For anyone who enjoys a good satire mixed in with political correctness (or incorrectness), some analysis, cold statistics and even diluted logic, they would be very entertained by The Daily Show’s take on the recent topic of Stop-and-Frisk as addressed in their August 13th episode. Stop and Frisk, to recap, is a policy employed by the NYPD where a police officer can stop, question, or even search a pedestrian that they consider suspicious of felonious activity. Shira Scheindlin, the US District Court judge who oversaw the policy case called for its review citing that it violated both the Fourth Amendment’s stand against unreasonable searches, and also the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Jon Oliver and Jessica Williams, correspondents of The Daily Show were able to deliver the laughs on this issue in a way that most fans referred to as brilliant. This episode has been viewed over 100,000 times on The Daily Show website and its related post has over 40,000 “Likes” on the show’s Facebook page. It seems their take on the policy was very adept at bursting the bubble for both sides of the panel who may have struggled to understand each other. On one end are supporters who believe that the policy works fine; that the decline in crime rate post-policy implementation speaks volume. On the other end are critics who complain that Black and Latino men are excessively targeted where only a very small percentage of people stopped and frisked actually lead to an arrest. Furthermore, the pro-policy supporters continue to argue that the historical statistics lends itself to the areas where the policy is most implemented; while on the other hand the critics emphasize that the implementation is racially biased.
The beauty of satire here rests in the fact that although it is outside the world of an active debate, it does raise points that offer us self-reflection; we become more conscious of our own bubbles of thought housing a sometimes narrow perspective. Empathy and transference of experience is much easier when the absurdity of our logic is read back to us. It is here that Oliver deems Stop-and-Frisk analogous to a TSA pat down – an experience which even though considered uncomfortable and invasive, is only pertinent to travelers who opt to fly; many of whom are White. The difference here, as Oliver puts it, is that the experience of being Black or Hispanic is similar to having the TSA at every corner of your neighborhood. Though, instead of a respectful request to search, you are being screamed at, with possibly harsh consequences should you put up any objections. Again, satire may not be a valid tactic for debates, yet it did well to put the experience in perspective and the audience roared with laughter.
In the second segment, Jessica Williams, one of the African American correspondents of The Daily Show came on air to support Stop-and-Frisk. She insisted that not much is being done to curtail the rise of crime in New York City. When asked to clarify by Jon Oliver, she showed herself to be on Wall Street – a place she called the “White Bronx” and “Business Harlem” – where she explained many of the white collar crimes went unprosecuted. She offered the description of some suspicious individuals who can be found in tailored suits and slick-back hair; that the NYPD policy was not doing enough to catch these felonious business men before they got the economy entangled in another global crisis. The audience roared and applauded with laughter at the policy of Stop-and-Frisk turned on its head by the show correspondent.
As expected most viewers do not tune into faux-news to get the actual daily rundown but rather to see a new color on what they already know. I also cannot give credit that the script was necessarily eye-opening but it rather provided another angle to review an experience that most critics of the policy have complained does not give understanding to the 90% of Black and Latino men who go through this frequently. The US District Court judge in summing up the case called for a camera monitoring system that helps to further understand what happens on the field. Other panelists from actual news sources have also reiterated that the police needs to review their training to create a better system of addressing, accounting and relating to people in areas that may have had a high crime rate, so as not to alienate the law-abiding men who because of their financial standings find themselves trapped in such demographic areas.