Wall Street Journal? At the front door of George Bush? At the office of John Boehner - or at his home?

posted by DU at 4:46 AM on November 22, 2011 [23 favorites]


The better ones are metaphoric in nature, using exaggeration to push the metaphor to its logical conclusion, or to distill an essential truth. They're essentially DIY political cartoons, and I wholeheartedly approve.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:56 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is an instance when a meme is a Jungian expression of the collective unconscious. Some of it perfectly expresses the current trend towards cynicism, some of it it excellent social commentary, and it's all an accurate reflection of what's going on.

Links above to 10 Things in the LA Times, and the This is what happens when authority ... article from the Atlantic are excellent. thank you, finite and Chuckles.

The families of those students should be so proud of them. I'm approaching geezerhood, and next time I start to say Kids these days have crappy grammar, or whatever, I'm changing it to Kids these days are pretty amazing.
posted by theora55 at 5:12 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Meme the chubby constable all you want; 10 years from now he's going to be Republican Senator Pike. Trust me.
posted by Renoroc at 5:14 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


>Mocking horrific people and their actions is precisely what should be done, every single time. In doing so you show two things. One, that they are worthy of contempt. Two, that they have not intimidated you into either respect or silence.

This. A thousand times, this.
posted by yoga at 5:15 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


What a lot of people are missing is the ad that's served up on the page - boy-o-boy, commercial interests and the media already OWN OWS.

I think you're missing the point. Amazon already has a product page for the pepper spray. Amazon also allows people to upload their own images of products. What people are doing is tarnishing the brand by including satirical and real images that the vendor would not choose to use to sell it. It's equivalent, somewhat, to putting graffiti on a billboard.
posted by dhartung at 5:18 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


I want people to be aware that this is not the act of a lone renegade but has been the national policy of local police since Seattle. Watch as the police laugh it up watching the video of a peaceful protester being shot in the head in 2006.
posted by any major dude at 5:38 AM on November 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Must applaud the alliteration in the title of this thread...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 5:40 AM on November 22, 2011


Perhaps I'm forgetting that most of the young people (the majority of OWS groups) have come up in a culture where they really weren't challenged; where whenever they hollered loud enough, something 'happened'.

What events are you thinking of? The demonstrations against the Iraq war, the outrage against the Bush administration, the disillusionment about university tuition and high unemployment all ran (and still run) counter to the story of hollering making something 'happen'. Despite the later disappointment about Obama, I reckon young people remember that he didn't win just by Hope and Change sloganeering but by organising his supporters (who were often young people).
posted by ersatz at 5:49 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Relevant link to an article discussing how the meme could change the trajectory of OWS.
posted by sonika at 5:54 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a quote I saw once along the lines of "Irony is one of the last weapons of the oppressed." We make dark jokes, because we have little power to do other things.
posted by drezdn at 5:58 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. --Mark Twain
posted by kinnakeet at 6:06 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does anyone know what the orders were from the Police Chief or Administration? Were the campus police responsible for ending and dispersing the protest as soon as they could? Or was it merely to be present so things did not get out of hand.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:17 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh the Amazon reviews for the pepper spray are priceless!
posted by spitbull at 6:22 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


It is not the police who maintain order in society. It is us. The people in uniforms are vastly outnumbered by all these crowds.

Police feel they can maintain order because they have been given authority to do so by the people. And they are mainly correct in this, because most of us do give them that authority, and most of us don't want violence or riots.

OWS is the realization that the people we have given authority to have bungled it. They have abused it, mis-managed it, and forgotten that they are "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". In finance, government, and day-to-day civil society.

So we are getting ready to take away their authority. But we're not used to that and it's scary. (The free commuter paper Metro's coverage of Occupy Boston is based on portraying it as confused and dangerous, when it's not silly.) But we do need to shed a reflexive respect. So we laugh at this policeman.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:31 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I agree with Matt in that I find the event so horrifying I can't even smile at these Pepper Pike Pictures, but I don't think of them as just memes, I see them as underground political cartoons. The purpose for some will be to induce lols-- a wink and a nod at how linked-in the photoshopper and receiver are-- but the purpose for others will be to spread dissent and engage the passive onlooker into the movement. In the old days it was a leaflet, a dorm room poster, a T-shirt. Today it is the internet meme.

Power to the people.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:34 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, he deserves to be a meme subject a lot more than that Star Wars kid.
posted by orange swan at 6:37 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing I like about this is that it's so much easier to understand than income inequality and corporate capture of the regulatory and political processes.

Let's talk about this instead!
posted by Naberius at 6:38 AM on November 22, 2011


If you think that OWS should be something other than what it is, go to your local GA or contact the group. They are not hard to find.
posted by desjardins at 6:42 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That wasn't aimed at Naberius.
posted by desjardins at 6:43 AM on November 22, 2011


Nyan Pepper
Freedom Spray
posted by bbuda at 6:44 AM on November 22, 2011


I don't really care how many cute images he's PhotoShopped into when he's not actually in jail.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:45 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is just the Spectacle recuperating radical acts and social unrest to perpetuate the existing order. Like "Don't Taze Me Bro" t-shirts.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 6:47 AM on November 22, 2011


I'm of the view that the original response of the cop was absurd and totally out of proportion to what the situation merited.

This meme meets that absurdity with more absurdity, and, in the best examples, does it with sophistication and wit. To me, that's not belittling the incident at all -- it's showing up a brute for what he is, together with the larger system he represents.

To each his or her own, I suppose.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It strikes me in this thread- as it has in a lot of the OWS threads- that a ton of people who are critical of the movement have been framing their objections as "people will react badly to X." As if to say- oh, no, I get it, but those hoi-polloi won't, so you had better be careful what you say. You know, to avoid confusing the stupid people.

I truly don't understand that. It seems so condescending.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:00 AM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


Whoa, don't bring mustaches into this.
posted by michaelh at 7:09 AM on November 22, 2011


Thanks desjardins.

Since there are other comments in the thread with thoughts tangential to what I was going for, perhaps I should clarify. I have no problem with the direction OWS has taken. My point is that when things like this happen they body slam the conversation OWS is trying to have and knock it way off course.

This event obviously inspired a deeply visceral reaction in people (appropriately so) and now everyone's talking about militarization of the police and rampant brutality. Those are obviously important things that we should be worried about and a threat that the country needs to take seriously. But they're not what OWS is supposed to be about, and to the extent that they displace the conversation OWS is trying to have, they derail the movement.

In my more conspiratorial moments, I suspect the powers that be are well aware of this and are deliberately creating these moments for that very reason. I'm pretty sure that BofA CEO Brian Moynihan, for example, would much rather see the media full of outrage over a cop spraying someone in the face and an embattled campus administrator than about the things he and his bank are up to in the shadowy corridors of power.
posted by Naberius at 7:16 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I can't dance Photoshop, I don't want to be part of your revolution. -- Emma Goldman, attributed.
posted by immlass at 7:18 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


The pregnant Occupy Seattle protester blasted with pepper spray last Tuesday has miscarried.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:21 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "That he became a meme was pretty much inevitable, regardless of what a terrible human being he is."

While I agree with the original sentiment in some sense (I was pondering that this morning, in fact, heh)... I have to say, if HITLER can become a meme, then.... Anybody terrible can, I guess.
posted by symbioid at 7:25 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]




What happened at Davis was upsetting and troubling, but to keep this in perspective for a bit - look, we've made progress.

40 years ago, Kent state happened - 4 dead, 9 wounded in a hail of semi-automatic gunfire. A newsweek poll after the event showed that most of the country ~70% approved of US Soldiers shooting unarmed teenagers.

