Along with the day-to-day violence cops inflict on communities, the police are also masterful at creating and pushing copaganda (ie pro-police propaganda). With the help of politicians and mainstream media, cops find many ways to implant the idea in people’s heads that the cops are brave, smart, and compassionate heroes here to protect and serve. These lies, of course, only serve to justify the police state’s violence.
There has never been a complete audit of the volume of copaganda out there. It would be a full time job to track it completely. The purpose of this monthly column will be to expose and refute this propaganda in its various forms as much as possible. And hopefully, this will undermine police’s attempts at public relations so they don’t fool people anymore.
Here are a few examples of copaganda for our initial Copaganda Watch installment:
Infamous NYPD Chief Terence Monahan Is Leaving But Not Really
NYPD’s Chief of Department Terence Monahan, the department’s highest ranking uniformed officer, announced on February 25 that he would be retiring & taking a position working for Mayor Bill de Blasio as his “Senior Advisor for Recovery and Safety Planning.” With NYPD’s first Black Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison taking his place, Monahan’s departure represents the latest attempt by Mayor de Blasio and the department to make it seem as if changes are coming to the NYPD. But Monahan’s well-earned reputation as a cynic and a brutalizer shouldn’t be covered up by the mayor’s tokenizing gesture.
Aside from overseeing the repression of protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention, Monahan is most known for a copaganda stunt in June 2020 when, amid uprisings across the country against the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, he took a knee with protesters a la Colin Kaepernick. At the time, Monahan admitted that he did it to pacify and quell the anger of a large group of protesters who had just witnessed cops arresting someone. Mayor de Blasio praised Monahan’s PR stunt at the time, claiming that Monahan (who is almost the Platonic Form of the stereotypical racist, brutal NYPD cop) is “doing a whole lot not only to keep this city safe but to change the NYPD.”
Local media also dutifully played their part as NYPD’s de facto public relations team at the time. Local ABC affiliate ABC7 News called Monahan’s stunt “a moving show of support.” Local NBC affiliate NBC 4 New York referred to it as an “emotional show of support” and uncritically repeated the NYPD’s lies about “outside agitators” coming to NYC and causing riots. Newsday tried to make Monahan sound like a heroic statesman who “appeared to defuse the situation after he spoke to the crowd and took a knee with an organizer.”
More recently on February 26, in a fawning segment of FOX 5’s Good Day New York, Monahan whitewashed what actually happened and tried to play peacemaker, claiming he “took a knee with people who were willing to not fight police but to embrace change and come together.” But only days after taking a knee, Monahan oversaw the mass beatings and arrests of #FTP4 protesters in the Bronx, for which Human Rights Watch would accuse him (and NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea) of human rights violations. Kneeling with protesters was, of course, never about “embracing change and coming together.” It was always about pacifying protests and presenting a false image of the NYPD as reasonable, willing to reform, and even supportive of the protesters’ demands while continuing to beat and arrest them in practice.
Bill Bratton Given Multiple Platforms To Spread His Copaganda
On February 3, Bill Bratton, who helmed the NYPD twice as well the LAPD and Boston PD throughout his sordid career, announced that his new copaganda memoir “The Profession” is available for pre-order. And despite the fact that Bratton is a fervent supporter of racist Broken Windows policing and oversaw the repression of numerous #BlackLivesMatter protests during his most recent stint as NYPD commissioner under Blasio, the subtitle for his new book is “Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America.”
More recently, the US Commission on Civil Rights held a panel on bail reforms which, for some reason, featured Bratton as a “criminal justice stakeholder.” Bratton took that opportunity to fearmonger about modest bail reforms in New York that have already been rolled back precisely because of copaganda spread by reactionary media outlets and cops. And after the coup attempt at the Capitol on January 6, mainstream media repeatedly brought Bratton on to push for expanding the police state and to falsely refer to the fascist putschists as “anarchists.” Bratton’s goal with all this is, of course, to preserve and strengthen the reputation and political power of police despite the cops’ (and his own) long history of racist violence. He is an expert at dressing up the raw brutality of policing in professionalism, and that’s why the mainstream media loves him.
Liberal Copaganda About Capital Cops & The Coup Attempt
On February 12, the Senate awarded Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman a Congressional Gold Medal for his actions during the coup attempt when he supposedly lured putschists away from the Senate chamber. Senators from both parties gave the cop, who was wearing a “Thin Blue Line” mask, a standing ovation & heaped praise on him. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a leader in the Democratic Party, noted Goodman’s “calmness under pressure” and his “courage in the line of duty.” Senator Chris Van Hollen claimed in a statement that Goodman “defended our democracy and saved the lives of senators and staff.”
This kind of liberal copaganda crediting Capitol police for supposedly defending democracy from a fascist coup attempt has been ubiquitous since January 6, despite the fact that dozens of Capitol cops are currently under investigation for supporting or facilitating the coup attempt. Even many Black Capitol cops admit that many of their coworkers are openly racist. And instead of supporting the investigation of any Capitol cops who helped the coup attempt, the Capitol police union is mad that these investigations are happening at all, even going so far as to refer to them as “witch hunts.”
Many of the Trump-supporting putschists themselves were cops from all around the country. In fact, “cop” was the second most common occupation amongst those arrested. One of the Trump supporters who attacked Capitol cops with a pole that day was even recently revealed to be a retired NYPD cop.
Brian D. Sicknick, the Capitol cop who was allegedly killed by Trump-supporting putschists, was given lots of fawning coverage by mainstream media and was endlessly (and always very publicly) praised by politicians, despite the fact that he himself was also a Trump supporter up to the end and despite the fact that the authorities admit that they aren’t really sure what led to Sicknick’s death.
To put it simply: centrist and liberal politicians and media (who already love cops to begin with) are more than happy to push sycophantic copaganda in order to take shots at their right-wing rivals. And they’ll willfully omit or ignore the inconvenient fact that the cops they’re praising are themselves overwhelmingly fascists in order to do it.
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