.

  • Written by Justin Matthews, Lecturer in Digital Media and Popular Culture Researcher, Auckland University of Technology
The character of Judge Dredd was designed to be satirical, depicting the ultimate draconian cop. Supplied, CC BY-ND

According to a recent study, the sixth leading cause of death for young men in the United States is the warranted and unwarranted use of police force.

With the US president himself frequently alluding to America’s military prowess and right-wing media hosts suggesting the US embrace a police state after each mass shooting, it is not surprising journalists are invoking the image of Judge Dredd, a character in the science fiction comic 2000AD.

The parallels between Judge Dredd and contemporary society appear uncanny. They symbolise the demise of democracy and freedom in favour of an authoritarian regime.


Read more: Why Australia should be wary of the rise of the warrior cop, with tools to match


Psycho cop with no feelings

The character of Judge Dredd was first introduced in the 1977 second issue of the comic 2000AD. His creators envisioned the character as a no-nonsense cop - as writer John Wagner put it, “a psycho character with no feelings”.

From the outset, the Dredd comics were designed to be satirical. They depicted “the ultimate draconian cop”, who acts as judge, jury and executioner and polices the streets of Mega-City One, itself a hyper-constructed metropolis riddled with criminal activity.

The aesthetic of the character is reminiscent of the iconography of fascist Spain and with 70s punk-style overtones. It further established that Dredd was to be received as extreme. It is interesting to note that today the riot uniforms of police, with their padding, shields and knee pads, put even Dredd’s uniform to shame.

The world of Dredd was to be an exaggerated depiction of Western society. A radical population spike coupled with a lack of liveable land (because it was all radioactive), sets the scene for a dystopian comic. In this world, the only course of action to maintain order and overcome lawlessness is through instant justice.

When popular culture becomes reality

Drawing on the cultural capital of Dredd is a shortcut to justify his particular brand as a solution to rampant crime. It can also be invoked as a warning to avoid the dilution of civilian freedoms and ideals. But it seems that Dredd is increasingly becoming prophetic rather than fiction.

In Western society, a perceived prevalence of shoot-to-kill responses, the militarising of the police, the invasive surveillance of people and the urbanisation in response to over-population mimics the fictive universe of Judge Dredd comics.

For instance, in 2005, a top ranking British police officer, metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair, was accused of embracing the Judge Dredd ideology when he suggested that police officers should have more autonomy. He believed they should be able to confiscate licenses and vehicles, and issue infractions for anti-social behaviour, circumventing the rules of law and moving towards a process of instant justice.

The world of Dredd emphasises authoritarianism in relation to the police and government. The comics include harsher penalties and laws against outsiders, walls that encase cities and a system of rule that is so restrictive it denies people basic human rights. It also takes no responsibility for the brutality and injustice felt by those who have become collateral damage.

It’s unsurprising then, that media use the symbol of Dredd in discussions of countries where similar trends are becoming apparent. This includes the continued debate about a wall between the US and Mexico and tighter immigration policies in the US, France, post-Brexit Britain and Australia.


Read more: UK's new post-Brexit immigration plan is surreal and cynical


The Dredd comics become a cautionary tale suggesting that, if we continue down the authoritarian path proposed in the comics, it may have real-world consequences for global citizens.

The boiling frog syndrome

A recent study explored if increased militarisation of law enforcement agencies leads to an increase in violent behaviour among officers. It found that when law enforcement is supplied with military materials, it inevitably becomes more militarised and affects the relationship between police and citizens.

Writing about their study, the researchers argued that adopting a more militarised approach to police practice and procedures could lead to more citizens killed by the police force. To support their point, they say when a county goes from receiving no military hardware to a large quantity (more than US$2.5 million to one agency) the number of civilians killed within a county is likely to double.

When social systems, such as the police force, are under pressure to respond to increased population density, criminal activity and acts of terrorism, it’s not surprising society is seeing the devolution of police powers towards Dredd-like mechanisms of control. But what is the cost?

