Via the New Inquiry, Jacob Silverman on how methods of control developed in the War on Terror and previous imperialist endeavors return home to our own shores:
In 1975 and 1976 Foucault argued that Western imperialism didn’t merely force Western institutions on imperial subjects. Rather, “a whole series of colonial models was brought back to the West, and the result was that the West could practise something resembling colonization, or an internal colonialism, on itself.”
This boomerang effect has been resurgent over the past decade, when one can observe practices from the neocolonial frontiers of Baghdad, Kabul, and Hebron now being instituted in New York, Washington, D.C., and London. So-called green zones, security buffers, checkpoints, novel nonlethal weapons, drones, and CCTV—all have become indelible features of the West’s urban centers of political and financial power. Though they originate in the military campaigns prosecuted by Western forces and security contractors, these elements are largely facilitated by the police.
In New York, armed National Guardsmen patrol Grand Central Station and other transportation hubs. The NYPD—which has been turned into a full-fledged intelligence agency, with military-grade equipment, civilian analysts, overseas offices, and in-house CIA liaisons—maps and surveils Muslim enclaves, recalling Israeli practices in the West Bank, the ur-model for counterinsurgency, and raids “known” activist households before protests even take place. Taken together—and one must also cite the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice, which has grown immensely in the past 10 years—these policies reflect a stunning reconfiguration of policing and of how cities are secured against urban publics, which is to say, themselves.
And with “war [serving] as the dominant metaphor in describing the perpetual and boundless condition of urban societies”—a war on drugs, on poverty, on terror—we have a domestic culture that matches the perpetual, amorphous, and secretive wars we are prosecuting on colonial frontiers from Somalia to Pakistan to Yemen.
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