Late last month, director Quentin Tarantino participated in a rally against police brutality, where he made the following comment:
“I’m a human being with a conscience,” Tarantino said at the rally. “And when I see murder I cannot stand by. And I have to call the murdered the murdered and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”
Similar words have been spoken by other people as they've watched unarmed citizens
gunned down by police officers
. But when Tarantino says it, it apparently stings a bit more.
New York City's police union boss Pat Lynch was the first to be personally offended on behalf of the officers
he (sometimes) represents.
"It's no surprise that someone who makes a living glorifying crime and violence is a cop-hater, too," Lynch said in a statement. "The police officers that Quentin Tarantino calls 'murderers' aren't living in one of his depraved big screen fantasies -- they're risking and sometimes sacrificing their lives to protect communities from real crime and mayhem."
"New Yorkers need to send a message to this purveyor of degeneracy that he has no business coming to our city to peddle his slanderous 'Cop Fiction,'" he added. "It's time for a boycott of Quentin Tarantino's films."
Oh, Pat. You often forget
. Lynch's officers killed one man
for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes ("real crime and mayhem") and shot another unarmed man in a stairwell
(and delayed calling it in and seeking medical assistance) because a jumpy officer decided to patrol the building with his gun out. Not exactly "protecting communities," but whatever.
The LAPD's union soon joined the boycott
, probably due to the LA-NYC connection current NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton
brings to the job.
Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally said comments like Tarantino's encourage attacks on officers and said the union would support the call for a boycott of his films.
We fully support constructive dialogue about how police interact with citizens. But there is no place for inflammatory rhetoric that makes police officers even bigger targets than we already are," Lally said in a statement this week. "Film director Quentin Tarantino took irresponsibility to a new and completely unacceptable level this past weekend by referring to police as murderers during an anti-police march in New York."
First, Lally leans on the fake "War on Cops
" narrative ("bigger targets than we already are…") and buttresses it by calling an anti-police brutality
march an anti-police
march. Lally lumps all of his officers together with this self-serving generalization. Aren't police officers the first to say the actions of bad police officers don't represent the whole of the force? A march targeting the actions of "bad apples" is portrayed by the union boss as being anti-tree. Fine. Have it your way, Lally. Just save us the #notallcops statements when a disgraced officer is indicted for their misconduct.
These two unions have been joined by other smaller law enforcement groups
around the nation. It's also been joined by the nation's largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police. These groups have demanded an apology from Tarantino for his stated opinion. The director has refused to bow to their pressure
“All cops are not murderers,” Tarantino told The Times in his first public response to the controversy. “I never said that. I never even implied that.”
“What they’re doing is pretty obvious,” he said of his critics. “Instead of dealing with the incidents of police brutality that those people were bringing up, instead of examining the problem of police brutality in this country, better they single me out. And their message is very clear. It’s to shut me down. It’s to discredit me. It is to intimidate me. It is to shut my mouth, and even more important than that, it is to send a message out to any other prominent person that might feel the need to join that side of the argument.”
Tarantino's right. The unions would rather shut him up than admit any wrongdoing. It would rather prominent public figures remain silent or offer their deference than actually tackle law enforcement's myriad problems.
Hopefully, Tarantino's boldness will prompt others similarly situated to push for more accountability from public servants, especially those authorized to use deadly force. As Chris Seaton at FaultLines points out, every little bit helps
More and more people no longer trust the police as the time-honored public servants we once thought them to be. Because the police refuse to address the problems leading to the self-inflicted black eyes on their respective reputations, the only recourse they have is to attack those who are in positions of prominence that raise awareness of the problem.
Quentin Tarantino is the latest target. He refuses to back down, just as Thabo Sefolosha did. These are gentlemen with influence, money, and the national platform to bring more people to the table that will address police misconduct than have ever before. When those with greater resources than the average citizen decide to join the struggle against the culture of the “warrior cop,” it is highly feasible we will see a major shift in the public’s perception to a degree those of us who speak out against police misconduct never thought possible.
Because Tarantino has refused to back down, the unions seem a bit flustered. Jim Pasco, the executive director of the nation's largest police union (Fraternal Order of Police) said this to The Hollywood Reporter
"Tarantino has made a good living out of violence and surprise," says Pasco. "Our offices make a living trying to stop violence, but surprise is not out of the question."
"Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element," says Pasco. "Something could happen anytime between now and [the premiere]. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable.
Take these words out of a police union official's mouth and put them nearly anywhere else and you'd expect that
person to be the target of law enforcement efforts. Reason's Scott Shackford does a little recasting of his own in an article titled "Legion of Armed, Upset Citizens Has A 'Surprise' Planned for Quentin Tarantino
If the organization in question were connected to the militia movement (by way of example) the outrage would be palpable. Is that a threat? Are they going to try to hurt Tarantino? He'd probably hire bodyguards (if he doesn't already have them). He might consider keeping a low profile for a while. There'd probably be a federal investigation to determine whether any actual violence was being planned.
Even though Tarantino appears to be done talking about this (after recognizing he wasn't dealing with a rational adversary), the Fraternal Order of Police isn't. For whatever reason, The Hollywood Reporter has allowed the national president of the threat-uttering Fraternal Order of Police to post an op-ed against the director on its website
Chuck Canterbury calls Tarantino a "very strange man" who just doesn't understand the complexities of modern-day law enforcement. (It's only the amount of attention paid to police-involved-shootings that has changed, not the tactics, techniques or number of them.) He admits the boycott will probably have very little effect before going on to blame everything wrong with law enforcement on everyone else.
It's not police officers engaging in excessive force or racial profiling. It's the government -- a bigger, badder bad guy completely separated from the world of law enforcement… according to Canterbury.
Police officers are the only manifestation of government that some ever see -- and then only when something’s gone wrong. Tarantino didn’t need to whip up that crowd – they’re whipped up by the colossal failure of their elected officials.
His concluding paragraph, however, is so bad it's almost inadvertent parody.
So Tarantino race baits, and we boycott. No happy ending to this short drama -- rather than trying to help heal the wounds, Tarantino picks at the scabs. Rather than conciliatory, Tarantino is stoking the fires of hate and division that have made him a very wealthy man. I hate that this movie will make him still richer, and that perhaps this boycott and whatever else we may do will be to no avail; but, as long as there are befuddled demagogues like him bashing the police, there will be folks like me trying to get the truth out there.
According to Canterbury, it's the job of private citizens -- especially those whose voices might be heard -- to smooth over the widening gulf between the public and law enforcement. From where Canterbury sees it, the world of law enforcement is pristine and untroubled.
If complaints of profiling and brutality are coming from lower income areas in urban centers, the problem is the "colossal failure" of "elected officials," rather than the actions of the officers patrolling those areas. If a prominent American fails to show anything but devout support from law enforcement, that person is "race baiting" or "stoking the fires of hate," rather than simply pointing out truths that can no longer be ignored.
If Canterbury truly wants conciliation (and I have no reason to believe he does -- he wants concession, which is something very different even if it uses some of the same letters), then law enforcement
has to lead the way, not Quentin Tarantino or any other member of the public. The public doesn't have much in the way of leverage, and it certainly doesn't have much it can actually concede. It's the entity coming from a position of power (a power that's abused far too often) that should be making the first moves towards conciliation. Expecting the public to grant you all the respect you feel you deserve (more than what's been earned) before any "healing" takes place only ensures the wound will never fully heal.