If you’re not in New York, you might not have heard about the Shake Shack Incident. Fear not, though, because it is very easy to catch up on the main points.
It all started last week when the NYPD, led by its police unions, said that three of its officers had been intentionally poisoned at a Shake Shack in downtown Manhattan. We were told that the cops were vomiting, that they’d been hospitalized, that there was bleach involved. Le gasp le shock le is anything sacred anymore thin blue line!!!
Just one wrinkle about that story: It was complete bullshit. An investigation quickly found that nothing untoward had happened, and on Monday, the New York Post (of all places) reported that the cops had never even been sick. What’s more, the officers reportedly ordered their food through the Shake Shack app, meaning that there was no way any nefarious employees could have known to send the “poison the cops” signal to their comrades in the first place.
In other words, the cops, and especially their union leaders, lied about every single part of the story, except, I guess, that their drinks tasted a little weird.
When reading these details, you might think, “Wow, these cops must think we are really fucking stupid!” And guess what? They do. But can you really blame them when, to pick an example at random, so much of the news media swallows even their most outlandish claims without blinking an eye?
Look at this video showing local and national news anchors from around the country mindlessly repeating the initial Shake Shack story:
Or take a look at this breaking news clip from a local New York station:
The only source for any of the information in any of these clips is the police. Does anyone think that might be a problem?
It would be one thing if this was some isolated incident, an example of normally unimpeachable sources making a mistake. But cops lie all the time! Cops, including NYPD cops, have been lying throughout the uprising that exploded after George Floyd’s murder. They even lied about Floyd himself.
This is not secret antifa knowledge or some new pattern; it’s well–established fact. Cops lie and lie and lie, and all too often, their lies form the basis of the first draft of history that gets transmitted by the media. It’s only after the fact that holes start getting poked in their stories—and those stories usually involve people dying, not milkshakes.
It’s easy to see why this happens. Local media outlets are very friendly with cops, hooked on racist crime news, and often starved of the reporting resources necessary to do any real investigations. It’s a perfect environment for police lies to spread.
But it’s also because, even after everything we know about the police, they’re still seen (by the comfortable white people who control so much of the news agenda, at least) as a trusted, apolitical, and morally righteous part of society, rather than as highly political actors with every motive to lie about their racism, violence, and corruption. Might I tentatively suggest that, at long last, that framing should be scrapped, and that the cops should be treated with even a modicum of skepticism? It can’t be fun for so many people in the media to look this stupid all the time, so maybe they can try being a little smarter instead.