Friday, July 1, 2011

Hazy Shade of Criminal: Antisec, Police and the Media, or, "'Fuck the Police' Means 'Fuck the Police'"

This most recent, third (and, I hope not final) attack on DPS by Antisec has revealed that Arizona cops share racist jokes, endorse torture, cover up stalking in their upper ranks, worship American militarism, make light of lethal violence against migrants and regularly massage their public image through the development of PR campaigns with cutesy names like "Cops, Kids, and Christmas".

In addition, the leaked emails serve as a testament to their pathetically crippled senses of humor. In the errant communications, the traditionally far right police organizations find themselves dumbstruck by the fact that their steadfast and reliable support for the Republicans has been paid back in budget cuts and layoffs. And, though cops are not known for their highly developed sense of irony, at least some of those cops then boasting about securing their emails after the first attack must be appreciating a little bit of it now that their electronic boasts of infallibility are public record thanks to these persevering anarchist hackers. Pride before the fall, as they say.

Antisec replaced the front page of several police organizations with its press release and a video for the Public Enemy song "Hazy Shade of Criminal"

Past releases over the last couple weeks via Antisec and its predecessor, Lulzsec, have revealed similar content, including that state cops and Border Patrol were aware of armed US Marines patrolling the border on private contract for ranchers and that the Minutemen had contemplated shutting down a freeway as part of their anti-immigrant crusade. Likewise, captured internal anti-terrorism newsletters highlighted copwatch events and other clearly not terrorism related organizations and actions in their "upcoming events" section, reflecting the mission creep of policing in Arizona and the US by and large under the logic of the war on terrorism. At her always interesting website Censored News, Brenda Norrell has continued to provide excellent coverage of some of the highlights that have emerged. Because of that, I feel no need to go over the specifics of the emails. My interest in the Antisec attacks goes beyond just the details of piggy internet messaging.

Because, as is obvious from the data revealed, cops are pretty much cops. Despite the slack-jawed and gape-mouthed looks of shock and awe on the faces of the plastic TV news anchors, is anyone really surprised that cops are racist? Or that cops are a miltaristic bunch? That they cover up their crimes? Let's hope not. Least of all us at PCWC. In two past articles, "Officer Down: The Phoenix Media and Cop-Killings", and the follow-up piece, "Exhuming the State's Avenging Angels: Revisiting 'Officer Down' in Light of Recent Revelations About the Phoenix PD", I have previously written about the police as an institution and the way it is portrayed in the media.

The role of the police and the kinds of people that are recruited to do police work are so obvious to almost everyone in society that the entire propaganda apparatus of the state and capital gets enlisted in the hasty cover up work whenever the thin veneer of respectability threatens to wear off in the slightest. "Fuck the cops" remains one of the truly universal sentiments in American society that at the same time is completely unspeakable within mainstream "responsible" dialogue. The Mesa Fraternal Order of Police, its website a target for Antisec, has a facebook page with only 314 friends in a city with 440,000 residents. Surely an institution with deep support within the community could do much better than that! Hell, there are over 750 sworn officers in the department alone! Perhaps people remember the Mesa Fraternal Order of Police's staunch defense of its officers in the police murder of 15 year-old Mario Madrigal.

The lonely Mesa FOP has no internet friends!

It is common to hear the refrain, "People become cops because they were picked on in school", but we know that's not true. Cops become cops because they are bullies. Occasionally a well-meaning one may slip through, but they don't last long, and their road is an extremely difficult one marked by job stagnation and lack of promotion. Policing, like any other job but even moreso because of its relationship with power and its own criminality, demands fealty to the thin blue line. Loyalty over all else.

Now, in expressing what may seem like cynicism about the content released through Antisec's attacks on the cop computers, that is not to say that I oppose them. Quite the opposite. Unlike some in the alternative media, who question whether the right target was chosen, preferring an attack on Sheriff Joe and MCSO instead of DPS, or a hit on the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association over the Fraternal Order of Police, I'm quite content with the idea of hackers targeting the police generally, whatever organization. Though some may find it lacking, an attack on DPS has its own merits beyond their particular flaws as a law enforcement institution, and to understand that you neither have to forget that DPS will be enforcing SB1070 along with all other police in the state nor ignore that DPS was the subject not that long ago of a blistering report by the ACLU which pointed out deep and systematic racial disparities in vehicle stops and searches.

