October 3, 2021
From Anarchist News
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by Anonymous

The reaction in the UK to the murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old white woman, by Wayne Couzens, an off-duty specialist-firearms cop, has shown the usual mixture of lightning-rod rage and Spectacular media-trance. Anarchists have quickly suggested that people like Couzens are all over the police, that the police as a whole are the problem. Yet the police themselves quickly arrested Couzens and the courts convicted him – virtually unknown in Britain in cases of police murder. The main new information which has been released after the trial is that this was carried out as a bogus arrest. Sarah Everard was breaking lockdown, and submitted to handcuffing, believing she was being arrested – at which point, she lost any chance to fight or flee. The case is horrifying, as people (especially white women) become suddenly aware that police might kidnap them off the street for purposes of rape and murder. Likely the number of people resisting, fleeing or arguing an arrest will increase greatly, just at the time such “offences” are being more severely criminalised.

The impact has been progressive in the sense that it has discredited the police, made white women warier about police powers, and contributed to the lifting of a protest ban during the most recent lockdown. There have been two main types of reaction: the conservative-moralist response, in which Couzens himself is an evil individual and the death penalty should be brought back, or where calls are made for harsher punishing of exhibitionism; and the identity-politics response, in which the main “lesson” is that police suffer institutionalised misogyny which is rectified by political correctness training and by arresting more men for sexist behaviour. Both these responses help maintain and strengthen the institution of the police, just when it is most threatened.

In fact this case draws attention to the real nature of arrest. If a gang was to grab someone from the street, forcibly restrain them, take them to a safe-house and hold them for several days, this would be termed a kidnapping – a serious offence. If anarchists or other political actors did the same, it would probably be described, even more sensationally, as a hostage taking. In their everyday uses, these terms carry connotations that the victim will suffer considerable trauma, and that there is serious additional risk of beatings, torture, rape, and murder. But people turn a blind eye when this is done, hundreds of thousands of times, by police. “Arrest” is today normalised to a point where a different word is used, and treated discursively as a very minor thing. This partly stems from a cultural assumption (accurate at least for middle-class, white, minor offenders, and in the letter of the law) that arrested people will not be murdered, raped or tortured. (Beatings and psychological abuse seem to be tolerated, but only against hated outgroups). However, for all but the most serious crimes, we are already dealing with a greater evil. If policing is meant to be a lesser evil, then it is noticeable that arrest/kidnapping is often used in cases of far less serious offences, which carry much lighter sentences than kidnapping itself.

Cases appear periodically in which a person subject to arrest, or reacting to a situation of harassment, uses (or attempts) lethal force against a cop. In the media, these cases are paraded as evidence of the horrors police are subjected to when “just going about their work”, and as inexplicable events which are put down to hatred and evil. However, a traumatised person expecting life-ruination or death at the hands of police will react in panic and desperation to what they experience as a life-threatening situation. Even when the victim of police harassment merely argues, or fights non-lethally, or runs away, there is often outcry: everyone buys into the police account where this makes them a fair target for sadistic abuse by police, where “noncompliance” amounts to threat. This is an example of a wider problem: the dominant culture demands the impossible of the poor, racialised, psychologically troubled, homeless, refugees, and other groups routinely targeted by police. They demand submission to a kind of temporary slavery, whenever a cop gets it into their head to wield their power.

As they already did with COVID-19, statists and their cheerleaders are currently trying to repress and criminalise their way out of a social problem. The measures taken by the state will be applauded (somewhat critically) by supporters of identity politics and by liberals, though they are if anything counterproductive and reactionary. Most of this activity is of a bizarre, goal-displacement type, where the surplus unresolved tension which is not solved by jailing Couzens is taken out on anyone “polluted” by association or similarity. For example, there is an investigation underway into colleagues with whom Couzens shared a Telegram group – a process reminiscent of the Chinese social credit system, where individual guilt also contaminates one’s social media associates. There are new measures for earlier interventions against exhibitionists, on the basis that Couzens may have progressed from exhibitionism to murder. Most exhibitionists do not go on to murder.

