All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do. – Leo Tolstoy
I am really, really sick of being threatened with violence from “authorities” every time I turn around. I don’t just mean the threat inherent in universal criminality, nor the implied threat of heavily-armed thugs cruising around looking for laws to “enforce”; I don’t even mean the paranoid uneasiness purposely cultivated by government actors through the use of security theater, mass surveillance and encouraging kids to turn their parents in for consensual behaviors. No, I’m talking about direct, clear threats spelled out in plain English words on a large fraction of the flat surfaces in the United States.
Readers who live outside of the US may not have any idea what I’m talking about, and many American readers may have grown so used to these ominous warnings of dire consequences that they no longer recognize them for what they are. So I’ll elucidate: all over the United States, threatening signs are displayed in businesses, on merchandise, and especially along highways; filling stations in particular may present a wide collection of the ugly things. For a few years, anyone pulling up at any gasoline pump from coast to coast would be greeted by the visage of a scowling cop, sometimes pointing at the viewer, threatening that one would lose his driver’s license if he drove off without paying. The door of the attached convenience store might have a warning that loiterers will be abducted and caged, while on the counter within other placards promise wildly-disproportionate “punishments” for anyone who dares buy liquor or cigarettes for those below the magical Age of Shazam. And after one escapes this minefield of threats and gets back onto the highway, he might see a billboard defacing the scenery with the asinine slogan “click it or ticket”, because the government is so very concerned with everyone’s safety that it steals money from people who can’t afford to lose it in order to “send a message”.
Signs threatening fines for certain behaviors, such as littering, are nothing new; they’ve been around for at least as long as I’ve been able to read them, and probably at least since the early ’50s. But in the past few decades there’s been such an incredible proliferation of them that Americans are virtually immersed in a sea of threats. Don’t believe me? Try counting every one you see today. I’ll bet there are at least 3 or 4 times as many as the estimate you’re making of the number right now, and maybe more than that; these threats have become like Shea & Wilson’s fnords, invisible to the masses yet producing a vague and pervasive sense of unease. Because the more unsettled and fearful the populace, the more they’ll support politicians’ efforts to strengthen the police/nanny state using any excuse from “drugs” to “terrorism” to “sex trafficking” to “cancer”. Nor are the “authorities” the only ones to profit from this society-wide anxiety; non-governmental malefactors will often use the fear the “authorities” have generated as a means of coercing compliance. For example, non-cop rapists often disguise themselves as cops in order to intimidate sex workers into surrendering without a struggle. And then there are these guys:
…[copyright troll] Rightscorp…gives its agents [this script] to use when people call in after receiving a [threatening] notice…[it] is quite something, with a few ridiculous statements…[such as] the following. If the caller says that they’re innocent, here’s how Rightscorp has its agents respond: “In order to cancel this matter without payment, you will need to go and get a police report and fax or email it to us. The police may take your devices and hold it for ~5 days to investigate the matter. You must be sure that it was not you, anyone in your household, including friends and neighbors or you will be breaking a different law with the police department.” Every part of that statement is bullshit…it’s clearly designed to…frighten the caller into just paying up…Rightscorp is in the extortion/shakedown business, rather than actually trying to stop copyright infringement…
As in the case of the bogus-cop rapists, Rightscorp is using the fear of police violence to intimidate their victims into surrendering without a fight. And given that a large portion of that fear was created by the government, both intentionally through constant threats and incidentally via its refusal to punish cops who inflict violence on peaceful citizens, the government is itself complicit in these crimes.