In all, then, I think it’s clear that the show sends a consistent and obvious message, conveyed through the central characters’ continual physical, psychological, and legal intimidation of people not convicted of any crime or even under formal arrest.So who wrote this crap? The Derrida Professor for Semiotics at some fancy-pants college, talking about Dragnet? No, it's by credentialed culture warrior S.T. Karnick, talking at Big Hollywood about Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
It is this: we are living in a police state, a society in which the government has unlimited authority over the individual. And this, the producers appear strongly to suggest, is a good thing, as it results in the restoration of order at the end of each episode (albeit with the occasional cheesy irony or fashionable ambiguity), as mysteries tend to do. The fact that this “order” involves the reduction of citizens into subjects, of taxpayers into servants of a privileged elite through the continual threat of violence by police, seems of little consequence to the producers, as it is never dealt with fundamentally and critically in the show’s story lines.
Why would a conservative bitch about cops muscling suspects on TV? There's a simple explanation: The interrogations on L&O:CI are not the manly sort Jack Bauer dished out on 24, they're clear examples of liberal fascism. No, I'm not even kidding:
Both characters [Bobby Goren and Alex Eames] annoyed me in essence, I suspect, because they were such perfect specimens of a particularly common and grating type of contemporary American: the Priggish Urban Liberal-Progressive Busybody Knowitall Pseudointellectual Snob. And in doing so, the show conveyed a point of view firmly based on authoritarianism, exemplifying the contemporary worldview that the political writer Jonah Goldberg calls liberal fascism.Karnick finds Vincent D'Onofrio, the big guy with the weird interrogation methods, an "unappealing character type." That I can buy, but then Karnick tells us where else he finds this particular type:
...it thoroughly infests current-day TV news and talk shows, newspaper columns, Slate and the Huffington Post and other fashionable politico-cultural websites, contemporary art shows, your neighborhood Starbucks, and other such locales made repellant by their presence.I dislike Starbucks because the coffee is crap, not because the baristas tower over me and read back my order in a halting, urgent whisper. What the hell is Karnick talking about?
Though he also doesn't like the lieberal storylines -- too many guilty businessmen; Karnick would prefer the shows be about "the usual domestic violence or street crimes that most murders result from," which sounds like a ratings goldmine -- Karnick mainly finds evidence of liberal fascism in the way the actors pull faces:
The progressive-authoritarian political agenda was strongly evident in the story lines and dialogue throughout the run of the series, but D’Onofrio and Erbe added much to the effect by conveying it continually through their facial expressions, gestures, and vocal inflections. The smug looks they passed to each other during their interrogations of suspects were downright insufferable, given the enormous power these detectives were given to detain people, subject them to intense questioning, and manipulate them psychologically in the attempt to send them to prison for felonies.And not only do they evince liberal fascism by giving suspects That Look and taking That Tone, they're prejudiced -- there are certain suspects they exempt from physiognomological oppression:
...D’Onofrio was notable for his habit of looming into an individual’s personal space by edging ever-closer to the person, using his size (he is tall, bulky, and pudgy) to intimidate them. This was something Goren seemed particularly inclined to do to wealthy, successful people. The poor, by contrast, didn’t usually get that sort of treatment. Of course, since the latter were seldom actual suspects and had little sense of personal power, he had less desire to intimidate them, as he seemed well aware that the crimes he was chosen to investigate were always committed by the rich and powerful, and in particular those from the private sector, not government.Clearly conservatives should hold a tea party in TV Land to demand a fairer distribution of smug faces on cop shows.
There are plenty of other things wrong with their culture-war obsession, but really, these guys are mostly hurting themselves. You'd think their friends would tell them that obsessively analyzing such things as Vincent D'Onofrio's eyeballs and facial muscles is turning them into total dinks. Those people aren't real, S.T. -- they're characters, and if they're weird it's because they're on TV, and viewers like unusual people.
Oh Christ, I've said too much -- now his next essay will be about Monk, and how obsessive-compulsive liberal fascists gesturally oppress him at theater benefits and Panera.
(h/t Dan Coyle.)
UPDATE. Great comments. Though I still advise he play outside, Gocart Mozart has another Kulturkampf case for Karnick to get on:
Batman and Superman always went after Galtian super villians like the Joker or Lex luther. They never beat up on the crack heads. Fuckin' liberal fascists!That'll keep the rightdorks' comboxes hopping like they haven't since Revenge of the Sith.