February 12, 2013

How movies and videogames are more accurate about recent history than the newspapers

There has been a lot of talk in the news media about how Christopher Dorner's rampage is more or less payback for the bad old days of racism in the LAPD, as exemplified by Dorner's complaints about Rodney King and the Rampart Scandal. 

Rafael Perez
The Rampart Scandal was a huge whoop-tee-doo in the late 1990s that's a good example of how even Hollywood can be less prone to throwing all the facts into the Narrative Blender than the news media. The Los Angeles Times was much celebrated for epic reporting on racism in the Rampart Division, but mostly they just covered up that the four central very bad cops in Rampart were all diversity hires. Indeed, the Big Bad Four had intriguing connections of some sort to the legendary murders going on among famous gangsta rappers.

You might think that exploring the ties between rogue cops and some of the most notorious murders of the 1990s (Biggie and Tupac) would be a good way to sell newspapers, but selling newspapers has long been a lower priority than Shaping the Narrative.

The key figure in Rampart was Puerto Rico-born Rafael Perez, who got himself a short sentence by spilling (or concocting) the beans on dozens of other cops for minor stuff. This suited the LAT's agenda, even though it turned out in court to not amount to a hill of beans.

Oddly, enough, screenwriters saw through the L.A. Times' bias and did a better job of conveying the essence of the story in movies like Training Day, for which Denzel Washington won an Oscar as a bad cop. From my 2001 review of Training Day:
Further, how common are "gangsta cops" in reality? I called one of the LAPD's most prominent critics, "police misconduct" lawyer Winston Kevin McKesson, a protégé of superstar attorney Johnnie Cochran. He remarked that the plot "seems a bit over the top." McKesson said he's sued many cops for excessive force, but of those he's sued, none were "a complete crook." 
McKesson, though, has defended one cop who might indeed fit that description: Rafael Perez. When his theft of a million dollars worth of cocaine from the police evidence locker was finally uncovered, Perez, to win a reduced sentence, incriminated 70 fellow officers in his elite anti-gang unit. Yet, Perez ended up admitting that a large fraction of the worst abuses at Rampart - such as an attempted murder - were his own work, making him look less like a whistleblower and more like Rampart's criminal kingpin. 
Even though Ayer wrote the first draft of his script before the Rampart scandal broke, McKesson noted that there are now "striking similarities" between the character portrayed by Washington and his client Perez. For example, both are black and bilingual, even though McKesson estimates that only three or four out of about 1,000 black LAPD officers can speak Spanish.

Frank Tenpenny
Similarly, the Best Picture winner Crash was an oblique reference to Perez's running amok when assigned to Rampart's C.R.A.S.H. anti-gang program and instead using his badge to become a gangster. Thus, the scene where a white cop shoots a black undercover cop dead and the politicians offer Don Cheadle a promotion, but then Cheadle opens the trunk of the dead cop's car and finds $300,000 in cash -- that happened. (It may be connected, somehow or other, to the deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie. Screenwriters have been fascinated and frightened by this murky chain of events for 15 years.)

Finally, the lead villain in the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Frank Tenpenny, is modeled on this line of cultural inheritance.

So, why can't journalists fictionalize no more than screenwriters?


Anonymous said...

Would the LAPD hire a white male without at least a rudimentary command of Spanish? Most larger departments now require some Spanish competency for new recruits or give a lot of weight for Spanish fluency in the hiring criterion matrix.

Harry Baldwin said...

The phenomenon of the cop who testifies against his fellow cops turning out to be the biggest crook of them all had a parallel in New York's famed Knapp Commission hearings. William Phillips, former plainclothes officer and star witness, was convicted in the murder of a pimp, a prostitute, and the wounding of a customer. The state had to throw out the convictions of eight officers who were jailed based on Phillips' testimoney.

Anonymous said...

I know many people will find this offensive, but honestly would you trust a man who looked like Rafael Perez n any capacity, let alone as a cop?
Regardless of his color, he's got a hard, duplicitous and ruthless 'bandido' look about him.

Anonymous said...

"So, why can't journalists fictionalize no more than screenwriters?"

Because a screenwriter who writes a politically incorrect but successful film is given more work at a higher rate.

While a journalist who writes a series of politically incorrect pieces loses the chance of landing that managing editor gig.

Gams McGee said...

“So, why can't journalists fictionalize no more than screenwriters?”

Journalists wear the mantle of truth before the public. So its critical to the elites that Journalists stick to the Narrative. Hollywood and Silicon Valley games can get away with a little more reality like depicting bad black cops, because the libs can chalk it up as a work of fiction. Also, Hollywood has to sell movies, and the complete works of liberal horseshit just don’t sell as well. You’d think the faltering sales of these newspapers, and the declining viewership, would push these media sources back towards reality, but they are simply too important to the elites for pushing the Narrative; they’d rather grind them into oblivion spouting lies the whole way down than to have the truth presented to the public. So we get an entertainment world that is more realistic than the weekly news that is purported to Such is the world we live in.

