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Twenty-five years ago, George H.W. Bush’s infamous Willie Horton ad and the media frenzy surrounding the crack epidemic combined to put a definitively Black face on the "War on Crime." When brand-new TV network FOX was faced with a writers’ strike, owner Rupert Murdoch bet on an unscripted, super low-budget pilot that tapped into white audiences’ fears and preconceptions of Black criminality. The "reality" show COPS was born — and over the ensuing decades, the trendsetting series has radically altered what we see on TV.

Today, the COPS formula — which relies heavily on degradation and mockery of suspects, presumption of guilt, and audience identification with unfailingly “good guy” police protagonists — hasn’t changed a bit, despite a marked, bipartisan shift away from broken “tough on crime” policies in recent years. The show’s creator himself admits that COPS’ singular focus on making arrests, particularly for nonviolent drug offenses, wastes scarce public resources and contributes to massive overincarceration.

While we can only imagine what might have been had COPS never made it to air in the ’80s, we can take action today to ensure that this relic is finally dropped from FOX’s lineup, by letting its advertisers know we demand an end to these distorted, dehumanizing portrayals that exploit and endanger our communities. FOX programming executives will be meeting shortly to determine whether to renew the show for another season, and they need to hear from you.

Our country is slowly waking up to the race and class implications of the drug war. While those of us on the political left have been talking about this for years, it is emerging into mainstream thought and conversation. Much of the growth of the private prison industry and their accompanying pool of cheap forced labor has flown under the radar with the general public. But as they have gotten greedier and tried to expand their enforcement opportunities and resulting incarceration numbers, they have been exposed. Not only have they raised their public profile to the point where people are noticing them, they have also demonstrated the inherent danger and immorality of attaching a profit incentive to imprisonment.

Their antics in Arizona rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, pushing anti-immigrant propaganda to help fill cells. And while it took a while for the whole story to come out, it became clear that the "Papers Please" law was intended for the benefit of the private prison industry. They only used racial/cultural/social prejudices as a cover for their true intent - sort of like how marijuana became illegal.

Arizona alone was not enough though, to bring people to act. Undocumented immigrants were not a sympathetic enough group for many, especially on the right, to feel particularly outraged. But now, with the increasing number of stories about the "school-to-prison pipeline," that may be changing. The general public is becoming far more aware of the private prison industry and how they are sucking jobs from the economy, and unfairly sucking the most vulnerable children into the system. Add to this the public's growing rejection of the drug war, and we have the circumstances needed to create pressure for change. Getting this piece of FOX drug war propaganda off the air is a step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading. Please help to spread the petition via whatever social media you prefer.

Originally posted to kbman on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 12:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by Police Accountability Group.

Poll

Is the drug war really just class war dressed up in moral trappings?

77%41 votes
20%11 votes
1%1 votes

| 53 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Gotta run out for a few hours (19+ / 0-)

    trying to make ends meet as it were.

    Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

    by kbman on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 12:07:06 PM PDT

  •  In 1989 (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, DRo, Puddytat, kbman

    I was ON COPS. (Not as an arrestee -- as a peaceful protester cast as a "rioter" in the broadcast).

    I could write a long story about what I learned about the show, and about reality TV in general, from that experience.

    We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. -- Jonathan Swift

    by raptavio on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 01:23:33 PM PDT

    •  In 1998 (5+ / 0-)

      On the way to work, I got a flat tire... at 1 in the morning... so I was grateful to see a City of Chesapeake, VA police car pull up... with a COPS camera crew on board and filming... which, upon finding out there was nothing ratings worthy going on entreated the officer driving to pull off in search of something that involved crime...

      The fuqrs didn't even offer to help me put on the spare... Haven't watched that show since...

      Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

      by awesumtenor on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 01:51:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Could you? Would you? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Puddytat, kbman

      I'd read it if you did.

      Visit Lacking All Conviction, your patch of grey on those too-sunny days.

      by eataTREE on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 02:31:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Eh. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        eataTREE, kbman

        It was so long ago. Is COPS even in production any more? It must be loooong dead.

        Doesn't seem so relevant any more except maybe as a case study on why "reality TV" isn't.

        And a very large part of the reason why I despise the Minneapolis Police Department as an institution.

        We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. -- Jonathan Swift

        by raptavio on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 03:04:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cops (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, Puddytat, kbman

    IIRC numerous arrests were thrown out because Cops was considered to be prejudicial to the rights of defendants.  Incidentally, I suspect a lot of those were otherwise good arrests and some number of criminals got to walk as a consequence.

    There are secondary issues: the film crew, in all probability, is endangering themselves and the cops they're filming.  Either that, or there is some amount of staging going on, which is hardly unprecedented on reality shows.

  •  I would post a topical comment (8+ / 0-)

    but I was distracted by "LIME DILLIGAF" and had to google it. Then it got me wondering if I've become an out-of-touch old fart unfamiliar with the latest on-line jargon. But then I gave myself a break and said "Nah, you can't know everything..." and poured myself a soothing glass of fresh ice tea with a twist of lemon. Then I took a leisurely walk outside to enjoy the impossibly beautiful spring-like day we're having before slowly finding my way back to the keyboard...

    What was the question again?


    Not this mind and not this heart, I won't rot • Mumford & Sons

    by jayden on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 01:48:57 PM PDT

  •  Great idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kbman

    Signed, tipped, and rec'd.

    Thank you.

    There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

    by Puddytat on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 02:34:43 PM PDT

  •  I totally disagree.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gc10

    ...it is not the show's fault that it portrays white cops arresting minorities since that is what happens, right? (sometimes black cops arresting white perps are shown too, or white arresting white, etc).
    what do we see when we watch COPS? if you are a law and order type, you see something quite different than if you are of the mindset that not all police officers are quality human beings who never abuse their power. i am a skeptic of the police (due to my own experiences) and I find that when I watch COPS it is easy to pick up on arrogance vs. integrity in the officers profiled, and also the larger social context within each segment.
    like any cop show, it is most comfortable with the idea that cops are forces of good. are we going to petition every show that takes that angle?
    let's get rid of the hate speech radio first, better still, reform the laws themselves!
    this petition is a waste of time. don't like it? don't watch it! then maybe it WILL be cancelled.

    •  See Mrs Lopsided's comment directly below ... (0+ / 0-)

      Children aren't the only ones being left with this impression. It reinforces other messages of racial fear and distrust among conservative white people and helps drive the polarization in this country.

      Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

      by kbman on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 10:15:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Look Mommy, bad boys! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    out of left field, kbman

    We didn't think our pre-school son was paying attention when COPS was on until one day he pointed at some black kids at the mall and said "Look Mommy, bad boys!". That's when stopped watching.

  •  Is COPS any worse than MSNBC's Prison shows? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mrs Lopsided, kbman

    These "documentaries" are on at least 20 times as much as COPS is.  

  •  'LIME DILLIGAF'? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kbman

    Man, it just gets harder and harder to keep up with these acronyms.

    Oh, and don't bother. I already looked it up.

    Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

    by journeyman on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 07:52:27 PM PDT

    •  This one has been around for over 25 years (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      journeyman

      My old fraternity in Philly was having issues with some of the neighbors - people who bought a house next to a fraternity house and were shocked to discover that there were parties there during the school year ... at night ... with drunken college students. After a while relations had degraded to the point where they named their weekly Thursday night party the LIME DILLIGAF Party.

      Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

      by kbman on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 10:24:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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