Is ACAB true or false?

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jef costello's picture
jef costello
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Aug 4 2020 12:19

I grew up in a working class area and anti-police sentiment was completely normal. People didn't necessarily plan to get rid of them and probably didn't even think that it was possible. A bit like taxes or something.

People don't choose to be born, they do choose to become cops.

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Aug 4 2020 14:04
jef costello wrote:
People don't choose to be born, they do choose to become cops.

And, equally, you can't get fired from a racial/ethnic group, Scottish people don't have to attend annual reviews where they demonstrate how they've met their haggis-eating KPIs or whatever, but people do have to perform certain behaviours to stay in their jobs or else they get fired. That's why it's not an inaccurate generalisation to say All Receptionists Answer the Phone and Greet Visitors, or All Academics Write Stuff, or All Taxi Drivers Drive Taxis or whatever.

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Aug 4 2020 18:45
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
A comparison would be better with a gang or an extended family

Several questionable assumptions here:
- the police is like a big "family" internationally or even federally in the United States
- police murders happen as often in all countries or local areas
- no police support BLM (according to The Hill, half of the cops in a survey supported them. Could easily give a wrong impression but I wouldn't automatically call bs on it).

Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
If you got arrested the conversation might become a bit interesting. For the moment, your comments are about as useful and lucid as a virgin's comments about sex.

You know that the best way to make someone stop bothering you on the internet is to ignore them, right? Or you could continue to post aggressive replies and get those sweet upvotes.

R Totale wrote:
but people do have to perform certain behaviours to stay in their jobs or else they get fired. That's why it's not an inaccurate generalisation to say All Receptionists Answer the phone

What about "All taxi drivers have been mugged"? Or "All academics write about psychology"? Do most cops in Britain take part in or become witnesses to really awful situations (like the beating of a homeless guy)?

What does police violence look where you live? Have there been many instances? I haven't read anything about my city or even my country that much.

R Totale wrote:
just read a bit of a James Baldwin essay about antisemitism that made me think of this thread:

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that there aren't plenty of places where citizen-police tension is big and where police behave badly. Especially in the United States.

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darren p
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Aug 4 2020 19:55
explainthingstome wrote:
[Do most cops in Britain take part in or become witnesses to really awful situations (like the beating of a homeless guy)?

Pretty sure the bar for being a "bastard" is a lot lower than you seem to be putting it. Your original question was "are all coppers bastards, true or false?". Isn't "ACAB" more like a statement of values, rather than a question of empirical fact? (Though of course people hold values because they believe certain things are facts - in this case the structure and function of the police being some of them).

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Reddebrek
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Aug 4 2020 20:05

This thread appears to be going in circles, I just watch this video though on police that I found very well made and clearly argued.

https://kolektiva.media/videos/watch/2dded130-d97e-41a3-b5c3-fff8e2ea96c...

Nymphalis Antiopa
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Aug 4 2020 20:41

explainthingstomeeventhoughiwontbeinfluencedbythem:

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you could continue to post aggressive replies

No aggression from me could outdo your masochistic aggression towards yourself in the form of the little logo (or whatever it's called) by your name of an armchair that says 'this is my life'.

R Totale's picture
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Aug 4 2020 21:04
explainthingstome wrote:
You know that the best way to make someone stop bothering you on the internet is to ignore them, right? Or you could continue to post aggressive replies and get those sweet upvotes.

For what it's worth, whatever NA's motivations for posting here are, I don't think their main aim is or ever has been to be popular with libcom posters.

Quote:
What does police violence look where you live? Have there been many instances? I haven't read anything about my city or even my country that much.

I don't know where you live, but I would be extremely surprised if police brutality isn't an issue there. Admittedly, I've not heard that much about police violence in Vatican City, but that could just be ignorant on my part. Anyway, I'm not sure what the point is of answering your question, because I strongly suspect that no matter how much I list you'll just say "well those are just individual examples we can't draw any general conclusions from them", but if you want to learn more about British police behaviour then I'd recommend these as a few starters:
https://libcom.org/library/come-and-wet-this-truncheon-dave-douglass
https://pasttenseblog.wordpress.com/?s=police
https://libcom.org/tags/uk-riots
https://uffcampaign.org/
https://www.inquest.org.uk/
https://netpol.org/
http://npolicemonitor.co.uk/
http://lcapsv.net/
http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/
https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/
https://otjc.org.uk/about/
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jun/28/long-road-justice-hills...

