Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Please don't make me

The Workers Party have organised a talk about the police at Victoria. They've called their talk Fuck the Police! and it's on the role of the police as capitalist law enforcers.

I don't know if the title was intended as a pun, or if they didn't think of the literal meaning of the word 'fuck' when they named the talk. But either way I find the title distressing. Every time I see it, I read it as an order. In most circumstances these sorts of double meanings don't matter. In my last post I didn't mean that Shakespeare was fucked by someone in the head, but if someone had got that image from my post that would have been fine. I don't think it's fine to advertise a talk that includes police rape cases with a title that can be read as an order to have sex with a police officer. Given how many women have been fucked by the police, the title is deeply insensitive.

I know the people organising the talk, and don't doubt their intentions. But I do sometimes wonder if some left-wing men see this as another opportunity to uncover the true nature of the police, in much the same way as they see the latest taser video. I agree that exposing the true nature of the police is a worthwhile goal. But I'm uncomfortable with ways of doing that leave the experiences of the abused women to one side. I don't think that the men in the workers party are any more prone to this than any other left-wing men. But I do think the lack of consideration that went into the title of this talk is probably a symptom of that wider problem.


  1. Anonymous2:18 pm

    Yeah, this is very insensitive on their behalf. It made me cringe when I read it. Its about power, and abuse of power, something cops are good at doing. I think the title for the talks probably came from that Rage Against The Machine song, not really an appropriate song when dealing with rape. I wonder how many womyn will go to the talks? and also wonder how inclusive of womyns voices the speakers are. Do you know who's talking?

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  3. You guys are feminists so probably don't listen to to much gansta, and or any other kind of rap, but this is where the phrase derives from. It is used in many contexts, from tales of police interference in low-level drug dealing (N.W.A.) to general dissatisfaction with rascist attitudes and repression (Tupac) to catchy structuralist critiques (Dead Prez). In any case, the provenance of the phrase is most certainly rooted in a disdain for authority, and syntactically it would be difficult to interpret it as an order for women to follow, especially in light of its meaning and ordinary usage.

  4. Anonymous7:18 pm

    Unfortunately 'fuck' also has another meaning though, I know what you're saying, that its not purposefully used in that context here, or intentionally put so as to imply this meaning as in 'have sex' with the Police, still its a valid opinion that saying 'fuck the police' when talking about cop-rape is fairly off.
    Perhaps gangsta rap artists/culture could do with including womyns perspectives in their lyrics, and thought, we are also subjected to systematic abuse by authorities and need to support each other if we are to change this white patriarchial world.

  5. Adrian I don't listen to much rap, but that's more because I'm musically illiterate than any political ideology (other feminists listen to much more rap than I do).

    But of course I understood the intended meaning of the title of the talk, and that was the first meaning I took from it. It's just this was very quickly followed in my mind by the literal interpretation.

    I agree with the sentiment behind 'fuck the police' and 99% of the time I would have no problem with the different meaning. I just think that to title a talk which includes discussion of sex crimes 'fuck the police' shows a lack of thought.

  6. Anonymous2:09 pm

    The criticism of the title of the latest Workers' Party on campus talk in Wellington last night is ridiculous.

    Firstly the comment:
    "I don't think that the men in the workers party are any more prone to this than any other left-wing men."

    The Workers' Party has men and women in its ranks as the author well knows. The assumption that stuff done by the WP is the work of a section of the "male left" is incorrect.
    Secondly this statement assumes basically that left males are "prone" to doing stuff that "lacks consideration to women". The implication here is that as men we are insensitive to women. Whereas women by nature would automatically have a greater level of sensitivity on these issues. Whilst an essentialist argument such as this isn't stated it’s certainly implied in this statement.

    'Fuck the Police' is a well known NWA song and clearly this played a role in the decision to pick this title. Also "Fuck" is the 2nd strongest obscenity in the English language and we felt the need to use it in this case against the State law enforcers. Clearly we were not using "Fuck" in a sexual reference anymore than the author was in claiming Shakespeare was "fucked in the head".

    The author has a history of political attacks and slurs upon the Workers' Party and its members. It is disappointing but not surprising that this Politically Correct red herring over context in which 'fuck' was used has been turned into yet another criticism by the author of the WP.

    The talk last night was well attended by men and women, all agreeing with the sentiment of the title and the talk itself.