If society were to continue paralleling the Dredd universe, police may no longer be considered civic guardians that maintain community values or upholders of moral authority. Citizens could be forced to forfeit freedoms in favour of perceived protection, and an authoritarian regime could reign supreme.

For the moment, Dredd remains a fictitious world, but there is a deep and inherent trust that underlines the process of civilian policing. Devolving this fragile balance even a little bit may well be the difference between living in a policed state versus a police state.

Justin Matthews does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Justin Matthews, Lecturer in Digital Media and Popular Culture Researcher, Auckland University of Technology

Read more http://theconversation.com/who-is-judge-dredd-and-why-it-matters-that-media-invoke-the-cartoon-character-124412

Why do many people with Parkinson's disease develop an addiction? We built a virtual casino to find out

We knew people with Parkinson's disease were at heightened risk of developing addictive behaviours like gambling. Our research gives insight into why this is. From shutterstock.comParkinson’s di...

Philip Mosley, Research Fellow, Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute - avatar Philip Mosley, Research Fellow, Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Up the creek: the $85 million plan to desalinate water for drought relief

The deal to crank up Adelaide’s desalination plant to make more water available to farmers in the drought-stricken Murray-Darling Basin makes no sense. It involves the federal government paying...

Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia - avatar Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia

12 simple ways you can reduce bushfire risk to older homes

There are no guarantees in bushfires, but you can improve the odds your house survives a blaze. Photo by Edward Doody, courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects, Author providedSeventy-five years of Australia...

Douglas Brown, Casual Academic, Western Sydney University - avatar Douglas Brown, Casual Academic, Western Sydney University

Robots with benefits: how sexbots are marketed as companions

Sexbot Emma, from AI Tech, is advertised as a "real AI you can talk to". She offers "warm hugs" and will "feel your feelings". YouTube/ScreenshotWhen thinking of sexbots, companionship might not be th...

Fiona Andreallo, Lecturer in digital culture, University of Sydney - avatar Fiona Andreallo, Lecturer in digital culture, University of Sydney

Holy bin chickens: ancient Egyptians tamed wild ibis for sacrifice

A scene from the Books of the Dead (based at the Egyptian Museum) shows the ibis-headed god Thoth recording the result of "the final judgement". Wasef et al./PLOS ONE, CC BY-SAThese days, not many Aus...

Sally Wasef, Postdoctoral research fellow, Griffith University - avatar Sally Wasef, Postdoctoral research fellow, Griffith University

Sonic havens: how we use music to make ourselves feel at home

Music played through headphones can immerse the listener in a more intimate experience. Stokkete/ShutterstockThe concept of “home” refers to more than bricks and mortar. Just as cities ar...

Michael James Walsh, Assistant Professor Social Science, University of Canberra - avatar Michael James Walsh, Assistant Professor Social Science, University of Canberra

Nation-building to 'national shame': the ABC's complex debate over its role as sports broadcaster

ABC once viewed sports coverage as integral to its mission of nation-building. But in recent years, it has grown far more ambivalent about sports. Dean Lewins/AAPThe ABC has announced it will not prov...

Michael Ward, PhD candidate, University of Sydney - avatar Michael Ward, PhD candidate, University of Sydney

How does poor air quality from bushfire smoke affect our health?

New South Wales and Queensland are in the grip of a devastating bushfire emergency, which has tragically resulted in the loss of homes and lives. But the smoke produced can affect many more people n...

Brian Oliver, Research Leader in Respiratory cellular and molecular biology at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and Senior Lecturer, School of Medical & Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Brian Oliver, Research Leader in Respiratory cellular and molecular biology at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and Senior Lecturer, School of Medical & Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology Sydney

Bushfires can make kids scared and anxious: here are 5 steps to help them cope

More than 600 schools have been closed, and some damaged, in recent days as bushfires rage across Queensland and New South Wales. Some students have been urgently evacuated while in school. People hav...

