How Do We Interpret Christopher Dorner?
Christopher Dorner was a "bad man" in the literal sense: he killed, and was the target of a massive manhunt, and one who went out, quite literally, in a blaze of gunfire and violence.
In the literary sense, Dorner is not a badman...yet. But, that is the power of cultural memory.
Perhaps, Christopher Dorner will be transformed through popular culture and storytelling into a figure talked about for decades and centuries to come, with multiple versions of his tales and exploits, shaped by the griots and bards for their respective audiences?
While Dorner has many attributes that locate him firmly within Black (American) folklore, popular culture, and memory, I would argue that he is most accurately described as an Age of Obama version of The Spook Who Sat By the Door.
Penned by Sam Greenlee, The Spook Who Sat by the Door is an underground book (and then film) classic. The story focused on the exploits of Dan Freeman an African-American CIA agent who in an epiphanic moment came to realize that he was working for a corrupt and racist government. The main character then goes rogue, just as Dorner has done, and organizes a cadre of Black Nationalist freedom fighters to "take down the man." The Spook Who Sat by the Door was later remade as a film during the blaxploitation film cycle of the 1970s.
The Spook Who Sat by the Door would be caricaturized and mocked by many who saw it as "typical" "black paranoid" thinking born of the failed revolutionary dreaming of the 1960s and early 1970s. The Spook Who Sat by the Door would also be marginalized by its later association with blaxploitation--what some cultural critics have described as "degraded cinema."
The Spook Who Sat by the Door has endured as a book and a movie because it spoke to the realities of Cointelpro, police brutality, the CIA connection to the crack cocaine epidemic, Iran-Contra, the evils taught at places like The School of the Americas, and because it validated what many black and brown folks have long-known: the United States has historically operated in such a way that White Power and White Government are inseparable.
In total, Christopher Dorner is a Rorschach test. We will see in him what our life experiences, cognitive maps, and life worlds, have taught us about violence, trust, the State, racism, and the police. Irrespective of how individual members of the public perceive Christopher Dorner, institutional power sees him, and folks like him, quite correctly, as a threat.
He is a heretic of sorts. As such, special punishments, contempt, and rage are reserved for those who defy conventional norms, wisdom, and authority.
In a similar example, more money is often spent apprehending bank robbers than was stolen in the heist. This occurs because the banking system cannot allow a person to escape because such a choice would be a sign of weakness. Consequently, such a short term cost benefit analysis would encourage more robberies in the long term.
Christopher Dorner dared to tell his version of the truth regarding the LAPD's history of corruption and racism. They do not like tattletales and "snitches." Dorner was a particularly noxious threat to the status quo both because of his violent actions, as well as the symbolic power of his words and deeds.
You can call him Django, Bigger Thomas, a badman, a bad nigger, or Dan Freeman. Regardless, Christopher Dorner will not live to tell anymore tales. I would suspect that he knew such a fact and had already accepted it. Such a decision made him all the more lethal.