Blue Lives Matter
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|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
“”The common refrain — "Blue lives don’t exist because officers can take their uniforms off" — was an understandable reaction to the constant racism and brutality black Americans experience every day in interactions with law enforcement.
But "blue lives" do exist. That's the problem.The "Blue Lives Matter" movement and its corresponding legislation are just the latest chapter in the evolving notion of what it means to be a police officer, one that dates back over 150 years. The subsequent history shows that, at least for white officers, this strong sense of identity and camaraderie — of police-hood — often supersedes an ability to empathize with civilians of color.
Blue Lives Matter is a counter-movement to the Black Lives Matter movement, primarily serving as a deflection towards issues of police interaction that African American people are more likely to face than other groups and to address the deaths that are directed towards law enforcement officers. In a similar vein to movements such as White History Month or It's Okay to Be White, it aims to glorify an already highly privileged class of people as a feel good message to themselves while ignoring the actual, insidious faults of the system that plagues law enforcement that cause the image of officers to be negative in the first place. The about page for the main Blue Lives Matter website, written in a flowery manner, even claims that the goal of Black Lives Matter is "the vilification of law enforcement." when that notion is a binary, oversimplified view of the movement, while at the same, overly romanticizes the profession of policing and describes it as "heroic". Blue Lives Matter blames the withered relations between the police and the community on not police brutality and ingrained racism and classism in law enforcement, but on "the new[sic] media, celebrities and politicians" that have "damaged community relations and endanger[sic] the lives and safety of law enforcement officers".[note 1]
The main website itself, however, has a strong right-wing bias with high factual reporting as reported by Media Bias/Fact Check, as it reports deaths from police officers and crimes against the police, even though it labels police officers being killed with a loaded "Hero Down" prefix on the titles of the articles, as well as being generally favorable towards Donald Trump. However, whenever it ventures outside of police reporting to talk about politics in the news, that's when the site tends to crash and burn and let their conservative bias cloud making articles, giving way to very misleading headlines and very selective language. For example, despite the high-facts rating, it has posted headlines using the misleading Project Veritas sting operations as a source; MediaBias / Fact Check rated Project Veritas with "mixed reporting".
The movement was founded in 2014 when NYPD Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu were ambushed and killed by "a fanatic who believed the lies of Black Lives Matter, the media, and politicians.", although the motive of the crime was most likely to counter the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the grand jury's refusal to indict the officers involved in both incidents. The suspect, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had a lengthy criminal history and earlier that day also shot and killed his girlfriend, and then posted anti-police messages on her Instagram account. While Blue Lives Matter was indeed founded as a retaliation towards a criminal specifically targeting police officers, they are weirdly silent about an unassuming mail carrier who was harassed and physically assaulted by detectives for unknowingly providing the criminal directions towards the killing of the two officers.
A related offshoot of the movement, Blue Lives Matter NYC, founded in 2014, is a nonprofit organization that aims to raise awareness and helps officers in times of need. The founder of the charity, Joseph Imperatrice, has appeared on Fox & Friends, complaining about misinformation from "politicians" (he doesn't specify from which party or whom; although the implications of which party he's referring to can be inferred since it was broadcasted from Fox News, it can logically be attributed to conservatives as well). He has advocated an approach of being "tough on crime" to lock people with illegal firearms up, to "put fear into people that if they do get stopped they're going to get locked up". As if a deterrence effect had ever worked out on reducing crime. He also mentions how the number of officer deaths in the nation is growing. It's not.
- Christopher Berg: Editor-in-Chief for the Blue Lives Matter website and founded the website in 2014 with other police officers. He resigned from law enforcement to run the publishing at Blue Lives Matter. Goes by SnarkyCop on Twitter, where his tweets carry a right slant, such as being pro Second Amendment, dismissing toxic masculinity, and being sympathetic to Donald Trump.
- Sandy Malone: Managing editor for the Blue Lives Matter website. Wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. Wife of a retired cop. Goes by 'SandyMalone_' on Twitter. Retweeted and quoted typical anti-Illegal immigration talking points. A lot of the kooky, right wing headlines on the website are her doing.
- Joseph Imperatrice: Sergeant of detectives. Founder of Blue Lives Matter NYC. Makes appearances on Fox & Friends.
