“Blood on the leaves of liberty”:
Analysis of an ex. LAPD officer’s rampage
By ZoRa B’Al Sk’a
The story of the ex. LAPD officer Christopher Jordan Dorner continues to unfold. As a former member of the police force, Dorner’s individual resistance to the LAPD displays a very contradictory consciousness. Dorner is resisting part of the state, while retaining a sense of fealty to the overall ideology of the state. Dorner’s actions are reactionary in nature and represent a particular kind of violence that thrives under the conditions of neoliberal capitalism in the United States.
Dorner is not revolutionary and it should not be expected that his actions will contribute to a revolutionary process. Nonetheless, Dorner’s autonomous actions have opened up discussions of political violence, challenging the taboo idea of openly waging warfare upon the police. Although Dorner’s actions are legitimate in that they strike terror into the white supremacist LAPD, Dorner himself is not divorced from white supremacy.
As made clear by his manifesto, Dorner’s motive for waging ultra-violent warfare is to “reveal” the corrupt nature of the LAPD and it’s racist practices. Yet there is something that is unique to Dorner’s declaration of warfare. Dorner intimately understands the white supremacist violence that the police wage upon civilians, but isolates his anger solely to the LAPD. This is a narrow scope of how the state and white supremacy work. Thus it makes sense why Dorner pledges his allegiance to the U.S. government, stating:
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants-TJ. This quote is not directed toward the US government which I fully support 100%. This is toward the LAPD who can not monitor itself. The consent decree should not have been lifted, ever.”(Dorner, 2013)
This allegiance to state power and attempt to “rectify” order within the police has many qualities of proto-fascism. Dorner, the lone-wolf renegade cop, asserts that justice must be forcefully maintained within the same oppressive structure. He believes the state is supposed to bring “justice” into communities. This is similar to the basic principles of fascism highlighted in Benito Mussolini’s “Doctrine of Fascism,” where Mussolini explains:
“The State, as conceived and realized by Fascism, is a spiritual and ethical entity for securing the political, juridical, and economic organization of the nation, an organization which in its origin and growth is a manifestation of the spirit. The State guarantees the internal and external safety of the country, but it also safeguards and transmits the spirit of the people, elaborated down the ages in its language, its customs, its faith. The State is not only the present; it is also the past and above all the future”(Mussolini, 1932).
Dorner speaks not only of the moral failure of the police, but also of that of the black community:
“Mr. Bill Cosby, you are a reasonable and talented man who has spoken the truth of the cultural anomalies within the black communities that need to change now. The black communities’ resentment toward you is because they don’t like hearing the truth or having their clear and evident dirty laundry aired to the nation. The problem is, the country is not blind nor dumb. They believe we are animals. Do not mute your unvarnished truthful speech or moral compass. Blacks must strive for more in life than bling, hoes, and cars. The current culture is an epidemic that leaves them with no discernible future.”
Dorner’s lack of understanding of the pervasiveness of institutional power leads to reactionary motives. One of his targets are “misandrist” lesbian officers:
“Those lesbian officers in supervising positions who go to work, day in day out, with the sole intent of attempting to prove your misandrist authority (not feminism) to degrade male officers. You are a high value target.”(Dorner,2013).
He also misunderstands how Black officers propagate racism in the police:
“Those Black officers in supervisory ranks and pay grades who stay in south bureau (even though you live in the valley or OC) for the sole intent of getting retribution toward subordinate caucasians officers for the pain and hostile work environment their elders inflicted on you as probationers (P-1′s) and novice P-2’s. You are a high value target. You perpetuated the cycle of racism in the department as well. You breed a new generation of bigoted caucasian officer when you belittle them and treat them unfairly. “(Dorner,2013)
Dorner’s text is also heavily patriotic and militant, further reflecting proto-fascist elements. It reads similar to F.T. Marinetti’s proto-fascist piece, “The Futurist Manifesto.” Marinetti demands a purification process via violence:
“We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive…”(Marinetti, 1909).
The LAPD is failing to fulfill the “spiritual and ethical” role of the state. This is made more evident by the recent shootings of civilians in the manhunt for Dorner. Dorner wants to violently reorganize the LAPD. The LAPD has responded by providing Los Angeles as a war zone. The “moral failing” of the LAPD has made it more likely for mass support to be on the side of Dorner. The LAPD is losing control of the situation.
Dorner’s idea of justice contradicted his experience within the LAPD. Yet he still pledges allegiance to the state. This is similar to the line of the militias and the Christian Patriot movement. They’re against parts of the current state or the form the state currently takes, but are loyal to other parts of the state or an idealized vision of what the state once was or should be. This contradiction produces situations where reform is sought “by any means necessary.”
Revolutionary violence would look much different to the reactionary violence that Dorner is waging. There would be a complete break from the hegemony of the state. Asymmetrical warfare would not be isolated to a single police department. But within the U.S. there are currently no revolutionary organizations or revolutionary struggles to allow for collective revolutionary violence to really develop. As long as society continues to deteriorate and there are no clear examples of collective revolutionary violence, ruptures like Dorner’s will appear more pronounced. There is currently no standard in the U.S. for revolutionary violence that aims to cripple capitalism and the state.
The following are excerpts from an article that first appeared on Counterpunch. George Ciccariello-Maher is affilited with FNT.
American Blowback: Cop-on-Cop Crime in LA
Christopher Dorner allegedly killed a police officer and two civilians. This was not a random shooting by a right-wing gun-nut mourning the loss of the “Real America.” Here is a man with good things to say about liberal democrats, a supporter of heightened gun control, a former LAPD officer and Navy reservist, targeting his own institution, which he accused of racism, violence, and corruption.
