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In a comment on a friend's post, something that's been bugging me finally came together in my head.

In various recent events (Peter Watts' Squidgate, the g20 mess, etc.), there has been a bunch of commenters (live and on the net, natch) who seem to cheer louder the more it looks like the police have abused thier power. These are the folks who say things like "if a cop tells you to do something, you do it *immediately* or you deserve what happens to you", "if you haven't worn a uniform, you don't get to complain", etc.

The general idea of Authoritarian Apologism is that anyone that gets beaten up by the police, or the border guards, or anyone with a bade or a uniform, deserves what they get. That those forces are always justified in whatever they do to thier citizens.

I've been trying to figure out what it is that drives me so nuts about this position, besides the obvious. It finally clicked today - it's the same logical fallacy that drives Rape Culture victim-blaming and shunning of people who are ill. It's the idea that Bad things don't happen to Good people. So when bad things happen to someone previously presumed to be Good, the Apologist makes the inference that the person must be Bad. Because the alternative is that Bad things *do* happen to Good people. And that's terrifying - the Apologist naturally sees zirself as a Good person. If something bad can happen to some random writer, to some random jogger or random tourist, then it means that something bad can happen to *me*!

And a lot of people can't face that. So they go to great lengths to come up with reasons why people deserve to be beaten by cops, to be raped by thier "friend", to get cancer or AIDS. I mean, of course that guy deserved to be arrested and held in a pen in the rain overnight with no drinking water - did you *see* what he was wearing? He was *asking* for it! Good thing I'd never do something like that, so I'm safe.

It's all about Othering victims so that the Apologist can feel safe knowing that bad things only happen to bad people. It's about fear, and letting that fear make your world ever smaller.


( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
I would further suggest that many of those people's belief in their own Goodness is a symptom of a parallel internal awareness of their own privileged immunity to Bad things.

Think, for instance, of the unthinking condemnation of the diet of people living with poverty as being all junk food - not recognizing that buying healthy food is expensive, and that not everyone has the automatic ability to just drop a few more dollars on organic arugula from Chile, rather than another few 33-cent packets of top ramen.
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
Yup, that's another part of it - the idea that if someone's in a bad place, it's because they're a bad person, and successful people owe it all to being good. Homeless people are all homeless because they're lazy, the poor just don't like to work hard, POCs just aren't as smart, etc. But a rich straight white guy with rich straight white parents succeeds just by thier smarts and work ethic. The money, power and privilege have nothing to do with it!
Jun. 29th, 2010 10:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes, yes, to both the original post, and to this.

I had a geography teacher in high school who told us that there wasn't anyone who "couldn't afford" to eat organic. If they weren't, it was because they were choosing not to.
Jun. 30th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
Food and poverty
Not to mention the issue of food accessibility. Not only isn't there a Whole Foods in the projects or in the coal-mining towns, often there isn't a regular grocery for miles around. And if there is one, there is a visible difference between the food for sale there and the food for sale in the same chain store in a more affluent neighborhood. Transportation to a good requires leisure time, a relatively able body, and either a vehicle and gas money or access to public transportation in one's neighborhood that goes to the grocery store that sells healthy food.
Jun. 30th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Food and poverty
1st, the original post was spot on, bravo!

This thread is drifting, but I'm finding this interesting.

I'll grant there may be cultural differences between the US and Canada, so it may be a YMMV but IME there is a vast difference culturally between the indigenous "poor" and the immigrant "poor."

Additionally, given the references to whole food and "organic" as examples of "healthy food", I suspect there is huge cultural difference between what (relatively) affluent people consider healthy and what government agencies recommend as healthy.

Organic food falls in the realm of "minute details" when it comes to general health and numerous studies show health benefits to be non-existant or marginal at best. Quite frankly, it's for rich people.[1]

There are plenty of inexpensive healthy foods, and when I mean healthy I mean that in combination provide macro nutrient and micro nutrients to sustain general health throughout life, for example

Cabbage 39Cents/lb
carrots 49cents/lb
Tomatoes 79cents/lb
Oats 89cent/lb
Tuna 39cents/can (42g of protein)
lentils, peas, beans $l.29/lb
Frozen Orange juice 99cents/46oz
Skim Milk $2.29/gal
Enriched Pasta $0.79cents/lb
Enriced Rice 69cents/lb
peanuts and peanut butter $1.99/lbs
Whole wheat flour 20lbs/$6.99

What is lacking among the indigenous poor is nutritional education. Immigrant poor, usually bring with them traditional recipes (beans & rice) that contain the cultural wisdom of the ages (ie whole foods not "wholefoods (tm)).

[1] There are conventional practices that produce clinically proven unhealthy foods, but those are mainly related to the meat industry, hence why I left them out. Though even with many of these practices, it's about the massive consumption of meat vs what the human body is biologically equipped to handle.

Jul. 1st, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
Re: Food and poverty
You have better prices available than I do where I live, and I've lived in several different states (US) in the past few years (and a brief stint in Vancouver, BC). I don't think I've seen tomatoes for under a dollar/lb in a long time; last weekend, I got one at 99 cents/lb on sale (usually, they're $1.49/1.99 per lb).

Milk, peanut butter, and the other produce you listed are similarly more expensive. (The lentils, oats, and pasta are available cheaply.)
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
Yes. Yes, you're right. That is a large part of what's been going on here. Thank you for articulating it.
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)

It's the magical ward against Bad Things Happening.

Only it doesn't work.
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
Yes. I agree absolutely.

But I also see the other side of that equation: the people who say "I am a Nice White Privileged Person and therefore the rules don't apply to me. I can go downtown wearing a black bandanna on the morning after the riot and then act outraged when the cops want to see what's inside my backpack."
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
I'm of the opinion that everyone should be entitled to act outraged in that situation, regardless of colour, socioeconomic status, etc. The goal with respect to privilege should, as much as possible, be to get it for everyone.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
Really? Do you feel everyone is entitled to raise a fuss when the security guards at the Toronto Reference Library search their bag on the way out? Do you feel that they should stop doing those searches entirely? Surely last weekend the stakes were a little bit higher than on an average day at the library?
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
I believe that every person is entitled to be free from unreasonable search, seizure and detention by the police. This includes the right to walk on the street without being detained unless the police have reasonable grounds to believe that they have committed a crime. Wearing a black bandana does not constitute those reasonable grounds, or at least it didn't when I went to law school.
Jun. 30th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
actually, the idea of "getting privilege for everyone else" doesn't really work. what needs to happen is for people with privilege to actively start giving up their own privs and working against their own privileged interests

so the goal isn't to raise everyone up to some supposed same level of privilege, but to tear down the structures that enforce and create situations of privilege.
Jun. 30th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting theory. Why do you feel that way? And do you specifically feel that way in connection with civil rights, such as the right to be free from unlawful detention, search and seizure?

Specifically, in this case, I was talking about the fact that some people are typically privileged in the sense that the police tend to respect their civil rights, while the police might not extend the same respect to others in less privilegd groups. In this case at least, I feel the correct response is to work to ensure that everyone enjoys these rights, rather than attempting to remove the privilege of those who already enjoy them.
Jun. 30th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC)
I think that there are two kinds of privileges - sharable, and unsharable. "Having a high chance of having a superior look like me at work, increasingly so the further up the chain you go", for example, isn't sharable - everyone can't have that privilege. So, progression requires dismantling it.

On the other hand, things like "not having the cops assume I'm a criminal because of my skin colour" are privileges that can and should be shared.
Jun. 30th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
legal rights and privilege aren't the same thing, though. you're confusing two concepts here.
Jul. 1st, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
The two ideas are clear in my mind, but maybe I'm not articulating them clearly. Consider the privilege of knowing that police will respect your legal rights.

