Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Christopher Dorner is Dead: Is He Your Hero or Anti-Hero? Is He Your Villain? Why?

Is Christopher Dorner dead? If so did he beat "The Man?" Alternatively, in his "defeat" by "The Man" will Dorner actually "triumph" in the long-term?

Alternet has my essay on Christopher Dorner as an archetypal figure in American (black) popular culture on the front page. I thank them for that gesture.

I shared said piece here on We Are Respectable Negroes a few days ago to a mixed response. Some "got" my curiosity about locating Dorner in a broader cultural mythos; a few other folks simply keyed in on his deviant behavior. As such, they could not go beyond that characterization.

Likewise, at The Daily Kos, two hundred or so comments later, a good number of folks were open to thinking critically about the cultural figure that is Christopher Dorner, what he symbolizes, and how some could see him as a hero. Other commenters simply defaulted to the fact that he killed several innocent people. Consequently, that makes any critical inquiry unnecessary and a type of excuse-making for a murderer.

I am legitimately confused. Do help me work through my thoughts about the varied and dichotomous reactions towards Christopher Dorner if you would be so patient.

I will state without qualification that he is a murder. Christopher Dorner killed several people. Because of that fact, he should have been subject to the maximum punishment under the law. However, Dorner's choice to kill several people in keeping with his crusade of vengeance does not eliminate difficult questions about the evils he identified in the LAPD. His tactics and strategy may be very questionable to some; nevertheless, the truth telling of his manifesto remains a quite accurate representation of how the LAPD has historically functioned as an organization.

With that obligatory statement aside, let us move forward.

Are those who are uncomfortable with critically interrogating Dorner's behavior, and the motivations for it, just very deferent to authority by nature? Are these folks especially prone to accepting the master frame without asking hard questions about Power and its motivations? Are they authoritarians?

Consequently, do Dorner's most impulsive detractors naturally see a man, one whose race may not be coincidental as an element in their rage towards him, as an existential threat?

Are those who see Chris Dorner as a hero simply elevating a man, one who they know little about, simply because of their own negative experiences with the police, the criminal "justice" system, racism, classism, or social inequality, more generally?

Is the idea of what Chris Dorner represents more compelling to his supporters in the abstract, than if he were actually operating in their communities? Is love for Dorner an example of "not in my back yard, but okay in theory" as applied to a vigilante?

Ultimately, is the answer more simple: could Dorner be a fantasy figure for every person stopped and harassed by the police, but who simply did not have the guts and the tradecraft to respond in kind?

I stand by my original read of Christopher Dorner. He is an anti-hero for no small number of people. His exploits will be talked about for many years. I have little to no faith in the mass media's version of Dorner's manifesto, nor of his career and its end. Professional liars in the corporate media do what they are paid to do: they dissemble, and by doing so, serve the master frame.

In response, some will point to the bureaucracy and how it deemed Dorner "guilty" and "irresponsible." The bureaucracy is an organ of State power. It is not neutral. More often than not, chosen outcomes are preordained; the machine is neither fair nor righteous. I have seen this first hand.

If you despise Christopher Dorner, please share why...and please do so with a full explanation as your thought process is very fascinating and revealing. If your argument is that "he killed some people," do refrain from commenting until you can share and formulate a closing for that claim. I am more interested in the part of the sentence which is "...and because he did that I believe xyz about his deeds and the nature of the accusations against him."

Likewise, if you see Christopher Dorner as a hero, please share why...and do so according to the same rubric. How and why do his deeds make him "heroic?" How do you define heroism? If he is an anti-hero (what I think both the griots and cultural memory in the future will will name him as), why so?


CNu said...

The Man been contemplating and studying netwar in earnest since 1990. (that's a catchall for unconventional-assymetric-cyberconflict)

The minute you understand that tactical and strategic planning is a largely mathematical exercise, and that Nash-ian game theory informs every aspect of how it continues to be done, then precisely will you understand how the operations analysts - whose job it is to anticipate and to plan - go about the ugly business of queuing up prospective adversaries.

The study of C-cubed-I took a quantum leap with the advent of Internet-based communications. Once groups of people began using even pre-web communications modalities, listserves, usenet, email, etc..., the old textual undernet - they began generating data which rendered certain attributes of their meatspace social networks explicit.

