Punishment Park, U.S.A.
They have been branded enemies of the state: thought criminals, anti-American propagandists, political extremists and even the occasional violent agitator. Stripped of their rights, hustled through kangaroo courts and abused by indifferent captors; many who considered themselves peaceful dissidents learn to channel their righteous indignation into a brutality equal to what was inflicted upon them. In this way violence begets violence. But something else occurs. The agents of the state were taught to see political protesters as cop killers and nonconformists as lethal threats; now their training is vindicated. When a brother in blue falls in the line of duty vengeance inevitably takes priority over the rule of law. The killers and their allies must get what they deserve; after all, they’re criminals. The cycle of hate, violence and toughness escalates and continues.
This scenario is being played out in cities and states across the country as racial tensions, economic recession and police militarization collide in a snowballing eruption. For anyone familiar with Peter Watkin's 44-year-old film Punishment Park it may bring about a sense of déjà vu. Unfortunately, we've seen this movie before.
In Watkin's alternative history President Nixon declares a state of emergency to deal with the growing anti-war movement and other dissenters of the American regime. These emergency powers give federal authorities the ability to abduct and imprison those deemed "risks to internal security"; people like subversive poets, student group leaders and pacifists fleeing the draft. After each of the accused is summarily sentenced to 10-30 years in federal prison they are given a perverse choice: serve your sentence or take your chances with three days in Punishment Park. If you survive a 53 mile hike through the Arizona desert and reach the coveted American flag you are set free. However, if you are apprehended by the police and National Guard members that hunt you as part of their training then you carry out your sentence as before. Resist their capture in any way and the full force of the state is ready to meet violence with violence. Film crews from around the world document America's experimental legal system and the result is the mockumentary Punishment Park.
In 1971 this film was met with shock and anger, with Hollywood studios refusing to distribute it. Innocent Americans branded communist sympathizers, a citizen tribunal consisting of "America take it or leave it" automatons and police enforcers indifferent to the violence they deliver because "they're just doing their jobs"; perhaps these elements combined with the documentary style of the film hit too close to home. But if the parallels were ominous then, what can we say in a world with legalized indefinite detention, presidential kill lists of American citizens and CIA torture camps across the globe? Watched through today's lens it's equally valid to call this film prophetic and passé. Which is worse, that a film that "couldn't happen here" and was viewed as heretically outrageous has indeed come to pass or that we've already moved beyond Punishment Park's quaint limitations such that it doesn't elicit much of a reaction at all?
Pawns in the Game
44 years ago Punishment Park was called disturbing, unpatriotic and possibly even communist propaganda - whatever it took to see it censored and banned in country after country. When this forgotten film found a new life on the internet a new generation saw it in a much different light. Instead of condemning Watkins they asked what he would think of his film in the era of the Patriot Act, the NDAA and the invasion of Iraq. The question was asked, could this movie even be made today? Many saw parallels between the behavior and attitudes of Punishment Park's police and civilian tribunal with what you now find in the neo-cons of both parties. As James Allen Wilkins noted in his review, "You can almost interchange the word "communist" with "terrorist" throughout the film and the movie might as well have been made last week."
However, it's important to remember that no one watches this film in a vacuum; everyone brings their own bias to Punishment Park. In 1971 54% of the public "almost always" trusted the government but now that number has been cut in half, with the millennial generation showing all-time low levels of trust in government. Hence, one generation relates to the enforcer class and model Americans of the film while another generation mostly sides with the rebels and victims of the state. This is where I see the brilliance and timelessness of the film. All the characters give such an honest portrayal of both perspectives that there is no obvious group of good guys / bad guys but rather viewers will walk away with their own narrative based on which group they instinctively relate to in the story. It's similar to the "libertarian test" of watching a video of a police beating. Is your first reaction to defend the cop who is "just doing his job" or to side with the person guilty of some heinous crime like selling untaxed cigarettes?
Recognizing that a shift in perspective can lead one to have a totally different reaction to the film, this is where we have a real opportunity to use it as a lesson for exploring the bigger picture. Instead of automatically siding with either the protesters or the police, it is more interesting to take a step back and look at the system that was erected around them; look at the chess board instead of the individual pawns in the game.
