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New state, same as old but worse.
December 2, 2003 11:10 AM   Subscribe

The Miami Model... ["What is the Miami Model? It is several things: extremely violent police response to nonviolent demonstrators, embedded reporters behind police lines - and arresting and harassing "non-embedded" journalists...(and) mass arrests and an arsenal of "non-lethal" weapons.]...represents the next step in the criminalization and repression of dissent that is occurring in the United States right now." It is part of the newly emerging "Technologies of political control" (1.1m PDF) which are rapidly consuming American democracy from within. This is more than crowd control. This is the new Information Warfare. Oh - and thinking of protesting? - The FBI would like your name, please. (more inside)
posted by troutfishing (73 comments total)

 
The scene was a "massive police state," - John Sweeney, President of the United Steelworkers of America. At the Miami protest against provisions in the "Free Trade of the Americas Act", the massive police presence was paid for by $8.5 million from the 87 billion dollar "War on Terror" bill passed by Congress. 30 to 90 busloads of retirees were blocked from the protest by police, and Amnesty International has called for an investigation into allegations of widespread police brutality - over 100 protestors were injured. (some photos and some more, courtesy of Leif Utne) Bonus - Watch Miami police use a tazer on a peaceful protestor. (Quicktime/Video 14M)


Some additional stuff, and quotes :

"The National Lawyers Guild, a liberal legal organization, said the day was punctuated by "indiscriminate, excessive force against hundreds of nonviolent protesters with weapons including pepper spray, tear gas, and concussion grenades and rubber bullets." "

This is the new "technology of political control" (PDF file) which is "the product of the application of science and technology to the problem of neutralizing the state's internal enemies. It is mainly directed at civilian populations and is not intended to kill...It is aimed as much at hearts and minds as at bodies."(wrote the British Society For the Social Responsibility of Scientists, 20 years ago)

"How to get shot in Miami for holding up a peace sign... John Hamilton, 12.01.2003 07:50 This gentleman's comment to me after getting shot: "I can't understand why I don't have the right to protest in my own country. Why can't I do this? I have never gone to a rally before, political or any kind. And here I come, I see police presence, $8.5
million spent on this. We could have built an elementary school or something. I don't understand that. It makes me sick. Why are people shooting? No one’s got guns, everyone’s got cameras. People just want to
get their voices heard."


"Miami Crowd Control Would Do Tyrant Proud" (St. Petersburg Times By ROBYN E. BLUMNER, Times Perspective Columnist, Published November 30, 2003)

An interview with arrested protestors from Democracy NOW!

2,500 police in full riot gear - armed with plastic bullets, military tear gas, stun guns, tazers, electric shields, armored personnel carriers...(you name it, they had it) - deployed against protestors, many union members and retirees......The massive police show of force and repression of free speech in Miami was funded by 8.5 million dollars Miami received under the auspices of the "War on terror". This suggests that nonviolent critics of US trade agreements are classified, by some in law enforcement, along with criminals and terrorists. Observers from other municipalities were on hand to learn about the "new methods".......John Sweeney, President of the United Steel Workers of America has called for a congressional investigation. and "On Wednesday, Nov. 26, labor leaders stood up at a press conference with environmental and global justice activists and blasted the Miami police force for using repressive tactics against those protesting the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit (FTAA). That same day, Amnesty International called for an independent investigation into the strong-arm tactics utilized by a militarized force of over 40 agencies against the demonstrators."
posted by troutfishing at 11:20 AM on December 2, 2003


404 on the tazer, yo.
posted by anathema at 11:29 AM on December 2, 2003


anathema - HERE IT IS!!
posted by troutfishing at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2003


Welcome to our new and improved police state.

Care to tour our re-education centers?
posted by nofundy at 11:46 AM on December 2, 2003


Here in Portland during the Iraq war protests I personally saw very similar behavior toward journalists. Those who were there with their big vans (i.e. the network affiliates) were allowed to wander around as if not part of the action (you know, like how journalists are supposed to be treated) whereas the independent journalists--officially credentialed as they were--were beaten and gassed just like everyone else.

I saw a reporter from a local college newspaper, who was clearly holding up her press pass and repeatedly yelling "I am a reporter," thrown into a paddy wagon by her hair as she tried to make her way to the same curb that all of the corporate media types were shooting from. There was also an incident--similar to the one in the first link--in which a network affiliate reporter was arrested for assaulting protestors after getting 'trapped' behind their lines.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:48 AM on December 2, 2003


Get these filthy fucking hippies out of my way, they're blocking the Starbucks on the corner AND the one across the street!! >:-(
posted by Spacelegoman at 11:50 AM on December 2, 2003


Spacelegoman - I know...It's like they're magnetized to Starbucks but they don't buy any latte's, they just sit in the street and beat on drums and play hackeysack - and those declasse steel workers....they just drink bad robusto coffee. No Starbucks for them. They wouldn't know good coffee if you poured it on their heads. The retirees? - they don't have any money anyway. They just shuffle around looking serious and sour. Damn protestors are ruining my coffee experience.