These welcome emails reveal among other things internal rivalries and things said behind others' backs. Careers could very well be in jeopardy. And, yes, as Antisec itself points out, the hacks turn the tables on the cops, making them feel the vulnerability we all suffer daily under their constant watch and often violent enforcement regime. Perhaps some cops will stop being cops. And police computers off line, with information and investigations compromised, means more freedom for those of us that suffer police oppression. Some will wring their hands if "criminals" escape prosecution because of these attacks, but not me, and not anyone who has experienced justice as delivered by the cops. We know the real villains, the ones who do the most damage, are the bosses, politicians, generals and cops of this world. Those interested in justice must first oppose the justice system.

It is precisely in the queries from the media and the responsive demands of DPS for increased spending on militarized information systems that we see the failure to understand the fundamental relationship of policed to police. Beefing up cyber-protections for the cops only makes their attacks on us, on the rest of society, more lethal! Note the rise in deaths at the hands of police that has followed the deployment of "less lethal" technologies as a point of comparison. When governments give the police more power, they do not use it less.

Any demand for security must first appreciate that the security of the cops comes at the expense of the security of the rest of us. Remember, more protections for police computers means we know less about what they are really thinking and doing. It means those racist emails don't come out. Consider for example the fact that the Tempe police had and perhaps still has kept tabs on individual anarchists, making notes about political affiliations on police reports drawn off police databases. This is what police security really means, and arguments for increased police powers to protect their information means at the same time power to protect this particular kind of information. Make no mistake about it, we at PCWC, like Antisoc, are anti-police. Their demand for "a world free from police, prisons and politicians altogether" rings true with us.

DPS: Cut backs in the mustache department.

Indeed, this lack of discrimination between police agencies hearkens back to the analysis issued by the Diné, O'odham, anarchist/anti-authoritarian bloc in January 2010. And the discussion around the Antisec attacks mirrors precisely that dynamic, of good cops and bad cops, which surrounded the events of that time. The Phoenix PD, even though their arrests result in more deportations than Sheriff Joe's MCSO, were held up as the good guys by leaders in the pro-migrant movement, even to the point of permitting police liasons in organizing meetings for the main liberal event, as they had been at marches before that. Taking this line let the sheriffs off the hook, allowing the PPD to do the day's dirty work, and thus the mainstream organizers were able to push for the further isolation of anti-capitalist and anti-state militants when the police attack came down. In framing their opposition to the MCSO in those terms, the leaders of the movement had become the racist PPD's biggest defenders.

As I pointed out before, this flawed view of police and policing echoes in the writings of movement sympathetic journalists who half-heartedly denounce Antisec's choice of targets. Consider Stephen Lemons' recent post on the subject in his New Times Blog, "The Feathered Bastard", practically lamenting what he sees as the so far squandered opportunity to hit what he considers legit targets, while at the same time offering up his own modified target list. Consider his comments on his most recent article: "[T]here are far worse police organizations in state to pick on than AZ DPS or the FOP. I mean, the FOP is no PLEA (Phoenix Law Enforcement Association), for instance. Everyone in this state knows that PLEA is an outright nativist, anti-Hispanic police union. By contrast, the FOP has a pretty good reputation. Similarly, DPS is no Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, with Hispanic-hunter Joe Arpaio as the jefe."

Offering up his correction, however, Lemons is quick to back off. He provides us this weak-kneed, wink and a nod disclaimer: "Of course, I'm not suggesting anyone hack anyone. Nor can I or would I condone such outrageous criminal activity." But will he read the emails? "Natch." He asks us, finally, "What's the point of going after cops who may just be doing their jobs?" Well, it turns out, that is precisely the point. It is the every day functioning of the police that is the problem, not the aberrations. And individual police do not escape this logic. Indeed, to the rare extent that they are not the state and capital's willing accomplices, they remain prisoners of this logic. They cannot be the "good cop". It is impossible.

But, perhaps, as Lemons suggests, Antisec is not familiar with Arizona politics enough to know the slight differences between our various racist police forces. Not knowing who they are, we naturally have little to go on. However, it's entirely possible that, as they say clearly in their own press release, they don't care. Maybe they are not interested in making distinctions between various kinds of racists and degrees of racism in Arizona police departments and organizations. After all, it took only the release of a handful of emails from just a few FOP members and DPS officers to reveal that laundry list I opened the article with, begging the question of what remains to be found. Does anyone really think that's all there is? If that sort of racism and worship of state and vigilante violence is acceptable enough to share via email with one's cop comrades, in broad daylight so to speak, what is too dangerous for it? What is said only behind the safety of the thin blue line?

Antisec is right not to split hairs when it comes to Arizona's myriad racist police. All of them, together and individually, are enemies of freedom, worshipers of authority and an obstacle to the demands of people for dignity and the ability to organize their own lives as they see fit. As we have seen in the past, the elevation of one cop gang over another does not protect from repression and police attack. So that means opposition to those institutions of repression must necessarily be anti-security, just as it is anti-police.

No comments: