What, you might ask, do head shops and Pedobear stickers have in common?
They both help illustrate what law enforcement thinks about "civilians" and about our role in society.
Dateline: Washington D.C. Via Radley Balko, we learn of a police raid on smoke shops, including one called Capitol Hemp. So far, so banal — another pointlessly mastubatory gesture in the financially and socially ruinous War on Drugs. What's notable about this particular raid is that the police, in drafting their affidavit of probable cause in support of a search warrant, argued that display of materials about constitutional rights was probative of criminal activity and criminal intent:
4. While your Affiant was looking at the smoking devices U/C [redacted] observed a DVD that was for sale entitled "10 Rules for Dealing with Police". The DVD gave the following listed topics that were covered as:
A. Deal with traffic stops, street stops and police at your door.
B. Know your rights and maintain your cool, and;
C. Avoid common police tricks and prevent humiliating searches.
Your Affiant notes that while this DVD is informative for any citizen, when introduced into a store that promotes the use of a controlled substance this DVD becomes a tool for deceiving law enforcement to keep from being arrested. The typical citizen would not need to know detailed information as to US Supreme Court case law regarding search and seizure because they are not transporting illegal substances in fear of being caught.
Yes, that's the same 10 Rules publication that we wrote about here last year — an utterly straightforward, inoffensive exposition about protecting your rights (and your safety) when interacting with law enforcement. The video tells people that they have a right — a right set forth in the United States Constitution — to remain silent and to refuse to give consent to searches. Taking a page from modern pro-statist "what do you have to hide?" rhetoric, the police say that a typical citizen "would not need to know" such information and that it is intended to "deceive law enforcement."
Of course, this is utter horseshit. Normal citizens who haven't done a damn thing wrong get arrested and abused and sometimes tased or shot by police all the time. Law enforcement would prefer that you lie back and take it, that you adopt the unprincipled and insipid "law and order" mindset and regard constitutional rights with the suspicion and contempt reserved in popular culture for hippies and ACLU lawyers. Law enforcement loves a servile populace.
The wished-for servility is not restricted to the sphere of constitutional rights. The sort of people who run your government would prefer that you not expose their justifications to the cold hard light of reason or scientific inquiry, either. This is hardly restricted to law enforcement — who hasn't seen a politician who refuses to go beyond his or her talking points in responding to probing questions about policy? But in law enforcement — in the ritualistic invocation of the magic words Think of the Children! — the demand for unquestioning acceptance of moronism reaches its peak.
This brings us to Pedobear.
If you have been on the internet much, you've probably seen references to Pedobear — a crass, semi-satirical, semi-gross reference to pedophilia in culture, sometimes employed to criticize the culture's grotesque sexualization of children, sometimes to make light of abuse. Pedobear is a meme, a reference, an internet in-joke.
At least, that's what people with a clue — people who habitually employ critical thinking — realize.
But law enforcement is notoriously incapable of separating internet memes from reality. That's why some local law enforcement officials have put out "warnings" about Pedobear, suggesting that references to him may denote actual pedophile activity, and that Pedobear stickers are a method for actual pedophiles to communicate with each other. In terms of credulity, this is roughly the equivalent of the Department of Education decrying a startling decline in grammar amongst photographed cats.
In New Mexico, the Attorney General's Office issued such a warning about Pedobear, leading first to gullible media warnings and then to embarrassed and resentful backtracking by the media . In response, Phil Sisneros, communications director for the Attorney General Gary King, wrote the ultimate apologia for stubborn irrationality in law enforcement:
For the record, of course our investigators know that the Pedobear symbology began as an Internet meme joke, poking fun at pedophiles, and yes, we know that anyone who has the bad taste to display a Pedobear symbol is not necessarily a pedophile…emphasis on the word "necessarily." If you are a parent of a three year old, can you really take a chance? This is most assuredly NOT fear-mongering by "well meaning government officials," as one journalist seemed to wonder about. Law enforcement personnel across the country know about Pedobear, they are also concerned. This is the Attorney General's Office simply trying to make New Mexicans aware that the Pedobear symbol is out there and we think the general public, especially those who are not clued in to today's Internet culture, deserve to know what the Pedobear symbol is about and how it is interpreted by law enforcement. Individuals can make their own conclusions as to the relative importance of this information. You don't have to drink the Kool-Aid to know what's in it, right? Lastly, if the Attorney General's Office is lambasted for being too cautious by doing anything and everything we can to help protect children from pedophiles…we're OK with that.
Remember, "it's for the children" — like "remember 9/11" and "War on Terror" — means never having to say you're sorry. It means never having to offer plausible explanations that can withstand rational inquiry. If you don't agree, what kind of parent — what kind of American — are you?
You have rights. Those rights include the right against self-incrimination, the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and a right to think critically. Exercise them — even though a substantial segment of law enforcement thinks that doing so makes you a bad citizen.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- A Response To Marc: Institutions, Agendas, and the "Culture War" - January 13th, 2016
- Lawyering Is About Service, Not Self-Actualization - January 11th, 2016
- Lawsplainer: Was FAU Prof. James Tracy Fired in Violation of His First Amendment Rights? - January 7th, 2016
- Defy, Defy, Defy. - January 7th, 2016
- President Obama And The Rhetoric Of Rights - January 5th, 2016