Toni Noble, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Positive Psychology & Education, Australian Catholic University - avatar Toni Noble, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Positive Psychology & Education, Australian Catholic University

5 Things Men Need to Know about Male Augmentation Procedures

You may be surprised to learn that men are just as likely as women are to seek out more information about plastic surgery procedures. While some may be interested in a nose job, others may be inte...

News Company - avatar News Company

'Like volcanoes on the ranges': how Australian bushfire writing has changed with the climate

Bushfire writing has long been a part of Australian literature. Tales of heroic rescues and bush Christmases describe a time when the fire season was confined only to summer months and Australia&rs...

Grace Moore, Senior lecturer in English, the University of Otago, New Zealand, University of Otago - avatar Grace Moore, Senior lecturer in English, the University of Otago, New Zealand, University of Otago

Farmers, murder and the media: getting to the bottom of the city-country divide

Left, farmer Ian Turnbull being who was convicted of murdering compliance officer Glen Turner. Right, Mr Turner's partner Alison McKenzie outside court. Tensions over land clearing can have tragic con...

Tanya M Howard, Senior research fellow, University of New England - avatar Tanya M Howard, Senior research fellow, University of New England

If Australian police officers are allowed to shoot to kill, they should be better trained

There is no clear evidence guns make police safer, but officers feel safer with firearms at their disposal. ShutterstockAustralians woke to the news last weekend that a 19-year-old Warlpiri man had b...

Rick Sarre, Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, University of South Australia - avatar Rick Sarre, Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, University of South Australia

Why municipal waste-to-energy incineration is not the answer to NZ's plastic waste crisis

Since the Chinese plastic recycling market closed, 58% of New Zealand’s plastic waste goes to countries in South-East Asia. from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDNew Zealand is ranked the third-mos...

Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University - avatar Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University

The robbery of the century: the cum-ex trading scandal and why it matters

Cum-ex trading, like a magic trick, involves shares 'disappearing' then 'reappearing' with a new owner to enable two parties to simultaneously claim ownership of the one stock. www.shutterstock.comIt...

Alex Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Macquarie University - avatar Alex Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Macquarie University

What did the High Court decide in the Pell case? And what happens now?

Two judges in the High Court of Australia this morning referred Cardinal George Pell’s application for special leave to appeal his convictions to a full bench of the High Court. While not a ful...

Ben Mathews, Professor, School of Law, Queensland University of Technology - avatar Ben Mathews, Professor, School of Law, Queensland University of Technology

As flames encroach, those at risk may lose phone signal when they need it most

Yesterday, New South Wales and Queensland issued fire warnings classified as either “catastrophic”, “severe” or “extreme” - and these conditions will remain in the ...

Stanley Shanapinda, Research Fellow, La Trobe University - avatar Stanley Shanapinda, Research Fellow, La Trobe University

Money and investment: A guide to 'better than your bank' choices

Being able to make your money work harder for you is essential these days. Whether you live in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne or beyond, it is crucial to think about building up your personal wealth. Doin...

News Company - avatar News Company

If you've given your DNA to a DNA database, US police may now have access to it

DNA database giant Ancestry lets members access international records including the convict and free settler lists, passenger lists, Australian and New Zealand electoral rolls and military records. Pa...

Jane Tiller, Ethical, Legal & Social Adviser - Public Health Genomics, Monash University - avatar Jane Tiller, Ethical, Legal & Social Adviser - Public Health Genomics, Monash University

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

How to Make Your Girlfriend’s Birthday Extra Special

Your girlfriend’s birthday is your opportunity to show her how much you care. But how exactly do...

A Guide to Building Your Kid’s Confidence

As your child grows, confidence is key. Having low self-esteem as a child can have a detrimental e...

3 Hacks that Will Extend the Life of Your Hair Extensions

Everybody has the right to enjoy beautiful, long hair, including you! If you’ve always heard a...

Lessons in Empathy for Children

The ability to be able to understand and share the feelings of a fellow human being – empathy ...