Over the last couple weeks, news outlets have reported several high profile cases where police pulled over motorists, raped them anally and vaginally roadside and then took them to a hospital where hospital staff forced them to ingest chemical emetics and laxatives, physically assaulted them and further subjected them to assaults and rape.
"Only in America," we think ...
But this is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Governments have long used rape as a sort of social control. Most often, it is soldiers who rape the women and men of their enemy. Given the militarization of the police, it is not a surprise that rape culture has become institutionalized among public safety officers as well.
Reading stories like this, we react in shock and think about the violation of civil liberties.
But there is another aspect of this story -- how government uses the potential of invasions of the body and invasions of privacy to change the behavior of individuals. The police rapes in Texas and New Mexico show now an established pattern that we can only conclude comes from institutional policy and training.
These aren't the acts of a few sadistic individuals, but a method that police are trained to carry out and that is accepted as the current practice even by members of the medical profession, who form an essential part of the incidents.
Police rape as government policy -- designed not really to punish individuals but to spread fear and encourage submission to its officers -- bears a striking resemblance to the abuse by surveillance policies of the NSA. In name intended to protect Americans from foreign threats, the NSA in fact acts as a way to shape and control domestic social behavior, to prevent Americans from thinking out or acting out, and to prevent the kind of dissent that threatens our political establishment and the rich and powerful who back them.
An individual police officer is unlikely to care about drugs.
They do care about their position in their communities, their place among their peers and the power and prestige that the badge affords them. Being an armed agent of the government grants you a lot of power. Power feels good. Flush with this power, police officers naturally flirt with the borders of a lot of very dangerous psychological territory -- borders that officers cross, but that departments must ruthlessly patrol.
When police departments stop patrolling those borders and institutionalize violations of the body and privacy, the psychologically dangerous territory becomes physically dangerous for us ...
But society itself is also put into very dangerous positions.
If you knew you could be pulled over on Rte. 1 at any time and raped roadside by a gang of officers, how would that change your behavior?
Now that you know the government can read your e-mails and can intercept your phone calls, how does that change your behavior?
Of course, you are still "free" to drive anywhere you want.
And you're "free" to send what e-mails you want.
But will you want to any more?