in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bouncers (don’t mess with ‘em, have mess without ‘em… or not?)

Judging from what I’ve heard, I’d always fancied that people would try to fight their way out of the Viper Room – then came the recent news of the dude who pulled a piece on the bouncers when he wasn’t allowed in. Didn’t somebody tell him that if they’d let him in… he’d be at the Viper Room? But then again, this is like trying to talk sense to a person… who wants to go to the Viper Room. You can’t reason with the unreasonable.

All across Melbourne you hear similar stories: enraged footballers, coked up to the eyeballs, going on rampages at Crown… trannies with knives in their garter belts (Dome R.I.P.) …or the rumours of ‘Mad Cunts’ barred from another famous Chapel St nightclub returning with plenty of cousins… and lots of baseball bats. Bouncers. Don’t mess with ‘em, have mess without ‘em… or not?

In their defence (as if they can’t defend themselves), bouncers, like cops, deal with the constant threat of grisly violence and the daily reality of one of the most boring jobs imaginable. But more than cops, bouncers have increasingly been written a blank cheque for the use of whatever brutality in their pursuit of social pest control – Parklife. At least cops have to write reports and ‘use phonebooks’. Without a doubt, bouncers do a thankless, boring, dangerous job that most of us would be unwilling and/or unable to do. But, on the other hand, a lot of them are sadistic fuckwits who enjoy nothing better than bullying people and abusing their authority. Basically, it’s a job that attracts a certain type of person, and I think we can safely say that it’s not the kind of person who you generally find working in kindergartens or caring for the elderly… oh, well, not working in kindergartens at least… sorry grandma.

But bouncers are nearly everywhere these days, representatives of the push for ‘private security’ that’s massively increasing in rich, paranoid countries like Australia (who live in the comfortable gap between the imagination of terror and the reality of peace and plenty). Even the cops have been turned into ‘event security’. Look at the joke that was APEC. Who was being protected… and from what? And don't let the ‘uniform’ fool you – a fair portion of private security goons are little better than the ‘ogres’ and ‘trolls’ they’re paid to protect ‘us’ from. ‘Goons,’ as the Simpsons quote goes, ‘Hired goons.’ Thing is, even goons are subject to economics – it’s the law of supply and demand. As the paranoia increases, the demand keeps increasing, in a kind of ‘Viper Room hoopsnake’ effect, and the security companies, who make their profits by providing ‘meat in uniform, on delivery’, are going to have to look harder and further to find enough boof. Just like all their competitors. Whoops, there goes the supply… Now, let’s say I run a private security firm. Am I gonna surrender market share and profits… or am I gonna lower my standards?

The net effect of this has been that a lot of firms are hiring people who are un(der)qualified, incompetent, or even dangerous psychopaths. Extreme examples like the recent Blackwater massacre in Baghdad demonstrate in an extreme and tragic way what this demand for private security is doing. These ‘professionals’, the chosen ‘private security providers’ (mercenaries) employed by the US government in no bid contracts to provide ‘security solutions’ in Iraq, murdered nineteen Iraqi civilians – and this is only the latest and best-documented case. We have our banal examples here, too, like the guy whose heart stopped after he got sat on outside Star City a few years back. Or that cricketer who got his lights punched (permanently) out in St Kilda not so long ago. The question that emerges is this: what is ‘feeling secure’ worth to us? Do you really think that the bouncers are there to ‘protect’ you? Their interests are their own and their company’s (first and second), and the venue’s (third).

At a recent party in this fine city, a tiny portion, a mere pebble of the emerging cost in having these gorillas in our midst was graphically played out, when the venue’s bouncers first kicked the headlining international off the decks mid-set, before proceeding to eject the gig’s promoters (if the rumours are true) and others from the venue. I’m sorry, but whose party is this? It used to be you had to call the cops to get a party shut down – now the people hired to ensure its smooth running are doing the same thing. Whose interests are served by this kind of malarky? And what happens when this becomes the ‘new normal’ at every venue in town? For the time being, this is exceptionally poor form by Melbourne standards, as well as being amusing, in a farcical way – but in Sydney, with its dearth of enlightened venues and small bars, treatment like this has become the norm. And unless you yourself are a ‘mad cunt’ with a pistol or a VL’s worth of bat-toting cousins only an SMS away, you are completely at their mercy…

Where does this end up? I’m always drawn to the example of the infamous Rolling Stones gig at Altamont, in which a man was stabbed to death by one of the Hells Angels, who were recommended as security… by the Grateful Dead. As Keith Richards famously described it in the article, in.... Rolling Stone:

‘"The violence," Keith Richard told the London Evening Standard, "just in front of the stage was incredible. Looking back I don't think it was a good idea to have Hell's Angels there. But we had them at the suggestion of the Grateful Dead. "The trouble is it's a problem for us either way. If you don't have them to work for you as stewards, they come anyway and cause trouble. "But to be fair, out of the whole 300 Angels working as stewards, the vast majority did what they were supposed to do, which was to regulate the crowds as much as possible without causing any trouble. But there were about ten or twenty who were completely out of their minds -- trying to drive their motorcycles through the middle of the crowds…
Really, the difference between the open air show we held here in Hyde Park and the one there is amazing. I think it illustrates the difference between the two countries. In Hyde Park everybody had a good time, and there was no trouble. You can put half a million young English people together and they won't start killing each other. That's the difference."

While Richard was satisfying the British press with his incredibly naive view of Western civilization, Meredith Hunter lay dead.’

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