Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reality TV

A friend from southern California wrote the other day to share a nightmare that I have come to believe lives at the heart of the whole "governing through crime," "culture of control" regime. No, thankfully neither she, nor anyone in her family were killed or injured in a violent crime. (Sadly that happened to friend of ours who was killed in a robbery near an Oakland ATM in the late '80s or early 90s). That happens to many, but even in America it is not widespread enough (and is too concentrated among the poor) to found a political regime. The nightmare we can all imagine, if we haven't actually lived it, is a potentially violent "criminal" penetrating or attempting to penetrate the sacred precincts of our home. It is that nightmare that keeps us seeking to live as far as possible from the city center where we imagine such criminals live, and which leads us to squander billions to mass incarcerate as many of them as possible.

In this case, Pam's 11 year old son Ellis and a friend were enjoying a swim in his grandparents home (around the corner from their Studio City house), when an LAPD chase of two reported shooters in a BMW terminated in a pretty spectacular automobile accident just outside. In a remarkable helicopter live video and voice over from WABC7.com, the final minutes of the chase and the aftermath have now been made available to millions.

After striking several parked cards on the suburban residential street and rolling or nearly rolling over, the BMW came to a halt. The driver and passenger can be seen leaping from the car and running toward the backyard of one of the houses. One of the runners stops (apparently ready to surrender to police who are only seconds behind), but the other jumped over what looks like a wooden fence or gate into the yard where Ellis Nicely and his pal were swimming. At this point the anchors who have been reporting the chase and the foot run as if it were a major golf tournament (referring to the exit from the car as a "foot bail-out") begin to talk in extremely anxious terms of the threat to the kids who can be easily made out in the pool as the helicopter stays over the fleeing felon who appeared to move as rapidly as possibly through their yard and over the next fence (according to Ellis, advising the boys to "chill-out" as he streaked by).

In addition to enjoying this truly enthralling piece of reality TV (I don' see how Hollywood writers can survive if the LAPD can keep delivering product like this) consider the incredibly potent doses of imaginary and real danger took place here.

To millions watching, the whole gospel of governing through crime was laid down. "You can never be truly secure from demonically animated violent criminals who are trying constantly to penetrate your home and do unspeakable things to your most precious assets. Thank G-d the police (and TV news) are on the spot."

To a few others (hopefully including the handful of readers of this blog) a parallel world opens up. There, the LAPD, based on reports of a possible shooting initiate a high speed car chase through a residential neighborhood that could easily have killed people. Just imagine if Ellis had been getting ready to mount his bike on the street outside the home. Meanwhile the runner, while clearly someone willing to engage in extremely risky behavior to self and others, appears to have zero interest in penetrating the homes of suburban people to mess with their kids. (Indeed, he appeared reasonably to be seeking some place unoccupied by anyone else to hide in).

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