Last night after an hour of vegging out in front of my computer, I moved on to the television. As I surfed the channels, I landed on a reality show about female police officers. I only saw about five minutes of the episode.
The main character was a female police officer. She is a small attractive women who seemed quite fearless. She had spotted a woman driving a car who picked up a man from the side of the road. Since I wasn’t exactly paying attention, I believe that the man saw the police car. He ducked down in the back of the car. Apparently, this is enough to pull over and arrest people in this particular town. As the story unfolded, the police officer eventually busted the man for weed and the woman for driving without a license. (no license, no voting? but that is another issue)
I have to admit to sometimes watching these kinds of programs. The prison shows are particularly haunting. They are also very dark, as in most of the people are not white. If you don’t think we live in a third world country yet all you have to do is turn on your television and surf. Isn’t it telling that one of the major cable news channels has prison shows on all weekend long?
What did I really see on this police inspired reality show? Was it a brave young woman helping to clean up a nasty, crime ridden city? Or was it the continued destruction of a community via overly severe marijuana laws? How many young black men are in prison because they sold weed? When the policewoman handcuffed the young black man, who was she really doing a favor? Certainly you can argue that he should not have been holding weed or potentially selling it. But you also can argue that selling drugs is one of the very few options that he has to make money. Or maybe he was a really bad person who needed to go away.
By having these kinds of programs saturate the tv market, it reinforces the notion that we live in a terrible, violent culture that we need protection from. That without the strong push back from the authorities, we would all be grossly unsafe. The continual images of racing police cars and the noise of jail cells clanking shut entertains us, scares us, and reinforces the need for a severe police dominated culture. The divisions between communities is intensified by this kind of programming. It strengthens the for-profit prison systems. It pacifies us. We are a more controllable populace if we believe that having millions of American citizens navigating through the judicial and / or prison systems is justified and moral. We are a more controllable populace if we are sitting in our houses watching the tube, eating chips, and being entertained by the misery of others. We are more controllable if we can envision ourselves behind prison bars.