Mon. May 27th, 2024

By: Grainne Rhuad

“Wake up, because don’ nothin’ come to a sleeper but a dream.” – Frank “Big Black” Smith

“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”
-Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus


This week marked the 41 anniversary of the Attica Prison Riot.  One of the biggest flub ups in the penal system’s history and there have been many.  Earlier in the week someone I know posted a video entitled “Attica is All of Us.”  Go ahead and take a look:

Attica Is All Of Us from Freedom Archives on Vimeo.

This riot, which to date is considered by many the worst prison riot in U.S. history had further historical significance in that it was set against a backdrop of racism and disenfranchised citizenry already affected by the Vietnam War.  In addition, it is thought to have set in motion an environment in the prison system which resulted in numerous other prison riots nationwide.

This was in fact largely fed by the media.  According to a Wikipedia entry, “media reports claimed that inmate hostage-takers slit the throats of many of their hostages, reports that contradicted official medical evidence. Newspaper headlines made statements such as “I Saw Slit Throats,” implying that prisoners had cut the hostages’ throats when the armed raid occurred. These fabricated reports set the stage for reprisals by troopers and prison officers. Inmates were made to strip and crawl through the mud and then some were made to run naked between lines of enraged officers, who beat the inmates. Several days after the riot’s end, prison doctors reported evidence of more beatings. The Special Commission found that state officials of failing to quickly refute those rumors and false reports.

There are allegations made by the media regarding the Muslim population and in this we see the beginnings of not just racial but religions separation. Again court documents refute this claim. (source- The court in Al Jundi v. Mancusi, 113 F.Supp.2d 441)

“It was believed that a group of Muslims were responsible for the uprising and the harm of the hostages, when in fact the group of Muslims was protecting the hostages from other inmates. The leader of the Muslims even told the other inmates that if any of the inmates tried to hurt the hostages, that they would “kill [the inmates involved] or die protecting the hostages.

“A number of former Muslim inmates testified that they had been singled out for “special” brutal treatment by troopers and prison officers because they had played an active role in protecting the hostages during the four days before the retaking. Because a number of militant inmates were prepared to do harm to the hostages, Frank “Big Black” Smith, in conjunction with the Muslim leadership, implemented a plan to secure the safety of the hostages during negotiations”

As an undergraduate in Psychology we all participated in an overcrowding experiment.   Of course we read and viewed the now well know tapes of the Stanford Prison Experiment.  Then we set to work making a prison for rats to kill each other in.

As expected, the rats killed each other until there was only one rat left.  Then a graduate student took it over.  What the graduate student did with this top-dog rat was interesting too.  He let it eat itself to death.  This rat was the size of a large house cat, with no prompting or punishment.  It simply felt like it needed or deserved all that food.  Furthermore this rat that previously was willing to kill for dominance, when introduced to new rats could not care less as long as its food supply was not interrupted.

I wonder this week, at this anniversary what exactly it is we have learned from all these experiments in human and animal behavior?  Also, how is such knowledge being employed in today’s societies?

It seems to me, much has been taken away from these experiences and experiments.  Mostly new models on how to control people.  This means you.


The Illusion of Caring

After the prison riots, most notably in Attica and later in New Mexico, changes were made to the penitentiary system.  Under the guise of human rights, prisoners have been given more time with family and visitors, better food and jobs to do.  They have access to internet and can earn degrees.  Nobody goes without toilet paper anymore like they did in Attica, nor are they without basic medical care.

However this translates to the outside world.  Whether we chose to believe we are currently imprisoned or enslaved or not is irrelevant.  All of us are vassals, even the 1% which we are so angry about.  We owe our living to the whims of the economy as set forth by our governing body.  Very few people actually own their property; most people have a mortgage.

Those whom we are beholden to soften this blow by providing things for us.  But, just like eating food in faerie, it doesn’t come without a price.  Yes we are given education relatively free, but we are taught a state approved curriculum-only.  In institutions of higher learning we are helped to make payments so we can join the hive workforce however we are charged with interest that is mostly insurmountable in one lifetime making our continued work and dependence necessary.  Yes, we are cared for in times of destitution (welfare) but we are given further requirements that keep us within the eye of the powers that be.

