Stakeholders in Ferguson

As the militarized police occupation of Ferguson, MO, drew comparisons between the midwestern suburb and a “foreign authoritarian country,” the town’s police chief affected a different sort of vocabulary in one of his press conferences. [Put aside, for a moment, the deep naivete of a writer, like this one for Vox.com, so stymied by violent repression in the United States, God’s country and freest land on earth, that he must invoke “Middle East dictatorships” as the only available comparison for the images on his TV screen.] The Ferguson PD released the name of the uniformed killer of young Mike Brown, the Boston Globe reported,after consulation with “stakeholders”:

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Obviously the decision was taken at the highest levels of the local police brass; likely Missouri’s governor and the Department of Justice had a role in the decision. Nothing this police department has done yet smacks of consulation or transparency, so the likely trained recourse to the discourse of”stakeholders” is laughable here. Stakeholder, as I argued in an earlier post, is an austerity keyword that started in business schools and has migrated into the world of municipal government, non-profits, and organizations of all types. The word has financial origins, but it aims to reassure audiences that what they are witnessing is an egalitarian partnership, not a hierarchical enterprise, at work. As I wrote then:

Like other phrases derived from gambling and finance that have migrated into democratic politics—the appropriately gruesome phrase “skin in the game” comes to mind—stakeholder conflates access with rights, obscuring hierarchies of power under the veneer of cooperation.

A determined group of citizens in Ferguson seem undeceived by the laughably thin veneer of cooperation on display there, however.

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