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Repress U, Class of 2012

Posted on Mar 24, 2012
Amin Tabrizi (CC-BY)

A student photographs himself in the reflection of a security camera casing at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

By Michael Gould-Wartofsky, TomDispatch

This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch.

Campus spies. Pepper spray. SWAT teams. Twitter trackers. Biometrics. Student security consultants. Professors of homeland security studies. Welcome to Repress U, class of 2012.

Since 9/11, the homeland security state has come to campus just as it has come to America’s towns and cities, its places of work and its houses of worship, its public space and its cyberspace.  But the age of (in)security had announced its arrival on campus with considerably less fanfare than elsewhere—until, that is, the “less lethal” weapons were unleashed in the fall of 2011.

Today, from the City University of New York to the University of California, students increasingly find themselves on the frontlines, not of a war on terror, but of a war on “radicalism” and “extremism.”  Just about everyone from college administrators and educators to law enforcement personnel and corporate executives seems to have enlisted in this war effort.  Increasingly, American students are in their sights.

In 2008, I laid out seven steps the Bush administration had taken to create a homeland security campus.  Four years and a president later, Repress U has come a long way.  In the Obama years, it has taken seven more steps to make the university safe for plutocracy.  Here is a step-by-step guide to how they did it.


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1. Target Occupy

Had there been no UC Davis, no Lt. John Pike, no chemical weapons wielded against peacefully protesting students, and no cameras to broadcast it all, Americans might never have known just how far the homeland security campus has come in its mission to police its students.  In the old days, you might have called in the National Guard.  Nowadays, all you need is an FBI-trained, federally funded, and “less lethally” armed campus police department.

The mass pepper-spraying of students at UC Davis was only the most public manifestation of a long-running campus trend in which, for officers of the peace, the pacification of student protest has become part of the job description.  The weapons of choice have sometimes been blunt instruments, such as the extendable batons used to bludgeon the student body at Berkeley, Baruch, and the University of Puerto Rico.  At other times, tactical officers have turned to “less-lethal” munitions, like the CS gas, beanbag rounds, and pepper pellets fired into crowds at Occupy protests across the University of California system this past winter.

Yet for everything we see of the homeland security campus, there is a good deal more that we miss.  Behind the riot suits, the baton strikes, and the pepper-spray cannons stands a sprawling infrastructure made possible by multimillion-dollar federal grants, “memoranda of understanding” and “mutual aid” agreements among law enforcement agencies, counter-terrorism training, an FBI-sponsored “Academic Alliance,” and 103 Joint Terrorism Task Forces (which provide “one-stop shopping” for counterterrorism operations to more than 50 federal and 600 state and local agencies).

“We have to go where terrorism takes us, so we often have to go onto campuses,” FBI Special Agent Jennifer Gant told Campus Safety Magazine in an interview last year.  To that end, campus administrators and campus police chiefs are now known to coordinate their operations with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “special advisors,” FBI “campus liaison agents,” an FBI-led National Security Advisory Board, and a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which instructs local law enforcement in everything from “physical techniques” to “behavioral science.”  More than half of campus police forces already have “intelligence-sharing agreements” with these and other government agencies in place.

2. Get a SWAT team

Since 2007, campus police forces have decisively escalated their tactics, expanded their arsenals, and trained ever more of their officers in SWAT-style paramilitary policing.  Many agencies acquire their arms directly from the Department of Defense through a surplus weapons sales program known as “1033,” which offers, among other things, “used grenade launchers (for the deployment of less lethal weapons)... for a significantly reduced cost.”

According to the most recent federal data available, nine out of 10 campus agencies with sworn police officers now deploy armed patrols authorized to use deadly force.  Nine in 10 also authorize the use of chemical munitions, while one in five make regular use of Tasers.  Last August, an 18-year old student athlete died after being tased at the University of Cincinnati.


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By Fullblad, March 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

Infiltration of progressive student organizations by
fellow students taking homeland courses must be
rampant. Counter infiltration with double agents by
carefully selected moles with the “right” backgrounds
is now necessary. Care must also be taken that a mole
is not turned . It’s a spy versus spy world as Big
Brother ups the ante. Dangerous work but the
subversion of our democracy must be exposed. These
acts by the secret services for the plutocracy are a
call to revolution by the people. The police will not
be brought over as they are being radicalized to the
extent that they will now act as any state security
force exemplified by such as the Stazi etc.

