We’ve seen how Det. Stabler roughs up his suspects on Law & Order: SVU, and his behavior–and the reasons given for that behavior–are what makes the show “copaganda,” as Trevor Noah explains.
In his latest episode of The Daily Show, Noah spoke about the prevalence of “copaganda” on television, including the aforementioned SVU as well as Chicago P.D., Hawaii Five-O, Lucifer and NYPD Blue, among others.
“Every cop show makes it seem like the reasons cops have to beat suspects is because without the beatdown, they won’t tell the truth, and so those beatings protect the rest of society from these lying criminals,” he said, as reported by TVLine. “But in real life, beating a suspect is a great way to get them to confess to something they didn’t do, which means you’ve locked up an innocent person–and you’ve let the real criminal walk free.”
Noah said that it is incumbent upon television shows to showcase a new way to keep people safe.
“[Television is] a powerful tool that shapes how the public sees the police, shapes how the public sees the police’s role in society and how accountable they should be,” he said. “…When [real-life] rogue cops throw away the rulebook and take matters into their own hands, it doesn’t look ‘cool’ like in one of the TV shows.” One way television creators can make a difference, he said, “is if you do something about the police onscreen.”
Copaganda has become a hot-button issue after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. Months before Floyd’s death, Color of Change issued a study regarding copganda’s role as PR for police departments, analyzing how television’s outsized focus on sanctifying renegade cops and highlighting POC as criminals reinforces racist notions about criminality and excuses excess force.
You can watch the full video, which was released as a fundraiser for the National Black Justice Coalition, below.
Photo: Comedy Central / NBC