Authority and the police don't enjoy that kind of support now. Not like they used to.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:25 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


The pregnant Occupy Seattle protester blasted with pepper spray last Tuesday has miscarried.

I await with bated breath for the calls from the Right, for the Seattle Cop responsiblefor this to be charged with Manslaughter.
posted by Skygazer at 7:32 AM on November 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


I await with bated breath for the calls from the Right, for the Seattle Cop responsiblefor this to be charged with Manslaughter.

The denial has already started- she was homeless, irresponsible for putting herself in danger, didn't have proper prenatal care, drugs, sex, etc. Oh, the best one I heard was she purposely miscarried because she wants a pay check from the city.

Fuckin hypocrites, let that happen at a Tea Party rally (if they're not menopausal by now) and the pitch forks, and .45s would be out in force. But because she was down on her luck, and doing what she believed in - it's her fault, so pretty much fuck her. I hate our political system sometimes.
posted by lpcxa0 at 7:38 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


The callous, cruel and deliberateness of the action, and the complicity of the other cops at the scene, the smug dismissal of student concerns (they only suspended Pike because he made the news, not because it was the right thing to do, otherwise they would have done it on the spot and not days later)... this is as bad as I've seen it.

You can't blame it on "heat of the battle", like when the riot squads screwed down on the G8 protesters in Seattle. It was cruel and deliberate and unnecessary, as the students were out of the way and being well behaved. Their only crime was objecting to political policies the cops and administration shared... so they used violence as a political tool. They tortured innocent people for disagreeing with them in public. I'm shocked and dismayed we're at this point. This is about as bad as it gets before the bullets fly.

I'm convinced this is going to get worse before it gets better. There is going to be a live-ammo incident... and it will be against unarmed and nonviolent citizens. I don't know what happens after that point.

As we've seen from Oakland, they're deliberately aiming teargas canisters at protester's heads... which means the cops are already out to murder people... it's how they killed Ruben Salazar if you've read Strange Rumblings in Aztlan. It's old news by now that it can kill if used that way. They were trying to kill.

The next step is to use weapons designed to kill from the outset.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:43 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


let that happen at a Tea Party rally

Have cops anywhere ever reacted to a Tea Party rally with pepper spray and rubber bullets and kettling?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:47 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lt. John Pike is also dispensing advice (and pepper spray!) at his new advice column.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


ricochet biscuit: "let that happen at a Tea Party rally

Have cops anywhere ever reacted to a Tea Party rally with pepper spray and rubber bullets and kettling?
"

Ha no! Because they're part of the system, despite their protestations to the contrary.
posted by symbioid at 7:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]



Have cops anywhere ever reacted to a Tea Party rally with pepper spray and rubber bullets and kettling?"


Can you imagine Tea Partiers missing the race on ESPN to occupy anything ?

Those miserable fucks have no staying power. If it weren't for the corporate sponsorship of the entirety of the Murdoch empire, you would only have barely ever heard of it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:58 AM on November 22, 2011


Lt. John Pike is also dispensing advice (and pepper spray!) at his new advice column.

For a second I was terrified this was a real thing.
posted by desjardins at 8:01 AM on November 22, 2011


This incident was equally egregious, IMO.

After dragging her behind their lines they did wash her face and advise her to keep her mouth closed, the next time, though.
posted by Danf at 8:10 AM on November 22, 2011


Have cops anywhere ever reacted to a Tea Party rally with pepper spray and rubber bullets and kettling?

Yes, but only between consenting adults.

Ha ha, I laugh. But really Secret Life of Gravy's miscarriage link is horrifying.
posted by JHarris at 8:12 AM on November 22, 2011


The pregnant Occupy Seattle protester blasted with pepper spray last Tuesday has miscarried.

[...]

The denial has already started- she was homeless, irresponsible for putting herself in danger, didn't have proper prenatal care, drugs, sex, etc. Oh, the best one I heard was she purposely miscarried because she wants a pay check from the city.


If you'll excuse me while I get my in-flight airsickness bag.

(Seriously, as a Pregnancy Veteran this makes me literally nauseated.)
posted by sonika at 8:14 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, the best one I heard was she purposely miscarried because she wants a pay check from the city.

Yes, because miscarrying is just a matter of concentrating really hard and willing it to happen.
posted by emjaybee at 8:15 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the things that upsets me right now is this clear video of police beating people just a few days before at UC Berkeley already passed in and out of the news. The defense of that was "linked arms" = act of violence. The absurdity of it all, both the event, and the fact that it's so not surprising that it barely makes the news, just blows my mind.
posted by inigo2 at 8:16 AM on November 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


Well, inigo2, Robert Haas wrote about it for the Times. That sort of counts, right? If anything, the Davis thing is making clearer the seriousness of this problem throughout the UC system. It's just that the Chancellor Birgeaneau jokes don't translate as easily.
posted by liketitanic at 8:20 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank god the only punishment for causing a miscarriage while getting in a fight in the old testament is a mere fine and not the death penalty. John Pike should be glad Christian Fundamentalists are so literal in their interpretation.
posted by symbioid at 8:22 AM on November 22, 2011


“Deserves to be made a joke of” is something you tar an otherwise respectable person with. Say what you will about the Whose Line “Hitler” episode (I thought the way it played out was damned funny), but monsters are monsters. Making jokes of them takes them up a few notches, not down.

If we see a police office using pepper spray on a protestor, we expect that to be in a place of heightened tension, where the use of force is commensurate to the provocation.

I will say this: the photoshoppers could just have easily replaced the pepper spray with a variety of other things (umbrellas, pinwheels, dildos). They didn’t do that. So yeah, as light and fluffy as many of these are, I think they get it. Whether much of the intended audience gets it is another question.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:24 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear: I get that Pike is a symptom and not a bad apple/cause. The monster is much bigger than he alone, obviously.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:25 AM on November 22, 2011


Whether much of the intended audience gets it is another question.

This sounds like old-media, how-is-this-playing-in-Peoria framing. The Pepper Spray Cop meme is remix culture, not broadcast culture. It isn't overtly political; it's a call-out as much as a call-back. The effect is as much about the creation process as the reception. Indeed, I would argue this is in many ways at the heart of the self-organizing OWS movement.

I don't see how a person with a six-figure job supposedly enforcing the rule of law is not a "respectable person" to be brought down by mockery. Calling him a monster, also, is a bit over-the-top. A pig, yes, but he isn't Hannibal Lecter.
posted by dhartung at 8:38 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


FOX: "Its a food product essentially."
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:41 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


FOX: "Its a food product essentially."

They must have Frank's Red Hot as a sponsor.
posted by no relation at 8:47 AM on November 22, 2011


I am using this machete to cuddle your spleen, essentially!
posted by elizardbits at 8:48 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


..."Mustached"?
posted by Gator at 8:51 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear: I get that Pike is a symptom and not a bad apple/cause. The monster is much bigger than he alone, obviously.
Pike is far from a monster, any more than the majority of the US soldiers in Iraq are monsters. One of the key learnings from Jason Bourne (film version) is that government 'technology' exists to literally reshape the mind and perception itself to execute programming. In Bourne's case, it's an allegory of how there are human emotions beneath the assassin programme -- and a statement on the process involved in un-programming one's self.

When previous military performance in combat was analysed, the result was that most soldiers did not fire for shooting a fellow human goes against the fundamental nature of a person. Thus, militaries around the world set out on learning how to recondition soldiers to ensure they pull the trigger. It's not an impossible challenge -- or even a difficult one at that. It's a matter of finding the right sequence of classical and operant pairs to achieve the desired behavioural result.

In that vein, we have become incredibly efficient, and the result first were humans alternatively conditioned for warfare. With the subsequent militarisation of domestic police forces, those lessons -- to a lesser degree -- have been absorbed and instilled in average police officers.

