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L. Neil Smith's
Number 476, July 13, 2008

"Empire is a Negative-Sum Game"

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Just What America Needs—Another Thug Show
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

I almost never review things I don't like, figuring it's a whole lot better use of my time to direct my friends to things that are worthwhile. But sometimes—especially when there's a trend involved—it can be as important to slap mosquitoes as it is to feed the birds.

After altogether too much hype over the past several weeks, CBS—the Eye That Lies—has finally unveiled the latest evidence of the fundamental incompetence and utter stupidity of network television executives, with the sad premiere of their latest fascist fantasy, Flashpoint.

It says here Sniper and Critical Incident were alternative working titles to this sorry Canadian waste of the talents of Enrico Colantoni, who charmingly played Veronica Mars' dad Keith on the show of the same name. Here, he's leader of combination hostage negotiation and SWAT team (does anyone but me see a certain degree of craziness in that?) based in a version of Toronto that greatly resembles Los Angeles. The only difference is the absurd police uniforms which are highly reminiscent of the Nazi-like outfits sported in Starship Troopers.

The first show attempts to reveal the "human" side of SWAT. The team's chief killer-at-a-distance is in trouble with his wife because he's missing his in-laws' 40th anniversary to attend a retirement party for one of his colleagues. The subplot doesn't work; there's about as much dramatic tension here as in one of Dave Letterman's "top ten" lists, and it melts away in seconds when the team is called out to deal with an immigrant—he turns out to speak Croatian, but, with a toss of the coin, he could just as easily been from Poland, Yemen, or Grand Fenwick—who tells his grown son goodbye on the subway and heads off to shoot his estranged wife where she works as a cleaning lady.

I'm sure that the writers thought his choice of a Luger meant something.

He then takes a stranger hostage and stands around on a pedestrian mall for half of the episode, exposed on three sides, where he could be taken out from behind at any moment by a Girl Guide with a BB gun. The poor actor didn't stand a chance, either. He looked too much like the late Zero Mostel to be taken seriously as a crazed Croatian ex-husband.

It won't hurt anybody—because nobody will want to watch it anyway—to inform you that, with another failed attempt at drama when his son shows up and almost gets in the way, he finally gets his skull exploded by the sniper on the zillionth floor of a handy nearby skyscraper, who puts a .308 slug right into the top of his head, showering the poor female hostage with bone fragments and brains.

Yucky-poo—how will I ever face my bridge club?

The sniper then spends the rest of the episode being investigated by a bored, half-asleep Internal Affairs officer, and dramatically not emoting over the terrible deed that his choice of career has forced him to do (they even manage to misquote Gilbert and Sullivan on the subject) which we are to assume is secretly tearing him apart inside.

Ordinary stuff done poorly.

The simple fact of the matter is that police officers make a living beating people up and killing them—or threatening to do so. My platoon's squadroom had a four-foot poster of a uniformed cop with his gun drawn, pointing at the camera, with the caption, "Save Court Costs". Individuals who don't rejoice in jobs like this, and relish a well-placed shot, don't get jobs like this. Cops are routinely advised (I was, anyway, in the 1970s, although I never had to shoot anybody) to feign post-traumatic stress disorder after a police shooting so that lawsuits by the relatives of shootees could be fended off.

Oh the pain.

Oh the agony.

Can I go get a burger now?

But that's not really the point of this article. Consult your TV Guide, or if you don't want to pay money for several dozen pages of trashy advertising, trashier "personalities", and cretinous opinions, go to and see for yourself how many of these thug shows are on TV these days. There's at least a couple every night. If you add forensic programs like CSI and Bones (both of which I confess to liking very much) and pile on endless reruns of authoritarian garbage like COPS, they utterly dominate the mass medium, displacing better shows. To make room for Flashpoint, they apparently killed Moonlight.

COPS, you may recall, is one of the longest-running programs on TV. When it first appeared, I was convinced that its purpose was to desensitize ordinary folks to a society run by "law enforcement"—the standing army that the Founding Fathers opposed so vigorously—and nothing over the following decades has done anything to change my mind. Today, our society is run by "law enforcement", uniformed thugs perfectly crazed and willing—as they were recently in Iowa City with individuals they were insanely preventing from returning to their flood-ravaged homes—to kill you dead in order to keep you safe.

What can we do about this?

Three things, really. The first is to write—not to networks, but—to sponsors, demanding an end to this vicious "entertainment" trend. There are a lot of other things to make TV series about. We knew that once, didn't we? How about something showing authorities as the face-saving, ass-covering scumbags we saw in the aftermath of 9/11?

The second is to get rid of certain "modernisms" that have turned our neighborhood cops into fascistic monsters. No more automatic weapons. No more semiautomatic pistols. No more Tasers. Absolutely nothing that is forbidden to civilians in their jurisdiction. If they need more firepower than that provided by a six-shot revolver and a four-shot pump shotgun, then let them call upon an armed populace for help.

Two-and-a-half: no more SWAT. No more ski masks—make it a felony for them to cover their faces. Put the last four digits of their badge numbers on their backs in six-inch-high lettering, and three inches on the front, as well. Yes, exactly like on football jerseys.

Finally, we must seriously consider outlawing municipal police departments altogether. Despite all the "thin blue line" crap they shovel, all they are is mercenaries, and their interests cannot run parallel to ours at all. They serve pseudoaristocratic masters like Richard "Baby Dick" Daley, John "Propellor Beanie" Hickenlooper, and Michael "No Mocking Or Insulting Middle Name Is Truly Adequate" Bloomberg.

Who will keep the peace? The people will, as they always have in truth, aided by the local sheriff and his deputies. Unlike the cops, who hide beneath layers of bureaucracy, the "S.O." is accessible and accountable. The sheriff has to run for office every year or so, and his henchmen serve at his pleasure. If he screws up, then they're all gone.

True, you get an occasional Mussolini wannabe like Maricopa County, Arizona's Joe Arpaio, but with no police department to contend with, more attention can be paid to getting rid of bad apples like him.

It all starts with removing statist propaganda from the media. That's the task before us now, a necessary step in restoring a free country.

Are you up to it?

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at, or at


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