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The Rodney King Video Factor: Smart Phones, YouTube, and Resistance to Politicians, Cops, and Other Bullies

Gary North
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April 26, 2012

Every day, smart phone technology spreads to new users. This is happening all over the world.

Every second, one hour of YouTube videos get uploaded. This is just getting started.

Smartphones have cameras. These cameras keep getting clearer.

Flashback: the Rodney King video. Clear enough.

On April 29, 1992, South Central Los Angeles (Watts) started rioting, because the police officers who were in that video were acquitted. They had been tried in a court outside of Los Angeles County. The jury was selected from residents in the upper-middle-class suburb of Simi Valley. Over 50 people died in those riots. The police should have been tried in Los Angeles. The bureaucrats made a major mistake.

That video and its aftermath were the symbolic events introducing a new era: home video resistance.

The phenomenon is spreading. Videos are being made of town hall meetings, much to the dismay of politicians. The voters who did not attend can see how well politicians handle themselves under pressure.

Politicians and bureaucrats have their words recorded. Any stupid statement is on YouTube within minutes. Smart phones let people upload the video in close to real time.

Dumb cops now get famous. Here is one overweight cop who is so dumb that he only noticed the person with the cell phone after he had beaten up a kid half his size. The kid's crime? Nothing. Then the dolt told the person with the cell phone not to upload the video. Fat cop. Fat head. Fat chance.

Over six million people have seen the video.

What did the police department do to reprimand the officer? It gave him a paid vacation. This is called "suspended with pay."

A police panel determined that he had not used excessive force.

The YouTube views kept increasing. The thing went mega-viral.

The police commissioner then fired him. In a statement issued by his office, we learn:

The Baltimore police department does not tolerate this kind of behavior on the part of its officers. Clearly, the officer displayed incompetence. He allowed a video of this beating to be recorded. If he had followed police guidelines, he would have confiscated the camera first, and then beaten the crap out of the snot-nosed little bastard.

No, don't check with This official statement is an urban legend. It merely encapsulates what the police department actually thought, which was why the original panel cleared him.

Women should keep a snub-nosed .357 in their purses to deal with rapists, and a smart phone to deal with cops.


In 1775-1781, the British lost North America because the technology of rifles had advanced to such a degree that prices were low enough for farmers to own a rifle. British troops carried short-range rifles with bayonets. Tactics were designed for open field encounters between massed troops. The battle was won in close encounters. American farmers could shoot at distances not encountered by Continental troops. "Stand and fight, you cowards," they cried at Americans hidden behind trees a hundred yards away. In response, the Americans shot officers mounted on horseback. Then they ran if outnumbered or kept shooting if they weren't.

The last battle between Americans and British was at New Orleans in 1815. Americans stood behind cotton bales and shot at the Brits. The Brits were slow learners, tactically speaking. Wiki reports:

From December 25, 1814 to January 26, 1815, British casualties during the Louisiana Campaign, apart from the assault on January 8, were 49 killed, 87 wounded and 4 missing. These losses, together with those incurred on December 23 and January 8, added up to 386 killed, 1,521 wounded and 552 missing for the whole campaign. General Jackson reported a grand total of 55 killed, 185 wounded and 93 missing for the entire siege, including December 23 and January 8.

Just like the British Army's senior commanders, 1775-1815, bureaucrats learn slowly. This works to our advantage.

Technology is democratic and price competitive. It enables little people to fight back.

The response of some Congressmen is to stop having town hall meetings. Others -- the really slow-witted -- send police into the crowd to confiscate cell phones. Here is one example.

When you think of bureaucrats in the era of smart phones, think "Wile E. Coyote." Think "Acme." Think "beep-beep."


Government officials fear only three things: (1) bad publicity, (2) independent administrative panels, (3) budget cuts. Bad publicity can lead to the other two.

The worst kinds of bad publicity are these:

Easily understood
Widely distributed

A video is by far the most damaging. A video on YouTube can be extremely damaging.

No bureaucracy ever suffers long from incidents like these. Governments do not stop spending. High-level heads rarely roll. Most important, high-level heads just below appointed level do not roll. Senior bureaucrats who do not serve at the pleasure of a politician are safe.

Then what good is a video on YouTube? It undermines voters' respect for bad government. It chips away at the confidence instilled by years of tax-funded schooling. One video can undermine what I call "trust the textbook."

Over time, the drip, drip, drip of revelatory YouTube videos will undermine the most precious asset of any government: legitimacy.

If Indians had owned smart phones in 1919, and if YouTube had been online, the Brits would have been gone within a year or two after Amritsar. Gen. Dyer would not have been a hero in the eyes of upper-class Brits. He would have been the scapegoat that he deserved to be -- sent into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:22). He would have taken the Raj with him.

Gandhi did not need a spinning wheel. He needed an iPhone.



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