At the root of it appears to be the first step of re-identifying police officers with the law instead of with their communities. Previously, police had an active stake in 'policing' their communities, thus their intrinsic motivation was to create the world that they wanted to live in. With the advent of militarised policing, the police now identify themselves as 'the state', often utterly divorced from the communities in which they work. There have been further instances where police in large municipalities are deployed away from their local communities specifically so that their immediate emotions interfere less with their 'mission'.

The amazing Captain from Philadelphia's message was that the police are the 99%. Yet the 'us' versus 'them' mentality of the programming allows the police to see the protestors as "them" and the NYPD as "us". It is not unsurprising that it was a retired police captain, away from the daily messaging and incentivisation now sees that.

So in the case of Pike, is he to blame for his actions? We live in a society of personal responsibility, thus we must place some degree of blame on him. However, he has literally been conditioned to not react to his protective human instincts and instead execute a programme of maintaining order. And before anyone throws stones at him, we must realise that we are all programmed to some degree.

Thus, he is a symptom of many things. And in the end, it's the traditional form of control power has used for some time now. Segment the lower classes into smaller units (protestors, police) and target them at each other. As long as the lower classes execute their programming against each other, there will be not energy or awareness to attack the system itself.

It's similar to the corporate world, where the largest beneficiaries of corporate profits are invested in both Coke and Pepsi, in both Apple and Google, in the governments and in the terrorists. As long as the lower factions continue fighting and utilising their energy to achieve victory for their subdivision, each faction misses the point that their lives will not change until they turn their attention upward.

And if you think Pike is enjoying this place in life, I imagine he feels the same as the protestors. What is the option? If the protestors had options -- besides accepting menial occupations in a corporate-driven state -- they would be executing those options and not sitting in a field somewhere. If Pike felt he had options -- to dissent or evoke a better response -- he would have exercised those options.

Thus, we are left with the example of the Captain from the City of Brotherly Love. The real solution is to show the different factions that they are in fact the same.

Which is important to realise that whilst the meme contains Pike a central element, the meme is not intent on destroying Pike, but rather calling awareness to Pike's uniform.

Perhaps the saddest example will be in the miscarriage in Seattle, which is indeed both criminal and monstrous. No police officer joins the force with the intent on abusing a pregnant woman, yet it happened. No soldier joins the Army to be sacrificed in a false conflict, yet it happens. Thus, we must assume that the system itself is very efficient at recruiting the 99% to operate against the 99%. There are a variety of factors at play there, but we must embrace the humanity of the perpetrators whilst identifying their behaviours as that of the monster -- and realise that if they felt they had any choice, most likely the result would have been different.

I have no solution nor any insight in how to solve these matters, but to continue demonising each other without looking upwards will only ensure the problem remains.
posted by nickrussell at 8:52 AM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


If Pike felt he had options -- to dissent or evoke a better response -- he would have exercised those options.

That is some unwarranted mind-reading right there. There are two iconic elements to the original image: the peaceful, unresisting students, and the relaxed, carefree manner of the cop. One of those survived the remix.

A strategic focus on causes and not symptoms is not the same as recognizing that the symptom in front of you is also your immediate problem. It's the easiest thing in the world to take the long view from behind a keyboard. Which is why these protestors deserve as much praise as they do.

If we're guessing about Pike's mental state, I'm gonna go ahead and guess that, earning $110k, he doesn't see himself as part of the 99%. That's not how the world likely breaks down for him. And guess what, it's not how it breaks down for many (most?) people. Because within that range is a whole world of never-thinking-about-money to 3 jobs to make ends meet (to no job, and no prospect of a job). The prospect of uniting those disparate points of view is exciting, but it's also an incredibly ambitious goal, and pretending it isn't, like it's just simple math, is not going to get the job done.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:05 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder how many strikes of a baton it would take to turn the Real Enemy prosyletizers from seeing the cop in front of them as maybe having the agency to Not Be On Your Side.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


That should be a "to", not "from".

Not, of course, that the attempt to convert rather than "demonize" isn't admirable. It absolutely is.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:10 AM on November 22, 2011


The UC Davis incident was a moment of victory. The cop's actions were atrocious, but five minutes later the crowd peacefully and respectfully ran the cops out of the quad, and I'm surprised not to have seen more focus on that aspect of this incident. I don't know if there are multiple versions of the video, but the one I saw was here; it's worth watching all the way to the end. The cop does the worst thing he can do, and the crowd responds beautifully: they keep their cool, they chant shame on you, they say, we're willing to give you a moment of peace to take your weapons and go, and the cops scuttle away while the crowd cheers. By the end of the video, there's no question about who is in control or who is in the right. (And for whatever it's worth, any qualms I might have had with the silliness of the 'people's mic' were dismissed when I saw this video of Governor Scott Walker being forced to listen to it.)

Shortly afterward the students staged this protest, and it's another beautiful moment. It's beautiful in its meaning and it's just beautiful; the cops, at the university's direction, hoped to quell a peaceful protest, and the students responded with a show of respectful and peaceful force powerful enough to make my skin crawl; if this is a discussion of who holds the power, then Chancellor Katehi appears to hold as much power here as the human characters do at the end of Hitchcock's The Birds, which is to say, none. At that moment, at least, she's been stripped of power.

It's not the humor angle of the pepper spray meme that's problematic here; the most effective of these images (John Pike pepper-spraying the Declaration of Independence, already linked several times here) isn't funny at all. It's more like: yep. There's at least one (though I'm sure there are many more) images of this jerk pepper-spraying cats (keyboard cat, for example); which add to the noise without adding anything to the conversation, and those are a shame, but the real problem with the meme is that by targeting the cop it misses the point. No question he's a sadistic jerk, but it's less about a bad cop than it is about a system that responds to peaceful protest by default with petulant violence (this point was raised by cybercoitus interruptus, above). When the crowd chants who do you protect, who do you serve?, that isn't a rhetorical question. This Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon is exactly the point, which I wish these photoshopped images came closer to addressing.

I'm heartened to see that the UC Davis students have their act together, and I'm glad to see Katehi defending her job. Kudos to everyone who took part in these protests.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 9:14 AM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's the easiest thing in the world to take the long view from behind a keyboard.
(Just for note on the credibility of being behind a keyboard, the CV includes:

• Pepper-sprayed, shot with tear-gas, trampled by a police horse, shot with a rubber bullet, and chained to fellow protestors. Been beaten with baton whilst holding hair of fellow protestor vomiting blood.

• Stood with farmers in India against bulldozers; been to negotiations between Indian police and community activists.

• Interviewed Army veterans and police officers for psychological development programmes.

Just in case you were mind-reading. Not saying that you were...)
posted by nickrussell at 9:19 AM on November 22, 2011


Spray Anything: Marketing Crowd Control to Cops. Pepper-spray machines, monster Tasers, "pain compliance rounds," and other toys to make occupiers obey.
posted by homunculus at 9:22 AM on November 22, 2011


What the image (and its implications) reminds me of is the episode in Tale of Two Cities where the Marquis runs down and kills a child in his carriage and berates the peasants for getting in his way. The contempt of the rulers (and their lackeys) for the peasants was the prelude to the French Revolution. Dicken's image remains powerful more than 150 years after he penned it. That is the power of art.
posted by binturong at 9:31 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure where "it's the easiest thing in the world to" is mind-reading where "If Pike felt he had options... he would have exercised those options" is not, but I can take a bit of tit for tat.

Point noted re: personal experience. I'm not sure where that leads you to deny this officer's agency, either as an individual or as an officer under orders.