Examples of headlines and why they're awful
When not reporting on police activities, the headlines on the Blue Lives Matter website get very biased towards right-wing interests, to the point where some articles are actively misleading, despite being rated high on Media Bias/Fact Check on factual reporting. At least two articles use the conspiracy-mongering Project Veritas as their primary source for their news, for example (and what's ironic is that the author behind Project Veritas, James O'Keefe, was arrested himself. Blue Lives Matter has an article that uses a source from a criminal!). They also seem to kiss Trump's ass a lot, though they do call him out occasionally, such when he announced pardons for corrupt officials or when police chiefs criticized Trump to stop testing NBA players and to start testing first responders for COVID-19. Commenters on the articles are also your typical conservatives and are often seen going "muh librulz".
- Virginia Gov. Signs Slew Of Gun Control Bills Into Law While Nobody Can Protest — Very loaded headline which suggests that a law was signed without anyone's consent, and this complaint about "no one protesting" is mentioned only in the headline, which is created just to solicit a negative response from the audience being typically pro Second Amendment.
- Michigan AG Suggests Racism Is Responsible For Virus Deaths Of Black People — This headline distorts a tweet the Michigan attorney general made to be as ridiculous-looking as possible, twisting the attorney general to think that the virus deaths are caused by just racism rather than the destitute conditions typically faced by black people that would make spread of the virus more likely. You know, news.
- NYC Hospital Exec Says Trump Supporters Should Give Up Their Ventilators — More Facebook drama. The headline distorts what the NYC hospital exec actually suggested, criticizing the Trump administration's reluctance to pay 1 billion dollars for ventilators and suggesting that if Trump's supporters are okay with that, then they should stay consistent and donate their ventilators to someone who needs them more. What's funny is that the exchange became much more questionable past that, with one of them stating that, "I think [Trump supporters] should be the only ones in packed churches on Sunday." which would actually make it more valid clickbait material. The information exchange occurs later in the article, but it will at least draw people who want to get mad at something.
- Panicked Millennials Crash Selective Service Website Over Fears Of Draft — The article and headlines attributed the crash of the Selective Service website to "millennials" when there is no evidence that the crash is caused specifically by them. It also reports the a phrasing of the usage "millenial" from The Guardian when that's not what The Guardian actually reported.[note 3] You can't exactly track the age of the people conducting a makeshift DDoS after all.
- Project Veritas Video: Cops Will Be Beaten If Bernie Doesn't Get Nomination — It's Project Veritas. 'Nuff said.
- Project Veritas Posts More Videos Of Bernie Staffers Promoting Killing Opponents — More Project Veritas bullshit.
- School District Defends AP History Lesson Calling Trump A Nazi And Communist — The history lesson doesn't explicitly call Trump a Nazi nor a Communist, but rather, likens his policies to the authoritarian regimes imposed by them, where the explanation from the Baltimore County Schools stated that "some leaders to limit, or prevent migration, into certain countries. In isolation and out of context with the lesson, the image could be misunderstood." It doesn't make for an outrage clickbait headline though.
- Governors Ban Drugs For COVID-19 Treatment After President Trump Mentions Them — This article is simply incorrect, and it misattributes the coincidence of Trump endorsing them that the drug he proposed is simply experimental and not to be recommended for widespread use in the population for a relief of COVID-19. Of course, this bit of reality is addressed later in the article but you have to find a way to rile up your readerbase in the site somehow; take a look at the commenters and you can tell how many of them clearly didn't read the article and read only the headline. In addition, the article's body is extremely misleading when it came to Cuomo's role in the incident; the article frames him as a hypocrite for appearing to initially reject the experimentation for the only reason that it is approved by Trump, only for him to turn around when the FDA did approve for use (the author of the article didn't even read his statement fully, it listed exemptions and "No other experimental or prophylactic use shall be permitted"). If one reads the MSNBC article linked in this article, it tells a different story.
- College Educators Worried Their Online Lectures May Be Exposed By Conservatives — "A conservative news website that tries to expose liberal bias on college campuses posted a series of tweets from college professors who fear their lectures will become fodder on conservative websites." Do we really need to say more about this article? The incident is started by Campus Reform, a conservative "news" website with a mixed factual reporting reported by Media Bias / Fact Check operated by the Leadership Institute, who proudly proclaims on their about page their reason to exist: "While many liberal organizations exist to increase the involvement of liberal activists, few similar organizations exist to serve conservatives. Because conservatism tends to focus on the power of ideas, most conservative organizations are think tanks that focus on policy or legislation." The Leadership Institute is also a Koch Industries donor recipient. That is all you need to know about them.
