Saturday, January 03, 2015

On The Blue Revolt

The NYPD’s mini-rebellion, and the true face of American fascism -

...I’m not the first person to observe that the New York police unions’ current mini-rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio carries anti-democratic undertones, and even a faint odor of right-wing coup. Indeed, it feels like an early chapter in a contemporary rewrite of “It Can’t Happen Here”: Police in the nation’s largest city openly disrespect and defy an elected reformist mayor, inspiring a nationwide wave of support from “true patriots” eager to take their country back from the dubious alien forces who have degraded and desecrated it. However you read the proximate issues between the cops and de Blasio (some of which are New York-specific), the police protest rests on the same philosophical foundation as the fascist movement in Lewis’ novel. Indeed, it’s a constant undercurrent in American political life, one that surfaced most recently in the Tea Party rebellion of 2010, and is closely related to the disorder famously anatomized by Richard Hofstadter in his 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

There’s no doubt that the NYPD crisis has disturbing implications on various levels. Amid a national discussion about police tactics and strategy, and the understandable grief following the murders of two NYPD officers, it amounts to a vigorous ideological counterattack. In effect, many cops (or at least their more intransigent leaders) want to assert that law enforcement is a quasi-sacred social institution, one that stands outside the law and is independent of democratic oversight. Sometimes this is taken to ludicrous and literal-minded extremes, as in a recent column by Michael Goodwin of the New York Post celebrating the NYPD and the United States military as “Our angels in a time of danger and cynicism.” (Without realizing it, Goodwin was buttressing the conclusions of James Fallows’ must-read Atlantic article about the way American society has become disconnected from the military and sanctified it at the same time.) As Salon columnist and veteran New York reporter Jim Sleeper has noted, this tendency also makes clear how little the tribal, insular culture of big-city policing has changed, even in an era of far greater diversity...

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