It doesn't do OWS a disservice to at least acknowledge that telling people what side they're "really" on is going to rub against people's natural tendency to resist being told what to do. People get to choose their own side. Of any individual I've seen so far, in character and action, Pike certainly chose his.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:34 AM on November 22, 2011


Their only crime was objecting to political policies the cops and administration shared.

Wut? You think the campus cops give two hoots about tuition rates at the University of California? You think the administration wants to raise fees? That they celebrate the fact that the State is cutting their funding year after year after year?

Look, this guy's actions were egregious and appalling and he ought to be (and almost certainly will be) fired. But every single faculty and administration organ in the University of California has come out and denounced the actions of the police here and every single faculty and administration organ had publicly endorsed the students' goals before this incident ever occurred.

The reason for tuition hikes at the University of California (where tuition is still well below the national average for public universities) is because the state has steadily withdrawn funding support. The UC administration lobbies constantly for increased support, but when that's not forthcoming, there's really nothing much they can do other than ask the Regents to increase fees. And no, cutting administrator's salaries--as satisfying as that might feel--wouldn't make a remotely significant difference.

It should also be noted that the diversity of the student body (including economic diversity) at UC has increased as tuition has risen, and that a very significant chunk of increased student tuition is returned to aid--no student whose parents earn below a certain threshold (I think it's around 60K p/a) pays any fees at all.
posted by yoink at 9:41 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's less about a bad cop than it is about a system that responds to peaceful protest by default with petulant violence

If this is a "systematic" response to student protest at the UC campuses, why aren't there other examples of similar violence at other "Occupy" protests at the other UC campuses?

The fact is that this was an example of a rogue cop (or, who knows until an inquiry is completed, a rogue commander) taking an action which was bizarrely atypical of the practice at the UC campuses as a whole.
posted by yoink at 9:44 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


When previous military performance in combat was analysed, the result was that most soldiers did not fire for shooting a fellow human goes against the fundamental nature of a person.

This is based on research by SLA Marshall that's now been largely discredited. Unfortunately, the idea that governments need some special technology or method to get people to kill for them is a beautiful lie. Many, perhaps most, people are all too willing to do violence even to helpless if it's framed as them participating in an authority structure: see for instance the Milgram obedience experiments.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:45 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not have an argument here, for I think we both have good points and indeed are probably on the same "side".
People get to choose their own side.
First off, I don't have any answers but that is indeed very important. Neuroscience is finding that human behaviour may be far more determined than post-Enlightenment thinking would have us believe. That very consideration is at the crux of the economic crisis. Economics assumes that everyone acts rationally in their own self-interest. Systems thinking is finding that for as much as we would like to consider ourselves individuals, context matters. The deeper the investigation, the less individual decisions matter and the more context matters.

As far as Pike's choice, indeed he had a choice. I will agree with you there. His choice operates in context however. We see this with the pay offered to police officers and prison guards in relation to teachers and social workers. If you were from modest means with a baby bird to feed and could make $35k as a teacher or $110k as a police officer, many will make the latter choice. I suppose my point therein is that one is making a greater choice than that $110k. One is making the decision to be programmed with whatever the department wants to programme you with, and we see the results of that.

Granted, there are many, many tremendous police officers. I am not against police officers. I think that the incentives are misaligned to the point where Pike felt the better choice was to participate in that activity than to not participate in that activity. That doesn't speak to me of personal malice as much as bad incentivization.

Anyway, the intent is to not hijack this discussion into an investigation of freewill and social policy, thus, I would like to end there. If we would like to continue over private channels, I am happy to do so.
posted by nickrussell at 9:45 AM on November 22, 2011


And no, cutting administrator's salaries--as satisfying as that might feel--wouldn't make a remotely significant difference.

I disagree with this. Cutting not only the salaries, but the numbers of administrators would make a significant difference in many public (and private) universities. However, cutting just one 400K a year plus rich bennies chancellor could send roughly 35 kids to Davis for free a year. Sounds like a good deal to me to lose a figurehead whose main capability is almost certainly now compromised (you only get to be a university president or chancellor if you are good at raising money and making connections, and that's hard to do if you have become notorious).
posted by spitbull at 9:47 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I look at Pike in that video, I don't see a man reluctantly or even enthusiastically following orders and doing his job. I see a rank sociopath who enjoys hurting people for fun.

And unfortunately, I think police work selects for the type.
posted by spitbull at 9:48 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think a lot of this is that it did happen at Davis. We've been having protests for years (I uh, get to see a lot of them), but frankly, nobody gave a shit because we're not Berkeley and you EXPECT to see everyone at Berkeley being arrested, beaten, and pepper sprayed there. We're not as sleepy and cowlike as everyone thinks, we just didn't have the Big Name to get the attention. Before, anyway. Now we have 3 major news network vans on campus today to film all the tents and meetings and whatnot. At least until next week when something else explodes elsewhere, I guess.

Meme the chubby constable all you want; 10 years from now he's going to be Republican Senator Pike. Trust me.


I'd like to think that we've had a Santorum-like effect on him with all this meme-ing that we can prevent this. Let's hope, anyway.

Vibrissae, I totally agree with you though. I keep thinking over and over again, what is the good of camping at places that are not a bank or a place of government or on the territory of the people who are CAUSING this crap? Nobody seems to have a good explanation so far as to how camping in, say, a small town like Davis, is going to change that. And that's what kind of drives me nuts about OWS, I don't see what the hell it's actually doing besides making a giant stink.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cutting not only the salaries, but the numbers of administrators would make a significant difference in many public (and private) universities.

Yes. One of the healthiest things about the burgeoning faculty support for the Davis and Berkeley protests, just in terms of intra-academic politics, has been a renewed interest in talking about the class structure of academia, with essays and open letters explicitly connecting chancellors' willingness to order a crackdown on protests to their existence as a well-compensated managerial class insulated from the harm they cause to faculty and students. It's not as far beside the point of the thread as it might appear, given that you don't get a militarized campus police riot squad without an administration that approved funding to buy the pepper spray at the same time as it cut faculty hires.
posted by RogerB at 9:59 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


nickrussel, you mentioned your discussion with senior google people upthread. Would you be willing to share what your role in that discussion was? Or at least what their interest in and take on all this is?
posted by werkzeuger at 10:09 AM on November 22, 2011


At the rate she's moving to resign, we need the 10 day long version of Nyan Cat.

Luckily, http://nyan.cat is infinite.
posted by finite at 10:09 AM on November 22, 2011


Hah, my favorites so far are "Just Watering My Hippies" (scroll down) and "Waldo."
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:10 AM on November 22, 2011


FOX: "Its a food product essentially."

And food is always made more delicious by applying condiments to the eyes, throat, and lungs. Plus those kids looked hungry. I'm glad it was nothing dangerous like a pie or officer Pike might be in some trouble right now!
posted by Hoopo at 10:20 AM on November 22, 2011


Just an anecdote about whether or not this meme is backfiring:

A friend from high school, who I don't think is a particularly conservative guy if at all, has in recent weeks occasionally been making Facebook posts critical of OWS.

On Sunday, he instead started posting pictures like these, and being critical of police aggression.
posted by Flunkie at 10:22 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I see a rank sociopath who enjoys hurting people for fun.

This is one of the difficult truths that some people find more convenient to ignore.

If we have a schoolyard bully thread, people are quick to point out how ineffectual the "turn the other cheek" philosophy is, that surrender and humiliation is exactly what the bully is looking for.

Passive resistance is how you sway the moderate middle who react negatively to extremes. The bully shouldn't be the focus. You're not going to convert more than a small proportion of the world's bullies by showing them how much you're hurting.

