The Hollywood BID Patrol’s Intransigence on Transience Provides Yet Another Performative Demonstration of David Graeber’s Theory of Violence, Stupidity, and Interpretive Labor

An astounding number of BID Patrol officers on Ivar Avenue by the library, June 30, 2015, milling around not being charged criminally for degrading everyone's quality of life by, through their open display of guns, passively threatening to kill anyone who disobeys them.
An astounding number of BID Patrol officers on Ivar Avenue by the library, June 30, 2015, milling around not being charged criminally for degrading everyone’s quality of life by openly displaying their guns and their self-evident willingness to use them, thus creating the imminent fear that they’ll kill anyone who disobeys them.
Watch here for the final bit of a Hollywood BID Patrol operation on Ivar Avenue on June 30, 2015. There are about 12 of them milling around on the sidewalk after, evidently, having kicked out a bunch of homeless people, most probably on the basis of suspected violations of disgraceful LAMC 41.18(d). Of course, if you know the spot you’ll know that there are homeless people there essentially all the time, only very rarely getting kicked out by the BID Patrol.

So what horrific incident was it that required the presence of about a dozen of Hollywood’s finest1 on a pleasant Tuesday afternoon on Ivar Avenue? Murder, rape, homeless encampment, street-preaching? The amazing thing is that no one there seemed to know for sure except, we assume given that the principle of charity requires us to assume that the BID Patrol both has reasons for its actions and at the same time knows what those reasons are, the officers themselves.

A witness to the June 30, 2015 incident who also had no firm idea of the BID Patrol's intention, but was willing to exert effort to come up with a shared theory that fit the known facts, proving that he, unlike the Patrol, has not yet placed himself outside of normal human society.
A witness to the June 30, 2015 incident who also had no firm idea of the BID Patrol’s intention, but was willing to exert effort to come up with a shared theory that fit the known facts, proving that he, unlike the Patrol, has not yet placed himself outside of normal human society.

One witness, though, spent the time and the effort to share his theory on the BID Patrol’s motivation with our correspondent. This is what David Graeber calls “interpretative labor,” an activity which, as Graeber has it, “much of the everyday business of social life” comprises, an activity in which people with guns, made stupid by their own potential for state-sanctioned violence, do not typically engage, as they clearly do not in this case:2

Thank you for filming, cause they only pulled up when I started talking about God and Jesus. I was just talking about God and Jesus and taking the Illuminati down, and every day they don’t never bother nobody, and let them sit here, right? Well, all of a sudden today I came and started talking about God and Jesus and taking down the Illuminati, cause I’m in the middle of a documentary, all of a sudden they get a hundred calls a day. God bless us all, the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name.

Now, we can’t read minds, at least no more than any socially competent member of the human species, so we don’t know if the BID Patrol habitually rolls up to prevent the preaching of the Gospel on the streets of Hollywood. But, given the the documented hatred of the HPOA for the teachings of Jesus Christ it’s certainly as plausible an explanation as any other. It’s certainly more plausible than the incomprehensible, antisocial silence of the invading officers.

In the end it doesn’t even matter if the witness is correct. The most important thing is that he was willing to engage with his fellow humans in discussing, interpreting, understanding the BID Patrol’s actions. As Graeber explains (more details after the break), this is the very essence of human society, the very essence of what’s given up by people who enforce their will on others with the threat of deadly violence.

We’ve written before about genius anthropologist David Graeber’s theories of structural violence, the primary form of violence in which the Hollywood BID Patrol engages, and how it, like all violence, leads to abject stupidity on the part of its perpetrators. As Graeber says:2

Violence’s capacity to allow arbitrary decisions, and thus to avoid the kind of debate, clarification, and renegotiation typical of more egalitarian social relations, is obviously what allows its victims to see procedures created on the basis of violence as stupid or unreasonable. Most of us are capable of getting a superficial sense of what others are thinking or feeling just by observing their tone of voice, or body language—it’s usually not hard to get a sense of people’s immediate intentions and motives, but going beyond that superficial often takes a great deal of work. Much of the everyday business of social life, in fact, consists in trying to decipher others’ motives and perceptions. Let us call this “interpretive labor.” One might say, those relying on the fear of force are not obliged to engage in a lot of interpretive labor, and thus, generally, they do not.

They have guns and handcuffs and the blessing of the LAPD in their absolutely arbitrary enforcement of them. They don’t need to explain what they’re doing, because their guns give them the power not to explain. In the end, they’ll never explain, because the more they say, the more hypocritical and/or batshit insane they reveal themselves to be. But also, in the end, it doesn’t matter that they don’t explain. Their actions, including each unexplained act of arbitrary enforcement, tell the whole story right out loud to be heard by those who have ears to hear, to be seen by those who have eyes to see.3

  1. Sarcasm. We don’t like to use it, but we’re driven to it by the circumstances. …Sweet countrymen, judge tenderly of we!
  2. The utopia of rules : on technology, stupidity, and the secret joys of bureaucracy. David Graeber. Melville House. 2015.
  3. Ezekiel 12:2.

Image of BID Patrol gathering is ©2015 MichaelKohlhaas.org.

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