I debated all weekend whether I wanted to touch this with a hundred foot poll. I saw posts ranging from “All taxes are theft anyway, so stop paying the police” (I stopped reading here and did NOT click “show more…” to see the entire thread) to “police are all bad apples and it all needs to be rebooted from the ground up” up to “it’s a slogan to start a more nuanced conversation about re-evaluting programs between the police and other social services.”
Then one of my friends posted something that really resonated with me. Language matters. This particular hashtag lumps the people who want to have a reasoned argument around re-evaluating program funding with the “police departments shouldn’t exist” (of the corruption and tax-theft crowd).
Ouch. Is that right?
I GET that this is more complex than a slogan can easily capture. My brother has a phrase about “no good political statement can fit on a bumper sticker” I tend to disagree with the specifics of “none,” but as a slogan which could fit on a bumper sticker… it’s a good start. And slogans DO influence people.
I am going to switch to another slogan we’ve all heard “build a wall.” Now, there is a range of responses from “build an actual wall and shoot people who cross it” to “it is supposed to be a more nuanced conversation about immigration reform.” And… the people who want to have a reasonable conversation about immigration reform get lumped in with the “shoot people” crowd even when they might have better ideas.
I am not going to try to break down polling and support numbers for these slogans. I am not going to rank them by effectiveness in public opinion. That is outside my interest or abilities. Go read up on FiveThirtyEight if you want more statistics.
What I want to say is that slogans are not a substitute for the conversation. When you see a slogan (Black Lives Matter, Build the Wall, Defund the Police, Save the Titties, Your Body Your Choice, Cancer is not a Star, Love is Love, Only Yes Means Yes…) STOP. Don’t jump to a conclusion on what every person chanting it believes. Go find some diverse opinions (if you can, some slogans don’t have as long a spectrum). Especially anything with this big a following inevitably has more than one opinion!
I know, I know. Even groups who generally agree with each other might not be a single monolith of thought and maybe we shouldn’t treat them that way. Revolutionary thought.
Especially now when emotions are running high and hot – I think it’s important to stop and consider the language used.
Further Reading (I’m not advocating ANY of these views, but these are some of the sources I’ve been consuming to form my opinion. Specifically, the ones I could find again):
- The Data Behind Police Violence l FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast
- John Oliver Last Week Tonight: Defund the Police
- Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop
- 3 Libertarian Tips for the #DefundPolice Movement
- Forbes: The ‘Defund The Police’ Movement Is Sweeping The Country. Here’s What It Really Means.
- NY Times: Cities Ask if It’s Time to Defund Police and ‘Reimagine’ Public Safety
- Fox News: Defund or dismantle the police? What it could mean