Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Thinking out loud about democracy and its vilification

Three things recently that caught my attention.

First, Family Guy writer Patrick Meighan’s account of his arrest at Occupy LA on 30 November, outlining the tactics employed by police to break up the peaceful protest. Though he backtracks a little at the end, refusing to fully condemn those responsible (a cop-out, and a shame), his story is powerful stuff:

As we sat there, encircled, a separate team of LAPD officers used knives to slice open every personal tent in the park. They forcibly removed anyone sleeping inside, and then yanked out and destroyed any personal property inside those tents, scattering the contents across the park. They then did the same with the communal property of the Occupy LA movement… Note that these were the objects described in subsequent mainstream press reports as “30 tons of garbage” that was “abandoned” by Occupy LA: personal property forcibly stolen from us, destroyed in front of our eyes and then left for maintenance workers to dispose of while we were sent to prison.

Then the cops turned to the protesters themselves:

Each seated, nonviolent protester beside me who refused to cooperate by unlinking his arms had the following done to him: an LAPD officer would forcibly extend the protester’s legs, grab his left foot, twist it all the way around and then stomp his boot on the insole, pinning the protester’s left foot to the pavement, twisted backwards. Then the LAPD officer would grab the protester’s right foot and twist it all the way the other direction until the non-violent protester, in incredible agony, would shriek in pain and unlink from his neighbor. It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us.

Meighan himself was violently restrained despite following police instructions, and was ultimately left with nerve damage in his right thumb and palm.

And that was before the seven hours he and other protesters spent on the floor of a parking garage before being booked and jailed for the day. It was hours before the cops would even accept bail for what was and is a misdemeanour offense (the charge of sitting in the park when ordered not to by police).

Meanwhile, writes Meighan, former Citigroup CEO Charles Prince gets away with felony fraud on an international scale with millions of dollars in his pocket and not even so much as a slap on the wrist.

Second, there’s TechDirt’s report of Homeland Security’s false seizure and censure of domains belonging to a number of popular music blogs in November 2010:

As the details came out, it became clear that ICE and the Justice Department were in way over their heads. ICE’s “investigation” was done by a technically inept recent college grad, who didn’t even seem to understand the basics of the technology. But it didn’t stop him from going to a judge and asking for a site to be completely censored with no due process.

Despite having little evidence to act beyond the accusations of an RIAA pencil-pusher,

…the government simply seized the domain, put up a big scary warning graphic on the site, suggesting its operators were criminals, and then refused to comment at all about the case. Defenders of the seizures insisted that this was all perfectly legal and nothing to be worried about. They promised us that the government had every right to do this and plenty of additional evidence to back up its claims. They promised us that the government would allow for plenty of due process within a reasonable amount of time. They also insisted that, after hearing nothing happening in the case for many months, it meant that no attempt to object to the seizure had occurred. Turns out… none of that was true.

The Kafkaesque tale that follows is even more infuriating.

And then there’s this, a piece at The Verge from a couple of weeks ago about a web news service’s YouTube video being pulled for its report on the UMG/MegaUpload spat (because it contained excerpts of Universal musical artists singing the praises of the file-sharing service, and Universal claimed copyright infringement):

Tom [Merritt of Tech News Today] tells us he wasn’t informed of the video’s removal until a fan told him on Twitter, and that the episode was promptly restored when he complained using YouTube’s automated dispute process — but Universal followed up with an official DMCA takedown request on Tuesday morning, and the show is currently down. Tom’s filed YouTube’s corresponding DMCA counter-dispute and the video will go back up in 10 days unless Universal decides to go full-on crazy and actually file a lawsuit, but at this point the damage has been done. As Tom says, “In 10 days a daily news show is worthless, so Universal was able to censor this episode of Tech News Today.”

What do these three things have in common? On the face of it, they’re not related in any way. But each is symptomatic of what’s clearly appearing to be an elitist institutional culture in America that seeks to withhold the rights of American citizens. No, it’s worse: it seeks to vilify them.

It’s no conspiracy theory. These are the same elites so eager to get bullshit legislation like PROTECT IP and SOPA passed. And their footsoldiers are the bully lawyers who threaten suits that cannot be fought in court without vast amounts of money, and the bully cops and feds who don’t so much protect the laws of the land as they do blindly follow orders from their superiors, whether legal or not. What’s democratic about any of that?

These are just some things I’ve been thinking about. I hope you’re thinking about them too.