“….McKesson estimates that only three or four out of about 1,000 black LAPD officers can speak Spanish.”

How can this possibly be true? I know African Americans are a bit slower on the uptake (on average) and get in on an easier path, but still, the ones who make the cut have to be at least a bit above AA average. And living in LA. It has to be higher than this. Its not like speaking Spanish is rocket science. The city I work in (not LA) has a sizeable black and hispanic population, and there are people of black ancestry all over the place that I hear speaking Spanish. I would anticipate that it would be similar there.

“…movies like Training Day, for which Denzel Washington won an Oscar as a bad cop.”

- His best job yet, in my book.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Dorner and movies, if you think about it, the main thing he did was go after the daughter of the guy whose job it was to defend him.

Which is the bare plot outline for the film Cape Fear. Robert DeNiro's character was sort of creepily charismatic in that movie, but it's hard to imagine him becoming some sort of folk hero.

Anonymous said...

Its not like speaking Spanish is rocket science

Exactly. How hard can it be? Mexicans speak it.

Anonymous said...

it's a common thing to make the villain belong to the same race as the hero, and the hero's best buddy from another. proof that multiculti works!
the black protagonist in san andreas is betrayed by his homies and his most loyal friend is a mexican who marries his sister.

Anonymous said...

3 to 4 is just his estimate and probably an exaggeration.

For those are really observers of HBD, I'm sure you've also noticed blacks are quick at picking up spoken languages.

Anonymous said...

The new Grand Theft Auto game is going to be set in Los Angeles with three protagonist, two whites and one black. Even in video games Hispanics are ignored.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"The Shield," was actually based on the Rampart scandal. It revolved around the misadventures of four crooked, gangster cops, all of whom were white. Of course, there were all sorts of politically incorrect ethnic stereotypes on display in that show, but as far as the racial composition of the fictional police force was concerned, all of the "bad" cops were white, while all of the main black characters (the cops, not the criminals) were notably competent and ethical (I'm thinking mainly of the CCH Pounder character and the gay uniformed patrolman).

Of course, this perhaps wasn't so much an attempt at historical revisionism as it was simply a matter of the producers' wanting to have white actors in the lead roles so as to appeal to a predominantly white audience.

I can't say it detracted from the realism of the show that the crooked cops were white. I don't ever remember that thought ever crossing my mind.

countenance said...


You hit on an important point. The real scandal relating to the Rampart Crash scandal wasn't Rampart, but what got covered up in the lead-up to discovering Rampart -- So many black gang bangers on the LAPD. Mainly b/c of the judicial consent decree.

Paul Mendez said...

During DC's Great Crack Wars of the 1990's, it was often impossible to distinguish between the cops and the crews.

Two ambitions drove Charles Smith in the summer of 1989. The first was to up his income as a member of the R Street Crew, a murderous drug gang. The second was to join the D.C. police force.

By fall, Smith had achieved both.

D.C. Police Paying for Hiring Binge

not a hacker said...

I had personal experience yesterday with a black guy who can speak spanish. He was in my foursome, a former all-american running back who played a year in the NFL. Had a comic, Barkley-type stop-action swing, but he sure could converse with the course maintenance guys.

rob said...

not a hacker said...
I had personal experience yesterday with a black guy who can speak spanish. He was in my foursome...

Haha. I'm glad you added the thing about the maintenance crew. I thought you had one-upped the threesome.

Automatic_Wing said...

For those are really observers of HBD, I'm sure you've also noticed blacks are quick at picking up spoken languages.

Can't say I've ever noticed that blacks were particularly adept a picking up foreign langages. One thing I do remember from my time in the military is that a lot of the black officers had trouble pronoucing Spanish surnames, which made for some fairly hilarious official functions.

Steve Sailer said...

As a very broad generalization, African-Americans tend to like the French language and dislike the Spanish language. Tarantino's famous riff for Samuel L. Jackson about what a Big Mac is called in Paris picks up on that.

NOTA said...

I think the same phenomenon is at work in satire and comedy. The Onion and The Daily Show can often get at real issues that the prestige media almost can't touch. I think a big part of that is that, for toucy ideological issues where there's a pressure group ready to push back on anyone who says the wrong things, you only dare speak if you've got every detail nailed down and are on rock solid ground. Getting that level of certainty that you can back your statements is hard to do, so it's seldom done. You can say any bad thing you want about Iran on national TV with no evidence at all and never fear for the consequences, but start saying bad things about Israel, and you had better have your i's dotted and your t's crossed, because a whole lot of people with megaphones will be shouting at you.

By contrast, nobody demands that The Onion or The Daily Show footnote every statement they make, and demanding such a thing would make you look like a fool. Similarly, in fiction, you don't have to prove your controversial claims--everyone knows it's fiction. So while satire and fiction can still get you shouted down or condemned, it's way less likely to happen, and way more likely to make the people trying to shout you down look like a bunch of humorless douches.

Anonymous said...

I think there's something to the idea of a lack of interest in the Spanish language among American blacks. Not that they despise it, but it seems to annoy them more than it does white people. They probably dislike the language more than the people.