You could compare the communications attributes of a military division with the communications attributes of the following of a popular imam. That's how potential and prospective enemies were profiled and identified, on the basis of their internal cohesion, frequency and fidelity of communications, etc..., aggregations deemed too coherent were tagged as threats. Bottomline, that's why nobody worried about black folk in America anymore.

Anyway, I digress. Bottomline, Dorner will not rise to the level of anti-hero because he was not competent enough. He lacked the level of sophistication and deep premeditation required to assymetrically engage The Man. In order to engage The Man and do damage, you have to meditate very deeply and cloak, plan, prepare, and have a lot of help.

The best and most effective anti-hero to emerge into popular consciousness here-to-date is Julian Assange, and you see that even the brilliant Assange is holed up in a Dorner corner in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, while one of his key leakers is buried up beneath a military prison.

The most vexing and potentially powerful assemblage resulting from the Assangian oeuvre is Anonymous, and these indigo children who've mastered the arts of netwar are at grave risk and subject to very sophisticated disinformation, propaganda and psy-ops activities, hither, thither, and yon.

Poor Dorner just another mad brother with modest skills who snapped and got got.

Mary K Croft said...

Chris Dorner, no less than our untold number of combat veterans of our many wars, suffered from PTSD due to the nature of his job function in the LAPD. His chosen field of work placed him within and against an enemy class among the people of his jurisdiction. The discovery that his enemies extended to his workmates put him in an untenable position. His ultimate firing confirmed that he could not live in that world and survive psychologically whole. Breakdown ensued. I have sympathy for anyone broken by the system. As a teacher, I see it every day.

Anti-hero? I believe he did the best he could in an untenable situation, then eventually went nuts. So did the combat veteran who shot another who was trying to help on a shooting range here in Texas. How does one point a finger at the precise time and stimulus and say, "That's where he went bad"?

Bob Morris said...

Once he killed the innocent daughter of the man who defended him just to cause him pain, he became as much of a mad dog as those he railed against.

Matija said...

Cops kill people daily and mistreat them, lie and fabricate false police reports to protect themselves, as i have been a victim of this. Burlington police depay"rtment in Vermont is as bad as LAPD or any other police department.These people are accepting not so bright people in their force, as the police test confirms.I have taken one in 2005. I heard police in Burlington VT call people n words, beating woman for no reason as she was walking down the street away from the officer, officer went after here and grabbed here hair and pulled here to the ground, while the woman had not done anything to threaten police woman.Things like these happen daily, and are not reported on the news media, until its looking like its going to be a huge story, and they have to defuse the riots, seem like they are exposing the story.All these police officers are full of ego and cant wait to explode and use their guns and handcuffs, whichever comes first.Many of them prefer using guns as they want to tell stories to fellow police officers.These people are the "legally"trained criminals as if you followed them on daily bases and see their conduct you would now.Yet they get awards and get internal gratitude from others within the department.

Dorner did what he had to do.I dont know if it is even true that he killed civilians two of them, as he nicely asked the car owner to leave the car and takes his dog from the last hijacked car.The owner spoke of this on Fox news, today.

He was very calm and asked the driver to step out nicely and calmly,as he also told him that he does not want to hurt him.

Why did the cabin burn down, it is because LAPD did it so that they are done with one man that was willing to clear his name and could further expose LAPD for bigoted racist rednecks that they are.This from a white man.Done trust anything LAPD tells you on the media, or ever.

P.S ther could be few good officers in the USA somewhere, on the same note we lost a good one today Officer Dorner R.I.P.

Note how LAPD fired hundred of rounds into the cabin with one maid still in there and then tourcht it!
They didnt want him alive no matter what.

Handbasket2Hell said...

My own feeling is that Dorner was a symbol but not for the racist LAPD. Instead I thought he was symbol of America's (especially liberals) questionable values. I tweeted how was it okay for Obama to have a kill list but not Chris Dorner? Beyond being called an ass, the most frequent answer I got was that the President was killing terrorists. When I pointed out that Dorner also thought he was killing terrorists. And, like Obama, he was even killing the children of people he considered terrorists. At that point, the conversation usually ended.