On one side the police and military are saying "I'm just doing my job", "I wouldn't have killed him if he would have obeyed my orders" and "they attacked us, we were just defending ourselves". Perhaps if the prisoners of Punishment Park had meekly submitted to their arrest no harm would have come to them, so shouldn't they bear some of the responsibility for what happened? From the perspective of the prisoners recall that they are running for their freedom; they are desperate, starving, dehydrated and being chased 24/7 by the cops and military. With that waving American flag within arm’s reach, so delirious with the prospect of freedom that they can taste it, of course some of them will resist going back into bondage. Hence, a peace-seeking and naïve enforcer or prisoner may enter Punishment Park with the best intention of following the rules, but the system itself is rigged to ensure only one outcome is possible: anger, rage and bloodshed.
When we understand that this game always ends in an escalation of violence so that there are no winners, this prompts us to look outside of our own team's interest. It's memorable of the mock-interview with one of the members of the citizen tribunal, where she is asked how she'd feel if her own child was brought before the court at Punishment Park. She gasped in horror at the thought, "well that is impossible, my kids would never do that. They were trained different." What she failed to consider was that the same unilateral / dictatorial powers that a right-wing president welds against "leftists", "communist sympathizers" and "revolutionaries" could be used by a future left-wing president against "right-wing extremists", "constitutionalists" and "tax-protesters". The baton of power goes from the right hand to the left and back again but it keeps getting bigger and bigger, perpetually preparing for the next chance to swing an even deadlier blow.
So why even play this game? The people certainly don't gain anything when a police officer is murdered; all that does is solidify the cops into a gang mentality and prepares them to use their military training against the protesters who are committed to peaceful civil disobedience. Ultimately the police will not win either. The economy will be destroyed in a police state and the enforcer class is traditionally liquidated by its own government when it goes down this path. When we finally see that our self-interest isn't linked to our enforcer/protester costume but to the system we all share then we finally have the opportunity to transcend this game and create something better. But first we need to understand the game we're playing so that we don't unintentionally duplicate it. That begs the question, who created it and why?
The Power of Prediction
This scene is currently unfolding: cops follow orders to enforce malum prohibitum laws like a tax on cigarettes and murder a man on video. The secret proceedings of the grand jury result in no charges being pressed against the police. Protests turn violent as someone randomly murders two police officers, not because of their acts but because of their uniform. Now the state can ratchet things up and it will go back and forth like this across the country. Will the final escalation result in the logical consequence of the state's monopoly on violence - a complete gun ban? If so, this would be the story of America's second civil war.
This is the scenario that Alex Jones has been warning about for years. While he's known as the king of conspiracy for seriously investigating the "inside job" angle of events from the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 to Sandy Hook, this aspect of his work often distracts from his record of accurate predictions. Credit must be given where credit is due. Regardless of what someone thinks concerning the origin of these events one cannot deny that Alex Jones has been incredibly accurate on the state's reaction to them. Whether it is an Illuminati plot using the tried and tested formula of problem-reaction-solution or a more modest criminal enterprise that is prepared to heed Rahm Emanuel's advice to "never let a serious crisis go to waste", Jones has been chillingly prophetic when it comes to how our world would change in response to terrorism, mass-shooting attacks and economic crises.
As someone who has been a listener to his show for 8+ years, his consistent message has warned of an American police state, economic collapse and a resulting civil war. When it came to 9/11 he always said that the specter of Muslim extremists were always the necessary excuse to pass laws like the Patriot Act and the NDAA, but that the Homeland Security apparatus was always designed for the American people. For Jones, foreign wars not only made the military industrial complex billions but also hardened our troops for what would be required of them when they'd return to police American streets as if they were in Fallujah, Iraq. Derivative bubbles, "too big to fail" banks, Wall-Street bail-outs and legislation that is conveniently passed or repealed paves the way for one economic crisis after another, making the average American increasingly desperate and willing to trade liberty for security. Watch one of Jones' first films from the '90s and recognize with disappointment how right he's been.
But it always goes back to the same question that's harder to answer with satisfaction: Why? How was Jones able to predict these events and how America would increasingly be turned into a Police State? Whose master plan is this? As George H.W. Bush said 10 years to the day before 9/11, "it's a big idea... a New World Order". You cannot have world government with any sovereign nation, so “order out of chaos" techniques are used to destabilize one nation after the next, with America being the last shining jewel to take down. As America's wealth is used to run the engine of global police it has the dual effect of discrediting America and destroying it from within. If we can't wake up to this trap we'll play out the scenario Jones warns of the most: a civil war brought on by economic depression and gun control with the military and police against the American people, all the pawns senselessly killing each other while the globalists laugh in their offshore fortresses.