The Miami cops should have big scoopers to get 'em out of the way, like in Soylent Green. Now that was a cool movie...
posted by troutfishing at 12:03 PM on December 2, 2003


Ignatius - That's like an onion story - "a network affiliate reporter was arrested for assaulting protestors after getting 'trapped' behind their lines. - "You don't know what it's like out there", he said, "they're like animals, almost not human, they have this look in their eyes...and all those old ladies protesting, it really freaked me out..."
posted by troutfishing at 12:09 PM on December 2, 2003


Freedom of speech
posted by matteo at 12:18 PM on December 2, 2003


I think they're pointing at the wrong culprits personally. It's gotten to the point that at many of the large protests the police have to expect violence, because there's a lot of precendence that it's going to happen. I have nothing against the average non-violent protestors (although I'll admit, it's very tempting not to remove my foot from the gas pedal if they're in my way), but the scum that cause all the violance at some of the WTO meetings get what they deserve. Unfortunately, it doesn't take mixing too many of those scum in with the peaceful protestors before it just becomes a bad day for everybody.
posted by piper28 at 12:18 PM on December 2, 2003


Makes you wonder about the journalists fired at and killed "accidentally" in Iraq doesn't it.

OK, maybe I should have phrased that, "removed all doubt about..."

If America is not a fascist state, and several MeFi-ers have, reasonably said that it's not, what is it? Because this is not my idea of how a liberal democracy behaves.
posted by Blue Stone at 12:28 PM on December 2, 2003


I have nothing against the average non-violent protestors (although I'll admit, it's very tempting not to remove my foot from the gas pedal if they're in my way)

Uh-huh. I'm tempted to change "non-violent protestors" to "Jews" and see how it looks, but That Would Be Wrong.

Great post, troutfishing. (Although perhaps everything after the "more inside" could have been inside.)
posted by languagehat at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2003


Yeah, this sucks, but why do I get the feeling that if the people yelling the loudest about this were in charge, that the only things that would chnge would be the targets?
posted by jonmc at 1:05 PM on December 2, 2003


...but the scum that cause all the violence at some of the WTO meetings get what they deserve.

Well, I'm not sure what they "deserve", but the avowed goal of the anarchist groups that caused so much trouble in Seattle was to put a stop to that round of trade talks. We can therefore agree at least that they got what they wanted. As for their larger goal, the creation of a free society of equals with no authoritarian control... Well, backlash is a bitch.

This shit (Miami) scares me. Those of you pointing to it as evidence of the rise of a fascist state should take heart, however, in the historical precedent of the early-twentieth-century American Labor movement. Police action was much more despicable back then, but the good guys (mostly) won in the end. Take that as an exhortation to continued involvement, not a plea for complacency.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:05 PM on December 2, 2003


Excellent post, trout. The more I read about Miami, the more unsettling it is. This should set off alarm bells for everyone who values living in a free society, regardless of their political leanings. The media's role in this is especially contemptible.
posted by homunculus at 1:06 PM on December 2, 2003


or:

Every revolutionary ends up either by becoming an oppressor or a heretic. -

Albert Camus.

I'm seeing that quote beginning to be borne out lately.
posted by jonmc at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2003


If the network reporters on the scene were honorable, each one would have helped the independent media reporters into their press area.

Media access is a commons. It should be egalitarian.

"As you do unto the least of my brethren, so you do unto me."

So you're a Fox news reporter . . . your camera is pointing north . . . as you look south you see a lowly campus newspaper reporter being pushed around by the police . . . what you really ought to do is turn your camera around, but at least you could extend the penumbra of your access to the student reporter. All it takes is 3 words to the police: "She's with me."
posted by yesster at 1:15 PM on December 2, 2003


Yeah trout, great post. At least with their funding mechanism they have stopped trying to pretend that the "War on Terrorism" isn't also a war against many lawful and peaceful Americans.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:18 PM on December 2, 2003


(The alarm bells rang in 1999.)
posted by sudama at 1:21 PM on December 2, 2003


All it takes is 3 words to the police: "She's with me."

But she's not. She's "against" them. Can't have it both ways, unless I'm demisunderstanding things.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:22 PM on December 2, 2003


"Keep in mind that when Bush was in London recently, Al Qaeda or affiliated terrorists made it a point to bomb the British Consulate and a British bank in Istanbul, Turkey. Even if no attempts are made on Manhattan, the probability of extreme security measures and possibly something approaching martial law in sections of the island could cast a long shadow over the convention. This potential embarrassment is another one of the extraordinary political uncertainties of 2004."
posted by homunculus at 1:24 PM on December 2, 2003


let's just hope that John Timoney won't be coming to any cities nearby any time soon.
posted by jann at 1:24 PM on December 2, 2003


Again i say.. welcome to the birth of a fascist regime. Be sure you remember well and tell your grandchildren.
posted by MrLint at 1:25 PM on December 2, 2003


anyone have an LA Times password for homunculus' link?
posted by anastasiav at 1:28 PM on December 2, 2003


(The alarm bells rang in 1999.)

