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Discipline and Punish Dissidents

In the wake of the Great Crash, there was no accountability for the Wall Street cheats and liars and their filthy rich clients who crashed the economy. Federal prosecutors at the Department of Justice did nothing. The US Attorneys like Preet Bahara of the Southern District of New York, Jenny Durkan of Seattle (home of WaMu) and André Birrote, Jr. of LA (home of Countrywide) made no real effort to investigate. There were no phalanxes of FBI agents deployed to figure things out, no assignment of forensic accountants, and no grand jury proceedings. The richly detailed findings of the Final Report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and the report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations headed by Senators Levin and Coburn were ignored by every single US and State agency. It all worked out just as Michel Foucault said it would in his book Discipline and Punish:

But this delinquency of wealth is tolerated by the law and, when it does find its way into the courts, it can depend upon the indulgence of the judges and the discretion of the press. 288

It’s over. Nothing to see here. We can’t look back. There is a difference between greed and criminality. Time to move forward together. We all have to have skin in the game. Too bad you lost yours, but that’s the great Capitalist System in action.

Not a single leader of either political party demanded prosecutions.

Black men are gunned down by police or vigilantes at an astonishing rate, one every 28 hours according to this Alternet article although as Digby says, there are no government figures on such killings. This is just the most visible part of the assaults on African-Americans. The abuse ranges from everyday harassment, stop and frisk and constant disrespect from the police and the system generally to roustings, jail arrests for driving while Black and constant fear of being killed for being while Black. How do our fellow citizens cope with this assault? Check the internets for discussions of what parents have “the talk” with their kids, as here and here. Note the media’s use of the benign phrase “the talk”, as if racism were just a fact of life, like sex. Note that “the talk” is about one-way communication, as though the young aren’t entitled to input. And note the advice the kids get: be polite, keep your hands in view, do as the cop or the authority figure tells you.

And when the kid gets killed, either by a cop or a vigilante or by a gang, there are rituals for healing: Pile up flowers, teddy bears, candles, notes, and go grieving through a burial. The shamanic advice didn’t work that time, but just go on believing it will work in the future. Be polite. Do as the authorities say, keep your hands in view. The authorities smear the dead person, and blame the dead person and muddy the evidence and do a lousy job of prosecuting.

By 2011, it was clear that the Obama Administration had no intention of jailing the Wall Street criminals, and that the Attorney General of New York, enforcer of the Martin Act (a state securities law that sets lower standards for proof in a criminal case) was going to let the crooks walk. The Occupy Movement was one response. It was purposefully nonviolent, but it was met with overwhelming militarized police force. Occupiers kept their hands in view, and they were polite but firm with authority figures, but they got pepper-sprayed, beaten, rousted, and jailed. Then? Nothing. No criminals went to jail. The occupiers were scattered, disappeared like the Amadou Diallo protesters and those who protested at every other killing of a Black person by a cop or vigilante or gangster. The cops who killed Diallo were acquitted. We’re already hearing that it won’t be possible to convict Michael Brown’s killer.

In exactly the same way, millions of people were crushed by the Great Crash. Instead of help from the authorities, they got hammered by the likes of Foam the Runway Geithner, do-nothing prosecutors, and incompetent securities law enforcement, and they got blamed for the disaster, as if it were normal for working people to be able to fool thousands of profession loan officers about their income and assets. The settlements that are being announced six years later are a big fat joke. We are all in this together, say the authorities in the economics game, including academic economists, CEOs, jackass TV commentators, Congress, the White House, the banks, the financial sector. Heal up, you slugs and get the economy going by yourselves. And give us our tax cuts and screw Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.

The people of Ferguson aren’t sick or injured. They are outraged and they are saying so in word and deed. They don’t need to heal. They need massive changes in their lives, and at least in my opinion, that means changes in the power of entrenched authorities in both the public and private sector. Instead they get sleeping potions like a demand for healing. The 99%, crushed by the Great Crash, need changes in the power of entrenched authority too.

Healing doesn’t help. It validates the status quo. And it’s the status quo that’s sick.

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