“Shoot A Cop” Bumper Sticker & The Media’s Manipulation Of Discourse

Chris Thomas at NBC12 reported on a bumper sticker that says “shoot a cop.” On his Twitter and at the very outset of the NBC12 report he asks:

“FREE SPEECH OR TERRORISTIC THREATS?”

I don’t know, Chris. Are you asking us if it might be a terroristic threat, or are you telling us?

We’re presented with this question in such a way that it frames the range of debate. It asks us to pick one of two sides. The sides are chosen ahead of time by the reporter. They’re not marked out by any type of organic or preexisting public debate. Incidentally, one of the sides is clearly about censoring the bumper sticker and punishing the person who placed it on his or her vehicle. By introducing skewed debate, public opinion can be manipulated in one direction or the other. Noam Chomsky explains exactly this kind of manipulation throughout Understanding Power. You should read it if you have not yet.

We might also consider the title of Chris’s article: “Controversial Virginia bumper sticker reads: ‘Shoot a Cop’”

No, a bumper sticker reads “Shoot A Cop.” Who said it is controversial? This is an opinion, invented by Chris himself. And given that Chris was one of the first to report on the bumper sticker, the claim of “controversial” is hard to defend. There hasn’t even been an opportunity for controversy to arise. We’re presented with the information and told it is “controversial” before we’re able to respond in any way – much less to respond in controversial ways – at all.

And who does Chris interview? Why, it’s Kevin Carroll of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police. Aside from NBC12’s legal analyst Steve Benjamin, who said it would be illegal to stop someone from displaying the sticker, all we get is the law enforcement side of the story. Carroll goes straight for the fear play, too: “It’s absolutely very dangerous,” he says, “It’s dangerous for the officers.”

You know who Chris should speak with if he wants to report on the so-called “controversy” or maintain the facade of balance? He should speak with someone who actually supports shooting a cop. Alternately, he could speak with the owner of the car. If for some reason that fails to pan out, maybe he can speak with some of Virginia’s CopBlock activists.

It’s called journalism, Chris.

Now, I caught this one early and I’ve been watching as the story is bounced around. Almost all reports are the same. FOX News says it sparks outrage, NY Daily says it is very dangerous, here we’ve got one that says it causes outrage, here it is called hateful.

It’s strange (except it isn’t) that we don’t see a headline that says, “Shoot A Cop Bumper Sticker Is Free Speech.” Isn’t the “free speech” aspect the other side of the story, the other side of the so-called controversy?

The fear element is played up, because the intent is to reign in free speech. The American media, despite portraying itself as the world’s leader in free speech, fails absolutely across the board when it comes to defending controversial free speech in action. We’re told: “It may be legal” in a very soft voice, but “no” in a very loud voice.

Let’s consider a crucial question that is objectively newsworthy: why did this person put a “Shoot A Cop” bumper sticker on their vehicle? It’s a glaring omission. It’s a question we’re not supposed to ask. The media does not even go there. But it’s the obvious question an actually free media would ask: “Hey, guy, what do you mean by that sticker?”

I’m reminded of the media’s recent response to the Dallas van incident. CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield said, “it was very courageous and brave, if not crazy as well, to open fire on the police headquarters.” This is a statement of fact. It was courageous and brave. But if you’re in the media you’re not allowed to say this. Whitfield was shouted down and forced to apologize the next day, where she said literally the exact oppose, “I misspoke, and in no way believe the gunman was courageous, nor brave.”

There is a narrative that brings punishment if not strictly adhered to. This, in practice, serves as a form of censorship. A major element of that narrative is always to demonize the “bad” guy. No one in the media can say a bad guy is brave. No positive information can be introduced in any way. It doesn’t even matter if it isn’t truly positive (brave and courageous are neutral terms). It sounds remotely like praise, it sounds remotely positive, thus it must be censored. This is also why we will never hear from anyone who supports shooting a cop, despite the story being about a bumper sticker that says “shoot a cop.”

We’re not supposed to talk about why people have become so opposed to the police that they promote shooting a cop. The media is being used as a vehicle to shout down opinions perceived as threats by power before they can be digested by the public. We can’t even say they are “unpopular” opinions, because we don’t know if they are unpopular or not. There is no opposing side to the narrative. The public is not given ground to determine how it feels about the idea. The idea is framed negatively in a universal way throughout the mainstream American press. This in turn influences the way people form beliefs and opinions on the matter.

Maybe someone should ask Carroll why people want to shoot a cop. Even better, maybe someone should get on CafePress and run off a thousand or so of these stickers.

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