20. Did the federalization of the National Guard provide a specter for the Floyd Riots that were pushed as a narrative of national destabilization? In ways akin to the magnification of the spread, devastation, and range of real fires that devastated undebrush along much of Australia’s western coast were exaggerated as the work of arsonists on FOX, as if to promote a need for social containment and policing in the subcontinent, in a blatantly “false map” far worse than a guileless “cartofail” as it concealed the contribution a parched landscape starved for rain played in spreading devastating fires–
–as a range of provocative misleading maps magnified the carnage in early January 2020 down under, by showing an apocalyptic end of times–often spring an artist’s visualization of fire locations detected over a month as if it was a satellite view credited to NASA captured in real time, collapsing fires from November to late January, as if they were ongoing, and showing fires in the northeast that had all but been extinguished by January rains, as fires near dried out Canberra and New South Wales so stubbornly endured.
The vertiginous sharing of screenshots necessitated a visual guide to the fires, from responsible news sources, distinguishing fires under control and flagging the confusion of icons that presented an image of duration, more than intensity, to magnify the active burn area rather than a live fire map–and removing the fires from the crisis of global temperature warming that so dried out the brush to render it of such high combustability.
The bizarre criminalization of The Australian fires–or the use of the map to perpetuate an unproblematic discourse of criminality on FOX—was all too eery given the criminalization of protest by an analogous cartographic symbology: the point logic of GPS was exploited, of course, in the FOX map to elide the duration of fires with their intensity, and to compile collective fires to suggest a simultaneous ranging of fires across a landmass, which FOX imagined might indeed be able to be internalized by Americans as the image of fires spreading, as if in a continuous body, from Los Angeles to Washington DC and Tampa, in a bizarre premonition of the national level of violence that FOX would continue to cast the protests–and to link them to a decisively an unproblematized category of criminality in haunting ways.
This illusory superimposition of the subcontinent atop the United States purports to explain the span of firescape to an American audience that is ignorant of the size of the subcontinent, not only distort the scale, but seem to evoke a tension spreading across the regions of southern California, the southern United States, and through Michigan and Minnesota that distort the scales of wildfire by an utterly inaccurate map treated as an overlay, designed not to prevent danger but increase alarm by layer manipulation that creates a terrifying image of continuity of firescape across the continent, utterly inaccurate in its band of flame across the interior, or their intensity around Canberra, reducing all points to a spread of one dark red to beg speculation as to how the fire was communicated and grew.
The falsity of expanding the bushfires in the far west coast seem creations of social media that predict Mike Davis-like scenarios of disaster that spread across the entire continent and engulf it, by using the flame icons of heat sources in the maps made of satellite data that register sources of heat, whose color scheme denotes duration of any grassfire, bush fire, or heat source, as if they recorded the intensity of the burn: the Google Maps template allows for a collapsing of time–in the interests of showing fires that did last weeks if not months–but remove one from the actual landscape of fire occurrence or intensity, leaving a haunting image of fear–even collapsing all fires over a decade, that misleadingly render a continent that appears, due to a sleight of cartographic icons, aflame in real time.
While the fires spread predominantly over coastal areas with brush, congregated in specific sites, the
The continuing casting of the riots as a form of criminality–attaching legends or captions of criminality that encompass arson, property destruction, criminality, and violent shootings in each incident, seem to invite one to link the apparently individual items of violent outbreaks by a hidden underground network, as if to present the crimes of what are labeled the “George Floyd Protests” to racialize their occurrence–as opposed to the Black Lives Matter–as if to suggest the coordination of their violence as against the state and against the law. The fragmentary narratives of torched vehicles, clashes with police, Molotov cocktails, curfew violations, defacement of public property or businesses, commandeering of a police horse or swarming of a police car trigger narratives of widespread illegality.
In the current protests, absence of accuracy renewed an enflamed political body. President Trump may have one-upped Barr’s show of force at what he called gang violence in threatening to deploy “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” on June 1 to stop protests he cast as purely violent, even if many hardly began as such. The current failure to foregrounding race relations reflect the denial of racial disparities before law enforcement as the distinguishing feature of the King Riots. What are now called “George Floyd protests” collectively are portrayed as a new level of illegality, he forcibly cleared the streets of peaceable protestors, and removed from an uneven topography of social insecurity, and portrayed as if tied to race, rather than as a movement intersectional in nature, as if the policing of Floyd’s body–as much as wide unrest at the horror of a failure to respond to the ravages of COVID in the social body and in minority dominant neighborhoods, whose residents suffer often from increased asthma, poor living conditions, and crowding, as well as lack of access to the outdoors, might be off-loaded on endemic high blood pressure, lack of exercise, or even lack of cleanliness.
22. The violation of the black body repeated in taped scene of Rodney King and George Floyd, if almost thirty years apart, both expose unregulated police racialized violence, and a failure to regulate physical aggression of dehumanization in forcibly subduing a victim who was never an inherent threat, despite armed advantage, under the cover of their legal authority as law enforcers: the show of force has moreover tacitly encouraged the use of arms among citizens to defend their own property by similar disproportionate use of force, devaluing minority and black lives, as all seem to act as deputies in a larger carceral network or system of enforcement. Barr not only helped engineered the show of force by Secret Service agents to attack protesters, echoing President Trump’s endorsement of the show of “Overwhelming force. Domination.” to perpetuate a logic giving license to undermine civil liberties, or demonize disorder and unrest.
