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Saturday, January 17, 2015

How to Lose Friends on Social Media: Question Authority

Pawel Art
James Holbrooks

I’m gonna lose friends. I realize now it’s inevitable.

Not real friends. The real stuff is forged from memories and adamantium. I’m not worried about that. No, the friends I’m destined to lose are the type that can simply click a button and disappear me from their timeline.

I’ve been on Facebook since Christmas—as in three weeks ago. I’m sure that’s hilarious to some. But it was always a conscious decision not to partake, and I stand by it. In the end there were two reasons that finally got me to pull the trigger. One was the very simple fact that I’ve been homesick lately and Facebook seemed like the best way to get a fix. The other reason was much more analytical: I’ve been writing so much about social media I figured I owed it to myself to fully explore it.

And it was wild. A millisecond after I signed in friend requests came flying at me from all directions. Within days I was in contact with dozens of people from my past—old friends, extended family, exes, acquaintances, high school classmates I’d nodded to a few times in the hallway…all people I’d personally known. That was my rule, ya see. I’d promised myself that Facebook would be strictly for happy thoughts. I had Twitter for all that nasty political shit, so Facebook would stay clean.

What I very quickly discovered, though, was that nearly all these new “friends” of mine were still of the same upright, conservative mentality that our particular little patch of Texas churns out. Which is absolutely fine. I left well over a decade ago but that impulse in me to take people as they come can never be excised. How could it, considering where I’m from?

The real problem I’m encountering on Facebook is that inherent to this upright, conservative mentality is the instant and unyielding support for the cops. Because, quite honestly, that was one piece of the marketing I never bought into.

I never played cops and robbers. I never thought the uniform, the handcuffs—the badge—looked cool. In fact I have distinct memories of myself, as a kid, thinking how stupid these “authorities” looked in their costumes. And from the very first time some asshole shined his Maglite into my face for a solid five minutes because it made him feel tough after popping a bunch of high school freshmen drinking Miller Lite on the pier, I’ve known there was something very much wrong with law enforcement in this country.

Cops have just never impressed me, and I guess I’m supposed to feel bad about that. Well, I don’t.

And yet I was still willing to set all that aside in the name of socialization. I truly wanted to connect with folks back home because, as I said, I was homesick. More so than I can possibly convey. And I tried. I really did. I ignored anything political at first—anything involving news at all, in fact—and stuck to Star Wars and rock ‘n’ roll. You know, the happy stuff.

But with the question of whether or not to support the cops polarizing the nation like never before, and with the overwhelming majority of my cyber-circle of friends ready to pounce upon anything that didn’t resemble undying devotion to the badge (it’s meme after meme, article after article, thin blue line after thin blue line), it wasn’t long before I recognized that I’d be unable to abstain from the fray. It simply isn’t in me. I lack both the patience and temperance required for such a feat.

And sure enough, the first comment I posted (literally the very first comment) mildly criticizing an article’s one-sided reporting instantly resulted in my getting hit with a private message. It was an old high school girlfriend who’d married a cop, and she proceeded to explain how she has zero tolerance for those who question law enforcement. She further informed me that any additional “negativity” from me would result in my removal from her friends list. Back in high school she dropped me for a football player.

That exchange was about a week ago, and in effect was the catalyst for this screed. Because it pissed me off. It summed up in three minutes everything I find repugnant about the prepackaged arguments of law enforcement apologists.

It’s always that we don’t know what they go through. That we shouldn’t criticize until we’ve been in their shoes. Which would be a valid point if cops were being conscripted into service. But they’re not. It’s the profession they chose—that they continue to choose. If I wanted to know what cops deal with every day, I’d be a cop. And of course this argument completely ignores the fact that “what they go through” is a direct result of a system that legislates criminals into being and that drives otherwise decent people to desperate acts through economic predation.

It’s always that the good outnumber the bad. That sure, there are a few rotten apples here and there but that doesn’t give us the right to paint the whole of law enforcement with a broad brush. Nuts to that. I’m an individualist. I don’t collectivize. I know there are good people in the uniform, people who genuinely want to protect and serve. I don’t think all cops are evil any more than I think all banking executives want to steal the last dime from your kid’s piggy bank. But the fact that Officer Jimmy Snuggle Bear is downtown helping an old lady cross the street has absolutely zero bearing on the fact that a system-wide control grid—spearheaded by a rapidly rising police state—is being fashioned around us.