Sure, it did. That's why 99.99% of the American public would have no idea what you're talking about. That's incredibly effective protest. Besides I wouldn't trust most of the anti-globalism crowd with a used condom. The way things are sucks, but you're gonna have to offer me more that "globalism bad! war bad!" and "wouldn't it be great if we all loved eachother (except those we don't like who need to be destroyed)" before I man the barricades. As of now, they're nothing but a photo-negative of the status quo.
posted by jonmc at 1:29 PM on December 2, 2003


Or at least the caraciture of them which you have choked down is. I love when people combine a declaration of purposefully maintained ignorrance of a subject with an attempt to totally "break it down." So I hate John Tesh and would never go to one of his shows, but I'm pretty sure they kill puppies there.

The stereotype of anti-WTO folk that you are holding doesn't seem much different than Jow Redneck's views of anti-war protestors, which you must know to be untrue, being a New Yorker.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:40 PM on December 2, 2003


The stereotype of anti-WTO folk that you are holding doesn't seem much different than Jow Redneck's views of anti-war protestors, which you must know to be untrue, being a New Yorker.

Actually, I've stopped in at a few of the smaller protests and most of the people their conformed to stereotype with a vengeance (as you are with you're "Joe Redneck" comment). There were the college brats thrusting the daily worker in my face. The nitwit hippy girl saying that on 9/11 saying that on 9/11 all she thought about was "peace." (she's either a liar or deluded, the morality of the war aside).

And I've choked down no stereotype, my reports are from my own experience. I hear nothing but a lot of platitudes and juvenile slogans out of people who claim to be dissenters. Give me some actual ideas, buddy.

Besides, I may be in New York, but I'm in Queens. I spent last night hanging around with a bunch of local guys in NYPD hoodies and American flag ballcaps, and I can assure you that they would hold the protest crowd in absolute contempt if they spared them a moments thought, and I have to say I have more respect for them than the protest kiddies in the Village or Billyburg.
posted by jonmc at 1:53 PM on December 2, 2003


Sure, it did. That's why 99.99% of the American public would have no idea what you're talking about. That's incredibly effective protest. .

If you go back and check the MeFi threads at the time, you'll find no bigger critic of the WTO protestors than me. But this goes far beyond a bunch of unwashed hippies protesting a flawed but necessary trade regime; we're witnessing the death of the First Amendment and our tradition of being able to protest publicly in this country. It is not exaggeration to say that this type of response is the knell of fascism in our fair country. Try, please, to separate the message from the response. What the protestors were doing in Miami was legal, and the response was so far out of line.

I'm prepared to change my mind given evidence, I encourage you to do so as well.
posted by norm at 1:56 PM on December 2, 2003


As of now, they're nothing but a photo-negative of the status quo.

Okay, but should they be beaten up for it? I don't know, I think "don't elect people who like to beat other people up" is a nice simple platform statement. How about "Elect me: I won't beat you up"? Hey, I can do this all day!

That's what it comes down to, not whether they're stupid hippies or not. It's pretty basic.
posted by furiousthought at 2:07 PM on December 2, 2003


Unfortunately, it doesn't take mixing too many of those scum in with the peaceful protestors before it just becomes a bad day for everybody.

So, if you're a police state that pretends to be a democracy, what do you do to justify the use of excessive force during a protest? Come on, it's not that difficult. That people find these things unthinkable even after COINTELPRO, 9/11 and PATRIOT never ceases to amaze me.
posted by Eloquence at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2003


First of all, all the news sources cited in the post were from left-leaning websites or from protestors themselves. Am I not supposed to take them with the same grain of salt I'd take a statement from the government?

Second, and I know this from personal experience, there's a large contingent of protestors who 10 years from now will be driving SUV's and holding executive positions at the same companies they now protest, and this will all be something to reminisce about when they recount their "wild youth" over chardonnay.

Third: this page includes everything I dislike about the american left in one place. Loudmouth extremists like the Wobblies, some doofus showing off his rubber bullet wound (I'll bet you he'll use the scar to get laid) and moronic "free hugs" and "the global currency is love" placards.

I don't think the powers that be are losing any sleep.

Okay, but should they be beaten up for it?

Look, look they're being repressed. I have a feeling a lot of them went back to their dorm rooms bragging that they had the "full riot experience."
posted by jonmc at 2:22 PM on December 2, 2003


Second, and I know this from personal experience, there's a large contingent of protestors who 10 years from now will be driving SUV's and holding executive positions at the same companies they now protest, and this will all be something to reminisce about when they recount their "wild youth" over chardonnay.

America beats blind allegiance to capitalism into citizens--news at 11.
posted by The God Complex at 2:46 PM on December 2, 2003


We are accustomed to think of ourselves as an emancipated people; we say we are democratic, liberty-loving, free of prejudice and hatred. This is the melting pot, the seal of a great human experiment. Beautiful words, full of noble, idealistic sentiment. Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and such like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous. What have we to offer the world beside the superabundant loot which we recklessly plunder from the earth under the maniacal delusion that this insane activity represents progress and enlightenment? The land of opportunity has become the land of senseless sweat and struggle. The goal of all of our striving has long been forgotten. We no longer wish to succor the oppressed and homeless; there is no room in this great, empty land for those who, like our forefathers before us, now seek a place of refuge. Millions of men and women are, or were until very recently, on relief, condemned like guinea pigs to a life of forced idleness. The world meanwhile looks to us with a desperation such as it has never known before. Where is the democratic spirit? Where are the leaders?