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Aug 4 2020 22:18

I think explainthingstome is defending a position rather than openly discussing.

I used to not be anti-police, I thought it was bullshit posturing (and for some people it is) I read Police Riots by Rodney Stark and the Scarman (?) Report on the Broadwater farm uprising and they had a big effect on my view of the cops. And of course discussion with anarchists and communists.

Years back I got a copy of the scarman report from work for a mate to digitise, it doesn't seem to have made it to libcom. I had a look online and couldn't find it.

R Totale has posted this, which is intereting
https://marx.libcom.org/library/what-do-we-do-when-cops-fuck

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Aug 5 2020 04:53
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"well those are just individual examples we can't draw any general conclusions from them"

Oh I actually have one of those, back in the day when student life was ending and we were all looking for jobs a friend of mine became a police cadet, the rest of my friends were in the TA apart from one who got a job at a local off license. I was going to join a TA engineering regiment to learn a trade, but when I got to the barracks I noticed it was a Para engineers regiment, so I gave it a miss.

Anyway, of my social circle my friend who joined the police quickly became very, very, bitter and quick to violent outbursts. Even acquaintances who had seen some combat in Afghanistan were shocked at some of his antics. He told me all about his training and even let me read some of the training materials while he was still a cadet. It was enlightening, in addition to pelting them with CS gas, they made the cadets be the riot shield walls while the older coppers pelted them with petrol bombs (the bottles were only filled up to a quarter) and drummed into their heads the ideology of policing.

When he went on patrols and house visits he told me all sorts of stories about the people who lived on the estates as if they were from another planet. I think the worst thing he did before I lost contact with him was after he policed a free festival. He looked depressed, and when we asked him what was wrong he told us he'd had a bollocking from some superior officer because he and four other police had been caught on camera by reporters beating a drunk guy up. I never saw it appear on the local news, so I guess they quashed it. But what really stood out and shocked us, was that the reason they beat the drunk up was because the guy laughed at their helmets.

Seriously, a bloke who had to much to drink laughed at their helmets, so four police officers (well one was still a cadet) slapped him around in a crowded public party. And he didn't see why we were giving him a hard time about how he shouldn't have done that.

He was never a pacifist but his attitude and world view did a complete transformation, and it only took about a few months before the changes were notable.

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Aug 5 2020 18:01
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
No aggression from me could outdo your masochistic aggression towards yourself in the form of the little logo (or whatever it's called) by your name of an armchair that says 'this is my life'.

I'm relatively young and don't do anything that relates to anarchism except read political articles and threads. I wouldn't call acknowledging that aggression. It is rather an attempt to make light of the fact that I do not see myself as an expert or "proper" revolutionary. I'm interested in anarchist thought, and I sit in my armchair. For now at least.

---

R Totale wrote:
I don't know where you live, but I would be extremely surprised if police brutality isn't an issue there.

So, I actually talked about this with some people I know now and although there wasn't any mention of anything as severe as murder, they did mention several things.

One was about how a cop had beaten up someone they know (or kind of know) just for being drunk and rude. And there was no evidence (except his friends watching it happen) that he wasn't resisting, so nothing could be proved. Another thing that they mentioned was that it was known within the police that some cop had sexually abused several arrested women and that his boss only gave him a warning. But there were no real consequences for his behaviour.

The impression I got from the people that I was talking to was that most cops were not active in the misdeeds but silently complicit. But they also gave me the impression that they think that the rate of complacency about racist and sexist behaviour etc weren't that bigger compared with many other civilian professions.

If so, we kind of live in a society of bastards, and the cops are only somewhat worse than like half of the population. My view on both the police and ordinary people have become more negative. It's somewhat of an eye-opener of how ignorant one can be simply because of a lack of experience or dialogue with witnesses, especially when these things never get reported, or brought up by the news.

