Freedom. Equality. On the surface, they seem interchangeable, but in practice the two words couldn’t be farther apart. Freedom is self explanatory; acting and living without restraint or oppression. Equality is trickier, however. Equality comes with all sorts of terms and conditions. You can’t be equal by yourself; what’s the point? Reaching a state of equality infers a previous state of inequality, most likely enforced if any expenditure of labor is necessary to “achieve” equality. Instead of freedom from oppression, equality only grants oppressed people the same rights as their oppressors, without ever doing away with oppression. Someone inevitably remains oppressed, just not those climbing the ladder of equality.
Already an industry leader in climbing the equality ladder, the Guardian continued its climb last week asking if Trump could save Twitter. Trump and his campaign created, inspired and energized legions of trolls who were the primary undoing of Twitter, along with the company’s refusal to take any effective measure against them. The notion of Trump as Twitter’s savior is farcical at best, but that’s not the point of the article. The article is just another example of the Guardian’s seat-at-the-table journalism, most glaring when they cover Silicon Valley or Trump. The President-elect’s media outlet of choice is currently Breitbart, as well as other conservative outlets such as FoxNews. While the Guardian doesn’t intend to join the ranks of right-wing media, it does want to position itself as the official media leader of resistance, much like MSNBC during the GWB administration. The Guardian needs access to Trump in order to be his foil, though, and to get this access, the Guardian repeatedly proves itself equal to right-wing media by discussing Trump as a legitimate politician instead of the perfect storm of white supremacy that he represents. Any freedom from his white supremacy is an afterthought, at best.
Local media is just as guilty of pushing equality over freedom. When the San Francisco Ethics Commission fined Examiner columnist Stuart Schuffman for misuse of campaign funds during his 2015 mayoral run, fellow Examiner columnist Joe Rodriguez responded with an apologist tour de force. Instead of pushing for freedom from corruption as he did when conservative supervisor Mark Farrell was fined, Rodriguez (very favorably) equates fellow Team Progressive member Schuffman’s scandal to others at City Hall, as if to say, “Hey, it happens and nobody’s hands are clean, but at least our guy’s hands aren’t as dirty, right?” Why bother stopping injustice when you can join in?
Recent police-chief hires in San Francisco and Oakland also brought out the equality merchants. Both chiefs are framed as reformers, though they come from two of the most violent police departments in the country, LAPD and Chicago PD. Others see it differently:
Some community activists are thrilled an outsider will now be inside as chief. “You need an outsider to be a change agent, someone who understands what a modern day police department looks like ,” San Franciscans for Police Accountability spokesperson Karen Fleshman said.
Police departments are white-supremacist organizations wholly independent of outside influence because that’s what they were created to be. Pretending otherwise, that there are “change agents” within, or that “modern day” police departments are any less violent and corrupt, does nothing but perpetuate police propaganda that they can just reform if given enough space and the right people. And money, of course. When activists create equal ground for themselves and police, they lend legitimacy to police corruption in exchange for being able to center themselves and their orgs as preeminent and respected police watchdogs, in need of all the funding to ensure SFPD remains accountable.
What hope of freedom when equality remains so lucrative?