To conduct a great human experiment we must first of all have men. Behind the conception MAN there must be grandeur. No political party is capable of ushering in the Kingdom of Man. The workers of the world may one day, if they ever cease listening to their bigoted leaders, organize a brotherhood of man. But men cannot be brothers without first becoming peers, that is, equals in a kingly sense. What prevents men from uniting as brothers is their own base inadequacy. Slaves cannot unite; cowards cannot unite; the ignorant cannot unite. It is only by obeying our highest impulses that we can unite. The urge to surpass oneself has to be instinctive, not theoretical or believable merely. Unless we make the effort to realize the truths which are in us we shall fail again and again. As Democrats, Republicans, Fascists, Communists, we are all on one level. That is one of the reasons why we wage war so beautifully. We defend with our lives the petty principles which divide us. The common principle, which is the establishment of the empire of man on earth, we never lift a finger to defend. We are frightened of any urge which would lift us out of the muck. We fight only for the status quo, our particular status quo. We battle with heads down and eyes closed. Actually there never is status quo, except in the minds of political imbeciles. All is flux. Those who are on the defensive are fighting phantoms.

What is the greatest treason? To question what it is one may be fighting for. Here insanity and treason join hands. War is a form of insanity-the noblest or the basest, according to your point of view. Because it is a mass insanity the wise are powerless to prevail against it. Above any other single factor that may be adduced in explanation of war is confusion. When all other weapons fail one resorts to force. But there may be nothing wrong with the weapons which we so easily and readily discard. They may need to be sharpened, or we may need to improve our skill, or both. To fight is to admit that one is confused; it is an act of desperation, not of strength. A rat can fight magnificently when cornered. Are we to emulate the rat?
-- Henry Miller, Aid-Conditioned Nightmare.
posted by The God Complex at 2:48 PM on December 2, 2003


jonmc, I don't disagree that many on the Left have persecution fantasies and jump at any chance to rage against The Man (see "Free Mumia" sticker). But just because the protestors may be Leftist, and may be young and naive, and may be personally annoying to you-- that doesn't mean that using these tactics to suppress their protest isn't a step toward becoming a police state.

Hypothetically, what if the US government suddenly lurched toward socialism and used these same police tactics to beat down and carry away good, solid, small business-owners who attempted to protest their life's work being snatched into state control? Would you be as enthusiastic then?

It doesn't matter that you disagree with the FTAA protestors and don't mind seeing them take a beating. This isn't the direction the United States should be headed.
posted by 4easypayments at 2:52 PM on December 2, 2003


Just to let you know, the rhetoric spewed in political threads at this site may give lefties and righties a warm fuzzy feeling, but it's done more to alienate me from activism of any form than just about anything.

We now return to your regularly scheduled circle jerk.
posted by jonmc at 2:53 PM on December 2, 2003


Hypothetically, what if the US government suddenly lurched toward socialism and used these same police tactics to beat down and carry away good, solid, small business-owners who attempted to protest their life's work being snatched into state control? Would you be as enthusiastic then?

If you read my first comment in this thread, 4easypayments, that's exactly why the protestors irk me so. Because in a world run by them the only thing that would change would be the targets of the hatred.

Quite frankly, if every last human being with political aspirations of any kind was drowned like a rat, the world would be a much better place.
posted by jonmc at 2:56 PM on December 2, 2003


Just to let you know, the rhetoric spewed in political threads at this site may give lefties and righties a warm fuzzy feeling, but it's done more to alienate me from activism of any form than just about anything.

Soooooo.... because hippies and kids with bandanas annoy you no longer care about the course charted by the country you live in? If you think the "left" is knee-jerk and illogical, you might want to avoid mirrors.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:03 PM on December 2, 2003


"Just to let you know, the rhetoric spewed in political threads at this site may give lefties and righties a warm fuzzy feeling, but it's done more to alienate me from activism of any form than just about anything."

And yet, not only is he not content to merely lurk, he must post -- repeatedly! Actions speak louder than words, jonmc. Know thyself.

We are all speaking our feelings here, jonmc, including you. That is healthy and necessary. We invite your participation. Please take a moment to reflect how Metafilter is a private forum that thrives on intense debate (whatever its bias may be). Matt could shut down Metafilter overnight or censor any post he wants to (and sometimes does).

The protests in Miami, however, took place in a public place, where the ability to express ourselves is not only more important, but a fundamental right. When the government reacts this way to people peaceably assembling to express their opinion, that is something for everyone to be concerned about on the left or the right.
posted by PigAlien at 3:04 PM on December 2, 2003


Ignatius:

I care, but a) I don't delude myself that I can do anything about it; b)nobody's offered up any viable alternatives; c)I do not feel that any of my opinions or attitudes would be welcomed by any of the so-called "dissenters," and d)quite frankly most of the stuff I read from the left is either completely platitudinous pie-in-the-sky bullshit or firebreathing, polarizing and downright frightening propoganda, so I'm not about to throw my weight behind it.

And quite frankly, I figure I won't be missed.

On preview: When the government reacts this way to people peaceably assembling to express their opinion, that is something for everyone to be concerned about on the left or the right.