- Station Says They'll Stop Airing Trump's Live Virus Briefings To Protect People — The headline makes it look direct and ridiculous, though when the article is read, the motivation is to curb the misinformation spread by Trump. The article itself also snipped a quote from Judd Deere as reported in The Hill and added their own twist to it.[note 4]
- All police death headlines start with the preface: Hero Down.
As the movement is primarily American, it adopts a black and white variant of the United States flag with a blue line running through it, symbolizing the thin blue line in which police officers are the force that holds back the chaos. The Punisher character skull emblem has become popular within the movement, which is ironic considering that The Punisher is a vigilante that employs brutal, criminal tactics in his efforts to reduce crime, certainly not something that should be associated with peacefully resolving and deescalating conflicts as the police should; the police chief who added a since removed Punisher emblem quoted the reason for adding the logo as being a "warrior logo" and that they "will take any means necessary to keep our community safe." which clearly misunderstands the point of The Punisher. Even the creator of The Punisher himself, Gerry Conway, strongly disapproves the use of The Punisher's logo on police decal:
I've talked about this in other interviews. To me, it's disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He's supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can't depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way.
The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice sysytem,[sic] an eample[sic] of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they're basically sides with an enemy of the system. They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
It goes without saying. In a way, it's as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building. My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he's also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal's symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law.
Displays of the Blue Lives Matter flags often leads to complaints surrounding it. For example, Portland County, Oregon has agreed to pay $100,000 dollars in a lawsuit tied to the Blue Lives Matter flag in that a black resident and her co-workers complained that the flag demeaned the Black Lives Matter movement, and that her response to the movement was met with harassment and demeaning messages. The lawsuit also notes that the flag has seen use in the "Unite the Right" rally alongside Confederate flags, though the article notes that "Members of Blue Lives Matter condemned the use of their flag at the rally."
A common response to Blue Lives Matter would be that race and identity are in no way equivalent to career choice. It is commonly asserted that because police can change their wardrobe and consciously choose their paths, their movement is not as valid as someone's racial identity. A The Huffington Post op-ed written by Miranda Jackson-Nudelman, for example, argues that while there is in fact social identity between officers that cultivates a thin blue line mentality and a blue wall of silence, it does not equate to the identity significance that being part of a particular race provides and thus undermines the intent behind Black Lives Matter. The op-ed also argues that the police is already a highly privileged class of people, where they were always historically respectable figures, received honor and credit whenever it is due, and are never under threat to the social order. Such measures to prop them up serve only to wallpaper the issues faced by policing, which include the historical mistreatment of less privileged classes of people.
A Washington Post op-ed written by Matthew Guariglia argues otherwise, in which that the sense of social identity Blue Lives Matter perpetrates is in of itself a problem, where there exists a sense of elitism that breeds groupthink which allows a "blue lives" mindset to occur. He cites how the Irish police supplants the 1863 draft riots and the 1871 Orange Riots by force against fellow Irish people; how Chinese and Italian detectives were sent to police their own communities and experienced resentment from members of their own community, which forced them to establish ties to the police community; and that black officers do not necessarily reduce police violence on black people. In addition, Guariglia argued that a focus on Blue Lives transforms even off-duty members as police rather than simply citizens, which can undermine a broader sense of identity towards police and citizens.
Blue Lives Matter purports the idea that there is a "war on cops" when that is not correct, as there is no data to support an increased number of felonious attacks on officers and the number of felonious attacks on officers decreased after the shooting of Michael Brown. The movement ignores the other problems that come within policing, specifically the job-related health issues that arise from it. While the dangers of death contributes to the dangers of policing and is the most major threat to consider, there are other factors that play into it as well that are not as well researched as felonious deaths, such as assault, threats, and nonfelonious deaths. Mental health issues and threats of officer suicide remain hidden from the public, which are only recently starting to be discussed about. Stress and social media can contribute to forming perceptions about their safety, which in turn can lead to more aggressive encounters. Police officers have a higher rate of depression than the general population, and are more likely to encounter PTSD as a result of traumatic encounters. Suicide is one of the most lethal threats against police officers, where 1 in 4 of them experience suicidal ideation; indeed, more than three times many police officers committed suicide than were fatally shot in 2017.
