Assorted Opinions: Stupid Loyalty
Scenes from America’s protests, which began with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and continue as general dissent under the banner of Black Lives Matter, play onscreen like a surreal clown show, tragic and brutal, while the enforcement conduct often seems comedically detached from reality—
As a host of heavily-geared and weaponed police, and/or camouflaged, short-statured (many of them, a thing strangely apparent in the Portland photos, but what does it mean?), anonymous inductees in a private federal army, “control” a single protester wearing only street clothes, or move in clusters behind riot shields, amid peaceful civilian onlookers.
Consider the Buffalo Shoving Incident (literally, it’s on Wikipedia under this title) where the injuring of protester Martin Gugino led to a mass resignation of officers from a special unit…
Which I thought on first seeing the headline was to protest bad culture in the Buffalo PD, as the video showed one officer who wanted to help Gugino being pulled away by another. But in fact the resignees were protesting the suspension of two officers over the incident—as first reported. Later statements said the protest was largely over the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association’s withdrawing of legal fee coverage.
Reports of victims partially blinded by rubber bullets in the city of Minneapolis and, of course, the debt to the Floyd family, suggest a liability insupportable for the city’s budget, when the bill comes fully due.
What could make a mandate to protect and serve the public devolve into group insularity so dense that heavy armor and government connivance still leave officers feeling less safe than past generations of police, and more afraid, daily, than the protesters, who continue to shoulder the risk and march—still wearing street clothes, and unarmed?
Defining Stupid Loyalty is best done by looking at how the condition is created.
A containing (insular) environment must exist, or be believed to exist. The sense of belonging can be as broadly cast as the internet’s reach. Fans of television/social media personalities, for example, perceive themselves part of a community. Belonging feels permissive, the environment safe for those on the inside; the outside is made to look threatening. Members receive more than acceptance—they are groomed to a giddy liberation, “permitted” a code that becomes a restating, and a slowly encroaching alteration, of societal codes.
All sidlings-up that involve telling of dirty stories, cruel stories, meant-to-shock stories, are a form of recruitment. Anyone snared by such a story has been recruited. The recruiter may be affiliated, or act for personal gratification—that is, the impulse to shock remains native to a bully, and the impulse to test sexual boundaries native to a predator. Both bullies and predators have without affiliation the tendency to recruit victims for their personal use; while insular groups tend also to attract bullies and predators. The most devious or dominating can be employed, and may willingly volunteer, to recruit on the group’s behalf.
The purpose of recruitment overtures is to test the target for reaction—if the reaction is positive, the recruiter will return with more material, and nudge the boundary further. When the target shows him/herself consistently aboard, the recruiter finds purposes for this eager helper. When the target shows limits, the recruiter seeks more persuadable targets for active assignments. But no organization benefits from a “workforce” of all stooges.
Reluctant listeners also give value as tacit support, their names available for use. (As in everyone knows arguments, often justifications for graft, bribery, kickbacks; or the implication that knowing equates to permission given: “I talked to the mayor/boss/Mom about this”). The unaffiliated person’s use, aside from physical exploitation of the victim, is to enhance the pleasure he/she takes in dominance, or to feel better about the outside world’s repugnance towards that taste.
The affiliated recruiter looks for errand-runners, or blackmail subjects. The method behind this (blackmail often speculated as the reason for the Republican party’s disintegration, but stay tuned…) is in binding the individual, a sort of zombification, yet not a state derived from a simplistic threat scenario. A threat to expose some secret is too specific, both as to the victim’s risk and the punishment he’ll receive if he ignores the threat.
Think of the blackface scandals of Justin Trudeau (Canadian PM) and Ralph Northam (governor of Virginia). In such cases, if blackmail were tried, the stake equation should be an easy calculation. Many people know already; many can access the photographic proofs. Payment in money (or benefits) would not guarantee secrecy. Neither politician is of a stripe to want this disgrace hanging overhead; and both showed genuine shame at discovery. Putting boundaries on the scope of guilt is the answer that ought to suggest itself, and apparently did, as the proper way out.
In short, public confession.
The reason blackmailers, kidnappers, and terrorists are traditionally the people you don’t do deals with, is because the stake equation can’t support it. Giving without getting is bad; giving only to place yourself (and innocent others) in a worse position, is futile.
Next time, the steps to psychological control…
(2020, Stephanie Foster)