The press is busy citing only those bits of the statement which make Dorner seem crazy: when he addresses Tim Tebow or Larry David, for example, or when he laments the fact that he will not survive to see The Hangover 3. But the vast majority of the letter paints a picture of someone who, while clearly undergoing some sort of mental break, is astonishingly lucid as to the causes and candid as to what he intends to do about it. These causes and these intentions, regardless of what you may hear on MSNBC or Entertainment Tonight (both will essentially carry the same message), begin and end with the LAPD.
The LAPD has long played a vanguard role in white supremacist policing in the United States. Whether it be the conscious recruitment of racist cops from the south in the 1960s under William Parker (sparking the 1965 Watts Rebellion) or the continuity of well-worn brutal methods under Darryl Gates (sparking the massive 1992 L.A. Rebellions), there has been little new under the sun.
A Bloody Fight for Honor on the Other Side of the Blue Line
It is clear from Dorner’s communiqué that he feels that he is following a code of honor against an unlawful body that has sullied his name; his objective being to reclaim his honor. Through his spectacle of violence he is also overtly drawing attention to his self-identity – as a black man, as an “honest officer”/ conscientious worker, and as a veteran – counter-posed against institutions of corruption, deceit and abuse. In an effort that he clearly self-defines as terrorism, Dorner invokes old-West, rugged individualism: “Unfortunately, I will not be alive to see my name cleared. That’s what this is about, my name. A man is nothing without his name.” At length, Dorner goes through ideal-types of various officers’ grouped by race, and explicitly cites their role in reproducing white supremacy. He makes clear that he is patriotic and loves the government (and Chris Christie); his war is with the LAPD.
Not unlike many mass killers, Dorner’s writing exhibits a hyper-vigilant(e) feeling of betrayal and unwavering need for revenge. His writing reflects a self-conscious awareness of this role, a self-forged morality that invokes clear Zarathustra-like qualities of the Overman imposing his will on weak and vile petty tyrants. Dorner says:
“I am here to change and make policy. The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change. I am here to correct and calibrate your morale (sic) compasses to true north.”
This is surely a discussion the LAPD would not pine over if it did not happen. Now Dorner has declared war on the LAPD and he has named targets: “The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.”
A Defection in the Occupation Forces
The parameters of the violence he has seen meted out to everyday poor residents of Los Angeles structures his own response, such as when he urges:
“Citizens/non-combatants, do not render medical aid to downed officers/enemy combatants. They would not do the same for you. They will let you bleed out… don’t honor these fallen officers/dirtbags. When your family members die, they just see you as extra overtime at a crime scene and at a perimeter. Why would you value their lives when they clearly don’t value yours or your family members lives?”
He has studied the new counterinsurgency doctrine, as rewritten in 2006 by General David Petraeus, and he turns its language against its authors, comparing himself to insurgent forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty. ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] is my strength and your weakness. You will now live the life of the prey.”
Frantz Fanon argued pointedly that exploitation, occupation, and colonization simply cannot exist without racism and torture of one form or another. When Fanon resigned his post as a psychiatrist to join the Algerian Revolution, he was merely putting into revolutionary practice what he had practiced in the analyst’s chair for years. For Fanon, mental neuroses, especially among people of color, were the result not of any inherent trait or familial trauma, but of the profound trauma imposed by white supremacist and colonial society. And since social structures generate many mental illnesses, we cannot hope to cure these without destroying the institutions that make people sick in the first place.
It was this imperative that led Fanon to throw himself into the armed struggle, and when he did so, he wrote that: “A society that drives its members to desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society to be replaced.” There can be no more powerful symptom of desperation, no more direct indicator of the non-viability of existing institutions, than this hunted man named Christopher Dorner.
There’s nothing pretty about the desperate actions of a soon-to-be-dead man, but we owe it to ourselves, and to the world, to at least attempt to understand. To be clear: Dorner’s statement is not a revolutionary manifesto, and he certainly didn’t grasp the structural relationship between occupation and LAPD brutality, but his statement and his actions are deeply symptomatic of a social illness that it does not name.
Given its social function, the LAPD simply cannot be anything but racist and brutal, and as though attempting to prove Dorner’s point, the response to his attacks has been as brutal as anything.
The LAPD gang unit trains troops headed to Afghanistan in how to develop informants and use counterinsurgency tactics to control “hostile” populations and spaces. The abuses that Dorner lists are the effects of this logic of occupation, a term officers themselves use to describe their work. As with criminal Ramparts officers getting promotions, Dorner sees the daily routines of abuse as morally wrong, but without seeing the logic of the broader structures in which those practices are embedded.
A Gravedigger in Uniform
“I am the walking exigent circumstance you created.” – Christopher Dorner
Much like Dan Freeman, the main character in Stan Greenlee’s classic book and film, The Spook Who Sat By the Door, Christopher Dorner is the dialectical gravedigger of a dying system: armed, trained, and prepared by a system which prizes cop culture, which massively arms the police and unleashes them on the poor and racialized, and which in its late stages demands that black people do the work of white supremacy. In this circumstance, those skills are being utilized against the police.
For Marx, capitalism would sow the seeds of its own destruction and produce its own gravedigger, the proletariat. Fanon recognized, however, that this gravedigger might be characterized more by the “desperate solutions” to which they turn than by their class consciousness. In the United States today, late capitalism is equally shot through with white supremacy and upheld by brute force by increasingly heavy-handed police. It should not surprise us when the gravediggers assume an ominously different form.