Sunday, June 15, 2008


Ruby Ridge August, 1992.

Some public outrage over the disproportionate actions of the government but, after all, those must have been strange people to want to live in the back-woods of northern Idaho.

Waco April, 1993.

Shock and horror as satellite transmission of the blaze was beamed live to our TVs. Everybody felt bad for the children but--hey--that David Koresh was a kook.

YFZ Ranch Raid April, 2008.

(The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)

Hundreds of children forcibly removed from the only homes they knew. The courts hash it out and the families are reunited but we sure learned a lot about that crazy Warren Jeffs.

One might get the impression that I'm relating a series of events in chronological order. Now I need to reverse it.

L.A. Riots April-May, 1992.

Following the acquittal of the police charged in the video-taped beating of Rodney King, Los Angeles erupted in some of the worst rioting in US history.


Because to the sizable African-American population of L.A., Rodney King was like any other individual in that community. Exacerbating factors: the authorities (police) on the video were white and the trial venue was moved to a mostly white community but that is not the point I'm getting to.

Washington D.C. Sooner than you think.

A large protest of middle-class working people is held to demand government action on the food and fuel crisis coupled with the heavy burden of taxation. The crowd goes unanswered by those in power. Initially regular police are in position to maintain order but as the crowd's agitation grows, more police are sent in riot gear.

Tensions rise and the pheromone of fear and aggression spreads through the area affecting protesters and police, alike. To the mob, without the real members of the legislative and executive branches, the police are the face of the government. For some, the threat of deadly force is not enough to back down and flee--they can't face the thought of returning to their cold and hungry families.

And, of course, this is all playing out on live TV and the web.

The predictable and preventable becomes the inevitable. A young officer, early to arrive on the scene and not one of the better protected in riot gear draws his sidearm.

One of the mob yells, "gun", but the other police nearby don't know that the warning came from the crowd--it's the standard warning police shout when encountering a firearm.

The shooting starts and it is all over very quickly. A dozen citizen bodies are on the ground and the mob falls back to be peaceably detained and subsequently dispersed.

Later, the forensic investigation reveals the officers that discharged their weapons and they are arraigned. Later, the government and media spin machine goes to work, finding something wrong with the slain individuals. Something conspiratorial or insidious.

But that is all later.

Right now...right now more than a million citizens are watching in real time and in horror. Between the 24/7 cable news and the web more than 20 million will have seen the primary events within 30 minutes and by 7:30 everyone in the US knows that a dozen protesters just like them were gunned down.

Does my little tale have any merit? You have to be the judge of that.

Because the above is a simple retelling of the events of

Boston March 5th, 1775. (The Boston Massacre)

(updated for the 21st century)

(And yes, that mob was protesting over money.)


Dymphna said...

You've built a very plausible scenario, except...

the level of the mob's anger would not permit them to fall back and go home. The falme-filled anarchy that would follow would mean many more dead, and a lot of them would not be participants...

Dymphna said...

oops, that's "flame-filled" anarchy

turn said...

Two points, Dympha-

I have a little experience with this.
I was in a protest turned rout in downtown B-more circa May 1970 (not long after the National Guard killed four in O HI O). Police on horseback were terrifying and the crowd was funneled into small streets to get away.

Even people trained in arms know when to surrender--once fired upon by police the mob will run if it can but they'll be on their bellies with hands clasped on heads in no time if there's no ready egress.

Secondly (and more importantly) this scenario was meant to be an analogue to The Boston Massacre, albeit updated for our times.

The set-up for the story is meant to explain why the nation as a whole did not have the outrage that it might have had if the victims were seen as members of our community. But when a large proportion of folks can readily identify with the victim of government abuse a much larger result can occur a la Rodney King.

The whole point of ending at the point where millions upon millions are witnesses is to set up the real possibility of a large and meaningful part of the population enraged.

The Boston Massacre was relatively small. Reports were published in Boston the next day but news traveled by horseback and still it became known as the shot heard 'round the world.

Remember the shock followed close-on by rage after 9/11. That was, in part, because we witnessed it. Imagine that focused anger against our own government.

I may turn this into a serial story. If you like, pass it around and we can at least see if others respond and comment and maybe have some fun with it.