Sure, but let's be honest. If it was say an NRA or Klan rally that got busted up this way, would everyone be quite as upset? Not that I have any fondness for either of those groups but you see where I'm going here.
posted by jonmc at 3:12 PM on December 2, 2003


And quite frankly, I figure I won't be missed.

That's where you're wrong, man. Shit, name any sector of public life in which full-of-themselves-and-less-than-wise young people (mostly young men, to be honest) are not the most visible. Sports, war, dissent, sex, music, blah blah. It's like you don't want to go back to the skating rink because you saw some total dorks hanging out there last weekend. There are reasons why the most attention is heaped upon the most ridiculous people, and they aren't even all nefarious. You're a reasonable person, and when you saw antiwar protestors you remembered the smelly guy with the tall hat (or whatever) moreso than the normal-looking mom with the canvas tote bag.

I had exactly the same attitude as you do, until I actually started talking to people. Where do you get information if not from talking to people? How are you ever going to hear those elusive productive alternatives you seek if you're not even sitting at the table? I'm not saying you're a dupe (actually, I'm kind of saying that you are trying to be too savvy, if that makes sense), but you should think about who it behooves for you to have such a contemptuous attitude to those who are standing up for ideas that you seem to basically share (I say that because despite your flippant comments, you have said nothing suggesting that you favor violent police reaction to peaceful public assembly).

A constant refrain of your MeFi coments is that discuorse becomes fruitless as it becomes polarized. You are right about that. But the alternative that you seem to be proposing is that everyone just shut up. Forget for a second what would happen in a hypothetical "photo negative" society, and think about what is happening in our real society in front of our faces. I wonder how many people pooh-poohed the French resistance because they didn't want to work with the dirty socialists.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:26 PM on December 2, 2003


"Sure, but let's be honest. If it was say an NRA or Klan rally that got busted up this way, would everyone be quite as upset?"

You know, jonmc, there was a famous incident during the presidential debates of 1988 when Dukakis was asked if he would support the death penalty for someone who murdered his wife. He answered (basically) "No." Apparently, everyone thought this was the WRONG answer. The 'correct' answer would have been, "As a husband, I would love to have seen the murderer of my wife ripped to shreds, but as a politician who is opposed to the death penalty, I would have to remain true to my beliefs and oppose it."

My point is that we're allowed to be emotional. In fact, we're supposed to be emotional! However, we can't let our emotions rule our behavior. I think people in the KKK are ignorant. Some are probably even despicable. Nonetheless, I would be very upset if someone tried to break up a legal, PEACEABLE klan rally. As for the NRA, I agree with much of what they believe.
posted by PigAlien at 3:39 PM on December 2, 2003


Oh, of the course the murder of his wife was rhetorical...
posted by PigAlien at 4:05 PM on December 2, 2003


LOL - the QUESTION about the murder of his wife was rhetorical.
posted by PigAlien at 4:07 PM on December 2, 2003


What would the media response be if the police fired rubber bullets at a gathering in support of the war in Iraq?

My guess is that a lot of people don't give a shit what happens to protestors in FL because they don't believe the police would act that way towards them if they publicly gathered to agitate in support of their issues.

They sure are investing a lot of their potential freedom in the future on the concept that they and the cops will always agree.
posted by dglynn at 4:09 PM on December 2, 2003


They sure are investing a lot of their potential freedom in the future on the concept that they and the cops will always agree.

It's like uberconservative Bob Barr's critique of the PATRIOT ACT: sure, ti's fine when our guys are running it, but what if Hillary were Attorney General.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:13 PM on December 2, 2003


IMHO this is an example of America's paranoia of the past 20 years. Potential crimes or events are seen or portrayed as a crime itself, something to be avoided for safety's sake. We can't have tools or information that could be used 'in the wrong way'.

I wonder how many Americans are willing to sacrifice their First Amendment rights for the illusion of comfort and security.
posted by infowar at 4:21 PM on December 2, 2003


Regarding alternatives to the FTAA:
The alternative is to not have the FTAA - there, its proposed. I think it's a good alternative and one that doesn't really require discussion, as we have never had an FTAA before, and most people seem to think it's a horrible idea.

Regarding power exchanges:
Many of the protesters aren't interested in personally taking anything over. There are a myriad of opinions on which political candidate would be better in our democratic republic, but I doubt that most protesters think that they would actually make the best president. I personally don't think we need to put so much power into the hands of a small number of people - and we can argue about that as an aside. But I don't understand the relevance of a discussion about who would be a better president, Dubya or the giant puppet maker. Almost everyone I've ever met, including the small children that i've babysat for would make better presidents than either. Surely there's some room for middle ground.
posted by goneill at 4:30 PM on December 2, 2003


With regards to power, all I have to say is dilute, dilute, dilute. Jonmc is probably right - if you took some random cabal of any group and made them president and cabinet for life, terrible things would, in all likelyhood, eventually come about. I believe that the concentration of and lust for power is one of the primary (though not the sole) reasons that communism failed. I also think it is the reason that our 'liberal democracy' as we so lovingly call it is similarly doomed for failure; the slide is slower because we're more economically stable, but once you start letting power accumulate unchecked, you're on a crash-course for a power hungry oligarchy. Those who don't want the power will refuse it, but those who do will hold on to it like crocodiles...