In the mean time we are provided with cheap distractions.  No longer do we even need to leave our homes to do much.  Movies stream into our televisions at the cost of $8.00 a month.  We can order food and everything else our heart desires from furniture to sex toys online, “privately”.

If we become unhappy, we aren’t encouraged really to work out whatever is causing us distress.  Most Insurance companies as well as Medical, pay more for anti-depressant medications and for a longer period of time (forever) than they do psychotherapy. (8-16 sessions on average)

Attacking Incomes and Resources

The latest edition of the Economic Policy Institute’s “State of Working America” report, out this week, documents in sharp detail what has been for the middle-class economy a “lost decade” in which working people have fallen behind. But what’s more disheartening is its prediction that without radical change “nearly two decades likely will pass before American incomes regain lost ground and return to their 2000 levels.”

“Incomes for the middle fifth of American households—the heart of the middle class—would have been an average of $19,000 higher per year by 2007 if the share of growth claimed by the richest households had not grown so much over the past 30 years. Likewise, wealth for the typical American family would have been $62,000 higher in 2010 had the growth in wealth over these same years not been overwhelmingly claimed by families at the very top,” according to the report.

Economic policy is one of the cage-less prisons that works incredibly well.  It directs most of our lives as in the U.S. it is difficult to fully break with the cash/credit economy.  It also sets up a lot of ways in which we can be monitored as we go about our day to day business.  Unless you are willing to go completely off the grid, you are going to be dealing with people with cash.  Even off the grid, one has occasion in which cash is a necessity, as in purchasing gas or other fuels.

Thus far the main body of our country is fighting it out over one of two types of economic plans.  The first being the good ol’ fashioned trickle- down theory and the second being government distribution of wealth.

Neither of these plans is in the long term terribly viable or even palatable.

This idea that the government can and should be involved in making sure everyone gets their fair share is an ideal that keeps people dependant.  Dependant people are controllable.

With all that we know about keeping people happy, is national healthcare, welfare, education funding and protection in the form of military, paramilitary and police forces really in the best interest of the individuals inhabiting the land?

Separating the herd

We have learned our lessons and are excellent at this. In the prison system gangs are not only allowed but encouraged.  Doing so ensures that people do not band together as easily to make demands or to overthrow the prison guards.

We do this as well in cages without bars the outside world.   In today’s climate we have a mood wherein Atheists are fed up with and non-supportive of Christians or any other religious faction for that matter.  The same is true of religious folks, who see a holy war on their religion occurring.

This is fed to us through the media in many different ways.  Sometimes through news, sometimes through seemingly innocuous posts on social network sites.  Sometimes through well meaning documentaries that somehow “make it” despite being low budget and frankly poorly made.

Take for example the Westboro Baptist Church.  If there was ever a more hated church in America, it was likely the Mormons.  To be clear, I am not endorsing the Westboro Baptists in anyway.  However, my feelings aside; there is ALLWAYS coverage of their shenanigans.  Their harsh and mean spirited calls (s) to repentance are always well documented.  In fact people turn out to picket their pickets.

Why do you think this is?  It would be incredibly simple to ignore this small-time church that espouses all the worst things in the Christian religion.  But we don’t, because having an “other” to hate and focus our hatred on controls us.  It keeps us caught up in their little story instead of going out and doing things to make the country and world better right where we are.

Fear that your innocent purchase of glycerin to make homemade soap will affect you ability to stay off the TSA no-flight list.  Fear that your family will face insurmountable repercussions.  What this leads to is an atmosphere wherein either you inform to save those you love or go down with your morals.


Politics are this age’s sideshow.  Sleight of hand, barkers, dancing girls and guys that hit you with sticks and steal your wallets all factor in today’s political scheme.  And America loves it.  People tune in to see what celebrities will show up where.  Clint Eastwood talks to a chair?  Great! It’s just like the medium tent in the travelling circus.  Michelle Obama shows up dressed to the nines and everyone wants to know: who made her dress? Where did she get those shoes? how do I do my nails like her? This combined with other celebrities that have no business telling us about whom to vote for but look pretty= Classic Dancing girl.

It is classic bait and switch and we love it maybe more than sword swallowing because we get to feel like we are participating.