I extend my benefit of the doubt to any stranger (in uniform and out). This guy? Please.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:23 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


From Hoopo's wiki link: In August 2010, a Michigan State University student named Ahlam Mohsem, 23, threw a Dutch apple pie

What a waste of a good pie. He could have used nasty lemon meringue or pumpkin.
posted by desjardins at 10:34 AM on November 22, 2011


Them's fightin' words, desjardins. When I throw a pie at the patriarchy, it's not going to be a delicious, spicy pumpkin pie. It's gonna be ... oh wait I got it. Habanero cream pie.

One of the healthiest things about the burgeoning faculty support for the Davis and Berkeley protests, just in terms of intra-academic politics, has been a renewed interest in talking about the class structure of academia, with essays and open letters explicitly connecting chancellors' willingness to order a crackdown on protests to their existence as a well-compensated managerial class insulated from the harm they cause to faculty and students.

I can only fave this once, RogerB, but it's a BIG fave. This article by Prof. Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins has been discussed in mefi before, but it deserves reprinting. What has changed about universities like UC in the last 20-30 years is the rise of a professional, self-propagating, and very well compensated executive class. They are the ones who are driving policy, and they are the ones who stand to benefit from the status quo.
posted by zomg at 10:45 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Vibrissae: How many senior bank executives are feeling heat from this? Politicians? The infamous 1%?

It's not an instant gratification kind of a thing. You don't get to have your "fast-food" revolution and then go back to playing xbox. These things take time, sometimes decades but history has shown that they do work. You're either in it for the long haul or you were never really in it at all.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Slap*Happy: They were trying to kill.

Its because they don't realize how appropriate the Guy Fawkes masks really are. We're not non-violent because we're all grass smoking hippies, love and peace types. We're fit to puke over whats been done to the nation at large, we're pissed off.

We're wearing those painted smiles for a reason. In a democratic system we can protest but we can never fire the first shot nor allow the media to see us throwing stone or getting bloog-ragey. We like the US system of government in a black-box, particle in a vacuum, what we were taught in school way and not firing the first shot is pretty essential to maintaining that representative government.

If they kill someone, or perhaps when they kill someone, the masks slip off, the monsters come out and UC Davis will look like Pleasantville in comparison.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2011


I don't understand the apparent link to Guy Fawkes, Slackermagee. Can you please explain more specifically?
posted by Flunkie at 11:32 AM on November 22, 2011


Don't forget that the original meme factory, 4chan, brought us Anonymous.

And anonymous was a major seed of the current OWS protests.

Memes aren't diminishing this event, they're bringing attention to it in a subtle and viral way. They're getting it into people's heads who normally wouldn't think about it. People who would actively avoid the original video.
posted by formless at 11:46 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if that reply (from formless) was in response to my question or not. In case it was, and in any case to perhaps clarify what I'm asking:

I get that Guy Fawkes masks are associated with Anonymous, and that some of them are involved with OWS and so forth. I'm not asking about that.

Rather, I'm asking about the apparent link of Guy Fawkes masks somehow showing that we won't fire the first shot, that we believe in representative democracy and instituting change through it rather than violence, that we're not going to throw stones or get all "bloog-ragey" and so forth.

Guy Fawkes doesn't seem like a good way to show that kind of thing, to me at least. The guy tried to blow up Parliament.

So I'm asking for clarification on the link between those two things, which Slackermagee seemed to be indicating.
posted by Flunkie at 11:53 AM on November 22, 2011


Sorry, my response was to the general thread and photoshopping of the event, not the Guy Fawkes response.
posted by formless at 12:06 PM on November 22, 2011


Pike is far from a monster, any more than the majority of the US soldiers in Iraq are monsters.

nickrussell, that is crap and nonsense. You are equating Pike, who violently attacked peaceful fellow citizens, with the majority of US soldiers.

I'm no moral supporter of the atrocious Iraq War II, but that is a disgusting claim.

Pike is a monster. Plain & simple.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:37 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pike is a monster. Plain & simple.

I don't know enough about Lt. Pike to say, but the second sentence gives lie to the first;things that are 'plain and simple' too often prove the opposite.
posted by Mooski at 12:52 PM on November 22, 2011


I don't understand the apparent link to Guy Fawkes, Slackermagee. Can you please explain more specifically?

I am not Slackermagee, but I think he is talking about the masks, not the historical Fawkes. So far as I know, the masks first became associated with activism through Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V for Vendetta. The graphic novel began publication in 1982; if anyone can find instances of protesters wearing them before then, I am happy to learn more.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:58 PM on November 22, 2011


But isn't the Fawkes character in "V for Vendetta" a violent revolutionary?
posted by BobbyVan at 1:09 PM on November 22, 2011


Here is an interesting way TLDR explanation of how the masks came to be at OWS from the perspective of a Something Awful goon, copy and pasting because links over there sometimes get blocked for unregistered users:


One goon - SA posters by then had adopted the identity 'goons', thanks to a harsh e-mail someone sent lowtax criticizing us as cyber-bullies - by the name of 'moot' was a huge japanophile. Maybe he didn't like SA's moderation style. Maybe he really liked 2channel.jp's image board system. Either way, he created 4chan.org about halfway through the decade. It was an anonymous image board, and its moderation style was the exact opposite of SAs, while incorporating much of the same culture.

4chan was free, so it tended to pull in a younger audience. SA requires a ten dollar payment, which means most people here are old enough to have credit cards. 4chan quickly became SA's 'stupid little brother.' For the longest time, it was bannable to even talk about 4chan on the somethingawful forums. And their memes were definitely not welcome here.

Channers were pretty much the perfect age when the film version of 'V for Vendetta' came out. They were the target audience of the film, and it spoke to them. They were also huge fans of fight club, which was SA's favorite movie for the first half of the decade. One sub-forum of 4chan was known as /b/, which is the 'random' forum. Rule 1 of /b/ is 'you do not talk about /b/.' Rule 2 of /b/ is 'you do not talk about /b/.' It's silly, but strangely appropriate.

Shortly after the film came out, a channer created a series of comics known as 'epic fail guy.' It was a stick figure with a guy fawkes mask. The meme went viral. It was, arguably, the origin of the reddit ragecomic memes.

In late 2007, some dude published an unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise. It made scientology look particularly horrific, and it identified Cruise as being, effectively, 'second in command' in the church. The author referenced a number of internal scientology videos in his book, and in early 2008 he released one of those videos - where Tom Cruise looks like a fucking nutbag. I remember it dropping as I was heading out the door for work. I loaded the file before leaving, because I didn't expect it to be available when I got back home at the end of the day. Predictably, Scientology tried to have the video removed. Gawker refused to comply. A bunch of channers got pissed off at this attempt at censorship. A small group known as #marblecake, led by Gregg Housh, put out a 'Message to Scientology' video - and it went viral. That was the start of Chanology. Immediately, a number of goons created a forum - enturbulation.org - to help with the fight. The moderators were all recruited from somethingawful.com. These included tamphex, le, fuctifino, myself, and a few others. Pelvidar utilized his impressive video editing skills to create the 'road to' video, which was breathtaking. Chanology pulled off the first ever global flash mob. OWS is the second global flash mob in history.

Because Scientology had such a strong reputation for doxing, attacking, and destroying critics, anonymity became central to taking on the church. This is well and good if all we're doing is DDoSing their sites, but after Mark Bunker (aka WiseBeardMan) posted his youtube video, the decision was made to do a flashmob. How do we prevent their private investigator from following us to our cars? How do we hinder their ability to identify protesters? Masks. Lots of masks. And the Guy Fawkes Mask became the dominant choice. Imagine being a cult leader, peeking through your curtains, seeing a hundred guy fawkes masks, getting on the phone to orgs all over the world, and hearing that they are all seeing the same thing. Scary as fuck, right? In any case, it was quite effective. It helped that a lot of these channers already owned the masks, being fanboys. It also helped that at least one costuming company saw an opportunity to make a huge profit, and sold masks in bulk for cheap with expedited shipping as soon as they saw the demand shoot through the roof. They were aware of the urgency of those orders, and did everything they could to help. Free market at work there, lol.

