Hannah Arendt was a diligent and widely respected student of totalitarianism. It is not necessary to agree with all, or even most, of her assumptions and conclusions to appreciate the critical distinction she draws between power -- "the capacity to transform a living person into a corpse, which is to say, a thing," as Simone Weil put it -- and authority.
In a free society, power is used only to protect the persons, property, and rights of the innocent, and then only as a last resort after an appeal to authority fails.
The aspirational premise of the republic we have lost was that power would be transmuted into authority through the "consent of the governed," and that the authority thus conferred on governing institutions was revocable -- to the extent that the government itself could be altered or even abolished when necessary to protect individual rights.
It didn't work out that way. Given the history of the singular plague called government, this outcome was hardly surprising. The entire project begun by the Founders was based on the right to revoke consent -- a right they exercised in withdrawing from the British Empire. The exercise of that right is also known as "secession," and the entire point of the event commonly called the Civil War was to abolish that right through the exercise of State power in its most elemental sense: More than a half-million human beings were turned into the things called "corpses" not to free slaves from bondage, but rather to reconquer communities that had chosen to leave a supposedly free union.
Since 1865, as historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel has pointed out, there have been no permanent victories for individual liberty over power.
Today, the malign influence of the Regime ruling us contaminates practically every social institution, through “laws” regulating behavior, speech, and even individual attitudes.
And the behavior of the Regime's armed enforcers -- still called "Police," even though their behavior is now indistinguishable from that of an army of occupation -- is increasingly defined by Lenin's totalitarian formula of exercising "power without limit, resting directly on force.
Back in the Good Old Days, many law-and-order conservatives insisted that the chief domestic threat to liberty came from the efforts of Communist and other subversive groups to undermine the police. In the era of the federalized, militarized, monolithic Homeland Security State, the police themselves are the single most potent threat to individual liberty.
This is not necessarily because their ranks have been filled with degenerates, although the decline in recruiting and performance standards certainly plays a role in our predicament. Rather, it is because law enforcement at every level has embraced the power-centered worldview, in which the role of police is to ensure that people submit to the State.
A spectacular example of this has been captured by 20-year-old Brett Darrow. Last Friday, Darrow captured, on video, an arrogant, abusive, foul-mouthed, illiterate, cretinous, power-intoxicated simian by the name of Sgt. Kenline [actually, Kuehnlein -- see update and correction below] threatening to perjure himself to justify arresting the motorist -- simply because Darrow wasn't properly submissive to somebody wearing a State-issued costume.
"Try and talk back ... to me again," snarled Kenline, who took offense when Darrow politely and compliantly asked what violation justified his detention: Merely asking an agent of the State to justify such an action, you see, is grounds for arrest. And Kenline understands that he has the power -- not the authority, mind you, the power -- to commit acts of violence against Darrow to deprive him of his freedom, and then lie about the circumstances afterward.
"I bet I could say you resisted arrest or something," boasted the officer. "You want to come up with something? I come up with nine things.... You already start your f*****g problems with your attitude. Did we have a bad night boy? Huh? Answer me or I'll lock you up for failure to imply [sic] with a police officer's commands.... You want me to show you? You want me to lock you up to show you I'm right and you're wrong?.... You want me to show you the f*****g law."
Kenline's contrived objection was that Darrow failed to use a turn signal. As Darrow's video record documents, this was a lie: The driver had signaled properly. Kenline also claimed that Darrow had been "swerving back and forth within the roadway" -- another documented lie. Without the video record, Kenline's lies would have held up in court, since -- in defiance of Common Law principles and common sense -- the uncorroborated word of a police officer is considered self-ratifying in court.
Darrow behaved with commendable composure during this entire ordeal, and was released after a few minutes -- and following a nauseatingly paternalistic lecture from a uniformed goon who badly needs to get his back dirty. As Darrow comments, "Looking into this guy's eyes, he was crazy. I was really scared he was going to assault me. I just wonder how many other people have been arrested on these charges
In what passes for Sgt. Kenline's mind, he doesn't need the authority of the law, because as someone exercising power, he is the law. (Go here for a video and transcript of the encounter.)
This isn't the first time Darrow (who is a hero in the cause of civil liberties, but who needs to be a bit more judicious if he wants to avoid becoming a martyr) has experienced and documented the totalitarian mindset that increasingly typifies the police.
The power to treat others as objects inevitably gives rise to sadism. Those who work in law enforcement are hardly immune to this tendency; indeed, there's reason to believe that this profession selects for that personality type.
Witness the comments of a Multnomah, Oregon Sheriff's Deputy (brought to my attention by Radley Balko) who described the sensual thrill he experiences when killing a suspect, or subjecting him to electric torture through the use of a Taser: “Seeing someone get Tasered is second only to pulling the trigger. That is money – puts a smile on your face.”
There are other perks to be enjoyed, apart from sending hot lead or 50,000 volts into a human body.
Didn't like your hamburger? If you're wearing a State-issued costume, you can arrest the short-order cook on a fabricated charge of "reckless conduct."
That's what happened to 20-year-old Kendra Bull of Union City, Georgia, who spent a night in jail and was bailed out on $1,000 bond because an officious pr*ck in uniform wasn't smart enough to complain about his hamburger after the first bite.
(Thanks to The Smoking Gun, we know that the soon-to-be-changed home phone number of Wendell Adams, the aforementioned officious pr*ck in a uniform, is 770-964-1333. Why don't you give the guy a call. Be polite, if that suits you.)
Can't keep track of your money or count your change correctly? If you're a cop, you can throw a conniption fit, assault and pepper-spray the young woman working at the register, and drag her away to jail on fraudulent charges:
The assailant in this video, a rented thug from Dayton Ohio named Michael McDonald (no, not that Michael McDonald), "was cleared of all wrongdoing." Although the city touched up the taxpayers to buy off McDonald's victim, the officer apparently behaved according to department policy.
Don't they all?
Sgt. James Kuehnlein, the foul-mouthed bully in uniform whose demented rant was captured on video by Brett Darrow, has been put on unpaid suspension after Police Chief Scott Uhrig received hundreds of outraged phone calls.
After reviewing the video, Chief Uhrig said "the officer acted inappropriately when he threatened to make up charges, and used a disrespectful tone and inappropriate language," reported STLtoday.com.
"We don't do that," Uhrig said. "Someone either violated the law or they didn't. You don't say, I'll lock you up and then come up with why afterward."
Chief Uhrig is describing the proper conduct and demeanor of a peace officer, as understood a generation ago. Sgt. Kuehnlein modeled the tactics and behavior of the contemporary Homeland Security thug. It is Kuehnlein, not Uhrig (who -- despite his criticism of the abusive cop -- still made a point of questioning Darrow's motives) who represents the wave of the future.
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