Also, police are told to take crimes against women more seriously, and to deploy undercover officers in nightclubs to detect sexual assault. It is true that the police don’t take most crimes against women seriously, but they take sex-murders extremely seriously: this is partly why they threw Couzins under the wagon. Any such undercover policing would doubtless increase the number of on-the-spot arrests carried out by lone plainclothes police. Couzens has been jailed, sidestepping the usual police impunity and resultant outrage. This restores the reputation of the police-state, reinforcing the view that he was a lone criminal individual on the other side of the law and morality compared to the police. He has been given the maximum sentence (life without parole), a move which will doubtless make it easier in future for police to obtain such sentences against their enemies.

The obvious anarchist solution is to get rid of the police. This would solve the immediate problem, and a lot of others, although an anarchist society would also have to deal with sadism somehow. There are in fact a lot of things reformers could do, which might reduce the likelihood of similar police atrocities in the future. They could ban the stops, searches and controls that so often escalate into warrantless arrests. They could disband the specialist paramilitary police units. They could reduce the number of arrests by making minor offences non-arrestable (as was the case in Britain until the 2000s). They could insist that only women arrest women, or ban the use of handcuffs in various circumstances. They could insist that arrestees have a right to be accompanied throughout, or they could simply ban arrests prior to conviction. They could legalise resistance to arrest, or demand the recognition of panic when arrested as a reasonable excuse to fight or flee. Or they could rescind their widespread support for lockdowns and other “emergency” police measures. They do not, of course, do any of these things: the police-as-gang is much too influential to challenge in these ways, and the right would cry anarchy or cop-hate the moment they were proposed. This failure of liberals and radicals to propose countermeasures is a sign they are not even trying to reform and humanise the police. They are trying to misuse police excess to extend the scope for police excess. Such reforms are not contemplated, because they are incompatible with the current regime of pervasive police-state rule. Without a “compliant”, docile population, states have to spend some of their power or money on bribes and concessions – something they now absolutely refuse to do.

In the medium term, unrestrained police sadism should extend to entire populations the distrust, fear, and hatred of police which is already common in countries and communities where police abuses are already common. One would expect to see entire areas become no-go zones, which police cannot enter except as a full-scale invasion; civilians increasingly reluctant to call the police or interact with them at all; sympathy for “criminals”, who have the virtue at least of fearlessly defying the police, and for “rioters”, whose temporary suspension of an unjust order will be endorsed as obvious. So far, there are few signs of any such permanent trend, although there were revolts on the streets of Bristol not long after the murder. Part of the reason for this is that the sadistic structure of normal policing is not recognised. People focus their gaze either too narrowly – on Couzens as a sexually and criminally deviant individual, distinct from other police – or too broadly – on men, masculinity, and the vague category of police “culture”.

Police are a Gang

Anarchists often claim (often to the perplexity of everyone else present) that the police are just a gang. It seems to non-anarchists that the police, “the law”, is the opposite of a gang, or “crime and disorder”. For anarchists, it is logical: if authority has no legitimacy then the activities of police must be treated as exactly analogous to those of any other group. Any other group who did the things police did would be termed a gang. But the anarchist view is also easily verified. Most of the world’s police forces are thoroughly corrupt. Nearly all of them break the letter of the law on use of force/violence, and mostly get away with it. There are innumerable cases of overlap between police and gangs. Sometimes gangsters infiltrate and take over local police; sometimes individual police turn gangster for profit. Sometimes entire branches of the police – like the Mexican Zeta cartel, formerly of the counterterrorist command, or former police who joined the Nicaraguan Contras – turn gangster when state demand evaporates or when it’s more profitable. Other times, like in DR Congo, entire gangs (particularly warlord-led factions) are absorbed into the police or the army; or a gang captures state power, and its members become the new police and army. Where a state and its laws have low legitimacy, there are generally only two reasons to join the police: out of sadism towards the population, or for material gain.

Someone with a policing skill-set can transfer it almost immediately into gang activity. This is one of the reasons “security sector reform” has proven so difficult for liberals in poorer countries, and one of the reasons police are so grossly overpaid. The same situation emerged historically, during the Hundred Years War. States then fought each other mainly with mercenary bands, but the demand for mercenaries wavered, they took up banditry. And there are many armed groups worldwide which engage both in gang-like activities and in political conflict. Indeed, the removal of political causes seems to increase other kinds of banditry and sadism. When civil wars end, and the political outlet for aggression is removed, there are often big increases in violent crime, including attacks on women. When the police invaded certain gang-controlled favelas prior to the Rio Olympics (territory they rapidly lost again a few years later), violence against women increased.