Anyhow, Chanology has grown and evolved. A lot of chanologists ended up in support roles for the green revolution and the arab spring. There have been dozens of schisms. There are individuals that associate with Anonymous that specialize in hacking, and others that specialize in graphics design, or law, or philosophy, or history, or math, or physics... they've got a really diverse and intelligent braintrust.

And they are leaderless. They have no formal platform, no formal organization. There is no membership. It's open-source, bottom-up, non-hierarchical.

Anyhow, *that* is what the Guy Fawkes mask represents. Not a fetish for V for Vendetta; but a storied history of the rise of geek culture. And many Goons hate this, because it involves their despised little brother. And few actually know the story behind the masks, the story I reveal here. I find it both appropriate and acceptable that there are V masks scattered throughout the crowds of people.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:14 PM on November 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


Memes aren't diminishing this event, they're bringing attention to it in a subtle and viral way. They're getting it into people's heads who normally wouldn't think about it.

Memes are particularly important given the recent fragmentation of news sources. Metafilterarians take it for granted that everyone would be aware of the original event, but that is certainly not the case for people who don't follow news at all or only follow say, the latest news on the Twilight series (you can buy a copy of Bella's wedding dress!).

The first time a lot of people will learn about this incident is when they're trying to figure out what the meme is about.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:26 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, so the use of the Guy Fawkes masks has nothing to do with the V character, except that the channer's are "fanboys" who happened to have them on hand? That seems to overlook some fairly compelling parallels between the channer/hacktivist movement (represented by Anonymous and Wikileaks) and V's vision of an anarchist utopia.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:01 PM on November 22, 2011


These make ugly uglier.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:36 PM on November 22, 2011


Vibrissae: Perhaps I'm forgetting that most of the young people (the majority of OWS groups) have come up in a culture where they really weren't challenged; where whenever they hollered loud enough, something 'happened'.

ersatz: What events are you thinking of? The demonstrations against the Iraq war, the outrage against the Bush administration, the disillusionment about university tuition and high unemployment all ran (and still run) counter to the story of hollering making something 'happen'. Despite the later disappointment about Obama, I reckon young people remember that he didn't win just by Hope and Change sloganeering but by organising his supporters (who were often young people).


And how did that work? (a note regarding Obama: Obama was elected in a perfect storm of reaction against Bush the Idiot + boosterism by the media (who made a fortune playing it up) + many of the *same* Big Money people who tried to buy McCain + a subtext of a once-and-for-all opportunity for America to remove collective guilt about the Sin of Slavery (and it's resultant effects, over generations). We got suckered... (although Obama is way better than McCain would have been).

That aside, I'm trying to get at the point about how the last 3-4 generations of youth have been brought up in rather unchallenged material environments (from middle class, up - and even lower to some extent), without any attempt to imbue a sense of responsibility for the other. (empathy scores are way down). In a word, "spoiled". btw, it was the elder generation's fault for letting this happen - we all share in this. Collective rallies will make a lot of noise, and, if unfocused by very specific strategic actions, bolstered by tactics, will be co-opted by media. Call is Vibrissae's Law, if you want.

This isn't to say that OWS (which I support as a general rule) won't learn, adapt, evolve into a more powerful tactical movement (with many tactics - all non-violent - put into play). I hope that happens before the whole thing becomes nothing more than a worn-out media cartoon. Time is short; McLuhans's media is always looking for fresh treats. OWS can quickly become yesterday's treat.

Jenfullmoon: Vibrissae, I totally agree with you though. I keep thinking over and over again, what is the good of camping at places that are not a bank or a place of government or on the territory of the people who are CAUSING this crap? Nobody seems to have a good explanation so far as to how camping in, say, a small town like Davis, is going to change that. And that's what kind of drives me nuts about OWS, I don't see what the hell it's actually doing besides making a giant stink.

Jenfullmoon, right back atcha'. I totally agree with you, too. Not to come off too "Marxy" (because I'm not): Those who control capital react when their capital loses opportunities to grow, so, as a general theoretical principal, what strategies, followed by specific, non-violent tactics, can be brought to bear to change things?

We've seen 650,000+ open Credit Union accounts.

How about making that figure 6 Million. How many students are on American campuses? Many of those campuses have their own credit unions. That's a good start.

How about a general tuition strike?

How about insisting that one will not take a certain professor's class unless free and open textbooks are put in use by the professor (if available for that discipline). Textbooks make up 72% of the average community college students annual spend on education.

How about insisting on generalized administrative audits, especially of high-paid administrative positions, and most especially about the high-paid administrative appointees in post-secondary education.

These are just three of probably hundreds (or more) of very specific demands that could be made, depending on the university, community college, or whatever. Many more (and better) ideas than mine should be in the planning stages, NOW.

How about picketing the homes of the various Regents, pointing out their salaries; their recent self-voted raises, etc. etc.

It's kinda like "let a thousand actions bloom". Make it asymetric. Keep those that are trying to hog capital to themselves off balance; be relentless; keep it up; don't stop; keep it non-violent; don't hate rich people, hate what *some* rich people *do*. Don't give up. We *cn* make a new day, but now we need more than the media circus that has evolved from the current (and worthy) OWS stands.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:39 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I take issue with calling entire generations spanning decades "spoiled", as this seems like a distant, off-hand judgement, but that aside: I do think we need to keep in mind that this thing is only but a couple months old in any real terms. Nationwide movements for grand social experiments do take time to coalesce and germinate into something more focused, and always have. In other words it's a bit too early to start exhorting those spoiled, spoiled children to hurry up and get on with the revolution (on our behalfs, of course) already.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:47 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thank You furiousxgeorge for cleaning up the mess my lack of sufficient explanation created.

Also, Thank You for the enlightening blurb on why the channers love those masks (I never really knew specifically, just assumed it wasn't solely based on V).
posted by Slackermagee at 3:13 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Maybe he was just trying to feed them."
posted by telstar at 3:57 PM on November 22, 2011


Regarding the V for Vendetta masks, you have to understand that the pastiche is towards the comic book and movie itself, not the violent catholic revolutionary. To say that they are directly linked shows a deep misunderstanding of the way art and culture works.

It's like saying the residents of "Columbus, OH" support murdering native americans because that's what Christopher Columbus did, it's an utterly ridiculous statement. The root cultural reference of any name/idea is usually substantially different than the intended reference, you have to view it first and foremost with the intended reference. With the V for Vendetta masks, it's the idea of an anonymous agent taking on the oppressive state for the greater good, what happened in the 1600s or whatever is not relevant so long as no one's mourning their actions. The Guy Fawkes masks are free from any sort of historical mourning/etc, as well.

It's pretty obvious they're referencing the comic/movie and not the 1600s revolutionary, there is no mention of Catholicism..

Also: SA is always just mad as hell that they're not relevant anymore trolololololol.
posted by amuseDetachment at 4:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well - since we're talking about masks...

Why Krampus, not Guy Fawkes should be the movement's face.

I always find it intriguing in the "to make a pie from scratch" sense... 1600s, here we have a revolutionary (reactionary, really) who had his little plot etc etc... And 400 years later some crazy magician bloke from England weaves a tale using his image, which becomes a movie which in turn inspires a bunch of rebellious hacker kids to use this image as their own.

I bet Guido Fawkes would have been amazed that 400 years later, though he never got the Catholic rule he wanted, that he still would have relevance and be the face of a (kiddy-script) rebellion.
posted by symbioid at 4:20 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


FOX: "Its a food product essentially."

