The Hypocrisy at the Heart of the Police State

Sometimes I read books so you don’t have to. In this case I really caught a bullet for you. That’s right: I read that wretched little turd of a book, Objection, by Nancy Grace. You’re welcome.

Objection is a fascinating glimpse into the pathological mindset of the police state’s functionaries and apologists.

Grace ridicules those who portray defense attorneys as Davids, fighting an unequal battle against the immense power of the state. The awesome power of the state, she writes, usually amounts to just one lil’ ol’ person, like her. She recounts black oil smoke belching from her car and a semi-truck running over her hood pulling in front of her as she drove an important trial. The alleged power of the state, she snarks, depended on her rattle-trap car.

Well, the power of the state might be just a little broader than that. Militarized SWAT teams kicking in doors at 3AM with no-knock warrants, for non-violent offenses, tossing the house to inflict maximum damage for sheer intimidation, shooting the family dog for the same reason — if they even got the right house? I’d say that’s a pretty significant encounter with the power of the state for most people.

Being kicked, clubbed or tasered to the point of injury or death, writhing in agony and physically incapable of resisting, just because you didn’t show proper deference to an Alpha Male — or maybe just because you were in a diabetic coma or having an epileptic seizure? That’s also a pretty dramatic exposure to the power of the state. And how about having your property seized via civil forfeiture without ever being charged with a crime?

No doubt Grace’s role as point woman for the awesome power of the state was enhanced by evidence obtained with the help of the Incredible Shrinking Fourth Amendment, plea bargain blackmail, testimony coerced from jailhouse snitches, and warrants obtained on perjured testimony by cops.

Grace also ridicules suggestions that suppression of evidence and other ethical lapses are commonplace among prosecutors. The very idea that prosecutors are so obsessed with their conviction records, as to stoop to — gasp! — dishonesty, is utterly laughable. Strangely, though, in every story I’ve ever read about a convict being cleared by DNA evidence, the prosecutor fought like a rabid wolverine on PCP to suppress the evidence and prevent the case being reopened.

The book is obviously written primarily for Grace fans. The section addressed to her critics isn’t really addressed to critics.  It’s  for people who are already on her side, with some vague idea that some folks don’t like her, who need some fairly non-specific talking points to immunize them against criticism.

The “criticisms” to which she responds are quite oblique and mostly non-specific. For example, nowhere in her defense of prosecutorial virtue does she refer to a key set of data points: Her repeated censures by the Georgia bar for withholding evidence and misleading juries. Odd, in a section addressed to her critics, that there’s no reference to Exhibit A for those who allege her scruples are thin enough to read a newspaper through.

Her impassioned denial that she believes  in “guilty until proven innocent” rings hollow in light of her behavior during the entire Duke Lacrosse fiasco — and immediately thereafter.  After the verdict and the exposure of the — ahem — crooked prosecutor, she disappeared from public view without comment. Perhaps she was, as we say in the South, “indisposed for a while.”

There’s nothing quite like seeing someone who’s made a career out of being a bully attempt to turn herself into a victim in the face of criticism.

But Nancy Grace doesn’t have to be especially gifted with ethics or critical thinking ability. In fact, they’d just get in the way of doing her job — a job she’s very good at.

The police state, existing as it does in a country in which the officially encouraged self-perception is still heavily influenced by the mythos of the common law and the “freeborn American,” must engage in ideological legerdemain for its own survival.  That’s not to say the propaganda has to be sophisticated enough to pass serious scrutiny or convince skeptics. It just has to be good enough to fool most of the people most of the time. The police state depends on a “silent majority” of people who — out of ignorance, laziness or intellectual cowardice — don’t know, and don’t really want to know, too much about the unpleasant details of how their sausage is made.

And that’s the job of people like Nancy Grace who tirelessly repeat:  “Nothing to see here, folks.  Move along.”

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