There are cases, both in the US and in Latin America, of “police powers” being used to commit private crimes. The perpetrators may be rogue cops, or simply gangsters dressed as police. Using roadblocks for extortion is the most common example, though kidnappings, rapes and murders also occur. In one case, the British police hired Somali gangsters to kidnap someone wanted for a cop-killing in Britain, who had fled to Somalia. The gangsters disguised themselves as local officials and kidnapped the victim at a false roadblock. The British courts turned a blind eye to this outright gangsterism, only caring that they got their man, and not how.

So what’s wrong with police being a gang? Gangsters and bandits aren’t necessarily bad people; joining a gang is often a survival strategy, just like working for a corporation. An affinity group, says one pamphlet, is “a street gang with analysis”. The problem with police is that they’re a gang which has managed to establish dominance over large areas, based on coercion; and in their very nature as an organisation, they are sadistic and dominating. Millions in each nation-state are then living at risk of whatever arbitrary violence this gang might decide, or be ordered, to commit. This risk becomes more and more blatant as the will of the parliaments or courts to try to rein in the police is weakened. Across populations diversified in terms of how far they are already subject to police violence, there are a series of outcries and wakings-up. Real atrocities show the risk which is already embedded in an extreme imbalance of power between the police and everyone else. Everywhere, states try to manage such crises in such a way as to save face for police while also maintaining mass docility.

Sex-Murders and Rapes

In a certain sense, however, what emerges from this case is that the sadistic nature of police is not yet fully accepted by “public opinion”. Indeed, mainstream commentary has focused on drawing a line between sex-murder and the various forms of violence routinely committed by police. It seems the police decided very quickly to throw Couzens under the bus. The police could have done a lot more to cover for him, such as trying to frame someone else for the murder, or dragging their heels on the investigation. Nobody’s very surprised that the police for once “did their job” and arrested one of their own. But bear in mind that police nearly always defend their own, and that it very often works. In the UK, police got away with the murder of Jean-Charles de Menezes, who was shot several times in a public space when already pinned-down; they got away with the murder of Ian Tomlinson, who suffered a fatal head wound as a bystander at a demonstration; they got away with cold-bloodedly gunning down Mark Duggan in front of witnesses; they get away with dozens of other killings in the UK, and 1500+ in the US, every year. In France, a cop got away with anally raping a man with a baton in the street. This general pattern of police defending their own is a definite limit to accounts focused on police culture or individual guilt.

Sex-murder is not far from the normal run of police sadism. Rape in police custody is common in countries or situations where police also use torture. For example, many police rapes have been reported in the aftermath of unrest in Zimbabwe, and Palestinian women in Israeli jails are usually sexually assaulted. Mexicans “illegally” entering America apparently see the risk of rape by border guards as so great that they take precautions against pregnancy before crossing. Femicide by death squads linked to police, or composed of former police-auxiliary paramilitaries, is a longstanding problem in Central America. The pattern involves targeting women deemed nonconformist to conservative gender norms: sweatshop workers, homeless women, sex workers, women deemed to be dressed improperly. This generally happens, not during ongoing civil war, but once it ends: it is as if women become a substitute target for political adversaries. The same actors’ modus operandi as paramilitaries was often to massacre, rape and torture civilians on vague suspicions of aiding the enemy – so it’s not that big a change.

