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Too Soon? Never.


No doubt many of you have seen, & very likely enjoyed, the meme of “Pepper Spraying Cop” which has quickly grown to quite a collection of imagery.

There was a quote in the Globe & Mail stating “For the protesters who were at the receiving end of Lt. Pike’s spray, it’s hard to see the humour.” Except, in this case there’s no comment or thoughts from any of the protesters about these images; raising a bit of a red-herring — essentially stating it’s in bad taste to parody.

“Taste” though, doesn’t really enter into it. Creating parodies of this & other incidents highlight the massive overstepping of power this Swine of the Times decided to exercise. Parody is, of course, “a literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule.” Ridicule is the key word here. These images are a chance by citizens who disagree with the over simplification & violence portrayed to get a jab in & create a modicum of social justice.

Visuals like these continue part of a conversation that is at the heart of the “Occupy” movement, making stark light of exactly how weighted the balance of power was in this situation, & indeed in many other examples of police brutality. Officer Pike was not under threat nor were the protesters acting in anything but passive non-violence. Placing Lt. John Pike nonchalantly spraying into so many iconic images works brilliantly (& hilariously) to keep this poignant image fresh in people’s minds. It’s uncomfortable because it was an uncomfortable, violent action, not because it’s in ‘bad taste’. The only bad taste here is that Lt.Pike still has a career.

Claiming ‘offence’ is a simplistic, childish shortcut to claim moral superiority in order to shut down an uncomfortable conversation. Yes, people were injured, yes this is serious, but humour is a crucial & effective tool for dealing with traumatic, serious, or difficult events. Pretending otherwise is insincere & disingenuous. The only offence & danger illustrated in this case is highlighting the abuse of power, while simultaneously refusing to allow the media, government & police force off the hook. The Daily Show & The Colbert Report are prime examples of parody at it’s finest, tackling equally difficult subject matter with aplomb. What makes this any different? The same goes for many stand-up comedians & writers across the spectrum. Is it simply because it’s their ‘job’ to make light of issues that gives them permission? There’s little reason that ‘non-professionals’ should be excluded from creating parody to highlight a current political issue & movement. Dismissal of this ability is akin to disallowing political discussion or any sort of creativity that happens to question or make uncomfortable.

So, I say “game on” to creating queasy, uneasy, & uncomfortable imagery — we’re all too often awash in publications filled with emotionless & conceptually void stock photos, large media conglomerates that skirt deeper issues for expedience & soundbites, & politicians that refer to citizens as consumers. Take some content back & offend someone, we might just have a richer discussion, & democracy, for it.


For taste of nearly endless brilliance, check out peppersprayingcop.tumblr.com (a small sampling below)
Here’s the Globe & Mail article that raised my hackles in the first place: The G&M ‘Hot Button’

Thanks to BoingBoing for the first collection of these images I stumbled upon. A bigger thanks goes to Reddit though, which sprung on this like all get-out & is where much of this fantastic imagery seems to have originated.

Also check out this great article from the Guardian UK. Merci Elissa Parente for sending this one along.


Oh, & congratulations to Lieutenant John Pike, you’re my first Swine of the Times!


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