I wonder how many of them have actually tasted pepper spray.

You know, I'm reminded of something interesting that happened a while ago. A student at my High School was wearing a pepper spray chain around her neck that went off when another student was wrestling with her. No one would have thought anything of it if they wern't standing over the intake vent of a large office building. In any event there was a big deal and embarrassingly bungled response by the terrorism powers that be in DC and they only found the kids because they were still standing right there unaware that anything had happened.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:24 PM on November 22, 2011


big collection on facebook
posted by telstar at 5:06 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Abbey Road, Piked
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:52 PM on November 22, 2011


In the meantime, nobody in Tahrir square is overly concerned about pepper spray
posted by wallstreet1929 at 6:56 PM on November 22, 2011


What do you mean by that? Tahrir Square is nightmare right now.
posted by stagewhisper at 7:17 PM on November 22, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving from Megyn and John!
posted by ryoshu at 7:32 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


FOX: "Its a food product essentially."

Bamboo under fingernails - it's a manicure, essentially.
posted by parudox at 8:31 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


@amuseDetachment

real talk: SA was never relevant

also, stealing this observation from a bunch of other people but SA is absolutely anti-populist, what with the whole purposeful "pay money to talk, pay more money to look more respectable" thing and the "make fun of poor/lower-class/ugly/crazy people" features they did

and the conservative/Libertarian thinking they cultivate is also "something awful" ho ho

side note but lately, it seems they've been trying to jump on the progressive/social-change bandwagon, which is like seeing a 48-year-old radio shack manager trying to talk up some kids about how he just discovered wu-tang clan
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:26 PM on November 22, 2011


It just occurs to me... if you can buy this pepper spray in a police-sized bottle directly from Amazon.com, as you apparently can, it must be legal, right? So what if, instead of sending pizzas and tents to our favorite Occupy encampments, we sent them crates of this fine food product to spice up their pizzas, or, in an emergency, to use to deter those pesky jackbooted riot cops?

Imagine if a group of 30 or 40 protestors all unleashed their own big old bottles of pepper spray right back at the cops?

I know, the cops would break out the live ammo. It's just a fantasy, but a nice one.

Matt Taibbi nails it in Rolling Stone. We've allowed the government to erode our rights and install a capricious police-state version of justice for a long time, but especially under the guise of the "war on terror," which has been just as much a war on civil rights and a militarization of civil police forces.
posted by spitbull at 4:41 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder how bear spray compares to pepper spray. I worked at an outdoors store in Montana and we used to sell huge cans of it, similar in size to the one Pike used. Bears will keep charging you even if they're shot, so I imagine it's pretty strong. I remember one hiker getting some blowback and he was pretty f'ed up. I believe it's legal in all 50 states, though I imagine it's hard to find in New York City. Probably pretty easy in Northern Calfornia, though.
posted by desjardins at 6:25 AM on November 23, 2011


Interesting question, desjardins. The apparently-identified canister in the Davis incident is advertised as 1.3% Major Capsaicinoids, and a Canadian bear spray vendor has different concentrations, one .857% capsaicin and another 1.0% capsaicin. So, more concentrated than bear spray.

I've also seen some claims that this is "military-grade" pepper spray, "meant to be used at a distance of 15 feet", although from what I see that is probably the standoff distance for an officer to be minimally affected by the spray from his own canister. Since riot control agents are prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention (discussed in one of the other threads), it is unlikely there is an official "military grade", though.
posted by dhartung at 8:13 AM on November 23, 2011


Matt Taibbi nails it in Rolling Stone. We've allowed the government to erode our rights and install a capricious police-state version of justice for a long time, but especially under the guise of the "war on terror," which has been just as much a war on civil rights and a militarization of civil police forces.

Taibbi is wrong. The population demanded a police state in the late 80's and early 90's in response to the anti-drug hysteria of that time. The response to that demand led to heavy militarization of the police forces which then conveniently combined the drug war and and the "war on terror" after 9/11 and is now morphing further into a beefed up homeland security that is being used to crush dissent.
posted by telstar at 10:19 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder how bear spray compares to pepper spray. I worked at an outdoors store in Montana and we used to sell huge cans of it, similar in size to the one Pike used. Bears will keep charging you even if they're shot, so I imagine it's pretty strong.

Having bought pepper spray many, many years ago (I worked in a dangerous job) and bear spray just this past year, I was shocked to discover that the bear spray was far, far less potent than the pepper spray of old. Accounted entirely, I'm sure, by decreasing strength of both products over time (perhaps due to regulation -- I'm not sure). But it kinda gave me pause to consider that the canister I carried to fend off bears was a fraction of the strength of what I carried for lesser predators.

Which makes me wonder about the strength of sprays used by the police.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:45 AM on November 23, 2011


The pregnant Occupy Seattle protester blasted with pepper spray last Tuesday has miscarried.

Maybe not, as in maybe not ever pregnant.

From the updates:

"UPDATE on Nov. 22 at 3:47 PM:...

I repeatedly asked if she could provide any medical records to back up her claim—a claim that doctors at Harborview Medical Center said her clash with police caused the miscarriage—but she said she would be in touch with a case worker. Lacking a way to verify her claim (except asking for her records) I said I would follow up.

...

I provided Fox a copy of a records release for the hospital, which she put into her coat, but again Fox said she couldn’t go request her records until next week. I offered her a ride to and from the hospital, but she again refused.

...

While sources in general should be given the benefit of the doubt—even if they are homeless women—and there is no evidence that Fox isn't being entirety forthright, her story looks increasingly dubious.

It's worth pointing out that in the Seattlepi.com article last week, the reporter noted that Fox was two months pregnant, when she told me that she was three months pregnant at the time.

UPDATE on Nov. 22 at 4:18 PM: Acting on an anonymous tip, we heard that Seattle police found Fox in a house six nearly nine weeks ago. According to a police report in which the names have been redacted, a suspect who appears to have a three-letter last name "said she is three months pregnant..."

We are attempting to contact Fox to ask if she is the woman in the police report.

SPD has now provided a statement, saying that no complaint has been filed in the original incident."
posted by BigSky at 12:09 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Taibbi is wrong. The population demanded a police state in the late 80's and early 90's in response to the anti-drug hysteria of that time.

Well, saying "the population" is doing something is often a bit disingenuous. You're conflating a demand for an end with a demand for one means of obtaining that end. Bush was in charge when most of the demand was there, so he was able to interpret it in a malign way. So, Taibbi is right.
posted by JHarris at 2:11 PM on November 23, 2011


To be fair, Taibbi also writes extensively in the article about the 'war on drugs' as prologue to the 'war on terror,' so I misrepresented his argument on this point.
posted by spitbull at 2:57 PM on November 23, 2011


A bear is not going to lay down and take a spraying in the name of her civil rights, however.