The spontaneity of outraged protest was the only possible response to the collapse of health care, social security, and public welfare amidst what seemed openly lopsided attacks against the most vulnerable. It seemed as if, having foreclosed any sense or ability to express empathy and concern, of which he is cognitively unable, the severing of any sense of outrage from the violence that was associated with the protests, and became their perhaps not inevitable outgrowth, added insult to injury by discounting the outrage that lay at their base. For Trump, “ending riots and lawlessness” from spreading across the nation was a greater priority than ensuring justice, or addressing race relations, as if the mobilization of military resources would “to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans” was not an intentional slighting of the rights to recognition of African American demands for equality before the law.
If Trump reacted in ways that suggested this was Nixonland, it was more a combined pastiche of historical hopscotch in its association of terror and unrest, drawing from the administration of George W. and George H.W. Bush, perhaps distilled by William Barr, of a South Central 1992 vintage. For the invocation of the of 1807 Insurrection Act that threatened to mobilize soldiers in United States territory against American cities where a show of “dominating force” from local governors or mayors deemed insufficient enforcers, echoed the broad anti-riot tactics last invoked in response to the Rodney King Riots of 1992. It is widely noted but bears repeating that Barr oversaw from the Dept. of Justice, using an armament combination in a show of force for racial policing. The mobilization of National Guard was the bottom line racial violence of the state, that drew from the mobilization of National Guards in the 1967 race riots with Detroit police in which over a thousand buildings were burned, ostensibly to help police who responded to an after hours party of returning Vietnam Vets with brutality, deep unemployment, and moral outrage in the background.
How would National Guarsdmen be reinforced by active duty military troops, in ways that seem to have brought shuddered to the actual military? Did the invocation of an anti-riot playbook replace acknowledging unmet needs? In an extraordinary address to the nation, as police fired smoke devices outside to against protesters near the White House, Trump hoped to present himself to the nation as its savior, a “law and order” President who was “an ally of all peaceful protesters,”the tortured logic of the pronouncement concealing where “law and order” came from.
The world watched the electrification of outrage with incredulity in maps designed to show a nation consumed by violence. If the map seemed so hastily assembled that it was by its very nature “not to scale” as it couldn’t be–but also revealed a topography of moral protest that was no longer isolated to an inner city, as much as the rhetoric of indignation and order tried to cast it as such.
The choices to map the topography of protests in the coming weeks demanded overlays, to comprehend and reveal the sharp differences that distinguished the level of the diffused disgust at racial violence, and the failure of the soveriegn state to respond to inequalities in reaction not only to the horrifying nature of Floyd’s murder by uniformed men protected from redress while serving as law enforcement officers:
On must combine it, or juxtapose it, with a map we have seen before of the new trends in the support of Black Lives Matter movements, courtesy CIVIQS, that provided the support for how the calls for public protests grew, and suggest the wellsprings of their support across the nation:
Where would the troops even be sent, unless the President move to have his Defense Secretary federalize the National Guard nationwide as “violence and looting” were foregrounded in protests that were in fact assertions of the protection of civil rights? The contrast between a map of unrest and the sense of a repeated absence of bringing criminal charges against the police officers who had denied civil rights of suspected offenders?
21. The new topography of protest and violence was disorienting, the outrage evident if its denial deeply sad, and surreally relegated the ongoing pandemic to a static background. The inequalities revealed by the arrest echoed those exposed in the pandemic; we sought to grapple with protests that seemed larger in history than the past century–the intersectional sorts of protests we saw arising might create the possibility of some deeper social change, but also that the picture was indeed changing so quickly in five to dwarf the previous century and a fifth–and present a more deeply wrenching sense of dislocation in the new landscape of the country.
The dislocation of the closure of schools, as much as the eroded social safety nets or public health policy to respond to COVID-19 were part of a large story of social inequality in the slim volume to the right, but seemed to be unfurling in consequences the nation is still on its way to process
The similarity of how an amateur video clip sparked five days of violence in Los Angeles and the now over seven days of a different demographic on a truly national scale resonates both in terms of the culture of policing and the broader sense of disenfranchisement that if acute in South Central in 1991 provoked a national unrest in the era of COVID-19, when the absence of a coherent or community-based response in the cities that were hit hardest by the previously unknown infectious coronavirus outbreak that had come from global travelers was seeded with particular virulence in congested urban communities, was met without a coherent health policy. The levels of disenfranchisement in the similarly disproportionate show of force crystallized a sense of legal inequality and an official lack of interest in the value of human lives or dignity so shocking to reveal an apparent absence of the valuing of lives, and indeed sacrifice of human dignity before the illusory altar of order whose sense of legality was perverse.
Despite the utter novelty of a pandemic as the context of racism, the sizes of the volumes of history books could reflect the level of trauma in minority communities where a disproportionate onslaught of unemployment, furloughs, infections, hospitalizations, spectral mortality rates, and a lack of social services or even care pressed the limits of the known, beyond even the most intolerant forms of political discourse. Despite the willful reduction of twentieth century historical playbooks in the apparent truly existential qualities of COVID-19, the lack of orientation to current events that seemed to demand a massive tome to explain rehearsed the playbooks of the past with an eerily and truly creepy unsettling absence of change.