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By italianmama, March 26, 2012 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

outraged is correct.  When my children were in middle school they were actively encouraged to “report” anonymously of course, anything any other student did that they did not like.  I, of course, told my children they were not to become rats, and if they had something to report, they were to do it not anonymously, as that was a cowards way.  And, they were only to report something such as seeing a gun in a locker and such, not inane things such as bad language, different ideas, clothing styles, etc.
I complained to the school and asked them if they were educators or a throwback to the cold war secret service.
Reason I found out what was going on: My kid got hauled in to the office for skateboarding down stairs. I asked who reported him, and was told about the anonymous program.
Are you freakin’ kidding me????
Skateboarders were looked down upon, but kids throwing footballs and tackling each other silly?  That was ok.

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By Outraged, March 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm Link to this comment

This is what follows from the extremism seen in our public schools K-12. It is not surprising, but realistically logical. Is anyone surprised….?

How could it be anathema to education (in the real sense) for those with a difference of opinion to be tagged as problematic, and then NOT have this same condition present in our higher educational system?

I assert that it is the logical outcome of requiring students in our basic educational systems to “suck it up” and to “get with the program”, regardless of how inane that situation is in the true sense education or learning or innovating or creating or free thinking or humane empathy.

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By gerard, March 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Reading Jones:  Interestingly, that Peck book is just about my most despised book. 
I wish we could get together to discuss it and compare notes. Just for brevity’s
sake, his bow toward abject evil and the possibility of extinguishing it through
exorcism completely turned me off.  Otherwise I always found him more or less
  Please don’t take offense.  Our two strong opposite opinions turning up just here
and now is accidental, of course, and yet ...unnerving.  If you care to do so, just
let me know briefly what you found so revealing about “the nature of the enemy.”
  I also wonder what I may have said that brought the idea of “university
indoctrination” to the table,, but that’s secondary to our polar disagreement
(apparently) on Peck’s analysis of “evil” and what can be done about it.

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By ReadingJones, March 25, 2012 at 6:12 am Link to this comment


Chomsky was correct. I think you are naive on the
subject of university indoctrination. It takes great
personal effort to avoid having your opinions skewed
by the perch from which you view the universe.
Provincialism is endemic. Perhaps it is impossible to
avoid being biased by your background but with effort
and great care you can at least be aware of it in
part: Of that which is in vague outline glimpsed
momentarily through the fog. University
indoctrination was recognized going back at least to
the 1400’s. Please believe that I mean you no harm by
saying this. I admire the keen edge of your

The only hope we have of successfully opposing the
Predator Class and their lackeys lies in truth
clearly spoken. That is why the trolls, the nutjobs,
the provocateurs who espouse violence must be
opposed. They are owned or encouraged by the
Predators. The Predators recognize the danger which
the truth puts them in so they employ the idiots and
scabs and consciously evil to obscure the truth. M.
Scott Peck wrote a book about evil called “The People
of the Lie.” It is a useful beginning toward
understanding the nature of the enemy.

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By thecrow, March 25, 2012 at 4:43 am Link to this comment

“Since 9/11…”

Of course.

“Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.”

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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By Maani, March 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

You heard it here first: I am predicting a Kent State-type incident on a college or university campus by the end of 2012, where peaceful protesters are shot and killed by law enforcement.

The question is: what effect, if any, will that have on anything?

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By gerard, March 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment

rend it:  But that has not always been so. Only since the U.S. has been slowly freaking out over a period of the last 50 years or so. I remember the first assault of “loyalty oath” fits.  Three of us “temps” refused to sign and quit in preference. All the rest of the department told us separately and in whispers that they “wished they could do the same” but ...they had families to feed and mortgages to pay.

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By rend it, March 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment

Was it Chomsky who said institutions of higher education are really just about indoctrination?

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By gerard, March 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Proving that Julian Assange was right when he said that conspirators don’t like it when their secrets are exposed, but democratic government is impossible unless its secrets become public information—or words to that effect.

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By A. Benway, March 24, 2012 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It may be a disagreeable development, and one with very undesirable effect, but it is also understandable in historical context, as the Fabian strategies being employed in response to imperial ambitions begin to undermine the relationship between the state and the people.

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