The Return of the Public Execution



The videoed executions of Philando Castille, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and the many, many other heroes whose lives were ended by State violence and class war have resurrected an old ghost of capital punishment in the developed Western World: Public Executions.

In Michel Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish, he argues that the discontinuation of public executions in Capitalist Western Society was much more sinister than when they were actually performing public executions. He argues this because the reasons this discontinuation of public violence was put forth was not because we had become a much more humane and civilized society, but instead had simply put the barbarity of state violence in places it could not be seen by the public, behind the metal doors of prisons. This is a problem for Foucault for 2 reasons. 1. It allows the enforcers of the State to hide their violent functions and roles behind a veneer of humanity. 2. In the past when someone was publicly executed by the state, it often united and incited rebellion among the people because its true face had been shown. But with the invention of the more ‘humane’ methods of capital punishment, this call of rebellion against tyranny has up until this point really been put on hold. It was not until the invention of the video camera and its mass distribution that the civilized makeup our society wears started to smear.        

Everyone in America knew the policing of minorities was barbaric, but because its evidence was hidden in graphs and public relation firms no one wanted to acknowledge it. But with the execution of Mike Brown and the endless streams of videos of police killings, a reawakening in class-consciousness occurred. A universality to oppose tyranny struck the hearts of not only the communities affected by the deaths of the victims but across the world.  The barbarity that was hidden for so long came rushing out of our phones and computers, and soon the truth of the nature of the police and the state was well known by all. With the ability for everyone to have a video camera, a resurrection of the spectacle of public executions has returned.

But unlike the public executions in the past, the ones that occur today are not great spectacles to show state power. They are private intimate affairs of violence that cannot be justified. They are executions that show the inadequacy of the discipline and punishment for the enforcers that break the laws they are ‘sworn to protect.’ They have no script like a show trial to prove one’s guilt. What we see is a private execution made public by our technology and people who still retain their humanity.  They are extrajudicial executions not meant to enter white working class consciousness. They are an inversion of what they are meant to be, because the executions although occurring in public spaces are not meant to reach out beyond the people who witnessed the events. But when they do, a new public spectacle of injustice is created, and the divisions that make certain classes of people blind to the barbarianism of the state are torn down.

This is unlike the sham judicial executions brought on by the death penalty, which instead of tearing down the divisions through a public spectacle, are used to enforce them. When someone is served the death penalty; the intention of the state is to justify and prove a person’s guilt to the entire population. The execution that has been prescribed is dated, planned out, and on public record. But when the state flexes its instruments of violence it does not do it in a spectacle to show its power to its citizens. Instead, it occurs in a small-bricked room where only a small group of witnesses are allowed to watch. When the execution is over, no one but that small group can ever know the barbarity that occurred. The execution thus changes its nature from public into private, and the execution remains out of the minds of the majority of the population.

This is how law enforcement continues to justify itself. It does not attempt to show its power through the great bravado of the public execution. It does so by ensuring that its violence is hidden from the minds that will one day rise in a unified class-consciousness. But now that the truth that was hidden has now been revealed, the possibility of going back to the way things once were must become an impossibility.  The veneer of humanity our state once proudly wore is now constantly being questioned on a mass level, and it is up to us to push this questioning until the state can no longer hide behind ‘civility.’ Because it cannot be allowed to continue to justify the 2 million plus prisoners it keeps behind its metal doors. It cannot be allowed to continue its private executions. Its contradiction just cannot be allowed to persist. So to the executioners, judges, and powers that be, I say this, “go ahead and make your move, we are watching.”





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One comment on “The Return of the Public Execution
  1. Andrew says:

    Human Nature

    I have an aversion to Platonism, but I think “The Republic” was onto something about the tripartite classes. People that rule, people that make, and people that provide security. Plato does not discount the factor of luck or lottery, but he champions ability as the important gift one must possess to become a just dictator of any society. “Philosophers must become kings or those now kings and regents become genuine philosophers.” Book 5, line 473c. In this case, the ability to rule, the ability to create, and the ability to destroy.