I might have misunderstood some people's views. Maybe, even if cops never shot an unarmed black man or raped a woman or beat up a homeless guy, they would still be bastards for enforcing the law. At the same time, ordinary people are not bastards because they're just supporters and not the executioners. I disagree, but whatever.

Thanks for the reply R Totale. (No irony intended.)

---

A side-note question concering the way some have reacted to my comments: how would most people become anarchists? Would they adopt anarchism without interacting with anarchists or would they have to be "converted" by anarchists through dialogue?

I.e. is it a waste of time to speak to people who do not agree with the most basic anarchist ideas?

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Aug 5 2020 18:50
Quote:
A side-note question concering the way some have reacted to my comments: how would most people become anarchists? Would they adopt anarchism without interacting with anarchists or would they have to be "converted" by anarchists through dialogue?

I.e. is it a waste of time to speak to people who do not agree with the most basic anarchist ideas?

To answer the last question first: not at all, but pick the time and place when it makes sense. But, in my experience dialogue is necessary, but not sufficient. Doing something is. For example, showing up at picket lines or protests to provide support, workplace or school actions (whatever they may be), or do something like Food not Bombs which will put you in contact with a lot of people (the food is an excuse to connect) etc. Even then, you don't break out the anarchist talking points right away (unless they ask), again pick the appropriate time and place for when you think they'd be more receptive to anarchist ideas, and they will be more receptive if you've struggled with them, been a good workmate, support etc. Nothing is more tiring than some anarcho that is constantly shouting slogans or going on about the agricultural output in Aragon during the Spanish Revolution.

Nymphalis Antiopa
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Aug 5 2020 19:28

As Guy Debord said in "The Society Of Armchairs" -

Quote:
In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, policed life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles consumed from the comfort of your armchair. Everything that was directly lived has receded into mere watching and judging from afar. The images of cops detached from every aspect of their social function and practice merge into a common stream in which the unity of an understanding of them can no longer be recovered. Fragmented views of cops regroup themselves into a new unity as a separate pseudo-world that can only be looked at from an armchair. The specialization of images of cops and their world has culminated in a world of autonomized images where even the deceivers are deceived. The armchair is a concrete inversion of life, an autonomous movement of the nonliving.

As Marx said in "Theses on ACAB" (thesis ll) :

Quote:
"The question whether cops are bastards or not is not a question of theory but is a practical question. You must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of your thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking cops are bastards that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question "

As someone else said:

Quote:
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"

Nymphalis Antiopa
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Aug 5 2020 19:33

explainthingstome:

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I'm relatively young

There are kids of 10 who understand the simple expression ACAB. There are adults of 100 who don't. As Tina Turner said

Quote:
"What's age got to do with it?"

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Aug 7 2020 15:38

I will try to get around to writing a proper reply to this thread at some point when I get time, but just posting this link for now, since it seems relevant: The deep history of police

Also, for a somewhat different perspective, there's this from the Invisible lot:

Quote:
Since within the governmental apparatus the police have the function of ensuring individual submission in the last instance, of producing the population as a population, as a powerless, and hence governable, depoliticized mass, it was logical that a conflict expressing the refusal to be governed would begin by laying into the police and would adopt the most popular slogan: “Everybody hates the police.” Escaping its shepherd, the flock could not have found a better rallying cry. What is more unexpected is that this slogan, appearing in the demonstrations following the killing of Remi Fraisse at Sivens eventually reached all the way to Bobigny after the police rape of Theo, as a slogan of “young people” there, thrown in the face of the uniformed brutes who were eyeing them from a raised metal passageway turned into a mirador.

“Tout le monde deteste la police” expresses more than a simple animosity towards cops...

The slogan “Everybody hates the police” doesn’t express an observation, which would be false, but an affect, which is vital.

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Aug 10 2020 17:11
Reddebrek wrote:
He was never a pacifist but his attitude and world view did a complete transformation, and it only took about a few months before the changes were notable.

