Wired: “The Out-of-Control Spread of Crowd-Control Tech”

Wired last month had an article that critically examines the use of what is euphemistically labeled ‘crowd control tech’ but in fact is an ongoing militarization of the urban realm all over globe fueled by the US weapons industry. The author speaks from personal experience about the harm that these supposedly benign arms can do: they were shot in the face while covering a protest outside the White House in 2020.

“The theory behind all less-lethal crowd-control devices, from the simple billy club to the infrared laser dazzler, is that they allow security forces to suppress a riot without committing a massacre. Law enforcement and military experts have described them, again and again, as a “humane” alternative to conventional arms—and often as the frontier of high-tech innovation.”

“Unhindered by the kind of oversight on production, sale, use, and export that applies to typical small arms, the less-lethals industry has been left pretty much to its own devices. It is to the armaments trade what dietary supplements are to the pharmaceutical industry: a supposedly more benign sector that is, in practice, largely unsupervised and often slipshod.”

While the rhetoric suggest that crowd control technology might lead to less harm and damage, the author suggests something entirely else. On the dais before their widespread use they was often a tacit or even explicitly negotiated mutual understanding between protesters and law enforcement. But with the advent of new tools, also a new power dynamics emerges: “…across the US, negotiated management fell out of favor, and reliance on less-lethals has increased.”

At the end of the article, the author highlights the financial stakes behind all this: “Even by conservative estimates, the less-lethal industry is predicted to grow by more than $3 billion over the next decade.”

Link to full article >>

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