The Illusion of Ownership and Privacy

Much ado was and still is made about the housing bubble and its result on our economy and people everywhere.  Displaced families, lost homes, cars, jobs, lives.  But what we don’t realize is this is the biggest invisible cage of all.  Nobody ever owned these things.  That was why they could be taken away.  And if they could be taken away once, it could happen again. The message is: You’d better work your sorry ass off at any job you can get because if you don’t you are going to be living under a bridge somewhere.

Which sounds scary, but incidentally, these people; the homeless bridge dwelling under-the radar people may be the most free amongst us.  Sure, their life expectancy is a lot lower, but you decided how much you valued your freedom.  You bartered your life expectancy for it.

The controls on our privacy and what is considered “our space” have been systematically chipped away.  An excellent example of this began with the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision, Katz v. U.S. (389 US 347), an all but forgotten ruling.  It established a link between the modes of telecommunication and personal privacy that illuminates today’s debate over the limits of privacy in the post-modern age.

This case involved Charles Katz who used a public pay phone booth to place illegal gambling bets.  In writing for the majority, Justice Potter Stewart noted, “One who occupies [a telephone booth], shuts the door behind him, and pays the toll that permits him to place a call is surely entitled to assume that the words he utters into the mouthpiece will not be broadcast to the world.”

Taking it a step further, how then are we to argue that our homes are our private domains?  As most people rent or have a mortgage, homes in fact are owned by somebody else.  Sometimes several someones.  Using the logic in the Katz vs. U.S. case, unless we have inherited a paid off home, we do not have the right to privacy in any place.  Not at home, and clearly not in public.  Indeed Cell phones fall under this as the service is in effect rented from a provider.  Sure, AT&T, Virgin Mobile, etc. can make a case for not sharing information, but they haven’t yet.  Nor has spots like Facebook, Twitter and the now nearly defunct Myspace.

It’s easy to shrug this off saying, “Why should I care if the government knows what I bought on eBay or what kind of specialized soap I buy?”  However what is happening is a picture is being painted of each individual, habits, social contacts-or lack thereof, etc.  Things that may seem innocent like finding out about the teacher strikes in Chicago are going into your profile as an interest to you.

Recently I was told of a case of a ticket received for a parked car, on private property, well away from the street.  The car in question was not registered but apparently there is no such thing as private property in Utah.  What is concerning is that there are people out there looking for reasons to penalize people and keep them working to pay for every little ticket, bill, perceived need.  Especially when absolutely nothing is going on (other than the owner being a person of colour) they were not involved in a protest nor were they even liberal in their thoughts.  But then keeping people on the currently desirable path that is desirable is paramount.

It was easy to shrug off comments of Nazi Germany a few years ago.  I did it with aplomb.  I still believe we have something somewhat different and more sophisticated occurring here, after all systems don’t progress if they don’t learn.  However these tactics are the same ones used to round up Jewish families, and collaborators, or anyone else not in agreement with the regime in Nazi held territories.  And the same techniques to get even more information are being used.  Namely Fear. And we are already doing it with our Latin American friends and neighbors, many of whom are not deported at all but put into for-profit prison facilities to make money for corporations.

Corporations that currently have more rights than you.

The Military Complex

If all else fails we have punishment.  Attica taught us that for sure.  Without any concern for prisoners, their families or even the public outcry, Governor Nelson Rockefeller approved an operation to reclaim the prison. Tear gas was dropped by helicopter into the prison yard and law enforcement officers opened fire into the smoke. In six minutes more than two thousand rounds had been discharged. The prison was retaken but at the cost of thirty nine inmates and ten guards lives.

Since that time the military has not only grown but it has grown more sophisticated in its tactic of crowd control.  It’s not an accident that the police force largely stayed out of the L.A. riots of 1992. It was a containable area and the population could burn itself out on one another.  The same is true for how prison riots are treated now.  A cell block will be shut down and no longer are guards sent in until it can be contained.

However, we have also seen lately images of police forces aggressing against peaceful protesters.  This too is well designed and thought out.  It isn’t for the protesters as much as it’s for the people at home watching.  The message is one of two.  Some people will see it and think “They shouldn’t have been there, wrong place, wrong time.”  Other people will see it and think, “I should stay home and out of it because I can’t afford to be kicked in the head.”

Either way, people in general become more reluctant to come out and support important protests.

This build up of military might is not something we as a nation were unaware of, and yet we act surprised when we hear stories of National Guard abuses in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, or people round up without warning nearby political conventions.  In President Eisenhower’s legendary 1960 farewell address, he warned of the potential power of the military-industrial complex. “We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.”