Yeah, I think this point is vital, imo it's hard to overstate the importance of the things we do over and over again for 8 hours (or however long) a day and the people we're around in shaping our worldview. Like, obviously not in a crudely determinist way where all workers are automatically fully communist or anything, but I think you can definitely talk about, for instance, a "retail/service worker's mindset". Among other things, that means that you can't relate to each customer as if you were fully encountering another human being, you just have to treat them as units to process to try and get them served and on to the next customer as quickly as possible so you don't get overwhelmed (the fact that many service workers are also explicitly required to perform friendliness and interest as part of their job might complicate this but I don't think it cancels it out). Similarly, thinking about taxi drivers or bus drivers, I'm sure they probably relate to urban space differently in some ways than other people, because the streets are the raw materials for their job.
This is relevant to the ACAB question because, if I'm right that being a shop worker gives you a shop workers' mindset in some ways, then being a cop also gives you a cop mindset, which includes, as a minimum, seeing everyone as a potential criminal/suspect who you may be justified in using violence against at any moment. And I suspect that, whatever hypothetical cops could potentially be like, actually existing cop mindsets are likely to contain a whole lot more toxic elements. Which I guess is basically just a long-winded way of saying that I think your anecdote's important and revealing - it's not (just) that bastards become cops, it's that being a cop makes you a bastard.

explainthingstome wrote:
So, I actually talked about this with some people I know now and although there wasn't any mention of anything as severe as murder, they did mention several things.

One was about how a cop had beaten up someone they know (or kind of know) just for being drunk and rude. And there was no evidence (except his friends watching it happen) that he wasn't resisting, so nothing could be proved. Another thing that they mentioned was that it was known within the police that some cop had sexually abused several arrested women and that his boss only gave him a warning. But there were no real consequences for his behaviour.

The impression I got from the people that I was talking to was that most cops were not active in the misdeeds but silently complicit. But they also gave me the impression that they think that the rate of complacency about racist and sexist behaviour etc weren't that bigger compared with many other civilian professions.

If so, we kind of live in a society of bastards, and the cops are only somewhat worse than like half of the population. My view on both the police and ordinary people have become more negative. It's somewhat of an eye-opener of how ignorant one can be simply because of a lack of experience or dialogue with witnesses, especially when these things never get reported, or brought up by the news.

I'm glad to hear that you've been discussing and learning with people offline. (Again, no irony or sarcasm intended there). I think one of the important differences between police misbehaviour and non-cops behaving in harmful ways is again the role of the police as an institution, the institution that is supposedly meant to prevent/investigate/punish misdeeds. Anybody can do bad things, but only cops can do bad things in the knowledge that the people in charge of investigating any crimes they commit will be their coworkers.

explainthingstome wrote:
Several questionable assumptions here:..
- no police support BLM (according to The Hill, half of the cops in a survey supported them. Could easily give a wrong impression but I wouldn't automatically call bs on it).
I might have misunderstood some people's views. Maybe, even if cops never shot an unarmed black man or raped a woman or beat up a homeless guy, they would still be bastards for enforcing the law. At the same time, ordinary people are not bastards because they're just supporters and not the executioners. I disagree, but whatever.

Again, I think it's important to look at the role the police play in moments of heightened social tension and confrontation, and again I'd mention that the US right now gives a very helpful example of what I'm talking about. To go back to your earlier point about whether cops "support BLM", I think that phrase is so vague as to be virtually meaningless - you get a really really clear example of that with what happened in Buffalo, where "On June 3, Buffalo, New York, police officers were filmed kneeling with protesters outside City Hall. One day later, in a now-viral video, two officers pushed a 75-year-old man to the ground during a protest outside City Hall, seriously injuring him and resulting in both being arrested."
So, just to look at the city of Portland, for example: I don't think it's fair to say that "all ordinary people in Portland are bastards", because there's a whole diverse set of ways that people are responding to the protests there, ranging from supporting and joining in to throwing explosives at them and everything in between. But are there any instances of police refusing to join in with the repression? And if not, does that mean that we can make generalisations about Portland police, even the ones who might take a knee or say that they support BLM?
Finally, I was going to say that Verso are doing free ebooks of both The End of Policing and Police: A Field Guide and that those books might also be useful if you want to read up further on the subject, but they now seem to not be free. They are still 70% off, so if you read ebooks they might be a worthwhile investment, or if you really don't want to pay for them I imagine that there may well be free PDFs available somewhere.