Monday 3 April 2023

Absence Of Consequences.

Excitement And Pride: The reason why normally kind and respectful people are capable of such appalling violence, the single factor that explains every pogrom, every lynching, in history: the absence of consequences. The knowledge that if you do terrible things, then nothing will happen to you. The realisation that those in authority do not care if you do them. Hell, they want you to do them!

WHEN THE SETTLERS from Har-Bracha approached the security checkpoint the Israeli Defence Force soldiers waved them through. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Not when the West Bank of the Jordan was a bubbling cauldron of hate and violence. The idea of allowing Israelis from the Jewish settlements to enter Palestinian territory should have been as unthinkable as allowing Palestinians to pass in the opposite direction. But, the soldiers – like everybody else in Israel – knew that, only the day before, two brothers from Har-Bracha had been killed by a Palestinian gunman. It was payback time. Ignoring their orders, knowing full well what was likely to happen, the soldiers opened the gates and let the settlers pass. Within the hour, the nearby Palestinian village of Zaatara was ablaze.

The forces of law and order do not exist in a social vacuum. They are members of their communities, citizens of their nation, and just as likely to get caught up in the ebb and flow of public emotion as everybody else. They’re not supposed to. In theory, they are expected to remain aloof from the tidal tug of popular passions: impartial upholders of the law; keepers of the peace.

In theory.

When the white police officers and/or sheriff’s deputies whose presence in the rigorously segregated black communities of the Jim Crow South suddenly disappeared from the streets, everybody knew that trouble was on the way. The unheralded withdrawal of these racially charged armies of occupation could only mean one thing. That, for the next few hours, law and order would take a terrifying leave of absence.

The photographic images that have come down to us from this America of a century ago are hard to look at. Not only on account of the “strange fruit” hanging from the poplar trees on the outskirts of town. More difficult to stomach, or even to comprehend, than the charred bodies are the lynch-mobs that gathered to witness and celebrate the victims’ agonising demise.

Men and women, resplendent in their boater hats and summer frocks, look directly at the camera, their faces alive with a chilling mixture of excitement and pride. There is no shame here, no guilt. Would they have brought their children with them to observe the spectacle if they believed they were doing wrong? They wanted their kids to understand that this was something that simply had to be done every once and a while – to keep the community safe.

The local newspapers would recount these lynchings in enthusiastic prose. The dastardly deeds that sparked the community’s righteous anger. The apprehension of the perpetrator by the aroused populace, and his inevitable demise. The grim warning left hanging where those most in need of its terrifying message could not fail to receive it.

Such blatant abrogations of the rule of law – be they in the Deep South of a century ago, last month on the West Bank of the River Jordan, or last weekend in Auckland’s Albert Park – are able to occur for one reason, and one reason only, because those participating in them do so in the confident belief that they are doing “the right thing”. Because the government, the news media, and even the forces of law and order have all conspired – wittingly or unwittingly – to convey the impression that the extra-legal enforcement of “the right thing” will incur no penalty.

Eye witness accounts of the attack upon Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull in Albert Park describe how the frenzy of the protesters suddenly increased when they realised that the Police were not going to interfere in their righteous punishment of the “Nazi-adjacent”, “anti-trans activist”.

And that’s the reason why normally kind and respectful people are capable of such appalling violence, the single factor that explains every pogrom, every lynching, in history: the absence of consequences. The knowledge that if you do these terrible things, then nothing will happen to you. The realisation that those in authority do not care if you do them. Hell, they want you to do them!

Considering that when the mob came, proudly bearing their threatening banners and placards, and the Police stood by and did nothing – not even when elderly people were being punched, kicked, thrown to the ground and begging the Police to assist them – it is a small miracle that “Posie Parker” escaped with her life.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 31 March 2023.


The Barron said...

By this logic, Neo-Nazi rallies should have an absolute right to preach racial hated in the Otara town centre on Saturday mornings and have our police resources used to enable this. Britain saw this in the 1970's and 1980's, where the national front would rally through Brick Road, Brixton or Golder's Green. The police being drawn into protecting the hatred and suppressing the minorities. The state had an active role in racism, anti-Semitism and attacks on migrants. Most New Zealanders stand by the memory of Blair Peach and those from minorities that suffered the extreme right engaging the state in violence against them.

Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull should not be compared to those that had generational fear of lynching in the American South. It is insulting to suggest such. Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull is not to be compared to Palestinians, expelled from their heritage lands and forced to be generational second class citizens or refugees. When mud was flung at the Queen, I heard few deciding that she was one of the world's most oppressed.