I spend a lot of time in bear country. The preferred form of bear repellent is a .357 magnum handgun, unless you're already out hunting and have reason to carry an AR15.
posted by spitbull at 2:59 PM on November 23, 2011


also, stealing this observation from a bunch of other people but SA is absolutely anti-populist, what with the whole purposeful "pay money to talk, pay more money to look more respectable" thing and the "make fun of poor/lower-class/ugly/crazy people" features they did

and the conservative/Libertarian thinking they cultivate is also "something awful" ho ho

The "Laissez's Faire" subforum over there made Metafilter look like a bunch of conservatives. SA has been trending liberal for years now.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:19 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Pike...
posted by homunculus at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hitler Reacts to Pepper Spray Meme
posted by finite at 5:55 PM on November 25, 2011


@furiousxgeorge

yeah but FYAD/GBS/Helldump are to SA as /b/ is to 4chan. they basically are the site. i am sure the sub is nice though
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:36 PM on November 25, 2011


LF is gone, but the Occupy thread on GBS is long and supportive. And FYAD can fuck off, they got the pony thread in TVIV shut down. Bastards. Helldump is also closed.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:38 PM on November 25, 2011


well yeah /b/ can probably fuck off too but they basically are the heart of the operation and what everybody thinks about when they hear the name of the site, the place where most people entered through, etc. i wonder if they can shut threads down, doesn't that kind of speak to their power?

i paid money to join metafilter so i don't have any room to talk but people i know who didn't/don't have mefi also have opinions on this, e.g. that it is essentially a business and that the liberality/leftness it is trending towards is for all intents and purposes a business decision made with respect to the country's political climate, its pricing scheme makes it a business enterprise in a way that even metafilter is not, the cost keeps out economically disadvantaged people, etc. etc.

bear in mind that the people who are saying this are kind of antagonistic to the internet itself so i would take it with a grain of salt, maybe.

i wonder about the differences in site structure and operation that lead vs. didn't lead to Anonymous and OWS though
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:10 PM on November 25, 2011


not to say /b/ and SA have not both done good things
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:11 PM on November 25, 2011


FYAD can shut down threads, yes, it's a favorite with the mods there. The main reason when it came to MLP was "creepy". That flows out of the general anti-anime feelings I assume.

FYAD has no power over the political climate of GBS or D&D, which are pretty liberal at this point.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:20 PM on November 25, 2011


if you will excuse my questions (i never really kept up with that scene) but are the mods literally picked from there or do the ones from there only have power over specific forums or what?

if they mod all subforums don't they basically have power over the political climate through simple action?

also, has anyone there raised the question of money as a barrier to participation for people who don't have that much? it seems like it would be a thing, especially on a left-leaning forum.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:35 PM on November 25, 2011


if you will excuse my questions (i never really kept up with that scene) but are the mods literally picked from there or do the ones from there only have power over specific forums or what?

I honestly don't follow it that close, never realized FYAD was there until they shut down my precious pony thread. :P

I believe it's just a favorite subforum of the old guard mods so they take some hints from there. In truth the main TVIV mod hates ponies too so it wasn't all FYAD.

Look, forget the moderation questions, go check out the occupy threads in GBS and D&D, there is no sign of anything but a mostly liberal forum community in action. It's less PC than Metafilter so feminism/transsexualism/racism/etc themed threads get ugly, but that happens everywhere those topics are discussed.

also, has anyone there raised the question of money as a barrier to participation for people who don't have that much? it seems like it would be a thing, especially on a left-leaning forum.

Well, come on, it's only $5 more than here.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:41 PM on November 25, 2011


aren't the moderation questions the main ones, though? i mean, the issue is 'who controls the platform of discourse' and the core/old guard of that happens to be people from you know where. it seems important to me, i guess.
Well, come on, it's only $5 more than here.
like i said, i have zero room to talk, this is all from people i talk to elsewhere. i would be interested to know if anyone brings that up there, though. do they just not because they're worried about getting banned?

also you seem pretty knowledgeable about this so i would like to ask you: what is their opinion on anonymous's role in germinating the OWS thing?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:58 PM on November 25, 2011


I really have very little knowledge of the mods there, all I can tell you is the bulk of the forums are politically liberal in practice.

Very few people complain about the registration fee, mainly because (as Metafilter also shows) it works the intended purpose of improving the signal to noise ratio of the users. Also consider, the people most offended by these fees don't sign up.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:30 PM on November 25, 2011


*for the intended purpose.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:30 PM on November 25, 2011


it works the intended purpose of improving the signal to noise ratio of the users
yeah but this bugs me: if the signal to noise ratio is improved by filtering out people without discretionary income, what exactly is the signal we're looking for?

i mean for example this pike repurposing meme doesn't appear to be coming from paysites- it seems to be coming from imageboards, twitter, and reddit, all places with very low barriers to entry. i don't think anonymous and OWS really came from that kind of an environment either. i don't know if this is luck of the draw or it actually means something, but it appears to be a real thing. i could attempt some armchair BSing about how low barriers to entry and low regulation of content create a sense of fluidity of identity and more freedom to do unconventional things, but i don't have studies at hand to back it up. i might try to find some though.
Also consider, the people most offended by these fees don't sign up.
yeah, exactly. it probably makes people more well-behaved and mannered but it cuts both ways. there are certain positions you will simply not be exposed to. gated communities, to draw a metaphor, are clean, but they have their own problems.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:51 PM on November 25, 2011


Look, some of our users have been homeless during their time here, $5 is not a sizable barrier to the degree it will filter out poor people interested in the site. The entertainment value I have gotten out of this site for one $5 payment seven years ago is way more bang for the buck than one month of a cable bill.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:19 PM on November 25, 2011


yeah, for here, but the pricing scheme is different, isn't it? with mefi it's a one-time $5 charge, with SA i guess it's a $10 charge(?), plus money to change your avatar from a baby to whatever, plus however much it costs to access the archives, plus signatures, plus titles, plus removing ads, etc. (which basically gives you a way to display how much you can afford to spend in comparison with others) and it probably lasts until a mod bans you for whatever reason, at which point you may have to buy another one.

moreover, with mefi, it's stated to be a site-maintenance thing, whereas with SA- as far as i know, and maybe i'm mistaken- the pricing is spun as a way to keep out the riffraff. i am kind of uncertain on that kind of thinking, you know? then there is the whole "if you have to spend money on it you'll value it more" model that figures into this, which strikes me as not especially left-leaning at all.

the whole anon/OWS thing and the memes also bothers me. like i said, it's probably real well-maintained and pleasant, but i don't know how productive that is.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:52 PM on November 25, 2011


(also i am not taking a hard-line stance here, i am not one of the people who believes the sa left-leaning trend is a deliberate PR move etc., and i think mefi strikes a balance between accessibility and cost)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:57 PM on November 25, 2011


$10 is all you have to spend, the rest is entirely optional and unnecessary.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:05 PM on November 25, 2011


i guess. i have a hard time believing there is no stratification between those with a bare bones $10 account and those with all the trimmings, but i guess i'll take your word for it. also $10 is like half a week's groceries for some people. on a more frivolous note, what i've seen of the general culture there, admittedly second hand and like front page articles from years ago, kind of creeps me out ("general anti-anime feelings"?), so there is that for ancillary bullshit.

i wonder if they've done anything like the Anonymous movement that i haven't heard about. i should probably research that. thanks for answering my questions btw.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:47 AM on November 26, 2011


forgot to say: what bothers me personally is not so much the cost as the reasons given for it. i have been talking with a lot of people who're in the whole "Get Money Out (of politics, discourse, etc.)" thing for a while though, so maybe it's just residual sensitivity to commerce that rubbed off on me. thank you, though. sorry for being so verbose
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:01 AM on November 26, 2011


with mefi, it's stated to be a site-maintenance thing, whereas with SA- as far as i know, and maybe i'm mistaken- the pricing is spun as a way to keep out the riffraff

Actually, from a Conversation with Metafilter Founder Matt Haughey:
The $5 signup fee isn’t subscription revenue [since it's a one-time thing]. It’s mostly just putting a huge hurdle in front of having to deal with new users. ‘Cause it’s such a pain.
Wow this thread sure got derailed.
posted by finite at 12:06 PM on November 26, 2011


finite why did you have to tell me that :(
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:38 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, most of the revenue for the site actually comes from our primary sponsors at Koch Industries.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:50 PM on November 26, 2011


OccupyGeorge
posted by infini at 4:16 AM on November 27, 2011


mefi confidence status: annihilated

what a bummer
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:41 AM on November 27, 2011


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