Austrian Economics meets Conspiracy Theory
The Jonesian picture may be hard to swallow: New World Order, Skull and Bones, and Illuminati secret societies pushing civilization off a cliff to establish world government. Many libertarians will decry these types of theories as discrediting to their movement. However, one can ignore this angle of a sinister agenda and still find events like 9/11 completely predictable and even logical using only Austrian business cycle theory and libertarian class analysis.
For just over 100 years, since the beginning of the Federal Reserve, the eventual collapse of the dollar was predictable. Power corrupts and the power to print money out of thin air is such an awesome force that few could withstand the temptation for abuse. Like the ring of Sauron it pollutes and defiles all who weld it. Indeed, the reason Dr. Ron Paul first ran for Congress was because of the end of Bretton Woods, when the dollar lost its last remnant backing to gold. Dr. Paul was trained in the school of Austrian Economics and he knew that a pure fiat dollar could not last, such that he's been giving the same warning speech for 40+ years. Some thought he was a prophet, but what's more amazing than clairvoyance was his consistency and integrity to never sell out and never back down from what he knew would be true.
Thus, one can assume that those of us familiar with the Austrian School of Economics are the only ones that understand the inherent problems of fiat currency: how it fuels business cycles and pumps up bubbles that must end in busts. Under this theory our global government, banking and finance leaders have swallowed their own Kool-aide and actually believe that Keynesianism solutions are solutions, regardless of the logical and historical evidence to the contrary.
But let's explore another option: assume that at least a few people in power are completely aware of the long-run futility of money printing as a panacea. A few insiders know that the inherent instability of the petro-dollar, the 100+ trillion in unfunded liabilities, etc. will eventually bring economic collapse, with that collapse most likely followed by one last heroic attempt at money printing to result in hyper-inflation. For those in power, who most certainly want to maintain their power, what should be done with this knowledge?
Knowing that time is running out for the American empire, and perhaps even holding to some bizarre ends-justify-the-means logic of preventing a new uprising of the communist system, those in power would have a very real incentive to institute a police state to ensure that they can maintain their power during a time of economic hysteria. Dissidents would have to be silenced; revolutionaries would have to be disappeared. Maybe they got some of their ideas from Punishment Park. The point is that these police state powers would be unthinkable under the American system of 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even pre-9/11. The American people would rebel if these changes were instituted overnight. But instead, do it slowly, year by year, right-wing administration followed by a left-wing administration, and blame it all on an external threat, the shadowy Muslim extremists in faraway lands. They will never see it coming. You can even imagine how a "patriotic American" could be persuaded to assist in such a diabolical plan; after all, the future of "America" depends on it. A few billion dollars in pay-off and hush-up money wouldn't hurt either.
100 years ago by Cecil Rhodes and Satan or if we're all in the back seat of a car being driven recklessly off a cliff by drunkards who know not what they do, the question remains: what should we do about it? How do we stop this tragedy of errors where innocent people are murdered by police with official immunity and random cops are in turn murdered by desperate people who see no other way to achieve justice? Are we destined to stupidly kill each other while the people that put this system in motion, the ones that constructed our Punishment Park, sit back and laugh?
What must be done is education and peaceful non-compliance. This is not the fast and easy answer, but it is the only chance we have at true success. We need to reach out to those in uniform and those without state issued costumes. The nosy neighbor or the parent that calls the cops to deal with an unruly child will certainly learn the folly of their ways when their baby is summarily murdered, but surely this isn't the best or only way to learn this lesson. Don't call the police unless you absolutely need men with guns - because that's all they are good for. Similarly, we must reach out to those in uniform and wake them up to the role they are playing in this lose-lose game.
The common thread connecting the 9-1-1-calling-boob and the license-to-kill-carrying meter maid, the root of the problem we face, is the belief in authority. As demonstrated in Punishment Park, the police and military do not hold themselves accountable for the murders and other crimes they commit while they are in uniform, nor do the member of the citizen tribunal who sentence the innocents to their fate. As Larkin Rose says, their actions are no longer their own, they have become a part of "authority" such that they are free from the moral responsibility and consequences of their actions. This myth must be overcome. It won't be easy, 12-20 years of government school indoctrination has made sure of that, but it is the only possibility of success we have.
The last and most important point that cannot be overstated enough is this: aggressive violence is not the solution. The state, as defined as the holder of a monopoly on violence, has gotten very good at violence, just as anyone becomes excellent at a particular trade through specialization and practice. We shouldn't challenge Michael Jordan to a game of basketball or Tiger Woods to a game of golf, not when our lives depend on it. We cannot win a game of offensive violence with the government, we cannot out-state the state. The state is the problem; anarcho-capitalism is the answer.