Sex-murder involves similar desire-structures to those of the police. But it is also part of the category of crime/threat/disorder against which police pose as protectors. Femicide and rape are relatively common. About 1 in 3 murders in the UK are recorded as domestic/intimate-partner. Sexually motivated murders by strangers are very rare. However, killings of this kind are a staple of popular fiction and have an imaginary reach far beyond their prevalence. The entire ideology of police legitimation is built on the idea that they are the last line standing against truly evil and dangerous people. Femicide in contexts of ongoing abuse is common and not taken seriously relative to other kinds of murder. But sex-murder by strangers is both extremely rare and extremely feared. News cases of this kind receive blanket coverage, and such murders are vastly overestimated across several genres of films, TV shows and novels. The Hollywood stereotype is unhelpful and reactionary. A typical Hollywood sex-murderer is a larger-than-life, monstrous individual easily differentiated from “normal” people, driven by an all-consuming force (sex, aggression, or both); they are finally stopped by a heroic cop or a victim-avenger, though often with the sense that this isn’t the end, they or someone like them will be back shortly. This is an image based on a misanthropic model of desire: what is acted-out on the screen is mainly viewers’ fears of their own desire, pleasure, or aggression, projected into the figure of the murderer, and contained by the cop in the role of their own self-restraint. If we let our desires out, we’re all sex-murderers.

The Hollywood sex-murderer is basically the same creature as the supervillain or the horror-movie monster, rendered in a pseudo-realist form compatible with naturalistic presentation. Sadly, this realism makes even more likely the already-prevalent process of projecting such complexes onto real people and situations; the average TV viewer doubtless lives a real-life sex-murder saga in a manner identical with how they live a sex-murder movie. That the fictional murderer turn out to be a rogue cop or ex-cop is a familiar plot twist in these stories, though of course they are finally busted by the good cop who is the point-of-view character through most of the action.

The poststructuralist-feminist theory of rape and femicide is well-known: men benefit from structural privilege and use strategic violence to keep women (as a group) in line, in the same way the KKK used lynchings. It is based on an earlier theory, articulated by 1970s radical feminists, that binary gender relations are always sadomasochistic and that rape is a tool used by men to control women on a social scale (for instance, generating fear of being alone in public places). This is doubtless a simplification. Rapists generally claim if asked to have acted on sexual desires, not on any desire to defend a particular gender regime. They do not “feel entitled” to rape, and believe it is wrong in principle, though they try to justify their own actions in various other ways. They usually target victims of opportunity, and flee if the victim fights back. They do, however, have a sadistic model of desire which makes rape appealing to begin with, and this is why they view it as a sexual rather than an aggressive act. Historically, many rapists assumed that women have masochistic desire-structures and invite rape in various ways. This sadistic model of how sexuality works is fairly common, but is not identical with penetrative sex. The idea of mutual sexual enjoyment is utterly distinct from the sadistic model, and some sadists obtain little sexual enjoyment. They do not experience genital or full-body orgasms and instead are mainly aiming for the ego-satisfactions of dominating and humiliating someone else (which can be traced back further to identification with someone who dominated and humiliated them, or to a desire to turn the tables on such a person and do the same back). They seem to seek or enjoy others’ suffering or degradation (often of a kind they can identify with); they do not simply cause suffering as a side-effect of satisfying their sex-drive.

Sex-murderers are mostly similar. They have sadistic personalities, lack intimacy, tend to act impulsively, and engage in repetitive thrill-seeking because of a pervasive inability to feel. They do not feel guilt or remorse in the normal sense, but seem to have a moral sense in which both they and the world are always-already guilty and deserve to suffer. They commit crimes/atrocities under the influence of an impulse which is not particularly strong or unified, but which overrides weak defences against it. There are some indications that this impulse is a type of inverse conscience, a quasi-moral impulse to do prohibited or “evil” things. This is not just “normal” sexuality and aggression overflowing its usual bounds, but nor is it some kind of radical evil distinct from ordinary personality-structures. They believe the world is such a dark, evil place that everyone is under an obligation to fight for themselves and grab enjoyment wherever they can. There are also indications that they feel a moral duty to commit great evils, because they have internalised a self-image as evil, or are doomed to repeat some previous abuse which was done to them. They have a masochistic element and often make mistakes which lead to capture. Some talk as if a dissociated self-state has committed the crimes, which they themselves condemn and would never do. Some talk as if they believe they are driven by God or History or some other all-encompassing spook. There are indications rapes and sex-murders are carried out in an altered state of consciousness, similar to dissociation. There often seems to be a masochist element, with sex-murderers making few attempts to evade capture, quickly admitting guilt, and showing considerable self-hatred once arrested. (Everard’s killer evidently said he deserved everything he got; he was hospitalised twice after arrest, presumably either for police beatings or self-harm).

