The Last Gasp of the Paper Tigers

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am not officially affiliated with either the “Stop Cop City” protests nor the burgeoning movement to get justice for the killing of Tyre Nichols. I am an independent blogger and this is my own personal response to these two recent events.


“If things go on like this, in six months all the old villains of secession will be sitting in Congress in Washington.”-Friedrich Engels, on the sabotage of Reconstruction, 1877 

“This time we’re going to settle accounts for our ancestors in dealing with the Yankees in Washington DC.”-Pat Buchanan, on the campaign trail, 1992 

“We must take back the streets!…It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re the victims of society!…Unless we do something about that cadre of young people…born out of wedlock, without parents, without supervision, without structure, without any conscience developing because they literally have not been socialized….we should focus on them now…If we don’t, they will, or a portion of them will, become predators 15 years from now, and madame president, we have predators on our streets…They our beyond the pale many of those people…we have no choice, but to take them out of society.”-President Joe Biden, as a Senator, 1993

“Make America Great Again!”Ronald Reagan, Bill Cinton, and Donald Trump-1982, 1992, and 2016 

“Americans Are a Culture of Bad Asses”

On January 18th, 2023, a forest protector named Tortuguita was murdered by Georgia police. Tortguita was aiding the effort to resist a $90 million police compound currently under construction in Atlanta which will transform a portion of the city’s forests into concrete, glass, and steel. “To be clear — cop city is not just a controversial training center,” Kwame Olufemi, an activist at Community Movement Builders, has pointed out. “It is a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill black people and control our bodies and movements. The facility includes shooting ranges, plans for bomb testing, and will practice tear gas deployment. They are practicing how to make sure poor and working class people stay in line. So when the police kill us in the streets again, like they did to Rayshard Brooks in 2020, they can control our protests and community response to how they continually murder our people.” 

The Atlanta Police Foundation was granted nearly 400 acres by the city council, who voted in September, 2021 to destroy (in their framing “develop”) the land for not only Cop City, but for a Hollywood film studio which will stand directly adjacent to the facility. Ever since, the protectors, loosely organized under the banner of “Defend the Atlanta Forest”, have slowed the wheels of the project’s “progress” through direct confrontation with the State. As Tortuguita put it before being murdered by this coalition of fascist forces: “Billionaires are causing mass extinction and can only be stopped by collective action. Cop City can and must be stopped, but we need more help. We need people on the frontlines, and robust supply networks. We need to love and support each other, as Assata said.”

Tortuguita, the forest protector murdered by Georgia police

Tortuguita was quite right. Cop City represents nothing less than the continued interest of the Big Bourgeoisie in creating more efficient means for State repression of the poor and working classes of the imperialist core as it enters a period of prolonged decline. While $30 million (1/3rd) of the compound’s estimated budget came from taxpayer wallets, the vast majority stems from the private sector. This includes a ‘who’s-who’ of corporate Atlanta’; Delta, Waffle House, Home Depot, Georgia Pacific, Equifax, Carter, Accenture, Wells Fargo, UPS, and others. Furthermore, permission to bulldoze the portions of the forest necessary to build the Hollywood studio were granted to Ryan Milsap, a film executive and real-estate tycoon who recently sold his Atlanta film studio to a private equity firm known as the Commonwealth Group. When Milsap’s crew arrived to destroy the forest, a bulldozer operator was met with pushback from the protectors. He repeatedly told accompanying police, “Pull your gun out! Pull your gun out!” 

As another forest protector told Rolling Stone last year, “It’s not just a local struggle, it’s about two competing ways of life. The people who are destroying the forest live all over the country. People should feel empowered to hold them accountable, to feel like they’re capable of stopping this depravity.” (Emphasis mine). This depravity was exemplified in 2015 by the collaboration of corporate mercenaries and local police in their pursuit of total war against the Lakota Sioux and their allies at Standing Rock. Five years later, it was exemplified by the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin. Throughout the 21st Century it has been exemplified by the Department of Homeland Security’s regime of deportation and imprisonment that has sent thousands of “illegal” immigrants to an early death in their homeland or funneled them into the modern plantations of the private prison industry. 

