Showing again why I rightly removed Counterpunch from my blogroll, Sam Mitrani spouts the New New Left nonsense.
Edited from an exchange of emails, here's my refudiation of his piece.
Before the nineteenth century, there were no police forces that we would recognize as such anywhere in the world.
Now, on to modern times, which is where Mitrani's "narrative" proper starts. Recent readers here will note that when I have the word "narrative" in scare quotes, I'm not talking about a literary device but rather, a sociological one.
That said, on to examination of Mitrani's "narrative."
And, 17th century Paris wasn't the same thing as 19th century London, anyway. They were separated by a gulf of a steadily growing British democracy, and by nearly 200 years of British idea-making and philosophy.
In fact, Peel based his ideas in part on the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham. Far from being an oppressor, Bentham was a "leveler," if you will:
Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts. He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children.Pretty hard to claim that's the stuff of "oppression." Peel's Nine Principles of policing make clear his pragmatic approach, and the desire to move police in a non-military, non-oppressive direction.
His, it is clear, is indeed Mooneyite (love saying it that way!) motivated reasoning, which, contra Mooney, many liberals do plenty of. It's very clear that he wants to tell a narrative rather than (despite his earnestness of silken glove hiding small brass knuckles of a quasi-lecture inside in his reply to me) actually accurately discuss the history of modern policing.
That said, he's not the only one spreading the memes. I reference libertarians as well.
Radley Balko, in his book last year on the militarization of modern American police, to which I gave an iffy three stars, makes some of the same errors. He gets ancient policing history wrong, and tries to shoehorn modern policing, specifically in America, into a preconceived narrative.
Behind this is the larger libertarian narrative, that "tyranny" is lurking in, under and around every actual or proposed action by any level of government. I sometimes think libertarians have wet dreams about the word. In fact, I have mentioned that before, as part of a discussion about libertarians' motivated reasoning on what counts as criminal behavior.
None of this is to say that "bad cops" don't exist. They do, and yes, I've blogged about it. However, contra another narrative that runs through certain portions of, again, both the New Left and libertarians, that doesn't mean that the majority of cops are bad. That said, neither are the vast majority of cops Santa Clauses in uniform. Rather, they're people who are doing a job with a fair amount of stress, and probably no more, if not less, racial bias than America as a whole, at least in police forces that have a certain amount of diversity.
I noted above that these two narratives meet in a circle on the far side of nutbardom.
The "class repression" myth ultimately opens the door for Black Bloc types to steal and vandalize in the name of economic justice and equality. The "tyranny" myth, as noted at that "discussion" link, ultimately opens the door for stealing from the government.
Oh, well, this post does fit with a New Year's resolution — to be even more resolute, as part of my developing neo-Cynicism, in rejecting "narratives."