There are thus two, rather paradoxical conclusions as to how to prevent rapes and sex-murders. Firstly, the less desire flows specifically down the sadistic path, the fewer sex-murders there will be. Rape and murder were almost unknown in the Trobriands when Malinowski was there; the indigenous people had both intimate social relations, and high levels of oral and genital erotism. Secondly, the more sadism is channelled into consensual channels, or released in conflict among equals or against bosses, the less it will be expressed in sex-murder. Directing aggression to the right targets, or using it consensually, prevents its being used against the wrong targets.

It is true that sex-murderers and rapists are mostly men; it may well also be true that they are mostly misogynists, especially since the entire dynamic in both cases involves a displaced violence against a lower part of the self. However, the main motive is sadistic enjoyment, not misogyny, and its operation is libidinal, not directly political. Sadistic desire-structures and so-called psychopathy may arise more frequently among men than women in modern societies. Possibly the encouragement of intense muscular activity as the main masculinised work-activity encourages trends towards muscular sadism. Sadism certainly seems to overflow easily from military, paramilitary and policing formations. And sadism may be more compatible with codes of masculinity than is masochism. However, the feminist idea that rapists and sex-murderers are somehow acting-out political hatred of women is superficial. It ignores the fact that such emotionally-invested actions have to pass through the field of desire and the unconscious. The extent to which contemporary feminists naturalise the desire to dominate raises concerns that their politics also takes place within a sadistic view of the world. I suspect that, in rapes and sex-murders, there is a general sadistic worldview, a sadistic sexual drive, and also a kind of moral impulsion or obligation to “be evil” operative. Misogynist beliefs may function more as rationalisations than motives, particularly since such acts seem to be committed in a quasi-dissociative state.

Microfascist Desire in the Police

There are many ways Couzens is typical of sex-murderers, but he is also typical of police. Reports from Couzens’ acquaintances indicate a cowardly bully whose propensity to domination long preceded his joining the police. No doubt he gained considerable gratification from taking part in armed police activities in the post-9/11 era, which probably included holding people (both “guilty” and “innocent”) at gunpoint, violently “restraining” people deemed “dangerous”, and carrying out terroristic military-style raids on civilian homes. He is probably typical of the kind of person attracted to these wannabe-action-hero units: someone with a sadistic personality, and a desire to dominate and humiliate others who are in a subordinate position; someone who would like to be a “hero”, but only if he can remain safely in control of the situation.

He spent most of his career in specialised armed protection units deployed to protect high-value targets (British police are not routinely armed). What is the structure of desire in these kinds of paramilitary formations? The accounts in Theweleit’s Male Fantasies indicate that fascistic paramilitary organisations attract and sustain people with a particular psychological make-up. Fromm refers to the make-up as “necrophilia”, or an “exterminatory” variant of anal sadism. Broken-in by viciously authoritarian schools or families, these people come to fear feelings of pleasure, to confuse abuse (initially by their superiors) with love, and to respond to any tinglings of desire, fear, or shame, as if to an existential threat. This is not an illusion: stirrings of desire do destabilise the rigid character-armour which dominates their personality. They respond by becoming rigid, a breaker against the storm, and by attacking, eliminating the threat. The threat is gone when the living thing is replaced by something dead – an unrecognisable mess of body parts or else an empty or frozen space lacking its own agency and “life”. This hatred of life can sometimes be contained if life can be reduced to a grid of meanings and contains nothing unexpected. The closest they come to sexual pleasure is in the moment of killing or dehumanising someone else, at which point they experience their own death-and-redemption in the other person. They hate and fear women, but in a differentiated way in which a subset of virginal, asexual, role-conformist women are immune to hatred and often idealised. Their patriarchal fear and hatred of erotic, socially deviant, and marginalised women is a subset of a wider fear and hatred of anything involving desire, life, pleasure, or the unknown.

