The Ubiquity, the Banality of Mediated Policing and Punishment

“Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.”Hannah Arendt

One of the many benefits of rarely watching TV is this: when you do turn it on, you are shocked anew by the uninterrupted routinization of policing and punishment, shook awake from the otherwise somnambulist gaze.

Certainly we have come to expect, with few questions, the demonization of “criminals,” the fueled fear of crime, the glorification of police, prosecutors, and prison as “appropriate” punishment. We have come to expect too the racialized framing that deems a 100+ Gun/9 Dead shootout with police in Waco a Kerfuffle, a mere “melee,” while one burned CVS amidst Baltimore protests constitutes a riot. This is the overt script for the “news,” the text of “reality” police and prison shows – LockUp, Jail and Cops – the fodder for the serial glorification of Blue Bloods, Walter White(ness) and Dirty Harry/Die Hard/Mad Max marathons, and the premise of endless incarnations of Law and Order, CSI, and more.

Perhaps most insidiously, policing, punishment and prison pervades as subtext and unexamined backdrop. Our fears are subverted into twisted humor, often as prison rape jokes that float through even children’s programming, and are also used to sell us an array of consumer products. Here, most recently imagine my surprise at this — in the age of #Ferguson/#Baltimore/#Everywhere and any number of untold deaths by Taser – Dollar Shave Club razors.

Beyond the billions in profit churned – yes this too is part of the prison industrial complex — this cultural hegemony normalizes policing and prison as part of the everyday landscape. It is routine; it is to be expected. Policing, punishment and prisons are such blatantly recurrent elements of cultural commodification that they are embedded as normative within our psyches and collective subconscious.

The hyper-visible atrocities are, in effect, rendered completely invisible. They are so Everywhere that they are Nowhere at all.

And how do you dismantle a system of excessive repression that many can no longer even see?