The Killer Elite, At Home and Abroad
We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.
- Quote attributed to George Orwell
Everybody loves a good killer. American pop culture is saturated with the love of killers. The more sexy and elite the killer, the more reverence he or she receives and the more the obvious moral questions are parried away. As the Orwell quote, above, suggests, all societies revere “rough men” with the capacity to ruthlessly kill members of threatening nations or outlaw bands.
Nowadays, official killing demands the nurturing of an elite esprit-de-corps among the killers. Their work must be done in strict secrecy so we, the public, can remain ignorant and “safe in our beds” while the killer elite remain aloof and unaccountable. Furthermore, it’s important to be able to easily marginalize those of us deemed by the killer elite and their promoters to be overly-delicate, moral scolds.
This sense of embattled esprit-de-corps in conjunction with unaccountability is even seeping into our domestic police departments. In some cases, cops are too quick to shoot when things don't go right for them or they are dis'ed; in other cases, the connection to elite special-ops killers seems aspirational. Since 9/11 we’ve witnessed many linkages (like regional Fusion Centers and the distribution of surplus war weaponry) between the military and local police departments. In analytic stories focused on the “black lives matter” movement and policing, we're told our local police forces have moved from a Community Policing model to a Broken Windows model and now to something called an Intelligence-Based model. This sounds ominously close to the special-ops, manhunter formula.
Like the frog in a pot of slowly heating water who doesn’t realize he’s being boiled to death, whether it’s fear of attacks from outside or fear of violence and crime from inside, it seems time for the public to ask whether Orwell’s “rough men” idea is applicable in today’s confusing world or whether the sense of unaccountable, elite institutions focused on violence can become a threat in and of themselves.