There's many a slip twixt the cop and the news clip
by Tom Sullivan
Writing at Wonkette, Shrill unearthed a revealing story the other day that you might have missed:
Anyway, on New Year’s Eve, the New York Police Department requested the public’s help in finding a man who grabbed an MTA worker, threw her on the ground, throttled her, and then ran away with a jaunty and satisfied smirk on his face.
Being the New York subway system, surveillance cameras captured the play-by-play. Turns out the attacker was an off-duty police officer. But here's where Shrill turns it into a man-bites-dog story:
The hilarious coda to this story is the treatment of this story in the news by the New York Daily News. Here’s the headline from the story they wrote before they knew that the culprit was a police officer:
And here’s the lede of that story:A hulking brute grabbed a 28-year-old MTA employee up in a bear hug at a Bronx train station, shoved her onto the platform and began choking her in an unprovoked attack – then ran away smiling, authorities said Wednesday.
Here’s the story after they found out that the culprit was a police officer:
And here’s the lede of that story:Police Officer Mirjan Lolja, 37, was suspended after the assault in which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker — who was on-duty and in her uniform — was allegedly put into a bear hug, thrown to the floor and choked, cops said.
Notice anything? Gone is the evocative “thug” in the headline and the “hulking brute” of the lede, and the sensationalism of the label of an “unprovoked” attack, replaced by plainspoken and bare nouns. Gone, too, is the directness of the active voice, replaced by a circumspect passive voice, accompanied by the (necessary) lawyerly “allegedly”. The callousness of him smiling has been dropped, too, demoted to the second paragraph. This is no surprise — it’s just an example of the subtle way in which our media defers to and genuflects before law enforcement, shaping and coloring the narrative in their favor.
That's about as plain as it gets. "There was an officer-involved shooting," etc. An officer "discharged his weapon," etc. News language is indirect and allows that things "just happen" when police are involved. Or as Jameson Parker snarks:
“A shot rang out from the officer’s gun.” Who is the actor there? The gun? So much for the old NRA adage “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Apparently officers’ guns do.
No thugs around the station house, either, people. Move along.