Chris Dorner and the Crisis of US Society
The Christopher Dorner case entails a lot of the disaster that is US society.
A former member of the Los Angeles Police Department (as well as a former US soldier), Dorner what sickened by the brutality and the racism he witnessed in that police force. When he reported it, he was victimized. In the absence of any broader social movement, and given the massive propaganda encouraging individual solution to any problem, Dorner evidently decided that his only recourse was to start to take out other cops.
LAPD – Panic & Wanton Violence
The response of the LA cops has predictably contained equal elements of panic and wanton violence. First they shot up a vehicle that resembled the one Dorner was thought to be driving. The fact that they shot it from the rear and the fact that it was two women in the car shows their panicked brutality. The next day they rammed and shot up a pickup truck with the same mistaken belief. Again, it was not Dorner in the pickup.
It is exactly this sort of behavior, or the potential for this behavior, that is part of what drove Dorner to take the actions he has taken.
Of course, there is more to this story than just Dorner and the LAPD. Lashing out by shooting people has become nearly commonplace in the United States. According to an article in the Wall St. Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323723104578185271857424036.html), “Counting only the incidents with at least two casualties, there were 179… (random shootings) between 1966 and 2010. In the 1980s there were 18. In the 1990s, there were 54. In the 200s, there were 87. If you count only such crimes in which fiver or more victims were killed, there were six in the 1980s and 19 in the 200s.” An article in the Nation magazine (Dec. 14, 2012) details 16 mass shootings in 2012 which left a total of 88 people killed. A study of those killings shows that most of them were not entirely “random”. Several were carried out by racists. In some cases, domestic violence was involved. In others, the issue of losing a job was at the core. Likewise, in Chris Dorner’s case, it’s clear that this is not random and it relates to the racism of the police, their generally brutal methods, and how all of this is necessary under the US policy of mass incarceration of black and Latino youth.
Glorification of Individualism and Violence
Another aspect is related to the glorification of violent and individual solutions to problems in the US. Hollywood is the prime mover of this glorification, even including the currently popular film “Django Unchained.” In the film, Django the ex-slave gets into a shootout with a slave owner and his defenders. At no time is the possibility of a slave uprising even hinted at in the film. This is despite the fact that it is known that the slave owners lived in perpetual dread of exactly this event, which means it must have been always possible.
Another aspect of this is the tremendous tension that has built up in the US. This tension is caused by the economic disaster that many workers and middle class people are experiencing, the racist policies of the state from the federal level on down (as Dorner himself experienced), and the absence of a mass social movement. The union leadership are capable of building such a movement, but they are too busy playing golf with and otherwise ingratiating themselves with the employers and the employers’ politicians.
Far From Over
This case is far from over. Dorner says he is an expert marksman and he seems determined to wreak vengeance. Who knows how many will be killed by Dorner as well as by the LAPD? And beyond that, his case and the rise in these vengeance shootings and other random shootings seem to show that tensions are nearing a breaking point in US society. This cannot continue indefinitely. Ultimately, these tensions will have to find a more generalized social expression.