There is something very wrong in our country when so many citizens think Richard Nixon was correct; if the President does it, then it is not illegal. There is no law or Constitution that states anyone in the White House can just kill people who've been convicted of nothing. The Left use to believe that under GWB but then Obama got the franchise and all thoughts of justice just went out the freaking window.

Joe Dixon,
Co-host of Skeptiles

Taylor Williams said...

Whether he's dead or alive, I grieve for the brother. I neither despise nor admire him, but I believe I do understand him. The responses of so many African American men in particular reveal that there's something about his vendetta that cuts to the heart.
Dorner is truly the anti-hero: the persecuted avenger wreaking havoc not to save himself but to expose evil, leaving it no hiding place. He is a tragic figure, shaped by the LAPD for their purposes and betrayed by the LAPD when he advocated for the people they can't even pretend to serve. We understand what it's like to be squeezed, seeing no way out except ... out with a vengeance.

Ish said...

Short statement from revolutionary FIre Next Time network putting Dorner in context:

quiet_reader said...

I personally have no interest in the guy's antiheroic qualities because he was willing to kill the children of people on his list, some "sins of the father" bullshit that I think is truly shameful and shows that he was not of sound mind at all. I didn't bother responding to the previous posts because Dorner's deeds had not risen above that "he killed some people" level in my mind, and I simply couldn't see how that would make him into a folk hero or antihero just because he had a manifesto to go along with his kill list. In my opinion, a compelling outlaw has to have a better moral code than that. An antihero you would cheer for in a movie has to be the kind of killer you would want to have in your town, and Dorner is definitely the kind I would not enjoy having nearby, as you allude to in your post.

However his death, which was likely a murder with a flimsy excuse of plausible deniability, involving fire that may well have cleansed away a lot of incriminating evidence that Dorner was murdered instead of given a chance to surrender - that may well secure his legend. First off I think most right thinking people can agree the man should've had a trial. Other disturbed killers with politicized pathologies have had their day in court, why not Dorner? This gives his story a powerful sense of injustice and suggests that he was silenced on purpose for airing out the LAPD's dirty laundry. Second, his body will now have to be identified by dental records and such. That provides fertile ground for theorists who are likely to insist he is not dead, and has instead escaped to a tropical island to hang out with Tupac, Elvis, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I think his immolation is a fitting enough coda to make him an icon to some. It will outlast any troubling questions about Dorner's own actions, for sure. I'm certain that many people will remember his killings as far more intentional, aimed at clearly acceptable targets for vengeful rage, etc. simply because the system overplayed its hand & displayed its own disturbed murderous nature in burning him up.

Taylor Williams said...

Joe, I agree fully except for your characterization of The Left. I am happy to state that there are plenty of us who oppose abuse of power under the Obama administration as strongly as we did under Bush and every other president who promoted empire and the interests of the ridiculously wealthy over those of everybody else on the planet. See yesterday's post on my blog at

marbit said...

hell, i donno. i just wanted him to get away, or at the very least get a fair trial. as though it could possibly be fair. he killed some people who did not deserve it. reacted emotionally to a lifetime of oppression. i dont see him as anti-hero or villian, i see him as someone who was pushed too far by the crap society he lived in. it seems to me that more people will react this way, the crappier and more unequal our culture gets. if the most basic human needs, after the physical, are to love and be loved, to be accepted, and to have a place of value amongst our peers, how is it that MORE people dont react violently? well, i think we do. it just happens that the violence is directed internally and against those close to us. meh. i just wanted him to secretly escape and have a better life, one that fulfilled his human needs. yah, he killed some people. well, our government murders people every day. i have no right to judge his actions. i admit i am sad that he never had the chance to a better, happier life. he seemed to be a man in existential pain from a lifetime of being denied his basic human social rights. like most of us. fuck. he deserves all of our compassion. fuck the system.

Sabrina Beard said...

Dorner is no hero. I think he was disillusioned and thought that his standing in society, all that he has worked for meant more than it actually did. Especially so within the environment that he worked. After all, he had done all that is said needs be done to be considered a "good" citizen. Patriotic even. I think he thought he had transcended what is usually attributed to many black men and that this set him apart and on equal standing with his peers. I believe he worked hard for this image and it was all taken away with the stroke of a pen. Over charges that he has probably seen his peers escape countless times.