No, sir, they’ll say. Even if all that is true (and good luck getting an apologist to concede even that much) there’s still a genuine need for security, therefore a genuine need for cops. And since you (me, evidenced by the finger digging into my chest) don’t wanna do it, someone else has to. And hey, man, that’s a tough gig and you just don’t know what it’s like and some other stuff and “Go Cowboys!” and they hate us for our freedoms.

This is the most frustrating aspect of the debate for me. It’s this utter lack of vision that really drives me mad. Or hell, forget vision. How about some good old fashioned context? How about you take a step back—just for a second—and look at the big picture? How about you stop throwing blind loyalty behind a meticulously crafted symbol simply because your neighbor’s a cop or you grew up in a family of cops or because long ago you were brainwashed into thinking Dragnet was the real deal? You married a cop? Congratulations. May your days be filled with laughter. But a ring on a finger does not an argument make.

The police are the enforcement arm of the elites. That’s what they are now, that’s what they’ve always been. They exist to extract revenue from the masses and provide security for our betters. That’s always been their purpose. Look it up.

And again, I’m not collectivizing. I know there are cops out there who truly believe. I know there are decent human beings in uniforms all over the country who signed up to protect their communities, who willingly put their lives on the line every day. I know this. But we’re talking about an agenda. A scheme targeted at an unsuspecting (though, clearly, increasingly aware) populace. The hard truth is that the “good” cop who thinks law enforcement is there to help people is every bit the sucker as the guy who can’t understand why a pack of officers is shoving his head into the pavement.

One has only to look at New York to see what the cops are all about. There, where police felt they were slighted by the mayor at the height of this recent scrutiny, cops effectively went on strike. And look what happened. Or, more accurately, look what didn’t happen. Society didn’t collapse and the streets weren’t rivers of blood. New Yorkers basically went about their business as usual, only with a few extra bucks in their pockets because the cops weren’t out ticketing anything with a pulse. What did happen, though, was that the brass—realizing how much money the city was losing and sweating the fact that people were beginning to get a whiff of just how unnecessary the NYPD is—ordered their revenue generators to get off their sorry asses and start generating some revenue. Have no idea what I’m talking about, apologists? Look it up.

Is there a genuine need for security? Of course there is. The most perfect society imaginable would still have its share of knuckleheads, and therefore a market for security would exist. But a security force doesn’t necessarily mean cops as we know them today. This is what I’m talking about. This complete lack of vision that apologists seem to suffer from. It’s as if they’re incapable of imagining a society—and, by extension, that society’s form of security measures—ordered differently than that of our current one. Could it be that they actually think the system is perfect and nothing, ever, needs to be changed? Or are they simply unwilling to conduct a thorough examination of their surroundings? Either way, the apologist logic essentially boils down to “support the cops because they’re the cops.”

I don’t believe in a perfect society. To be perfect is to be static, and progress means always moving forward. And whose idea of perfection are we talking about, anyway? Yours? Mine? But what about a society in which security measures are tailored to meet market demands, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all policing model whose subsequent agencies act as an organ of a centralized power base? What about a society in which the functionaries of that power base aren’t actively seeking to strip the citizenry of their right to self-defense, thereby leaving them vulnerable to the aforementioned knuckleheads in the first place?

Don’t care for that? Try this one. The thinking goes that if only one innocent person is executed then the death penalty should be abolished. I’m sure a lot of conservative-minded folks can get behind that. So why is that reasoning good for the death penalty but not good for police abuse? Every day we’re assaulted by story after story of people getting harassed, extorted, threatened, beaten or straight up iced by the police. And it inevitably turns out that some of those people weren’t guilty of a goddamn thing. Do you cry for them at night, apologists? Or do you skip those stories on the way to the funny pages?

I’m tired of being told I’m ignorant of the facts or insensitive to the cops’ plight. I’m tired of listening to justifications as to why I should support the police or, worse yet, as to why they’re really doing a bang-up job. I’m tired of hearing stories about twelve-year-old boys getting gunned down for having toy pistols in their waistbands or stories about babies getting their faces melted by flash grenades (Didn’t hear about the boy in Cleveland, apologists? Missed that one about the baby in Georgia? Look it up.). But perhaps more than anything else I’m tired of no one being held to account.

I didn’t include any links in this thing. Why should I? If my Facebook explorations have taught me anything it’s that logic and documentation mean little to the apologist. But if they’re so inclined they can do the work themselves. Who knows, maybe a mind or two would change in the process.

As for me, I’ve done the reading. I’ve taken the hard look. I know exactly where I stand, and as distasteful as it might be to those destined to delete me, I know exactly why I’m standing there.

James Holbrooks is a professional writer and editor. You can find his work where this article first appeared. Follow James on Twitter.

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