In a recent article published at AlterNet, David Rosin states: “Americans’ personal privacy is being crushed by the rise of a four-headed corporate-state surveillance system.  The four “heads” are: federal government agencies; state and local law enforcement entities; telecoms, web sites & Internet “apps” companies; and private data aggregators (sometimes referred to as commercial data warehouses

“What does it say that the entities designed to protect personal privacy rights seem to have either been effectively “captured” or become toothless tigers?

“The Defense Department created the Internet and what it can do in Yemen it can do in Oakland.”- During the July 4, 2012, holiday weekend, Pres. Obama quietly released a new Executive Order, “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions.” While ostensibly seeking to ensure the continuity of government communications during a national emergency, it grants new powers to the DHS over telecom.  It permits the agency to collect public communications information and the authority to seize private facilities when necessary.  The Executive Order is legislation through the back door, the Obama Administration’s effort to implement a law that Congress rejected in 2011.

“(These activities are separate from the recent revelation from AntiSec that found on a FBI agent laptop a database of 12 million Apple device owners’ users unique identify, including owner’s personal information.)

“In 2004, Congress established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to serve as the “center for joint operational planning and joint intelligence, staffed by personnel from the various agencies.”   It maintains the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) that includes records on an estimated 740,000 people.  Federal authorities claim that less than 2 percent of the people on file are US citizens or legal permanent residents. Earlier this year, Att. Gen. Eric Holder extended the agency’s ability to maintain private information about U.S. citizens when there is no suspicion that they are involved in terrorism from 180 days to five years.

“The NSA’s authority overrides 4th Amendment guarantees safeguarding a citizen’s right from unreasonable search and seizure through what is known as a National Security Letter (NSL). In 2008, Congress revised the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act freeing the NSA from the bothersome requirement of having to prove probable cause before intercepting a person’s phone calls, text messages or emails from someone in the U.S. suspected of involvement with terrorism.  Between 2000 and 2010 (excluding 2001 and 2002 for which no records are available), the FBI was issued 273,122 NSLs; in 2010, 24,287 letters were issued pertaining to 14,000 U.S. residents.”

Realize, you and/or your representatives voted in favour of this because you were afraid!  Specifically, you were afraid of losing all the comforts and benefits and even life expectancy that you traded to the union for the illusion of protection.  The thing about illusion though is it can quickly and easily be manipulated to look like something else.

Now in addition to the governmental overseers we have Private Data Aggregators.  These companies track one’s every keystroke, every order and bill payment one makes, every word and/or phrase in one’s emails, even one’s every mobile movement through GPS tracking.  Data capture involves everything from your personal Social Security number, phone calls, arrest record, credit card transactions and online viewing preferences as well as your medical and insurance records and even personal prescriptions.

But that’s okay with us too because we have been sold on the notion that we NEED it.  If we should ever lose something we want it all recoverable right?  If we are in an accident isn’t it easier to have our medical records available online anywhere?

And then there’s Drones.

The government admits to using drones for border surveillance in the U.S. by the CBP since 2005, they currently maintain 10 drones.   They have also been deployed for search and rescue in hurricane conditions in 2008, although not many were rescued due to their use, mostly they were useful in assessing damage.

The difference between the drones that have heretofore been deployed over U.S. airspace and the ones we are hearing about more and more is the armament of the aircraft.  The drones set to be deployed this year over the U.S. are intended for crowd control and are armed as such. It is also postulated that a high number of them will be equipped with AI enabling them to make independent decisions, supposedly based on programming and experience. The use of unmanned aerial systems, however, is not limited to state powers: non-state actors can also build, buy and operate these combat vehicles. UAVs can be powerful surveillance tools, capable of carrying face recognition systems, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors.

According to Wikipedia, “Some privacy scholars argue that the domestic use of drones for surveillance will ultimately benefit privacy by encouraging society to demand greater privacy rights.

Associated today with the theatre of war, the widespread domestic use of drones for surveillance seems inevitable. Existing privacy law will not stand in its way. It may be tempting to conclude on this basis that drones will further erode our individual and collective privacy. Yet the opposite may happen. Drones may help restore our mental model of a privacy violation. They could be just the visceral jolt society needs to drag privacy law into the twenty-first century. — M. Ryan Calo”

This seem shortsighted and  stupid in the extreme  It is this type of storytelling  that makes us feel all warm and cozy in our slavery.