Where to go from there? Most people, especially those who are not as extensively trained in retribution would lick their wounds and start over. Others might kiss the gun. He knew he had knowledge of a way to exact revenge. Except, his victims were innocent of anything to do with what he was going through. In that, he was cowardly. Not that I condone killing innocent of guilty, in this case. This is where I lose sympathy.

And the nail in the coffin, is that his complaint stemmed from what he deemed as racism and who were two of his victims but minorities? That just negated any affront he claimed to have experienced.

Cain S. LaTrans said...

Dorner is a person that reminds me of several folk w/in my family. We are generally Moral Authoritarians, my paternal cousins test out more as authoritarian, than I do. My maternal cousins are generally close to neutral, but slightly anti-authoritarian.

I find him as tragic a figure as I find most of my cousins. My cousins are almost all indoctrinated into a Fundamentalist Christian Rhetoric, in which they are trapped. Once the Morality of Authority has been removed, then they are the only ones to enforce morality, to tragic results.

Dorner COULD have taken his case to the NAACP, to the ACLU, or any number of people to ask for assistanc, or brought his own suit outside of LAPD control,

He apparently still saw the LAPD as illegitimately moral, and the Authority.

And, likely from indoctrination into Chain of Command, could not see any other venue as legitimate, or any other manner of speech other than violence as worthy.

My grandmother used to work with Vietnam Veterans caught in the very same trap.

I don't think Dorner is a hero, although I can certainly acknowledge his desire to do good. Nor do I think he is a villain.

I just think it's very sad.

progressive-leftist said...

I'm glad I came across this blog post because The Dorner case has been on my mind the whole day. I view him as an anti-hero only in the literary/symbolic sense of term as I say later on. I can't separate his actions (killing several people) from his motives (fighting against police corruption and racism). Yet, I do align strongly with his sense of injustice as an African-American and as someone who lives in a community that is saturated by corruption and police brutality & harassment. Do I believe that the ends justify the means? Are Dorner's actions justifiable for the cause? Absolutely not. I do not believe in extremes; especially since I feel Dorner's intention to kill the families of LAPD officers was particularly disturbing and heinous and those innocent folks did not deserve to be killed. So in that sense I can't say that I feel like his actions were "heroic". I pray for the families and communities that were effected by his actions. I pray for the people he murdered because, at the end of the day, no one deserved to die for Dorner's beliefs.

But, I find his story fascinating: a black ex-cop and Navy reservist who went against the LAPD 'brotherhood', a manhunt, and then Dorner literally going up in flames. I can see this going down in the cultural mythos and becoming a sort of cult classic storytale, at least in the fringes of society and the Internet. It felt like his story came out a movie, it was that surreal. There's definitely symbolic value to his saga that we would be remiss to not have a public or private discourse about.

And what I find really striking is his published manifesto. Dorner explicitly and boldly laid out his reasons and plans for killing folks. There was no mystery as to why he did what he did or planning to do. He wanted his story heard, it was purposeful. I just find that quite unbelievable that he was so convinced of his ideas and unafraid to hide it. Dorner crossed the ambiguous line between reality and fantasy---revenge fantasy to be more specific. Its just incredibly sad to witness the horrific aftermath of his rage and delusional thinking.

CNu said...

sistah bee always truth!

Bro. Makheru dropped an insightful link;

To which I will only add the following - People have no idea how common that corrupt and systematic institutional "ruin you" shit actually is..., but anytime I see the conjunction of personnel/administrative law/civil law - I see someone being pushed through an increasingly hopeless meat grinder designed specifically for that purpose. I've got to believe that that process itself is a big part of why Dorner targetted Quan as complicit in his procedural mistreatment by the LAPD after the fact.

SabrinaBee said...

Thanks CNu., I agree that system is set up for when they want you gone

Sincere said...

Mr. De Vega, The fact that he participated in the very machine he went after leaves any compassion for him permanently in limbo. Still I like that he exposed a racist, corrupt, extension of slave patrols/KKK organization. Dog bites his master but only after being wronged. Hero? Not by a long shot. Knowing what the LAPD, NYPD, Houston etc. has been slaughtering our people for eons & you join? Educate yourselves people & that of your family. Not only is it my job as a father to keep my daughter off the pole but also make sure my son doesn't become a cop.