    Guess which class of people gets alienated? DESTROYERS. Barred from real society, because of our masculinity? The spirited thymoeides are at a disadvantage here intellectually. They are governed by the part of the soul which gives way to anger and fear leading them down the path to war or just being warlike. Conveniently again, Plato says that a just spirited soul would naturally align itself with the soul of a logistikon, and in the unjust soul, the spirited aligns with the appetitive, or epithymetikon. So if you are getting lost, the logical soul is like the brain, the spirited soul compares to the body, and the appetitive soul the stomach, or reproductive organs, and in a metaphysical sense, desire. Abilism is the end goal here. A world that doesn’t seek to protect the dumb, but bullies them. A global society that alienates its masculinity to the front line or prison, because it cannot stand the aesthetics of real security. It would rather have an invisible security apparatus, than a transparent one. It would prefer the setting of the film Minority Report to one where people with weapons and armor were normalized. Think of the youth that posed a physical challenge to any teachers and what happened to them. They were discarded and left behind. The classroom always has been a place for the female to succeed. If any straight white man shows frustration with the education system, the left is quick to point out that the justice system favors them. What the fuck do I have to do with that? I am sick of people taking their frustrations with the system out on me when I am in fact the most powerless of you all to change anything. The reason I keep coming is to try to connect and possibly build genuine friendships based on my love for philosophy, but not many shares that love. Cold indifference is the most familiar friend I know at the university.

    “A city whose future rulers are the least eager to rule will necessarily be the best governed and freest from strife, and the one with opposite rulers the worst.” Book 7, line 520d. Well, we (THE FUCKING WORLD) damned sure don’t have these types of rulers. When the founding fathers of America set out to do their bidding, there was so much opportunity for a landowning white man that taking time out of making more as a service. Nowadays our leaders have changed it from a service industry to a career. Plato’s guardians shared communal property, and the city’s wealth was, in fact, their wealth. Our rulers in America are in a continuous downfall since they have only to do what is necessary to appease their constituents instead of what is right for the country; they are just a mixture of doing what’s right incrementally versus furthering their corrupt agendas. In our globalist case, the world is the city. Our world leaders are ALL the same. The political algorithm is deciding their next move, and they are beholden only to credits.

    I am quite familiar with Michel Foucault’s Surveiller et punir and the three volumes of Histoire de la sexualité, thanks to Dr. Grey-Hildenbrand. Reading Foucault amalgamated the views I had formed during my time in the military-industrial complex. The problem with the revolution you want is that there is a failure to communicate between the intellectual and working class. Blue collar brilliance is real, but they do not want to have their folkways questioned, and they do not want to pay homage to anyone outside of the celebrated figures from their traditions, i.e., Jesus, Mohammed, or in most cases besides that, Marx. So, a true revolution will only ever look like ISIS and the unification of consciences will never be at a singularity. The best we can hope for is a good rollout of AI without our extinction and a place for ourselves with universal basic income. Otherwise will end up with a Huxleyan world of passive-aggressive rubber stamped people.

    I think what you wish for is real aristocracy. The only way we would ever have the highest form (aristocracy) again, would be settling a new planet, or by some stroke of luck human suffering ends. Of course, the nobility falls when it becomes threatened existentially and has to evolve to timocracy or perish. A timocracy, however, will never last. In a genuinely militant society trade with outsiders becomes a hazard, because the genuinely militant will exploit the opportunity to surveil their trade partners. A timocracy must continually commune with the form of the bad, i.e., spying on and killing your neighbors, conquering their lands, and genocide of the unjust others becomes a fact of life. I am not advocating for moral relativism over tolerance. Until the end of human suffering, the weak will prey on the strong. The smart will exploit the dumb. The strong will bully the weak. Strength can come in different forms. Intellect, physical ability, creativity, oration, or politics to name a few. Marx wrote the slogan, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs,” in the Critique of the Gotha program, published in 1875. The German original is Jeder Nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem Nach seinen Bedürfnissen. I subscribe to a different vision. One where Jesus should have tried to escape. One where Socrates did not drink Hemlock for martyrdom. My need is for my world to care for me, does it have the ability? I care for all of you.

    I subscribe to a different view, prescribed by George Orwell, who in light of recent events got banned in communist China. Here is an excellent Orwellian quote, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” If we cannot have free speech and open discourse how can we ever seek to unify the consciousnesses of the academic and the proletariat? I think we could do so by bridging the gap. Who cares if someone is sexist? How could they know if we do not engage them in the refined style of conversation were we remain calm and gain their respect to address the issue once we have established repore? Stop leaving people behind. It is not what we are saying, but how we say it.

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