The looker is the judge

Long quote from zunguzungu:

[…]Hoover’s project of surveillance and blackmail against MLK was, as he understood it, a specifically cold war campaign — he never got over being tapped to lead the FBI while Dulles got the newly formed CIA — and even though all the data they collected showed that King was not at all sympathetic to secular communism, and had no real connections to foreign groups outside the United States, they persisted in seeing the spectre of incipient communism everywhere they looked.

The easiest explanation is that people like Hoover were simplistic tools, sufficiently warped by cold war ideology that when they saw someone like Robeson, DuBois, or King dare to question the American way, they could only parse the data in manichaean terms: not American, therefore communist. That might be it; that shoe might fit. But maybe they also saw communism everywhere they looked not because they were bad lookers, but because of what they understood looking itself to signify, precisely because they were very good at looking. In other words, I wonder how much of what they saw was not a product of what they were obsessively looking for, but a byproduct of how “looking” was being conceptually understood by them: as with torture, while surveillance is supposed to be a mode of detecting crimes, in practice it can very quickly shade into evidence of a crime[…]

The notion that slips its nasty foot in the door of any conversation on torture changes in phrasing, but always smells something like this: if you haven’t done anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.  There’s no way to shoe that notion that gets around the trap that zunguzungu describes; if you have attracted attention, then you must be guilty.  No one investigates innocent people, because they are innocent.  The looker is the judge, and the look is the jury.

Then why would anyone say that only the guilty need to fear an encroaching police state?  Here’s why: because that belief is what empowers the judging look, which manages to produce exactly what it is looking for.  Without the assumption that the innocent will never be looked at, we would, as a nation, collectively demand absurd rights like the right to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, or the right to due process of law, or the right to a speedy and public trial, all of which would impede our ability to impute guilt in an efficient manner.

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About Dhouda

"And what shall I say, fragile vessel that I am? I shall turn to others as a friend." Dhouda's Manual, AD 841
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