But lest you think the U.S. is alone in controlling its people it’s important to note that the U.K. citizenry is currently the most surveilled citizenry in the world.  Currently in the U.K., School pupils are being watched by an astonishing 100,000 spy cameras, a report revealed yesterday.

CCTV surveillance has been set up in playgrounds, classrooms and even toilets and changing rooms. That actually may be more than are placed in prisons.  But not to worry, the U.S. is not far behind.

Since President Eisenhower’s speech we have blithely ignored all warnings about our freedoms and fallen into the trap of fear.  We have collectively given up so much of our real freedom that it seems unlikely we will be able to get them back regardless of the small skirmishes we make. At the very least any real resistance and resultant change will take at least three generations.  It’s not as if we are able in this environment to set up a guillotine in a public square and get to work.

We have become the fat rat.  Complacent as long as our food is delivered to us and we aren’t messed with.  What we the people have learned about Attica, (which was about all of us) is nothing.  What’s scarier, is the governing body has learned all too much from it and has its current stock of reliable peasantry dialed in.

What we need to be learning from this point further is old tactics of resistance will not work in the favor of the masses.  We need to become the observers; a new game requires new and innovative rules. – youtube video regarding human slavery/democratic model . – words to avoid if you don’t want homeland security to put you on a list.  Hint- It’s likely it’s too late already

By Grainne

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7 thoughts on “Reflections on Attica”
  1. Excellent piece. It has really got me thinking about how we can turn this around. It is getting so difficult to get off the grid and stay off of it. Practically impossible. You are precisely correct in your assessment that we are blindly trusting our fate to governments, municipalities and corporations that they will not do anything harmful to us by using our information. Just try for one day to not use your phone, computer, Internet, ATM, shop at any store or even go for a walk or drive around town. And do this without being photographed or tracked in any way. Close to impossible. What will you do when your privacy gets violated. What real recourse do we have? Not much.

  2. I think, more than anything, we are the rats too crowded in the cage, which is why we turn on each other instead of our captors. You mentioned we are governed by fear, and it is a fear of losing our meal ticket, so we surrender our privacy, suspect everyone is out to get our jobs and become intolerant of religious differences. After all, people with the same belief system form groups, and those groups might threaten our security; i.e., home, job and meal ticket.

    How do we get out of the cage? We don’t, really. We are a global society and globally connected. What we do is wait for the inevitable. We aren’t just over-populated; we’re over-developed. Since we are largely in denial of this, our man-made catastrophes will over-take us one by one. We can’t stop what is already in motion, but we can hope we get lucky enough to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.

  3. Karlsie, I too am beginning to think this has gone too far to stop. But, I don’t think anything is ever too far to change. The outcome won’t be Eden-like but we can minimize the damage to ourselves, others and our planet.

  4. ” We can’t stop what is already in motion, but we can hope we get lucky enough to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.”

    I couldn’t agree more – the present order can’t be reformed in any meaningful way and can only be dealt with by destroying it. I know that a lot of people find such a thing difficult to accept, but that’s reality: one cannot create without destroying first and vice versa – creation and destruction are diametrically opposed forces, but rather two sides of the same coin that complement each other.

  5. Az- this reminds me of the Matisyahu lyrics “You can’t sew a stitch with one hand. While you’re taking it apart” It just can’t be done.

    Also I am thinking the way in which we think of resistance and revolution needs to change. Any body a person is planning to push against already knows the moves and has plans for them. The point of this article is to recognize that we have been the study group. If we want to put things back together at any point, we need to come up with new ideas to do so.

  6. “this reminds me of the Matisyahu lyrics “You can’t sew a stitch with one hand. While you’re taking it apart” It just can’t be done.”

    That’s fine by me – I have no intention of “stitching” anything at all (as this implies an attempt to repair what it torn rather than being rid of something altogether to replace it with something else entirely).

    You can’t build a house without destroying trees for lumber or plowing under wilderness lands to lay a foundation, nor can you reintroduce wilderness to a developed area without destroying the man-made structures – to create something new (not simply “stitch”) something else has to be leveled in the process and there’s no way around that…

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