QOTD: Has pop culture given us an unrealistic idea of what a police state looks like?

1984 Big Brother

An essay by David Sirota yesterday at Salon starts off with this:

What does a police state really look like in practice in America? Is it the cartoonish dystopia of sci-fi books? Is it like 1998′s “The Siege,” which predicted a wholesale instatement of martial law? Or in the age of the drone-wielding police department, is it something more mundane and subtle yet nonetheless pernicious? From this city in the middle of Middle America, it looks like the latter.

When people think of Denver, many think of skiing and, since the last election, marijuana. But from here in the Mile High City, things seem a bit different. In the day to day operation of the city, we aren’t as much defined by snow and pot as we are by the fact that we live under the rule of an increasingly brutal police force. It is a police force that our political leaders are more than happy to deploy to punish undesirables, and worse, that the most powerful media organ is more than happy to defend.

Sirota expands on the situation in Denver and also discusses the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk and surveillance programs in New York City. To this we could also include the abuses of the LAPD that appear to have driven Christopher Dorner to his murder spree (and are otherwise well documented), the thuggish behavior of TSA officers, and the after-the-fact justifications of the Obama administration for its policy of extrajudicial nonbattlefield assassinations of American citizens. And let’s thrown in the pervasive use of CCTV in the U.K.

Here’s the thing: While many people would likely agree that films such as 1984 and Brazil are horrifying depictions of police states — and they are — relatively few people seem bothered by the realities we’re living with today. Is it because our world doesn’t look quite as horrific as the images movies (and occasionally TV) have given us?

Has pop culture given us an unrealistic idea of what a police state looks like?

What do you think?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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