N.L.P.D.: Non Libertarian Police Department (The Atlantic)

If you read the recent New Yorker satire, L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department, it may please you to know there is a sequel. Sort of. It is from The Atlantic. I was thrilled; I thought we should have an actual genre of absurdist police noir. Unfortunately The Atlantic disappoints. Because while the New Yorker’s L.P.D. gives us gems such as:

I was shooting heroin and reading “The Fountainhead” in the front seat of my privately owned police cruiser when a call came in. I put a quarter in the radio to activate it. It was the chief.

“Bad news, detective. We got a situation.”

“What? Is the mayor trying to ban trans fats again?”

“Worse. Somebody just stole four hundred and forty-seven million dollars’ worth of bitcoins.”

The heroin needle practically fell out of my arm. “What kind of monster would do something like that? Bitcoins are the ultimate currency: virtual, anonymous, stateless. They represent true economic freedom, not subject to arbitrary manipulation by any government. Do we have any leads?”

“Not yet. But mark my words: we’re going to figure out who did this and we’re going to take them down … provided someone pays us a fair market rate to do so.”

“Easy, chief,” I said. “Any rate the market offers is, by definition, fair.”

He laughed. “That’s why you’re the best I got, Lisowski. Now you get out there and find those bitcoins.”

The Atlantic’s article, N.L.P.D.: Non Libertarian Police Department, gives us:

I was just finishing up my shift by having sex with a prostitute when I got a call about an opportunity for overtime. A no-knock raid was going down across town.

“You’re trying to have your salary spike this year to game the pension system, right?” my buddy told me. “Well, we’re raiding a house where an informant says there’s marijuana, and it’s going to be awesome—we’ve got a $283,000 military-grade armored SWAT truck and the kind of flash grenades that literally scared that one guy to death.”

“Don’t start without me,” I told him. “I just have to stop by this pawn shop. It’s run by some friends of mine from ATF. They paid this mentally disabled teenager $150 dollars to get a neck tattoo of a giant squid smoking a joint. Those guys are hilarious.”

I laughed, too, until I realized every single event in the N.L.P.D. story was a real event. I don’t know Tom O’Donnell’s intentions when he wrote L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department. It was, admittedly, funny as hell. Did he intend it to be the absurdist detective noir I wished it to be? Was it a light-hearted joke? Perhaps O’Donnell intended for it to be an actual critique of a truly libertarian police department: dysfunctional, chaotic, full of moral deficiency?

If the latter, all we must do is look at actual police departments. The real life N.L.P.D.s. The actual behaviors, on a daily basis, of police departments are beyond extreme. They make O’Donnell’s satire seem the sane alternative.

When satire no longer makes an absurdity of real life, but real life makes satire seem sane — even a satire where police officers are doing heroin while reading The Fountainhead — this alone should make us rethink the reality we want to live in.

As for you, dear reader, which would you prefer to live in: The world of the New Yorker’s Libertarian Police Department, or the real world, the world of the Non-Libertarian Police Department, full of the actual violations we witness on a daily basis?


One comment

  1. You are missing the point of both the NYer and Atlantic articles: the first satirizes libertarians and their utopia, while the latter satirizes by deliberately constructing an over the top stereotype of police using real events. The Atlantic satire is particularly poignant given the current media preoccupation with corruption, racism and violence in police departments. It presents a humorous warning to avoid painting all police officers with the tar that should be reserved for those who abuse their positions and power to prosecute a war against targeted groups.


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