Everyone has the legal right to be free from being stopped and searched unless the police have reasonable cause to believe you have committed a crime. In practice, in general, the police are more likely to respect that right when dealing with privileged (e.g. white) people. So many more POC are stopped arbitarily, on a percentage basis, than white people.

Over the G20 weekend, many people who normally experience this privilege were denied it. The police failed to respect their legal rights, and stopped and attempted to search them arbitarily. This is both a breach of their normal privilege, and also their legal rights.

From a technical legal point of view, everyone has the same rights under the constitution. From a practical point of view, we need to work harder to make sure that the police respect the rights of all people, and not just (or even more frequently) the rights of the privileged.

But that doesn't mean that white people were wrong to be upset when the police breached their normal privilege and ignored their legal rights.
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah - both are effects of being invested in the idea of Being a Good Person, and expecting people, and really the universe, to treat Good People well.
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
ooh good point.
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
Yes, I thought that was a really excellent point, when I saw your original comment.

I think in most cases it's unconscious - I don't think very many people who do this are consciously aware of being afraid that any of this could happen to them. It's more like an unconscious mental defense against cognitive dissonance - they "know", on the one hand, that they live in a nice democratic society where if you just follow the rules and live a normal life everything will be OK, and they also know that bad things do seem to happen to some people, and the mental stress created by "knowing" two different, contradictory things that can't both be true causes a sort of logic error, which the brain handles by coming up with whatever remotely plausible excuse can reconcile the two things.

For people locked into this view, nothing seems capable of changing it except having something actually happen to them personally, or to someone they know well enough that the brought-it-on-themselves response breaks down.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
EXCELLENT summation. I heard someone who called in to CP24 demonstrating that exact dissonance... he was talking about what happened at Queen/Spadina on Sunday evening and was in support of the police action, but also managed to explain that if he had been down there, he would never have ended up in that situation himself because he wouldn't have been doing anything wrong. Now, I know opinions are split on whether or not that group was indeed doing anything "wrong" in the eyes of the law, but from the way he explained what he would have done differently, it really sounded like thought all the kettled folks had been behaving procatively, which is why they ended up kettled, and he wouldn't have provoked and thus wouldn't have been. Certainly reports from inside the kettle would contradict that assertion...
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
Nicely articulated.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear. Thank you for articulating this.
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
Very well put. This is unlocked, yes? Would you mind if I linked to it on FB?
Jun. 29th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Go right ahead.
Jun. 30th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
Me too, please?
Jun. 30th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
Certainly. :)
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes, and also yes.

I have to deal with so much reflexive defense of authority on a daily basis that this post made me squeal.
Jun. 29th, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC)
UMan's Bob Altemeyer has been researching authoritarian personalities for some years now, and ISTR his findings are that about 1 in 3 people has an authoritarian personality, defined as one who will follow a strong leader. That is, they're people who want to be told what to do, as opposed to people who want to tell other people what to do.

I suspect many of these authority figure cheerleaders fall into that category.
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
Yep. Which means they have no sympathy, let alone any empathy, for those people to whom randomly bad things have happened. Because most of the time it's just plain bad luck, by which I mean pure chance.
Jun. 30th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
gah, YES! the lack of sympathy drives me BATTY!
Jun. 30th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
Lack of sympathy? Lack of basic compassion.
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:32 am (UTC)
(i mosied on over by way of sab's journal.)
i've always had another word to tar apologists with- collaborator.
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:54 pm (UTC)
Hit (a palpable one)
you, nail, head:
right on.
Jun. 30th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you. ♥
Jun. 30th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
Say, look, you got linked on Shakesvlle.
Jun. 30th, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 30th, 2010 02:46 am (UTC)
I applaud this post, and I'm glad that it's open for people to read. We all need to confront our relationship with Authority.
( 40 comments — Leave a comment )

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