The Expanding Colony

I owe you an update to the fundraiser, but alas I instead got addicted to watching Twitter feeds for protest info. So let’s do this instead.

The thesis of Chris Hayes’ last book was that there were two police systems in the USA: that of “The Nation,” which behaves much as you’d expect, and that of “The Colony,” which is aimed at subjugating a subset of the populace through terror and pain. Citizens of “The Nation” don’t usually see what citizens of “The Colony” see, those visions are hidden both by design and a willful blindness. In the USA, for instance, police killed 1,028 people in the last year. Most are never heard of, like Steven Taylor or Breonna Taylor, both because of the sheer number of times it happens and because we’re taught to think of these deaths as “justified.” Aggressively swing a baseball bat in a Wal-Mart? That justifies the death penalty, without trial. Suspected of having drugs and next to someone firing at the police? Death penalty, no trial. Citizens of The Nation grasp what’s happening on an intuitive level, but because they rarely face reality this knowledge is allowed to slip to the back of their minds.

Every once in a while, though, The Nation gets a glimpse of what The Colony has to live with. Being forced to confront reality can lead to changes, but often those changes are incremental or incomplete, and The Nation comes up with excuses to turn its head away again. Looting and rioting? How dare these villains break the law! If only they followed the example of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking. But most of all, alienated from society and knowing that this society cherishes property above people, he is shocking it by abusing property rights. There are thus elements of emotional catharsis in the violent act. This may explain why most cities in which riots have occurred have not had a repetition, even though the causative conditions remain. It is also noteworthy that the amount of physical harm done to white people other than police is infinitesimal and in Detroit whites and Negroes looted in unity.

[…] The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them but do not make them any more than a prisoner makes a prison. Let us say boldly that if the violations of law by the white man in the slums over the years were calculated and compared with the law-breaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would be the white man.

Oh whoops, that’s The Colony’s view of MLK Jr. My bad!

I have a dream – that all of us will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.

The Nation’s view of MLK Jr. has been whitewashed so much that he’s now on The Nation’s side. He’s reduced to a talking point, used to justify and apologize for the injustice against The Colony. This is but one convenient fiction pulled out to soothe The Nation back into slumber.

What happens, though, when The Nation doesn’t just glimpse what The Colony sees, but starts to experience it?

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

That’s General James Mattis, breaking his silence to express his outrage at Trump’s bizarre photo-op. This statement is a big deal, because Mattis is very much a citizen of The Nation.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics. […] Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

How does a patriotic US soldier have no idea what’s in the US constitution, let alone the failures of Reconstruction? Or check out this emotional monologue from a DC resident. It’s very moving, but when he started talking about the helicopters I wondered if he’d ever heard of the MOVE bombing. The bits about rioting and police shootings further expose him as someone from The Nation. Nonetheless, see these for what they are: citizens of The Nation are watching their peers treated like citizens of The Colony.

All that rhetoric about “triggering the libs” and “special snowflakes” has expanded the size of The Colony in some parts of The Nation, making it permissible to use terror and violence against those new members. This is obviously shocking to those people who thought they were part of The Nation, but this expansion has also not been universally agreed on the parts of The Nation outside it. At the same time, this expansion now means The Colony is a much larger threat to The Nation.

You can see this quite clearly in New York City. The police are in a state of panic over this uprising by The Colony, and that fear is being fanned by a police union president and endorsed by the current Mayor. How else to explain demanding the car keys from someone who dared honk in support of the protesters? How else to explain the rush on peaceful protestors? Their panicked attempts at quelling The Colony lead to them making stupid mistakes that encourage violence, and at least on a subconscious level that’s the desired end result; witnessing violence confirms their view of The Colony as a dangerous mob that needs to be subjugated and tamed, and justifies their disproportionate violence back.

The same forces are in play in Washington, DC. This article should be getting a lot more attention.

Just a few hundred feet north of the White House on Wednesday afternoon, armed agents of the federal government, dressed in a patchwork of colors and protective gear, stared down peaceful protesters demonstrating for Black lives. Yet what was perhaps most alarming was what was not visible on many of the officers: any insignia revealing their identity or even the name of the agency they work for. […]

A senior Justice Department official credited Barr with the idea of bringing in federal prison corrections officers, calling it an example of Barr’s “outside the box” thinking. “He brought those people in,” the official said, because dealing with riots is “exactly what they do best.”

The senior Justice Department official confirmed that the prison bureau officers were stationed near the White House, though the BOP [Bureau of Prisons] declined to verify whether the armed men photographed facing off with peaceful demonstrators Wednesday did, in fact, work for BOP. […]

Many of these Justice Department components, especially the BOP, have opaque internal affairs systems that don’t hold federal law enforcement officers accountable even in normal circumstances. But Bromwich said he has never seen a situation in which large numbers of law enforcement personnel haven’t been identifiable by name or even by agency. “I don’t know if there’s any historical precedent for that.”

The authorities in DC sound like they’re under siege from a foreign enemy, hence why the Drug Enforcement Agency is now able to conduct covert surveillance of protestors and prosecute non-drug crimes, the FBI is asking protestors if they oppose fascism, troops are being delivered via tour buses, and Trump’s built a wall around the White House.

This freakout about The Colony has led to all sorts of attempts to justify the increased use of violence. Authorities were given no choice by the protestors, drug traffickers were present, mind control was used to stage a false-flag event, George Floyd was no angel and therefore deserved the death penalty, or if all else fails, authorities just ignore or outright lie about what happened.

I’m falling victim to calling them protestors, a lot of them are violent looters, lawless criminals at this point…who are their parents…contrast it to what MLK Jr. did. Is there an articulate person among the group…” asks Rep. Thomas Massie

If there’s something different about this moment than prior ones, it’s this expansion of The Colony. The longer The Nation is forced to reconcile this panic attack about part of itself against what protestors are actually doing in the streets, the more changes will result. There’s already been a few quite positive developments, though it’s much too early to suss out how permanent they’ll be.