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Police State Gadgets and the Technology of Enslavement
by James Corbett
10 January, 2012
The popular conception of the police state, derived mainly from works of science fiction, revolves heavily around the deployment of exotic technologies for keeping the populace firmly under the thumb of an authoritarian government.
Winston Smith and the characters of 1984 were surveilled by the omnipresent telescreens. The inhabitants of the Brave New World were controlled by their government-administered soma drugs and hypnopædia indoctrination. Enemy of the State introduced the viewer to worldwide telephone and satellite surveillance. Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report had its robotic tracking bugs. And all manner of science-fiction has featured pain devices and bracelets that cause the protagonist to double over in pain at the click of a button.
Perhaps it is the frequency with which these devices are presented to us in fictionalized form that prevents many from noticing that this technology is not the stuff of sci-fi fantasy, but increasingly a part of our everyday lives.
One worrying aspect of the development of this technology is the way it has been phased into everyday life in stages, so that no particular device seems like the dawning of an era of techno-dictatorship.
This applies especially to the technology of pain compliance in policing and law enforcement.
Since the days when a billy club and handcuffs were the policeman’s most sophisticated technology, techniques such as headlocks, chokeholds and even the breaking of bones have been used to force unwilling citizens into compliance. But the modern era of policing began with the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, appointed by President Johnson in the wake of the 1967 race riots to discover what could be done to maintain public order.
In addition to recommending greater police surveillance as a solution to the riots and laying the foundations for what later became Operation Garden Plot—the US Government’s early plan for implementing martial law and rounding up dissenting Americans—the commission, headed by Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. of Illinois, called for the development of a new arsenal of “nonlethal” weapons to aid law enforcement in subduing unruly rioters.
According to the report, “Weapons which are designed to destroy, not to control, have no place in densely populated urban communities.”
Within a year of the release of the commission’s findings, Jack Cover, a NASA researcher, began development on the taser, which was completed in 1974, although not widely adopted by police departments until the last decade.
Since its inception as a standard police implement the taser has courted controversy, with critics blaming the weapon for as many as 515 American deaths since 2001. It has also been denounced by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, Amnesty International, and other organizations as a potential weapon of terror.
But the Taser manufacturer insists that the device is a safe and effective tool for law enforcement. Taser CEO Rick Smith has claimed that the taser has in fact been responsible for saving 75,000 lives, and Taser chairman Tom Smith insists: “With the Taser, the intent is not to inflict pain; it’s to end the confrontation. When it’s over, it’s over.”
Now, the use of tasers is being considered in other settings, including airplanes, where it is now being proposed that all passengers be fitted with electronic taser bracelets capable of delivering incapacitating electric shocks to passengers suspected of being highjackers.
This development, as much as it may seem like science-fiction fantasy at first glance, will come as no surprise to those who have long recognized that airports are fast becoming the front line of the police state, a testing ground for new police state technology and invasive, humiliating searches, all done in the name of passenger safety.
Perhaps the most terrifying prospect in the rise of this police state is not merely that the police, TSA, and law enforcement agents the government employs to implement these measures are not adequately trained on the issues at stake, or the proper deployment of the technologies they are using, but that they are being actively recruited and encouraged be as aggressive as possible in dealing with the public and aided in doing so by the federal government, the courts, and the upper ranks of their own departments.
In 2000, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it acceptable for police departments to discriminate against potential recruits for having too high of an IQ.
In 2005, records were revealed showing that the Army was increasingly granting waivers to ex-convicts in order to meet recruiting quotas.
In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General announced a probe into the TSA’s hiring practice after it was found that dozens of their screeners had criminal records. Yet in 2010, the issue had still not been resolved, with no clear answers as to how the DHS had amended its hiring practices, if at all, and whether or not rapists and felons were still in charge of delivering the TSA’s new invasive patdowns.
After recruitment, police, firefighters, military, TSA and others are subjected to internal propaganda demonizing all sorts of everyday actions as potential terrorist threats and even portraying the founding fathers of the US as terrorists themselves.
As horrifying as this might be, there is the tendency to portray these developments as a nightmare; something that is happening around us over which we as individuals have no control.
And yet, it is our tax dollars that fund the development of this technology.
It is our votes that elect the officials who hand this technology to the police, the TSA, the NSA, the National Guard and all of the other agencies that, divided, make up the compartmentalized pieces of this control grid.
And it is our compliance that allows this state to function.
All it requires is for enough citizens to become informed, educated and mobilized for the police state to be halted in its tracks.