The ISA instructing us to trust the RSA, to believe its "official accounts," is nothing new (as below). John Drabinski asks us to consider whether there isn't now an additional imperative that the RSA must be loved.
In a number of discussions of the use of the robot-delivered bomb in Dallas to kill Micah Johnson, I've seen some folks say it was justified, because, in addition to the present risk posed by Johnson, "he had already killed 5 people." If this were part of the police calculation and not just online armchairing, then the police are not entitled to use that notion, as that is a fact to be established in a court of law. They are only allowed to assess present risk. The difference between those two sentences is the difference between a society of laws and a police state.
Nothing I'm saying here implies a yea or nay to the question whether the robot bomb was justified. There are specialists in risk assessment and ethical issues of law enforcement use of deadly force whose reports we can read and think about.
But the principle that the police must only consider present risk is what keeps us from condoning extra-judicial killings in which the police are judge, jury, and executioner. And insisting on that principle doesn't require special training; it's the very most basic duty of citizens to insist on it. It's what defines people as "citizens" in fact.
In addition, nothing I'm saying here implies that the USA is in fact "a society of laws," nor that there is a (non-color-marked) "we" who are "citizens." I'm purposely leaving open the possibility that in fact it has only ever been such a police state in a way that constituted whiteness as temporarily exempt from non-citizenship; I'm only making a conceptual distinction.
[UPDATE, following online discussion: 9:45pm, Sun 10 July: I think "reasonable suspicion he had killed 5 people" can be part of assessment of "present risk." I'm just objecting to the flatness of the statement of the armchair folks. (In this particular case, I'm not sure when the police shifted from the multiple sniper to the single shooter hypothesis, but even on the former, "reasonable suspicion the current shooter had been involved in an event with five deaths," can certainly be factored into the assessment of current state of mind of the shooter.}
Further, on the question of what to think about the threshold breached by the robot-delivered bomb in the Johnson case, we could consider the case of Christopher Dorner.
There were rumors of drones being used to track Dorner, and others being prepped for killing him, but they ended up using a bulldozer to knock down the walls of the cabin he was in and then using "burners" (flash-bang tear-gas grenades known to cause fires) which burned down the cabin, causing him to kill himself to avoid being burnt alive.
Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha, was critical of the decision to use the "burner" tear gas canisters. "It's true, he was firing at them. But he was cornered. He was trapped. At that point, there was no rush in the sense that he was barricaded. The standard rules on barricade situations are that you can wait the person out," Walker said. "To use a known incendiary device raises some very serious questions in my mind."
Other law enforcement experts interviewed by The Times, however, said the move was justified. Even though SWAT officers were certain to have known a fire was a strong possibility, the use of the gas was reasonable in the face of the deadly threat Dorner presented, they said. Allowing the standoff to carry on into the night, they emphasized, would have added an unpredictable element to the drama that officials were smart to avoid."
Yesterday I had the chance to participate in a pre-publication workshop on a book by Stefanos Geroulanos and Todd Meyers of NYU. The book concerns concepts of integration and individuality in early 20th century medicine, with special attention to military medicine in World War I.
In this note, I’d like to talk about Chapter 2, on case studies. I’ll talk about the manuscript, but also about what thoughts the ms provoked in me. As a philosopher, I was drawn to this chapter for four reasons. 1) The wide variety of logical relations involving individuals. 2) The epistemological question of a “science of the individual.” 3) The mind / body relation in shell shock. 4) The methodological one; we don’t do very many case studies in philosophy, but I think we should.
First, about the “boomerang effect” (SD 103): seminar participants mentioned several names, including that of Césaire and the Discourse on Colonialism where Nazi genocide is seen as a return from the colonies. Here are some others.
I would point out, following Professor Stoler in discussion after the seminar, the work of Sidney Mintz in Sweetness and Power (also mentioned by Thomas Holt in his selection from the recommended readings), which looks at, among other things, productivity enhancing discipline in New World sugar plantations coming back to European factories.
The connection with biopower is here noticeable, as, following Robin Blackburn’s work, we can point to the awareness of the relation of death rates to work output to purchase and importation rates of “fresh” enslaved people. (See here for remarks on why I've come to believe that “enslaved people” is preferable to “slaves.”)
Another boomerang effect is of course the thesis of CLR James’s The Black Jacobins, the radicalization of the French Revolution by the action of the rebels of Saint-Domingue. (James’s mention of suicide and infanticide as resistance techniques among the enslaved population brings us back to the above point.)
--- Second, on the relation to notions in Deleuze and Guattari on two points: the notion of “savage war” in the context of Foucault’s treatment of Hobbes (SD 90), and on the distinction of savage and barbarian in Boulainvilliers (SD 194-199).
-- About the sketch of the “barbarian” presented in indirect discourse as Foucault ventriloquizes Boulainvilliers (SD 194-199). The barbarian is opposed by Boulainvilliers to the “savage” of social contract theory and classical economics, the man of exchange (of rights or of goods, i.e., homo politicus or homo economicus). The savage exists before or outside history (and hence must be opposed by Boulainvilliers's radically historical discourse). For jurists, the savage exists before history and comes to exchange rights to found the social body, while for economists, the savage is without history, motivated only by self-interest in exchange. The barbarian, by contrast, is essentially historical, dominating, and free. He is always in an exterior relation to pre-existing civilization. He is essentially dominating; he takes and enslaves rather than exchanges. And he is essentially free: he never trades freedom for security.