    Nick Kelly
    Wellington Branch Organiser
    Workers' Party

  7. Anonymous2:36 pm

    I find it surprising that at any political meeting everyone in attendance agreed unaminously on anything!! I am well impressed. I thought your argument well constructed (though i don't agree with you) up till that point. Is the WP a marvel of the political left that can get everyone in a room to agree - or does this just prove that there were prob some present who felt they weren't in a supportive environment to voice their discomfort with the title of your talk. I agree with whomever it was that said that what this appears to be is a political group jumping on the bandwagon of an extremely serious issue (speaking as a survior myself), to serve their hatred for the police. Yes we all hate the police, but hate them through your own channels and don't manipulate an issue that has caused many woman severe suffering for your own ends.
    I think you just put little thought into planning this talk - if there had been any discussion i am confident this possible reaction to the title would have been considered.

  8. Anonymous2:37 pm

    sorry, the 'you' i refer to is Nicky Kelly from WP

  9. Anonymous9:18 pm

    Here's the talk Don Franks delivered:

    “Thanks for coming along today folks. I didn’t choose the “Fuck the police “ title for today’s talk – but after hearing it suggested and thinking about it a bit, I think its a very suitable title. It reminded me of a popular fundraising poster some Hutt Valley feminists were selling about 25 years ago - picture of an angry witch saying in huge letters FUCK HOUSEWORK!
    There’s already been a fair bit of controversy about our poster title. One left activist has labelled it “distressing and insensitive”
    Well, we could have titled out talk today in good old Marxist study group fashion something like “Police – part of the New Zealand capitalist state apparatus” That would not have annoyed anyone. It would also have signalled that our talk was an academic study divorced from what we do in the rest of our lives. The Workers Party is not about theory as a separate academic study. We are trying to carry out revolutionary politics. That’s why we chose the title “Fuck the Police”, as an emphatic unambiguous statement of rejection.
    Most people don’t have that attitude. Even strident anti authoritarians who complain about every action of “nanny state” change their tune when it comes to the state's forces. For example this passage from a recent blog:

    “The police are there to protect me, my wife and kids. I have a great respect for the concept of police. I pay taxes so that they may protect me and mine from people who don’t respect life or property. Police, properly constrained, are essential to maintaining a free society”
    Those are the sentiments of self styled libertarian ACT vice president Trevor Loudon.

    At the moment mps and editorials are all calling for a restoration of public confidence in the police.
    Helen Clark says:

    “The vast majority of police are hardworking decent people and some people sometimes let them down”

    There is a grain of truth in this. Many people believe the myth of the police as a power protecting all citizens and join up to do social good. There is a huge turnover in the police, not least because many recruits find out the true nature of the force and leave in disgust. Two friends of mine both joined the police in their youth hoping to do a job that would help people. They both soon left, to become staunch communists. One of these guys had his eyes opened when he tried to circulate anti Vietnam war leaflets at the police college. The shower of condemnation he got showed him that there was no place for any discussion of anti war ideas in the force.

    Why is there such an outcry for restoration of public confidence in the police?

    The establishment know that public confidence in the police is precarious.

    The main role of the police is to defend the interests of capitalists and their state.
    This requires the police to be enforcers of injustice and inequality.

    For example – let’s say there’s a strike going on at a factory and scabs are breaking the picket line to go in and do the strikers jobs. Is the union likely to call the police to come down and stop their wages struggle from being ruined?
    For one thing, it’s very likely that the police are already there. enforcing the passage of scabs into the plant.
    Or, let’s say a factory owner has just laid off fifty workers with no compensation. Can these workers call the police to stop the theft of their jobs and their livelihood?
    . The police will come only to protect the owner of property and make sure that the fifty workers are sacked without fuss or disturbance. In other words the main role of the police is to protect the interests of the privileged property owning minority

