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When society is militarized

Many expect the authorities to provide a safe society, where there is no need to fear dangers, new enemies and refugees. But are we able to see the consequences of the authorities' political "sneaking" of more control?


Many expect the authorities to provide a safe society where there is no need to fear dangers, new enemies and refugees. But are we able to see the consequences of the authorities' political "sneaking" of more control – similar to the one we see in several countries where police are militarized and where big cities introduce "zero tolerance" for small misdemeanors? And do we understand what happens when our government argues for arming the police? Despite the Storting's earlier rejection of permanently armed police, there was nevertheless a breakthrough in June this year for so-called bullet arming in "vulnerable areas", where the police should be able to have weapons hanging in the belt. Our government is apparently also aware that crime statistics improve when introducing zero tolerance.

My point is the kind of mood that prevails. Or which one voted (a concept from Heidegger, to be unanimous or opposed to something) that represents the mentality of our time where dogmas and norms adhere – so that they are ideologically and morally rooted in values. 

With ever-increasing demands on security, one is turning to available technology and police practices that exist elsewhere in the world. Thus, this governmentality is accepted by the majority of the population – and the consequence is that this becomes acceptable. 

For example, the US police force and the authorities go to Israel to learn. And Israeli military experts are training U.S. police in the United States. They have good training in dealing with Palestinian demonstrations, and carry out extensive (border) control in the occupied territories. Thus, larger police raids at civilian demonstrations in the United States may remind of war zones, where protesters are met by armored vehicles, helmets, shields and weapons. As in Israel, no distinction is made between police and military.

The police are militarized

You will find a number of examples of such militarization and increased police brutality in the book The End of Policing (Verso, 2015). 

Right now, the city of Durham in North Carolina – the first city in the United States – decided to oppose this development. According to Al-Jazeera, their authorities now oppose "international exchange with any country where Durham police officers should receive military-like training." The city with a quarter of a million residents is aware of how such police brutality has gone beyond areas of many color. The decision prevented their new chief of police Cerelyn Davis – who earlier, when she was Atlanta's chief of police, was in charge of exchanges with Israel – to "militarize" police in the city where prestigious Duke University is located (and where Toril Moi works). 

You shoot first and maybe ask then.

The political protest in Durham came from movements like Demilitarize from Durham2Palestine and The Jewish Voice for Peace. The latter recently wrote a column with the statement: "As Jewish people, we oppose Israel's detention and persecution of Palestinian children, such as Ahed Tamimi." (See New Time in April). On the other hand, in the United States we have The Anti-Defamation League – a pro-Israel American-Jewish organization – which is behind the sponsorship of both federal, local police and executive agencies for training with Israeli police, intelligence and the military – 15 professionals from a dozen American cities have crossed the Atlantic in recent years. 

Alex Vitale – the author of the said The End of Policing – Al-Jazeera also recently told that the militarization of the US police is not new – but goes all the way back to the 70's "war on drugs", and now "war on terror". He adds: "Israel is creating a dynamic that normalizes counterinsurgence." Israeli instructors have extensive experience in protecting settlements and conducting harassing border controls. They probably have something to teach when it comes to racist treatment of poor people of color in the United States.

But what about the United States – the country with blatant "western attitudes" and the world's most crowded prisons – spreading this mentality to a small country like Norway? The militarization here at home is increasing with US soldiers constantly increasing the presence on bases in Norway. In addition, Norway, with its NATO membership, will have to provide the entire 24 aircraft of the type F35 purchased which will be in high readiness. This is twice the amount previously decided by the Storting, and four times what Norway proposed in Libya – with the consequences of the invasion. 

zero tolerance

A parallel to this is the police's new opportunities for social control. Police in some of America's major cities are tackling every single wrongdoing or offense. Behind the "zero tolerance" lies the theory of broken windows from 1982 (Kelling / Wilson): A shattered window in the neighborhood is helping to create decay, where neglect and incitement to petty crime are apparently increasing – the point is that such environments make the road shorter for major crimes. The police therefore hand out a lot of fines, stop and search people and show that they are careful, where they walk around with suspicious eyes. They remove people, arrest crowds of protesters and nurture fundraisers and improvement agencies. Then all the graffiti will be gone. No one should urinate in the bushes, sell tax-free cigarettes or throw away garbage. I even remember this, as a student in New York in the early nineties, in Washington Square. The result was gentrification, increased house prices and less diversity. 

Let me add a statement by Robert GB Kelley in The End of Policing: "Our militarized culture places police and soldiers on pedestals and mentions their actions as security or self-defense [...] unarmed shootings by police are referred to as assailants." The new culture and mentality is thus providing huge fines for loud music, real estate,
violations, zag pants, expired driver's licenses, missing mowing, disturbance of order, and arrest warrant for anyone walking in the middle of the street. Those who protest excessive control show anger, apparent pain or the opposite, or are euphoric, suspected of being "perpetrators." According to Kelley, this is a form of racial taxation, where the state "takes out a financial surplus without producing anything but discipline and terror and reproduces itself."

In Los Angeles, 700 is awarded by the 800 million that the city donates to the homeless, in fact to the police. Instead of spending resources on social assistance, security and policing dominate budgets. The mentality is to automatically allow citizens of "wrong" color as suspects, which may be reminiscent of the thinking behind drone use, where they "take out" suspects who may become terrorists in the future. You shoot first and maybe ask then.

In Los Angeles, 700 is awarded by the 800 million that the city donates to the homeless, in fact to the police.

An armed police also leads to meaningless killings. For example, one can read in The End of Policing about the deaf man who grabs the pack of smoke where he goes, without having seen or heard the policeman shouting, only to be shot in the back and killed. An overly "triggerhappy" police force has created reactions and American counter-movements: Hands Up United, Lost Voices, Organization for Black Struggle, Don't Shoot Coalition, Millennial Activist United, Dream Defenders, We Charge Genocide, Community Rights Campain – and most stand behind the banner black live mats. span class = "Apple-converted-space"> 

And what about the mental enemy image of Muslims created? New York's well-known Muslim Surveillance Program was established in 2002, but ten years later, the program's director, Thomas P. Galati, admitted that this did not produce any results. Well, according to The End of Policing er every tenth person in New York is an American Muslim. The requirement for security meant keeping track of the number of beans they made daily, what restaurants they went to, what pizza they ate, and what they scraped for after the prayer. 

What are we talking about? With up to half a million annual personal searches in New York conducted by the NYPD a few years back, the police found only firearms in around 0,2 percent of cases! 

Cementing of legitimacy

Will Norway, with a growing bourgeois welfare state, be able to follow similar patterns in the future? Today, the majority nods in favor of more security, the city's concrete flower boxes and strict border control. Let me therefore conclude with what the philosopher Antonio Gramsci once made clear – that common sense ("Common sense") is not the same as a thorough, good sense. As he explains, "common sense" is largely a product of something thoughtless and generalized, while thorough thinking requires critical and sharp thinking. The former promotes a relatively groundless popular legitimacy, "the perception of the world is critically absorbed", in which a connection to the ideology prevailing at any given time is cemented. 

Maybe something to think about when the government opens the doors to the great NATO exercise this fall?

Also read: We spoke with Home Guard soldiers who participated in Trident Juncture: - There is no contradiction between the peace movement, the Home Defense or the Defense

Truls Lie
Truls Liehttp: /
Editor-in-chief in MODERN TIMES. See previous articles by Lie i Le Monde diplomatique (2003–2013) and Morgenbladet (1993-2003) See also part video work by Lie here.

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