"Which is worse? The wolf who cries before eating the lamb or the wolf who does not."— Leo Tolstoy

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Meme as News - The "Mystery" of the 'Hipster Cop' - NYTimes Portrays 1st Precinct Censor as the Hipster Andy Griffith of Zuccotti Park.

Community Affairs Detective Eric Lee is a real charmer, but I'm not sure I'd call the lanky Bill Gates look-a-like  a "hipster," as The New York Times did last week in a puffy profile that focused on the Detective's wardrobe and his engaging ability to relate with the protestors encamped in Zuccotti park. As the Times described Detective Lee's musings about his impending retirement, "he looked out over Zuccotti Park from a familiar spot on the perimeter and said, 'Maybe I’ll grow my hair long again and join these guys.'

The Times profile was a follow-up on the Internet buzz created by the Gothamist and other blogs fascinated by the fact that Detective Lee doesn't wear black see-through socks and  cheap suits. The Hipster Cop meme flew through the new media sausage grinder appearing in The Atlantic's  Wire, the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast  NPR and just about every other website that is read by more than two people. "It's my job [] to be the liaison between the precinct and the community we serve," Lee told a writer from GQ.  "I am who I am.  This is how I always dress. . . . Though maybe I'll wear a top hat to work tomorrow." 

Community Affairs Detective Lee is a real smoothie smooth when it comes to fostering community-police relations.  On September 29th I attended the 1st Precinct's Community Council meeting where I had a chance to see the "hipster cop" in action as he rudely informed a member of the public that no photographs could be taken during the meeting,   As  I remember, he was wearing a pink button-down shirt under a dark cardigan sweater that was two sizes too small, making the otherwise lean Detective look a bit chubby. Perhaps that was the reason for the ban on photography.   Detective Lee's behavior at the Community Council meeting was consistent with the video montage put together by Sparrow Media, documenting his overbearing demeanor when dealing with protestors.

I first noticed Detective Lee when he shouted at a citizen who was about to take a picture with his phone.  "Hey, buddy! Yeah, you! No photos," the "hipster cop" commanded in a  deep voice, punctuated by a Brooklyn  accent, that resonated with the confidence of someone who had been asserting his authority over other people for the past two decades. His entire demeanor was that  of an aggressive, but poorly disguised undercover narc . 

When the offending citizen asked him who he was, he identified himself as Community Affairs Detective Lee.  Detective Lee was asked what police regulation prohibited the taking of photographs during a public Community Council meeting, which is described as a "public forum" on the  Council's website. Detective Lee responded, in true hipster style, "it''s my regulation, that's all you need to know." Somehow, that is exactly the kind of response I would have expected from an NYPD Community Affairs Officer. 

What I didn't expect to see was a gushing GQ fashion spread and  an "aw shucks," warm and cuddly New York Times profile on this guy, making him out to be the hipster Andy Griffith of Zuccotti Park.

The online phenomenon of the "Hipster Cop" demonstrates the danger of new media treating memes as news, other than being newsworthy as a meme.  Memes can travel faster than a European virus through an indigenous population.  It often takes time for the reality to catch up to the memery, and by then the footprint of the original meme has already left an indelible impression on the cyber landscape.

The only "mystery" about the "hipster cop" is why the reporters from the NYC  dailies don't know who the Precinct Community Affairs Officers are and why they don't attend Precinct Community Council meetings.  The only solace I can find in this revolting new media love-fest is that Detective Lee's colleagues are probably making his life miserable with constant ribbing over all the attention being given to the "hipster cop."

1 comment:

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