A lot of people wonder what would happen if (and it remains an if) there were a complete and total collapse of the economy. Here is your answer:
Empty streets. Police helicopters. Shuttered businesses.
Behind bolted doors, Bostonians saw through their windows things never before seen on a warm Spring day in Beantown. Normally snarled and honking thoroughfares like Summer Street and Commonwealth Avenue were empty. The Boston Common and Quincy Market were deserted. The winding streets of the North End had hardly any map-squinting tourists blocking the sidewalks. No racing shells skimmed along the Charles River; the lawns of Harvard were quiet and lonely; no pot smoke scented the Square.Freedom From Fear: Boston Is Liberated as Subject is Captured (TIME)
If I were paranoid, I would say that this was a perfect "test run" of the national security state. The fact that a major American city could be completely shut down, from public transportation, to schools, to private businesses (!), and the people locked in their houses for an indeterminate period of time, is unfathomable. This did not happen during the Depression. This did not happen during Vietnam. It did not happen during the Cold War. It did not happen after Columbine. It did not even happen after September 11. Has there ever been a precedent for this?
It's happening now. And no one seems worried the the police state has this much power, or this many personnel.
All for a 19 year old teenage boy.
When dawn approached and the fugitive still had not been found, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino decided to shut down the city. They started with public transportation. Commuter trains and subways were switched off. Bus service was suspended. Amtrak stopped running, and ferries remained at their piers. As Richard A. Davey, secretary of transportation for the Bay State, explained: “We did not want to have customers potentially put in harm’s way. And we didn’t want to give this suspect the opportunity to get out of the city using public transit.”As horrible as this crime was, are we to the point where we can and will shut down an entire city for an indefinite period of time to catch one single fugitive? One young boy? Have we become so gripped by fear?
“How can one person cause all this?” asked Joan Kraus, a Watertown native.
And where was he? SWAT teams went door-to-door through Watertown, where one homeowner after another peered out to see who was knocking before turning the latch. “When I opened the door, there were three police officers in fatigues standing there with huge guns, pointing into our house and at me,” said Jennifer Sartori, a professor at Northeastern University. “I know these people are here to protect me, but I have never stared into the barrel of a gun before, and I hope I never have to again.”
As the sun slid down the sky, Gov. Patrick and Mayor Menino at last acknowledged just how wrong this all was, and how vain. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remained at large, but they would no longer allow him to hold the city prisoner. The officials ended the voluntary lockdown of the happy town beside the sea, and reopened the streets with a sensible warning to be careful out there. The Hub began to turn again.And all the usual things happened - the scapegoating of Muslims, the knee-jerk paranoia. the scoring of political points (gun control, abortion etc.). the incompetent 24 hour media coverage, etc. All the things that indicate that by any rights, this is no longer one coherent nation and we just can't seem to face up to that fact.
Set free, a homeowner in Watertown went outside and made his own little search. He found suspicious signs of an intruder hiding in his trailered boat behind the house. Infinitely more useful than he had been all cooped up, this citizen called the police. He had cracked the case.
As the authorities arrived, Boston was already returning to life. In short order, they took their prisoner, a mere boy, frightened, cowering, and alone.
I'm sure conspiracy theorists might argue that this was all planned by the government, and that this was all a setup to declare martial law all along. While there does seem a disturbing trend of the authorities finding patsies to facilitate this kind of event and then arresting them (usually before the event takes place), and there are some weird things about the case, I have no idea one way or the other, but I doubt it. But really, that's irrelevant - whether it was planned or coincidental, the authorities now have demonstrated that they have supreme power to shut down a city and declare martial law at their pleasure for any reason and for any length of time. Yet rather than opposition, people were docile, even cheering. And they were calling for the elimination of due process for the accused.
All of that should scare us more than terrorists. As has been said so often before, we do not honor those who have suffered in this awful attack by losing our way as a people. As an American, I feel uneasy at what precedent this is setting for our future.
Freedom from fear, indeed. Here's Ian Welsh:
Finally, I will note that the response to this, as the quote indicates, will be to increase the police state. In context, your lords and masters (and they consider themselves both, and by your actions and lack of them you confirm they are right) believe that new technologies have made the police state cheaper, and thus affordable. The alternative to a police state is to take care of people: widespread affluence and liberty. But the lessons of the late 19th and early 20th century, that technology makes individuals and small groups deadly, and that in modern life you cannot remove the precursor chemicals from everyone’s hands, have been forgotten, because those who lived through that period are dead, and their children are past their years in power.
And so we walk the road again. Rather than take care of everyone, we will surveil everyone, and use every attack as an excuse to crack down further. And the elites are wrong about the cost of the police state, this time, too, because the real cost is in societal stasis, in loss of creativity and actual productive change. Police states become stagnant, and eventually they crack, because no one believes in them.See also: Fuck This Week (Jezebel)