Controversial political bills
Blue Lives Matter was behind a bill that made it a hate crime to target police officers and other first responders in Louisiana, which was criticized by the ACLU. The ACLU argued that these bills are not necessary, as the penalties for attacking police officers are already very severe and people can get charged with counts of felony for even threatening a police officer in Wisconsin; in addition, crimes specifically conducted towards police officers are infrequent and violent crime is on the decline. The ACLU argues that "rather than focusing on how to address a non-existent problem, we need to focus on addressing the very real and pressing problem of how poor communities and people of color in Wisconsin are targeted by biased policing, mass incarceration, systematic neglect, and laws that protect police from being held accountable when they act improperly." and has stated that "Police officers and their families will not be helped by pushing a heightened sense of victimization. Police officers are valued public servants, not members of a minority group."
In May 2018, the House of Representatives passed a Protect and Serve Act of 2018. Dubbed as a "Blue Lives Matter bill" by detractors, the bill aims to increase the penalties against attacking police officers, such as offenders striking officers with intent to harm up to 10 years in prison. Critics then pointed out again that such measures to increase penalties are unnecessary, as with they are with previous bills, as penalties are already apt enough to address these acts and that attacks specifically against law enforcement are not common. Natasha Lennard from The Intercept argued that this bill's primary purpose was "to reinforce the myth of the police as vulnerable and embattled — the very grounds on which police officers consistently justify the use of lethal force against black life."
Russian propaganda antics
The biggest Russian troll farm, the Internet Research Agency (yes, the same one documented in the Mueller investigation related to the Trump-Russia connection), made a Facebook community called "Back The Badge" which rallied support for police officers. It created an ad that saw more views than any other ad the propaganda mill has generated. The ad had taken advantage of the Blue Lives Matter community on Facebook, uses key words that would draw such supporters in, and it aimed for support of the election of Donald Trump, while the troll agency helped organize a Blue Lives Matter rally in Dallas, Texas on July 10, 2016. While the Internet Research Agency also fabricated a counter Black Lives Matter movement that was also highly popular, it was dwarfed by the amount of views the Blue Lives Matter propaganda received.
On a related note, Kosovar Facebook pages aim to exploit a nostalgia for the military and law enforcement and nationalism by posting pro-police stuff alongside hyper-partisan right-wing content and would block any anti-cop content. Law Enforcement Daily, run by Ibra Pervetica, caught some pretty nice ones, including an official NYPD branch based off North Brooklyn.
- They really need to proofread their spelling and grammar.
- Despite what the top-voted Urban Dictionary for "Blue Lives Matter" says otherwise.
- "It appeared that numerous American millennials did not understand that the current U.S. military is entirely voluntary and that there is no current draft, The Guardian reported." Nowhere in the actual Guardian article mentioned the word "millenial" and it's debatable what age group constitutes a "millenial".
- The Blue Lives Matter article quoted this: "By censoring the briefings, such outlets are also failing to fulfill their "duty to the American people," Deere added.". The actual article: "It’s not surprising, but also a failure of their duty to the American people, that some media outlets would choose to block their audiences from receiving accurate, up-to-date information on President Trump’s whole-of-government approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19," The twist they added? The word "censoring".
- Guariglia, Matthew. (November 30, 2017). 'Blue lives' do matter — that's the problem. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
- Berg, Christopher. (May 14, 2017). The About Page for Blue Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
- MediaBias/ Fact Check page for Blue Lives Matter. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
- Project Veritas on MediaBias / Fact Check
- Dean Schabner. (December 20, 2014). Two NYPD Cops 'Assassinated' in Brooklyn Ambush. ABC News. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
- Southall, Ashley. (April 20, 2016). 2 New York Detectives Indicted in Beating of Mail Carrier. The New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
- Fuchs, Chris (March 17, 2017). Police Acquitted in Beating of Mail Worker Who Unknowingly Gave Cop Killer Directions. NBC News. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
- Blue Lives Matter NYC. Blue Lives Matter NYC. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Musto, Julia. (November 9, 2019). Blue Lives Matter NYC founder: Fewer police would die if politicians allowed them to do their jobs. Fox News. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Hoyt, Gregory. (November 9, 2019). Blue Lives Matter NYC: Cops are getting killed because leaders won’t let them do their jobs. Law Enforcement Today. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Galoustian, Gisele. (March 10, 2019). It’s Safer to be a Cop in the U.S. Today than 50 Years Ago. Florida Atlantic. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Balko, Radley. (Oct. 2, 2014). Once again: police work is NOT getting more dangerous. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Barrick, Kelle. Richardson, Nicholas J. Strom, Kevin J. (March 24, 2019). Is policing safer today? Wiley Online Library. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- SnarkyCop by @cnf64 Twitter (archived from 12 May 2020 19:13:32 UTC)).
