A Distortion of “Stop Snitching’s” Meaning
On Sunday the CBS program 60 Minutes presented yet another piece of shoddy superficial journalism. The report hosted by Anderson Cooper dealt with the “stop snitching” phenomenon found in the urban black community. This is a philosophy which asserts that it is unacceptable to cooperate with the police under any circumstances.
Cooper's thrust clearly put the blame for this way of thinking squarely on the backs of Hip Hop artists and the greedy record corporations behind them. Prominently featured was the rapper Cam'ron who went so far as to say that if he knew a serial killer lived next door he would not report that fact to the police but rather just move away.
Comments concerning Cam’ron’s words posted on such websites as The Daily Hip Hop News, Nobodysmiling.com, and VIBE.com were mixed with some defending his views but the majority expressing embarrassment over his thoughts, with a number asking why 60 Minutes had to choose someone so stupid as the spokesman for Hip Hop. More than a few people made the important point that what the rapper said had nothing to do with the true meaning of “stop snitching.”
The program also almost completely missed the point. The war on people who used certain kinds of drugs got only the briefest mention and the academic expert on the subject of “stop snitching” who believes its origin is to be found there was not allowed to speak for himself. Cooper then permitted a government official to minimize the role played by a brutal drug prohibition system, entirely dependent upon people betraying one another for convictions, without challenge.
Perhaps if the 60 Minutes producers had seen the documentary Snitch produced by Ofra Bikel they might have understood a little something about the subject they were reporting on. Maybe if they had acknowledged that drug war was the most racist institution operating in America today, with statistics from the Drug Policy Alliance which tell us that Blacks constitute 13 percent of all drug users, but 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession, 55 percent of persons convicted, and 74 percent of people sent to prison, their story would not have been so shallow and misleading.comments powered by Disqus
Keith Halderman - 4/26/2007
Stop Snitching is about not turning in your friends to get a lighter sentence. 60 Minutes is trying to turn it into something that it is not as part of the more general cultural attack on Hip Hop music that was kicked off by the Imus incident. If you read the comments on the Hip Hop websites I linked to you will see that a strong majority of them condemn the idea of never cooperating with the police. This attack on Hip Hop is going to lead to calls for censorsship and is an attack on the free market in music. Last time I checked libertarians were against those kinds of policies. Let us not forget that the main villian in the piece was greedy corporations.
Aeon J. Skoble - 4/26/2007
What's so libertarian about witness intimidation? I don't buy the theory that "Stop Snitching" is some sort of libertarian anti-drug-war statement. It's witness intimidation. It's an attempt to scare weaker kids into complicity with whatever stronger kids want to do.
Gary McGath - 4/26/2007
A year and a half ago, Mayor Menino of Boston conducted a blatantly illegal intimidation campaign to force stores to stop selling"Stop Snitching" shirts.
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