No good apple: Copaganda in media

Hannah May-Powers, Arcade Editor

One thousand ninety-nine.

Gabe Darley | Contributing Artist                                                                                         It is not possible to be a good apple in a system that it inherently violent and racist.

That is the number of people murdered at the hands of police in 2019. Behind every one of these needless killings is a person who was failed in the most violent way possible by a system that was never truly designed to ‘serve and protect.’

The support that police departments receive comes from multiple sources. Not only do politicians traditionally laud the actions of the police, but departments also receive an immense amount of financial support, with many major metropolitan areas having between 20% and 45% of their budget going towards police departments.

One highly influential, and often more subtle, avenue of support that cops receive comes from the media. This is known as copaganda. Copaganda refers to the practice of shows, movies and news outlets portraying the police in an overwhelmingly positive light so as to favorably influence public opinion on the institution.

Though shows like “Law & Order,” “NCIS,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Criminal Minds” differ greatly in their delivery of different plotlines, they all promote fictionalized images of police officers as wholesome community figures, harmless oafs or flawed but ultimately righteous heroes. The dissemination of these messages acts as a protective measure against the very real damage that police enact on communities across the country.

Though copaganda is most commonly found in fictional shows and movies, its presence in mainstream news sources is broadening.

The timing of this particular wave of copaganda is nothing short of insidious. As the country experiences the largest movement against police brutality in its history, police departments across the country are ramping up their efforts to push the idea of ‘the good cop,’ a notion that is antithetical to both the history and current status of police.

Examples of pseudo-solidarity from the police are abundant. One recent example occurred in New York City during a protest in which police officers took a knee along with protesters. Not long after, that same group of officers teargassed, maced and arrested swaths of protestors.

Above all, copaganda works to obscure the violence inherent to policing. Neither in the virtue-signaling social posts, nor in the absent-of-fact shows about police departments, are viewers presented with the reality of police. There are no discussions on the police’s inextricable ties to enslavement. Shows like “Law & Order” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” do not find time to interpret the fact that as many as 40% of the police force carry out instances of domestic violence on their partners and children. Perhaps the producers and directors behind these shows thought it best to leave out how in 35 states, it is legal for police officers to have sex with people they have detained if they claim it was consensual. It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the intentions of the police that officers make a career out of terrorizing low-income areas and neighborhoods that are predominantly populated by Black people and other people of color.

It would be remiss to believe that our social institutions are not heavily influenced by the past and that these systems do not continue to manifest new iterations of oppression that have been present for centuries.

The media’s benevolent relationship with copaganda is a decades-long affair, but it must come to an end. This is not a system that can be reformed, no matter how hard your favorite show is trying to convince you otherwise.

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