- Left: Guns are responsible for shooting deaths, remove them from the population. Right: Criminals are responsible for shooting deaths, remove them from the population. by SnarkyCop (11:31 AM - 2 Jan 2018) Twitter (archived from 15 Apr 2020 18:49:40 UTC). A tweet talking about typical pro 2nd Amendment talking points]
- Toxic masculinity is being cited as the cause of mass shootings and the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, but violent crime is highest in areas where children are raised by single mothers. The issue isn't masculinity, it's that they never learned to be men. by SnarkyCop (5:31 PM - 28 Aug 2018) Twitter (archived from 15 Apr 2020 18:49:58 UTC).
- He actually did it. @realDonaldTrump got House Democrats to kneel for him. by SnarkyCop (10:19 AM - 26 Sep 2017) Twitter (archived from 15 Apr 2020 07:37:04 UTC).
- Let nobody accuse him of not having a sense of humor. by SnarkyCop (11:00 AM - 20 Jan 2018) Twitter (archived from 15 Apr 2020 07:37:19 UTC).
- I sometimes wonder if @realDonaldTrump comes up with all of his trolling tweets on his own, or if he has a team of writers. If he does it on his own then that would be proof that he's actually brilliant. by SnarkyCop (4:51 PM - 20 Jan 2018) Twitter (archived from 15 Apr 2020 07:37:35 UTC).
- Sandy Nelson Malone @SandyMalone_, Twitter (archived from 12 May 2020 19:31:25 UTC).
- Stop trying to put BS in the bill - #Americans deserve better #coronavirus by Sandy Nelson Malone (3:12 PM - 26 Mar 2020) Twitter (archived from 15 Apr 2020 07:38:16 UTC).
- Malone, Sandy. (Feb 18, 2020). President Trump Announces Pardons For Corrupt Officials Blue Lives Matter. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Malone, Sandy. (Mar 23, 2020). Police Chief To Trump: Stop Testing NBA Players, Start Testing First Responders Blue Lives Matter. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Campus Reform's article on Media Bias / Fact Check. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
- The Leadership Institute about page. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
- Vogel, Pam. (March 29, 2017). Campus Reform And The Leadership Institute. Media Matters. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
- Fernando Alfonso III. (April 17, 2020). Chief removes Punisher emblem, ‘Blue Lives Matter’ from police cars after public reacts . Lexington Heralder. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Avery, Daniel (July 15, 2019). Marvel's the Punisher Lays the Beatdown on Cops Who Use His Skull Symbol for 'Blue Lives Matter' Movement. Newsweek. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Law Officer. (April 12, 2017). New York Police Place Punisher ‘Thin Blue Line’ Logo On Cars. Law Officer. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Riesman, Abraham. (Novebmer 16, 2017). Why Cops and Soldiers Love the Punisher. Vulture. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Forsythe, Dana. (Jan 8, 2019). Punisher creator Gerry Conway: Cops using the skull logo are like people using the Confederate flag. SVFY Wire. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Portland county pays $100,000 in lawsuit tied to Blue Lives Matter flag. The Guardian. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Jackson-Nudelman, Miranda. (October 21, 2019). The Blue Lives Matter movement is more than just an attempt to undermine Black Lives Matter. Pipe Dream. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Russell, Jonathan. (July 10, 2017). Here’s What’s Wrong With #BlueLivesMatter. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Collins, Molly. (January 10, 2017). Statement from ACLU of Wisconsin on Blue Lives Matter Bill. ACLU. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
- H.R.5698 - Protect and Serve Act of 2018. Library of Congress. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Lennard, Natasha. (May 19 2018). Call Congress’s "Blue Lives Matter" Bills What They Are: Another Attack on Black Lives. The Intercept. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Oppose Senate Introduction of the Protect and Serve Act of 2018. (May 8,2018). The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Kanya Bennett. (May 17, 2018). Congress Wants More Protections for Cops While Ignoring Police Reform. American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
- Ackerman, Spencer (May. 11, 2018). Russians’ Biggest Facebook Ad Promoted ‘Blue Lives Matter’. The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
- Liles, Jordan. MacGuill, Dan. (10 April 2020). Kosovar Facebook Pages Use Coronavirus Fears, ‘Blue Lives Matter’ Memes To Trick American Followers. Snopes. Retrieved April 14, 2020.