It takes little stretch to see this complex is central to securitised thinking, as the driver of the ideologies now prevalent in counterterrorist and counterextremist bodies, and as the generator of lockdowns (and the rest of contemporary policing). The idea that police exist to investigate crimes is already rather archaic. Today’s police are trained to manage “risk” and “threats”. Life as such is a security risk. Only “compliant” lives are considered safe. A life is “compliant” if it is already in a death-like state without being dead (one can compare here the institution of slavery as a functional equivalent to massacring prisoners-of-war). Unfortunately, with suspicion, profiling and “red flags” being gradually redefined to cover the entirety of possible activities, this situates civilians – even docile civilians – in a category similar to an insurgent or occupied population. Security risks pervade the environment, overwhelming the police capacity to suppress them. It is hard to know how widespread the assemblage theorised by Theweleit has disseminated in today’s police, or whether it has become more frequent. It seems likely, however, that it is very strong in precisely the kind of counterinsurgency paramilitary units where Couzens spent most of his career.

It is also pervasive in militarised policing. The role of police is to prowl the streets looking for threats. Signs of life – particularly of life which is different, thus not part of the known grid, as well as defiant life – register as threats. A twinge of the spider-sense in the mind of a cop is taken in police ideology as intuitive awareness. The police then perform acts of harassment (stops, searches, ID controls) at any sign of life, i.e. of something which falls outside their grid. These initial acts of harassment have proven resilient as practices, in spite of their negative “public relations” impact and negligible impact in detecting “criminals”. The victim of police harassment is expected to become “compliant”: utterly docile and penetrable to whatever tools the police are permitted to use, or chooses to use whether permitted or not. This docility is the proof, in a sense, that they are already dead, death-like, safe, lacking in the flows of desire and will which might be a threat. Historically, swathes of the population were protected from such harassment for reasons like class and race. Only particular hated minorities were deemed “police property” who could be harassed and abused. Increasingly, however, police abuse exceeds all its former restraints.

If for whatever reason someone won’t or can’t “comply” – they have too much dignity, they panic, they erupt in rage, they’re frozen in fear – the police escalate to aggression, sometimes even to lethal aggression. (This also happens if “SWAT” or “counter-terror” methods are deemed justified, in which case the target is assumed already to be a “threat”). If the victim defends themselves, this registers to the police as an attack on them, because in their minds they were never harassing anyone to begin with, just “doing their job”. (The stake in this disagreement is whether the cop’s spider-sense is a true knowledge or a form of hostility). These are the most common circumstances in which cops will murder. But if life seems to be teeming out of control, if entire areas are “thumbing their noses at the law”, are controlled by a rival gang or are in a state of active life, police will start to feel an urge to murder and mutilate everything in sight. This is when police death squads and rogue police femicides start appearing.

The Elephant in the Room: Lockdowns

The emphasis on either patriarchy or random targeting ignores another important factor in the case. Sarah Everard is not an “innocent victim”. She is a lockdown-breaker. Might this affect why she would be singled out for murder by a cop? There was intense dehumanisation of lockdown-breakers in the early periods of the COVID-19 crisis. People defying lockdowns were depicted as killers, security threats, irrational “idiots”, an underclass, and more. Bigots in online forums would often give voice to sadistic fantasies about police shooting, beating or torturing “covidiots”. This kind of rhetoric was far more widespread and socially condoned than either murderous misogyny or advocacy of sex-murder. Might this not, therefore, create an environment where a cop might kidnap, rape and murder a member of the demonised group? The outcry, however, like the general flow of complaints about police overreach during lockdowns, indicates that the British middle-class are not yet ready for such a wide casting of the police net. They might have cheered for the nonsense of a permanent state of emergency, but they do not cheer for its real consequences.

States of emergency encourage sadism. Police in states of emergency immediately get an addictive taste of power. They feel like they are in a war, and the gloves are off (if they were ever on to begin with) against anyone falling foul of the new control regime. This may even cause them sexual excitement: Belgian police were caught having an orgy during the Brussels lockdown in 2016. After 9/11 and Bataclan, gangs of police raided thousands of Muslims on slim or no suspicion, ransacking homes, torturing suspects and no doubt engaging in sexual molestation. In New Orleans during Katrina, police disrupted mutual aid and support work, and treated disaster survivors like criminals. Reports circulated of rapes in detention centres. During the Christchurch “emergency”, police brutalised an autistic man who was trying to rescue physical items from abandoned buildings. Cases could be multiplied; the model, no doubt, is colonial retaliatory raiding, in which an uprising or other rupture is punished by massacres and razings of villages. In their imagination, police are turning back a tide of chaos, and the atrocities are both necessary and proportionate. A state of emergency encourages police to believe such reactions are endorsed by their superiors and by “society”. Anyone falling foul of the “emergency” is deemed a fair target: the automatically belong to a class of people (such as “terror suspects” or “looters”) from whom public concern has been removed.

