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Sensationalism!

David Graeber, on police response (preemption) of mass action in the states:

Some police officials have become notorious among activists for their Gothic imaginations. Timoney, the former Philadelphia police chief who took over Miami’s department before last fall’s protests, is fond of peppering his press conferences with stories of activists caught planning to release poisonous snakes and reptiles among the citizenry, officers hospitalized because of acid attacks and activists assaulting his troops with a variety of bodily fluids. Such charges invariably make splashy headlines at the time, only to be later exposed as false or fade away for lack of evidence. Timoney has also become notorious for brutal tactics: In Miami his men opened fire on activists with an array of wooden, rubber and plastic bullets, tazer guns, concussion grenades and a variety of chemical weapons.Despite calls from groups ranging from the United Steelworkers to Amnesty International for an investigation, Timoney continues to be hired as a security consultant for major protests and appears on television frequently as an expert on protest movements.

Probably one of the police’s purposes is simply to rally the troops. As commanders discovered in Seattle, police often feel a little uncomfortable about orders to conduct a baton charge against a group of unarmed 16-year-old girls. A deeper reason, though, may have been a perceived need to address a crisis in public perception. To the frustration of high-level officials who were finding their meetings regularly ruined by acts of civil disobedience, the American public largely refused to see the global justice movement as a menace to society. True, the media tried to create hysteria over a few broken windows, but to surprisingly little effect. The question then became, What would it take to cast protesters in the role of the villain? The answer appears to have been a calculated campaign of symbolic warfare: Remove the images of colorful floats and puppets; replace them with images of bombs and hydrochloric acid. And if it has worked — which seems to be the case, considering the public’s relative indifference to police destruction of protest art and banners in Philadelphia, or to the extraordinary pre-emptive violence in Miami — it is because on matters of public security, it rarely occurs to most Americans that so many of the officials charged with protecting them could be intentionally, systematically lying.

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