Funnily enough, Millsap has said that he plans to use his new streaming service to tell stories he feels are “under-represented” by platforms like Netflix; imperialist cowboy propaganda which elevates what he refers to as American virtues. “Qualities like self-reliance, self-determination, self-defense, and a ruggedly independent ability to survive and thrive,” Millsap told Georgia Hollywood Review. He added: “Americans are a culture of bad-asses. And there is a huge part of the market both domestically and internationally that wants to see movies and streaming shows that reflect the virtues of good humans [who] aren’t afraid to fight evil and who are damn good at kicking ass when it’s required.” 

Millsap then said that the current television program Yellowstone is doing so well because “it is speaking to this neglected audience of Americans” who, in his framing, have been left behind by the liberal elites of Hollywood. And there we have it; on one side, the increasingly reactionary encroachment of the white petit-bourgeois and their comrades in the Big Bourgeoisie…on the other, a group of people compose of the most exploited and marginalized segments of the populace attempting to defend a forest from Georgia’s local militarized police force on an Earth that only grows exponentially hotter with each passing day. Marx once said that, “Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.” Thus, we could reframe this conflict as the armed enforcers of the dead vs those defending the very possibility of a future for humanity as such. I wonder if Millsap’s film studio will produce content based on this story?

The Law Enforcement Crime Family 

Ten days before the slaying of Tortuguita, Memphis Police beat 29 year old Tyre Nichols so badly that, after three days in the hospital, he passed away. The Memphis police department and city government have reportedly begun preparations for the public response to the release of the bodycam footage from the officers. Apparently they believe the public’s indignation will be equivalent to if not worse than that of the uprising which transpired in 2020. Indeed, the year after George Floyd’s murder was one of the deadliest waves of police brutality on record, with cops killing 1,136 people. 

Tyre Nichols, the 29 year old murdered by the Cop Mafia in Memphis earlier this month

Nichols death is directly related to an increase in the impunity given to the Law Enforcement Crime Family ever since Biden’s inauguration. Liberals would like us to believe that we narrowly avoided the imposition of a full blown fascist state by getting Trump out of the executive office and singing the praises of a Capitol police force that did nothing to halt the farcical “insurrection” of Trumpists on January 6th. On the contrary, Biden is carrying on a fusion of the federal government with the so-called “private sector” that not only was also pursued by Trump, Obama, Bush Jr., Clinton, etc before him, but which is itself the logical conclusion of capitalism itself.

For nearly 15 years in the Senate, Biden called on Congress to pass a “Police Officer’s Bill of Rights.” While this effort never came to fruition, Biden authored a “tough on crime” bill in 1994, signed by President Bill Clinton (to this day among Trump’s best friends) which set the stage for the growth of the modern American carceral state, including the private prison industry, and the re-institution of slavery as a defining feature of America’s domestic political economy. Earlier, Biden co-sponsored a bill with his personal friend and segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond which expanded federal drug trafficking penalties and gave the green light for cops to engage in “civil asset forfeiture.” This allows police to seize and absorb someone’s property without proving the person is guilty of a crime IE to steal from them to fill department coffers. 

Throughout 2020, as the uprising which followed the murder of George Floyd swept the USA and activists called on the defunding and even abolition of police departments across the country, then-Presidential hopeful Biden repeatedly told the press he believed in “funding the police.” After becoming commander in chief, with California’s former “top cop” Kamala Harris at his side, Biden proposed gifting American police organizations $30 billion in taxpayer money. This came at the same time that numerous city governments doubled down on their funding of local police departments. As the New York Times reported two years ago:

“In cities across America, police departments are getting their money back. From New York to Los Angeles, departments that saw their funding targeted amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd last year have watched as local leaders voted for increases in police spending, with an additional $200 million allocated to the New York Police Department and a 3 percent boost given to the Los Angeles force…After slashing police spending last year, Austin restored the department’s budget and raised it to new heights. In Burlington, Vt., the city that Senator Bernie Sanders once led as mayor went from cutting its police budget to approving $10,000 bonuses for officers to stay on the job.”

