The media has taken great pains to clean up after the protesters. In today’s NY Times, Columnist Nicholas Kristof has another in a now fashionable line of media explainers which attempts to soften and explain the meaning of “defund the police.”
“Defund the police” is a catchy phrase, but some Americans hear it and imagine a home invasion, a frantic call to 911 — and then no one answering the phone.
That’s not going to happen. Rather, here’s a reassuring example of how defunding has worked in practice.
He then points to the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal in the late 90s as an example of the kind outside-the-box thinking “defund the police” supposedly represents. Even if you disagree with the specific example he’s offering, the takeaway is that “defund the police” isn’t at all what it sounds like. It’s just a way to frame creative new thinking which could actually bring about some improvements in policing. Relax, citizens. All is well.
As Jesse Singal pointed out yesterday, if protesters are really this thoughtful and creative, why don’t they start by fixing the stupid and misleading slogan they’ve adopted:
Me: KICK PUPPIES!
Everyone: That's a horrible slogan! Why would you say that?
Me: Nononononono, the point isn't to 'kick' 'puppies' — it's far more subtle than that. Read these 10 links explaining what the phrase REALLY means. This will get you on my side, I'm sure
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) June 10, 2020
But it turns out some protesters really do want to kick puppies, at least cartoon cop puppies. Yesterday the Times’ pop culture critic wrote about increasing pressure on television producers to eliminate any and all positive depictions of police, including from a children’s show called “Paw Patrol.”
“Paw Patrol” is a children’s cartoon about a squad of canine helpers. It is basically a pretense for placing household pets in a variety of cool trucks. The team includes Marshall, a firefighting Dalmatian; Rubble, a bulldog construction worker; and Chase, a German shepherd who is also a cop. In the world of “Paw Patrol,” Chase is drawn to be a very good boy who barks stuff like “Chase is on the case!” and “All in a police pup’s day!” as he rescues kittens in his tricked-out S.U.V.
But last week, when the show’s official Twitter account put out a bland call for “Black voices to be heard,” commenters came after Chase. “Euthanize the police dog,” they said. “Defund the paw patrol.” “All dogs go to heaven, except the class traitors in the Paw Patrol.”
It’s a joke, but it’s also not. As the protests against racist police violence enter their third week, the charges are mounting against fictional cops, too. Even big-hearted cartoon police dogs — or maybe especially big-hearted cartoon police dogs — are on notice.
Some on the right picked up on the attacks on Paw Patrol as an example of how silly and extreme the anti-police left has become:
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 11, 2020
This is beyond parody. https://t.co/DMhEMWi3FL
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) June 10, 2020
Rep. Kevin McCarthy even mentioned it on Hannity last night.
You know Democrats have really lost it when the two pillars of their police reform plans are:
1. Defunding Police.
2. Banning Paw Patrol. pic.twitter.com/19c0nR0vzG
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) June 11, 2020
There are apparently no plans to actually cancel Paw Patrol, and some are already saying that Republicans were taken in by what was always meant to be dark humor, i.e. no one calling to get rid of the cartoon cop really meant it. I’m not convinced that’s true but in any case, the pushback on Paw Patrol is far from the only evidence that actual pushback on cop shows exists.
Last week, Tom Scharpling, an executive producer of “Monk,” criticized his own show on Twitter: “If you — as I have — worked on a TV show or movie in which police are portrayed as lovable goofballs, you have contributed to the larger acceptance that cops are implicitly the good guys.” Griffin Newman, an actor who appeared in two episodes of “Blue Bloods” as a detective, donated his $11,000 in earnings to a bail fund, inspiring other actors who have played cops to do the same. LEGO has halted marketing on its “LEGO City Police Station” and “Police Highway Arrest” sets. A&E has pulled its reality show “Live PD” from the schedule. On Tuesday night, “Cops,” the show that branded suspects as “bad boys” and spawned the whole genre of crime reality television, was canceled after 32 seasons.
Ed just wrote about the cancellation of Live PD earlier today. So even if you put Paw Patrol aside, the pushback on positive depictions of police is real. I wrote about another sincere piece making the case a week ago that all cop shows should be cancelled. The protesters don’t want to just defund the police in the real world, they really do want to make sure police aren’t portrayed as heroic in the fictional world of television too. And that should tell you something about where the the push to “defund police” is coming from. This isn’t just about coming up with creative new approaches to policing, this is about depicting police as the problem.