She is a provocateur. She is financed by enriched right-wingers. In my view, she has largely undermined the cause for which she has become known. It is wrong to characterize her as "pro-women", she objects to young women's reproductive and conceptive rights. She is "Anti-Trans", to the extent of denying the existence of this identity and unilaterally declaring all trans-women as men. This is simple prejudice. As a provocateur, should it be a surprise that she has provoked? It happened in the UK, it happened in the US, it happened in Australia and no surprise it happened here. Having provoked, there was a predictable counter-protest. She came into NZ public space to denigrate vulnerable members of our public. It is not right that she had juice thrown at her, neither was the mud at the Queen, the dildo on Steven Joyce or the 21 bum salute Dun Mihaka address Charles and Di with, but it is something that caused no permanent harm but to Keen-Minshull's pride. Indeed, the world-wide manufactured outrage gave publicity she could not buy.

As I have indicated in an earlier post, there are legitimate issues that should be discussed and respected as two groups of rights campaigners need to understand each other and work through issues of spatial accommodation. There should be empathy as to those that have been vulnerable and disempowered, and also those that have pioneered the rights movements. Keen-Minshull is a distraction from this.

John Drinnan said...

The mob.mentalitystretched into newsrooms Eight days days after the Albert Park event , most jouurna;lsts and editors seem unable to acknowledge, let alone comprehend media's rollin the he ugliness Three of those that privately have concerns about ethics and professional standards told m they feared being blackballed by the internal mob in their newsroom. so they remained silent. This was especially the case for sceptical journalists at NZME. Two told me they feared the influence the certifying firm firm company Rainbow TIck Which certifies NZME's acceptability for advertisers , who are also their clients The concern is that raising concerns would damage their job security , and that like Leah Panapa at
Mediaworks, they would be sent for re-education or retraining g as it is called - at then commercial activist organisation

Gary Peters said...

Many years ago I read of a psych experiment at a US university in California in the 60's whereby "blondes" were assigned the status of "Blacks". It was abandoned after a few short days as violence against "Blondes" escalated rapidly because they resented being required to step off the footpath for everyone else and only use designated toilets and rec areas and other requirements of the day for "Blacks" in southern states.

Humans' ability to hate has no bounds if society approves or encourages.

Jason Barrier said...

The Police failed all of us in Albert Park - and are not being called to account for their failings. Love her or hate her, Parker should have been protected from these thugs. The analogies with the antics of pre-Nazi power Brown shirts shutting down Communist rallies in 1930's Germany are many and already noted by others.

Nicola R said...

We are seeing this now as well in terms of law and order, there are no consequences for the underage thugs who are terrorising small business owners weekly and few consequences for other identity based crims.

And whatever else it is, it must be laid at the government's doorstop. They have promoted identity politics since Day 1 and then rocketed it forward in their second term. Their dealings with gangs in exchange for votes has seen a largely hands off approach to them and the desire to jail 30% less people especially Maori has led to what is now seen by police as 'acceptable' crime. Victimless crime, bad civil behaviour and low level violence is routinely ignored.

With the Parker debacle, we have solidified the concept that the law is not even handed and that supporting the Rainbow Lobby (Worth potentially 7?% of votes) is more important than the police providing protection to elderly NZers amongst others.

They have valorised victims of all stripes and demonised majorities across the country, pakeha, women, christians etc And by doing so, they have set the tone for the rest of the country. White people cannot experience racism, women are fascists if they want to protect rights they have already fought for and religious people are haters that deserve to be jailed. If your partner misses out on a promotion go on National News and say it's all just racism.

By alienating large parts of the population, conflict is inevitable.

The current Labour government is morally bankrupt but I dont know whether any of our choices will be any different. I dont think the current system is working in the interests of all NZers and I think the machinery of government probably needs to change.

Anonymous said...

Another sorry example of the politics of the absurd taking itself to the streets via the highway of the internet
This unprincipled rabble in an event of comic drama met another member of the deluded coalition down on Queen St on that bizarre day
Coming at them was a cohort of real neo - fascists from the destiny church

After the obligatory Haka and an exchange of threat verbiage separated finally by the cops - one side minced off in noisy confusion while the other slouched away like deflated barrage ballon’s

For pure absurdity Spike Milligan couldn’t have written a better script

The Barron said...

Sorry, it was of course Don Brash that had mud thrown, Elizabeth II had a wet tee-shirt and egg. Easily confused, but one is a symbol of unbridled privilege, the other was the Queen

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Britain saw this in the 1970's and 1980's, where the national front would rally through Brick Road, Brixton or Golder's Green"

Even earlier.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"They have promoted identity politics since Day 1 and then rocketed it forward in their second term. "

The crying out loud, enough of the identity politics bullshit please. New Zealand politics is simply a bunch of pressure groups all scrambling for attention. Are farmers not an identity? Nobody seems to get upset when they lobby government. National certainly governs on behalf of the business community more than anyone else. Is that not identity politics?
Identity politics is both inevitable, particularly if one group is somewhat excluded, and not necessarily a bad thing. Identity politics got women the vote for instance. Identity politics changed the face of the American South – somewhat.
You people are beginning to sound like some 19th-century, moustachioed member of the British gentry, railing against suffragettes.