In 2022, this trend only increased. As one local ABC affiliate put it: “The truth is, in many communities, defunding never happened.” To elaborate: “ABC Owned Television Stations examined the budgets of more than 100 cities and counties and found 83% are spending at least 2% more on police in 2022 than in 2019. Of the 109 budgets analyzed, only eight agencies cut police funds by more than 2% and 91 agencies increased law enforcement funding by at least 2%. In 49 cities or counties, police funding has increased by more than 10%.”Officials on both sides of America’s supposed “historic political divide” justified their renewed support for the Cop Mafia with rhetoric proclaiming, as Texas Governor Gregg Abbott put it, a “remarkable, incredible, outbreak of crime” for which there is little empirical evidence. Biden himself took this tract in his 2022 State of the Union address: “The answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police. Fund them!” In a scene resembling the bipartisan standing ovation Trump received for insisting that “America will never be socialist” at his 2018 State of the Union address, Biden received applause from both sides of the aisle for “prostituting himself” to the regime of American law enforcement. 

Both Abbott and Biden have all but forgotten last year’s massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, where the local police force not only prevented 0 deaths but stopped parents from entering the school to save the children the cops wouldn’t. As a woman-hating “incel” attempted to “win” a competition against numerous other young, nihilistic American males to see who can slaughter the most innocent people for media infamy, the police were joined in their struggle against the parents by Border Patrol, who likely appeared only as an attempt to use the massacre of children as an opportunity to arrest anyone they could find who was an undocumented immigrant. 

Curiously, Uvalde Police had, after thwarting a planned school shooting four years earlier, installed “artificial intelligence” software “to monitor all social media with a connection to Uvalde as a measure to identify any possible threats that might be made against students and or staff within the school district.” Despite this “smart technology”, not only did Uvalde police fail to prevent the massacre at Robb, they aided and abetted it.Thus, the Uvalde shooting, coupled with the Cop City project, becomes a microcosm of the American Empire in its final days; the black hole of capital devours anything resembling public space and lower class autonomy in the name of private enterprise, militaristic rationality, and the material comforts of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeois. 

From the “War on Terror” to Hurricane Katrina to Atlanta and Beyond

This follows a pattern we have seen ever since the Global War on Terror’s kick-starting of our glorious 21st century (what the architects of that war hoped in vain would become a “New American Century”); a crisis scenario which is the direct result of the machinations of American imperialism breaks out and the infrastructure of the bourgeois State deepens its control over its most impoverished subjects in the name of preventing a similar scenario in the future (while pocketing short-term profits). When all is said and done, not only has the State done little to resolve the present crisis, but it has ensured the crisis will be repeated and exacerbated. Naomi Klein popularized the term “disaster capitalism” to describe this phenomenon, but this term is superfluous. This is what the bourgeoisie have always done to preserve their hold on the levers of power under the capitalist mode of production, from the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, to the rise and fall of the Third Reich, to the declaration that any nation which was not “with” the United States in its God-bequeathed genocide of the Middle East and Africa was “with the terrorists.”  Indeed, our modern police state is really just a refinement of a police state which, as Ward Churchill points out, has always been indispensable for the practice of bourgeois “democracy” in the United States:

“…the consequences of this protracted and systematic suppression of the democratic impulse

in American life, and the equally methodical reinforcement of its opposite, have by now engulfed us. These will be apprehended not only in the ever greater concentration of wealth among increasingly narrow and corporatized sectors of society, but in the explosive growth of police and penal ‘services’ over the past thirty years, the erosion of constitutional safeguards supposedly guaranteeing the basic rights of average citizens, and a veritable avalanche of regulatory encroachments reaching ever more deeply into the most intimate spheres of existence…Such trends do not imply the danger that, if they continue, the United States ‘may become’ a police state. The United States has been a police state for some time now. Questions of how to prevent this from happening are at best irrelevant. The only real question is what to do about it now that it’s occurred.” 

Ever since the murder of Tortuguita, the framing of “Stop Cop City” by the mainstream media has been that of a “Black Lives Matter-style” protest which got out of hand and “descended” into “domestic terrorism.” In the public consciousness, the forest protectors  in Atlanta are equated to the Trumpists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th (despite the cops and feds possessing ample forewarning) or the numerous mass shooters who have wreaked havoc on public spaces for the last twenty years (a significant portion of whom have received military training and hold white supremacist/chauvinistic beliefs identical to the managers of both major parties). We are meant to believe that the forest protectors are an invasive species into the “natural” harmony of ATL’s local political economy. That this “harmony” produced one of the most intense sites of struggle during the 2020 uprising after the Cop Mafia murdered Rayshard Brooks is conveniently left out of the story of Cop City’s “American badasses” standing up to “domestic terrorists.” 

As Edward S. Hermann wrote over 30 years ago in The Terrorism Industry, a “closed system of discourse on the subject of terrorism” exists within the United States and other Western states wherein “A small set of opinion makers, who participate in hearings and conferences sponsored by the government or private sector of the industry…reiterate the official line as an echo chamber.” The effect is that the public perceives the activities of anyone declared an Enemy of the State by the State, with almost zero consistent criteria other than that these “enemies” oppose through a diversity of tactics any facet of the current agenda of the Western bourgeoisie, to be, by definition “terroristic” while any action the State itself takes to “deal with the terrorists” is perceived, by definition, as a “defense of democracy.” As Hermann writes, “The service of the terrorism industry has been very much needed in the West as a cover for its own activities and crimes.” 

Likewise, in the anxiety from the State over the potential response to the footage of Tyre Nichols murder, I am reminded of the way that white reactionaries presumed all protestors in the 2020 uprising to be mindless animals hellbent on destroying property and assumed that all property was destroyed-whether a local barber shop or a Wal-Mart, McDonald’s or KFC-was an “innocent small business.” The protestors who engaged in looting and property destruction were slandered with language not unlike that deployed against Muslims and Arabs in general in the two decades after 9/11, including by former President Trump, while white men like Kyle Rittenhouse have since become celebrities among the mainstream American Right. When Trump deployed federal agents-who operated in undisclosed outfits and vehicles under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security, an institution created explicitly to oversee the War on Terror after 9/11-he was not described by the media as using state-terror, but merely scolded for defending American “democracy” incorrectly. 

In fact, the precedent for Trump to use the DHS and unnamed federal agents to terrorize participants in a progressive mass movement was set by a succession of those Presidents and national security bureaucrats deemed “respectable” by the very same pundits who deemed Trump “unfit” for office. By the late 1960s, the fear of the white establishment at the very real possibility of black revolution (IE, the finishing by the descendants of slaves of the job started during the Civil War) was at a fever pitch. This fear was exemplified by the classified memos of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who, at the same time that he was overseeing a joint war on black radicals and reformers alike with the CIA and local police departments across the United States, prioritized the prevention what he called a “black messiah” who could, he feared, “unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.” 

According to Hoover, “Malcolm X might have been such a ‘messiah’” Hoover wrote in an internal FBI memo. “Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and [Nation of Islam leader] Elijah Muhammed, all aspire to this position … . King could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed ‘obedience’ to ‘white, liberal doctrines’ (nonviolence).” By 1969, the Army had drafted a plan for domestic warfare against black revolutionaries, antiwar radicals, and other “subversives” standing in the way of the capitalist death-drive. This plan, known at the time as “Operation Garden Plot” contained within it a list of “Indicators of Potential Violence.” This list included: 

  1. “High unemployment rate among minority groups.”
  2. “Increased crime rates among minority groups.”
  3. “Protests arising from income disparities between minority and majority groups”
  4. “Declining rapport between local officials and minority groups.” 
  5. “Migrations of large numbers of minority groups.” 
  6. “Protests by minority groups to such conditions as as slum conditions, segregation in housing and schools, lack of jobs, lack of recreational facilities, police brutality, and local overpricing practices.”

As Peter Dale Scott writes in The Road to 9/11, a little over a decade later, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and CIA director William Casey “initiated emergency planning, building from the Garden Plot plan” for “turning control of the government over to FEMA, emergency appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law.” A central tenet of the Reagan-era evolution of Garden Plot was the drafting of sweeping new powers to surveil and detain hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants in case of a “national emergency.” It was the administration of George W. Bush which, working from this paradigm, officially birthed the Department of Homeland Security (which, to be fair, had been under construction for some time pre-9/11) and, in turn, created Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is now infamous for its mass imprisonment, enslavement, and trafficking of humans migrating from south of the border. 

Speaking of good ol’ W., who liberals now love to portray as a symbol for a more “sane” era of Republican Party politics, Hurricane Katrina connects nearly every strand of imperialist decline I have touched on thus far. Scientists now know that climate change has likely increased the amount of rainfall which follows the massive hurricanes of recent years, including Katrina. The breaking of the levees which condemned New Orleans mostly black and/or poor residents to bear the brunt of the storm’s devastation was later attributed to unheeded warnings to fix the levees and invest in public infrastructure. In the midst of the crisis, the same white supremacist police state and ruthless owners of monopoly/finance-capital got to work using NOLA as a testing grounds for regimenting People of Color, immigrants, the homeless, and prisoners.

Blackwater, a mercenary firm owned by Erik Prince (a brother of Trump’s former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, both members of the neofascist financing DeVos Family) was contracted by the city government of New Orleans to “aid” police in handling “looters.” Meanwhile, in the wealthy white neighborhoods which had avoided most of the flooding that devastated areas such as the 9th Ward, armed vigilantes used organized violence against black people with impunity. The ensuing race war against the city’s black population waged by the police, mercenaries, and the petit-bourgeois was years in the making and by design: 

“Pre-Katrina New Orleans, like most major U.S. cities, was characterized by extreme levels of poverty and racial segregation. The local poverty rate was high, and poor residents were heavily concentrated. New Orleans’ poverty rate in 2000 was 28 percent…Pre-Katrina, the black poverty rate of 35 percent was more than three times the white rate of 11 percent, and 43 percent of poor blacks lived in poor neighborhoods. New Orleans has long been highly segregated. According to two common indicators of racial segregation…the city is one of the 10 or 15 most racially segregated among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, although structural racism in New Orleans is very similar to that of other cities. As a Brookings Institution report summarized, ‘By 2000, the city of New Orleans had become highly segregated by race and had developed high concentrations of poverty. . . . [B]lacks and whites were living in quite literally different worlds before the storm hit.’”

In this environment, the police and Blackwater descended upon a population which had been intentionally left without contact by FEMA for 5 days. They treated their mission not as a save and rescue of either human individuals or small businesses, but as an extension of the Global War on Terror. This is not hyperbole; it is, in fact, how these authorities described their actions. As Mother Jones reported in 2009:

“The Blackwater operators described their mission in New Orleans as ‘securing neighborhoods,’ as if they were talking about Sadr City. When National Guard troops descended on the city, the Army Times described their role as fighting ‘the insurgency in the city.’ Brigadier Gen. Gary Jones, who commanded the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, told the paper, ‘This place is going to look like Little Somalia. We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.’”

Ten days after Katrina made landfall, the New York Times reported that the initial bouts of looting had mostly subsided and the city was more or less calm, if devastated and traumatized. In spite of this, NOLA had been transformed, “into an armed camp, patrolled by thousands of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers.” Furthermore, while the local police superintendent ordered all weapons, including legally registered firearms, confiscated from civilians, private security hired by local businesses to protect their capital and commodities from “looters” was not required to follow suit. When journalist Jeremy Scahill spoke to Michael Montgomery, the chief of security for one such business owner, Montgomery claimed his men had come under fire from “black gangbangers” and, supposedly in self-defense, “unleashed a barrage of bullets in the general direction of the alleged shooters on the overpass.” According to Montgomery, “After that, all I heard was moaning and screaming, and the shooting stopped. That was it. Enough said.”

As the “Joint Task Force” patrolled the urban “insurgency” in the 9th Ward and other poor areas, the white populace of the gentrified neighborhoods and the suburbs acted as their “indigenous allied forces.” As ProPublica reported in 2008, a black man named Donnell Herrington was shot in the throat by a group of three white vigilantes (can we call them “white gangbangers”).  Herrington’s two friends, who were also black, attempted to help him and were immediately fired upon by the vigilante group, forcing them to flee. Herrington says that, as his friends ran away, the three men chanted, “Get that n*gger!” According to ProPublica:

“The attack occurred in Algiers Point. The Point, as locals call it, is a neighborhood within a neighborhood, a small cluster of ornate, immaculately maintained 150-year-old houses within the larger Algiers district. A nationally recognized historic area, Algiers Point is largely white, while the rest of Algiers is predominantly black. It’s a ‘white enclave’ whose residents have ‘a kind of siege mentality,’ says Tulane University historian Lance Hill, noting that some white New Orleanians ‘think of themselves as an oppressed minority’…

…While wide swaths of New Orleans were deluged, the levees ringing Algiers Point withstood the Mississippi’s surging currents, preventing flooding; most homes and businesses in the area survived intact. As word spread that the area was dry, desperate people began heading toward the west bank, some walking over bridges, others traveling by boat. The National Guard soon designated the Algiers Point ferry landing an official evacuation site. Rescuers from the Coast Guard and other agencies brought flood victims to the ferry terminal, where soldiers loaded them onto buses headed for Texas.

Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white residents, convinced that crime would arrive with the human exodus, sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed militia, a loose band of about 15 to 30 residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply ‘didn’t belong.’”

At least 11 black men were shot in Algiers Point in the aftermath of Katrina. Police refused to investigate the white vigilantes of Algiers Point until 2010, when a single individual, Roland J. Bourgeois Jr. was accused of committing a hate crime for shooting Herrington and his three friends. Bourgeois was subsequently declared physically unfit to stand trial and the trial never resumed.

Back in the city, the local family of the Cop Mafia seemed to do everything in their power to kill black people. On August 31, 2005, police in the city of Gretna blocked a bridge from New Orleans, preventing large numbers of black evacuees from escaping the city. One black woman told the humanitarian group Alive in Truth that “On top of the Interstate, in front of the Superdome” police “turned us around with guns…I realized then that they really was keeping us in there. They tried to kill us.” The woman reported seeing four diabetic people die as they were held hostage by the cops. Over ten years after Katrina, $13.3 million in settlements were paid out to NOLA residents who sued the NOPD for acts of brutality during and after the storm. This included the shooting of a developmentally disabled black man in the back as he and his brother tried to escape the cops at Danziger Bridge. This was part of an attempted massacre by the police of a group of innocent, unarmed black civilians on the bridge. The cops who participated in this “incident” later attempted to cover it up and, over a decade later, none of these officers had received more than 12 years for their crimes despite two people being murdered in the attack. 

As Mother Jones reported, “In the virtual martial law imposed in New Orleans after Katrina, the war on the poor sometimes even spilled over into the war on terror.” Zeitoun, a Syrian immigrant living in New Orleans, was arrested  a group of unidentified, heavily armed men in uniform, thrown into the makeshift military prison “Camp Greyhound”, and questioned as a suspected terrorist. According to Dave Eggers, who wrote a book about Zeitoun, he was: “…among thousands of people who were doing ‘Katrina time’ after the storm. There was a complete suspension of all legal processes and there were no hearings, no courts for months and months and not enough folks in the judicial system really seemed all that concerned about it. Some human-rights activists and some attorneys, but otherwise it seemed to be the cost of doing business.” Camp Greyhound was itself an experiment in rapidly adapting a post-disaster environment for the research and development purposes of the State. To quote Mother Jones one last time:

“Burl Cain, the warden of the notorious Angola Prison, a former slave plantation that’s now home to 5,000 inmates, was rushed down to the city to oversee ‘Camp Greyhound’ in the city’s bus terminal. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the jail ‘was constructed by inmates from Angola and Dixon state prisons and was outfitted with everything a stranded law enforcer could want, including top-of-the-line recreational vehicles to live in and electrical power, courtesy of a yellow Amtrak locomotive. There are computers to check suspects’ backgrounds and a mugshot station—complete with heights marked in black on the wall that serves as the backdrop.’”

The encroachment of War on Terror fascism even reached into NOLA’s public school system. Many public schools were swarmed by private security and local police and essentially turned into prison camps. What happened to John Mac High School in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, as Tuzzolo and Hewitt noted in 2007, perfectly represents this perverse extension of the police state: 

“When students enter John Mac, after standing in long lines to enter the building, they pass through metal detectors staffed by seven security guards and one officer from the New Orleans Police Department. Students are scanned with a hand-held metal detector while the contents of their book sacks are searched. Cell phones, oversized jewelry, and belts with certain buckles are confiscated. Students who set off the metal detectors three times with no item found are sometimes sent away at the door. On various days, students who are not in their classrooms by 9:00 a.m are locked out of their classrooms while the 31-40 security guards on staff perform a ‘sweep.’ Students rounded up in the sweep are brought to the auditorium and suspended. According to the principal, 52 students were suspended in one day for tardiness.” 

The rebuilding of New Orleans into the Obama era displays how there is no real solution within the system and how the State as such is heading for more overt acts of warfare against the lower classes of its domestic subjects. Fourteen days after the levees were breached, the Heritage Foundation hosted a meeting of neoliberal/neoconservative ideologues and Republican lawmakers to produce a list of “Pro-Free Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices.” This included suggestions to “Make the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone”, “Repeal or waive restrictive environmental regulations, such as NEPA, that hamper rebuilding”, “Streamline the environmental hurdles to building new oil refineries”, “Make it easier for small refineries to increase capacity”, “allow more offshore drilling”, “Pay the royalties for new offshore oil drilling to the local governments nearest to shore”, “Allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge”, and “Encourage private-market projects to recover usable energy from oil shale” (fracking). In other words, the goal was to use NOLA’s weakened position to aggressively open new circuits for capital to flow through, to experiment with new measures of State repression, and to enforce this agenda at gunpoint. 

“All these measures were announced by President Bush win the week,” Naomi Klein wrote. “He was eventually forced to reinstate the labor standards, though they were largely ignored by contractors.” According to the New York Times, “the top 20 service contractors have spent nearly $300 million since 2000 on lobbying and have donated $23 million to political campaigns.” The Bush administration increased money to private contractors by roughly $200 billion between 2000 and 2006, and these contractors often used undocumented migrant labor which was either underpaid or not paid at all. In November 2005, Congress announced that it needed to cut $40 billion from the federal budget, with student loans, Medicaid, and food stamps among the programs which were slashed. The Bush administration also refused to allow emergency funds to pay public sector salaries, forcing the City of New Orleans to fire three thousand workers in the months following Katrina. As Klein writes, “The poorest citizens in the country subsidized the contractor bonanza twice.” 

Following the mass layoffs of public sector workers, the State absorbed numerous insolvent institutions and sold them off to the private sector. This included the New Orleans public school system. As the Washington Post reported in 2015, “there is almost nothing about the city that has changed more than its public schools. The city’s 7,000 teachers were fired. The state took over almost all the schools and turned them into charters.” This process only accelerated under Obama and the Democratic Party has ushered in a new era of charter school “reform” that has increasingly placed public schooling in the private hands of the bourgeoisie. 

Post-Katrina NOLA has been a magnet for Silicon Valley cash and the “social entrepreneurs” who spring from it like mushrooms from cow shit. Among them is Peter Thiel, a prime benefactor of the not-so-Alternative Right, whose Palantir surveillance software was secretly used by the NOPD in a six year “predicative policing” experiment. Despite Thiel’s association with the “fringe” of the New Right and Alt-Right, it was Bill Clinton’s old friend and Democratic Party superstar James Carville who linked up the NOLA cops with Palantir. “I am the sole driver of that project. It was entirely my idea” Carville told The Verge in 2018. Carville added that he and Palantir CEO Alex Karp (himself a major donor to the Democrats and a self-described “socialist”, in case you needed a reminder of how little that word means in the United States) flew down to New Orleans to meet with the city’s mayor. 


In the interview referenced above, Dave Eggers states that the post-Katrina police state, “could have only happened at that time; 2005 was just the exact meeting place of the Bush-era philosophy towards law enforcement and incarceration, their philosophy toward habeas corpus and their neglect and indifference to the plight of New Orleanians.” This kind of wishful thinking represents the general attitude white liberals have taken to the continuation of the imperialist War on Terror and its domestic subsidizing of the Cop Mafia. In this view, the Bush-era was bad due to the “neglect and indifference” (along with the supposed “incompetence”) of the managers of the State bureaucracy, Obama made incremental improvements that Trump then torpedoed, and now we have to settle for Biden or else. But as those of us old enough to remember both the Bush and Obama era can tell younger people, some of the most egregious escalations of the post-9/11 fascist security state occurred throughout Obama’s presidency. 

I have already mentioned Standing Rock, where the Lakota Sioux led a protracted resistance against the construction of a pipeline by Energy Transfer Partners. As indigenous activists were thrown in dog kennels, attacked with water cannons in below freezing temperatures, and nearly having their limbs blown off with stun grenades to protect their land and the environment in what was then the hottest year on record, Obama said his administration would simply allow the situation to “play out.” That same year, it was revealed that one of the innumerable global “black sites” created to torture people during the Bush era existed in the very heart of the USA. In Chicago’s Homan Square, the police maintained a facility which disappeared 7,000 people, most of them people of color, for over a decade. And once Trump took office, many of his most “extremist” policies were derived from operations which were either already taking place or were proposed during the Bush and Obama eras. They don’t call our first black president the “deporter in chief” and “dronebama” for nothing! 

Biden is a conveniently symbolic President for liberals in the post-Trump era, but he is no check on the increasingly schizophrenic gyrations of the bourgeois State and its cherished “free market.” Until there is a massive, prolonged, and organized conflict with the State by the masses-an inevitability which we glimpsed in 2020 and may yet see once more in 2023-the ossifying imperial core of the Atlanticist alliance will continue to act in a manner which is simultaneously hyper-rational and technocratic and fundamentally irrational and self-defeating. We have already seen, to some extent, a delinking of continental Europe from the Anglo-American wing of “Western civilization” due to the former’s divergent interests from the latter regarding the new capitalist power players of Russia and China. In instances like the resistance to Cop City and the persistent protests against police terrorism, we see the beginnings of a domestic delinking of the most marginalized and exploited from the State bureaucracy itself. 

Socialism is a radical solution to a reactionary problem. Today, the dying American bourgeoisie has no choice but to desperately consume the livelihoods of the world’s oppressed majority, both within its borders and overseas, and to get more aggressive in its regimentation of its subjects (To “Take the gloves off” as Dick Cheney put it). In these dying days, the US imperialists will wed themselves ever more to the reactionaries of the increasingly shrinking middle class, who have nothing but fear and anger in the face of the newfound precarity of their formerly sanctified consumerist self-indulgence and the insulated and racist culture of the suburbs which incubated it. Capitalism itself faces the greatest explosion of its internal contradictions since the global convulsions of the mid 20th Century, and it is up to anyone who believes that this tide of depravity and decadence can be weathered for a better tomorrow to stand up to the nihilistic fascism it spews upon the Earth, no matter how bleak and hopeless things seem. As Mao said: 
“Just as there is not a single thing in the world without a dual nature (this is the law of the unity of opposites), so imperialism and all reactionaries have a dual nature – they are real tigers and paper tigers at the same time. In past history, before they won state power and for some time afterwards, the slave-owning class, the feudal landlord class and the bourgeoisie were vigorous, revolutionary and progressive–they were real tigers. But with the lapse of time, because their opposites – the slave class, the peasant class and the proletariat – grew in strength step by step, struggled against them more and more fiercely, these ruling classes changed step by step into the reverse, changed into reactionaries, changed into backward people, changed into paper tigers. Moreover, eventually they were overthrown, or will be overthrown, by the people…Hence, imperialism and all reactionaries, looked at in essence, from a long-term point of view, from a strategic point of view, must be seen for what they are – paper tigers. On this, we should build our strategic thinking. On the other hand, they are also living tigers, iron tigers, real tigers that can devour people. On this, we should build our tactical thinking.”

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