So if we want democracy, we have to dilute the power. Alexis de Tocqueville, when he came to America and wrote about our young democracy, most admired those places where the power of government was least centralized - the town-hall style government of small Massachusetts towns.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:52 PM on December 2, 2003


I'd like to compare the number of arrests made by the Miami Police Dept during FTAA protests with those made during the Elian Gonzalez fiasco. Back then, neighborhoods and major roadways were completely closed off. But that was a spontaneous protest against (ahem!) brutal acts of terrorism by that Castro-loving Janet Reno. Guess she should have sent money first.

I live in the Miami area, and before the the conference, the local news stations were featuring interviews with "wild anarchists". (Oh my GOD, Herb! Look at those tongue piercings!!) The Fear Factor was applied to the citizenry.

(To me, most of the kids in these interviews looked to be pretty fucked up and about as dangerous as the cashier at your local Barnes and Noble.)

Since then there has been virtually no coverage in the local news, minimal in the Miami Herald. Sad to say, but most people don't give a shit, as long as their commute to and from work isn't affected.
posted by groundhog at 6:07 PM on December 2, 2003


I was a mite overvociferous in my statements but my frustration is real and I imagine (perhaps correctly, perhaps not) that my frustration mirrors a lot of peoples. I find what happened in Miami deplorable and inexcusable but I'm also frustrated with the opposition.

For the record I lived in the Kendall section of Miami for about 2 years and it dosen't surprise me that this stuff occured. It's a very strange city.

This isn't waffling just honest confusion. I don't like the war in Iraq, but I also fear another 9/11 and I want the perpetrators of terrorism to pay for their misdeeds. I don't like the way the economic climate in this country is going but what's anybody suggesting as an alternative? socialism? communism? anarchism? No thanks. Talking to a lot of activists that I've met is almost like talking to religious converts. They're so absolutely sure that they're 100% right and consider you a fool or evil if you disagree. Believe me I've managed to piss of both Bush-ites and lefties when I've disagreed. Even though most of the time I can see why they hold their point of view. But I'm a man without a country. Poor me.

Plus a lot of the rhetoric from a lot of people I find downright offensive. I don't hate cops or the military, I'm not ashamed to be an American and I still like most of the people in this country, and when people make hateful statements about them it brings out my inner redneck. I say that just to let you know that the rhetoric is alienating more people than it attracts.
posted by jonmc at 7:13 PM on December 2, 2003


if every last human being with political aspirations of any kind was drowned like a rat, the world would be a much better place.

As trollish this comment is, it underscores one of the principals of Democracy. The great philosophers knew that humans would always have political aspirations and rather then suppress it, find ways to channel it. That is what Democracy is, an outlet for a natural human desire, in some people. It allows would-be dictators and kings to be Senators and Congressman for a while then step aside and let someone else take the throne.
posted by stbalbach at 7:35 PM on December 2, 2003


* checks recount totals, realizes he is still a politician, drowns *
posted by yhbc at 7:42 PM on December 2, 2003


Miami is one of the most violent crime ridden cities in the country. The police there are not the same as the police in Denver or San Diego or other less hardened communities. This has always been a factor in protests that is overlooked. If you go into a tough city, expect a tougher response. America is not the same all over.
posted by stbalbach at 7:44 PM on December 2, 2003


I don't like the way the economic climate in this country is going but what's anybody suggesting as an alternative? socialism? communism? anarchism? No thanks.

That's kind of like saying "I don't like vanilla, but the only alternatives are salmon and vodka". There are myriad opportunities economically for a recovery that would still be far from any of the extreme positions you quoted above. The Federal Budget and its defecit are out of control. Rectifying that situation would only be a sensible, not Stalinist solution.

Same with the war. Sure, there are people out there that have it in for us. But bombing the shit out of two countries and the ensuing shitstorm that has resulted from the latter probably shouldn't and doesn't make you (feel) any safer than we were before those happened. Not to mention their effects on the aforementioned economy.

There's a lot more grey area than most people realize. I may attempt to explain that area to those that don't see it (on both sides) but that doesn't mean they deserve this kind of treatment. Nobody does, whether they "desire" it or not.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:52 PM on December 2, 2003


stbalbach,

miami imported timoney.
posted by goneill at 7:54 PM on December 2, 2003


That's kinda what I meant by "strange" stbalbach. We moved there right before the Elian Gonzalez thing hit the fan. I remeber there was a period where they kept finding bodies in suitcases by the side of the highway. There was also a serial rapist who was areested about 2 blocks from where our apartment complex was. I also remeber the mayor being arrested for hitting his wife, and some maniac killing his wife and child and then running to the Masonic Temple and shooting himself.Plus undernaeth the touristy exterior everybody always seemed tense and amped up. Add in drugs floating ashore, a crappy economy, hot weather and a fuckload of racial tension and you've got a powderkeg. So the cops there are kinda..on edge you might say. I'm in New york and it seems bucolic by comparison.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 PM on December 2, 2003


I spent last night hanging around with a bunch of local guys in NYPD hoodies and American flag ballcaps, and I can assure you that they would hold the protest crowd in absolute contempt if they spared them a moments thought, and I have to say I have more respect for them

asshole.
posted by quonsar at 11:07 PM on December 2, 2003


oops. i was a mite overvociferous in my statement.
posted by quonsar at 11:24 PM on December 2, 2003


but my frustration is real.
posted by quonsar at 11:25 PM on December 2, 2003


LA Times password: laexaminer/laexaminer
posted by calwatch at 12:20 AM on December 3, 2003


The problem is that the left is so outraged that they have no useful way of turning this to their political advantage. Bush's reelection strategy is to provoke the left wing of the Democratic party into protests and angry statements, then use their anger against them as a justification for his policies.