Lockdowns turned the usual police war on signs of life into almost a parody of itself: now anyone who is outside or not “at home” was legitimately suspect. Even if exceptions were allowed, police fired-up with “emergency” zeal would often act as if they did not exist. There have been many lockdown-related murders by police worldwide. In India, on the first day of the surprise national lockdown, police went on a rampage, beating anyone they caught on the streets. This caused instant plaudits from the usual bigots, like the tabloid-readers in the UK. For weeks afterwards, one found comments online that India had the right idea, that western police are too soft and civil-libertarian whining should be ignored. In India meanwhile, the vicious policing – which echoed earlier aggression against protesters from the Dalit and farming communities – caused an immense backlash. One man was beaten to death – his family claimed he was queueing to buy food at the time, a legal reason to be outside. After this, police were reined-in and the lockdown became unenforceable (as always seemed likely in India).

Indian police also managed to abduct and beat a woman doctor on her way to work. This was clearly a misogynist arrest: police questioned why a woman was out at night, and suggested she was actually visiting her boyfriend. She was eventually freed on orders of a superior – apparently right before she would have been tortured and possibly raped in custody. This is remarkably similar to the Sarah Everard case, but far more explicitly linked to lockdown enforcement. Mention can also be made here of a massacre by police at a nightclub in Peru. The club was breaking lockdown, but its real crime was failing to pay a large enough bribe to be ignored. At one point Kenyan police had killed more people in lockdown enforcement than had died of the virus in Kenya. They had an entirely foreseeable habit of shooting into crowds to “disperse” them. French police, meanwhile, managed to shoot a child in the face.

There is nothing inherently sadistic about male desire or male identity. Conventional masculinity encompasses sadism in preference to masochism, but does not preclude other types of desire. In the case of police, however, some degree of sadism comes with the territory. Police have generally been trained to replace direct sexual sadism with muscular sadism, with the act of beating, restraining or dominating an adversary replacing (not preceding) sexual satisfaction. (One survey found that half of all police beat their partners). They also engage in the kinds of routine and control-freakery which reflect the controlling type of sadism, which aims to preserve but dominate its antagonist. Conservative, liberal and radical statists generally seek to channel, direct and moralise these types of sadism, without changing their nature. The liberal reform agenda apparently aims to eliminate annihilatory sadism, restricting the police to the controlling type of sadism. Police are meant to be “only doing their job” and not motivated by sadism at all – ergo the idea of proportionality (which seems today to permit grossly excessive retaliation for minor deviance, provided it is justified as necessary to get the job done). But even a “professional” cop still needs a lot of muscular and controlling sadism to “do their job” without being overwhelmed by moral qualms, or simply the desire to be doing something more interesting.

Identity politics is a moralistic ideology, in which the redistribution of power is meant to occur via sadistic-retaliatory naming, punishing and excluding. But this is unlikely to reduce sadism; at most it channels it in less harmful directions. At the same time, identity politics advocates are prone to demonise what they take to be “masculine”, “narcissistic” or “violent” character-structures. But as we’ve seen, the dynamics involved in sex-murders make them unlikely to be influenced in this way. If someone believes they are evil or have a duty to be evil, if they are acting outside ordinary consciousness and even have a desire to be punished, then the threat to punish them has no effect. Also, the fact that something is sadistic doesn’t make it bad; consensual BDSM is often subversive of real domination. Muscular sadism is easily channelled into martial arts, brawling, or even political resistance. But policing is effectively a system of nonconsensual sadism. There is thus a close family resemblance between policing, rape, and sex-murder which cannot be ignored.




Source: Anarchistnews.org