“The State is based on threat.” – Robert Anton Wilson
“I was never molested by any person but those who represented the State.” – Henry David Thoreau
Every government demands immediate, unresisting obedience from every one of its subjects at every instant of every day. No, not every government gets such total submission, and not all of them expect it at all times, but they all demand it...and they have their ways of working toward it.
In the majority of cases, the key element of the government’s strategy is fear:
- Fear of the government’s agents;
- Fear of the opinions of other subjects;
- Fear of those from whom the government claims to “protect” us.
All three of those varieties of fear are being deployed here in the Land of the Formerly Free.
Concerning fear of the agents of the State, John Whitehead provides an example from the words of a generally decent man:
Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. [Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham]
Needless to say, the government is happy to have Reverend Graham’s assistance in cowing the public. Here’s a little self-exculpation for police wrongdoing from a Los Angeles cop:
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
...While most citizens are courteous and law abiding, the subset of people we generally interact with everyday are not the genteel types. You don’t know what is in my mind when I stop you. Did I just get a radio call of a shooting moments ago? Am I looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive? For you, this might be a “simple” traffic stop, for me each traffic stop is a potentially dangerous encounter. Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns. Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is.
Interpret that however you will.
Prosecutors’ offices are masters of the fine art of untraceable slander: spreading accusations about a targeted citizen that causes his neighbors and friends to view him unfavorably. Thus the second technique for cowing us comes into play: The willingness to believe an accusation from an “official” source.
Consider the number of recent cases of false accusations of rape. Rape is a particularly horrible crime; back when we were more civilized, it was punishable by death. Surely it’s an accusation no one should take – or make – lightly.
In March 2006, Crystal Gail Mangum, an African-American student at North Carolina Central University who worked as a stripper, dancer and escort, falsely accused three white students, members of the Duke Blue Devils men's lacrosse team, of raping her at a party held at the house of two of the team's captains in Durham, North Carolina, on March 13, 2006. Many people involved in, or commenting on the case, including prosecutor Michael "Mike" Nifong, either called the alleged assault a hate crime or suggested it might be one.
In response to the allegations Duke University suspended the lacrosse team for two games on March 28, 2006. On April 5, 2006, Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was forced to resign under threat by athletic director Joe Alleva and Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the remainder of the 2006 season. On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players – Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans – were victims of a "tragic rush to accuse." The initial prosecutor, Durham County, North Carolina District Attorney Michael Nifong, labeled a "rogue prosecutor" by Cooper, withdrew from the case in January 2007 after the North Carolina state Bar filed ethics charges against him. In June 2007, Nifong was disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation", making him the first prosecutor in North Carolina disbarred for trial conduct. Nifong served one day in jail for lying about sharing DNA tests (criminal contempt); the lab director said it was a misunderstanding and Nifong claimed it was due to weak memory. Mangum faced no charges for her false accusations as Cooper declined to prosecute her.
Cooper pointed to several inconsistencies in Mangum's accounts of the evening and Seligmann and Finnerty's alibi evidence, in the findings report's summary. The Durham Police Department came under fire for violating their own policies by allowing Nifong to act as the de facto head of the investigation; giving a suspect-only photo identification procedure to Mangum; pursuing the case despite vast discrepancies in notes taken by Investigator Benjamin Himan and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb; and distributing a poster presuming the guilt of the suspects shortly after the allegations. The ex-players are seeking unspecified damages and new criminal justice reform laws in a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the City of Durham. The case sparked varied responses from the media, faculty groups, students, the community, and others.
Tawana Glenda Brawley (born 1972) is an African-American woman from Wappingers Falls, New York, who gained notoriety in 1987–88 for falsely accusing six white men of having raped her. The charges received widespread national attention because of her age (15), the persons accused (including police officers and a prosecuting attorney), and the shocking state in which Brawley was found after the alleged rape (in a trash bag, with racial slurs written on her body and covered in feces). Brawley's accusations were given widespread media attention in part from the involvement of her advisers, including the Reverend Al Sharpton and attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason.
After hearing evidence, a grand jury concluded in October 1988 that Brawley had not been the victim of a forcible sexual assault and that she herself may have created the appearance of such an attack. The New York prosecutor whom Brawley had accused as one of her alleged assailants successfully sued Brawley and her three advisers for defamation.
That case made the odious Al Sharpton a national celebrity of the order (and variety) of Jesse Jackson.
If we can be induced to fear others, particularly those nearest to us, the more credulous among us will be more likely to look to the government for “protection.” The government is quite amenable to such developments. In fact, it strives to help them along:
Crime stats published by the FBI and relied upon by the media distort the gun violence and leave the public with the impression "mass shooting" incidents are a much bigger threat than they really are, according to a criminologist and Second Amendment scholar.
The bureau's annual reports tabulating and classifying a wide range of crime throughout the nation have been historically free of politics, but John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, said the latest statistics contain numbers that are misleading at best and deliberately fudged at worst. Lott believes the numbers may have been presented to overstate for political purposes the true risk of being a victim of random gun crimes.
“The FBI put out a clearly incorrect set of numbers on public shootings shortly before the November election last year,” said Lott, a frequent opinion writer for FoxNews.com and author of "More Guns, Less Crime." “I have been reading FBI reports for 30 years and I have never seen anything like this. It is one thing for the Bureau of Justice Statistics or the National Institute of Justice to put out politically biased studies, but there has always been a Chinese wall separating the FBI raw data collection from political pressures.”
About half of the population of the United States owns one or more firearms. The government is laboring mightily to make the other half suspicious of us. Fraudulent statistics that can be blared out by anti-gun-rights media organs make a major contribution to the government’s efforts. One need only look at the hysteria the state of Connecticut engendered after the Newtown massacre, or the comparable aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, to grasp the utility to the government of having our neighbors fear us.
One final thought before I close for today. The government’s efforts at cowing us have intensified greatly in the last few years. The reason might seem counter-intuitive: it’s a response to the upsurge in political activism by Americans unhappy with the direction the country has taken and determined to reverse its course. The government and its hangers-on could have adopted an attitude of conciliation, which will strike many a Gentle Reader as the more sensible approach. However, those in its driver’s seat find such an approach unpalatable, as it would imply a willingness to admit to errors and to make concessions, at least on conditions: an attitude any power-worshipper would deem anathema.
But if the government must struggle to make us fear, by implication we have little objective reason to fear. Indeed, we might be in far less danger – from anyone or anything – than we’ve long supposed. It suggests that our response to the government’s efforts should be to redouble our own.
“Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson