Category Archives: Surveillance state

The New Authoritarianism

In recent decades, new forms of dictatorship based on manipulating information rather than on mass violence, have emerged. This column explores the trade-offs and techniques of the modern dictator. Such dictators can survive using little violence in the face of moderate economic underperformance. Economic downturns often prompt an increase in censorship and propaganda. Though new information-based dictatorships are better adapted to a modernised society, modernisation and access to information, as well as economic contractions could undermine them.

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Tom Engelhardt: The New American Order: 1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

Based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

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Tom Engelhardt: In Whose America? Machine Guns, MRAPs, Surveillance, Drones, Permanent War, and a Permanent Election Campaign

The occasion for such reflections: machine guns in my hometown. To be specific, several weeks ago, New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton announced the formation of a new 350-officer Special Response Group (SRG). Keep in mind that New York City already has a police force of more than 34,000 — bigger, that is, than the active militaries of Austria, Bulgaria, Chad, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kenya, Laos, Switzerland, or Zimbabwe — as well as its own “navy,” including six submersible drones.  Just another drop in an ocean of blue, the SRG will nonetheless be a squad for our times, trained in what Bratton referred to as “advanced disorder control and counterterror.”  It will also, he announced, be equipped with “extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns — unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.” And here’s where he created a little controversy in my hometown.  The squad would, Bratton added, be “designed for dealing with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”

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Snowstorm Post Mortem: How Safety and Administrative Convenience Trumped Needs of the Working Class

When it became clear that the supposedly epic blizzard of earlier this week was overhyped, at least as far as New York City was concerned, we wondered about the thinking process that led to the only shutdown of the entire public transportation system for a snowstorm.

We raised doubts about this measure, on a philosophical as well as a practical level. As we noted,

I’m bothered by the continued creep of safety concerns being used to restrict individual movements. Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but citizens used to be deemed competent to make prudent choices.

But the real, largely untold story of the transit shutdown and travel restrictions was the impact on people who were working what amounted to second and third shift, meaning not white collar professionals but service workers and their managers, most of all those with long commutes, as well as staff (nurses, orderlies, cooks, cleaners) in New York’s many hospitals.

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The Police Union’s Irresponsible Reaction To Shooting Of Two NYPD Officers

Yves here. I left NYC the day that Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed two New York City policemen after shooting his former girlfriend in Baltimore. On the plane, three students (two in grad school, one in college) who didn’t previously know each other and were going home to Birmingham were discussing the event. All were concerned that this would put a chill on the protests against police brutality. And in case you wondered, yes, all were white.

The police are using this tragedy for selfish and anti-democratic ends. And what is troubling is that Mayor De Blasio hasn’t put them in their place. Corey Robin explains what that really signifies:

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