By Dennis Loo (4/3/12)
As Reuters’ report concludes about the Supreme Court’s decision today in the Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington decision that jailers may now carry out strip searches on arrestees no matter how minor their arrest charge, including traffic offenses:
“Jail strip searches are legal so long as the searched individuals are going to be placed in the general prison population. The underlying offense and the reason for the search are pretty much irrelevant.”
“Pretty much irrelevant.”
It used to be that the government had to at least claim that there had reason to suspect you. Now they don’t have to even claim to be acting reasonably. Now it’s the law that they can treat everyone as if you’re a dangerous criminal.
This is more evidence of the trend – public order policies - that I write about in Globalization and the Demolition of Society:
“Magnus Hornqvist observed in the ‘Birth of Public Order Policy’ in 2004:
Over the last twenty years, the nature of the rule of law and the basis on which nation states employ force has been changing fundamentally. The distinction between what is criminal, to be dealt with by the legal and justice system, and what creates a ‘perception of insecurity’—formerly to be dealt with by social policy—is being erodedat both the macro (‘war on terror’) and micro (‘public order’) levels. This paves the way for the unbridled use of state force, in the first instance, and the criminalisation of behaviours that are not necessarily illegal, in the second. Fear becomes a controlling mechanism for the maintenance of the social order and any element of non-conformity isconstrued as a threat.
“The ratcheting up of social control measures in alleged response to terrorism occurred before 9/11 and the various incidents that are commonly cited as lead-up terrorist incidents to 9/11 (e.g., the February 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center; the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole in Yemen; the 2001 suicide bombing murder of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud). The discourse of fear, the criminalization of previously noncriminal behaviors (including constitutionally protected free speech and protest), the massive covert government and private corporate surveillance of lawful activities and persons, and the increasing incarceration rate, all began in earnest before 9/11 and the ‘War on Terror.’” (p. 146)
“Just as the meaning of terrorism has been expanded, so has the larger category of ‘crime,’ so that acts that have never been considered criminal are now being proscribed as suitable for police and other social-control agents to repress. As [Magnus] Hornqvist puts it: ‘”Crime,” writes the [EU] commission, as well as “crime in the strict sense” includes “anti-social conduct which, without necessarily being a criminal offence, can by its cumulative effect generate a climate of tension and insecurity.”’ …
“In the neoliberal world not only do physical characteristics matter, but behaviors, dress, class background, attitudes, and so on, can create a sense of ‘insecurity’ for others, justifying clampdowns. The law no longer represents the standard that people must abide by in order to avoid having police actions and prosecutions imposed upon them. The new standard is that one can be subjected to governmental or private social control measures simply for being a perceived threat or source of discomfort to someone. This undermining of the rule of law is being carried out across the full spectrum of bureaucratic and corporate purview and policy making from top to bottom. As Hornqvist puts it: ‘It may seem absurd that a single area of policy should cover everything from truancy and drug sales to acts of terror. But it is absurd only because so many of us have not yet learned to proceed from a concept of security that has broken away from the logic of the law.’ From this perspective, Bush and Cheney’s express violations of the rule of law are then not unique to them. They were merely on the cutting edge of that trajectory. And Obama’s perpetuation of their actions represents the further advance of that neoliberal project. This means that attempts to restore the rule of law will not succeed as a strategy separate from a fundamental challenge to the entire logic of the system itself.
“Reinterpreting protest and poverty as terrorism is a trend that stretches across continents and that includes all of the major political parties in the world’s nations. This explains what for many people is otherwise inexplicable: the perpetuation, further elaboration, and institutionalization under Democrat Barack Obama of the national security state measures that Bush and Cheney spearheaded. Obama and the Democratic Party leadership are continuing on the path that was already underway before Bush, dating back to the late 1970s. What Bush and Cheney did that was different was openly breach the wall of the rule of law. The sensitivity and momentousness of this breach explains why Obama ran on a platform of restoring the rule of law, restoring habeas corpus, and ending atrocities such as torture: Bush and Cheney’s practices had been so widely reviled and were so fundamental a rupture from the previous social contract of governments with their people that reviving people’s confidence in their government had to be done lest fracturing and resultant upheavals ensued. What Obama has in fact done has been the repackaging of these practices.” (Pp. 154-155)