If the Democrats want to get any mileage out of this, and if people genuinely oppose this type of police behavior, then they have to make it a pure civil liberties issue. Stop ranting about fascism, the war in Iraq, or even Bush, avoid demonizing police officers, and talk about freedom instead. If this thread is any indication, the opposition will not be able to overcome their emotions, and Karl Rove will win again.
posted by fuzz at 5:40 AM on December 3, 2003


"globalism bad! war bad!" and "wouldn't it be great if we all loved eachother (except those we don't like who need to be destroyed)"

Well said.

Protests shmotests.
posted by hama7 at 6:49 AM on December 3, 2003


fuzz - the Dems need to do focus group studies to determine specific words and approaches which attract voters. In 2000, GW Bush constantly used specific words which had been determined to have the most appeal for women.

Meanwhile, there are a few posts here I think are absurdly trollish, and laughable but more importantly - simple false.

"It's gotten to the point that at many of the large protests the police have to expect violence, because there's a lot of precedence that it's going to happen. I have nothing against the average non-violent protestors (although I'll admit, it's very tempting not to remove my foot from the gas pedal if they're in my way), but the scum that cause all the violence at some of the WTO meetings......" (piper28)

There was a minor amount of protestor violence in Seattle which mostly involved vandalism. The lions share of violence - resulting in ongoing lawsuits against the city alleging police brutality - happened, I have read, as the police realized that the sheer numbers and tactics of the nonviolent protestors rendered police control ineffective ; the cops panicked and resorted to violence to try and disperse the crowds blocking the smooth functioning of the (rather less than democratic) WTO talks.

The result was hundreds of injuries - mainly protestors, and I read one account of a pregnant woman who lost her baby from beating, or from a rubber bullet.

jonmc - I wonder how those Queens streetcorner guys would react if you said: "Yo - you hear about how cops were beating up all those weird hippies in Miami?" - "What were they protesting? - I don't have a clue. They're always protesting something - you know, rights for mutant gays whales, whatever"

VS....."Did you hear about how the cops were beating up people in Miami who were protesting that new trade act? John Sweeney from the United Steelworkers of America called for a congressional investigation, and Amnesty International said it was a humans rights violation. I'm not a protestor, but shouldn't they have the right to do it? What if I want to protest about something - like, you know, I'm going to get shot with rubber bullets and tear gassed for talking up in public? WTF ?"

Big difference there.


So your argumentative style on this post - "I'm a reasonable guy, but these ridiculous dirty hippies who go to these protests and are always waving bad communist propaganda put reasonable people like me off..... "

The tact is similar to piper28's - "I have nothing against the average non-violent protestors (although I'll admit, it's very tempting not to remove my foot from the gas pedal if they're in my way), but the scum that......" -TO REPHRASE THAT - "I'm a perfectly reasonable guy, even if I get the urge to hit the gas and drive through a crowd of protestors mowing down men, women, and children........" Well, I don't think that's a reasonable way to feel.

So - Jonmc - your tactic, which I see as 1) sketching out a distorted and incomplete caricature of protestors and completely denying that they have any reasonable views at all (you can find endless reasoned alternative positions if you bother to look. I'm startled you haven't seen any on the web. Do you need glasses, or a reading list? I'll be happy to make suggestions.) and 2) I'm a reasonable guy and all, but these ridiculous, childish protestors are putting me off !

Did you even read any of the links? United Steel Workers (at the protest in significant numbers, around 1200 or so, 10% or more of the total number of protestors) Pres. calling for a congressional investigation? Thousands of retirees at the demonstration ( even without the ones blocked from getting there by the cops )........

It's easy for you to (implicitly) justify police repression of protest by resorting to the "they're all a bunch of dirty, childish, crazy hippies, most of whom will be driving SUV's in ten years time" smear, so why don't you pick a fairer fight and do a character assassination on steel workers, union members in general, and retired americans?

Because those groups were at the protest in the greatest numbers. Or did you not notice?
posted by troutfishing at 7:36 AM on December 3, 2003


jonmc, I appreciate your clarification, and I share your frustration at the childish confrontationism of some leftists, but I wish you'd quit badmouthing all protestors. I was at the February mass protests, and I can assure you there were a lot of good, sensible people, folks you would have liked, even vets and blue-collar workers, who were just fed up with Bush's maniacal war-at-any-price strategy (who cares if Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11? I wanna invade Iraq!) and were exercising their constitutional right to protest. Since you weren't there, you might want to be a little less sure of your opinions of what it must have been like based on your bad experience with a few loudmouth lefties. There are bad apples in every barrel, but the ones who want to bomb other countries are a lot worse (in my opinion, and I hope yours) than the ones who chant dumb slogans and holler nasty things at cops.

