Sunday, December 18, 2011

Training the Next Generation of Enforcers,
Training the 99% to "Know Their Place"

It has been common for fictional television programs to paint a picture of everyday law enforcement as being encumbered by, and/or wantonly disregarding, many normal civil liberties supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution, its amendments, and case law. Intentional or not, this has the inevitable result of undermining accurate public knowledge of civil liberties and expectations for police behavior. Get a significant portion of the public trained via television dramas to the memes that nearly anything goes (and is justified) in policing, that civil liberties are an impediment to public safety, and, above all, that cops are always the good guys, then in the real world, abuses of power by law enforcement will be much more easily accepted.

September 11 also convinced many Americans that governmental spying on the American public — without cause or traditional court-issued warrants — was justified, even desirable. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have convinced much of the American populace that drones are a desirable method of surveillance and warfare. The "logical" next step — for those who believe in a logic that ignores the lessons from the history of totalitarianism — is to expand governmental surveillance of the greater American public by means that include drones. That is beginning to happen, as documented in Glenn Greenwald's recent pieces in Salon. (Indeed, it appears that the deployment of drones with offensive weaponry designed to be used against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil is also in the works).

Finally, it has also been established by surveys that a substantial number of Americans — far more than is justified by actual economic mobility — believe that one day, they too will be rich, and it has been suggested that this belief has contributed to the strength of American right-wing politics and opposition to adequately-progressive taxation.

Ah, but for those wishing to advance an authoritarian, intrusive, and economically-unjust system of social relations, a problem remains. If these various current public memes are to become maximally effective, how can they be instilled at the earliest possible age? As the Jesuits have said with regard to religion, give them control of a child before age seven, and they'll have a Catholic for life. Similarly, in matters related to projection of, and obedience to, governmental authority, early exposure and internalization are highly important. And one of the central methods to achieve that is play.

I present below a sampling of slick recent advertisements for toys that promote the aforementioned memes. (I ignore traditional militarism and mayhem, as toys devoted to those memes are even more widespread and undoubtedly already familiar to most people; I also omit video games, as most are aimed at children older than the demographic for most of the toys below).

Happy shopping!

*Pepper spray, handcuffs not included

Of course, the "Protect & Serve" motto is present. As someone once said: If only it meant protecting and serving the 99 percent, rather than the 1 percent.

Handcuffs ARE included

From the Toys R Us description: "... Blow the whistle and flash the badge to tell the baddies to stop, and if they don't, administer some justice with the nightstick before holding them prisoner with the handcuffs. A knife rounds out the kit. ... True Heroes police, fire and soldier toys and spy gear let your kids emulate the latest blockbuster action movie as well as the people who make the world safe and just!"

Above comment is by "Mom from NYC"

From the Hasbro description: "... Put his pistol or gas grenade in one hand, leaving the other hand free for his K-9 companion’s leash! Order will be restored with your G.I. JOE figure on patrol!"

Note the belt-fed portable machine gun above, presumably useful when firing forty-one shots at an innocent man via standard departmental-issue semiautomatic sidearms would be too tiring to police trigger fingers. And what is the nature of the complex-looking "attached revolving weapon" on top of the truck? It appears too large to be a riot-control water cannon, and includes what seems to be a telescopic sight, certainly unnecessary for a water cannon.

Et tu, LEGO?

Above: Note the weaponry carried

For the young one-percenter-wannabe

Should aspirations to become a one-percenter not pan out, there is always the prospect of more plebian employment behind the drive-thru window.

It's never too early to start drone operator training, or to help acclimate your neighbors to being spied upon.

(Photos and descriptions are from manufacturer and retailer websites, and are deemed to constitute fair use, as they are being used to illustrate the slickness of the products and their marketing, the psychological effects that the products may produce in consumers, and the political effects that the products may produce in the nation).


  1. Excuse me. I'm Time magazine's Person of the Year: the protester. Where the hell are the Protester Barbies (ready to be pepper-sprayed by civilian GI Joe there)? Not even some Magic Markers and tag board on a stick? Or great vampire squid costumes? The toys pictured are so yesterday.

  2. Since the only jobs available by the time the kids grow up will be in Homeland Security, might as well let them practice early. This fits right in with holiday mood in Amerika right now. According to Forbes Magazine, the best Christmas movie of all time is "Diehard".
    But I too am disappointed that the paramilitary police toys are so sexist. I want a Polly Pepper Spray doll and I want it now, Santa! And don't forget my Janet Napolitano action figure... or you'll be so-o-o-o-ry.

  3. @Marie Burns:

    It's a good point you've made: Where are the protest toys, especially given the prominence of protest this past year?

    At TOYS R US, TARGET, and WALMART, a search for "protest", "protester", and "protestor" either under "toys", or their "all categories" (or equivalent) doesn't produce any toys whatsoever.

    Nothing at all at Toys R Us. Under some searches at Target and Walmart, served up are some books and CDs (any seemingly interesting ones requiring an online order, so not something to be picked up locally on impulse). There is (online) a "Protest Stencil Toolkit", which, not being under "toys", seems more directed at adults than kids. (It's also $10 cheaper at Walmart than Target!). Walmart does list "Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation", a National Geographic Society Childrens Book. I have no idea whether it's any good --- and it also requires an online order.

    Which brings us back to your question: Where are the protest toys? Perhaps they are available via smaller manufacturers and retailers. Perhaps we should we glad that the majors aren't selling them --- appearance there might mean that like peace symbol pendants, they are not considered to be a threat to the status-quo by the political and economic powers-that-be.

    @Karen Garcia

    Yes, these paramilitary toys are sexist. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Perhaps boys at that age are more easily trained to be aggressive? Perhaps girls are less interested? Perhaps toy manufacturer and retailer executives, and parents, consider it unseemly or threatening to train girls of that age to be controlling --- females are not supposed to have access to handcuffs until they're much older!

    Hopefully, when toy representations of protesters appear, at least they will be more egalitarian.