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Six Elements of Police Spin: An Object Lesson in Copspeak

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Six Elements of Police Spin: An Object Lesson in Copspeak
« on: Jan 31, 2018, 06:24:42 am »
 

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Six Elements of Police Spin: An Object Lesson in Copspeak
http://fair.org/home/6-elements-of-police-spin-an-object-lesson-in-copspeak/





'The linguistic gymnastics needed to report on police violence without calling up images of police violence is a thing of semantic wonder. Officers don’t shoot, they are merely “involved” in shootings; victims are not victims, but “suspects” “fleeing”; human beings become premortem cadavers as bullets “enter the torso” rather than the chest of a person; guns and bullets act on their own as they “discharge” or “enter the right femur,” rather than being fired by autonomous individuals with agency and purpose. Headlines become 14-word, jargon-heavy tangles where a simple five-word description would suffice.

Last week, the case of Ohio Deputy Richard Scarborough shooting and killing 16-year-old Joseph Haynes inside a courthouse checked off nearly all the pro-police propaganda tropes:

The addition of “involved” to these headlines adds nothing, obscures much and takes longer to read. The first ought to say, “Deputy Shoots Teen to Death in Franklin County Courtroom” (9 vs. 11 words); the second could have been written, “Mother of Teen Shot, Killed by Deputy Demanding Answers” (9 vs. 12 words). These headlines would be more efficient with the added bonus of explaining what actually occurred.

The purpose of saying “officer-involved”—as others have noted before—is to obscure responsibility. A bizarre construction, it does not appear in other contexts. (Can one imagine the headline, “Man Dead After Gang Member–Involved Shooting”?) It’s a thought-terminating cliche, a ready-made assemblage of words that does the thinking for the reader in service of a political end—in this case, protecting the police from bad PR.'



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