The United States has propagated its militarized “anti-crime/anti-terrorism” strategy all over the globe. After decades of often-deadly police brutality, periods of extreme political violence, repression and civil wars, and billions of dollars of US “security” funding, training and equipment to essentially every country in the region, rather than becoming safer, the Americas – the United States and its “back yard” – have become the most violent region in the world.
Considering how the US treats its own citizens – spying on them en masse, imprisoning them at higher rates than any other country in the world, executing them in grotesque and inhumane ways, killing children with missiles for not having “a more responsible father,” employing extreme tactics to quell political dissent including sabotage and physical intimidation, jailing journalists and government whistleblowers, ruining their lives and forcing them into exile, etc. – is it any wonder that the military, police and intelligence forces of our allies and partners like Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Colombia, and Honduras to name just a few, also commit similar and often worse abuses of civil and human rights?
Hopefully, social media can continue to increase the visibility of the impact that systemic discrimination and militarized policing and intelligence tactics have on various communities in this country and around the world, or even better, build the momentum necessary to achieve substantive policy changes. For example, the World Cup briefly provided a news hook for stories about state-sponsored violence in the favelas of Brazil. However, the government was so successful in stamping out activism in the streets that many citizens were force to retreat and take their fight to the internet.
Many favela residents saying they feel more unsafe with the police in the favela than when there was none #SOSComplexoDoAlemao
— Nicole Froio (@NicoleFroio) July 31, 2014
Incidentally, the FBI, LAPD and Chicago Police, all of which have extensive histories of impunity for the use of excessive violence, were involved in Brazil’s World Cup security preparations. The list of similar examples is too long to put down in one place. More humane models of policing and criminal justice are practiced in some places in Europe, and some Latin American countries have begun to reject the US “Drug War” paradigm, but as long as the arms and money keep flowing within the US and without, the incentive structure necessary to sustain the multi-national military-prison-industrial complex will remain.
We spend trillions of dollars for war and to wage violence thousands of miles away, and we’ve become anesthetized to the violence of war against millions of innocent women, children and men abroad. It’s no wonder that we’re grappling with how best to deal with domestic violence. Imagine if we took a fraction of the trillions of dollars we spent for war and used it to deal with directly the root causes of domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, violence in the school, gang violence, gun violence, racial violence, violence against immigrants, violence against gays. I mean, if we did that and looked at the root causes, we wouldn’t even be arguing about spending money for war. We need to look at the issue of violence in America, and do it in a consistent, comprehensive way.
Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and now Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO. These are only some of the names that some of us might remember a few months or years from now. Still, the names of so many other victims of systemic discrimination and violence in this country and elsewhere are quickly forgotten or go wholly unreported. The voices of the communities subjected to continual harassment and criminalization by law enforcement and judicial systems often go largely unheard.
As one Twitter user noted, “Please note Twitter had the #Ferguson story BEFORE ALL national news outlets…” This is true. The Trayvon Martin case was another instance of social media generating momentum that translated into broader coverage and awareness. The story even received international media attention.
Yet, all of the structures that incentivize and enable that systemic violence are still in place and social media sites like Twitter can’t, by themselves, affect political change. At the same time, they can be a platform for promoting awareness, a tool for driving media coverage and even (sometimes) a forum for constructive discussion and debate.
Also, discussions and debates on social media can play an important role in shaping public discourse and encouraging online and real-life activism. Many examples of this can be found in the recent international outpouring of opposition to Israel’s assault and invasion in the Gaza Strip and related issues.
So, in light of recent events, below are just a couple of tweets I patched together related to the Mike Brown incident. The first one links to a piece by Natasha Lennard at Vice, which she ends by writing, “The fight for justice is a fight against the police.” While I agree with the sentiment of her article, I disagree with the rhetoric. The fight isn’t against the police. The fight is for a better society – one in which state security apparatus actually “protect and serve” communities instead of abusing and terrorizing them.
(These are screenshots. The whole Storify with live links is here: https://storify.com/mikelasusa/police-violence.html)
Again, the original thread can be found here: https://storify.com/mikelasusa/police-violence.html