    I saw this graphically displayed in 1997 when I was on an EAG anti fees protest. One of the fee raising University Council members was head of the Business Round Table. A small group of us zapped up to the Terrance and occupied his flash top office to have a word with him about fees.
    We’d barely got into his office when, literally seconds later, the hall outside was full of cops with batons, boiling mad that we’d got in. We got out with no arrests or hassle, but it was a scary situation. It was like a whole lot of big dogs protecting their master. If your flat gets burgled, you won’t get hordes of police coming straight round like that. In fact most crime against poorer people goes unsolved and often unattended.
    The police are a force who will unquestioningly apply violence when ordered to.
    To maintain such a force requires the maintenance of a certain culture.
    Police operate like a scrubbed up gang. (Personal reminisces were added here)
    The police maintain extensive tight international connections that socialist groups could look at and envy. Police travelling overseas stay with other police on police premises. They share the same code and values internationally.
    .The main function of the police is to defend the interests of capitalists and their state.
    This requires the police to be continual enforcers of injustice and inequality.
    That’s why the anti social nature of the police cannot be reformed inside capitalism.
    The only longterm solution to police violence is the removal of private property,by social revolution.
    In the meantime we must deal with the police on various occasions. It is necessary to communicate with them at some times. When we have the numbers we can break their lines and effect dearrests.
    In general, the Workers Party believe its best to have as little to do with the police as possible It is foolish to bait the police at demonstrations. They are very ready to make enemies and remember faces and make arrests of faces they remember. It is equally foolish to try and reason with the police or be friends with them . The decent ones among them will leave the force sometime, but at a demo they will maintain their solidarity.
    Well those are some preliminary remarks, so the floor’s now open for futher discussion on the theme “Fuck the police.”

    Don Franks

  10. Anonymous10:19 am

    Don Franks. That rant personified how scary and nutty the far left is in NZ. Thank god we don't have people like you in any positions of great power, nor do most people take you seriously.

  11. Anonymous8:31 am

    Personal attacks on someone's Character (ie the above two attacks on Don) instead of engauging in constructive discussion/argument with their views/opinions is a pretty low way of showing that you've been backed into a corner and are unable to respond.
    It's almost as bad as being a school kid who has had to sink to the level of critising spelling mistakes on a fellow student's otherwise perfect Essay because they feel insecure due to said Essay being supperiour in content to theirs.

  12. Anonymous7:12 pm

    Those are not attacks on Don's character, they are criticisms of his crude political views - and nowhere near as vicious as his attack on a prominent feminist soon after her death in 2005 (in the Herald, the biggest organ of the capitalist press in New Zealand - Don's apparently happy to harness capitalist power for his own ends).

    Anyone who attempts to twist an anti-rape campaign into an anti-police campaign (not to mention an opportunity to reminisce about his own clashes with the cops, as if that's relevant to anything other than his own ego) deserves a bollocking on a leftist feminist blog.

    I really don't know who is the most absurd: Don Franks, who thinks offending cops is revolutionary, or Trevor Loudon, who thinks people like Don are a threat. Both are dinosaurs, reliving the past.

  13. Anonymous3:47 pm

    I invite the anonymous comlainant to reprint here, or anywhere else he or she likes, the "vicious" parts of the article I wrote about Sonja Davies.
    For the record, that article started life as a comment on a private list. It was showed by a reader of that list to a senior Herald reporter, who later asked me if they could print it. I thought if I was prepared to own my thoughts on the list I should be prepared to own them in public. I took no payment for the article and was not responsible for the objectionable sexist headline the Herald stuck on top of it.
    Ask around some of the younger leftist union women battling away in the workers movement when Sonja Davies was riding off into the 4th Labour government parliamentary sunset what they think about her record. None of them have yet complained to me about the article I wrote. Some came and told me they argreed with it.

  14. Anonymous9:06 am

    Interesting discussion. Not much different from similar ones going on in the States past and present in terms of leftists' appropriation of language that may be offensive to women or at the very least might be poorly suited for the situation and then the men getting up and basically saying lighten up about it. I've seen similar attitudes and problems when it comes to use of terms that offend men and women of color in gatherings as well by White leftists or feminists.

    I just think that to title a talk which includes discussion of sex crimes 'fuck the police' shows a lack of thought.

    I agree in this context that it's not a good title and it's disappointing that it was used in a discussion dealing with police rape. This is a very difficult and painful topic for many women to talk about and damned frightning. That can never be overemphasized. People who truly understand that would most likely have titled the discussion more appropriately.

    Having spoken to women who alleged sexual abuse and rape at the hands of police officers is what makes me feel that it's inappropriate.

    Having seen photos of a young woman handcuffed and lying in a fetal position with her jeans down in the middle of the street while several officers are walking or standing by with their tongues hanging out(not to mention that there were allegations by this woman's boyfriend that an officer was joking to him about f---ing his girlfriend and calling her hot while she was in custody) is what makes me think it's inappropriate.

    And ongoing criminal cases going on in different places in the United States makes me think it's inappropriate.

    Having discussed this issue locally last week makes me think it's inappropriate.

    And not being from New Zealand but having family there including a sister who has two daughters.