One of the participants mentioned here the tripartite division in Anti-Oedipus of savages, barbarians, and civilized. However, in AO, “barbarian” refers to imperial state formations; the exterior, anti-state forces or “war machine” is not developed until A Thousand Plateaus; the point of highest intensity of the war machine is the steppe nomads (as in the quote from Desnos at SD 198-199).
I don’t want to make any strong claims about influence here, but I’m struck by the resonances between Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the war machine and what Foucault writes about in his brief sketch of the centralization of the power of war in the European State. Foucault writes “what was actually called ‘private warfare’ was eradicated from the social body… gradually, the entire social body was cleansed of the bellicose relations that had permeated it through and through during the Middle Ages” (SD 48). (On the twists and turns in the notion of "war" in Foucault, here is my entry on the subject in the Cambridge Foucault Lexicon.)
-- About the notion of "savage war" in Foucault's treatment of Hobbes, another of the participants mentioned Pierre Clastres, suggesting that his work in Society Against the State [French publication of this essay collection was in 1974, but his articles were well-known before then] could clarify Foucault’s formulation of the reference to the savage peoples of America cited by Hobbes. Foucault writes “First, what is this war that exists before the State, and which the State is, in theory, destined to end? What is this war that the State has pushed back into prehistory, into savagery, into its mysterious frontiers, but which is still going on? And second, how does this war give birth to the State?” (SD 90).
Things are very complex here (I’m confident the seminar participant mentioning Clastres knows all this, so I’m just expanding on what he would have said had he had more time), so I’d like to mention this essay of mine that goes into some detail.
Briefly, however, I can make the following points.
As detailed in a fine recent book by Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, Politique et État chez Deleuze et Guattari (Paris: PUF, 2013), Clastres can't determine the conditions for the emergence of state; he can only state the conditions of its non-emergence: “savage war” as anti-State mechanism relies on keeping chiefs from becoming kings by trapping them in a prestige-war cycle: to maintain prestige they must wage war from the front lines but in doing so they condemn themselves to high risk of death so they won’t survive long enough to consolidate sovereign power.
Sibertin-Blanc lets us see what Deleuze and Guattari are doing with their notion of the Urstaat and the "auto-presupposition" of the state: it needs a surplus to feed its specialists but it needs specialists to produce and other specialists to monitor and confiscate that very surplus. This is a rewriting of Wittfogel (1957), who himself rewrites the Marxist “Asiatic mode of production.” The state is not the instrument of a pre-existing dominant class: it is itself the direct organization of society enabling surplus production which it then immediately appropriates; it is therefore itself what produces the dominant and subordinate classes. It is to address this problem of auto-presupposition that Deleuze and Guattari have recourse in Anti-Oedipus to Nietzsche's idea of the break into history of the immediately arriving conquerors.
You can overdo the Fordism to neoliberalism shift (I know I have forced some things into that rubric!), but this seems a good example.
1) Fordism = "everyone must take PE to graduate from college"
2) Neoliberalism = "new courses are "placing a greater degree of the onus for wellness on the shoulders of individual students" by encouraging them to take "ownership of their physical well-being." "
3) A new approach here, moving beyond the purely physical? Perhaps we can call it "neuro-power":
"Darla M. Castelli ... studies the connection between exercise and brain health. Her studies and others show that regular exercise allows people to process information more accurately, allocate more working memory to a given task, and improve attention span—even among people in their cognitive peak years, from age 21 to 27."
What are you doing to ensure the accuracy of your testing?
The key is minimizing the variability that traditionally contributes to error in the lab process. Ninety-three percent of error is associated with what’s called pre-analytic processing — generally the part of the process where humans do things.
Manually centrifuging a sample or how much time elapses before you test the sample, which brings its decay rate into play.
So how do you avoid these potential errors?
There’s no manual handling of the sample, no one is trying to pipette into a Nanotainer, no one is manually processing it. The blood is collected and put into a box that keeps it cold. The very next thing that happens is lab processing, and that’s done with automated devices at our centralized facility with no manual intervention or operation.
Part II: the neoliberal / biopower nexus
Will people become more used to gathering and examining their own health data?
No one thinks of the lab-testing experience as positive. It should be! One way to create that is to help people engage with the data once their physicians release it. You can’t do that if you don’t really understand why you’re getting certain tests done and when you don’t know what the results mean when you get them back.
It drives me crazy when people talk about the scale as an indicator of health, because your weight doesn’t tell you what’s going on at a biochemical level. What’s really exciting is when you can begin to see changes in your lifestyle appear in your blood data. With some diseases, like type 2 diabetes, if people get alerted early they can take steps to avert getting sick. By testing, you can start to understand your body, understand yourself, change your diet, change your lifestyle, and begin to change your life.
I am not "complaining" about this; I am pointing out the individualism of it, the inducement to become a healthy subject, and the concomitant lack of attention to the socio-political-economic structures that lead to the population-level phenomenon of Type-2 diabetes, for instance. That's the neoliberal / biopower nexus: you take a population level phenomenon and render it tractable at the individual level.
My complaint is more with the "interviewer" for lobbing such softball questions. This is basically a press release rather than an interview. Especially since the interviewee brought up the health care system, some questions about the *system* would have helped instead of the gee-whiz technophilia on display. Of course, "forget it, Jake, it's Wired" is another way to say all that.
So, on the whole, "not that there's anything wrong with that," but, also, "nothing is bad, everything is dangerous."