However, I appreciate your warnings about Miami and will take care to avoid the place.
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on December 3, 2003


hama7 - ("globalism bad!...") weel....that's really not what a lot of protestors of the FTAA act are saying. They are objecting to specific provisions and agreement about how globalism (or free trade in the Americas) is to be implemented - as defined by the questions :

"Which groups have exerted the most influence and crafting trade agreements, and what groups or interests might these agreements benefit disproportionately?"

jonmc - I've heard that Miami is tense and violent, and I'm sure it's cops are especially edgy. But the tactics used against demonstrators there and the level of violence used against the FTAA protestors were not peculiar to the Miami protest (though they may have been more extreme than most).
posted by troutfishing at 11:51 AM on December 3, 2003


troutfishing, you haven't really responded to hama7. I've still got no idea what the protestors are trying to say, and your explanation doesn't mean anything to me. There's no point in protesting if you can't coherently articulate in one sentence what you are asking for. That inability to communicate coherently creates the political opportunity for the right-wing to move forcefully against the protestors.
posted by fuzz at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2003


That inability to communicate coherently creates the political opportunity for the right-wing to move forcefully against the protestors.

No, the "opportunity to move forcefully" against legal protestors is created when a nation loses its commitment to shared principles. It doesn't matter if they are protesting the lack of hot lesbian action on children's cartoon shows, it is not OK for cops to beat up innocent people.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2003




it is not OK for cops to beat up innocent people

Of course it's not OK. But if we can turn off the outrage for a moment, we can ask the more interesting questions: why are they going to get away with it, and what can be done to make it harder for them to get away with it?

They will get away with it because the protestors make it easy for the authorities to paint the victims as a bunch of violent, incoherent loonies. That's exactly the same reason that Janet Reno got away with the Branch Davidian assault.

Bush will profit from this the same way that Nixon profited from brutality against protestors in Chicago in 1968. Left-wing outrage actively helped the right to win the election back then. The protestors need to stop repeating the same mistakes, and pay careful attention to the messages they are communicating.
posted by fuzz at 4:55 PM on December 3, 2003


troutfishing: like I said in one of my later comments in this thread, I find the tactics used by the Miami police deplorable and inexcusable. My spleen (which I also admitted was a bit over the top) was basically frustratation at trying to map out a political position for myself in todays world. I have a lot of opinions some well informed, some perhaps not, some liberal, some conservative, and I'll admit that that in many political areas, I'm not that well educated.

Trouble is, it's hard to find political writing that is not in some way propoganda and many people who are very committed to causes tend to get very agitated when questioned. Political threads on MeFi are an example of this. It's all very frustrating for someone just rying to get a clear read on things. Or maybe I just have limited faculties. But anyway, that's what frustrates and turned me away from politics as a young man and continues to alienate me to this day.

There's a passage in the latest issue of the Beliver (an interview with David Foster Wallace, sadly not online) which addressses the issue of polarizing demonizing political writing.

My own opinion re polarization, FWIW: do I belive that GW Bush encourages this polarization? Yes. But I also believe that there are many people who will gladly take advatage of it. But hey, if anybody knows a place for someone like me in todays political spectrum, lemme know. It's my birthday, you've caught me in a good mood. Although I have to get a wisdom tooth pulled tommorow, so that may change.
posted by jonmc at 7:34 PM on December 3, 2003


Happy birthday, and just make sure they give you plenty of drugs tomorrow!
posted by languagehat at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2003


Regarding alternatives to "globalization:"

Most people on the street in "anti-globalization" protests really aren't protesting globalization as an abstract idea. Indeed, global issue-based groups are a de facto form of globalization. What they oppose is the fact that the discourse of development and globalization has been hijacked by transnational corporations for their own profit. Instead of IMF policy being determined based on how well it helps other countries, it's based on a combination of US Treasury power politics and economic orthodoxy with no real relation to the facts on the ground. IMF policy is designed to help maximize investor profit, and erodes social services which are vital for national development.

That said, I'm not exactly clear on why protest groups should be limited to those with a working knowledge of macroeconomics and development. Yeah, it would be nice if every member of every single group ever could espouse a rational, cogent worldview which matched those of his or her comrades, but this is the real world. Sometimes people know something is wrong but don't know how to fix it. As long as the response to "This is broken" remains "Yeah, but it's the only one we have," then there can be no substantive debate over what potential solutions would look like.

Also, the justice movement is not a homogenous, monolithic group. In fact, the whole point is to allow everyone in, and then use that wacky "marketplace of ideas" thingy to let the good ideas rise to the top. So one might reasonably expect there to be no single, coherent vision which is shared by all and sundry. This does not, however, make their critiques of top-down, corporation-led, profit-driven globalization hollow.

I think some people here are starting from the gut reaction of "dirty hippies" and working their way backwards to an argument.
posted by Coda at 2:51 PM on December 5, 2003


Coda - thanks for that comment. I was - somehow - too tired out by the thread to say something along those lines, but it was a very important thing to say and you said it extremely well - in my opinion.
posted by troutfishing at 8:26 PM on December 5, 2003


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