Do Not Resist, a disturbing account of police militarisation in the US

Review of Do Not Resist (2016)


Police forces across the United States have in recent years become increasingly militarised. Ostensibly, this transition is mainly to boost counter-drug and counter-terrorism capabilities of police forces across the country. It has occurred through various means, such as the ‘1033 program’, whereby excess military equipment gets transferred, typically for free, to civilian law enforcement agencies. Additionally, since 2001 there have been huge grants given to state and local police forces to be spent on military-grade hardware. Do Not Resist examines this pernicious trend and how it is impacting policing in the US.

It is definitely worth a watch; there are some absolutely stunning shots in the documentary, some eerily beautiful and many which make you question whether or not the film-makers were actually in America at the time. Perhaps the most memorable segment in the whole film is when we join a SWAT team raiding a suspected drug-house in a poor, predominantly black neighbourhood. Windows are smashed, heavily armed men rush into the house and everyone on the scene is interrogated. All that’s found is a tiny amount of marijuana. America’s pointless and failed war on drugs couldn’t be epitomised more perfectly.

However, I have one mild criticism of the film. I would say that it is perhaps a bit too dense in ‘moody music and shots of military vehicles driving around town scenes’ and too light on interviews with academics and activists who could actually explain the complex and nuanced ways in which militarisation affects policing. One of the main negative effects being, for instance, the way trust between communities and police forces will typically be eroded when cops go from being friendly, approachable guys standing around drinking black-coffee to black-clad soldiers with assault rifles and scary helmets.

When you think about it, it’s not necessarily that obvious why the¬†militarisation of police is a bad idea- indeed, some of the public comments we hear from a town hall meeting are essentially just “We don’t want to see this in the USA!”. Indeed, but why not? I know that ‘experts’ are a derided bunch currently, but here it would have made sense to have included their opinions quite a bit more to help clarify the issues.

Nevertheless, it’s still a slick production and although it could be meatier in the interviewing department, it should be required viewing for any Americans interested in their floundering democracy. The implications really are quite profound; when the police start to see themselves as soldiers, what will be the end result for the country? What happens when even non-violent protests start being responded to by this new generation of warrior cops? Can the trust in police in poor black communities ever be cultured when impoverished, low-level drug dealers get raided by SWAT teams? Is the country now on a highway to fascism? Do Not Resist certainly paints a bleak picture of the future.


How a Trump presidency might be preferable to Clinton

As the farcical circus of the American presidential election finally nears its end, anxiety and perplexity is increasingly being felt around the world as the prospect that Donald Trump will actually win it is becoming more than plausible.

The general consensus is that a Trump win would be completely disastrous and many seem to genuinely fear that he will rapidly become a fascist dictator. If Obama was the best of times, then Trump will certainly be the worst of times- surely?

Well, I would argue that actually, a Trump win might be better in the long run. The logic is a tad bit convoluted- but it makes sense, sort of.

The premise is all based on the fact that the American political system has become utterly dysfunctional and extremely un-democratic. It has been captured and corrupted by corporate power and by a number of gratuitously wealthy people such as the Koch brothers, who -along with others in their private network of billionaires-  acted as a filtering process for some of the prospective Republican candidates for this election. Of course, there are many other millionaires and billionaires who have perniciously helped to corrode American democracy over the years, but the Koch brothers are a relatively spectacular example.

It’s not just that to win elections requires eye-watering sums of money, itself a corrupting influence. It’s that the entire legislative process is now corrupted; tens of thousands of lobbyists ensure that their industry or individual employer’s interests are prioritised well above the American peoples’ in policy and law-making. Washington has become a gargantuan maze of revolving doors, between the political and corporate spheres of American society. Almost any industry you look at, from finance to weapons to energy, has managed to totally infiltrate the political process in the US.

Here is where you might be thinking: “Uh Oh! He’s one of those idiots who thinks Trump is anti-establishment! But Trump is part of it!”. Well, actually I would argue that he is anti-establishment, technically. Trump is part of the establishment in that he has dodged taxes and fully exploited the system as a wealthy man, but he is anti-establishment purely for the fact that almost the entirety of the rest of the American-establishment absolutely deplore him.

Right, but how does a hated, bombastic and obnoxious narcissist help reform the broken political system I’ve described?

Well, I’m not expecting Trump to implement any sort of reforms that would help to eliminate the corporate tentacles strangling American democracy. However, I hope that a Trump presidency might be the impetus for many Americans to wake up, become politically active and to try and change the system in a bottom up approach. Maybe the fact that Trump is so revolting might alone induce people to politicise. More importantly: his divisiveness might cause the American establishment to crumble from within through viscous in-fighting- and in these conditions citizen-led reform would be most achievable.

Neither the Democratic or Republican parties are able to reform the system in a top-down approach; both parties are both beholden to big-money and I don’t think either can shake off the shackles from their corporate masters. I believe that a ‘bottom-up’, revolutionary approach is the only option. It sounds quite unlikely, but I think that the right conditions exist for this extraordinary process to occur- and the American elites being in complete turmoil could be the spark that’s needed to light the fire.

With a Clinton presidency, any sort of radical, citizen-led reforms are much more unlikely. The corporate establishment and its news media outlets would breath a massive sigh of relief and everything would go back to the status quo. The military industrial complex would increase in size, healthcare would become ever-more bloated and unaffordable, finance would continue unregulated. ‘Democracy’ and the PR machine propping up its facade would continue- and those Americans who may have cried “Enough is enough!” under Trump would probably stay pacified by the media empires who control much of the nation’s thoughts and mood. The plutocratic republic would continue exactly as it is now; a system rigged in favour of a tiny elite.

So, to summarise my argument: a Trump presidency would likely be extremely disruptive to the American political system and would lead it into such disarray that it would make a peaceful revolution/overthrow of the current elites much more achievable and likely.